Food Allergies and Vacation

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.

  1. Always ALWAYS ALWAYS carry your epi-pens and allergy medications with you. Pack extra if possible.
  2. It’s great if you have an “eating buddy” or two — someone who knows what your allergies are and is close at hand in case of a reaction or an unexpected situation. Some sites recommend having everyone in the party know, but I’m an adult and frequently travel with large groups where it’s impractical to have everyone know, or even, if someone is very squeamish or this is business travel, potentially a liability. But I do need someone to have my back. Case in point: I’m sensitive to citrus. If I go to the bathroom and a helpful waiter fills my glass with water from a pitcher with lemon slices in it — a common occurrence — I’d never know until it was too late. My allergy buddies have me covered.
  3. Case the restaurants ahead of time like you’re a thief planning on stealing the Mona Lisa. Check out the menu ahead of time, if possible. Some restaurants have allergen menus online, and the chain Smashburger even has an app. If there are still questions — and in the case of nice restaurants, I’ve found there often still is — try to call ahead during a non-rush time. If you get the feeling that they aren’t taking your requests seriously, go with your instincts and move on to the next restaurant. I made the mistake of dining at one spot where the person who answered rather flippantly said she was certain they used canola oil, only to have my mouth break out in sores when I ate my french fries. A call the next day yielded a different answer: they in fact used soybean oil.
  4. Some restaurants will allow you to pre-order meals the day before if you have to be very careful, make a lot of changes, or are going to be ordering off-menu. I pre-ordered oatmeal from the breakfast menu for a lunch date at one restaurant because I couldn’t find anything else that would work well … and the restaurant threw in whatever they thought could ever possibly go with oatmeal, carefully put in side dishes, for free. ๐Ÿ™‚
  5. Be polite but firm when asking for changes to a meal. Stress that this is because of an allergy. Most places will accommodate quite gladly and mark your order as an “allergy order,” because nothing gives a restaurant a bad rap like having one of its guests carted out via ambulance. It completely destroys the ambience. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  6. If, even after all your precautions, you start to react, follow the suggestion ofย The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: DON’T PANIC. It makes it worse. First, medicate if you are capable. Try to make sure you are in a safe place — if you pass out, are you going to fall onto a hot grill or bang your head on a table? Get safe. Relax as much as possible; mast cells degranulate with stress. Then communicate to your allergy buddy or whoever is nearby, and follow the rest of the process… calling 911 or trying to find the nearest hospital, screaming, general mayhem, and crushing disappointment. Or skip some of those last few. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  7. Having a list of safe restaurants already in hand is incredibly useful, even if it is just a few of your favorite chain restaurants. I, for instance, can eat exactly two meals at Panda Express, and about the same at Wendy’s. Having a list of slightly more fancy restaurants for the town you’ll be staying is also very useful when friends and family are planning events.
  8. Just because a restaurant has something on the menu you can eat DOES NOT necessarily mean it’s safe to eat there. Unless a kitchen has allergy protocols in place and uses designated cooking areas, traces of foods you’re allergic to can still be in your food. This is called cross-contamination. I experienced it in a “well DUH” moment of epic proportions, eating out at a dive of a seafood restaurant that regularly cooked shellfish in soy oil on the same grill I was getting my oil-less mahi-mahi cooked on. I had a burning dragon rash climbing with prickling talons up my skin in minutes and very narrowly dodged doing the epi-pen experience. Lesson learned: question before consuming. If a restaurant or kitchen doesn’t look like it’s handling things correctly, leave.
  9. I always carry some food with me (and have more at wherever I’m staying) in the quite likely event that wherever we go ends up not being safe for me. It’s also helped smooth the bumpy road of eating-based social interactions for my vacation thus far. At times, we’ve gone out for desert, but there was absolutely nothing I could eat. Being able to munch a fruit snack or Lara bar helped me still feel included and made my fellow party-goers feel more comfortable.
  10. Besides the websites of most restaurants, there are some other great websites to help you find safe food. One of my favorites is AllergyEats. They even have apps for your cell phone. It’s dependent on user reviews, though, and can have spotty to non-existent coverage depending on where you are. Allergic Traveler has laminated cards you can order to show at restaurants: Or you can print out free cards atย Several sites offer translation cards for travel to other countries or dining at ethnic restaurants, like Allergy Free Table or Select Wisely. I’ve read a lot of blogs, trying to get a clue about how to protect myself. Allergic Child at was very thorough, and even though it was aimed primarily at parents with children, it was a good start for someone like me who is just now entering the world of allergic reactions. Another blogger who travels worldwide suggested bringing along pictures of what it was she was allergic too, in case something is lost in translation.

