April 2008


Back in November, I started to see a naturopath and was amazed at the level of attention and care that I received.  I no longer felt rushed in and out of the doctors office; I’d become used to being quickly dismissed as a “healthy young person”, regardless of my ailment.  My naturopath actually listened, talked to me and believed there may be something wrong with me.  And as an environmentalist, I much prefer the thought of putting natural remedies into my body rather than synthetic chemicals.  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen Dr.Allison in a few months, and we certainly have more issues to work through, but the truth is I know when I go back, I will be welcomed and not scolded. 

But I digress, my point here is that one of the issues we were able to identify, was that I have low acidity in my stomach, which of course means that the food I consume is not necessarily being broken down to the greatest extent possible before it begins the digestive journey.  Combined with my Gluten-sensitivity, which one has to imagine would be aggravated by gluten that had not been maximally broken down, Dr.Allison provided me with digestive enzymes to assist in the breakdown of my food and improve the health of my gut. 

I try to keep a handful of enzymes in every bag or purse that I carry, and I take one before each meal that is prepared by anyone but myself.  If I suspect contamination, I will also take an additional enzyme after the meal.  It’s hard to say exactly how effective the enzymes are, but at the least they provide me with peace of mind and best case scenario, they minimize my symptoms.  Although they were initially associated with low acidity and gluten-intolerance, I’m fairly certain I will still continue this regime once I get my stomach acidity in check.

NOTE: I am not a naturopath or healer of any type.  
This is merely my personal experience and opinion.

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I met a girl, living the Gluten-Free life while at a forum for work this week.  I could tell she felt awkward, but she asked me about my ethnicity.  You see I am half-Chinese, but often mistaken for full.  She couldn’t resist asking; from her observations, over the past 7 years, she has noticed a trend toward individuals of Irish or Native American descent being Gluten-Free.

Although I certainly do have some Native, and likely some Irish from my mother’s, Caucasian, side of the family, I firmly believe that my Dad (who suffers from symptoms very similar to my own) may actually be the genetic source of my problems.  As to be expected, I get a lot of things from my Dad, not the least of which, is my love of food, of cooking and preparing a meal, of creating baked goods that intoxicate the nostrils with their deliciousness.  Suffice it to say, much of my cooking abilities are a result of hours spent watching/helping my Dad cook.

I have previously alluded to my love of Asian food, but recently realized I haven’t shared any of my recipes.  This is at least partially due to the fact that there really is no recipe; my Dad taught me to cook, the way he was taught, using the senses – touch, site, smell.  Despite this, I was eager to attempt to share my Gluten-Free adaptation of one of my favourties – the Beef and Broccoli my dear old Dad taught me to make.

Note, I have not included quanties for either the meat or the broccoli.  A small pack of flank steak from the grocery store should do, a little meat goes a long way in Chinese cooking.  With regard to the broccoli, traditional Asian recipes use lots of veggies, but I say use a little, use a lot, do what feels good – make it the way you (and your family) like it best.

Gluten-Free Beef and Broccoli

Ingredients:

  • Flank Steak
  • Broccoli
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 Tbsp GF Tamari
  • 1/4 cup Braggs seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1.5 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup of warm water

* available at an Asian Grocery store

  1. Slice flank steak, across the grain, into long strips – set aside in a medium bowl.
  2. Cut top and bottom off of onion, cut in half so that you have 2 half circles.  Slice onions lengthwise (they shouldn’t look like rings) and add to the flank steak.
  3. Cut broccoli into small pieces – set aside.
  4. Mix together the remaining ingredients (except vegetable oil, cornstarch and water) in a small bowl.
  5. Pour sauce over steak and onions – stir until all meat and onions are coated.  Cover and allow to marinate a minimum of 1 hour.  (Leaving it overnight, or even two nights yields delicious results!)
  6. Heat vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  7. Once the oil is hot, add the meat mixture.  Cover with a lid, stirring occasionally until the onions have softened and the steak is no longer pink.
  8. Add the broccoli and stir until coated with sauce.  Cover with a lid, stirring occasionally until the broccoli is bright green and cooked to your tastes.
  9. Stir cornstarch into warm water and mix well.  Pour into the Beef and Broccoli and stir well.  Once sauce has thickened, Immediatley remove from heat.
  10. Serve in a bowl with steaming hot rice and chopsticks.  Enjoy!

