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Food Allergies & Our Ability to Conceive Part II

Allergies word cloud

Three months after my food allergies were identified; I learned to live a life free of: apples, almonds, bananas, corn, all dairy including butter, all grains except rice, potatoes and soy.   Although I had made these changes, I didn’t learn about them in time for it to make a difference in my pregnancy. There I was, back in the office of Dr. M, my Naturopath, the doctor who had helped me identify my food allergies and MTHFR genetic mutations, copies A&C.

Though I was no longer pregnant, I was more determined than ever to get healthy enough to conceive again. In fact, the thought of having a baby to hold was what got me through most days.

I won’t say that I was excited about getting my results. I spent most days surrounded in a cloud of grief, my body still bleeding as my levels of HCG, the pregnancy hormone, declined.

At the follow up appointment, I was ready for the results of all my hard work.   Dr. M asked if I stuck to my diet. I replied I had, with the occasional unknown exception. I was bracing myself for bad news. I thought it hadn’t worked, I thought my efforts had left my values unchanged. I was surprised when Dr. M revealed the results.

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“Your results certainly show you’ve been working hard. You’ve done as much in three months as some of my patients do in a year!”

I was so happy to hear something was working!

Although I was overwhelmed with grief from the loss of our child, this good news gave me hope that we might be able to conceive again one day.

It was two and a half months after our loss; and yet, my HCG levels had not yet hit zero; and so we were not allowed to try to conceive. Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor, suggested we wait three months after my levels hit zero to avoid having sequential miscarriages. The idea of going through another loss was something I couldn’t even handle thinking about! After a D&C we waited three months before we even considered trying.

couple grieving

Those three months were a time of healing for us. We cried a lot. Sometimes we walked around as empty shells that just went through the motions of everyday life. We didn’t feel much other than pain. We did the best we could to put one foot in front of the other. Thank God, we had each other! I can honestly say I would not have made it through this time without the support of my amazing husband, Frank.

Just as we were getting ready to try again, I received a letter from Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor, telling me he was closing his practice to help other doctors learn to treat patients with the respect and kindness for which he is famous.

I was devastated, again! There I was, about to get back on the TTC roller coaster, and my doctor was getting out of the NaProTechnology business!!! It was one of those moments that made me question my journey in life and whether I was following God’s plan for me or walking the path of my own desires and wants. I quickly reminded myself that while I am strong willed; I am not patient. The only reason I could have ever stuck on the TTC roller coaster after IUI, surgery for endometriosis, and a miscarriage would be because God was with me, giving me the strength to take each step down this path. I reminded myself of something I said to my dear friend, Jordan, a few weeks before she conceived her miracle baby: “God wouldn’t have gotten us this far, only to leave us here.” I wasn’t going to quit.

Still, I had a problem. I needed a new doctor. Thankfully, Dr. C had included a list of possible new NaProTechnology doctors in his farewell letter. I made an appointment for August and called Dr. C to request lab work. He authorized estradiol and progesterone levels to be drawn on peak plus 7, what we NaPro patients call 7 days after ovulation.

Analysis of blood in the hands of a medical

Analysis of blood in the hands of a medical

If you’re uncertain as to why my doctor ordered estradiol and progesterone levels, the short explanation is that based on those levels NaProTechnology doctors prescribe doses of ovulation assisting medications such as letrozole, to help compensate for any ovarian dysfunction. I was unable to conceive without this medication the first time, so I was fairly certain I would need to take the medication again.

The results of the estradiol and progesterone tests were very surprising. While I was previously unable to conceive without the assistance of medication, the initial peak plus seven blood draw showed that I wasn’t having this difficulty eight months after miscarriage. My post peak estradiol was 249 and my progesterone was 28.4. I was stunned. The test results showed my levels were above normal, they had reached the optimum range for conception. Other than my vitamins, I was taking no medications.

To put this in perspective, to conceive, the post peak level of estradiol should be above 120 and progesterone should be above 15. I had gone from sub-fertile to fertile!

My husband, Frank, and I were over joyed. It appeared that it would only be a matter of time before we conceived! We followed doctor’s orders, taking the vitamins, and mucus enhancers to compensate for the damage done to my cervix by years of birth control.

Month after month my peak plus seven blood draws continued to be in the optimum range. And yet we had not conceived. At my first appointment with my new NaProTechnology physician, Dr. R flat out asked why I was there with numbers like those.

