Friday, September 30, 2011

Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten-Free September: Chinese Dishes Made Allergen-Free

Does anyone else feel that this has been a really long week? Thankfully it's Friday, and we can go home, kick up our feet, and relax! But what's for dinner? Who wants to cook? No? No? How about you? Well, neither do I. I know! The old American standby. Let's order Chinese! We'll get all our favorites, and we'll order them gluten-free just for us! 

Let's start with appetizers. I think some spring rolls sound good, but how about we bake them instead of frying? My stomach doesn't handle all that fried food very well. And let's make 'em vegetarian since we'll be having a lot of dishes with meat and fish for the main meal. Baked Veggie Spring Rolls it is, then!

Baked Veggie Spring Rolls from Amber at The Tasty Alternative

And then I'm thinking scallion pancakes. That was always one of my favorites. Although, to be honest, I usually felt a bit sick after eating them. What about these scallion pancakes? They'll make you feel wonderful! They're baked in coconut oil and made with quinoa for a high-protein, high-fiber whole-grain pancake.

Scallion Pancakes from Valerie at City|Life|Eats

Now onto the main meal. Wait! What about side dishes? What's Chinese takeout without fried rice? Well of course we're having fried rice! You didn't think I'd forget that, did you? And I'll do you one better...we're having two different versions. Bell Pepper and Mushroom Fried Rice and Skillet Fried Rice. Now, make sure you get a slice of red bell pepper in your serving. The red is for good luck!

Fried Rice from Kalinda at Wheat Free Meat Free

Skillet Fried Rice from Shirley at Gluten Free Easily

Now onto the main meal-

But what about dumplings? We must have dumplings! But of course... The dumplings, you see, are part of the main course. Ginger Beef and Dumplings. It's a perfect pairing. I'm salivating at the thought. When's the last time you had dumplings? Before you went gluten-free? Me too! Finally! Dumplings and I will meet again!

Ginger Beef and Dumplings from Christine at Without Adornment

Oh wow. Those dumplings had me at hello. But I think I need something a bit lighter next. It's getting close to that time. You know what I'm referring to...the surreptitiously unbuttoning my top pants button under the table time. I'd rather avoid that if possible, so can we please pick a figure friendly dish next?

Figure friendly you want? Figure friendly you get! But I refuse to skimp on flavor. I want something bold, something with pizzazz, something with...lettuce. Well then I present you with pizzazzed Asian Lettuce Wraps. They boldly go where no lettuce wrap has gone before. Where's that? Shrug. Gluten-Free Land, I guess.

Asian Lettuce Wraps from Tessa at Domestic Diva

Gluten-Free Land? Where's that? I want to go! Oh, it's a beautiful place: filled with gluten-free goodness at every door. They've even got Sweet and Sour Chicken for you, my dear! Sweet and Sour Chicken? Be still my beating heart! I'm not walking to Gluten-Free Land, I'm running!

Crockpot Sweet and Sour Chicken from Lauren at As Good As Gluten

Well, I want to go to Gluten-Free Land too, but I don't eat meat or poultry! you eat fish? Oh yes, I love seafood! Well no worries then! Gluten-Free Land has Shrimp Lo-Mein! Just to be certain, when you say Gluten-Free Land, you are talking about the Chinese restaurant we're ordering from, right? Oh right...umm...yes, that's exactly what I mean!

Shrimp Lo-Mein from Iris (um that's me) at The Daily Dietribe (here)

Sigh. What about me? I'm vegan. Oh my dearest, don't you worry your pretty little head. I'm gluten-free after all...I know what it's like to eat differently. I wouldn't leave you out. For you, we have a Ginger and Sesame Stir Fry with Kelp Noodles! Kelp noodles? Mmhmm. They're like regular noodles, only better!

Ginger and Sesame Stir Fry with Kelp Noodles from Noosh at For the Love of Food

Ahh...after all that, would anybody like dessert?


Personally, I'm so full I'm just going to go unbutton my pants lie down.

Me too.

Me three.

