Monday, March 28, 2011

What's For Breakfast?

When you’re first diagnosed with food allergies, the Doctor usually recommends doing an Elimination Diet which requires eliminating all the foods you are ‘sensitive’ to and then adding them back in one at time to determine which foods cause symptoms.  However, it’s not enough to just eliminate the sensitive foods, the diet also emphasizes rotating consumption of the same food types each day.  For me, this was one of the hardest parts of the Elimination Diet.  First I had to cut out 40 of my favorite foods and then I had to figure out how to somehow vary the remaining foods I could eat.  This was especially difficult for breakfast.  Without dairy, gluten or eggs, how do you find multiple breakfast options to vary every day?

After a lot of searching and more than a few hungry mornings, I have found some great breakfast options.  If you read my last blog post, you already know about the wonders of goat yogurt.  Other options include corn cereal, buckwheat cereal, gluten free oats, and granola.

I love that Chex has multiple gluten free cereals, including Rice, Corn and, my personal favorite, Honey Nut Chex.  These are great when you’re on the go and need something fast. For a more hearty option, try Bob’s Red Mill Organic Creamy Buckwheat or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Quick Cooking Oats which make for filling and fast breakfasts.  I make a big batch on Sunday night and bring to work a few times a week.  Throw some Agave, cinnamon and dried or fresh fruit on top and it makes a great breakfast that keeps me full until at least 12:30 which is unheard of, as I’m usually chewing my arm off by 10:30.

But, my favorite breakfast is granola with goat yogurt.  I used to buy gluten free granola from Rose’s Bakery, but it’s pretty expensive and also has cranberries which, I am very sad to say, is on the No List.  So, I made my own recipe.  I usually throw in whatever I have lying in the cabinet - you can add any nuts or dried fruits that you like.  Here’s what I like:

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Granola:
2 cups Gluten Free Oats
¼ cup Flax Seed
¼ cup shredded coconut
¼ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup cut up dried prunes
½ cup dried raisons
½ cup dried cherry
½ cup Agave Nectar (Costco sells Organic Blue Agave in pairs)
5 Tbsp Coconut Oil

Mix oats, flax seed, coconut, almonds, walnuts and prunes together in large bowl. 

Heat agave and coconut oil over high heat until oil is completely melted.  Slowly pour oil / agave mixture into oat mixture, stirring constantly.  Stir until oat mixture is completely coated.  Spread onto greased baking tin

Bake:  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
10 minutes @ 350 degree
20 minutes @ 300 degree

Remove from oven after 10 minutes and mix granola so it does not clump together or stick to pan.  Remove from oven after 20 minutes, mix and add raisons and cherries to cook for last 10 minutes.  If you add earlier, the dried fruit burns and dries out.  (Prunes have a lot of moisture, so need to go in with the oats / nuts or they will be too moist)

When done, mixture should look darker (nice roasted brown), but should still be slightly soft.  Let cool in pan for 1 hour and once completely cool, mixture will be crispy.

I like to eat it with goat yogurt, but you can serve with any type of milk (goat, almond, soy, etc).   Feel free to comment with your favorite uses for granola or any ideas for different nut / fruit options to add!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Got Goat?

The most difficult task of embarking on this new lifestyle was saying goodbye to dairy, primarily, yogurt and cheese.

I’m an accountant by trade, so I’m definitely a creature of habit.  I have been eating the same thing for breakfast every day since I was in college:  fat free, plain yogurt with granola and, for a special treat on the weekends, yogurt with apples and cinnamon.  Yes, I do realize how lame and unexciting that sounds…. What can I say?

As with everything, there’s always a silver lining.  I was allergic to cow’s milk.  This still left goat dairy in the clear.  Note that goat dairy was specifically tested during my food sensitivity testing and came back okay to eat.  Sheep dairy was not tested, but I would like to add back to my diet soon and see how I react.    Before being diagnosed with food allergies, I was a huge cheese snob.  No Kraft singles for this lady!  I cannot wait to indulge in some Manchego (and cross my fingers that I’m not allergic).

Other than goat cheese (which I LOVE!), I had never seen any other goat dairy products.  It’s surprising what you start to notice when you’re actually on the look out.  The grocery store is full of goat products – goat milk, goat yogurt; I even found goat ‘cheddar’ cheese.  Trader Joe’s has been my go-to store for goat products.  I have only seen the ‘cheddar’ cheese at Trader Joe’s and it is great for making nachos which is a treat I thought I’d given up for good.  TJ’s goat yogurt is reasonably priced (relative to other goat yogurts on the market – they are expensive!).  Goat yogurt is delicious – a little more tart than cow yogurt, but very rich and a much needed indulgence, especially on Saturday morning when I need a ‘special’ treat!

I feel so lucky that I can delight in goat products.  But, what is the difference between dairy from a cow versus a goat or a sheep?  Why would I be sensitive to one and not the other?  I have heard that varying levels of Casein within dairy products affects allergic reactions in some.  These are the issues I am currently researching and would love to hear your thoughts.  In the meantime, what’s next on my list of indulgence:  Goat Caramel Candy.  Hmmm..  so far everything I’ve read says it takes at least 2 hours of constant stirring…  Looks like this is something for a true baker to tackle – I’ll put in the request and you’ll be hearing from my sister soon.  Maybe I can convince her to try something for the true vegans out there also – soy milk or almond milk caramel anyone?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy First Day of Spring!

