Friday, October 29, 2010

Fruit Crumble Redux - TYPO CORRECTED!!


 OK, I tried making the apple-pear-berry crumble again the other night; this time I used my oven thermometer to keep track of the temperature.  Unfortunately it fluctuated quite a bit, but it seemed to AVERAGE around 325 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the 40 minutes it was in the oven.

While I was reviewing the recipe I posted the other day, I discovered a TYPO in the ingredients!!  :(

I've now fixed the old post, and am posting the recipe again, just to be sure that everyone has the corrected version.  I made a couple of other minor changes as well.  I'm SO sorry about that and I hope that you didn't have a bad experience with this recipe already!!

Please give it one more try!

Triple-Coconut Berry-Apple-Pear Crumble
("triple" because I use coconut flour, coconut nectar, and coconut oil!)

Ingredients

Topping:

1 C almond flour
1/2 C coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
pinch or two of nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 C of coconut nectar (or 1/4 C agave nectar)
1/3 C melted coconut oil (or melted butter)

Filling:

 4 large pears, peeled and sliced (or 2 pears and 2 medium apples, very THINLY sliced)
1 1/2  - 2 C fresh or frozen berries
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
2 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot
2-3 T coconut nectar (or honey or agave)

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and lightly oil the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch pie plate.

Mix together the dry ingredients for the topping, then add the coconut oil and coconut nectar.  Blend well; it should be stiff and somewhat crumbly, of course.

Toss the fruit together with the other ingredients for the filling.  Sprinkle a small amount of the crumble topping on the the bottom of the pie plate, then spread the filling in the pan.  Use your fingers to crumble the remaining topping over the fruit filling.

Bake at 325 F for 30 - 40 minutes.  After approximately 30 minutes test with a sharp knife, skewer or toothpick; if the apple/pear slices are very tender, and the topping is a deep golden brown, remove from oven.  Serve warm as is, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Grain-Free Coconut-Almond-Flax Bread


Now that I have my trusty oven thermometer, I decided to bake something that I've been wanting to try for a little while now.  I developed this bread dough based on my grain-free biscuits, and baked it in a small glass loaf pan per Elana's recommendations for her almond flour and flax meal loaves.  Elana has learned by trial-and-error how to bake with almond flour plus flax meal, and I suspected that even though my recipe contains coconut flour too,  this dough would behave in a somewhat similar fashion.

Yes, it did, and wow....the bread turned out to be delicious!

If I do say so myself! ;)

Grain-Free Coconut-Almond-Flax Bread

Ingredients:

4 eggs
1/4 C coconut oil, melted
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 C coconut flour
1/4 C almond flour**
1 1/2 T flax meal
1 tsp baking powder
2 T coconut or agave nectar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Lightly oil, or spray with non-stick spray, a small loaf pan (NOTE: I used a 6.5" x 4" glass loaf pan, which is an odd size....a bit smaller than most, so adjust your cooking time accordingly if you use a slightly larger one).

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut or agave nectar, and coconut oil thoroughly. Combine the salt, coconut and almond flours, flax meal and baking powder in a separate bowl, then stir into the egg-oil mixture, blending well.

Spoon the batter into the small loaf pan, and smooth the top with the back of the spoon.  Bake for approximately 30 - 40 minutes, until a knife inserted into the loaf comes out clean and the top is a dark golden brown.

**NOTE: I am following Elana Amsterdam's suggestion and using ONLY finely ground blanched almond flour. Some almond flours on the market simply are not fine enough to give a good texture to baked goods. For example, Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour just doesn't work. The flour that I'm currently using is Honeyville's Blanched Almond Flour.

My oven temperature stabilized close to 325 degrees, maybe a tad less.  I ended up baking the loaf for approximately 40 minutes.  I tested it for done-ness as one tests a pumpkin pie...by inserting a regular butter knife into the loaf to see if it came out fairly clean.

This loaf of bread stored well (covered) for 3 days on my kitchen counter; it stayed moist and flavorful and pliable.  I ate it plain, and with lemon curd.  I haven't tried toasting it yet, but since the slices are so small, I will probably use the broiler rather than the toaster.

This is a great alternative to the high-carb gluten free breads available in the stores; this bread is very nutrient-dense, high in fiber and relatively low in carbohydrates.  It is made with low-glycemic-index ingredients, so is shouldn't spike your blood sugar like most baked goods will.

Enjoy!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Oven temperature inaccuracies!!

I've recently discovered that the oven in our new house is NOT at all accurate.  Which causes big problems for me (and potentially for you, if you are trying any of my recipes!).  The oven seems to be running about 50 or more degrees cooler than I set it too.  

I have now purchased an oven thermometer and plan to make the fruit crumble again soon, so that I can determine exactly how long to cook it and at what temperature.  Since it took about 35 minutes in my oven, which was probably NOT at 350 but rather around 300 degrees, it may cook MUCH faster in yours if you set it to 350.  Please keep an eye on it and test the fruit for doneness after 20 minutes or so.

Fortunately we have only lived here since July, so any of the recipes older than July 2010 should be fine.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Comfort food for fall - Mixed Fruit Crumble - CORRECTED!!


Dear readers, I don't know about you, but I LOVE fall!  I love that it's cool, even chilly, but that the raw, sharp winds of winter have not yet arrived.  Here in California the weather is fickle and there can still be a few warm days even in October. 

Naturally fall brings to mind some of my family's favorite comfort foods, and very high on that list are fruit pies, crumbles and crisps.  Fortunately the physical problems I was complaining about in the last post (nausea and food aversion) have subsided for the most part, and I've been able to eat a bit....which means that I've been able to cook a bit, too!

The other night I was looking at the fruit we had in the house....pears and apples in the bowl on the counter, blueberries and raspberries in the fridge. I wanted to create something warm and comforting.  It helped that I had been reading a number of gluten free food blogs recently (including Karina's and Elana's)....I was inspired to bake a mixed fruit crumble, using all of those fruits that we had plus a new all natural sweetener I'm trying out: coconut nectar.

Coconut nectar is advertised as being more nutritious than agave nectar, and is simply the raw sap of the coconut tree.  It's very sweet, similar to, although not quite as sweet as agave nectar, and has a very low glycemic index.  It is also MUCH lower in fructose than agave nectar.

NOTE: you may use all apples or all pears and/or any berries you prefer...I just used what I had, and it turned out to be SCRUMPTIOUS!

Triple-Coconut Berry-Apple-Pear Crumble (CORRECTED)
("triple" because I use coconut flour, coconut nectar, and coconut oil!)

Ingredients

Topping:

1 C almond flour
1/2 C coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
pinch or two of nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 C of coconut nectar (or 1/4 C agave nectar)
1/3 C melted coconut oil (or melted butter)

Filling:

4 large pears, peeled and sliced (OR 2 pears and 2 medium apples, THINLY sliced)
1 1/2 - 2 C fresh or frozen berries (I used fresh blueberries and raspberries)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
2 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot
2-3 T coconut nectar (or honey or agave)

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and lightly oil the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch pie plate.

Mix together the dry ingredients for the topping, then add the coconut oil and coconut nectar.  Blend well; it should be stiff and somewhat crumbly, of course.

Toss the fruit together with the other ingredients for the filling.  Sprinkle a small amount of the crumble topping on the the bottom of the pie plate, then spread the filling in the pan.  Use your fingers to crumble the remaining topping over the fruit filling.