I have been eating out a fair amount lately.  For the most part, it has been unplanned impromptu lunches with the girls from work.  They are incredibly understanding about my food limitations and always take them into consideration when choosing restaurants.  In addition to ensuring that I have my enzymes handy, I try and make careful food choices and ask questions when necessary.  Although we can’t go for soup and sandwiches at the little shop in our building, we do manage to eat a variety of delicious food.  It seems that ethnic food is generally much safer for those of us trying to live the Gluten-Free life.

Although many of my favourite Asian foods, such as chow mein, are out, I am fortunately still able, to consume sushi.  As I mentioned in my last post, I am extremely sensitive to fermented soy, so unless I have planned ahead and brought some wheat-free Tamari with me, I usually enjoy my Japanese food sans-soya sauce.   Now, you may be thinking “but sushi has seaweed – doesn’t that have soya sauce?”. 

In short, the answer is yes.  I have read package, after package of seaweed and they all list soya sauce in the ingredients.  Exactly how much is not entirely clear, although in many cases it is close to the end of the ingredient list.  In general, I have been able to eat sushi without any problems, however I have found that at a few discrete locations, I get an upset stomach after consuming my meal.  In these cases, or when eating somewhere new, I will bypass the seaweed altogether, instead choosing to eat sashimi.  If you’re Gluten-Free and like sushi but haven’t been eating it, it may be worth a try.  I caution you however, imitation crab is made with wheat, so unless your restaurant can confirm that they are using real crab, stay away from the California rolls and such.  Personally, I like to get salmon maki, negitoro and edamame – delicious!

We also discovered a delicious Indian Buffet, less than a 10 minute walk from the office, where I can consume every item on the buffet.  The items that appear to be made with flour, are actually made from chickpea flour and thus safe for consumption (of course I still ask the waitress to double check every time).  In general, Indian food seems to be a safe bet.  Like much of the local population, I love butter chicken and matar paneer (peas and cheese) – I have even found a recipe for the latter that I can’t wait to try.

The third ethnicity on our celebration rotation is Thai.  Although I can’t eat the spring rolls, that come with the lunch specials, I can eat the salad and the hot & sour soup and those come with the special too.  Most of the curry’s are Gluten-Free but I can’t resist the Pad Thai. Mmmm!

And when I go to a standard steak & pasta joint with my Husband?
Why, I eat the steak of course!

10 months after my last intentional taste of Gluten, and for the first time in my life, I’m going to see an allergist. 

I’m extremely excited at the prospect of discovering just exactly what I am allergic too.  I have been waiting until I felt like my body had settled, before battling with my doctor for a referral.  I didn’t want to go in the midst of an allergic reaction only to receive false positive tests, nor did I want to go when my body was plagued with infection and using all its resources to make it through the day.  I wanted to be relatively healthy before having my allergies tested.

In addition to having an issue with Gluten, which up until this point has been classified as an intolerance, I have always had a mild sensitivity to dairy.  Note that I did not say lactose-intolerance; I do not get the classic stomach response to dairy, rather I tend to get a sandpaper rash or an increase in my eczema when I have multiple servings of milk or ice cream on multiple days.  My brother and sister have a similar response, and apparently this is fairly common in Asians, as the culture does not traditionally consume dairy products.

Continuing on with food sensitivities, over the last few years, I have begun to notice (or perhaps develop) a number of oral allergies.  As my sister (who has had allergy testing) explained to me, those foods, which cause an itchy, scratchy sensation at the very back of the throat and often deep in the ears are considered oral allergies.  They are not life threatening, although oral allergies are both annoying and frustrating.  Truth is, I’m pretty sure I have them.  For example, although I eat soybeans (Edamame and Tofu), I seem to have a bit of a problem with fermented soy.  I have only been able to find one brand of soy milk, which is of the light variety, that I can consume without an immediate oral allergy, not to mention the fact that even the smallest amount of Soya Sauce contamination (which has both fermented soy and wheat) causes an immediate stomach response, contrary to some of my Celiac friends, who seem to be able to tolerate similar contamination.  Having had a similar problem, my sister informed me that with soy it has to do with the fermentation process; how the soybeans are fermented and for how long.  Similarly, I’ve also noticed oral allergy responses to fresh/raw snap peas, pitted fruits, oranges and some nuts (when I consume a lot).

