Tag Archives: Gluten Free

Metamorphosis

It’s August!

This month is always pretty meaningful to me. Not only is it my birthday month (!!!), but it means the worst part of the year is over and every month from here on out gets better and better!

But this year, in particular, is even more special.

Today marks one year since I began my journey in gluten-free eating. I can’t say that I’ve been entirely gluten free for a year, because that’s obviously not true. But one year ago this week I began my elimination diet which ultimately led me on a journey that has shaped me in ways I couldn’t have possibly imagined before.

On top of reducing (and eliminating over long batches of time) gluten, thus making my chronic and severe seasonal allergies virtually disappear, I’ve changed my thinking regarding proper nutrition, particularly in the treatment of my PCOS (which was diagnosed two months after the beginning of my elimination diet).

The turning point

Before last August, I followed something of a “flexitarian” diet. I eschewed most animal proteins in favor of legumes, nuts, and whole grains. Part of this was an economic choice, one I still have to balance, but I felt somehow more virtuous that way in my flawed logic. But what I was really doing was making myself sick, and after several months of this I realized that my body’s ache for more animal products was increasing dramatically. I would wake up every morning feeling like death. I seemed to have headaches all day, every day. My cycles were getting more and more irregular. I was cranky and irritable, and even more so during the weeks I ate no meat at all. After a very unhelpful discussion with my (now former) physician, I sought the advice of holistic practitioner, Kristien Boyle (husband of blogger, Caitlyn Boyle). Through email consultations he led me through a lot of discussion about my symptoms and ordered me a hormonal test panel which revealed several imbalances, most noteworthy being my high estrogen, high DHEA, low cortisol, and low 17-OH progesterone. He also is the one who ordered me to being the elimination diet and urged me to continue being gluten free when I had doubts that it was working. He was also the first to be convinced I had PCOS—even when I doubted him. I went back to my gynecologist and demanded to be tested for PCOS, despite his reservations. Suspicions were confirmed and I was officially diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Dr. Boyle then prescribed a number of lifestyle and dietary changes in order to treat my endocrine imbalances. He wanted to me drastically reduce my carbohydrate intake, and always start the day with a protein-rich breakfast, and to never eat a carb without a protein or fat source, in addition to remaining gluten free. My views on nutrition had to undertake a grand metamorphosis. No longer could I focus on calories and following some trend. No longer was it about keeping the same jean size. Everything revolved around bringing my body into a state of healthy normalcy. And these efforts have led to me to a “new” idea of nutrition. Instead of a semi-vegetarian diet, I’d say my diet pulls mostly from the idea of Weston A. Price and the Primal Blueprint.

A typical day, a year ago might have looked like this:

Breakfast: Overnight oats with banana, soy milk, and peanut butter OR a peanut butter sandwich on homemade whole wheat bread

Lunch: Canned black beans, sweet potato, and sauteed spinach

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Dinner: Some dish with beans substituted for meat OR potatoes roasted in oil, steamed green vegetable, and a small portion of animal protein

Snack: a Clif bar, a bag of trail mix, and fruit. Yes, all of them.

 

 

And a typical day now (is there really such thing as a typical day??):

 

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with salsa and Monterey jack cheese, and a corn tortilla or two OR Omelet with spinach and mozzarella, side of sweet potato (3-4 oz). Eggs are cooked in either butter or rendered lard (local). Fruit optional, but not typical (I find most fruit too sugary that early in the morning). I also usually drink water for breakfast, or a water with a splash of apple cider vinegar and local raw honey. Other days, I drink tea, like this pictured chai, or mint green tea. I’ll also mention that I’ve gotten the corn tortilla-making down to a fast and furious art. I don’t use a recipe anymore and I practically don’t measure. They take as long to whip up as it takes to boil an egg.

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Lunch: Salad with nuts, seeds, fruit, cheese, with either turkey or sardines+GF toast/crackers+butter OR beans cooked with a local ham hock and homemade beef stock, with a side of green vegetable

Dinner: Some kind of moderately-portioned (4-6 oz) animal protein (or more eggs if budget is tight), green vegetable with melted butter and salt, and if we are especially hungry, a bit of potato (sweet or regular) on the side, served with more butter.


(Photo taken by John during dinner. Admittedly a light dinner, but we weren’t famished)

Snack: I’m not usually hungry, but I might roll a bit of turkey and cheese together if hunger strikes at work. If I have cherries or some other super-seasonal fruit, I’d eat it. Occasionally I blend nuts and unsweetened dried fruit together into a sort of nut-heavy larabar-type confection. Or I just down a spoonful of almond butter.