Bake at 325 F for 30 - 40 minutes.  After approximately 30 minutes test with a sharp knife, skewer or toothpick; if the apple/pear slices are very tender, and the topping is a deep golden brown, remove from oven.  Serve warm as is, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

By the way, I think it's great that several other gluten free food bloggers have discovered that mixing coconut and almond flours really works!  The first time I mixed them (for my grain free garlic cheese and grain free classic drop biscuits), I had never seen any other recipes that combined those two flours. But now there are others posting recipes on their blogs using mixtures of those two flours!  How cool is that!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What to eat when you're too sick to eat

I'm having some very weird symptoms lately....weird for me anyway: severe acid reflux, nausea, and food aversion.

Food aversion is actually fairly common for people with Lyme disease, from what I hear. And of course nausea/loss of appetite is a problem that many chronically ill people deal with on a regular basis.

This will be GREAT for weight loss, of course, but the problem is that I have a lot of medication to take and much of it needs to be taken with food. One antibiotic, Mepron, is supposed to be taken after a fatty meal (approximately 20 grams of fat per tsp of Mepron enhances absorption of the medicine)! Fatty food sounds so revolting to me right now!! So what to do?

Several kind people suggested making smoothies and sipping them slowly, and one person actually gave me her recipe, so I will share it with you, in case anyone else besides me is having this problem with food aversion....

Ann Marie's Berry Smoothie

Ingredients:

1/4 C Greek-style yogurt, plain (I use Trader Joe's)
1/4 C almond flour or almond meal (make sure it's certified gluten free!)
frozen/fresh fruit (blueberries, strawberries - nothing too sweet)
a dash of aloe juice to soothe the stomach
a dash of water with lime

Directions:

Whip everything up in your blender or magic bullet, and voila!

According to the nutrition info, there should be exactly 20 grams of fat in this, and I can assure you that it does not seem fatty when it's going down. Yay for almond meal!

I have to stay on a fairly low carb diet now (just found out that I'm pre-diabetic, oh joy!). The nice thing about this smoothie is that the carb content is not bad (< 10 grams?) and if it needs to be sweeter I can add a trace of stevia without adding to the carbs.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dusting off the Crockpot again


Decided to do a cooking post tonight....I'm sure everyone's had enough of my health issues for a while!

And it's definitely getting to be the right time of year for Crockpot cooking...Autumn is just around the corner and the college football season has already started. Hubby was in the front room this evening as I was putting the finishing touches on dinner in the kitchen; he was almost jumping up and down with joy as the Boise State Broncos managed to win (very narrowly) against Virginia State. Well, I was happy too, let's face it; my daughter Robin just graduated from Boise State last June and we've all adopted that University as our own in this house, at least where football is concerned!! :)

So tonight I made another wonderful Indian curry recipe from the Crockpot Lady's blog; I had tried a couple of curries from her site before, both of which were good, but this one was over the top GREAT! I loved it, and my five year old cleaned his plate! My husband is not a big curry fan but admitted that it was good and that he enjoyed it. Which is good because I made a LOT! LOL!!

Yeah, I know that curry and football don't really go together as far as most people are concerned, but I really wanted some curry tonight! :)

The recipe I used is Crockpot Chicken Makhani, aka Indian Butter Chicken...I made my own slight modifications. Stephanie's recipe is here; she got it from a fellow blogger, Kindra, and modified it to suit herself. Kindra's recipe is here.

Crockpot Chicken Makhani

Ingredients

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (can be frozen)
1 med onion, sliced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 stick butter, cut into chunks
15 cardamom pods (sewn together or tied in cheesecloth)
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 T garam masala
approx 1 inch grated fresh ginger root
1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
2 T lemon or lime juice
1 C plain yogurt
1 tsp salt (more or less to taste)

NOTE: If you don't have cardamom pods, you can use 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, maybe a bit more. You can always add salt, more spices, to taste. Always feel free to modify it to suit your own taste buds!

Directions

Use a 5 quart or larger crockpot. You can either sew together the cardamom pods using a needle and thread or you can tie them in a little cheese cloth bundle instead, if you have cheesecloth in the house. Put some sliced onion in the bottom of the crockpot, then place chicken on top. Scatter rest of onion and garlic over chicken. Combine dry spices, grated ginger, tomato paste, lemon or lime juice, and coconut milk in a medium sized bowl and pour the resulting mixture over the chicken and vegetables in the pot. Drop chunks of butter randomly over the top.


Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 4 (I doubled the recipe and cooked it on high for 2 and low for 4). The chicken will shred easily when fully cooked.

Stir in the plain yogurt 15 minutes before serving.


Discard cardamom pods. Salt to taste, serve with white or brown basmati rice. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A painful lesson in frugality - a blessing in disguise!

I recently learned something the hard way: my family can (almost) get along on MUCH less income than I thought....the "hard way" because I experienced a sudden, unexpected and scary drop in income. "Almost" because there are some medical bills I couldn't pay, but I suspect that I might figure out a way to pay them if our financial problems persist much longer!

For those who don't know, I've been working part-time since April 5th of this year; my employers have been incredibly kind and generous, allowing me to work 100% from home over the Internet. They've even accepted the fact that I've moved 200 miles away to the cooler, cloudier climate of the Central Coast of California, where my lupus flares have been less frequent and even my Lyme disease symptoms seem to be more controlled.

My work hours have dropped from 40 to 24 per week, but the state disability checks make up for that, paying me for all of the hours that I'm no longer working.

Just a side comment here....it's really great to know that a program that I've been paying into for all these years actually WORKS the way it's supposed to! I remember looking at those SDI deductions on my paycheck stubs in the past, resenting the fact that my hard-earned money was being taken away, but now I'm incredibly grateful that they did take that money and put it away for me!

OK, anyway.....in mid-July suddenly my disability checks stopped! They sent me my "final" check with a letter that explained that if I was still disabled, I needed another statement from my doctor so that my benefits might be extended. So I gave a copy of the physician's statement form to one of my doctors....should be a straightforward process to fill it out and send it off, right? Doctors do this all the time, after all!

Well, unbeknownst to me, this particular doctor happened to be moving to a new office right around the time I gave him the form. And apparently the form was LOST during the packing process!

I was patiently waiting and waiting (well, perhaps IMPATIENTLY waiting and waiting) for some indication that my benefits had been extended....I called the SDI office from time to time to see if they had received the paperwork, but the answer was always "no". So after a couple of weeks I called the doctor's office and asked for a copy of the form that they sent off to SDI. This was how I found out that it had disappeared during their office move....they had no copy in my chart, no evidence of the SDI form anywhere.

At that point (after I calmed down) I gave copies of the SDI physician's statement to TWO of my doctors, because I wasn't going to put all of my eggs in one basket again! Then I waited another two weeks, since it can take up to 10 business days for SDI to "process" the doctor's statements.

FINALLY, yesterday I was told that, yes, they DID receive one of the forms, and that I needed to submit all of my timecards from 7/14 onward so that SDI can send me my missing checks!! I've been extended to December! Hallelujah!!

Needless to say I filled out and faxed off those timesheets first thing this morning! :)

However, during this time that our income was so severely reduced, I was absolutely AMAZED to see that somehow I was able to pay our regular monthly bills AND still buy groceries, prescriptions, diapers, etc. As I mentioned, there were a couple of large medical bills (over $100) that have to wait until I get my retroactive disability payments, but I've paid the rent, I've paid the utilities, I've paid my student loan payment.....I would never have believed that I could do this on less than 2/3 of my regular pay!