Happy vacationing, good luck, stay safe.


Cooking (partial!) FAIL

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.)

Finished dinner:


Rice, hummus, tabbouleh, greek-ish honey lemon/vinegar chicken, and salad. And because I adore tzatsiki, it’s spread liberally over everything. ๐Ÿ™‚


Elimination Diet Spaghetti

DSC_0042I 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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.)ย  Fortunately I come from a family that has long believed in the cost-savings and health benefits of a good pound of ground turkey. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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:

  • First, this has all sorts of veggies in it that are not low histamine. Right now I’m on a limited-histamine version of the Elimination diet, but I sense that my days of pepper- and tomato-laden kitchen experiments are going to be rather short-lived. While it wouldn’t fulfill my not-so-secret plan to find a quick-fix, bad-cook meal, there are tomato-less spaghetti sauces.I recently found this page, and it looks very promising:
  • I bought Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozzarella. First, it is NOT Elimination Diet compatible if you’re avoiding corn. Somehow I missed the corn starch in the ingredient list, even though I’ve tried to be diligent about twisting packages sideways and gently pulling aside flaps of plastic to squint at the tiny black ink under the glaring fluorescents in the dark hours of exhausted after-work shopping. I will confess. I tried a little anyway. The final judgement? … well, you can eat it, but it tastes like…melted plastic. It does look like cheese and melt like cheese, and perhaps if one grew up on Cheese Whiz and Kraft Mac and Cheese (and is allowed corn), it would even taste a little like “cheese.” After a tentative bite or two, I did the unthinkable: I scraped that part into the trash.DSC_0057

Blackberry Agave Cream of Rice

DSC_0002My 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.

Elimination Diet Pancakes and Sausage


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 powderย 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 quiteย  filling.


This horrible picture is all I have because I was busy eating them. Yes. They are really that good.

Turkey Sausage


  • 1/2 pound ground lean turkey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • about 1/3 tsp garlic powder or to taste (I’m fond of garlic, so beware here).
  • canola or other neutral oil, for frying.


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.)


  • 1 1/3 cups, more or less, King Arthur Measure-for-Measure gluten-free flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp normal table salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • about 3/4 cup almond milk (or whatever dairy substitute you’re using)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • swirl (about 1 tbsp or more!) honey or other sweetener
  • EarthBalance for cooking


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.




Elimination Diet Raspberry-Maple Cream of Rice

DSC_0070.JPGI 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

One warning: Raspberries are high histamine.



Loaded Friday Night Burger, Elimination Version


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.ย  ๐Ÿ™‚


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. DSC_0041

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 youย can have unhealthy, enjoyable, and still allowable food on the Elimination Diet. As for my progress as a cook… well…ย  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. ๐Ÿ™‚


Elimination Diet Blueberry Muffin Boulders




  • 3 cups gluten-free flour (I used King Arthur 1-1).
  • about 1/4 cup gluten free rolled oats (optional, and probably best to skip, although I didn’t taste them at all)
  • 12 packets of stevia + 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon (or more!)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups “milk” (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries (I used frozen, and I think fresh might work better, besides probably tasting better)


  • preheat oven to 375 (I’d really do 400 next time, particularly if you trust your oven. Which I do not.)
  • combine dry ingredients and mix well
  • make a well and add in liquid ingredients, stirring until incorporated
  • add blueberries
  • spoon generously into muffin tins well lined with paper (and consider spraying with oil as well, if you want to eat them the second day without paper – these stick more than the norm)
  • bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out acceptably clean. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Periodically, you just get the overwhelming desire to be… normal. All right, I wrote it. The dreaded N word. The academic in me cheerfully (and unhelpfully) says “unpack that!” The practical and nearly tour-guide side reminds me that whatever normal is, I’m not likely to be it, now or in the future, so move on past this display, please. The financial side of me says “but you can’t afford to be normal!” My mouth, though, simply demands blueberry muffins.

