Sunday, July 22, 2018

It's all about perspective

Has anyone ever asked you: What is the one thing you would choose to eat if you had to eat it every day for the rest of your life? What's your answer?

In the past, I've probably joked about how I could eat half a loaf of bread at a time (no, seriously...I used to do that) or a mountain of cinnamon oatmeal with almond butter. 

In response to this question, some people might name a dessert like fudge chocolate cake or a decadent treat like truffle mac & cheese. For others, it's a bag of potato chips or a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies.

These days, I'm not eating the things I would have listed years, even months, ago. I don't have that luxury if I want to feel well. But to be honest, I'm really enjoying what I can eat. There is freedom within the constrains of the ImmunoCalm protocol.

Isn't that true with life? For example, God provided the Ten Commandments and other laws to protect us - to not only remind us that we are imperfect and desperately need Him, but also to show us how fulfilling life can be within the context of the standards He has set for us. When we know what to stay away from because it will hurt us, it gives us freedom to enjoy His creation and live our lives to the full.

I realize more and more how fulfilling (and filling) it can be to eat whole, fresh foods. For example, it takes a little time to cut up a zucchini, but choosing a variety of techniques really helps. Here are three different takes on zucchini, spices, and a protein:

Steamed spiralized zucchini with steamed cod, sprinkled with turmeric

Coined zucchini roasted in coconut oil and sprinkled with turmeric,
surrounding ground, grassfed beef

Elongated, coined zucchini baked in a convection oven in coconut oil with
basil and turmeric, surrounding ground lamb and basil meatballs

When faced with my current diet limitations, I find it's more exciting and delicious to change things up. This is *big* coming from someone who is such a creature of habit like myself. I typically thrive off routine and consistency. However, I think I would be much less successful on this protocol if I did the same thing for each meal in the rotation.

I'm learning so much from this experience! Feel free to comment if you have other ideas for how to prepare zucchini - I'd love to try something new.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

When you can't eat breakfast

If 10 people were sitting in a diner ordering breakfast, I bet half of them would choose sweet and half would choose savory. Fruity oatmeal, nutty pancakes with maple syrup, a breakfast hash, or scrambled eggs with bacon. Or maybe something a little lighter like a hard-boiled egg and some tomato slices or even a small jar of overnight oats.

So what's a girl to do when she can't eat oatmeal, wheat (any gluten), potatoes, eggs, dairy or even almond milk?

This ImmunoCalm elimination diet approach has required much creativity when it comes to breakfast, and I simply do not have the options available to me to make a "normal" breakfast.

BUT, instead of getting frustrated, I chose to get cooking. Here are a few of my favorite breakfasts on rotation right now.

Turmeric coconut wrap from Thrive Market filled with sauteed peas
red kidney beans, sprinkled with Redmond's real salt
These turmeric coconut wraps are a special treat (read: expensive), but they help liven up breakfast into something more than just a pile of sauteed veggies. There's nothing wrong with sauteed veggies - it's what I'm surviving on! - but when you have them three times a day, a yellow wrap makes you feel fancy.

Steamed spinach along with boiled carrots and celery leftovers from
making homemade bone broth (the texture and rich taste was amazing),
topped with wild pink salmon from Costco.
Homemade bone broth was a major win in my book, especially with these delicious leftover carrots and celery sticks. I'll be adding more to my next batch!

Grass fed beef patty atop green beans sauteed in coconut oil
Many days, breakfast is green and brown (green beans or green peas or spinach topped with ground beef or ground lamb, or sometimes the occasional white fish like cod or tilapia).

Brussels sprouts sauteed in olive oil with a side of tilapia,
sprinkled with lemon juice and Redmond's real salt
This picture shows two ingredients I am now questioning. I think I may be sensitive to brussels sprouts or at least to this many of them at once. I've taken them out of my diet and may try adding back in a small portion in a little while, but for now I'm enjoying not having tummy pain.

Tilapia. So...I've been informed tilapia is not really a fish. That statement in general made me skeptical; however, there is concern about tilapia from China and what they feed on. I'm still researching but for now, I'll lay off the tilapia and focus on cod (found a great deal at Sprouts recently) and wild salmon.

To wrap it up, I'm learning not to put meals in a proverbial box. Breakfast doesn't have to be sweet or savory or "normal" - it can be leftovers, something fresh, a salad, a meat patty...whatever fuels you for the start of your day!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

What I ate today

These types of posts are always interesting - to see what someone really eats in a day. I will make a disclaimer and say my portions are often bigger than what is shown (if there is more in the skillet than will fit on the plate or in the bowl), but the pictures show the complete range of foods I ate in one day. I may do a few of these, but let's just start with one.

My goals each day are to subscribe strictly to my ImmunoCalm protocol in terms of allowed foods and seasonings, eat enough protein, fat, and carbohydrates in proportion, and find a way to enjoy what I'm eating.

For me, I try to savor each process:

  • preparing the food
  • taking a picture of the food
  • consuming the food 

Sometimes this means waking up earlier to get food prep done or working on it during our son's naptime or when I could have some downtime in the evening, but it's worth it for me to find a way to enjoy the limited list of foods.