Yes, we did have to tighten our belts and pay less than I would have liked to pay on various credit cards (I like to pay a LOT more than the minimum whenever possible). We also ate a lot of simple, inexpensive meals such as scrambled eggs, bacon and my homemade almond-and-coconut flour biscuits, chili, baked beans and gluten free franks....well, you get the picture.

Also, as a Christian, I have to point out that the Almighty must have been at work here, stretching our funds. :)

But it was such an eye-opener, such a revelation, to discover that we could actually make it on so little money. I think I needed to know this now, because if I go on full-time disability my income would drop to 60% of my regular full-time pay. This proved to me that we could do it....and we could even do it comfortably if we found a cheaper place to live!

My aunt June once told me that the one economic factor that makes the biggest difference in your budget is something that YOU can control: housing costs. You can choose to live in a less expensive home. You have no real control over grocery prices, gas prices, utility rates, etc., and you can only economize so much on those items. But it is possible to economize significantly on rent or on a mortgage by simply choosing NOT to live in the most expensive place you can afford.

Yes, this time of reduced income has been really, really tough. But it was worth it to learn that we can survive if I go on full-time disability! I hope I never have to do that, but it's still an option that's on the table.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Move is over...now to unpack!


OK, we've been here for a month, and I DO have the kitchen unpacked and (somewhat) organized. Last night I actually made chili! I know that many of you are living in areas with sweltering temperatures but we are now on the Central Coast of California and it's COOL here! In more ways than one, actually! :)

In the picture above, at the beginning of this post, you can see what it looks like from our front porch on a sunny day....the marine layer is hanging over the ocean but has rolled back far enough to allow some sunshine.

In the picture below, the beach on a cloudy day:


The hottest it's been so far this summer is 77 F, at least since we've been here. I know that it CAN get hotter, but I think it's rare.

Of course, this was one of the main reasons we moved here....the cooler, cloudier climate seems to help control my lupus and Lyme disease symptom flares.

We're still in the process of settling in, and it will take some time to finish unpacking everything. At least I'm able to start cooking my own gluten free foods at home again. Soon there will be time to experiment with new recipes and to update my blogs as well!

I hope that all of you are enjoying your summers, and staying gluten free, wherever you are!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Warning, warning.....

.....danger, Will Robinson!

(For those who are too young to have watched television in the 1960s, this is a reference to a VERY old TV show called Lost In Space. The robot used to say this quite frequently.)

I feel I should share the story of my chronic illnesses as a warning because it just may help someone who is new to this blog and who is in diagnostic limbo....my story is sort of a mystery novel...tracking down the culprit, step by step, until finally you have him cornered!

Background: my family has a genetic predisposition to autoimmune diseases. I've probably had celiac disease since infancy, plus psoriasis and Hashimoto's thyroiditis since I was in my teens. Wasn't dx with Hashi's until my thyroid was basically dead though, in my early thirties. Wasn't dx with celiac until much later in life...more on that further down.

In March 2004 I noticed that the whites of my eyes were yellow. It was a very serious case of hepatitis (AST/ALT > 3500!), but all virus tests from A to Z were negative. In fact, ALL tests for any known disease that my hepatologist could think of were negative. They were talking about a liver transplant at that point.....then I discontinued an over-the-counter herbal medication I was taking and things improved spontaneously. I was off work for weeks and had to endure months of my skin and eyes being the color of a yellow highlighter, but I thought it was just an isolated health incident. Eventually I was "well"....so I thought.

Then in the summer of 2007 I noticed severe back pain when my family and I were spending the day at an amusement park. I kept having to stop and sit....I had never had problems like this before. We ended up cutting our visit short and going home because of my back pain.

I told my doctor about it and she x-rayed my back but there was nothing on the x-rays to explain the pain. She laughed and told me that I was the only person over the age of 40 that DIDN'T have arthritis in my back! She did not offer to do MRIs, or any other tests at all, for that matter. Nor did she refer me to a specialist. I was basically dismissed as a hypochondriac.

The pain got worse and worse; by the spring of 2008 I could only walk or stand for maybe 10 minutes at a time. This was a problem because, in addition to a full time day job, I was a college instructor part-time in the evening, and that required me to stand. I finally ended up in a wheelchair and persuaded the college administration to give me special tools that would allow me to teach sitting down. In addition, I was developing MANY other bizarre symptoms that helped to keep me in that wheelchair: muscle spasms in my feet, hands, and ankles, peripheral neuropathy, vertigo, double vision, gastric problems, bowel and bladder issues, lots of PAIN everywhere.

In desperation I began to seek out other doctors: rheumatologists, neurologists, gastroenterologists, etc., etc. Sure enough I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, RA, autoimmune hepatitis, lupus, and celiac disease. But the cause of my back pain and my neurological symptoms remained unexplained.

I joined several online health groups, including celiac.com, which has a board with a number of forums exclusively for celiac disease or gluten intolerance issues. One of my friends there was shocked at the number of diagnoses that I had racked up in a mere 2 years and told me that I MUST be tested for Lyme disease. I insisted that it was impossible, but she kept pestering me until I decided to get tested just to shut her up! :)

Of course, I tested positive for Lyme, and have now been under treatment for 7 months with several different antibiotics. Unfortunately I have had Lyme for years now.....I believe I was likely bitten by an infected tick shortly before my episode of "cryptogenic" hepatitis in 2004. Lyme disease doesn't usually affect the liver that way, but some of the coinfections (Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Bartonella) can definitely cause liver damage! And I apparently have all three. Unfortunately my hepatologist did NOT think of testing me for Lyme or coinfections....most doctors don't, actually. The over-the-counter herbal supplement I was taking apparently added to the liver irritation being caused by the tick-borne infections.

Everything seemed to be dormant for a time, but the Lyme spirochetes were apparently busily chewing on my spinal disks from 2004 to 2007....the bacteria LOVE collagen, so they frequently show up in the disks and accelerate degenerative disk disease to the point of causing radiculopathy. Spinal MRIs finally uncovered the secret of my back pain....bulging disks pressing on spinal nerves. And my other issues such as vertigo, double vision, etc., can also be attributed to either Lyme or Bartonella.

In addition to all of this damage, Lyme disease almost certainly triggered the astounding number of new autoimmune diseases I developed, including my autoimmune hepatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia. Lyme is notorious for triggering and/or mimicking autoimmune diseases and fibro.

Mystery solved! :(

Please, any of you out there in diagnostic limbo....or even those who have suddenly had an EXPLOSION of diagnoses such as mine, especially autoimmune diseases, please get tested for Lyme disease! Most doctors do not think of Lyme as a big problem (it IS) because they have told it's rare (it ISN'T).

Please visit the Lyme forum at HealingWell.com plus the following helpful link for more info:

www.anapsid.org/lyme/index.html

Melissa Kaplan, the creator of that website, has LOTS of extremely good links on that page to other informative sites.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What to eat when there's no time to cook - a tribute to Trader Joe's!

We move in less than a week now...I really HATE moving! :(

Oh well, it will be worth it to get to the cooler, foggier environment of the central coast of California. That should help my lupus flares calm down and also my Lyme symptoms that are aggravated by the heat in the San Gabriel Valley of Southern CA where I currently live.

