Archive | November 2013

First grain free holiday

Since I was diagnosed with grain intolerance in October of 2012, Thanksgiving was my first holiday without grains.  The Girl Scout in me said that preparation would make the difference between a successful grain free holiday and starvation.  My mother hosts the holiday every year and had no intention of changing her menu.  This was totally understandable, none of us knew a single grain free recipe and I was still making bread with gluten free flour that contained sorghum, a little known grain.  Yeah, I had a lot to learn!

confused cook

I tried my best to bring food that I could eat.  I brought the bread that I had been making, a stuffing I had made from the bread, I brought my usual potato skin casserole, and some grain free chocolate chip cookies (I later learned that mix contained sorghum as well).   Because the flour I was using at the time contained garbanzo bean flour, the bread, cookies, and stuffing all tasted way to much like beans.  I’ve put a lot of time into perfecting my bread recipe since then and I have to say, it doesn’t taste at all like beans anymore.  It tastes like a homemade sweet bread made from white flour!

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As we ate, I got lots of questions.  Why wasn’t I eating the appetizers?  Weren’t the stuffed mushrooms delicious?  To each of these I explained that I’m unable to eat grains due to an allergy.   The question was always followed by a gasp and then this question, “You can’t eat grains, does that mean you’re gluten free?”  I tried to be polite and explain that gluten is the protein found in wheat.  I am gluten free but not just gluten free, I have an allergy or sensitivity to the proteins in all grains including rice, oats, corn, barley, quinoa, etc.  This was followed by the question, “You can’t eat wheat, you can’t eat rice, what can you eat?”  I gave my standard response: “meat, fruit, vegetables, chocolate, and wine.”

It wasn’t the greatest holiday for me.  I kind of felt like a freak, between not being able to eat all the foods that I had been accustomed to eating and the ridiculous questions that folks were asking about my diet, and the unbearable pain from the endometriosis, I just wanted to hide!  Needless to say, I drank a lot and made my way through the holiday as best I could.

Needless to say, this Thanksgiving is going to be a lot different than last year’s.  No, my host isn’t being any more accommodating-that’s a topic for another blog post.  The difference is that I’ve done my research and created recipes that are grain free but don’t taste different from grain based recipes.   I’ve learned to cook many more grain free recipes over the past year.  This year our menu will feature Italian Peasant Soup, potato skin casserole, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, roasted candied carrots, creamed spinach, homemade cranberry sauce, chocolate chip bars, and bread pudding

Grain Free Cheeseburger Pie

IMG_0522[1]My goal as an amateur grain free chef is to create meals that don’t taste like they’re grain free and can be enjoyed without guilt!  I’ve made cheeseburger pie for my husband and friends many times.  Each time it’s served, it’s admired first for its appearance and then for its taste!

This recipe is an adaptation of a dish a friend’s mother used to make for us when we were young girls.  All we needed was cheeseburger pie, movies, the remote, and life was pretty good.

Eating a grain free diet means lots of veggies, and sometimes, not a lot of fun.   But every once in a while, we need comfort food!  The ooey, gooey, bubbly, creamy taste of cheese is something that can’t be beat.  This recipe is a grain free version of the amazing gooey goodness my friend’s mom made years ago, and goes together in less than an hour from start to finish.  If you’re looking to save time, the ground beef can be cooked, frozen, and thawed when needed.

1lb ground beef/turkey
1c shredded cheddar cheese
1c my grain free flour blend A
1/2 onion chopped
2 eggs
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup mustard
2Tablespoons relish
1 cup milk
1tsp baking powder

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Sauté onion and ground beef until no longer pink. Transfer to a deep pie plate or casserole, stir in condiments, and 1/2 cup cheese.  In a small mixing bowl mix flour and baking powder.  Scramble eggs and milk and mix into dry ingredients.  Mix well and pour on top of ground beef.  Top with remaining cheese.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.

Grain Free Staples to Keep on Hand…

For years, I’ve heard about the importance of getting enough whole grains in your diet. When I was in school, the food pyramid was all the rage!  I had the metabolism of a teenager at the time, and I could burn off whatever I ate, plus so much more. food pyramid Years later, things changed.  That grain heavy diet lead to a body that no longer fit in my clothes.   I had no intention of keeping the every growing body that I found myself in.  I was engaged to be married so spending a day with 200 people’s eyes on you is a great motivator to drop the carbs and lose weight quickly.  It was 2004, and the South Beach diet was all the rage. I lost 17 pounds and looked amazing on our wedding day. bride I kept the weight off and kept up the diet of whole grains and few white carbs.  Then little by little the weight came back although I didn’t change my eating habits.  I ate all the whole grains and kept the white carbs to a minimum, I was exercising 3-4x per week and I was still gaining weight.  At that point I called in a nutritionist. Her genius idea was to eat more whole grain carbohydrates, whether they were processed or not. She demanded I reduce the amount of homemade jam and  meat that I was eating.  Let me say that although I wasn’t convinced, everything that I tried hadn’t worked and she was after all a certified expert, I decided to try her way.  The result of trusting her methods was that I gained more weight. weight gain photo After I told her that I’d no longer be using her services, it was my NaProTechnology doctor who discovered my grain allergy.  Of course that wasn’t what I was there for, it was just something I brought up and it was a problem which he immediately solved.  I stopped eating grains, and I started losing weight.  The only problem was that every time I turned around, there was another grain hiding somewhere.   There were grains in kielbasa, bouillon, cranberry sauce, pudding, and so many other foods where no sane person would ever expect to find grains! There’s no reason anyone should have to reinvent the wheel here.  If you’re looking to stock your pantry with grain free ingredients, here’s a quick list of the basics that we now keep on hand at all times.  Items marked with an asterisk will be used in the recipes for the Week of Grain Free Meals Challenge.