Yeah, I'm pretty full myself. Maybe I'll save room for dessert next time. But I'm feeling like I might be in the mood for some spiced desserts. Tune in next month for the roundup of Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten-Free, when the theme is spiced desserts at For The Love of Food.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you all in Gluten-Free Land soon!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guest Post: Living the Vegan Life

Today, we have a special treat. While I'm on vacation in Southern California visiting my sisters, one of my classmates is taking over to share her thoughts about veganism and the gluten-free lifestyle. I'll be back on Friday, but until then, here's Katy: 

Hello, beautiful readers!  While your host is away, I thought I would entertain you with a different perspective on a gluten-free lifestyle.  And I start with a warning—I just may be everything you fear and/or loathe: a vegan!  And I didn’t become one for health reasons, either.  I will spare you the tree hugging and animal activism and all the crunchy reasons I decided to eliminate all animal products and by-products from my life.  What I really want to say is that the health benefits of being vegan just sort of showed up on my proverbial doorstep, and only then did I adopt health as a ‘reason’ for being vegan (and whole-heartedly so)!

Granted, I was determined not to be a sickly, anemic vegan or an obese junk-food vegan, stereotypes that seemed all too prevalent, at least in Berkeley, where I was living at the time of my conversion.  And I found it no different in San Francisco or Seattle, other places I have called home since becoming a vegan.  There are vegan bake-sales around every corner, selling cupcakes and brownies and pies and muffins that even omnivores buy because they think they are somehow healthier than the rest, and just the variety of sugar-laden, 450-calorie vegan cookies stocking the shelves of convenience stores and coffee shops makes me want to cry a little.  There are whole cookbooks out there dedicated to replicating the omnivore’s baked goods and treats—even whoopee pies! It’s like we, as vegans, want our risk of developing diabetes to surpass the norm or something…

I digress, but just know I did put in a lot of time researching the nutrition aspect of becoming vegan—figuring out just how much protein I needed, and where the hell I would get it, determining which vitamins and minerals I would need to find alternate sources of, and, oh yes, learning to cook, among other things…  In the end, this meant swapping out some of the fun but crappy food I knew and loved and replacing it with the less beloved (at the time) nutrient-dense, whole foods centered around beans, grains, and, of course, veggies!

This change I made—it was no easy task.  And I’m not going to pretend that there were no transitional tofutti cuties involved.  Overall, it was quite a drastic change. But let me tell you—it sorta rocked my world!  By the end of my first year, I found I actually LIKED…no, I LOVED this food, this way of eating, this DIY power I suddenly felt in the kitchen, and I was thinner, my skin looked younger and brighter, my moods were evening out, my energy was soaring, my brain was working, and I hardly ever got sick anymore!  Sound familiar? I’m sure you have discovered similar changes as you cut out gluten and other allergens from your diet. Although the “allergen” may be individual to our own quirky bodies, this is just further confirmation that what we put in our bodies has a tremendous effect on our health, happiness, capability and overall well-being.

I could go on and on, but I figure this audience is expecting some gluten-free insights, and, happy days, I have some of that to share with you, too!  Since this transformation, I became super-nerdy-interested in nutrition, and I even decided to go ahead and get my masters in the subject!  (In fact, I am in the same program at Bastyr as your lovely host).  So here I am, learning about all these chronic diseases of our modern age, and the role that refined grains and sugars play in their etiology, and I decided, what the hell, I’ll cut out refined grains, too!  That means (to me) no bread, no cereal, no baked goods, and definitely no sugar (fortunately, I love me some stevia!)  Sounds a little sadistic, I know.  But… would you guess—I don’t even miss them?  I feel even better since that last change—my weird food cravings (especially for sugar and tortilla chips) and my irritability have decreased dramatically, and my energy is even greater.

So what does this have to do with gluten?  I decided that since many of my future patients will have to give up gluten for various reasons, I better know what that is like.  So I embarked on a gluten-free diet, expecting the worst.  But then – and I’m sure you’re on to me now—I realized that if you cut out refined grains, it’s not really so hard to avoid gluten!  After giving up refined grains, my diet was already 95% gluten-free.  So then testing out the gluten-free lifestyle became about details, like tamari instead of shoyu, certified gluten-free oats, and cross-contamination.  The worst of it for me was giving up the irresistible, chewy delight that is emmer and the earthy goodness of a bowl of barley soup with beans and mushrooms.

Now, I must say I feel even healthier when I’m not eating refined grains.  But whether or not my feeling of improved health has to do with significantly cutting down on my gluten consumption remains up in the air.  I have to say, after experiencing the gluten-free lifestyle for a month or so, I did go back to eating the occasional bowl of barley soup or conventional oatmeal, and I felt just fine.  I guess I just don’t have a gluten intolerance.

