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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Phase 2 of a Gluten-free Life

This blog post is dedicated to all Celiac and gluten intolerants, who are successfully navigating through the normal gluten-free diet, blissfully unaware that there may be a Phase 2 to your intestinal saga.  (Just a little something to keep at the back of your mind, but will hopefully never need.)

–          After rolling along for 15 years, getting healthier on my gluten-free diet, exercising more, enjoying more stamina, getting fewer flues and colds, feeling like “I got this down,” my body morphed, yet again.   Two months ago, my intestines started the cramping of old, before I got diagnosed with Celiac disease.

–          After re checking all my foods, vitamins, cosmetic products to make sure the manufacturers had not changed their formulas, I started playing with food groups.  Maybe raw foods or dairy were bothering me.  I eliminated known allergy groups, one at a time; then tried adding each back.  No pattern developed.  The intestinal pain increased.

Coincidences

Randomly, in a new hair salon, I met a gal who was just four months into the Celiac diet.  She asked to go to lunch to tap my 15 year experience with the cooking, cosmetics, etc.  Off we went.  However, my knowledge about particular products seemed minimal to the vast knowledge of new research she had acquired about the disease.  Comfortable with my diet and continual improvement in health, I had stopped keeping up on the latest research.

–          Who knew that all grain, including the ones deemed safe, like rice, corn, buckwheat, did in fact have minimal bits of gluten?

–          Who knew that the chemical structure of legumes is so similar to the gluten molecule that many Celiac patients’ bodies cannot distinguish the difference and treat it as gluten?

–          Who knew that when the biopsies are done to determine gluten intolerance, most doctors and lab technicians only report a positive diagnosis for Celiac when the villi in the intestines are completely flat…basically destroyed and not functioning.  At that stage of the disease, a person is literally starving to death from malabsorption.  (I was at that stage 15 years ago, and systems in my body were shutting down.)

–          Who knew that any damage less than total failure of the villi in the intestines is given a clean bill of health, i.e. a false negative for Celiac.  (That would explain my daughter’s false negative diagnosis when tested; when, in fact, she does have the disease.)

The answer for now…the Paleo Diet.

I got the name of one of the premiere Celiac specialists in the nation from my new acquaintance, now friend.  I have an appointment for mid January to find out the particulars of my intestines’ gyrations.  (I will keep you posted on the outcomes of that.)  However, the increasing pain I have been experiencing caused me to jump into the Paleo Diet just to see if I could get some relief.

Emotional consequences

Needless to say, having nearly died from this disease once, opening the door of eliminating even more food in order to stay healthy triggered a bit of an emotional storm.  My husband wonders if by the time I am 80, I will be a breatharian.  He may not be too far off.   Pain drives action, so I opened the fridge, tossed, trashed, and cried my way through the purging of even more types of food.  Yep, I am down to fruit, veggies, and meat.  Even commercial mayonnaise has soy (a legume) in it.

Physical result

Six days into the Paleo diet and my intestinal pain is gone.  I still have too much flatulence, so just did a purge of my vitamin cabinet.  Most of my gluten-free vitamins had a base of rice flour, a now forbidden grain.  (Hope that organic produce has all the vitamins I need!)

Benefits

-I have lost two pounds.

-My clothes are fitting better.

-My skin is less dry.

-My energy is amazing.  My husband and I went for a 7 mile bike ride on Saturday, up a hill the cycle clubs call Cardiac Hill.  The very next day, we got back on the bikes and rode 8 miles on a fairly flat scenic trail.  I have never had the stamina to exercise that much back to back.  Granted, after the Cardiac Hill ride I could only raise my leg ¾ of the height I needed to get off my bike.  My husband had to come over and lift my leg the rest of the way.  (But hey, I could still walk, once I got my legs under me. And on mile 6 of yesterday’s ride, an in-line skater passed me.  Yes, I was going that slowly.)  Then, this morning, I was able to pop out of bed and do my regular morning workout.  My husband is now looking at me with a “who is this new you” look.  I love these new benefits of the Paleo diet.  (So far, I am not loving the new food restrictions, though.)

Challenges

We live in CA, in a small wine region, where almost everyone is a foodie of some sort.  I am struggling with how to make truly delicious, memorable, enjoyable food on this very limited repertoire.  Luckily, there are tons of cookbooks out there for the Paleo diet. I need to do a little research and to get my kitchen completely stocked and purged so my creative cooking can find its way down this new path.  I am usually up for a challenge, but I am a bit resistant at the moment.  Once I get all the transition “stuff” done, I know my normal enthusiasm will emerge.  Right now, I am vacillating between an “I can conquer this new diet” day and a “this is really hard and not fun” down day.

Support

My husband rocks!  The first thing he said when I told him about this twist in my journey with Celiac disease was, “I’ll go on the diet with you!”  Who is lucky enough to have a spouse like that?  When I dipped into doldrums during the weekend, he would think of a creative meal or snack that would actually have me looking forward to that next meal.  (The background here is that our weekends have always been the time to splurge on fun, gourmet meals that we cook together, pairing them with the right wine, gluten free for me, of course.)

Below is one of the recipes we came up with over our first weekend on the Paleo diet.

J & J’s Shrimp-Stuffed Mushroom Caps (a la Paleo)

(My husband came up with the idea of these Thai flavored shrimp-stuffed mushrooms.  I just filled in the bits to make the idea come to life.)  Try making this with one person gathering and prepping each ingredient, like shelling and cleaning the shrimp, and another person at the chopping block ready to mince everything in sight.