Breakfast: Today was a full bowl of ground lamb and basil meatballs atop a bed of green beans sauteed in the fat from the lamb. I have found using the meat fat to saute is one of the most flavorful ways to prepare vegetables! This is a new discovery for me - and probably one I would have balked at just months ago. Our society has shunned the word "fat" so much it leaves a bad taste in one's mouth (pun intended), but I'm learning so much about the importance of fat as fuel and brain function. This breakfast was delicious!

Lunch: Leftover roasted chicken and oven roasted zucchini with coconut oil and Redmond's real salt. Not shown: A whole tray of zucchini "coins" roasted until almost crispy. I ate two whole zucchini with this meal.

Snack: Organic, sprouted quinoa. Since my diagnosis of gluten sensitivity, I've learned a lot about grains in general. Here is a link to some information regarding why sprouted quinoa is more beneficial than conventional quinoa, including improved digestibility and nutritional availability.
Note: I prepared enough quinoa for my snack this afternoon plus my snack tonight at the same time and put a bowl in the refrigerator for after dinner. 

Dinner: Roasted bok choy and green beans (with olive oil and Redmond's real salt) with lemon and garlic sauteed shrimp.

Snack: Banana, blueberry, and Malk's pecan milk smoothie, organic pecan pieces from, and more sprouted quinoa.

Over the years, I've developed a habit of snacking at night, so my body really wants to sleep on a full stomach. Plus, with this elimination diet plan, I have to be careful to make sure I eat enough, so a top-off snack at night is always on the menu. What better way to end the day than with a cool, refreshing smoothie?

I hope you've enjoyed seeing a day-in-the-life on this ImmunoCalm protocol. Each protocol is unique to the person and their sensitivities, and my understanding is that our sensitivities can change over time. My hope is to get to a point of more diverse food inclusion and then a good regimen of rotating foods so I don't develop new sensitivities and can enjoy a wide spectrum of foods!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

I'm not monkey-ing around

GUESS what ingredient I get to test out now? Bananas! Although I'll eat them fresh in a pinch, my favorite way to consume bananas is in a smoothie. Years and years ago, I decided I just didn't like the texture of smoothies with fresh banana and ice - the ice was always just too crunchy (maybe it was a cheap blender?). I tried freezing the bananas and not using ice, and voila! The perfect smoothie texture. So needless to say, I'm super-excited to have my smoothies again. My goal, as with other foods at this point, is to mostly have bananas (read: smoothies) every other day.

Frozen banana, strawberry, and coconut milk smoothie,
along with homemade coconut cookies and organic pistachios from
That smoothie hit the SPOT!

Confession time: Much of the time, I eat WAY more than pictured. For example, this lovely plate below...

Thrive Market turmeric coconut wrap with Edison Grainery's
red kidney beans and steamed green peas
...was followed by finishing off the skillet.

How else is a girl going to get full?

Also, one thing I've definitely been learning throughout this process is that breakfast does not mean we have to eat typical "breakfast foods." The above two pictures were my breakfast one day. Since I cannot eat wheat, oats, dairy, or eggs...I've basically wiped most "breakfast-y" foods off the list. It's actually kind of fun to get the skillet sizzling in the morning to caramelize brussels sprouts or steam peas. A change, but a good one.

Here is another savory breakfast I've enjoyed:

Steamed spinach and mushrooms with Edison Grainery's red kidney beans
Okay, here is one of my favorite nighttime snacks: sprouted quinoa, fresh organic fruit, and organic walnuts.

truRoots sprouted quinoa, organic walnuts,
and organic strawberries and blueberries
This is what helps me sleep well at night. I used to eat 1-2 cups of oatmeal at night, along with a smoothie and a Quest bar, so my body is used to going to bed full. On the nights when I have quinoa, fruit, and nuts, I go to bed quite satisfied.

Last on the list for today is lemon basil zoodles and grass fed beef. No fancy sauces (since my ingredients are so limited), but these fresh, high-quality foods don't need much! Seriously, a little lemon juice goes a long way.

Happy eating and hopefully happy digestion!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Time for something new!

Something(s) old, something new. As I continue down the path with these ingredients, I will say it makes shopping a whole lot simpler - I know exactly what I need to get! The trouble sometimes is not getting enough to fill up on. Also, one thing I'm struggling with mentally is the whole idea of rotation and the research saying intolerances often develop when we eat something too often or in too large of quantities. Although not required, I'm trying to rotate the few ingredients I have in a two-day schedule, but that means I end up eating very large quantities of each item on that day in order to get enough to eat. I'm still pondering this balance...which I hope will be remedied once I've got a wider range of foods.

Peas. Do you like them? I've usually been meh about peas. I would eat them if they were served to me, but I wouldn't order them. Since they are now one of my main vegetables, I'm learning to appreciate them. I found a crispy roasted peas recipe and tried it for the first few days. It's decent and adds a little bit of texture, but even after cooking for 45-50 minutes, I never really got *crispy* peas. At this point, I've decided to save the cooking time (and electricity) and just steam them on the stovetop with a little salt. They're fine (there's that word again!).

