Easy microwave mushroom risotto


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Yes, you read that right.  You can make risotto in the microwave.  I didn’t think it would work, but it did, beautifully.

If you have ever made risotto, you know how labor intensive it can be.  You have to babysit it, and constantly stir the rice, adding stock a ladle at a time.  It’s a pain.  Besides, if you order it out in a restaurant, it will have butter and parmesan in it.  Why not make it gluten and dairy free, at home?  Here’s how I did it.  You can find the original recipe here.  This will take 30-40 minutes, so plan ahead.  I am giving the instructions for a 1100 watt microwave.  You can find the instructions for 700 watt microwave in the original recipe.  If you do not know the wattage of your microwave, check the owners manual, or online.

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Wrestling with my sugar demon


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One of the pitfalls of writing a food blog is weight gain.  In the past year, I have tried a couple of times to kick the sugar habit, without any lasting success.

After my husband was diagnosed with heart disease last year, we went on a health kick. We lasted a pretty long time, but I began to slip back into my habit of baking desserts and eating cookies.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was not good for me, so several months back, I decided to try to go back to eating more fruit.    I only lasted about a week before I caved.

As I have gotten to be a better cook and baker in the past two years, I have posted more and more dessert recipes on this blog.  Sugar is my demon.  I fully admit it.

We really don’t know how much sugar we are eating.  Processed foods are full of it; even those foods that don’t need to have added sugar, like bread, are loaded with it.  This is how we are kept addicted.  And then there is the controversial high fructose corn syrup. Experts differ on their opinion on HFCS, but most agree that it is not good for you at all. Sugar is sugar.  And it is poisoning us.

There are 200 grams in one cup of sugar.  The daily recommendation from the American Heart Association is 25 grams or six teaspoons for women, 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons for men.  Just for perspective, one 12 oz. can of coke contains 39 grams, well over the daily recommendation.  As you can see, it’s really easy to go over your limit very quickly.

When I bake, I usually use a 9×9 or 8×8 baking pan and cut my cakes into nine pieces. Those pieces are not always the same size.  So if I use a cup of sugar in the recipe, which is 200 grams, each piece contains about 22 grams, give or take, depending on the size of the piece.  I usually eat at least one piece of cake a day, sometimes two.   That puts me way over my daily limit, without eating anything else.

Once I started looking at sugar content of certain foods, it really surprised me to find out that my favorite frozen fruit bar contains more sugar (15 grams) than 8 gluten free cookies (10 grams).   Just because something is made with fruit, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

Speaking of fruit, eating fresh or frozen fruit is actually fine.  Because the fruit contains fiber, it offsets the natural sugar.  But can you eat too much fruit?  There are some signs that you are eating too much fruit.   If you have IBS, like I do, too much fructose can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea.   Eating too much fruit can cause blood sugar spikes as well.  It’s generally recommended to eat 2 1/2 cup portions of fruit a day.

Eating too much fruit can trigger the hunger hormone, ghrelin.  Eating that fruit with protein and fat will offset that.   Eat that apple with some peanut butter, those blueberries with some full-fat dairy free Greek yogurt (but watch out, yogurt can have high sugar content), and that peach with a handful of almonds (if you don’t have a nut allergy). The fat and protein from those additions will help dampen the effects of fructose.

All of this brings me back to that sugar demon.  Can it defeat him?  I don’t know for sure, but I am damn well going to try.

In the news: A gluten-free diet can cause heart disease. Or can it?


 

junk science

Is it junk science?  Judge for yourself!

 

 

This post is meant for informational purposes only.  The opinions and views herein are strictly my own. 

Science and the media have done it again; a new study by BMJ is making headlines.  It basically states that eating gluten free diet increases your risk of heart disease, and you should only stop eating gluten if you have celiac disease.

Depending on which website you click on, there are different excerpts of the article. Some show that only those with celiac disease should be gluten free.  This is why you need to read more than one source to get the full picture.  At first, I was really angry to see that those of us with non-celiac gluten intolerance were left out again, until I found the article posted on CBS.com.   But it turns out that the person who did the study did acknowledge that part of the population.