I just want to post a tribute to Trader Joe's for their quick gluten free foods; we've been living on the following TJ's meals as we pack up the kitchen:

Gluten free mini tacos (chicken and beef)
Gluten free meatballs (sun-dried tomato and buffalo chicken)
Gluten free noodle bowls (garlic, spring onion, mushroom)
Gluten free corned beef hash
Gluten free Chicken Tikka Masala
Gluten free pastas (with or without the meatballs mentioned above)

Any of the above served with a green salad makes an easy, satisfying meal that you can make quickly with a minimum number of pots and pans.

I'm SO glad there is a TJ's near our new home! I would be very sad to live in an area without a Trader Joe's. My mom lives in Medford, OR, and doesn't have a TJ's nearby. However Fred Meyer does have a lot of gluten free foods so we're still able to visit her and stay for a while without too much trouble.

More soon! Maybe after we're in the new house!

Monday, June 14, 2010

A post on Lyme disease and how it affects my life

I know that I've been a bad blogger lately, but I've had more than one good excuse for the dearth of posts.

For one thing, I am currently in a MAJOR battle with Anthem Blue Cross....they have denied me treatment with intravenous Rocephin, which is an antibiotic that is good at penetrating the blood-brain barrier and is the preferred treatment for people with late-stage neuro-Lyme (like me).

And this is only one of the huge issues that are now currently consuming my life. Another big problem is that we are losing our home...we have already started the short sale process and have found a place to rent near the coast (beach town). The coast is the preferred destination because of my extreme sensitivity to light and heat, due to my lupus and Lyme disease and Babesiosis (a Lyme coinfection). We hope it will be cooler and cloudier there, which will help prevent frequent lupus flares. So I'm trying to pack to move in less than two weeks (AAAACKKK!!)

Lyme disease is definitely a good topic for this blog; Lyme disease generally causes gluten intolerance so, just like people with celiac disease, Lymies should avoid gluten as well. In fact, it is best to be low-carb, grain- and sugar-free if you have Lyme disease, because carbs/sugars feed the little buggers.

Without further ado, I will reproduce a wise and wonderful post by Minoucat from Lymenet; it explains all about how your life changes if you have Lyme disease. Even if you DON'T have Lyme, but are chronically ill with lupus or MS or CFS or some other nasty autoimmune disease or syndrome, you will probably see yourself and some of your daily problems in this article. The original post may be found here:

http://home.pon.net/caat/lyme/minoucat.html

Lyme and everyday life — what changes?

Someone new to Lymenet asked for a list along these lines for newbies; I hope this helps.

Lyme disease and the tick-borne coinfections affect most aspects of everyday life, sometimes in subtle ways. Or ways that aren’t subtle, but that you don’t associate with Lyme and Co. So here’s my list of what changes: I’m just going to say “Lyme” for short, but truly I mean all the tick borne diseases, since Bb all by itself seems to be pretty rare in chronically ill patients.

This is my opinion only, based on my own years of experience with LD, and that of friends and the folks I’ve met on the internet.

Exercise. Effect: reduced stamina and interest, “air hunger”, and increase in pain. Suggestion: Slow down, focus on breathing, stretching, and gentle muscle toning, and watch out for the high-impact workouts:

—Lyme induces it’s own brand of exhaustion because of its physiological effects, including hypercoagulation, toxins released by the bugs, impairment of the nervous system and the brain, and the effects on the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenals, and thyroid. On top of that, your body is using a lot of its resources to fight infection. Lyme can cause severe damage to cartilage.

—Some antibiotics — in particular, the quinolones — can cause severe tendon damage. It’s important to know if strenuous exercise is contraindicated with any treatment you’re on.

—Lyme does poorly in well-oxygenated blood and endorphins help with pain control and in reducing depression, so exercise is a Good Thing. Exercise modalities that go well with Lyme are swimming, warm-water aquacize, yoga, tai-chi, cycling, and walking.

Work. Effect: loss of ability to concentrate, think clearly, remember, articulate, and stay awake. The anxiety and rage that Lyme can induce can be a real workplace problem. Suggestion: Cut back in hours if possible; eliminate every “extra” that you can. For example, fix the simplest possible meals, let the housework slide, limit your social engagements.

—For the most part, people at work really don’t understand chronic illness and don’t particularly want to. In fairness, the way we’re set up in this country, it’s not their problem—you can get the job done, or not. But don’t expect a lot of empathy or accommodation over the long run. Find out what our medical leave options are, in case you need them.

--There's a tendency to plunge into projects when you're feeling good, and of course the deadline hits when you're having a particularly lymie moment. So monitor yourself carefully, and realize that if you're herxing, or your changing meds, you're liable to have unpredictably diminished capacity at critical moments. Allow yourself more time than you used to need....

--Some folks have accomplished remarkable feats of working or going to school despite Lyme. But this is not a contest -- do what makes sense FOR YOU, and keep in mind that you ultimate goal is to HEAL -- after that, you can go on and do what you need to do.
Emotions Effect: Lyme can make you anxious, enraged, impatient, scared, and libidoless. Suggestion: Realize that you are truly not yourself. Don't rush into fights.

--There's a lot of info on lymenet about managing anxiety, depression, aggression, and insomnia. Read up on it.

--Some of your feelings of wrath, fear, etc. are justified. Some are really not, and are purely a product of Lyme. I've said some horrid things, and had some horrid things said to me by my Lymie husband, that would never have been thought, let alone said, if not for lymeheadedness. Be ready to apologize after you've lymified someone, and get your family and friends to read up on Lyme if you can, so that they understand what it does to your brain and moods.

--Get some sleep, even if it's chemically induced, and some antidepressants if you can find some that work (including natural ones). And realize that the mood and brain problems do go away with effective treatment, and that what you feel is as much a real symptom of Lyme as your headaches, fevers, etc.

--Lyme can cause some majorly weird brain stuff, including hallucinations and seizures. Also autistic-like behaviors in children, dementia-like behaviors, bipolar like behaviors, compulsive/obsessive behaviours...you get the picture. These do resolve with effective treatment. Just be warned so you don't totally freak if this happens to you or the lymie in your life. Google on "host management" and "parasites" and you'll come up with some fascinating research by zoologists, especially on toxoplasmosis and schizophrenia.

Family/Friends: Effect: Rages, anxieties, resentments, loss of libido, inability to do basic things that you always used to for your family (like keep the checkbook balanced or put meals together). Suggestion: Get the info for caregiver support groups for your family, have the LLMD talk to the family, give them the info on Lyme, be upfront about what has to change, and find a counselor to help you and them.

—Family stuff can be pretty awful. Most people really don’t get it, and many Lymies feel very betrayed by the very people they thought would support them through their ordeal. There’s the whole issue of wage loss, dealing with children, the horrendous expense of Lyme, and massive changes in everyday family life. And, let’s face it, Lymies can be pretty hysterical and cranky to deal with. Come vent on Lymenet or wherever when you need to.

Diet: Effect: You probably need to make some major changes. Suggestions: Experiment and keep a journal. And discipline yourself to knock off the stuff that you knew wasn’t good for you even before you had Lyme.

—Lyme has so many effects on the stomach that your ability to absorb nutrients and abx may be seriously impaired. And your stomach may hurt tremendously and cause eating problems. It’s imperative that you eat as healthily as possible, and pay attention to any sensitivities, like gluten and dairy. It’s a really good idea to do a good food allergy test, like the one the Great Smokies Lab does, and to check for Leaky Gut Syndrome. Many lymies experience hypoglycemia, and changing your eating patterns can make this a more manageable problem. Read up on your meds and find out what foods are contraindicated (as in, no dairy within 2 hours of doxy), and what has to be taken on an empty stomach.

