Sunday, March 11, 2012

Asparagus for breakfast

Pinterest is now my unconventional but extremely useful resource for finding new recipes (my page is here). At Whole Foods, I was tempted by their organic asparagus and took it home without a single recipe in mind. I searched Pinterest for asparagus recipes and found some gorgeous pictures of asparagus, along with some inspiring new ways to prepare the yummy (and low in fructose) vegetable.

On, there is a an excellent recipe for Asparagus with Butter and Soy! The ingredient list is simple: kosher salt, white vinegar, eggs, asparagus, vegetable oil, soy sauce, butter, and sea salt. Using Earth Balance butter and San-J Soy Sauce made this dish effortlessly gluten and dairy free.

This is a multi-pot meal, but it still tastes great as leftovers, so do not be daunted! The eggs are poached, the asparagus is flash cooked, and then the asparagus simmers in its soy sauce and butter mixture. This was my first time ever poaching eggs - not too daunting! (Just need to work on plating the egg...) What a great grain-free and gluten free breakfast! It is now my favorite dish to kick off the morning!

Low Fructose

I recently met with a different dietitian about how to eat properly on a low fructose diet. Instead of trying to be completely fructose free (or doing my best at keeping it under 2 grams per serving), I'm relieved to be on a Low Fructose Diet. The University of Virginia has a great overview of the diet.

Last week, my "Foods to Choose" from Dietitian #1 listed:
Fruits: None
Vegetables: Asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, green beans, green peppers, lettuce, spinach, wax beans, potato, potato chips (plain)

With the UVA list from Dietitian #2:
Fruits: Pineapples, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, lemons, limes, avocado, bananas, rhubarb, orange blueberry, grapefruit, grape, honeydew melon, kiwifruit, lemon, lime, passionfruit, mandarin, papaya, tangelo
Vegetables: Asparagus, cauliflower, green peppers, broccoli, leafy greens, celery, mushrooms, white potatoes, shallots, spinach, pea pods, cucumber, beans, other root vegetables

My food list increased about ten fold! I just have to monitor how much I'm each. Keep it small, space it out, listen to my gut. Fruit juice remains out. Ironically, drinking fruit juice is what was bringing me to the point of realizing I am fructose intolerant. I started religiously eating breakfast, which meant having a beverage. Only recently have I started tolerating milk alternatives straight from a glass (I grew up on Whole and 2% Milk, what a switch to watery rice milk!), so majority of the time, I had breakfast with a tall glass of 100% juice. The extra fructose from the juice left me without the fiber to properly digest it. Lots of articles online point to juice consumption as making people obese. How could I drink that juice and not put on a single pound? I stayed as skinny as ever. I've never been a stereotypical patient...

I'm excited to add a serving of approved fruit back into my diet! But more importantly, the list of vegetables is empowering! I went from being super panicked about what I was going to eat to having a much better control and game plan on eating and a ton more choices!!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

This is my Mardi Gras

Last Monday I finished my Wilton Cake Decorating class. Which meant time is up. My fructose free diet would start the next day at work, after eating a tasty slice of cake. Embarrassingly, I spent more energy researching cake designs than I did finding recipes to tide me over the first week. Already, I met with Becky, one of the extremely knowledgeable ladies I met who ran the Health Starts Here blogger challenge last spring. She pointed me in the direction of foods I could eat, how to make sure I am getting enough nutrients, and overall left me with an extremely positive outlook on my latest challenge. At her recommendation, I looked into the Paelo diet (aka the caveman diet) - only foods that coiuld be hunted or gathered. While I am not going full fledged paleo (I'm keeping gluten free grains in my diet), I cannot have fruit. But the cookbooks are helping me think about my plate differently.