Making blueberry muffins seemed like an easier thing to address than most of the rest of the above, even with IFM diet requirements, so I tackled that one first.

There are plenty of recipes out there for gluten free muffins. There are some for dairy-free. There’s a couple that are sugarless. In the end, the one I decided to try was a variant of a recipe I found here: But instead of using ground oats flour, I’d be using a 1-1 King Arthur flour, which had been great before for breading chicken and thickening sauces. I also had to change out the processed granulated sugar for another sweetener, and decided to use some stevia packets. I checked out conversion tables and tried to calculate and then ended up doing a mix of 12 packets of stevia and a 1/4 cup maple syrup. That last was because, as the stevia drifted up in clouds of fine dust, I discovered I actually don’t like the taste of stevia. Not in my mouth, not in my nose, not in muffins, nor on my clothes! I had a few oats in the bottom of the canister and thought that might be nice in the texture, since these things looked more like cupcakes than muffins to me. Not to mention, it might just get me enough counter space to finish the muffins, so in a handful of rolled gluten-free oats went. Finally, I thought that my oven was perhaps a little variable and I should try cooking at 375 instead of the recommended 400.

Dough prepared, added frozen blueberries, sampled again. Pretty tasty, although the stevia was an oddly bitter/sweet note. Ok. Time to spoon the mix into the muffin tins. I had way more dough than my 12 muffin tins could hold. Probably enough for 18, especially if I hadn’t sampled. I loaded the containers and told myself if my energy allowed, I’d make another batch as soon as these came out! Yes!

I put them in. I cooked for 20 and checked. The dough stuck so firmly to the bamboo skewer that it pulled the muffin, little paper cup and all, half out of the tin. I abandoned before the oven heat overcame me (hot ovens yes, but through those together with a slightly wonky body that can respond awkwardly to heat, plus bending over, and it suddenly became more chancy than I wanted). I tried again at 25… then at 30… then at 35, at which point (I think), I decided that enough was enough and they were done. Fortunately, they really were.

Unfortunately, the longer, slower cook time, different sugar, and oats meant that mine were in no way, under no light, fluffy yellow mounds dotted becomingly with berries. Was it the oats? The lack of sugar? A different flour? The frozen berries? You got me. The outside was fairly… firm. The inside, however, was great, especially slathered with melted “butter” – orย  Earth Balance’s buttery-ish vegan spread. It’s not exactly a win. Still, to tell the truth, these things turned out better than the last batch of muffins I attempted. That’s not saying all that much, though, since the apple-pecan muffins with streusel topping had about the density of dwarf stars.

They don’t keep that well, which in my kitchen means that the muffins had, through some sort of instant petrification process scientists can only guess at, turned completely into small boulders by the afternoon of day 2. Or at least that was the fate of those I hadn’t pawned off on friends, in an attempt to get rid of them and gain some sort of insight into why mine weren’t perfectly uniform sunshine with freckles of blueberry. (This beguiling whisper of “try some” is in fact the battle cry of all amateur cooks, I’m now convinced). I didn’t have it in me to make the rest of the dough that night, or even the next morning. In the end I had a few spoonfuls (having helpfully left myself the spoon in the bowl) and ended up tossing the bit that was left over. I’m sorry, but I honestly can’t tell you that if you refrigerate this dough and make it in the morning (when the urge for hot fresh muffins is usually the strongest, seconded only by every other minute of the day), it will work. Or if it does in fact make 18 muffins, which would be my guess, provided you wouldn’t rather have it raw for breakfast.