 

New balance

No longer do I fear saturated and animal fats (side note: yes, there is a distinction. Most animal fats are not more than 50% saturated. Pork and poultry fat are typically more than 60% monounsaturated—the same type of heart healthy fat found in massive proportion in olive oil and avocadoes). I have limited my starchy carbs to the normal context of a meal, in serving sizes that do not exceed the amount of protein on my plate. I feel like I’ve found a sort of balance of macronutrients that works best for me. Not too much carb (my cycles go crazy and my blood sugar roller-coasters), not too little carb (it stresses out my body and causes me to bleed erratically and highly abnormally). With exception of the month where my body was dealing with the results of too little carb, and the couple months of “recovery” since, I have found my body inching closer and closer to a real sense of health. My cycles are the closest to normal and regular than they have ever been in my entire life. My headaches are more of a rarity than a rule. I don’t wake up bright-eyed and busy-tailed, but within minutes I feel ready to face the day—rarely feeling like I need to take a sick day. My journey is still in a state of flux. I am constantly learning more and more about how to help myself without the aid of pharmaceuticals. I will continue to experiment, and I may take a few steps back sometimes, but it’s a learning process. The endocrine system is a strange animal. But so am I. So I’m up for the challenge.

 

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How has your diet changed in the past year or two?

Seed Crackers

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Sometimes, eating gluten free can be so dang expensive.

Take crackers for example, a box of Mary’s Gone Crackers costs about $5, and they disappear like nothing else. I’ve been looking for something to eat with my weekly sardine lunch (yes, I eat sardines. I can hear the collective ewww!) For the last few months I’ve been eating them with gluten free bread (Udi’s brand is my favorite), but unfortunately that stuff is hardly whole food. But recently I’ve taken up making my own crackers based on those seed variety snacks. And they are so much cheaper!

 

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And as a plus, Edgar really loves these crackers as well! He eats them more than I do!

 

Seed Crackers

1/2 c brown rice flour
2 T sesame seeds
3 T raw quinoa (I don’t bother soaking or cooking it)
4 T cracked flax seed (pulse in the coffee grinder a few times. Not looking for a powder. Just broken flax pieces)
1/2 t sea salt (increase to a full teaspoon if omitting soy sauce)
6-10 T water
1 T low-sodium gluten free soy sauce (or replace with water)
1 T olive oil

Combine the first four ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Then, in a separate bowl combine all the wet ingredients, using only 6 tablespoons of water. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine well. If the dough seems dry and crumbly, add a little bit of water, one tablespoon at a time. The dough will be a bit batter-like. That’s okay. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to soak for a couple of hours. I imagine if you wanted to reduce phytic acid you could allow to soak for 24 hours or so, but since I don’t eat these every day, I figure it doesn’t really make a difference.

After a few hours the “batter” will turn into a workable dough. Preheat the oven to the lowest temperature possible. Roll out the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out as thin as possible, then use a pizza cutter or knife to pre-cut the dough into crackers. Put the pan into the oven with the door ajar and allow to dehydrate for several hours (upwards of 4-5, but it really depends on your own oven), until full dry and crisp.

Serve with hummus, sardines, or on their own!

 

 

 

And if you’re curious, my “sardine salad” is really just Wild Planet sardines in evoo, drained, broiled in a dish with a pat of butter, a splash of wine, garlic, and dill or parsley, then mixed up when warm and butter is melted.

Healing with Traditional Diets

Last August I began a change in diet that was meant to heal me of various problems. I cut dairy, gluten, soy, and corn for several weeks, not knowing how I would feel by the end. Many people with a gluten intolerance feel instant relief. I did not. In fact, after my elimination diet was over, I continued eating it, though not as frequently. It was not until a few months into my “re-introduction” that I started feeling the effects of my gluten response, and hindsight became much more clear. Like never before, I was experiencing stomach cramps akin to eating two Thanksgiving dinners when I ate a significant serving of gluten. But more noteworthy was the fact that when I reduced my gluten intake, the severity of my seasonal allergies declined accordingly (a problem that affected my ability to work and function in society. A problem I’d dealt with my entire life). Likewise, when I ate a little bit of gluten repeatedly over a short period of time, or a binged in one setting, my allergies would flare within days and I would be stuck with a severe respiratory infection to nurse for about a week.

So this is how I’ve lived since last fall—avoiding gluten where I can, but not stressing over cross-contamination. Cheating a little, but knowing I will pay for it if I don’t keep it under control. I’ve been eating dairy, living with the occasional, but not severe, physical distress I sometimes experience with it, and avoiding soy more and more. I had no other problems with any other food.

Until a few weeks ago.

Within 30 minutes of eating this breakfast, I became sick to my stomach. I wanted to curl up on my couch and not move, but I was at work. It was the constant feeling of definite nausea that remained for a good two hours. I never felt so sick as to need to vomit, but the wrench in my stomach was undeniable.