Food Allergies & Our Ability to Conceive Part I

It’s almost a year after we conceived and our lives are forever changed. How could they not be? In one moment we were given everything we ever wanted, only to lose it a few weeks later. The weeks which followed our miscarriage were filled with the most raw, indescribable pain we had ever experienced. There was nothing we could do, we just held on while my body went through the process of losing our child. We were hopeful that things would happen naturally and at least I’d be able to avoid surgery. That was not to be. My body took forever for my HCG levels to decline. I ended up in surgery almost four months after the loss had begun.

couple grieving

Shortly before I learned I was pregnant I made an appointment with a Naturopathic doctor to investigate food allergies. Thanks to Dr. C, my first NaProTechnology doctor, I knew that I had a grain allergy; however I was suspicious that there might be other allergies which were keeping us from conceiving.

By the time of my first appointment, I was already pregnant. It was Christmas time, and we had received the best Christmas gift ever! There was nothing else would could ask for!

My appointment happened to be on Christmas Eve day, I went with the thought that good nutrition would be important during my pregnancy and whatever knowledge she gave me would make my pregnancy a healthier one.

At the appointment, my Naturopath, Dr. M, explained that there were two types of allergies: IgE allergies, the kind that result in anaphylaxis; and IgG allergies which are sensitivities and cause a high amount of inflammation in the body. When there’s inflammation in the body, conception can’t happen since reproduction is the first thing the body shuts down when it’s in distress.

She explained that by identifying the food allergies and removing them from my diet, my pregnancy would be easier, and my baby would be healthier. That was enough for me! My husband, Frank, and I had tried to conceive for almost three years; there was nothing that I would not do to ensure we had a successful pregnancy.

Pregnant woman rubbing her belly

I was a bit surprised to learn that there wasn’t any different in what she had planned for me than had I not been pregnant.  I still had to do the blood draws, identify the allergens, then return in two weeks to get the results and make a plan to get healthy. We celebrated Christmas and rejoiced in knowing that we would soon be parents. I ate even more than usual at Christmas dinner; as I wasn’t sure which foods would be off my plate after my allergy tests results came in.

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­­­­­­­­­­­­ Before I ever thought of visiting a Naturopath; I learned that I had an allergy to grains during my first visit with my NaProTechnology doctor in October of 2011. At first I wasn’t very sure about that, but since I had gained 24 pounds in a year, and no other doctor or nutritionist could explain why, I figured I might as well try to get grains out of my diet and see what happened.

It was hard, but I lost ten pounds, and found more energy than I’d had in a while.

Even though I had eliminated all grains from my diet, I still hadn’t lost the 24lbs of weight which I gained without any dietary changes. Deep down I wondered if I had missed something.

Since my, friend, mentor, and NaProTechnology sister: Jordan, conceived her baby after working with a naturopath, I figured it was one more thing I could at least cross off the list. If it worked, our prayers would be answered; and if not, we would know that we had done absolutely everything possible to make conception happen.

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 long list

After the New Year, my Naturopath presented me with the list of foods my body was reacting to; and I nearly hit the floor! I had been eating these foods forever! Because grains had already been eliminated from my diet, I was relying more heavily on other foods, and boy did my allergy results show it!

When a person is not allergic to a particular food, their sensitivity results will be below 2.0, any result above 2.0 indicates an allergy which is causing an inflammatory response.

My test results showed that I was allergic to:

  • Apples
  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Corn
  • Casein (the protein in dairy—good by cheese and butter!)
  • Egg whites
  • All grains except rice & barley (no wheat, no oats, no sorghum, no amaranth, quinoa, teff, or any other grains)
  • Potatoes
  • Soy

After the doctor scraped me off the floor, I didn’t know what to say. How could I be allergic to these foods and not know it?

Dr. M had also done another test, CRP, which showed that the high levels of inflammation in my body were actually putting me at a higher than average risk of a heart attack.  I also learned I had a genetic mutation which needed to be treated through diet and supplements.  I have two copies of the MTHFR mutation, one A and the other C.  Dr. M explained that my healthy habits of exercising 3x per week, and abstaining from all grains had helped us to get pregnant despite these defects.  But there were still some effects of these mutations, such as constant fatigue, which I did not have under control.