--Be aware of the yeast overgrowth problem that abx users experience and adjust your diet (low carbs and sugar). You might need to eat more frequently to reduce stomach pain from meds. Drink a lot of liquids and stay away from alcohol, which puts an extra load on the liver and can promote yeast.

—Many Lymies experience weight gain. Some of that may be from the inflammatory and stress response; thyroid and adrenal dysfunction; reduction in physical activity; and who knows what all else. I found that drinking liquids, especially green tea, can help reduce weight gain to a degree.

Smoking: Effect: Aside from all the run-of-the-mill problems with smoking, it creates a lyme-friendly environment. Suggestion: Quit.

—This is not a knee-jerk reaction against smoking — smoking really is a problem if you have Lyme. Smoking provides an environment in your blood that is very comfortable to Borrelia and other pathogens. It messes up an already messed-up stomach, and compromises your immune system.

—Lyme complicates the quitting scenario, because Lyme can induce compulsive behaviors, which smoking certainly is. In addition, the nicotine really does help improve cognitive function, but it’s a small improvement for a huge price. And if you think non-lymie people who are trying to quit smoking are grumpy….Well, the grumpy effect is supercharged for Lymies.

You and the medical profession and social services Effect: Loss of trust, confusion about who to believe and what to do, treatment paralysis, fear. Suggestion: Go to a real LLMD recommended by other lymies, explore all your treatment options (alternative and otherwise), talk to other lymies as much as possible, research, research research, and be your own advocate.

—You’ll spend more time and money thinking about this disease, your health, and every aspect of your life than you ever wanted to or believed was possible. You’ll spend anxious hours looking for doctors, hating doctors, sitting in waiting rooms, figuring out procedures. You might end up spending time in the ER with frightening symptoms and doctors who have no understanding of your illness or treatment.

--It’s a good idea to keep a list of all your meds, your LLMD, and your protocols with you to take to the ER. Parents of Lyme children have a particularly hard time with hospitals and the interference of the medical establishment. Look this up on lymenet and be prepared.

Insurance Effect: You may find your meds aren’t covered, disability is denied, and the bulk of your LLMD costs are not covered. Suggestion: Find out everything you can about your health plan, document everything, and keep copies of your doctor’s notes and your test results.

—The insurance question can be brutal. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to document every little thing. And the insurance issue can be a huge stressor when it comes to the decision to keep working; many of us have had to work way past the time we should have quit just to keep our insurance.

—Also, keep fighting for coverage if you’re denied — it’s amazing how many people don’t do this. Often if you fight long enough, they insurance companies find it easier to pay up than fight a lawsuit. There’s quite a bit of collective wisdom on Lymenet about how to deal with insurance companies.

—For disability, it is critical that you keep documentation of everything; that you are specific about your FUNCTIONAL impairments. It’s depressing and time consuming to do this, but it’s necessary. If you’re early in the disease, still do this — you may recover beautifully and never have to apply for disability, but you don’t want to try to start putting together all this information AFTER you’re really sick and your brain is fried. Here’s a link with some useful info about handling disability insurance:

http://flash.lymenet.org/ubb/Forum1/HTML/027533.html


Income Effect: Lyme can wreak economic havoc on your economic situation. Suggestion: Cut down on expenses as much as possible now, and put away every dime you can.

You can party when this is over, but you may need that latte money for your doctor, your meds, or your rent. As for people who've already hit the end of their financial ropes, there but for extraordinary good fortune go all of us. Some help is available through community services and churches -- somewhere on Lymenet in General, Rita did a great post on this.

--This is one of the reasons I'm such a fanatic about promoting reforms like the OPMC bill--if only diagnosis good treatment were readily available and affordable, so many lives would be less damaged in so many ways.

-Minoucat

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Great Variation on Banana-Berry Muffins


Just a quick tip: if you wish, you can add 1/2 cup of cocoa powder to the melted coconut oil in the muffin recipe in the previous post. I used blueberries, blackberries and raspberries and made Chocolate Banana Berry Muffins....YUM!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Traveling gluten free, continued - grain free muffin recipe!


One thing that helped us immensely on both of our long trips (mentioned in the previous post) was that we brought our own gluten free sandwiches made with the grain free flatbread recipe on my recipe blog site. Immediately prior to each trip, I baked two or three pieces of flatbread, then cut each piece into 6 squares to make three sandwiches. Having sandwiches and other gluten free foods along on the road in coolers was an absolute life saver! On both of our trips, there were frequently long stretches of highway where you either couldn't stop, or if you did, there were no safe restaurants in the vicinity, so having something in the car that's safe for a hungry husband and/or toddler to eat was very important.

For the Idaho trip I also made some scrumptious banana-sour cream-blackberry muffins (pictured above) to take along, also grain free! Here is the recipe:

This recipe makes approximately 24 muffins, if you fill the muffin cups about 1/2 - 2/3 full.

Ingredients:

2 medium very ripe bananas, about 1 1/2 cups mashed
1/4 C melted coconut oil or grapeseed oil
3/4 C agave nectar
1/3 C sour cream
6 eggs
3/4 C coconut flour
1 1/3 C almond flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
48 - 72 fresh organic blackberries (about 2 cups? depending on size), washed and well dried!

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin pans generously with shortening (I've used both Crisco and Spectrum).

In a large bowl mash the banana and beat until smooth; add the eggs, agave, sour cream, and oil and beat with a hand-held mixer or stand mixer until smooth and "emulsified" (meaning there should not be a skim of oil on top, but the oil should be completely incorporated). In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Dump the dry ingredients into the banana mixture; mix together thoroughly, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently.

Spoon muffin batter into greased muffin pans (I fill the cups about 1/2 - 2/3 full). Place 2 or 3 blackberries (depending on the size of the blackberries) on top of each muffin and press them gently into the batter.

Bake at 350 for approximately 18 - 22 minutes, depending on your oven, until beginning to brown on top. Allow the muffins to cool in the pans for 10 - 15 minutes, then remove them to wire racks to finish cooling.

NOTE: the muffins will be very fragile just out of the oven, and may feel overly moist, even oily on the bottoms. But as they cool, they firm up and absorb the excess moisture and oil. This is likely due to the absorbent properties of the coconut flour; it allows the muffins to stay moist and delicious (unrefrigerated!) for days.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More on traveling while gluten free and chronically ill


I thought it was time to post again about traveling while gluten free (and while sick)....and it's important for me to share not only the pitfalls and perils, but also the pleasant surprises when a restaurant or hotel bends over backwards to accommodate your dietary and/or other physical needs. Indeed, I've promised a few people I met along the way that I would do so!

Over the past couple of months I have made two quick (but long-distance) trips by car. I live in Southern California; the first trip was to Northern California and Southern Oregon, the second to Idaho (by way of Utah) to the college graduation of my adult daughter Robin, seen here with her son Andrew....


She simultaneously earned a B.A. in Mathematics Education and a B.S. in pure Math from Boise State....cum laude! Go Robin and go Broncos! :)

In any case, due to my many diseases, my power wheelchair, plus the need to remain strictly gluten free, you can imagine that travel can be quite challenging!


For example, lupus can make one highly photosensitive....unfortunately it has done so for me. On top of that, some of my medications exacerbate my sensitivity to the sun and other bright light sources. For more info on lupus and light sensitivity, click here.