And they did -temporarily at least! – satisfy my craving for blueberry muffins. ๐Ÿ™‚



Elimination Diet Peach Maple Oatmeal



  • 1 cup gluten-free oats (I used quick 1 minute Quaker Oats)
  • 1 3/4 cup boiling water
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup frozen peaches
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • maple syrup to taste (I used Kirkland’s organic)


Put boiling water and salt in pan. Return to boil. Add peaches and oats. Boil for about 2 minutes, until peaches are slightly soft. Add cinnamon. When cool, swirl in maple syrup. It’s that simple. ๐Ÿ™‚


By now, I think I have established that I am not a Good Cook. I’m not even a Passable Cook. I fall more into the Destroyer-of-Quick-Breads and Burner-of-Water category. For some reason – a masochist pleasure, a stubborn will, or just genuine hunger – I continue to try to innovate in my kitchen.

Now that I’m on an elimination diet (no, not a “diet” for weight loss, I’ve got plenty of that and to spare – this is one of those medically necessary “diets” instead), experimenting has gotten harder and, conversely, more important. I can’t rely on eggs on toast for breakfast anymore, because that has about 3 things I can’t eat – dairy, eggs, and wheat.

Not to worry! The Institute of Functional Medicine puts out a very handy recipe guide. Unfortunately, for me most of the recipes are simply too complicated for everyday use, or use foods I’m allergic to, or use ingredients I’m not likely to have in the neighborhood grocery store. I’m luck to get broccoli that doesn’t fall over sideways in a resigned slump when you pick it up from the shelf. The recipe book also only has food for a week. A very varied week, to be sure, but I’ve been on this diet for over a month and will be on it for about another two, give or take, while we continue to figure out my particular allergens.

I’m on that gift from the administrative deities, spring break. I have a chance to play in the kitchen just a little bit more. Beware, gentle readers, and only continue if you have a strong stomach.


Cooking Fail o’ the Week

My status as amateur burner-of-water has been in question as of late. (This might be partly because I was given an electric kettle that turns off the water automatically. Fantastic gift.)

Never fear. This week’s latest experiment in cooking shatters last week’s attempt at chicken casserole. Introducing bean-thread noodle chicken soup!


Notice the distinct lack of “soup.” ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve been on the IMF Elimination Diet for the past month or so now. No, this was not a random decision I made myself – it was something me and my medical team decided to try. For the most part, this hasn’t meant huge changes for me, but there are some things I miss. Chocolate. Ginger ale. Fritos. And chicken noodle soup.

Since normal chicken noodle soup has gluten in it (and depending on your variation, milk, water, corn, eggs…) I needed to do a quick substitution. No problem-o! I have bean thread noodles I got for making Singapore noodles. I’d use those! Also I had a package of enoki mushrooms, and I’d never used those before. Why not?

I sauteed strips of zucchini and onion in a pan in olive oil and vegan butter. I seasoned *very* liberally with salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme. Going great. Added some gluten free flour, cooked that a little, then poured in chicken broth. Excellent, excellent. I cut up a chicken breast and cooked that in more oil and seasonings, and dumped that in. Still good. Now for the noodles. I’d forgotten about the soak time, but oh well. That would be fine. I could soak them right in the soup while it cooled.

I put in a bundle. That wasn’t a lot of noodles. I pushed another brittle tangle down into the broth. About right.But wait! Didn’t I want leftovers? Of course! I added a third.

It did not take the full 15 minutes of soak time before I had a heaving, quivering pile of bean thread noodles in the pot. I hastily whapped off the ends of the mushrooms and tossed them in, not knowing that I should probably separate the slender stalks…or possibly trim a little more off the ends. At that point I was in damage control, hoping to get the mushrooms in for their required one minute cook time while there was still some broth to cook in. The straw mushrooms fused into a few tough ropes in seconds. By the time I’d had my first bowl (tasty but not what I expected), the rest of the noodles had slurped up all the broth and left me with a brimming pot of squidgy strands.


I’m not going to inflict this “recipe” on you, o long-suffering readers, delicious as it turned out. It was a complete fail as chicken noodle soup.

Great learning experience about the expansion capability of dried bean threads, though. And on the plus side, leftovers for the week? Done. Leftovers for the month? Um, possibly! At least this time – unlike an attempt at mac and cheese eons ago – the noodles did not overflow the pot.

I’ll take it.