So what is my point?  It is this: I eat a 95% gluten-free diet based solely on my own personal preferences, even though I don’t have a gluten intolerance to speak of.  To you, who may be afflicted by the nastly gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease, you are already living on the greener side of the fence!  I mean, look at these pictures of the meals and snacks I’ve eaten over the past couple days.  Do you see any gluten?  No!  

Look at this peach—it’s delicious! Do I need to make it into a muffin or cobbler or pie?  No, thank you—I will eat it sloppily over my sink and enjoy its divinity.  

This stir-fry is composed of the sexiest vegetables I could find at the farmer’s market, along with some boiled edamame (for the protein factor).  

And I can eat giant salads like this every day and not feel a bit like a deprived rabbit, because beets and chickpeas are anything but mundane together in a bed of local, seasonal greens,  fresh basil, chopped dates, minced ginger, mineral-rich kelp noodles and some homemade sesame scallion dressing.  Yum.  

Gluten?  I said, “Good Day!”  

Gluten-free & vegan recipes everyone will love: 
Quinoa Porridge 
Roasted Acorn Squash and Brussels Sprouts
English Muffins
Cheese Filled Onion and Olive Bread
Grain-Free Lemony Almond Pancakes
Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Muffins

Katy is currently pursuing her Masters of Science in Nutrition at Bastyr University in Seattle, WA.  Her background includes a BA in Literature and Writing from UCSD, and a long line of meandering careers in between-- Assistant (fill in the blank), Data Modeler, Clinical Research Associate for Big Pharma, etc., none of which filled her with passion the way healing through food does. In her spare time, she loves to explore the natural world from different perspectives--  from a bike, on foot, climbing walls, flying through air, through a lens, by herself, with a stranger, listening to different soundtracks, and/or writing poetry in her head as she goes.  Aside from the craggy mountains and narrow rivers of the greater Seattle area, this crazy exploration includes the farmers market, the blackberry bushes, and the kitchen, too!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dallas Gluten & Allergen-Free Expo

My middle name is Austin.

I was born in Austin, Texas. But I grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts, and as far as I know I've never been to Dallas. Well, that's about to change. This weekend, I'll be speaking at the public forum at the Gluten & Allergen-Free Expo in Dallas. If you're in the area, I would love for you to come, check out all the awesome speakers and cooking classes (Brittany, my cookbook co-author, will be making her famous English Muffins for attendees to sample), and join in on my talk on food and inflammation.

Food and inflammation, you say? Oh fun stuff. I know you know a lot about it. You know I know a lot about it. (Anyone with a food sensitivity want to stand up?) And yet, there's always more to learn. Despite not always following my own advice perfectly (although I'm trying), I've learned so much in the last year of nutrition classes at Bastyr, from my professors, my fellow classmates, and through my own research in trying to get back to optimal health. I want to share that all with you in the hope that together we can sort through all the muck and buzzwords, and determine what actually works!

And don't worry. If you can't make it to Dallas, I'll be posting a recap of my talk once I get back to Seattle. In the meantime, if you missed my post on healing through foods back in May, you can read it here.

To read more about the Gluten & Allergen-Free Expo, go to their website here.

Tomorrow, I'll be sharing a special guest post from one of my classmates, who is vegan and is learning a lot about eating gluten-free. On Friday, I'll post all the amazing entries from this month's Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten-Free event. And after that? It's October! You know what that means...time for pumpkins! Plus a special announcement from me and a giveaway for all of you!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten-Free: Shrimp Lo Mein

This month's theme for Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten-Free was the Chinese Lantern Festival. The goal was to make a favorite Chinese dish that worked for your own food sensitivities. I had so many ideas for dishes I wanted to create, but alas, they all contained ingredients I shouldn't be eating right now. In the end, I decided to stick with my own guidelines and make something I could eat without feeling uncomfortable later.

I created a simple dish based on my love of Lo Mein. Shrimp Lo Mein, or to be more precise, Shrimp Stir Fry with Sweet Potato Noodles. Sweet Potato Noodles are made from sweet potato starch and can often be found in Asian grocery stores or can easily be ordered online. Alternatively, you can use any type of noodle you like in this meal. One of my favorite aspects of this meal is that it can easily be made to suit your whole family's palates. The vegetables I used here are just suggestions, and you can add in or substitute vegetables your family likes. Like I said, the noodles can be swapped out for a different type of noodle. For a slightly different taste, try Thai Basil instead of regular basil. And you can use a couple teaspoons of honey as your sweetener if you prefer that to stevia. Finally, my flavorings are minimal here because I can't add much in the way of condiments. But make yourself a pretty little condiment tray with tamari, fish sauce, or any other sauces you enjoy, and each family member can tailor their plate to their taste buds.