With regard to environmental sensitivities, I have hay fever and presumably some sensitivity to pollen, grass and dust.  I’m fairly certain that mold and pet dander/saliva are also on the list.  But of course since I’ve never had any testing this is all speculation and personal experience, I do however believe I am fairly in tune with my body, and would be surprised if I was completely wrong about all these sensitivities.

Having said all of that, it seems to me that seeing an allergist should be a no-brainer – my doctor on the other hand questioned my need to get tested despite the fact that the last time I was in to see her she attributed half of my symptoms to “allergies”.  After questioning my motives, she also felt the need to inform me that a) people with allergies know what they are allergic to as they get sick or vomit and b) that the allergist will tell me to get rid of my cats.  Thanks for the help doc, but I WANT to get my allergies tested.

By some stroke of luck, when my doctor’s office called the Allergist yesterday, there was a cancellation and I get to go in today.  I’m not excited about the process, but I can’t wait for the results; perhaps finally I will know what I need to avoid and what I can safely experiment with.  The idea of my body finding its harmony is more than a little bit intriguing.

I have never been much for pasta, however I have always loved Lasagna.  As a child, on those special days when my family ordered out and my Mom wanted pizza, my Dad would always order lasagna – I always ate with Dad. 

When I started eating gluten-free, pasta was NOT one of the foods that I cried over losing; it was almost irrelevant.  Almost – I have tried corn pasta, which I don’t mind, however I much prefer Tinkyada and have since learned to give it a good rinse in cool water when I’m finished cooking it.

That being said, I do suffer the occasional craving for pasta and now that I eat the GF variety, I can even manage to eat an entire serving.

Inspired by a co-workers recent chickpea lasagna (sans tomato sauce), the delicious gluten-free lasagna my mother-in-law made Just For Me, and the enormous bowl of chickpea’s that Shauna inspired me to cook, I decided it was time to experiment.  I am suprisingly happy with this dish on it’s first try – if you are able to tweak the recipe and make it even better, be sure and leave a comment and let me know what worked.

Although my husband is agreeable with a fair amount of Gluten-Free eating, if it doesn’t pose too much trouble I will occasionally make two seperate dishes.  In the case of pasta, I have taken to baking in two loaf pans, using the same fillings, but different noodles to accomodate us both.  If the quantities below seem odd – keep this in mind. 

 

Gluten-Free Chickpea Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • Half a box of Tinkyada lasagna noodles
  • Half jar of tomato sauce
  • 1.5 cups cooked Chickpeas*
  • Half box of frozen, chopped spinach
  • 1 cup cottage cheese**
  • 1 tsp herbamere seasoning
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded cheese***

*You can substitute canned chickpeas – you may not need the whole can
**Ricotta would have been delicious, but I didn’t have any on hand
***I used a mozzarella/edam mix

  1. Cook lasagna noodles according to package – remove from water a few minutes early to avoid mushy noodles. 
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.  Lightly grease a large loaf pan.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, in a medium bowl, mix the chickpeas and pasta sauce.
  4. Drain spinach and place in a medium bowl with ricotta cheese and sprinkle with herbamere. Mix well.
  5. Once cooked, drain noodles and rinse with cool water.
  6. Cover bottom of loaf pan with cooked noodles.
  7. Spoon 2/3 of chickpea mixture onto noodles, sprinkle lightly with grated cheese.
  8. Cover with a layer of cooked noodles.
  9. Spoon 2/3 of spinach mixture over noodles, sprinkle lightly with grated cheese.
  10. Cover with a layer of cooked noodles.
  11. Spoon remaining chickpea mixture over noodles then layer remaining spinach mixture on top.  Sprinkle lightly with grated cheese.
  12. Cover with a layer of cooked noodles – if you have any remaining pasta sauce, spoon it on top
  13. Cover with remaining cheese and bake for about 30 minutes until is brown and bubbly.
  14. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving!

yield: 3 generous servings