A few days later, I discovered what about this meal ailed me when I ate it again in another meal, and then another as a “test” a few days after.

Avocados.

I have become allergic to avocados!

I have had a great love for avocados since I first started eating them in 2008. I put them on sandwiches, burgers, tacos, almost anything. It’s my favorite condiment. I can find substitutes for wheat, but AVOCADO?!

I was eating gluten free (especially over the last several months), but clearly that didn’t prevent me from developing some sort of allergy to avocados. I have read that it is possibly related to something called, “latex-fruit syndrome” which is a type of latex allergy that responds negatively to certain fruit like avocado, mango, and pineapple. I also had the same problems with pineapple lately and had to stop eating it. At the time I assumed it was the sugar.

Something needed to change. What I was doing was not enough. So I did some research into traditional diets and the GI-healing diets, GAPS (Gut And Psychology Syndrome) and SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet). I can’t say that I’m committing totally to any of these just yet, but I am choosing to incorporate major aspects of them more and see how (if) it helps:

  • Bone Broths
    The vitamins and minerals that are found in bone broths are important anyway, but the collagen in these broths helps heal the lining of the intestines. Bones are cheap and I happened to have to meaty lamb bones in my deep freezer. After stewing away for a day in a combination of vegetables, herbs, and kombu, I have lamb stock in my freezer, ready for soups. Edgar loves eating soup for lunch, so I’m making it a point to consume my broth in the form of easy-to-prepare crockpot soups for lunch. (Mark Sisson has compiled a great amount of information on the subject HERE. And the Weston A. Price Foundation writes about it HERE)
  • Kombucha
    I have experienced in the past when I drank kombucha on an upset stomach, it would relieve my distress very quickly. It’s a great non-dairy source of probiotics, which should help balance my internal flora. Plus, I just flat out love the stuff. It’s a healthy bubbly beverage! Right now I only have one quart mason jar in my pantry fermenting away, but I know that I’ll need to have a lot more going at once to keep up with my habit!

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         Interesting story here. See that small bit of “mother” (ie. Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) floating on the top? Well, soon after I took these photos, it fell to the bottom of the jar, but in the few days since I took this picture, a new mother has started to form at the top of the jar again! Fermentation is a neat trick.

  • Yogurt
    I made my own! The process was very simple, and per SCD instructions I let it ferment for 24 hours to help reduce as much lactose as possible. I then strained the yogurt, making a thick, Greek-style yogurt and an ample amount of whey for other fermented foods along the line.

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  • Soaking/Sprouting/Souring Legumes and Grains
    I’ve gone back to soaking my grains and beans thoroughly in an acid medium to help reduce phytase. Phytase is an anti-nutrient. It blocks the proper absorption of nutrients in the body. Plus, it makes food more difficult to digest. I don’t make beans or grains a significant part of my diet, so I’m not that concerned about malnutrition by phytase, but I know I don’t want to aggravate a sensitive stomach with things I know are hard to digest when I can do something about it. So soak them well in vinegar or whey before cooking, I do. I also toss some kombu in with my beans to further help make them more digestible. Along the line I do plan to try to limit my legumes to SCD-legal varieties, like lentils and navy beans. (Read more about it HERE.)

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          In addition to the beans, I’ve started sprouting my own grains and seeds so I can make a variation on this Sprouted Grain Gluten Free Bread recipe. I’m completely intimidated! But the fact that I just started the sprouting process at 9pm last night and already my quinoa was sprouting when I woke up this morning makes me feel a little more capable!

  • Lacto-Fermented Condiments
    I don’t like pickles. I don’t like saurkraut. I don’t like vinegary things. But certain things I eat often contain a little vinegar, and it’s those things I am planning to lacto-ferment: salsa, mainly (I eat salsa with my eggs almost every day), and possibly barbecue sauce (which I generally don’t care for. I’m a Texas barbecue gal. We don’t need no barbecue sauce!) and ketchup (which I only eat with fried potatoes). I might experiment with lacto-fermented pickles, but for Ed’s sake, not mine. Also, in skimming through the Nourishing Traditions cookbook at Barnes & Noble a few days ago, I found that there are apparently plenty of different things I can ferment at home that seems tasty enough to me. Going to have to add that book to my wish list!Smile

 

So with all these changes, I’m hoping to feel some improvements. Only time will tell!

 

Here are some valuable blogs I have been reading that relate to traditional+GI-healing diets. Check ‘em out!:

Nourished Kitchen
Neo-Homesteading
Roost
Katie Did
Passionate Homemaking
Mark’s Daily Apple
Frugal Granola
GNOWFGLINS
Food Rengade

 

Have you had any experience with traditional foods/preparations? Do you recommend any other blogs that relate to this topic?

 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, a nutritionist, a dietician, or any official health expert. I am just a free woman making up her own mind, willing to risk being wrong.