Some MUSTS, of course, are lovely background music, cool aprons, and two glasses of dry, well-balanced Sauvignon Blanc or Champagne to accompany the cooking process.  A fun cooking-date will ensue.

Ingredients:

24 medium white or cremini mushrooms, cleaned and de-stemmed

½ lb. USA wild caught, if possible, fresh large shrimp (less shells to remove with larger shrimp)  shelled, cleaned and finely minced

12 mushroom stems, cleaned and minced

¼ cup pancetta  (I used Trader Joe’s pre-cut brand)

1 shallot, minced

1 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 handful of fresh Italian parsley, minced or a small handful of dried parsley from your spice rack

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, de-stemmed

4 giant cloves garlic, minced or 8 regular sized garlic cloves (we do have to support our neighbor town, Gilroy—garlic capital of the world)

2 Tbsp. thick pasty part of the can of coconut milk

1-2 heaping tsp. Red Curry Paste (I used Thai Kitchen brand)

2 Tbsp. almond meal (instead of bread crumbs, a Paleo diet concession)

1-2 Tbsp. unsweetened coconut

¼ – ½ cup Sauvignon Blanc or other gluten-free white wine, like Riesling, Pinot Grigio, or even champagne

Salt and pepper

Instructions:

Heat oven to 450*.

Grease baking pan with coconut oil. Line pan with mushroom caps.  Pour a bit of whatever white gf wine you have opened over each cap to keep them from turning pink, while you prepare the stuffing.

Clean and mince all ingredients indicated from above.

Sauté shallots, ginger, mushroom stems, shrimp, and pancetta until shallots and mushroom caps are softened and pancetta and shrimp are cooked.  Throw in parsley, garlic, and thyme leaves and sauté another 30 seconds or so.  Do not over cook the garlic, or it will turn bitter.

Add the red curry paste and the coconut milk paste and stir until all is combined.  (Could add a few dribbles of white wine as well.)

Throw in enough of the almond meal and unsweetened coconut to thicken and hold mixture together. (These ingredients take the place of gf bread crumbs.)

Taste.  Salt and pepper to bring out flavors.  Add more curry paste for more heat, etc.

When the consistency and taste are the way you want it, take off the heat and stuff each mushroom cap with the mixture.  (We made them heaping full.)  Sprinkle a few more bits of coconut on top.  You can fill the pan with ¼- ½ inch white wine for added flavor.

Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes, checking for doneness at 10 minutes.  I like cooking them at the higher temperature because the mushroom caps hold their shape better when serving and do not get mushy.

(This was a lot of cleaning and chopping, but who cares on a Friday night with a glass of wine in hand and with lovely camaraderie to accompany it!)

As always…Enjoy!

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Tomatoes Talk

When the nights cool enough to thicken and to dark-spot the skins of the tomatoes, it is time to pull up the summer garden.

Nov 2013 021Today was the day the tomatoes spoke. With a bit of regret, I pulled out the withered remains of the most abundant, lush vegetable garden I have ever had.  This Fall has been so mild I  wondered if the garden might keep producing into December.  The middle of November is not bad for a long growing season, though. I’ll take it!

Right before dismantling the tomato cages, I remembered I had planted potatoes (a first time try) in between each string bean plant. (They are companion plants.)  The potato greenery died and blew away a few weeks ago.  Wondering if there might actually be potatoes in the dirt, I got on my knees and started digging. Random sized potatoes popped up.  Delighted with each find, I kept at it, finally ending up with enough for a whole baking pan of roasted potatoes…or Roasties, as my husband calls them.  Thrilling!

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Then it was on to the pomegranate tree.  Since my husband’s google search, we now know not to harvest the pomegranates until the skins break open into a gaping jaw.DSCN0270   By the way, did you know that pomegranates are one of nature’s highest nutrient foods?  “Eat and get healthy!”

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When I got to the  kale/parsley patch,  I just couldn’t  pull it up. Each has  made  a remarkable comeback  in the cooler weather of the last couple of months.  I will wait for the frost to flatten them.

Crazy…how much produce came from this last picking of the season! Bounty everywhere!

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As excited as I get by food coming from backyard dirt, not all was rosy when plopping the bowls of veggies on the counter top.  As I was making dinner last night (a delicious meal baked in a sugar-baby pumpkin), I noticed  three or four slow-moving, little black spots on the white cupboard doors.  Hands messy with pumpkin goop, I couldn’t kill them at that moment.  When my hands were finally clean, they were gone.  “Eww!” I decided not to think about where they had gone. You cannot be squeamish living this intimately with the land.

About the pumpkin goop, my niece gave me the most unusual, fun, Fall recipe using a small sugar -baby pumpkin, Nov 2013 030stuffed with a Gruyère/bread mixture. The worst part of the prep is cleaning out the pumpkin. However, since it bakes for two hours, it would be a great dish for do-ahead company meals. The dish reminded me of Swiss food, lots of cheese and bread.  I used the gluten-free Against the Grain Baguette

 (http://www.againstthegraingourmet.com)  for the bread.  I recommend toasting the bread before using, so it holds its structure during the baking.

Here is the link to the recipe:
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pumpkin-Stuffed-with-Everything-Good-361169

As I prepared the pumpkin dish, the gift for the day of garden labor was this beautiful sunset.

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Enjoy Fall, Everyone!