When Tuesday came around, I had a large slice of cake with plenty of sugar flowers. Is this what the doctor ordered? Probably not. It's like binge drinking a bottle of alcohol and then going completely dry - is your body meant to absorb that shock? It would have been better to taper off of sugar, but I spend the few weeks since my diagnosis eating my way through my pantry and freezer since I did not know what contained sugar or I was scared I wouldn't be able to eat that frozen cupcake again.

Tuesday was my Mardi Gras. The celebratory feast before the seriousness of the fasting/new diet. I ordered Chipotle for lunch. Chipotle and I have a great relationship - the staff handling the web orders know me and are always sure to change their gloves to minimize risk of cross contamination. And there are only three things I can't eat: flour tortillas, cheese and sour cream. But low fructose means no onions. No limes. No tomato salsa. There went majority of my cilantro lime rice bowl...

I ate my food, trying my best to remember to savor every bite. I finished my cake and licked my fork clean. That night I went home to a somewhat bland fructose free dinner. And so it begins. My adventures as a triple threat: gluten and lactose free and low fructose home chef and foodie.

Fructose Intolerant

When I first started my blog, I chose windycitycooking because that's preciously what I was doing: cooking in Chicago. I didn't want to make it uniquely gluten and lactose free, even though that is what everything here is about (except for the occasional mention of goat and sheep cheeses which I tolerate). The hope was that the lactose intolerant issue would go away after being gluten free for a few months. For one of my long time lactose intolerant friends who went on the gluten free diet, that was exactly the case. He can tolerate dairy now. Me? My reactions are milder than they were before, but I have still noticed when I took the wrong hashbrowns from my mom's fridge (one was cooked with butter, the other in olive oil) or when the restaurant used butter on my dish.

Going dairy free was emotionally challenging for me. I was a hot mess removing dairy from my life. I started the diet in the spring and eliminated obvious sources of milk and cheese but kept some things that incidentally contained milk in my diet for a few months. As time went on, my reactions grew stronger, so by Thanksgiving, I was 100% dairy free - even off of butter which has the lowest amounts of lactose. I was angry. So many foods were off limits. Crackers, cookies, ice cream, milk, string cheese. Milk was hiding in all the packaged foods, put there simply to mock me.

By the time we figured out I was gluten intolerant, I was so low and so desperate that I had no choice but to embrace it. I was walking around in a fog. Later on, I realized the connection between Dunkin Donuts bagels and leaving work after 30 minutes for feeling so sick. My only saving graces were skipping breakfast and eating rice and meat for lunch. Somehow, I saved the gluten for dinner most days so I was able to keep working without greatly effecting my output. Initially, the gluten free trial was supposed to be a week off gluten, a week on, then a trip to the doctor. I went from feeling 15% to 100% in less than 5 days. When I went back on gluten, I crashed so low again that I barely made it through the day. I had my final meal of ravioli and said goodbye to gluten. Everything from that point happened so fast in my gluten education. I had no choice but to fully embrace the diet and learn everything I possibly could about how I was going to be eating. If I had to do it again, I would have started reading cookbooks and blogs about a week before starting the diet so I had more recipes and meal ideas in my back pocket. When I went to the doctor for my appointment, I was a completely changed patient: no longer looking near death, I was vibrant, knowledgeable and full of life once again. Throughout the past year and nine months being gluten free, I've had several reactions that send me spiraling downwards over the smallest crumb or cross contamination or poor label reading. I fully accept that one day I'll be in a nursing home quizzing the poor nurse about whether or not my meal is gluten free. It is a large part of who I am at this point. Without health, you have nothing. And now my health is largely dependent on eating delicious gluten free foods.

A few months ago, I started feeling "off". It was the diference between feeling 95% and feeling 100%. I knew how fantastic performing at my healthiest was and I was determined to do whatever I could to reach the top again. Each month, I started slipping a little further. Once at 90%, I gave up and called the doctor. I thought I was having reactions to corn: my symptoms got worse when I had things like powdered sugar (made with corn starch) and my mom is allergic to corn. Meanwhile, I switched to having a large glass of juice every morning and eating more fruits and veggies than before. The doctor ran a bunch of tests, including a hydrogen breath test for fructose intolerance. A week later, I received a phone call.