There was no way that I was going to stand for all that, I was going to learn to live without those foods and take the supplements she prescribed no matter what! After discussing my already grain free diet with Dr. M, I explained that I had already developed my own recipe for grain free bread, and that eating it made me feel normal. Although it contained eggs, she gave me permission to continue eating it if that was my one and only cheat.

She explained that my health would not improve over night, but by  following her treatment plan, we would decrease our chances of miscarriage, and increase our chances of having a healthy baby.

Pumpkin Cheesecake–grainfree, dairy free, egg free!

Living here in New England, we are surrounded by pumpkin everything as soon as fall hits! I can usually walk by all of the pumpkin cookies, cakes, and donuts without a problem. But one fall favorite that I simply cannot live without is Pumpkin Cheesecake. This is a bit of a problem considering that both dairy and grains have been identified as allergens and have been proven to mess with my fertility.

 

If I were to eat a real pumpkin cheese cake, not only would I get sick, but it would seriously affect my fertility. Since getting the allergens out of my diet, my hormone levels have gone from sub fertile, to fertile, and now to the optimum zone. I’m not going to let gluten or dairy take that away from me.

BUT, I WILL HAVE MY PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE!

pumpkin cheese cake

If I can make pasta without grains, I can make cheesecake that is dairy-free!

I had a few ideas as how this might be done. I knew I’d need to use coconut milk to substitute for the dairy products, and of course a can of pumpkin, and the rest, well I took what I knew from making other grain free recipes and decided to do a little tweaking. The result was success on the first try!

I was sold on the tastiness of the cheesecake immediately; but, I always like to run a dish by my grain loving friends and family before sharing that recipe with my followers. I am lucky enough that they are always willing to act as a focus group; their opinions mean a lot to me.   Now that they have given me their seal approval, I am pleased to share my recipe with you!

pumpkin cheesecake slice

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ingredients

Crust:

1 cup nuts of your choice

1 cup dates

1 TBSP coconut oil

1 tsp cinnamon

 

Filling:

1 can coconut milk (I use Native Forest)

1 can organic pumpkin

1TBSP gelatin

1 ½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ginger

¼ tsp nutmeg

 

In a food processor, chop nuts until they have a “meal” like texture. Add dates and coconut oil; process until smooth. Add cinnamon and process one minute. Press into spring form pan.

 

Heat coconut milk until boiling in a large saucepan. In a small ramekin, mix gelatin with water and whisk until smooth. Wisk gelatin mixture into coconut milk, set aside. Mix pumpkin and spices in food processor. Slowly add coconut milk until blended thoroughly.   Pour on top of crust. Refrigerate at least three hours, preferably overnight.

 

I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe as much as my family and friends have!

Chicken Tomato Florentine Soup

Today, the beautiful fall weather has inspired me to cook up some soup!

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A few years ago, I read that chicken is often a staple ingredient in soup because chicken fat contains properties that fight colds. I guess that’s why my grandmother always had chicken soup in her freezer ready to defrost as a front line defense for any illness!

Today’s soup combines the delicious immune system boosting zing of chicken with the vitamin C found in tomatoes and spinach, as well as the iron contained in spinach and white beans; finished with the delicious taste of freshly pressed garlic and basil. The best part is, I threw it together in about an hour!

Ingredients:

8 cups chicken broth (I make homemade broth from leftover organic roast chicken)

3 cups water

1 large can crushed tomatoes

1 cup dried white beans

3 cups chopped organic celery

1 large organic onion

1lb frozen organic spinach

2 cloves organic garlic

2t dried organic basil.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Dairy free mozzarella cheese for topping!

chopped celery carots and onions

In a large stockpot, combine organic chicken broth, crushed tomatoes and water and bring to a boil. In a separate sauce pan, bring 6 cups water to a boil and add beans, cook at a low boil for about 45 minutes or until done.  Chop celery and onions and add to boiling stock in large sauce pan. Press fresh garlic into pot and stir in dried basil. When beans have cooked drain and rinse beans and add to stock pot. Remove pot from heat and stir in spinach. Top with dairy free mozzarella cheese and enjoy!

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Peanut Brownie Bites- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free, & Delicious!