Coconut flour*

Tapioca Flour*tapioca flourwhite bean flourcoconut flour

White bean flour*

Almond flour

Xanthum gum*

Better Than Bouillon chicken base

Better Than Bouillon beef base

Organic Herbs both fresh and dried*

Honey (Local honey is best, it will boost your immune system and actually ease allergy symptoms!)

Organic Maple Syrup

Dark Chocolate

This short little list of ingredients has made a huge difference in the way we eat.  I’ve deliberately kept the list concise because trying out a grain free lifestyle should not require taking out a second mortgage!  So often I find recipes which call for ingredients ingredients that require me to spend a week’s worth of grocery money on only one recipe!  Not my kind of cooking! Our foods don’t taste grain free and when we have guests they’re often impressed that what we serve them tastes “real”.  For me, that’s the whole goal of all this, eating delicious food that’s good for me and will actually make me a healthier person. Sacrificing taste is not an option! In the past year, I’ve lost 16 pounds thanks to my grain free lifestyle.  I’ve made no other changes.  So are you ready to do this with me?  I promise you a week of grain free meals including roast pork, cheese burger pie, creamy spinach and mushroom bake, sweet potato casserole and much more!

Leave a comment and I’ll respond with a link for $10 coupon for purchasing your grain free staples!

Chronicles of a Stress Ridden Infertile Part 1

Here I am on a leave of absence from work.  How did I get here?  Well since I’m a teacher my summer was pretty low stress.  I still worked on curriculum, professional development, and special programs; but I wasn’t teaching.  My hormone levels were all in the effective ranges during my summer cycles.  Everything about me was well within normal ranges, then the school year hit and things changed drastically.  To put it simply it was as though I hadn’t even had my laparoscopy.  My estradiol levels only got into the 160s and since they need to be in the 300s for an effective ovulation, you could pretty much say that my reproductive system shut down due to stress.  I had mid cycle spotting, and my peak day didn’t even come until day 20!  Typically peak day should occur by day 15.  Stress was taking away our chances of having a child.

I didn’t just say “that’s it I quit,” instead I tried to talk with my principal and superintendent about the increase in our work too much workload, the changes in our work day, the fact that two of my classes had more special education than regular ed kids in them and there was no special ed teacher in the room with me.  All of this was stated multiple times.  Our superintendent said she had: “nothing but whiners” in our wing.  Every time I turned around we got more work to do with no time to do it.  They even took away our team time, meaning that our only time to communicate with each other about students and their needs was after school! My typical day meant that I spent 9-10 hours working on school grounds and then another two hours working at home after dinner.

After looking at my hormone levels, Dr. C. my NaProTechnology doctor called and said I needed to come in for an emergency appointment.  Since we already had plans to go away for the weekend, my husband, Frank, came with me.  Boy did he have a lot to tell the doctor.  He’s the one who pointed out the differences between my charts over the summer and during the school year.  It was Frank who also commented on the differences in my CM and its arrival time.  Dr. C had one thing to say about this: “There’s only one of us in this room who can get pregnant and it’s not me.”  I asked Dr. C. if it were possible to get a note for a leave of absence in case I needed it.  He immediately wrote me one after he confirmed that the only cause of the drastic change in my fertility could be stress.

I went back to my superintendent’s office and told her that I had been recommended for a leave of absence.  She was not happy.  To be fair, it’s tough to find someone with one my certifications at this time of year, and it takes the knowledge behind both of my certifications to do what I do.  Too bad.  Had she listened when I tried to tell her what the increased work load was doing to her teachers, we wouldn’t have this problem.  She asked that I give her two weeks to find someone who has the appropriate certification. She put out a call for long terms subs, and I sent an e-mail to my friends and colleagues asking if anyone knew a certified sub who would be willing to take the job.

Midway through the second week, I broke out in hives.  Considering I didn’t eat any new foods, I was pretty sure they were from stress.  The last time I broke out in stress hives was when I was about to lose my job four years ago, so knowing that it was indeed possible, I figured that  had to be it.  I popped a Benadryl, promptly made sub plans, popped another Benadryl and finally stopped scratching.  I became drowsy quickly and fell asleep just before the Sox won the World Series.  In New England, that’s just something you do not do!

substitute teacherWhile I was out of work the next day, I got an e-mail from a prospective sub.  The hives had subsided and I was only resting, so I decided to give him a call.  Since my husband and I had already decided I was looking for another job and had even begun applying, I explained to the sub that there was a possibility that this job might become permanent, he wasn’t sold but he was interested.

I returned to work the following day determined that my LOA begin ASAP.  I informed the superintendent that I had a possible candidate and she was quite surprised since she had none.  At that point I gave her his contact information, told her the date I’d begin my LOA, and got to making 5 days’ worth of sub plans which my contract requires me to do for any prolonged absence.