Ground lamb with basil nestled into crispy roasted peas with turmeric and salt.
Strawberries! I'm so glad they are on my green list. Just before I started the ImmunoCalm protocol, I discovered a great recipe for homemade strawberry vinaigrette (I'd been struggling to find a good GF salad dressing that wasn't $$$ and figured I should try to make some on my own). For this diet, I did have to substitute white vinegar for the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup for the small amount of honey, AND I had to leave out the black pepper, BUT it is yummy and makes eating salad a very good option!

Spinach salad with shredded chicken, homemade strawberry vinaigrette, and lemon juice.
Brussels sprouts, anyone? Over the past year and a half or so, I've come to tolerate and then really like brussels sprouts - the frozen ones, specifically. I still haven't found great success with fresh ones, but thawing frozen ones and then sauteing in olive oil with salt until caramelized or roasting in the oven works great!

Steamed tilapia with caramelized brussels sprouts and lemon juice.
NEW INGREDIENT! Can I just say how much I adore roasted carrots? I have my friend Michele to thank for my now two-year obsession with these sweet orange delights. When roasted until soft and juicy, they seriously become vegetable candy. I have to be really careful with these, though. They came in middle of the road in my green foods list, and I do NOT want them to turn into yellows, so I'm making sure to not have them every day. Oh, but the days I do have them...are just delightful.

Hang in there with me to see what ingredients come up next!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Making progress

Welcome back! At this point in the ImmunoCalm diet protocol, I've become a bit more familiar with my allowed ingredients and started having fun with presentation. I find when the food looks good, it tastes good! It's fun imagining what to do with these few ingredients and how to make them palatable. It has been said many people feel noticeably better after the first 7-10 days on the very limited diet, so I'm determined to stick to it.

Up first is a partial-win meal. Just before I started the diet, I'd begun a quest to conquer making my own hummus with a little mini-prep food processor. I had made a bit of progress and was starting to feel comfortable experimenting when I received the test results and had to set chickpeas aside for awhile.

Well, red kidney beans are red kidney beans. I don't know if you can roast them like chickpeas (maybe I should try that?), but I wondered if I could make them into some type of hummus. Seeing as how I couldn't have tahini or garlic, that made it tricky. I decided to try just kidney beans, olive oil, lemon juice, and a little salt.

The verdict?

It was fine! I use that word intentionally. My scale for taste goes something like this:

    can't stand it --> if I have to --> decent --> fine --> pretty good --> more, please --> amazing!

Spinach salad with red kidney bean hummus and homemade strawberry vinaigrette
Baked cod with a dash of salt on a bed of spinach 
Moving on, with the styrofoam taste and texture from the Wrapioca starting to grate on me, I was mildly interested when I heard about coconut wraps. Historically, I've never been a coconut fan. I faintly remember trying shredded coconut on some cupcake or other treat as a kid and firmly decided I did NOT like the taste or texture. When I was pregnant with our son, I tolerated the scent of coconut oil as a stretch mark preventing "lotion," but still didn't consume it.

In the past year or so, I dabbled a little with it in baking. I don't bake much (when we got married, my husband asked me to never bake so he wouldn't be tempted - suited me!). Then, when I faced the MRT results and my ImmunoCalm protocol options, I decided I should be an adult and give coconut (oil, milk, etc.) a try.

Gratefully, I've come to appreciate most of the options I've tried: virgin, expeller-pressed coconut oil (for baking) as well as organic, refined coconut oil (for roasting), coconut milk, coconut water, and now these turmeric coconut wraps from Thrive Market. They make eating a ton of veggies and beans for breakfast a bit more fun, and they hold together very well!

Thrive Market turmeric coconut wrap, sauteed zucchini, and red kidney beans.

Another ingredient I didn't have much experience with -- I'd maybe eaten it once or twice -- was bok choy. I wasn't really sure how to use it. I'd seen recipes for stir fries that call for bok choy, but I definitely can't make a stir fry right now with my limited ingredients (what's a stir fry without some coconut aminos and GF teriyaki sauce??). I came across a recipe for roasted bok choy, and decided to give it a try. To my delight, the leaves got super crispy and the stems were palatable with a little oil and salt. My 2-yr-old son even snagged some leaves and told me they remind him of kale chips (which he really likes). So, bok choy was a winner!

Sauteed shrimp and roasted bok choy
This process is getting more fun! Admittedly, there are meals and even days when I'm stumped on ideas and tired of spending so much time brainstorming meals and preparing ingredients, but then I just allow myself to repeat a meal from two days ago so I can take a mental break. I also use meal prep time to listen to some of my favorite podcasts like Christian Parenting, Just Enjoy Health, Parenting on Purpose, Risen Motherhood, God Centered Mom, Focus on the Family, Well-Fed Women, Balanced Bites, and the Healthy Moms Podcast.

Come back next time to see what became of these ingredients: green peas, strawberries, brussels sprouts, and a mystery food...