One of my biggest challenges in my quest for delicious grain free & dairy free food is always dessert! Even when I was only grain free, most of my desserts used dairy; because who needs grain if you can have amazing homemade whipped cream?  But after being diagnosed with an allergy to casein, the protein in dairy, I had no choice but to learn to make grain free, dairy free desserts!

chocolate truffle

Out of desperation came inspiration! I started by checking out recipes that others had created, and I even made a few. Sometimes I find that specialized desserts tend to please a more sophisticated pallet than my own. In my house, a grain free recipe has to taste as delectable as any grain based treat!  It has to be the type of dessert that your average Joe would enjoy.   It must be total comfort food!  Otherwise it’s not something my husband, Frank,  will even dare to try.

The recipe that follows has been tested on numerous grain lovers, skeptics, and “I don’t do  gluten free” snobs! It has been approved by all, and has also been requested to appear at our annual 4th of July party. My favorite thing about this recipe is that it can be made ahead of time and kept fresh in the freezer for when I have that spur of the moment chocolate craving! I hope your family will enjoy it as much as mine already has.

Ingredients:

2cups dates

2 cups peanuts

2 heaping T coconut oil

¼ cup organic cocoa powder

1t vanilla extract

12 oz chocolate chips (dairy free & gluten free)

In a food processor, chop dates and peanuts until mealy.

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Add coconut oil, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder.

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Blend until a dough like consistency forms. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler. While chocolate chips melt, line a tray with parchment paper and roll dough into one inch balls. Flash freeze dough balls for 5 minutes. Remove tray from freezer and dip dough balls in melted chocolate. Return to freezer to let chocolate set. In less than 45 minutes, you’ll have enough peanut brownie bites to satisfy even the largest party crowd! The Peanut Brownie Bites can be stored in the freezer for up to a month when kept in a well-sealed container.  Recipe makes 4-5 dozen bites!

Peanuty Brownie Bites!  Grain Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Delicious!

Peanuty Brownie Bites! Grain Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Delicious!

Getting Started with a Grain Free Power Hour…

You may be participating in our grain free for a week challenge or you might just want to try a few new recipes.  Either way, a grain free cooking power hour or two, is a great way to get started and save yourself so much time throughout the week.

confused cook

I love my grain free cooking power hours.  I feel so accomplished when I’m done, and my week goes along much more smoothly because my menu is planned and half of my prep work for the week is done.  Oh, and the house smells fabulous, too!

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When I do a power hour(s), I work backwards, starting with the things that will take the longest.  In the case of this week’s menu, that’s the sweet potato casserole, so I’ll start by putting a large stockpot of water on the stove to boil. While the water’s boiling, I’ll load up my bread maker with the ingredients for making my grain free bread, I’d preheat the oven for the roast pork, and then start peeling some carrots.  After the carrots are peeled, halved, and then sliced into thirds, I’d set them aside.  If you have a double oven, then you could even pre-heat it and roast your carrots ahead of time.  If not, no worries, it only takes half an hour to roast carrots, they can go in the oven while you’re cooking the roast pork stroganoff on the stovetop later in the week.

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If you’re really looking to get a jump on your week, one of the easiest ways to cut down on meal prep time is to cook your ground beef/turkey ahead of time.  It takes a short while and by frying it all at once and either refrigerating it or freezing it until you need it, you’ve cut the meal prep time for cheeseburger pie, or creamy spinach bake in half!

Speaking of cheese burger pie and creamy spinach bake, many pre-shredded cheeses use corn starch to prevent caking. That’s a huge no no for me.  If I eat cheese with corn starch in it, I am guaranteed a stomach ache.  My cheddar cheese goes through my cheese grater without a problem.  If you’re using fresh mozzarella and it gums up in your cheese grater, you can slice it with an egg slicer.  Besides getting the junk out of your cheese, shredding your own cheese is beneficial.  It’s cheaper, keeps longer and tastes better this way!

The Grain Free Meal Challenge…

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So are you ready?  We’re going grain free for a week.  You can do this!  You’ve already got your grain free staples on hand, it’s time to get started!

 

This week’s meals:

Roast pork with sweet potato casserole and salad

Roast pork stroganoff with roasted carrots

Grain Free Cheeseburger Pie with steamed broccoli

Stuffed Turkey Cutlets Wrapped in Bacon  with salad and sweet potato casserole.