Shrimp Stir Fry with Sweet Potato Noodles (Print-Friendly Option)

12 ounce package sweet potato noodles
1 pound cooked jumbo shrimp
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 head cabbage, thinly sliced
handful fresh basil, chopped
15 drops liquid stevia
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds

  1. Cook noodles according to package. Drain and set aside. 
  2. Heat a large skillet or wok with the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Add the garlic, pepper, and cabbage, and put the lid on the wok. Leave on for 5 minutes. 
  4. Take the top off and add basil, noodles and shrimp. Stir for a minute to heat everything evenly. 
  5. Take off heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. 
  6. Serve with a variety of condiments (tamari, fish sauce, etc.). 
Serves 4-6 

The deadline for Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten-Free submissions is September 25th. I can't wait to see what you come up with!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Carrot Cream Soda, A Diagnosis, and Listening to My Symptoms

Before I share my favorite new drink with you, I need to give a giant thanks to all of you who read my last post, commented, and e-mailed. The response was overwhelming, and knowing how much support I have has been immensely helpful. More than that, knowing how many of you are dealing with similar issues gave me the encouragement I needed to get back to eating the way I should be. I've spent the last three months not knowing where my motivation went, and feeling simply unwilling to follow my strict diet. Not surprisingly, my health and mood slipped back to where I was when I first moved to Seattle a year ago. But since my last post on Tuesday, I've followed my eating plan, and while I don't feel perfect, I feel much better and know I'm headed back in the right direction.

Reading all of your words reminded me that my symptoms are not my body's way of turning against me. Rather, they're its way of trying to wake me up to the life I'm missing. You see, I have a tendency to believe that no matter what I do, it's not enough. To compare myself with others and think I'm always a step behind. So I throw balls up in the air and I start to juggle. Three, four, five, six...before you know it, I'm stuck in one spot, terrified to move or look down for fear all of the balls will tumble to the ground. My arms begin to ache and I get a crick in my neck, but I just keep juggling. Instead of choosing which balls are the most important and letting the others drop, I continue to juggle, all the while secretly hoping to trip and fall, leaving every single ball behind. This is how I felt when I left New York (which was almost exactly a year ago), and in many ways I literally did drop all of my balls. I left everything I knew and started fresh.

This time, I'm not going to do that. I've made a home and a life here that I love, and all of those balls in the air? They kick ass. One ball is a cookbook. Another is a master's degree in nutrition. A third is this blog. There's one for The Gluten and Allergen Free Expo in Dallas October 1st-2nd, where I'll be giving a talk on food and inflammation (you think I have enough personal experience with that?!). Yep, I'm pretty psyched about all of the balls up there. This time I'm determined to keep juggling. And yet, there are a few balls scattered on the ground by my feet. My health, my friends, my yoga practice, The Assistant. Not gone, but they need a little help getting back in the air. When I get stressed, I focus on what's in front of me to the detriment of everything else. I've been ignoring the warning signs, the headaches and fatigue, the weight gain, the frustration I can feel from my friends. The ever increasing sense of panic, the sense that I'm missing the point. Missing out on what life is really about.

Last week, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's, an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland. My cookbook co-author, Brittany, was recently diagnosed and urged me to get tested. To my surprise (although not hers), my tests came back positive. I still have some more bloodwork to get back, another appointment with my doctor, and a lot of research to do so that I know what I'm dealing with. But here's what I'm taking away from all of this: I haven't been taking care of myself. 

And not just in the last few months, but for a long time. For as long as I can remember really. I fake it and I put on a good front. Occasionally, I get in a groove and handle everything really well. But most of the time, I'm just plain stressed out and anxious. My massage therapist (and yes, I now have a massage therapist...this is part of my new plan to treat myself right) says working on my back is like working on a man. Meaning I'm a tense collection of knots. Not that I needed her to tell me that. My body hurts most of the time. I don't think it's supposed to be this way. In fact, I'm sure it's not.

