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Cook to Eat/ Crisis Management

Paleo Update Saturday, my father-in-law was released into hospice care to begin his end of life days. When these times of intensity happen in life, it throws us into a different dimension of activity outside our normal routine. “Regular” life stops for a bit to be replaced by weird schedules, by unusual demands and activities only needing to be done a few times throughout a whole lifetime. How many times does a non medical professional order a hospital bed, empty a catheter bag, etc.

I am learning a few key survival skills for times of intensity or crisis, especially if you are on a “true” Celiac diet, which is no grain whatsoever, ever:

1. Keep safe snacks on hand and packed in a “to go” bag that you can grab at a moment’s notice. You never know when you will get a chance to eat or find a restaurant or store where you can get safe food when jumping in the car to be by a loved one’s side. (I like bags of plain plantain chips, Trader Joe’s marcona almonds, and an apple as a bare minimum. If I have more time, I make a meal-salad in a mason jar, Paleo chocolate cookies, and a shaker jar with a scoop of Paleo friendly protein powder, and little snack baggies of each meal’s vitamin supplements.)

2. Do not skimp on good nutritious foods. Make yourself drink that veggie or protein drink, even if it is the last thing you want to do. Your body will keep you going in good form throughout the duration of intense stress because of it. (Do not cheat on the diet. It will only weaken your ability to handle the stress. The stress is making your body work overtime already.)

3. Get fully presentable (shower, wash hair, make-up, etc) every morning. You may have to go to a group gathering at a moment’s notice where you would be embarrassed in schlocky sweats and ratty T shirt.

4. Keep the gas tank of your car full at all times.

5. Bring enough water bottles to get through a 12 hour period. Hospitals and emergency agencies hide the water; I swear. Plus, even though you are doing essentially nothing–at least nothing physical—when sitting by a sick person’s bed, time disappears. Your thirst can rage. Your blood sugar can drop.

6. Try to get a good amount of sleep.

7. Try to keep up with your exercise routines. (I must admit; this is the one that I let slide most often. Sleep always seems to win over exercise.)

If you can keep on top of just these foundational things, it will help you manage the unusual time and activity demands in fairly good form, relatively speaking, until normal life can be resumed. This post is for all those attending last days of loved ones, attending births, or going through any of a myriad of life’s intense once-in-a-lifetime moments.

Below is the recipe to one of my favorite Paleo cookie recipes. This recipe by Carol Lovett is from her cookbook, The Grain-free Snacker. Check out her blog, Ditch the Wheat.


Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

2/3 cup coconut palm sugar

1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil

2 large eggs

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tablespoons sifted coconut flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/2  cup dark chocolate chips, (I use Enjoy Life big chunky chocolate bits, because there is no soy, no dairy, no grain. Plus, who doesn’t love a big chunk of chocolate in their cookies.)

Yields 14 cookies

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350* F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Using a mixing machine, mix together the sugar and coconut oil.

3. Slowly add one egg at a time to the mixture. Add the cocoa powder, coconut flour and vanilla, and mix until incorporated. Lastly, stir in chocolate chips.

4. Drop the cookies by spoonfuls onto the baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart.

5. Bake for 12 minutes.

6. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before moving them to a wire rack to cool.

Note: Check out her blog or cookbook to get the extra notes for the prep of these cookies. I just included the basic directions. She gives more detail in her official recipe.

My Directions: In all honesty, I melt the coconut oil in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave; throw the rest of the ingredients sans the chocolate chips in a big Tupperware bowl; then add the oil when melted; stir like crazy with a wooden spoon; add two handfuls of chocolate chips; stir; plop on the parchment paper and bake. They always turn out great (except the time I used an egg substitute for my grandson who is allergic to eggs. Flat as a pancake that time.)

As you can tell, I usually cook without recipes. When I use them, I rarely follow directions completely, which does not always make for great baking success, but these cookies turn out in spite of my cavalier ways. (The Naked Chef, Jaimie Oliver, epitomizes my style of cooking. Love when he says in his cookbooks or on his show…”pour in a couple of glugs” of the designated liquid, but I digress.)   Seriously, these cookies have become my Paleo comfort food during times of stress. I recommend always having a batch on hand. I know I do. They freeze well, too.

Hats off to Carol Lovett and this yummy recipe!

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I’m Back!

After a nearly two year hiatus from blogging, I’ve decided to give it another go.

However, I am revamping the format just a bit based on the example of one of my favorite bloggers, The Drunken Cyclist, who divides his posts into different subject matter segments.

Mine will be loosely based on the three huge passions/interests in my life:

  1. Vineyard Update – tidbits of what the California Bay Area seasons mean when growing and managing a small home vineyard of Cabernet and Merlot grapes. Example, in 2013 we harvested one ton of grapes, but only half a ton this last October in 2014. The three year drought is taking its toll.
  2. Jedi Wine Making –experiences of my husband’s, friends’ and family’s, and mine learning to craft a decent wine in our little backyard barn (definitely a community endeavor)…with the guidance of Ted Medeiros, our local award-winning professional winemaker and Yoda mentor, who nicknamed me his Jedi student.
  3. Cook To Eat — continuing discoveries from my mind-blowing eating/cooking adventures and journey through Celiac Disease, (the disease where the body has damaged or is missing the genes to digest and process gluten.) After 17 years on the normal gluten free diet where grains like rice and quinoa are allowed, I had a massive relapse in symptoms and immune system damage in 2014. “Wait! What?” Thankfully, brand new research has proven that all grains and even legumes are dangerous for Celiac people. “Who knew? No more humus for me, sadly.” After a year of relearning to eat, cook, and travel safely on the new true gluten free diet, I am on the road to recovery, for the second time in my life, and eager to resume the blogging. “Whew! Glad the worst is behind me.”

I invite you to pick and choose to read and explore any or all topics. Hopefully, this new organization will make that easier for you and save you the time of slogging through things of no interest.

Welcome to Foodie meets Wine Maker meets Vineyard Manager.

Happy 2015!

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!