Coconut Latte Ice Cream

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It’s been a scorcher.

With several days of triple digit temps, and no sign of relief in the forecast for some time (September, maybe?), we’ve been forced to cope in our own ways.

In our case, we’ve had ice cream more times in the past few weeks than we care to admit. In fact, my dinner last night consisted of a Reese’s Sonic Blast. That’s it.

But there is a better way!

Rather than wasting our money day after day on some sort of iced confection, I’ve found that it’s better to produce a more wholesome variation at home. But surely not less tasty.

I chose a coffee flavor because coffee is my favorite flavor in dessert. It even beats out chocolate.

Heresy!

I know.

And to add insult to injury, I made this entirely dairy free and sweetened only with honey.

I have no philosophical problem with the moderate consumption of dairy or even processed sugar. But my tummy sometimes does. This is a kinder, gentler version.

This is not your grandma’s homemade ice cream. But it’s creamy enough, sweet enough, decadent enough, that grandma will love it too.

 

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Coconut Latte Ice Cream
Makes 1 pint

1/2 cup coconut cream (the cream top off chilled, full-fat canned coconut milk. I recommend Thai Kitchen brand. It’s 3/4 solid when chilled!)
1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk (use as much of the cream top as possible)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup extra-strong coffee
1 tbsp vanilla extract

 

Whisk together the coconut cream, milk, and honey in small saucepan over medium heat until fully combined, smooth, and honey is dissolved.

Remove saucepan from heat. Whisk in the coffee and vanilla extract.

Allow cool COMPLETELY in the fridge. Warm liquid in cold ice cream maker makes for big, nasty ice crystals. Patience, young padawan!

Once chilled, pour liquid into ice cream maker and process per manufacturers instructions.

Once finished, transfer the ice cream into a separate bowl or container and place back into the freezer for a few hours or until desired firmness.

Enjoy!

 

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What’s your favorite thing to eat/drink to beat the heat?

Flour Tortillas, Gluten Free

When I first had to go gluten free, I learned quickly that the easiest way to survive this change in diet was to choose corn tortillas over flour. I live in Texas. My town is predominately hispanic. If we go out to eat, about 75% of the time it is for Tex-Mex food. I have learned to love corn tortillas over the past nine months, but my first love is really for flour tortillas. Those chewy flatbreads seasoned with their time cooked on well-used cast iron. I knew my favorite restaurant flour tortillas, and I could always tell when a restaurant served store-bought. There is no comparison.

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Since I’m a self-proclaimed snob about flour tortillas, I took it upon myself to start making them from scratch in my own kitchen. My college years left me with lots of trial and error. My webmaster, John, was living with my husband (then boyfriend) in their first apartment when I first (to my recollection) took a shot at them. It was late at night, as the majority of our culinary experimentation and frivolity was, and I was tossing flour all over the place and over-kneading dough while John was earnestly applying all his body weight on the rolling pin trying to press out the tortillas thinly. The pieces would always seize back up into a rubbery ball, and the resulting cooked bread was thick and impliable!

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Thankfully, I learned the key to perfect flour tortillas when I first used HOT liquid in my recipe. Suddenly, my dough transformed into a play-dough texture and easily rolled out into thin sheets of dough. These were tortillas that you could fold fajitas into and they wouldn’t break! They were thin, flexible, and chewy, rather than the hardtack from my college experiments!

But going gluten free last year officially threw a wrench into things. Simply substituting my whole wheat pastry flour with some other whole grain gluten free flour did not work. At all. And adding xanthan gum did not help either. But after reading about the baking properties of sweet rice flour, I decided to do some experimentation with my original recipe made for wheat flour and finally found success!

 

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But here’s the warning you’re all waiting for: these are STARCHY. Sweet rice flour really functions more as a starch than a regular flour in gluten free baking. But flour tortillas aren’t about being good for the body, anyway. They’re good for the spirit.

 

Gluten Free Flour Tortillas
Makes about 8 tortillas

1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup millet flour (I’ve successfully omitted the millet and doubled the sorghum before, but I think the millet adds a little more depth of flavor)
1 1/3 cup sweet rice flour (do not use regular white or brown rice flour!)
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 – 3/4 cup HOT water

 

In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, and salt together. Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk quickly. Pour 1/2 cup of VERY HOT water into the bowl. My tap water gets very hot, so I used that, but the temperature you are shooting for is “too hot to touch, but lower than bowling.” Stir with a spoon to mix will. If the mix is too crumbly and is not easily coming together in a ball, add a little bit of water one tablespoon at a time until it does.

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The texture will be like play dough. Or a thick cookie dough. You should be able to roll pieces into a ball without leaving a bunch of residue on your hands. But it shouldn’t crumble apart either. This is probably the trickiest part about making tortillas. Failure happens easily when the dough is either too dry or too wet. But if you have to lean one way or another… go a little wet.