When I was still working at the office I would frequently turn off the overhead fluorescents and work with only a desk lamp on....or not, sometimes using just the glow of my computer screen(s) to see by.

These days, as I work part-time from home, I tend to spend my waking hours in front of my laptop in a dark room with perhaps one dim lamp on and drapes drawn. And yes, it's a major drag!

I have two pairs of prescription glasses: dark and darker. Here I am with my dark glasses:


Dark is for indoors, darker for outside. Unfortunately, darker isn't enough on a bright beautiful sunny day. In the car I keep a shiny white folder which I use as a sun shield. Sometimes I hold it over my face and head if the sun is hitting me directly (it can actually nauseate me and make me feel like I'm going to pass out); usually I have to at least cover my arms and hands to prevent nasty bumpy rashes and weird-looking sunburns on highly sensitive skin.


Lovely, isn't it? :(

My adult daughter Cheryl, who also has lupus, once told me she was tired of "feeling like some kind of vampire" because she couldn't safely go outside until dusk. I can relate!

During trip number one, up and down the coast of California, it was cloudy and even rainy most of the time. I still managed to burn my hand to a crisp (see above) through the car window.

But aside from that little problem, most of that first trip was absolutely wonderful. We had great places to stay, such as the Sheraton in Petaluma, mentioned in a previous travel post, plus the Portside Suites in Brookings, Oregon, and fabulous places to eat, like Steamers in Pismo, where, with no official gluten free menu, our waiter and the chefs racked their brains to come up with a dinner that wouldn't make us sick, and succeeded beyond expectations!

Steamers also boasts an unbelievably gorgeous view of the Pacific from the dining area....


Wow! That alone is a reason to eat there!! But they also have wonderful food! :)

Note: once again I have to say that the Triumph Dining Cards were incredibly helpful on both trips! If you have to stay gluten free and want to be able to eat out you should definitely get a set for yourself! There were quite a few restaurants which had no gluten free menus (including the aforementioned Steamers), but I was always able to pull out the appropriate card and let the waitperson take it to the chef to help him/her identify which dishes were OK for us.

I love the Northern California/Southern Oregon coastline, so I'd like to share a few pictures of the Redwood Highway with you:



A lovely rest stop along the way....


Tsunami hazard zone sign....






Oregon/California border...


Rain, rain....




A rainbow after the rain...


I'll plan to continue this soon....I have more pictures (the Utah/Idaho trip) and more recommended restaurants and hotels!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gluten Free Wednesdays - Muffin Roundup!

Gluten-Free Wednesdays

I was just thinking that it was time to make some muffins, when I happened to peek at the Gluten Free Homemaker's Website, and saw that she was posting muffin recipes!

My submission is to the Muffin Roundup will be my recipe for Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy/Casein Free Pumpkin Spice Muffins:


Here is a recipe for scrumptious gluten, grain, dairy (and sugar) free pumpkin muffins I came up with. I've posted it before, but it's worth repeating!


This recipe makes approximately 21 muffins, if you fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full.

Ingredients:

1/4 C melted coconut oil or grapeseed oil
1 C agave nectar
1 15-oz can pumpkin (100% pure pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie mix)
6 eggs
3/4 C coconut flour
1 C plus 3 T almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp (rounded) ginger
1/8 tsp cloves

NOTE: 1 15-oz can of pumpkin is approximately 1 3/4 C of pumpkin puree, at least for Libby's pumpkin!

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin pans generously with shortening (I've used both Crisco and Spectrum).

In a large bowl combine the eggs, agave, oil, and canned pumpkin with a hand-held mixer until smooth and "emulsified" (meaning there should not be a skim of oil on top, but the oil should be completely incorporated). In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda and all the spices. Dump the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture; mix together thoroughly, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently.

Spoon muffin batter into greased muffin pans. Bake at 350 for approximately 21 - 23 minutes, depending on your oven. Allow the muffins to cool in the pans for 10 - 15 minutes, then remove them to wire racks to finish cooling.

NOTE: the muffins will be very fragile just out of the oven, and will feel overly moist, even oily on the bottoms. But as they cool, they firm up and absorb the excess moisture and oil. This is likely due to the absorbent properties of the coconut flour; it allows the muffins to stay moist and delicious for days.

As I mentioned before, I made 21 muffins by filling the muffin cups about 2/3 full. If you fill yours with more batter, you will have larger (fewer) muffins and may have to bake them a bit longer.

(Belated) Gluten Free Menu for Week of April 5th

Yes, here I am again....late with a menu. :(

My excuse is that I'm still under the weather due to multiple serious medical conditions, plus I'm in the middle of an anger/denial/grief/bargaining/etc cycle right now because I'm losing my job.

I'm losing it slowly, by inches...I can't decide if this is more painful or less painful than if I had been suddenly fired one day.

I'm losing my job because I'm sick and can no longer be in the office long enough (for a sufficient number of consecutive hours/days, that is) to complete the large, complex projects that I used to be assigned.

As a result, I'm very very sad.

But it doesn't matter if I'm sad or not, because life goes on, kiddos and hubby need to eat, and therefore I must cook!! It does sort of get my mind off other things.....

As you know, this past Sunday was Easter, and for Easter dinner we had a glazed ham, potato-cauliflower gratin, and honey-spiced carrots, with my grain-free biscuits.

On Monday (yesterday) I made chili. This chili was originally posted as a Crockpot recipe based on a recipe from the lovely Crockpot Lady, Stephanie. But for some time now I've been making the Obama family chili recipe in a Dutch oven on the stove, with very good results. My husband says he likes it better on the stove for some reason. I've now posted my stovetop version on my other blog (Gluten Free Recipe Archive); if you've made the original Crockpot version you will notice that the spice level has increased, but my 3- and 4-year-old kids still eat it. I make a very large pot of chili because I have an 8-quart Dutch oven and we love to have lots of leftovers for lunches, etc., but obviously you can cut the recipe in half and still have more than enough to feed several people.

Even though it's Tuesday, I'm telling you what we had for dinner on Sunday and Monday because I plan to use the leftovers from those meals to make our Tuesday and Wednesday night dinners.

Easter Sunday: Glazed ham, potato-cauliflower gratin, honey-spiced carrots, grain-free biscuits

Monday: Stovetop Chili, corn chips, green salad

Tuesday: Potato-Cauliflower-Cheese Soup w/Ham: add a mixture of milk and vegetable or chicken broth to the leftover potato-cauliflower gratin until it is the appropriate consistency, then add leftover diced ham. Heat through and stir gently but do not boil! Serve with grain-free biscuits.

Wednesday: Twice-Baked Chili-Stuffed Potatoes: cut hot baked potatoes in half, and scoop out the insides, leaving a shell approximately 1/4 inch thick. Mash the potato insides with a little butter and milk or cream, and add a handful or two of shredded cheddar cheese to the mixture. Salt and pepper to taste, of course. Fill the potato shells about 2/3 full of heated leftover Stovetop Chili, then top with mashed potato cheese topping. Return to the oven to bake for 15 or 20 minutes, until heated through and the tops begin to brown a bit. This works great with lots of different fillings, by the way!

Thursday: Mexican Lasagna, salad

Friday: Chicken Stroganoff (Kay), served over basmati rice or cauliflower "rice" (NOTE: Kay's Chicken Stroganoff is NOT gluten free, but you can make it gluten free by substituting sweet rice flour for her "all purpose flour" and making sure that your chicken broth and seasonings are all gluten free.)