My best friend and I have a long standing tradition of eating pink ice cream on the first day of spring.  It started out in high school as a way to fight the winter blues and has turned into a tradition we have kept up through the years.  Despite still freezing temperatures and a foot of snow on the ground, we welcomed spring in tank tops with pink ice cream and a camera.  Even now that we live on opposite sides of the country, every year, snow, sun or otherwise, we call each other and welcome spring with a bowl of pink ice cream. 

This year, I feared my new allergy free lifestyle was going to get in the way of a tradition lasting over a decade.  Instead, I pulled out the ice cream maker and whipped up this dairy free ice cream. 

I found this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen.  Their recipes have never failed me, and this one for Strawberry Coconut Ice Cream is no exception. 

Strawberry Coconut Ice Cream
2 cans full fat coconut milk
2 to 2 1/2 cups frozen strawberries (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup honey or agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients in blender and whip until smooth.  Put in ice cream maker and follow ice cream maker instructions.

This recipe is really easy and fast – took about 40 minutes in ice cream maker until fully frozen.  I chose strawberries, but you can add any of your favorite ingredients, blueberries, chocolate (use unsweetened cocoa powder), nuts, etc. 

Even our puppy, Dally, helped welcome the first day of spring this year with Frosty Paws ice cream.  It wasn’t dairy or gluten free, but Dally didn’t seem to mind! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Never Enough Time! Quick and easy meals for planning ahead

As most of you know, one of the hardest aspects of cooking clean is planning for your next meal.  I work in business, so I’m constantly working late and skipping lunch.  I am lucky that my company provides catered lunches every day, but I’m always wondering if I can really eat the soup, if the meat has soy sauce or a spice on it with a gluten additive.  Not to mention cross-contamination!  There are a lot of foods we don't think twice about that can have hidden gluten.  Here's a partial list of foods to watch out for.

Ice Cream
Soup (vegetable / chicken stock sometimes uses gluten containing grain)
Lunch meat
Root Beer (contains Malt which is derived from Barley)
Soy Sauce (derived from wheat, but there are wheat-free Soy Sauces available)
Caramel Coloring
Modified Food Starch (if derived from Wheat, but usually derived from Corn)
Alcohol (beer, vodka, scotch, etc)

Again, I’m an accountant and a worry wart.  I carry a LaraBar in my purse at all times, just in case.  I can’t take the unknown of whether or not I can eat the catered lunch, so I generally bring my own food.  It takes a lot of time and work to plan lunches for a full week.  My staples usually rotate between big batches of quinoa, quinoa pasta and lentils.  I make a big batch on Sunday night and bring throughout the week.  But, let’s be honest.  Quinoa is not the most exciting grain.  I found this great Lentil Soup recipe which has tons of vegetables and is very filling due to the lentils.  I love making big batches of this soup and freezing for when I need a last minute meal.  My girlfriend loves it too.  Although she does not have food allergies, she has become my test rat and is loving it.  This soup is one of her favorites and I’m lucky if there’s any left for me to bring to work!

Note:  I also have a yeast allergy and most vegetable / chicken broth has yeast extract.  I found a great organic chicken broth from Costco that does not have yeast extract (Kirkland Organic Chicken Stock)

Lentil Soup: (Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, January 2011)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup lentils
1 lb small mushrooms, cut into quarters
4 medium carrots, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
2 stalks celery, chopped
½ head napa or red cabbage, chopped (about 2 cups)
32 oz box Chicken Stock
4 cups of water
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

In large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in lentils and cook for 1 minute.

Add mushrooms, carrots, celery, cabbage, water, chicken broth, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Per Better Homes and Gardens, one serving has 3g fat, 13g fiber and 12g protein. Wow!

As you can see, we added way too many vegetables, so we added a few extra  cups of chicken broth and it was delicious! 

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I have suffered from daily headaches and migraines since I was 12 years old.  I had spent years popping pills, undergoing numerous tests, MRI’s, CAT Scans, you name it.  After seeing dozens of neurologists and traditional doctors, I had pretty much given up hope.  When I heard about a natural homeopathic doctor who treated migraines, headaches and other symptoms that I had experienced for years, I thought it was worth a shot.  Well, I was in for a shock – I was seriously allergic to everything!  A list of 40 foods long, from gluten, cow dairy, and eggs to rice and potatoes,  even brussel sprouts and lettuce.  I did the whole elimination diet and in the end, narrowed my allergies down to gluten, cow dairy and eggs.  I still try to steer clear from my original food ‘sensitivity’ list, like rice and potatoes, but indulge once in awhile when I can’t resist the occasional French fry or gluten free pita bread. 

First off, I want you all to know that I am not a cook – I didn’t even like baking!  If I wanted something sweet, I put in a request with my sister, a talented and avid baker, and kept her company while she whipped me up a treat.  6 months ago, the only time I had used the kitchen was to toast a piece of Naan and cheese which was dinner most nights.  For the first 3 months of my new food allergy world, I didn’t even attempt to eat baked goods.  I stuck to the basics: meat, nuts, veggies and fruit.  The weight loss was great, but I really missed the occasional scone or sweet treat.  I knew I couldn’t survive eating almonds and cashews for the rest of my life – I needed a cupcake!!

So, I started experimenting with recipes that are free from gluten, dairy, eggs and sugar and try to stick to high protein / fiber grains like buckwheat, sorghum or gluten free oat flour.  Not everything turned out so well, but you have to start somewhere.  Remember, this is coming from a girl who used her oven as extra storage.  So, here it is:  my journey from take out and frozen food to all natural clean eating from scratch.