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I invested in a tortilla press last year after I realized that using a rolling pin was a time consuming pain with the great frequency that I make tortillas, but a rolling pin does work well. This cast iron model I picked up from the local hispanic grocery store was only about $10.

Line a tortilla press with plastic wrap and place a ball of dough in the middle of the plate and press down. Or omit the tortilla press and using a rolling pin. It doesn’t have to be perfectly round!

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Now gently lift one side of the plastic wrap off the dough. Then flip the exposed side down on your hand and with the other hand lift the other side of plastic wrap gently off the tortilla.

Quickly turn the tortilla onto a dry, seasoned cast iron pan that has been heated to the point of sizzling if you spritz water onto it (medium to medium-high). I use a nifty comal I picked up from a local antique store for $12!

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Now here’s another important trick. Tortillas dry out VERY quickly and lose their elasticity, gluten or not. The very MOMENT that you can nudge the tortilla around the pan, FLIP IT.

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Leave the tortilla on for only about 20-30 seconds on the second side. Then move the tortilla onto a plate covered with a damp towel. What I do is dampen one towel with warm water, lay it out and place a dry towel on top. I then fold the layers in half and rest the tortillas inside.

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Soft, pillowy, chewy tortillas perfect for breakfast tacos, fajitas, or slathering with honey and snacking on!

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Summer Fruit Tart

About two weeks ago, I ate nectarines and plums for the very first time. This may seem a shocker for some, but here in Texas, peaches are the “big deal” fruit of the season. However, most peaches around these parts aren’t really ready until July. But the nectarines, plums, and apricots, however, are ready for the picking.

When Edgar first ate a nectarine (same time I did), he confessed that he may like nectarines more than peaches! (To that I responded that it wasn’t peach season yet, so he couldn’t really make that assessment. Winking smile )

When I first ate on, I realized that I needed to turn nectarines into dessert! Stat!

When the sun comes out every year as the mercury rises, I think we all tend to stash away our chocolate desserts and reach for the fresh fruits of the seasons. Since many people I know disliked cooked fruit, I came up with this fruit tart that is only about 2/3 cooked. And given my recent efforts toward simplicity in cooking and baking, I decided to make the crust with almond meal and sweeten the entire dessert with only honey and fruit. Thus, this dessert is grain-free and wholesome. And given the simple construction of this confection, you can easily swap out portions to cater to your own tastes! Red current jam or whipped cream instead of lemon curd? Berries instead of stone fruits? Go ahead and experiment!

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Summer Fruit Tart

8 oz (about 2 cups) almond meal
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
4 oz (1/4 c) solid coconut oil
1 egg
1 T honey

1 full recipe Lemon curd (I followed this recipe exactly. In the interest of respect for other food bloggers, I’m not listing the recipe here. Follow the link and you’ll find the original recipe!)

About 3 each nectarines and plums, pitted and cut into wedges
About 1 tbsp honey. If too thick to spread with a basting brush, thin only SLIGHTLY with warm water.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the almond meal, salt, and cinnamon until integrated. Then add the coconut oil, in pieces, and cut it into the almond meal mixture with a fork until the mix resembles a very coarse meal. In a separate, small bowl, whisk together the egg and honey. Then add the egg mix to the almond meal mix and combine until the dough is one well-integrated ball. Set aside.

Line an 8.5×11 baking pan with parchment paper (or omit this step entirely and use a tart pan! In hindsight I think the recipe would be even better this way). You may have to cut the paper narrow to fit inside the pan. This will be used like a sling to help lift the tart out of the pan later. Take the dough and press it into the bottom of the pan on top of the parchment paper. It will be a thin crust and you may have to use a spoon to spread it.

Bake the crust for 12-15 minutes until firm and just barely turning brown on the edges. Allow the crust to cool on a cooling rack for an hour.

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Once cooled, apply the full lemon curd recipe on top of the crust. It will be a little runny. It’s okay. Call it rustic and lick the curd off your fingers when nobody is looking.

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Arrange the nectarine and plum wedges in a pretty pattern on top of the curd. Then brush honey on top of the fruit to glisten!

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Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Enjoy!

Cultivating Simplicity

I think we can all relate. Life gets too loud.

So much information coming in that we find it hard to give anything back.

At least that’s been me.

I’ve been working on simplifying my life a bit more over here. I’ve come to learn that “garbage in, garbage out” has close cousins: “excess in, nothing out,” or its fraternal twin, “excess in, negativity out.” I’m not sure which is worse.

So I’ve been working to cut down on the overstimulation. Sometimes. No, often times . . . we just need some quietness. Then we can perhaps make some sense, no?