Creamy Spinach Bake with Ground Beef and Mushrooms

Grilled Tuna Melts with steamed veggies and salad

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I’ve chosen six meals, with the idea that you have at least enough leftovers for at least one whole meal.  Depending on your family size, this may vary.  When I cook for the two of us, I usually cook four large grain free meals each week, we have a left over night, with one of our meals being a quick fix like the Grilled Tuna Melts.  We’re realistic in our house!  At least one night each week we can’t really sit down to a full meal, so we make something quick that we can enjoy without guilt!

If you have grain lovers in your home, you might be surprised by how much they like the meals you make this week.  My husband Frank was reluctant to try my recipes at first, but now he’s game for almost anything I cook.  Once in a while, he’ll have a box of mac n’ cheese, but since he doesn’t have a grain allergy where’s the harm in that?

I recommend you start with a grain free cooking power hour or two.  It’s a simple way to get a good start to the week and get a good deal of your prep work done ahead of time.  You spend less time cooking in the long run and it takes much less time to prepare dinner every evening.  The power hour of cooking is especially helpful if you know that Monday or Tuesday will be a busy evening for your family, that way you cook and assemble your meal almost completely and just pop it in the oven when you’re ready.  If you are having a busy evening later in the week, you can always completely prep a meal and freeze it until you’re ready to take it out either the evening before or morning of that day.

I’m going to be cooking along with you all.  I’ve decided that I’ll freeze anything that we won’t eat and that will be added to my stockpile of quick fix meals since there really aren’t many grain free fast food options available.

Grain Free Thanksgiving 2013

Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit in.  Between the infertility and my grain free lifestyle, gatherings of any type can be summed up in one word: awkward!  This past Thanksgiving is a great example.  We went to my mother’s house for dinner.  It’s our annual holiday there and for reasons that can be addressed in another post, we don’t play “holiday hopscotch,” bouncing from one location to the next.

couple in car

I have an allergy to grains, so I made sure to review the menu with her before our arrival. Specifically, I cannot eat: wheat, rice, oats, corn, or any corn products such as corn syrup and corn syrup solids, barley, quinoa, wild rice, sorghum, teff, and all other grains.  Eating even small amounts of these foods causes me to become ill with a stomach ache that I can only equate to the cramps one gets with the flu.  The one exception to this is white flour.  If I accidentally ingest a small amount of white flour, I don’t get the full blown reaction.   White flour is highly refined and so dissimilar from whole grain wheat, I only get a bloated belly, gain a pound, and the stomach ache goes away within a day.

confused cook

Let me be clear, I know my dietary needs are difficult for the average host to manage, that’s why I take such care to review my allergies with them and ask what I can bring to help with the meal.  If I’m lucky, my host will understand or be somewhat sympathetic, he or she will laugh a bit when I explain that the five staples of my diet are: meat, fruit, vegetables, chocolate, and wine.  From there, we usually problem solve a bit and arrive at a menu which all can enjoy.  I ask that he or she make a vegetable that I can have, and usually I bring a bread, a salad, and or a dessert that is grain free but can be enjoyed by all.

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chcolate chip cookie bars

This was not how Thanksgiving went!  My mother was very offended when I asked to review the menu with her.  I explained that I was aware that she’d be making stuffing, but that over the past year or so I’ve found grains lurking in the strangest places and so I have to be aware of what I’m eating.  We figured I could eat the turkey but not the stuffing. I asked about the sweet potatoes she makes with a maple syrup glaze which used to be my favorite.   Her maple syrup had a corn syrup base and she wasn’t interested in using organic syrup in its place, instead she said she’d make me a baked sweet potato.  This is like watching your friends eat chocolate while you eat a chocolate flavored rice cake, it’s torture.  The rest of the meal was pretty much out as well, her cranberry sauce contained corn syrup, and once again, she wasn’t interested in purchasing or making an all-natural alternative.   We went over the appetizers; there wouldn’t be any of those that I could eat, and same with the desserts.  She wasn’t serving soup, and our conversation ended with her telling me, “I don’t know what you can eat besides the turkey and the canned vegetables, bring whatever you’d like, don’t bring too much because no one else will be interested in eating that stuff.”

question marks

Whether I’m cooking grain free or not, my food is always devoured by all.  Typically, I bring a potato skin casserole, a dessert, and maybe a soup if I’m feeling adventurous.  I’ve served grain free versions of these to grain lovers and received accolades, there’s no reason to assume that people wouldn’t enjoy them.  Rather, I think she was upset that I wouldn’t be eating her food.  Someday, I will be able to explain that my grain free diet is not a choice, but a must in my life; as for now, it doesn’t seem to be sinking in.