You tested positive for fructose intolerance.

At first, I was thrilled to have answers to my questions right away. This was by far the fastest turnaround time for identifying my food intolerances. But sugar free? Could I do it? Then I chatted with the dietitian and
received a one page list of what I can and cannot have. There were a lot of delicious staples in the "no" list, including all fruit, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, bacon, honey and so much more. The "yes" list looked pitiful in comparison: salt, pepper, 10 vegetables, and a few more things. I would go completely fructose free for two months then start trying to reintroduce foods.

The day after hearing my diagnosis, I went to Michaels to sign up for the next Wilton class. I have no idea how long my fructose free lifestyle will last and I wanted to take the class and eat the cake. I decided that the day after the final class, I would have a slice of chocolate cake and say goodbye to fructose. With a tangible end in sight, I was emotionally prepared as I started my research.

This is not going to be an easy road for me. Already, I had a few big warning signs that weekend that worried me:
  • The day I got my diagnosis, I was invited to see (and eagerly attended) Accidental Rapture at 16th Street Theatre. A play about the end of the world (literally) at the theatre where I missed my only performance as a stage manager ever since I was recovering from my appendectomy that brought on my food intolerances.
  • The next day I wanted to get some Jamba Juice and have my full of fruits. But there was a helicopter in the way. In the loop in Chicago. Seriously?
  • When I called my health insurance company to see if a dietitian would be covered, the hold music while the friendly associate tried to find a loop hole in the plan was Over My Head by The Fray.
Will it be easy? No. My spare room is currently holding 5 full brown paper grocery bags with everything containing an offending ingredient of has 2 or more grams of sugar per serving. I'm depressed by even that fact.

Am I up for the challenge? Some days. Other days it is just hard. It makes gluten free look like a cakewalk in comparison. I have plenty of foods I can eat in my fridge and cabinets, but there is difficulty in coming up with meals. And snacks. After my two months on a very low fructose diet, in an ideal world, I'll turn into someone who cannot have fruit juice (every day). But I could be like the woman who can have one strawberry every other day. So many fructose low/free resources use fruit but my dietitian has me completely off it. No lemons or lime for my fish.

I fell behind in blogging the past few months as I started looking into this new way of eating. If you stumbled upon my blog as someone with fructose malabsorption, please make sure to look for the Low Fructose label at the bottom.

Wilton Flowers and Cake Design - Class 4

It was time for the final class in Wilton's Flowers and Cake Design curriculum. Time to tie together everything I learned into one beautiful cake! I spent an hour or two researching my general idea on Pinterest and found some inspirational photos of baskets lovingly filled with flowers. (Check out my Pinterest Cakes and Cupcakes board for some eye candy.) I made all my flowers in advance and came to class with half filled bags of leftover brightly colored frosting and over two pounds of brown for the basket. Another blogger lamented the fact that the supply list only asked for 1 1/2 cups of frosting - she was only able to basketweave a tiny portion of the cake. Since matching colors is next to impossible, especially for something as bold as the basketweave, I made way too much. Better safe than sorry, right?
...Or is it better safe than having a naked cake?

In class I learned two new techniques: the reverse shell and the basketweave. I say "I learned" because for whatever reasons, our class of five shrunk to only one. I felt like the last one standing in a reality TV show! And what did I get as the lone survivor (who ironically is lactose and gluten intolerant)? A fancy certificate of completion, individual attention, and a delicious cake!

My cake turned out beautifully. I was able to effectively and elegantly tie in majority of the royal icing techniques (except for the troublesome rosebud - I blame being left-handed as my downfall on that one). My co-workers loved "cake day" and I was thrilled to share my final project with them. The cake was Bob's Red Mill Chocolate Cake with almond milk.