One of the ways I’ve been trying to cultivate simplicity is cutting down on the excess internet information. That’s a hard concept. I’ve been glued to the computer since I was a toddler, evidently.

I’m an observer. I love to learn and absorb information in brief bursts. I can get carried away easily on the tides. But sometimes the surf just knocks me down. So I’ve whittled down my exposure.

My google reader has been cut in half. There are so many valuable blogs out there, but I can’t manage to read them all every day. Least of all several times a day. I’ve limited my reader to what I can manage every few days. To blogs I can relate to or learn from. People I feel an urge to actually interact with. I’ve made my reader more personal.

I’ve done the same with Facebook, in essence. Over the past three weeks I’ve made it routine to go through my news feed and “unsubscribe” (but not un-friend) from the feeds of all but a select few—mostly close family and friends, and a few peers whose updates always prove humbling, yet uplifting.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Indeed.

My pursuit of simplicity hasn’t just been limited to my media exposure. I’ve also been implementing this in the kitchen. First of all, I’m working on simplifying my gluten free cooking and baking by limiting my ingredients. At best, I like to use a few high-quality ingredients in my cooking. This process goes against a large majority of specialized GF baking which incorporates a laundry list of ingredients, half of which are highly processed and starchy. “Wholesomeness” and these recipes do not co-exist. So I’m cutting back. I’ve found my favorites of the grain world (raw buckwheat, quinoa, masa harina), and I plan to experiment with a select few alternatives (almond flour, cashews, maybe chestnut?). I’ve decided to hold back on (though not entirely eliminate) the others that do not fully meet my taste in some way or another (coconut flour, amaranth, starches, etc.). I am a real foodist. I like my food to be recognizable as what it is. Simple and true. Nature, not a lab. Art, not a science. I don’t get that feeling when I use xanthan gum and tapioca starch. But that’s just my style.

Lastly (for now at least), I’m implementing some routine in my meal planning. It’s not a new concept. Many families have “fish night” or something (I knew a family who had weekly “Chicken Express nights”). We have started pasta nights on Thursdays after our evening workouts (Zumba+modified Crossfit for me; Running+Crossfit for him). I like pasta. Pasta is creative. Pasta is quick. I wear pajamas and a sweatshirt when I make it. I don’t need a recipe for pasta. I don’t think you do either. So I’m just here, sharing my dinner with you. It’s just a little of this, a little of that. And a heavy dose of simplicity and sincerity. Because sometimes we just need a quiet meal.

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Seven

 

Here are seven things I’m liking right now!

 

1. Not having TV

About a week and a half ago Edgar and I decided to cancel our cable television service. There was never anything good on anyway, and we figured the extra $20 a month could be better spent elsewhere. I already knew that most the time I had the TV on, it was for white noise, so I reasoned with myself, knowing that if I wanted white noise, I could turn on Pandora or a TV show on Netflix. It’s been a week and a half since we have watched traditional television, and we don’t miss it at all! It’s so nice not having to see or hear television commercials all the time! And as a bonus, we’re spending our time better now since we don’t have the TV as a time suck.

And just for an FYI, I am currently listening to some bluesy, classic rock and roll, and I love it!

2. Baby Johnson

After months of being told that they were having a GIRL, Justin and Aubrey were surprised with an 8 lb, 11 oz, 20” long baby BOY! Little Joshua William Johnson made his public debut a week ago today! I’m so happy for my dear friends!

I got him this onesie!!

 

3. Bread baking

I’ve been going crazy over here with bread baking. In the past week I have baked two different loaves of gluten free bread, and I have a gluten free sourdough starter in the process of growing, feasting, and fermenting on my counter right now.

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I’ve already decided it going into two different loaves—a gluten free sourdough from Get Off Gluten, and a soaked spelt sourdough recipe I’m adapting from this page. I have not been tested for Celiac disease yet, but to do so I need to be eating gluten to some extent. I don’t plan on getting testing until at earliest this summer so in the meantime I think I’m going to utilize soaked spelt and kamut recipes for my yeasted breads and remain gluten-free for everything else. I already know that I tolerate spelt and kamut better than regular wheat. Perhaps soaking (to reduce gut-irritating phytic acid) will help even further? We’ll see.

In addition to this, I’ve been stalking The Fresh Loaf a great deal. I love that place. It’s a big forum for amateur (or not???) bakers. They toss around terms like “autolyse” and “dough hydration” and I have to refer to a glossary when I read just about any post, but the learning experience excites me!