It's time I start listening to my symptoms. So I'm making some changes. I'm prioritizing, and rather than dropping any balls, I'm just going to put some down for a while. I have this new goal. It's called, "putting my happiness first." Novel idea, isn't it? It starts by taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. It starts with deciding what truly matters to me, right now, and knowing how to prioritize that. It starts with trusting myself, and allowing delight back into my life. It starts by believing that success is being me, with all my weird and silly idiosyncrasies; success is not blindly following a path simply because it's in front of me.

So my first step is to cut back and make time. Cut back on what isn't my priority right now, and make time for what is. With that said, I'm happy to say I've decided to take some time off from my graduate program at Bastyr. While I have every intention of finishing my degree, I've got to set that ball aside and focus on what's most important to me right now. My health, this blog, my cookbook, my family and friends...and laughter.

I don't want to miss out on any more of my life. 

As always, thank you for listening. And here's one more way for me to thank you: Carrot Cream Soda. An antioxidant filled alternative to orange soda. Makes me happy and fills my cells with delight. Or something like that.

Carrot Cream Soda

3 carrots
1 1-inch slice of fresh ginger
1/2 cup sparkling water
5-10 drops liquid stevia

  1. Juice the carrots and ginger. Add more or less ginger depending on your personal preference. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, so I use more when I have a headache. 
  2. Stir in the sparkling water and stevia. Add ice if desired. 
Serves 1

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Does She Really Have a Food Sensitivity or is it an Eating Disorder?

I'm sitting here eating sautéed salmon with cabbage and kelp noodles. Except it's sautéed sole, which doesn't taste nearly as good to me, but is more affordable than wild salmon. What I really want to eat is pizza. Thick crust pizza with pesto and tomato sauce, oozing with mozzarella... I actually have a slice of gluten-free pizza with my own crust in the freezer, but it's in there so that someone else can eat it. It's next to the homemade gluten-free chive bread. Again, waiting for someone else to eat it. My freezer is full of things that I've baked, but can't eat. There's a loaf of molasses brown bread on the counter. Gluten and dairy free. It's good. Really good. It's sitting in a container that says, "Please help yourself." It's a recipe I'm working on for the cookbook, but I can't eat it. In the fridge is a $7 container of sunbutter. I bought it so that I could have a quick snack on hand for those days when I'm running short on time. Actually, I bought it so I could have a quick snack, period. A snack that doesn't take work. But after eating it for three days, I can't deny what's going on. I'm having a reaction to it.

What happens when I have a reaction to food? What doesn't happen? It changes all the time. Sometimes I get bloated and gassy. That's the least of my problems. I've been dealing with that my whole life, and I always thought it was just normal. If that was my only problem, frankly, I would eat whatever I wanted. But it's not. I also get itchy around my jawline. I get this strange feeling like I've suddenly developed a double chin. For the record, trying to explain that feeling to a doctor is very difficult, and the only two people I've ever met that knew exactly what I was talking about are gluten-free friends who also have various food sensitivities. What else? I get headaches, deep, pulsing pain in my temples. My jaw becomes tight and I find myself grinding my teeth more at night. I know this because I wake up with teeth clenched and a creaking jaw. This relented in the five months from January to May when I was eating an extremely strict diet, but has gotten worse as my willpower has waned. And there's more. I get depressed. I have intense mood swings that leave me in tears. I feel like it's hard to think straight and my thoughts are being pushed in every direction through a crowd of juggling clowns. Just thinking about it makes my brain hurt. Simple tasks suddenly seem like monumental hurdles. And I get tired. So tired I can barely keep my eyes open. So tired I need to take a nap at 6pm or I fall asleep waiting at the curbside while I pick up a friend at the airport.

Both of these things happened to me today. I struggled to stay awake while driving to the airport, fell asleep in the car waiting for my friend to get her bags, and promptly took a nap when I got home. I had to force myself out of bed at 7pm to eat dinner. Maybe it was the sunbutter I ate. Maybe it was the slice of molasses brown bread I allowed myself to have last night. Maybe it was the mooncakes I attempted to make today for Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten-Free. They were gluten-free, vegan, nut-free, sugar-free, and xanthan/guar gum free. I thought they would be fine. But as I finished eating one, I could feel my jaw tense up and begin to tingle. Within minutes, I felt like I was going to fall asleep. I slept a full eight hours last night and did yoga this morning. I was feeling good. It wasn't stress or not taking care of myself. It wasn't in my head, and it wasn't psychological. It was something I ate.