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: Broiled lamb chops, mashed potatoes or faux cauliflower "mashed potatoes", steamed broccoli

We are in the process of becoming more and more frugal right now, trying to find ways to cut our spending as much as possible......because of the job situation, and also because it is good to be frugal!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tentative menu

I've been a bad blogger again....I know.

Here is a tentative menu; tentative because I don't know how I'll be feeling from day to day anymore. Those of you in the chronic illness community will understand what I mean!

I'm in a lot of pain today, having tried a certain pain medication recently (fentanyl patch) which worked well, but had unacceptable side effects (it interfered with my breathing and swallowing!). I had to quit the medication cold turkey when I realized what was happening, and since I had been on it for only two weeks I didn't have the full blown withdrawal that some people describe. The descriptions of a fentanyl patch withdrawal sound as bad or worse than heroin withdrawal! But I did have some stomach problems for a couple of days and extremely vivid dreams, to the extent of actually falling out of bed and landing on the floor during a dream early Saturday morning in which I thought I was running. Miraculously I didn't hit my head on the way down, nor did I break any bones, but I'm very sore and bruised.

Plus I'm in lots of pain anyway because my doctor hasn't given me a new pain medication yet. So the menu will be mostly easy meals....two meals will be takeout food because we have coupons for Old Spaghetti Factory and our local Z Pizza (Glendora, CA) is having a Monday night special, buy one gluten free pizza get one free! So we're going that route tonight....we can even have them delivered!

Obviously Z Pizza and Old Spaghetti Factory are neither grain free nor low carb. I'm not trying to be completely grain free for the rest of the week either, although some of the meals can be made low-carb and grain free if desired.

Monday: Z Pizza - buy one gluten free pizza, get one free!

Tuesday: Chili, green salad

Wednesday: Risotto with shrimp and mushrooms, steamed broccoli

Thursday: Crockpot Pomegranate Beef, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots

Friday: Baked Chicken with gluten free pasta (takeout from Old Spaghetti Factory)

Saturday: leftovers (the chili is great on baked potatoes!)

Sunday: Crockpot Thai Chicken, rice (or fake cauliflower rice if you want low-carb)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Comfort food....

I've been feeling slightly depressed lately, just a little down....maybe the rainy gray days have been getting to me? Anyway, I've been in the mood for something in the way of "comfort food".

Hubby went shopping recently and, among other things, brought home a package of cooked chicken from Costco. This is chicken meat that comes from their roasted chickens, de-boned and ready to use in sandwiches, casseroles, whatever.

Coincidentally, a friend of mine mentioned in email a couple of days ago that she was planning to make her "gluten-free chicken pot pie".....yum!! So I asked for the recipe.

Well, she hasn't sent it to me yet, but I was REALLY hungry for chicken pot pie, so I decided to make up my own recipe. I was motivated by (a) wanting comfort food, and (b) needing to use up the cooked chicken from Costco. This recipe is not entirely grain free, but is definitely "grain light" compared to other versions of chicken pot pie:

Grain-Light Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients:

extra virgin olive oil
butter
salt
Lawry's Seasoned Pepper
1 large onion, diced
2 medium russet potatoes, diced
1 1/2 C sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 C frozen peas and carrots
2 1/2 C diced cooked chicken
2 T sweet rice flour
2 - 3 T cornstarch
1 - 2 C milk (dairy, almond, soy, rice, whatever)
1 - 2 C gluten free chicken broth
Herbes de Provence

1 - 1 1/2 batches of Grain Free Biscuit Dough

Directions:

Put 1-2 T of olive oil in a medium skillet, along with an equal amount of butter, and heat until bubbly. Saute the diced onion in the olive oil/butter mixture over medium heat until soft; add another 2 T butter and allow to melt, and then the sweet rice flour to make a thick paste. Pour in the milk very slowly, while stirring...you will want to add just the right amount to make the consistency resemble condensed soup mix, so it will be very thick. Season to taste with salt and Lawry's Seasoned Pepper and set aside.

Wash and dice the potatoes (you don't have to peel them unless you want to...I didn't). Place in a medium saucepan and add chicken broth just until the potatoes are completely covered. Heat broth until simmering; allow potatoes to simmer until cooked through but still firm. Mix cornstarch into a very small amount of cold broth or water and add to the saucepan. Stir well until thickened; you will want this mixture to be quite thick as it will thin out when the frozen peas and carrots are added.

Add the sliced mushrooms, the peas and carrots, and the chicken, then stir in the onion/milk mixture. Check seasonings; add more salt or pepper, if needed, then add approximately 1 tsp of the Herbes de Provence, adjusting seasonings to your own taste. If you don't have Herbes de Provence handy, you may use 1/4 tsp each dried sage, rosemary, parsley, and thyme.

Pour the mixture into a 7" x 11" Pyrex baking dish; form the grain free biscuit dough into 6 or 8 individual "patties" with your hands and layer over the top of the chicken mixture. NOTE: I used only 1 batch of the biscuit dough but may try 1 1/2 batches the next time. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, or until the chicken mixture is bubbly around the edges and the biscuit topping is firm and turning golden brown.

Hubby had two helpings, while I was satisfied with one (it's very filling!).....and yes, it was DEFINITELY very comforting! :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How the low carb thing is going

OK, I know I said I'd do low carb but it's been more like "medium-low". So far.

I generally start out well in the morning....I eat a small serving of protein or two in the first couple of hours after waking up: a handful of nuts, some cottage cheese, or a couple of scrambled eggs with salsa are good ways to begin the day.

I haven't been able to quit coffee, although I've thought about it. I was drinking coffee with stevia but have recently gone back to Splenda. Hey, at least it's not aspartame!! :)

Anyway, as the day wears on I continue to nibble occasionally, mostly on protein; I try not eat a meal until dinner time. At that point I'm really hungry, and ready for a meal. Dinners have not been low carb, so far. In the past several days I've made dinners that will be familiar to you if you have been reading this blog for any length of time....easy dinners like Fish Tacos or Mexican Lasagna or even just steak and potatoes.

So, even though I have NOT been perfectly low carb as on the Atkins diet, I have lost FOUR POUNDS since my last post!! YAY!!

Yes, I'm sure it's all water weight too....

Now that I think about it, what I've been doing is almost along the lines of the semi-low-carb diet made popular by the Hellers, a husband-and-wife team of doctors who wrote "The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet". My impression of that diet is that you basically eat two low carb meals per day and then one "regular" meal. So I'm almost doing the Heller diet except I'm gluten free, of course.

For some reason I've been having a lot of headaches lately....I used to have these before I went gluten free but haven't had issues with constant headaches for a while now.

I wonder if it's the Splenda??

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Weighty matters

This is a post about weight and diet in the context of gluten free living. Those of you who are the conventional sorts of celiacs, i.e., those who have trouble gaining weight, may decide to skip this. But approximately 40% of celiacs struggle to lose weight....and this post is for you.

Of course, many of you may not have celiac disease, but may simply feel better gluten free. Some of you may be interested in the gluten free diet because you have Lyme disease or MS or fibromyalgia or some other chronic illness and you've heard that the gluten free diet can be helpful for these conditions.

In any case, whatever your reason for visiting my blog, welcome!

This post is really motivated by my own needs.....it's me talking to me. It helps me to just put things down in black and white, step by logical step, so that I have no way to wiggle out of the final conclusions!!

I desperately need to make changes in my current diet; I'm trying to "psyche myself" up to do it.