 

4. Birth Without Fear

 

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I was introduced to this blog through a fellow homeschool graduate over facebook. With half the people around me having babies and my unabashed interest in obstetrics and gynecology (a seed planted during my uterine didelphys diagnosis at age 12, no doubt), the concept of birth has been on the brain. It is fascinating to see how starkly different modern American obstetrical protocol is from traditional practices of childbirth worldwide. The average American hospital these days only knows two births—a medicated and “controlled” vaginal birth or a cesarean section, which is quickly becoming more the norm than not. Whatever happened to uncomplicated births? How did people handle breech births before c-sections became protocol? How did people manage labor before the epidural? I’m not against hospitals or medical intervention when necessary, but these questions intrigue me.

5. Honey

But not to eat!

For the past almost-year I have been washing my face with it! Honey is a natural antiseptic, and ayurvedic medicine suggests it is good for oily skin, so I decided to give it a whirl. And it works! My skin started clearing up when I quit washing my face with products containing salicylic acid, and when I made the switch to honey instead of commercial face wash, my skin got even better! If only I knew this as a preteen, then maybe I wouldn’t have spent so much money on junky creams and washes!

6. Pinterest

I have been on Pinterest since last summer, and since then my boards have become a mess of random pins. I have done quite a bit of re-organization in the past few weeks, though, and now I have some boards dedicated exclusively to baking, gluten free foods, and vegetarian recipes! Check them out! (Feel free to check out the rest of my boards as well! Winking smile )

 

7. Fertility Friend

T.M.I. ALERT!

While many use this program to help them get pregnant (or avoid pregnancy, using Fertility Awareness Method), I use it to track the progress of my PCOS management. Since I’m not taking pharmaceuticals to manage my hormone levels, I have to pay attention to my body’s signals and how they respond to lifestyle choices. I take my temps every morning at 7AM. I have a special alarm on my phone, a thermometer by my bed, and an app on my phone I use to log my temps before rolling over and going back to sleep. I later plug in my temps and any other symptoms I’m feeling (headache, cramps, irritability, climate of the netherworld, etc.) as well as things like what medication I took and if I exercised. Then, when it believes it has enough information, it calculates which day I probably ovulated (if I ovulated all!) and seeing the chart patterns over time helps indicate a specific hormonal imbalance that may need tending to.

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An abormally…normal…ish chart. This was last month—the shortest cycle I have EVER had, and the earliest day of ovulation I have ever observed (it’s normally observed around day 19 for me). Exercise (the 02 spot at the bottom) obviously managed my hormones levels to the point where my cortisol rose, my DHEA lowered, and my cycle didn’t last so frickin long. Of course, my scary low follicular phase temps might be a cause for thyroid concern despite my “normal” TSH blood test results. Another typical part of PCOS treatment I need to consider.

And in case you are wondering, no, we are not planning for children in the near future. We have some career and possible relocation decisions to make before then. Winking smile

The Most Important Meal of the Day

 

Ever since I graduated college I’ve pretty consistently made it a point to have breakfast every day. Some days it was bacon, eggs, and a homemade muffins. Other days it was a bowl of cereal, or a bag of trail mix as I walked out of the door. It may not have been much, but it was always something. I don’t think I really understood what a difference a good breakfast made until I began working with my holistic doctor. I knew that having breakfast would help me not be so starved and would pave the way for healthy choices throughout the day. But as I took my doctor’s orders in making sure every breakfast was high in protein and fat and devoid of grains, fruit, and sugar, I began to notice that on the days I ignored these rules I found myself sleepy and unfocused more often than not, and on days I did follow his orders, I was more likely to feel satisfied and alert most of the day.

Over time, though, I’ve adjusted these rules somewhat for the sake of variety and balance (and the demands of my more-active job), but not much. I still try to focus on protein and fat, but I do tend to include a small bit of whole (gluten free) grain or fruit. And since my work rarely requires me to be in before 10am, this usually gives me a good amount of time to prepare a quality, filling breakfast!

Here are some of my breakfasts from the last week or so. All taken on my iPhone, because I’m still nerding out over the fact that I can now take a photo on my phone and within 1 minute have it tweeted! (I’m aware that I’m grossly behind the times)

 

Omelet with goat cheese and spinach with a side of sweet potato hash and ice mint green tea…

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Scrambled eggs with salsa verde, leftover GF cornbread (Ashley’s recipe!), pomegranate arils, and more mint green tea (I love the tea pot Ed got me for Christmas!)

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Scrambled eggs, small green smoothie (banana, spinach, and Amazing Grass), and more mint green tea…

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Ed brought me breakfast in bed! Fried egg and apple slices… (and unpictured Tazo black tea)

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Blue corn tortillas with eggs, nutritional yeast, and salsa verde, with a side of orange and chai green tea with almond milk

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And for a change of pace… plain Greek yogurt with pomegranate, crushed almonds, and a little honey, plus a muffin on the side (made with mostly almond meal and a little teff flour and molasses—for iron and gingerbread-y goodness!). I don’t like to eat much yogurt because it doesn’t always agree with me, but it was on crazy-sale and I knew it would provide a bit more variety to my breakfast options.