Sometimes my reactions happen immediately as they did today. Sometimes it happens a few hours later. Sometimes the next day. That's what makes it so hard to pinpoint what I'm reacting to. Although at this point, there are so many things on my list, it's almost not worth trying to figure it out anymore. Now it's more about making sure I stock up on the items I know I can eat, and pray I don't develop sensitivities to those as well. These days, it's a lot of fish, grass-fed beef (because the thought of eating factory farmed beef is worse to me than the thought of being broke), vegetables, fruit, and seaweed. Luckily for me, I can eat tons of kelp noodles, nori, and seaweed salad, and feel great. Even luckier is the fact that I love and crave these foods.

So why am I telling you all this? I'm in a bit of a catch-22 these days. I've never hidden the fact that I struggle with bingeing. Bringing that to light was one of the reasons I started this blog. If I begin to fall back into old patterns of bingeing, I talk about it. I go to counseling. I journal about it or write about it here. I don't try to hide it. Down that path lies only more bingeing, and I've dealt with that long enough to be sick and tired of it. I will be the first to admit that I am recovering from an eating disorder. Binge eating may not be as understood as bulimia or anorexia, but it's equally destructive and possibly more prevalent (but underdiagnosed). One of the things I've learned is that when I restrict a food, I begin to crave it. I know this. I want what I can't have. The problem right now? There are a lot of foods I can't have. My naturopathic doctor wants me to go back on the diet I was on for five months. I felt amazing. But I couldn't eat anything. No gluten, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, high-amine foods (like bananas, chocolate, avocados, tomatoes, and more), dried fruit, sweeteners in any form other than stevia...the list was long, but I'll leave it at that. There were foods I had to avoid that were traditionally "binge" foods for me, like cheese and sugary sweets. But there were also a lot of healthy foods I had to cut out like avocados, tomatoes, and bananas. I want to eat everything in moderation because I know that's what's best to keep me from bingeing. But I can't. Because that's not what's best for my body, and when my body is out of whack, my mind gets out of whack. And when my mind gets out of whack, it all begins to spiral downward...

People ask me if I've ever tried just eating what I want and not worrying about it. People ask me that a lot. Sometimes I can see the question just hovering in their eyes, but they refrain from saying anything. Yes. I've tried that. That's actually what got me where I am right now. From January through May, I stuck strictly to my diet, and I was feeling better every day. For a number of reasons, I decided to try a few foods I'd been avoiding, healthy foods like almonds and avocados. I felt okay, so I allowed more foods in. Before I knew it, I was eating everything again (except gluten). Before I knew it, my headaches were back, and I had a few new symptoms as well. Sore throats, ear aches, and yeast infections (actually that last one wasn't new, I just forgot about it earlier). Oh and did I mention weight gain? Seven pounds in a month. And believe me, I wasn't bingeing. I was just eating foods that caused inflammation in my body.

I've been feeling worse and worse, but continuing to eat foods that I shouldn't. I still eat healthier than most people I know. I'm eating gluten and dairy free. I don't eat any processed foods. All baked goods I eat are homemade. To most people, my diet looks unnecessarily strict. Yet in my eyes, I'm failing because I've been eating eggs, nuts, and unrefined sugars like honey. I've been eating high amine foods like canned tuna. I know these are healthy foods, but my body can't handle them. And as long as I continue to eat foods that I'm reacting to, I won't be able to calm my gut inflammation down long enough to heal.

Here's the thing. Being on a strict diet is difficult for anyone - and I'd like to make clear that when I use the word diet, I am not saying that I'm trying to restrict the amount I eat, simply to avoid foods I'm reacting to. Being on a strict diet as a food blogger, cookbook author-to-be, and graduate nutrition student is especially difficult. Add to that my history of binge eating, and I can only tell you that it's exhausting. I want to go out to dinner with friends. I want to be able to go to a friend's house for dinner and know I won't pay for it later. I want to be able to come home after a tiring day and grab an Amy's meal from the freezer. Hell, I want to bake a loaf of bread and be able to eat a slice without feeling sick later. But I can't. At this point, the best thing I can do for myself is work my way back to my strict diet, and hope that my doctor can help me to heal my leaky gut. The best I can do is hope that I can eat a more normal diet someday.