I've been dealing with weight issues for all of my adult life.....I've always been at least a little bit overweight. But since being put on prednisone for autoimmune hepatitis, Lyrica and Cymbalta for fibromyalgia, and a host of other meds too numerous to list, I've really packed on the pounds.

I've tried many diets over the years, but the only one that really seemed to work for me was a very low carb, high protein diet....the Atkins diet. I always felt good on that diet too; so much better than on any other diet. Several years ago I actually used the Atkins diet to lose 80 pounds!

Then I got sick....and gained back all of the weight I had lost over the next few years. Anyone who's ever been really, seriously chronically ill will realize how easily this could happen; when you feel bad, it's difficult to cook, difficult to shop, etc. You're in pain, so you tend to eat fast food, comfort foods (which are usually high in carbs), easy-to-prepare foods that you don't have to spend a lot of time on.

Due to my unfortunate metabolism, I don't have to eat a lot to gain weight, I just have to eat the wrong things: breads, pastas, potatoes, etc.

In late 2008, when I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I finally realized why a low carb diet had always made me feel so much better physically....when you're on the Induction phase of the Atkins diet, you're basically gluten free! This makes sense!

So initially I was hoping that just going gluten free would make the pounds magically melt away....but this turns out NOT to be the case, at least for me. And there's a good reason for that: I began my gluten free diet by merely replacing the wheat flour products like bread, pasta, etc., with similar rice flour or corn flour products. Unfortunately, most of the gluten free flours out there are even higher in carbs and lower in protein than wheat flour!

Needless to say I gained weight instead of losing. :(

When I realized that the gluten free flour I was using had a higher glycemic index than wheat flour, I started looking around for alternatives and discovered coconut flour and almond flour.

Elana Amsterdam's blogsite and cookbook are great resources for cooking and baking with almond flour, entirely gluten free. Elana has also begun to post a few recipes with coconut flour and even combos of almond and coconut flour. Bruce Fife is the official coconut flour guru; his cookbook is also invaluable.

So I started cooking with almond flour and coconut flour, which are WAY lower in carbs than other gluten free flours. Did I lose weight?

No. But I did stop gaining!! Which is an important step in the right direction.

Upon reflection, I believe that my remaining dietary issues involve a couple of factors: (1) I have not cut sugars out of my diet, (2) I decided to allow myself to occasionally eat corn products and potatoes.....a bad decision!

This is partially a psychological issue for me; I think I've been feeling sorry for myself because I'm sick (sick and tired of being sick and tired), so I've been comforting myself with foods that I know are bad for me, weight-wise.

Now I just have to knock it off! In my case, I have to stop eating pretty much everything besides meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fresh veggies, with occasional SMALL amounts of tree nuts and fruits. Maybe I can eat dairy too....I don't know yet.

But this just takes me back to comments I read so often on forums at celiac.com....many of the "veteran" members of the community have posted that they ended up following some version of the Paleo Diet or the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, because nothing else worked. Elana herself admits that she cannot indulge freely in the delectable baked goods she posts about on her blogsite. She says that she has to limit her intake of those things and concentrate on protein, veggies and fruit.

Why has it been so difficult for me to get down to brass tacks and make the leap to this sort of diet? I've certainly been able to do it before!

I think part of my problem is that prednisone seems to make me seriously crave carbohydrates....and then there's the chronic illness issue, feeling yucky makes it difficult to cook, etc., etc.

So what's the solution? I have to have access to easy protein and veggies to make this work. This is really not an insurmountable problem; I can throw meat in the Crockpot or ask my hubby to run out and buy a roasted chicken from the supermarket. I can whip up scrambled eggs or toss a salad in just a few minutes. I just need to stick to it and make it work for me.

Making large quantities and then freezing them should help as well; large roasts or several chicken breasts made in the Crockpot will make a number of meals, and this will help me with the exhaustion factor.

It has been hard to cook lately. I'm so tired all the time. After my shower this morning I felt as though I had run a marathon...I was literally trembling with exhaustion. This (overly long) post took me many hours to compose, because I can't type long before I have to stop and rest. Plus I can't remember words anymore.....it's really bad sometimes! Thank goodness for the online thesaurus!! LOL!

OK, it's time to make some dietary changes, whether I feel like it or not. I'll post more soon to let you know how it's going!

P.S. It has occurred to me that a low carb diet may actually increase my energy levels! I used to have more energy when I followed the low carb regimen before! We shall see....

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Struggles......the Beauty of Pain, the politics of faith

This post is an incoherent mish-mash of my thoughts....I apologize in advance for it.

I'm losing it.

I didn't post a menu this week....to be honest, I only managed to cook half of the meals I listed for last week!

For days and days now I have been simply overwhelmed by symptoms: vertigo, double vision, nausea, and photosensitivity to the point I have to cover my face with a folder just to be able to ride in a car to a doctor's appointment. And it hurts to breathe....I may have pleurisy on top of everything else.

I haven't been to work for a couple of weeks now. I haven't even turned in my grades from the fall semester! Well, I did enter them into the online system, but I haven't turned in the paper versions yet, which is NOT good. :(

But I've been reading and re-reading a wonderful book by a friend of mine I met online at a Lupus Support Group. The book is the Beauty of Pain by Judy Dillard. Judy's wonderful testimony helps me, as a Christian, to remember that the Lord can turn anything to the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Even chronic pain and illness. Even that.

I don't know what He has in store for me. I have to take one day at a time now, and trust with a child-like faith that the Lord is in control. Because I am no longer in control of my life, my work, my family, my finances.....so He has to be.

I haven't spoken about my faith much on this particular blog; I do have another blog where I post about these things. But I make it clear in my profile that I am a Christian and I still believe in miracles.

Mind you, I'm NOT a Christian in the sense that's portrayed lately by the American media.....I firmly believe that true Christians should stick together, regardless of party affiliations, and agree to disagree about political issues.

Christians (and everyone else for that matter) should always vote as their conscience dictates and then should pray for our leaders whoever they happen to be.

'Nuff said about that stuff. Don't post nasty comments please.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Gluten Free, Grain Light Menu Plan for 25 Jan 2010


My first menu post in quite a while....if you're still patiently sticking with me, thank you!

This past weekend I managed to make a couple of large meals in the Crockpot: a pot of the Obama family chili (pictured above at the beginning of the Crockpot cooking period) and a pot of barbecue beef (about a 5 lb roast) using my homemade gluten free barbecue sauce. The chili leftovers go fast for lunches and I plan to use the leftover barbecue beef for a dinner.

I have not yet been successful at going entirely grain free, but we are definitely eating grain light these days. There are still corn chips and corn tortillas around the house (and I eat them occasionally), as well as Rice Chex. But I have completely stopped using grain-based flours except for the very rare use of small amounts of cornstarch or sweet rice flour for thickening. I have gotten to the point where I rely entirely on almond flour and coconut flour for all of my baking now.

Monday: Barbecue beef sandwiches (homemade sauce) in grain-free flatbread (pictured above), salad

Tuesday: Fish tacos, guacamole, salsa, salad

Wednesday: Garlic chicken, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli




Friday: Grain-free pizza (pictured above - toppings like gluten-free pepperoni, ham, sliced chicken meatballs, bell pepper, mushrooms, olives, etc.), salad

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: Kay's Parmesan-crusted chicken (using crumbs from grain-free biscuits!), baked potatoes, green beans stir-fried with red bell pepper strips