Eating on Vacation, part 2

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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.

FRENCH BREAD

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.

 

 

 

 

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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.)

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And here is the end result…(excuse the fuzziness, I was laughing too hard to keep it steady!)

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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:

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

 

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. 🙂 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.

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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:

  • 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: http://www.marinyacottagekitchen.com/recipes/archives/06-2013#.WNbDX2e1thE
  • 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

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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.

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

Turkey Sausage

Ingredients:

  • 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.

Instructions:

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.)

Pancakes

  • 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

Instructions:

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.

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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. 🙂

One warning: Raspberries are high histamine.

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Loaded Friday Night Burger, Elimination Version

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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.  🙂

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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 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. 🙂

 

Elimination Diet Blueberry Muffin Boulders

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Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 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)

Instructions:

  • 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. 😉

 

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: http://thebigmansworld.com/2017/03/12/fat-free-flourless-blueberry-muffins-sugar-free-vegan-gluten-free/. 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” – or  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. 🙂

 

 

Elimination Diet Peach Maple Oatmeal

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Ingredients:

  • 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)

Instructions:

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. 🙂

 

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.

 

How to Make a Casserole – Confessions of a (Chronically Ill) Graduate Student

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Many of us graduate students designate a “baking” day periodically. All the veggies for the week get chopped, dinners get made, things are frozen. Think NASA readying food for astronauts,  except instead of the moon we march off to battleground school at a slightly lower orbit. Sometimes I manage it. Here’s how it worked this week….

Friday: I decided this weekend I’ll cook a big chicken casserole to last a few days. Right now I’m on an elimination diet to detect food allergies/sensitivities, so a few changes would have to be made from the normal frozen veg, cream of something soup, and whatever meat came to hand.

Saturday: I shopped but was too tired/sick to go back through the huge store and pick up the chicken at the end of the run, lest I leave the store in an ambulance instead of all by me onesie.

Sunday: I went back and picked up the chicken. Still too tired to process the enormous family pack, so into the fridge it went.

Monday: I made the rice. In an cooker. It was a big day.

Tuesday: I finally figured I’d have to do something with that pile of chicken, and I was feeling … ok. I chopped, coated, fried, boiled, assembled, and installed it into a cozy oven. I had to put a chair into the kitchen to sit on during the process. Normally if I get that tired, I just give up and sit on the floor, but I was NOT going to surrender this time, and it was way too hard to get up off the floor to turn the chicken. Some of it may have turned out extra-brown. I turned the oven off when the casserole was done but was a little too tired at that moment to haul it out – and I basically forgot that it would still cook. I pulled it out later. I put it on the stove to cool – it wasn’t going to be that night’s dinner now – and basically forgot about it again. Finally, before crashing that night, I sampled it and checked that the meat was, in fact, done, wrapped it (still warm on the bottom) in plastic wrap, and wedged it into the fridge.

Wednesday: Finally ate chicken casserole.The result: A slightly crispy, rather unorthodox, extremely good chicken casserole.

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My recipe:

  • Six chicken thighs, bone in, skin on (I pulled some of the skin off)
  • 3 cups rice, cooked (and refrigerated, in my case)
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • About 2 cups of Silk cashew/almond/pea protein milk
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • About 1 cup (or 1/2 an extremely large) white onion, chopped
  • 2 heads broccoli, in small florets
  • 2 medium zucchini, thickly sliced
  • King Arthur flour, to coat the chicken and thicken the sauce
  • Avocado oil, to fry chicken
  • Seasonings to taste, sprinkled liberally on everything as I forgot what had been coated on which thing (I was aiming for a few different “flavors” of chicken thighs, but, well… brain fog, y’all).
    • salt
    • pepper
    • garlic
    • onion powder
    • chili powder
    • paprika
    • Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime
    • cumin
    • Italian seasonings blend

My messed-up assembly:

  • Cook rice. Leftover rice works brilliantly
  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Spread rice in layer in bottom of 13×9 large flat glass dish
  • Chop all vegetables. Put in large flat pan, season with salt, pepper, and garlic, and add about 2 cups water. Cook on high until you remember that they’re there; hopefully about 1/2 cup of water should still be in pot.
  • Evenly spread cooked veggies over rice. Give a halfhearted stir to semi-incorporate.
  • Prep chicken thighs by pulling any bits off that you don’t want to eat. Coat with a variety of seasonings. I aimed to have two traditional salt-pepper-garlic-onion-paprika; two Italian salt-pepper-garlic-Italian seasonings; and two “Mexican” with Fiesta Lime, cumin, chili powder – the works! Unfortunately I forgot which was which and put chili powder on about half. Oh well. It wasn’t much.
  • Coat chicken thighs with GF flour
  • Heat plenty of avocado oil in same pan used for veggies; aim for an even coat of entire pan.
  • Place chicken thighs in hot oil and cook on high, 2-4 minutes a side, flipping occasionally. Or just collapse in a chair and say “she’ll be right.” And flip the chicken when you can. I did mine in two batches; just add a little more oil. (If you have to do more than that, you may need to get rid of the burned bits and old oil.)
  • Put cooked chicken thighs on top of casserole. Dish will be too full to really bury them in there, but you can try.
  • Turn the heat on the pan down to medium. Add half a cup chicken broth, scraping the chicken and flour bits from the pan. Slowly add the “milk.” Add some more salt, pepper, and garlic to taste. Add the rest of the chicken broth and a little more GF flour to thicken slightly; should still be fairly liquid.
  • Pour concoction over the chicken breast/veggie/rice mix in the pan; make sure to hit the edges.
  • Cook in oven for 1 hour… and I’d recommend you actually remove it at that time, too, honestly. If you can. No worries if you can’t, though – this holds up pretty well.