So now, here is the real reason I'm writing this. Yes, eating like this is hard. It's a struggle to stick to the foods that make me feel better. It's even harder when I start getting looks. If you have a food sensitivity, then I'm sure you know the look I'm referring to. The one that says, "Oh come on. It's all in your head." The sideways questions that are really trying to ask, "Are you sure you don't have an eating disorder?" Well actually, yes I do. And I'll happily talk with you about it. But that's not what's going on here. My food sensitivities are real. My symptoms are real. And my struggle to deal with it is real and not helped by your belief that it's in my head or that I'm being silly by refusing to use the same cutting board that's been used to cut regular bread. I try not to get angry. Because I know how it looks. I can see from the outside how crazy my diet must look, and sometimes I even have to ask myself if it's in my head. Then I eat something, have a reaction, and am reminded of the truth. It's not in my head. And then I do get angry. And I get sad. And I feel even more isolated.

I tearily confessed my concerns recently to The Assistant. He admitted that more than one person had asked him if I had an eating disorder. I wasn't surprised, but I was frustrated and upset. This was about a month ago. I'm still frustrated. I'm still upset. It still makes me cry to think about it. It bothers me that I can't make people understand what's going on in my body or how I feel every time I eat something as innocuous as an egg. Frankly, it sucks to have to tell a friend, "Sorry I can't eat that," and then watch the look on her face that tells you she thinks you have an eating disorder. It sucks to not be able to eat the food, it sucks to have to watch her eat it, and it sucks to know what she's secretly thinking. It sucks equally hard to give in, eat the food to feel normal for a few minutes, and then pay for it the next day by waking up depressed, bloated, gassy, or any other of my reactions. Take your pick as to which one I'll end up with. Maybe one, maybe all.

I've noticed there are two prevailing beliefs about eating disorders and food sensitivities. One is that food sensitivities don't really exist and that the best way to heal from an eating disorder is to allow yourself to eat whatever you want in order to take the supposed power away from that food. This is the view espoused in Intuitive Eating, a popular book that I both agree and disagree with. The other view is that certain foods can be physiologically addictive in the same way that alcohol can. This is why we crave them, and the only way to stop that craving is to stop eating the food. Of course, there are shades of grey in there, but those are the two ends of the spectrum as I've seen them.

When I first started really dealing with my bingeing, one of the ways I learned to deal with it was to allow myself to eat whatever I wanted in moderation. If I wanted dessert, I had dessert every night. I stopped telling myself that there were "bad" foods or that I was bad if I ate something rich and decadent. It worked. Sort of. When it came to certain foods, especially those with sugar, the cravings didn't go away just because I stopped restricting those foods. If anything, the cravings got stronger the more I ate them. It was around this time that I began having headaches and suffering from depression. Since then, I've started to believe that "everything in moderation" only applies to some people. The people for whom the cravings are purely psychological. But for a lot of us, I believe there's something else going on. Something real and something insidious. Something that can only be cured by abstaining from the food altogether. Now, I know some of you will agree with me, and some won't. And the literature is inconclusive at this point. But right now, here's what I believe for myself:

I believe that I have a "leaky gut" and until it's healed, I will continue to be sensitive to a large number of foods.

I believe that eating those foods causes a myriad of symptoms, not the least of which is depression.  This is not in my head, and no matter how much yoga I do, how much sleep I get, or how much I smile, eating foods I'm sensitive to is going to lead to emotional problems.

I believe that sugar (and for me, that includes honey, maple syrup, and most other sweeteners other than stevia) is the major cause of my mood swings, and abstaining completely is the only way they will stop. I've seen this happen. They've gone away when I stopped eating sugar, and always come back within three days when I start up again.

I believe that I simply have to learn to ignore what other people think and do what's right for me. But I urge you, if you know someone who has to eat a certain way for her health, to have compassion and help her follow her plan. To have faith that she knows her body best. To think twice before assuming that her problems are in her head. I know that disordered eating is real and can often be masked as food sensitivities. But I also know that food sensitivities are real, and can be confused for disordered eating. If you're reading this, you probably know that too. I realize I'm preaching to the choir. But I felt it needed to be said, or at least I needed to say it. To stand up for myself before strengthening my resolve to get back on my strict diet and back on my road to health and healing. 

I realize at this point that there's so much more I have to say, but this post is long enough as it is. But there's more: my thoughts on stress and inflammation, Intuitive Eating, Women Food and God, orthorexia, and more about my own health and recent testing and bloodwork I've had done. I'll let you all go for now, and just to throw another thought out there, I'm leaving you with a link to something I read while in the middle of writing this post. Despite everything I just wrote, this helped me to put it all in perspective... Remembering 9/11.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Grain-Free Apple Crisp

I'm sharing my recipe for apple crisp today at The Spunky Coconut. Stop by to check it out and say hello to Kelly, who's spending quality time with her family and new baby girl!

