Monday, May 30, 2011

Macaroni and Not Cheese with Nutritional Yeast

I culinary-ly geeked out over a recipe in the Engine 2 book, ate it, loved it, and then realized my body had another idea.

There's a recipe for Macaroni and Not Cheese. Whenever I have had gluten and dairy free mac and cheese, it was with goat cheese - a specialty of Eliot. (I'm actually cow's milk intolerant and my body is perfectly fine with goat's and sheep's cheese - sorry for any confusion caused by my misuse of the terms "dairy free" or "lactose free".) Of course, the vegans/plant-strong eaters found a delicious animal-product free version of this tasty meal. My first year out of college was filled with the Kraft version - I think my roommate and I kept milk in the fridge just so we could make the blue box favorite. I never branched out and really tried oven-cooked mac and cheese, so was excited to find that it wasn't too late - I could make my mac and cheese and eat it too! (With certified gluten free brown rice noodles, of course!)

The recipe was easy - onion, cashews, lemon juice, water and sea salt combined in a food processor topped with a mix of red peppers, nutritional yeast and garlic and onion powder on top all tossed with noodles before being baked in the oven before adding cilantro on top. Yum! Dinner that night was delicious - I liked the taste the nutritional yeast added to the party of flavors. When I was going to bed, I wasn't feeling well any more. I brushed it off. The next morning, I got sicker. I wasn't sure if I was having a food reaction or not since I only had two symptoms and a normal gluten reaction has over six immediate effects. I ate the mac and not cheese for lunch and felt horrible.

The internet is pointing me towards nutritional yeast as being gluten free. I didn't have an all-out gluten reaction, so I'm hesitant to label it as such. (Plus, I do not know the brand I ate.) The nutritional yeast was likely from a bulk bin, so the possibility always exists for in-store cross-contamination. Or, quite simply, my body does not tolerate it. Since I can't over-analyze what went wrong forever, I threw out the rest of my leftovers as well as the tablespoon or two I had left. I'm adding nutritional yeast to my intolerant list.

Since I had a detour from the nutritional yeast reaction that caused me to lose 2.4 pounds in two days (scary! This was my fastest weight loss ever, too!), I have added oil back into my diet for a calorie pick-me up. When I started, I dove straight into this 28-day challenge. I went the firefighter route which meant from the get-go, no dairy, animal products, oils, sodas, and more for the full 28 days. (I only "cheated" by having an egg as an ingredient in two pieces of gf bread, soda water in a mixed drink when out with friends, and small amounts of oil in homemade bread in a total of three weeks! Not bad!) When I went off lactose, it was a gradual process. For a few months, I could tolerate milk in packaged goods if it was in the bottom 5% of the ingredients. A few months after that, I was reacting to small amounts of butter. With gluten, I had to go cold-turkey and turn my diet around immediately. There was no cheating. One of the reasons I wanted to do this challenge was the excitement that I can get when I realize that I can eat forbidden foods again. With dairy, I'm going to slowly try to build up a tolerance so I can have foods with trace amounts again to ease anxiety over eating out and cross-contamination. With gluten, there's really no chance (unless medical science makes a giant breakthrough) that I'll ever be able to eat wheat, barely, or rye again. After my 28 days are up, I can eat fish. I can eat bacon. I can have a can of soda. I can toss my white rice pasta with extra virgin olive oil. These may not be the healthiest decisions I can make, but I can make them without wanting to die from pain within the hour I eat them.

Ultimately, I need to listen to my body. I should have better read my first round of reaction rather than aggravating it with a second round of the trouble-making food. (Not that this happened with meatballs only a few months ago or anything...) Am I sad to add another item to my intolerant list? Yes. Is it going to be hard? I was just starting to explore the possibilities of this new-to-me food, so it falls under disappointing but not life-changing.

EDIT: I found out that one of my favorite vegan chips contains nutritional yeast and I have been eating it in such quantity that I would have had dozens of reactions by now, but haven't. I think in this case I was just victim to cross contamination in the bulk bin.

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