I decided that I’d bring the foods that I needed to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.  That meant: soup, roasted carrots, my usual potato skin casserole, homemade cranberry sauce, grain free chocolate chip bars, and grain free stuffing.  I found some grain free crackers on vitacost and brought those along with me as well so I could at least enjoy the cheese plate while others were feasting on stuffed mushrooms, and all other kinds of grain based goodness.

Thanksgiving table

So, after appetizers, it was straight to the meal. There were no courses; it was everyone grab everything you want and eat quickly so we can get this cleaned up.  I’m my mother’s only child, I’m the extra set of hands to follower her around and assist as needed.  In particular, I was in charge of setting up the buffet .  We squeezed all the food we could onto the sideboard table.  Of course, there wasn’t any room for my food, which was relegated to the kitchen, and remained in the mini slow cookers I had brought it in.  As everyone served themselves from the buffet, I went into the kitchen and helped myself to the grain free goodness which I prepared.  Low and behold, a line of guests followed me to enjoy the soup, cranberry sauce, and carrots that my mother said no one would want to eat.  I can’t blame the guests for not touching the stuffing, it’s not perfected yet, but it was something. On my way back to the table, I also stopped at the buffet table and took some turkey and some butternut squash, which I was assured was safe.

Mid-way through the meal, I felt uncomfortable. Could it have been because we sat down to eat everything at once and I’m not accustomed to eating so much food so quickly?

dishes

I continued to eat my meal, and helped with the cleanup.  When the meal had been cleared and packed away, it was time for dessert, and I still wasn’t feeling well.  I sipped coffee and nibbled at my grain free chocolate chip bars which the grain lovers raved over.  I still didn’t feel well, but I figured my emotions had kicked and the crumby feeling in my stomach had quite a bit to do with the crumby way I’d been treated that day.

Dinner ended.  We were thrilled to go home, our obligatory holiday at mom’s now crossed off the list for another year.  We took care of our fur babies and went off to bed.  In the middle of the night, I awoke with a terrible stomach ache, the one that lets me know I’ve inadvertently eaten corn.  I had the nasty stomach ache, the obnoxious gas that goes along with it, and of course the bloated abdomen that is often called a “grain baby”.  Somehow, despite being so careful with all that I ate and only eating my foods, turkey, a sweet potato, and butternut squash, I had ingested corn and my body was mad!

 

 

It was a rough night.  In the morning, the symptoms were in full swing.  Typically, when I ingest corn, no matter how much, my body experiences discomfort for about four days.   There’s nothing I can do about this.  I just have to drink plenty of water and let my body do what it does.  I did however call my mother and try to determine the source of the corn.  She made no apologies for the illness I was experiencing and was adamant that the foods I had eaten did not contain corn.  I had to disagree with her. I’ve made a fair amount of mistakes with my grain allergy, and I’m familiar with how my body reacts to wheat, rice, and corn, the grains which are most commonly included in foods that one would assume are grain free.

I thought perhaps she had put some maple syrup in the butternut squash, she hadn’t.  I asked if she had cooked the sweet potato in the same baking dish she used for the potatoes candied with maple syrup, she had not.  I was not giving up. I know how my body reacts to corn and this was a corn reaction.

wheat belly

While I was out mom called and left a message, saying that it must have been trace amounts of wheat from the stuffing in the turkey broth which I used to make my gravy.  No way, I only bloat and gain weight from wheat, I do not awaken in the middle of the night with pain.

corn II

I returned my mother’s call and explained that the wheat in the stuffing was a good thought; however, this was a corn reaction without a doubt.  She was adamant that she did not use corn or any corn products in the stuffing.  We reviewed the ingredients list and found the culprit.  She had used sweet Italian sausage in the stuffing.  She couldn’t say that it was all natural or organic, and every sweet sausage I’ve ever found that wasn’t all natural or organic has contained corn syrup solids or corn syrup.

sausage

Since it was a day after Thanksgiving she asked if I was “better” now.  I explained that it was going to be at least four days before anything close to better happened.  I’m not sure what we’re doing for Thanksgiving next year, but I know I wish that I had made her give me an ingredients list for everything she was making that day!  I could have avoided the pain, sleeplessness, and the four pounds I gained from the small amount of corn in the gravy and the turkey.

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.