And here's a sneak peak of a recipe I've been working on for you all. I still need to play around with it a's a great sandwich bread and even better bread for toast, but still has that "dry" gluten-free thing going on. Personally, I don't mind all that much, but I want only the best for all of you! A few months ago, I would have been content with it as it is, but I've become a bit of a perfectionist with my baking these days (I blame Brittany). Oh well. That can only be a good thing, right?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Birthday Noodles for Laura: Sauteed Salmon and Cabbage with Kelp Noodles

Happy birthday, Laura! Since I'm not there to celebrate your birthday with you, I'll send you lots of love and a recipe in your honor. It's not a snack designed to keep your blood sugars even, but it works as a delicious meal that will satisfy you without that post-meal crash. I'm guessing you might not have stevia at home, but it's a great sweetener to have on hand (you'll get used to the taste pretty quickly) that doesn't raise your blood sugar. And in my opinion, it works better in savory dishes than sweet!

Salmon + cabbage + kelp noodles = A meal that will satisfy you AND make your body feel good.

Sauteed Salmon and Cabbage with Kelp Noodles

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound salmon
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon powdered stevia
1/4 cup water
1/2 head of green cabbage, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 ounces kelp noodles
Mixed sea vegetables (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

  1. Heat olive oil in large pan on medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add salmon, skin down. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste on top of the salmon. Let cook for a minute before turning heat down to medium.
  2. Stir the stevia into the water and add to the pan. Add the cabbage, garlic and ginger. Add a sprinkling more of salt and pepper, and stir the cabbage around to mix in the garlic and ginger. It will likely cover the salmon, but that's fine. 
  3. Cover the pan and leave the salmon in until cooked. This will depend on the thickness of your salmon. Mine took 10 minutes. When the salmon is pink all the way through and just beginning to flake, it's done. 
  4. Every couple of minutes, take the top off the pan and stir the cabbage around to keep it from burning. It can get a little browned on the bottom though. It adds great flavor!
  5. In the meantime, rinse off half a container of kelp noodles (2 ounces) and a small handful of mixed sea vegetables. The sea vegetables can be VERY salty so rinse really well. When you have a few minutes left for the salmon to cook, add the kelp noodles and sea vegetables to the pan, stir and put the top back on. 
  6. Once the salmon is cooked through, take off the heat and serve. 
Serves 2-4 (depending on how hungry you are...this usually only lasts me two meals)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten-Free: Mooncake Festival

Welcome to September's Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten-Free! In June of 2009, I joined in on this monthly blog event for the first time with my BBQ Enchilada Tofu Bake. Today, I'm honored to be hosting the event which was created years ago by Naomi Devlin, and is still my favorite blog carnival.

This month's theme is The Chinese Lantern Festival (which falls on September 12th) a.k.a. Mid-Autumn Festival a.k.a. Mooncake Festival. When I lived in Brooklyn, I loved taking the subway to Chinatown and buying Chinese pastries. Red bean buns and mooncakes were two of my favorite choices, but I haven't had either in years because of my dietary restrictions. So for this month's GAHIGF theme, I encourage you to make one of your favorite Chinese dishes or desserts in a way that suits your own dietary needs. Of course, it has to be gluten-free, but that's the only stipulation. Need some ideas? Here are some gluten-free takes on traditional Chinese dishes that have been inspiring me lately:

Sweet Sesame Noodles at The Daily Dietribe
Scallion Pancakes at Diet, Dessert and Dogs
Green Tea Mochi Cake at Mochi Thoughts

Want to join in? Here's how:
  • Come up with a recipe for a gluten-free version of your favorite Chinese food. Post your recipe by September 25th, linking back to this post. Send me an e-mail with the link to your post and a photo of the recipe. Extra points if you do a mooncake recipe! Double extra points if you have your recipe ready and posted on September 12th, the actual day of the Mooncake Festival.
  • If you don't have a blog, that's fine! Just e-mail me your recipe and a photo, and I'll add it to the round up of recipes at the end of the month.
  • Submissions are due to me at iris(at) by September 25th for a round up of all the recipes at the end of the month.
  • Please be sure to let me know if you have any questions – you can ask them in the comments section or find me on Facebook!


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