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So obviously we have an egg lover in the house. Really, eggs and I have gotten real comfy. No, I do not dispose of the yolks. Contrary to what nutritionists have been trying to tell you for years, dietary cholesterol does not raise blood cholesterol. Saturated fat does, and eggs really don’t contain much of that. It’s so chock-full of other nutrients (and flavor!!) that it’s a shame to discard them. I frequently eat about two eggs a day.

 

This is what works for me for now. I don’t like to eat carb-heavy breakfasts because I get sugar highs and lows all day if I do that (even if it’s 100% whole grain!), and I usually will get a blood sugar headache (PCOS thing. Hypoglycemic symptoms.)

 

Do you like carb-centered or protein/fat-centered breakfasts? I honestly do miss the options in a carb-centered one, but I usually regret it later. Winking smile

 

IN OTHER NEWS! I begin teaching ZUMBA at my local YMCA next month! SO EXCITED!

Three and a Half Weeks

*blows dust off keyboard*

It has been three and a half weeks without posting. I assure you, it’s not without good reason. If you attempted to visit this site in the past week or so, you probably noticed that my URL lead to the great internet wasteland. Yes, this discovery put me into such a mixture of panic and confusion that my only consolation was cleaning the house in a frenzy in attempt to suppress and deny the fact that my blog disappeared and I had no idea how to get it back up. Thankfully, my unofficial webmaster, John, came to my rescue, thumbed through my files, played advocate to my host, and managed to get the site back in the air. I owe him so much!

But enough of that. What have I been up to since I last posted?

Well, I hosted two separate Thanksgiving dinners!

The first one was with my local friends, Justin, Aubrey, and Kris. You may remember that last year I also celebrated a Thanksgiving dinner with them. It was so exciting this year to have a more pot-luck dinner! Edgar smoked a turkey (first time ever! I’m a convert.)

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It was so fun having everyone contribute!

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Justin made sweet potato pie! It’s been several years since I’ve had sweet potato pie, but his may be the best one yet. Winking smile

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My plate. See the gluten on the top? Heh… yeah. Bane of my being. But the turkey! And the green beans! Oh my! The green beans were sauteed simply in garlic, butter, lemon, and red pepper flake. LOVE.

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Of course, we all ate too much and had to roll ourselves to the living room, find a place to unfold, and moan and nap our stomachaches away.  I will admit that this was my first experience with obvious GI gluten poisoning, but other than that, it was totally worth it!

The second Thanksgiving dinner was with my family and my in-laws. They all came in town and we had WAAAAY more food than could possibly be sampled on one plate, but it was all (that I tried. I was good about avoiding gluten by this point, since up to that point I’d effectively and regrettable gluten-poisoned myself twice in one week) wonderful! I also loved having my family in town. It was the first time my youngest sister had even seen my house, and I’ve been living here for over a year!

Baked goat brie with Crofters, Glutino crackers and pecan nut thins! My mom brought me a WHOLE BUNCH of gluten free boxed goodies she found on sale for me! Thanks Mommy!

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In between these two dinners, Edgar and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary! We decided to take a trip to Palo Duro Canyon to finish hiking that trail we started but never completed last year, then spend the night in the cabin where we spent our wedding night.

 

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It was wonderful seeing familiar places with fresh eyes. I feel like Edgar and I have grown so much in the last two years!

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Then the weekend after Thanksgiving we visited Edgar’s parents in Canadian since they wanted to take us out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary. We ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant just inside the Oklahoma border. I don’t recall the name of the place (sorry), but I was excited that they had a vegetarian menu! I’m not a vegetarian, but I don’t like depending on meat so much in my diet, especially from sources that are not guaranteed responsible or sustainable, and I usually find vegetarian dishes to be more culinarily creative. My spinach enchiladas with avocado cream sauce were pretty delicious! Winking smile

 

Since then the school of music wrapped up its season with the American Family Christmas concert, where I sang a nerve-wracked solo that I feel was sub-par in my usual tonal quality, but Kris, a vocal music education major and my harshest musical critic, was very positive with me in his review (though admitted proper breath control would have corrected my tone). So I probably shouldn’t beat myself up over it. After all, it’s only the third vocal solo I’ve ever done, and it’s certainly better than my first! Winking smile

 

Not long after that concert my computer started acting up, and Edgar had to do a full wipe of the hard drive. This of course meant that he moved all my photos to his external hard drive which I had no idea how to access until last weekend. My bad luck with computers never ceases to amaze me.

 

So there you have it! That’s been my life as of late, in addition to the norm, y’know. Winking smile I look forward to finally getting back in the blogging groove after a busy month!

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