But does a gluten-free diet contribute to heart disease?

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Tea for two-review of The True Tea Club


I don’t normally write posts about tea, but since I cannot drink coffee, I often get bored with the same old tea flavors.  I thought I would try out a tea club so that I could experience different teas from around the world.  Box clubs seem to be very popular now, so why not include tea?

The True Tea Club is a UK based company that specializes in sending boxes a variety of four teas from around the world every month to subscribers.  These are loose teas, and require the use of an infuser. Here are some FAQ’s about their subscription, including costs.  There are definite benefits to subscribing to a monthly tea box, but there are also drawbacks, especially if you have specific allergens and tastes.  Let me elaborate.

Tea, in my case, comes with a myriad of ingredients that I need to avoid, such as nuts, and flavors I do not care for, such as Earl Grey and florally teas, as well as any gluten, dairy, or honey.  When you first subscribe, you can tailor your selections to your own tastes.  I did specify no gluten, dairy or nuts.  I later sent an amended email (to which I received no response) stating I wanted no Earl Grey (I hate bergamot), and nothing florally.  Having some flowers in the tea is ok, as long as it is not overwhelming.  I know, I really fussy about my tea!

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Do you have leaky gut? And what can you do about it?


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Disclaimer:  I will be sharing information and websites that discuss leaky gut syndrome and it’s possible treatments in this post.  I do not intend to diagnose any illness here; this post is intended to be informational.   

After many years of battling IBS and my change to a gluten and dairy free lifestyle, I am now on an experimental journey to heal my leaky gut.  My first step is to try drinking Kombucha.   I will be posting my progress on that in other posts.

What is leaky gut?  As defined by WebMD:

A possible cause of leaky gut is increased intestinal permeability or intestinal hyperpermeability.

That could happen when tight junctions in the gut, which control what passes through the lining of the small intestine, don’t work properly. That could let substances leak into the bloodstream.

It can cause all sorts of health problems and conditions.  But is it a catchall condition that is being blamed for a myriad of health problems?

I have read several articles from several websites and have drawn my own conclusions.  There are many that promote supplements.  I tend not to rely too much on that, as that tells me they are in it for the money.  But there are some intriguing points that are made.  I don’t intend to try to stop doing everything that could be causing my symptoms, but by reading these articles, I realize there are some things I am doing that I could change.

I got most of my information from the Leaky gut support site.  I will share some of her information; you can click on the link and draw your own conclusions. She also has a free quiz on her site that you might want to take.  I got a very high score for leaky gut.

These are some of the symptoms you might experience:

Digestion and Other General Symptoms

Some symptoms are localized to the gut, and include:

  • Bloating
  • Candida overgrowth
  • Constipation
  • Ongoing diarrhea
  • Gas

General signs include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Food allergies
  • General/seasonal allergies
  • Joint pain
  • Arthritis
  • Skin rashes (related to inflammation)
  • Nutritional deficiencies (improper absorption)
  • Weakened immune system (from overexertion)

Brain related symptoms include:

  • Mood
  • Brain fog
  • Anxiety
  • Depression (usually worsened)

More severe conditions from leaky gut include:

  • IBS
  • Crohn’s
  • Celiac
  • Diabetes
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hashimoto

I can check off a lot of these symptoms.  But all of some or all of these can be attributed to other conditions.   There also seems to be a lot of conflicting information as to what is actually helpful in healing leaky gut.  I will share some of the FAQ’s from myleakygutsyndrome.com:

Are eggs good for leaky gut?

Yes. Eggs are nutritious and acceptable to consume. They are rich in good fats (omegas), B vitamins which are often deficient in leaky gut patients, and l-lysine to help support immune function. Ensure that you cook your eggs either poached or over medium heat: cooking them too fast on high can destroy some nutrients and create free radicals–which are natural antioxidant enemies. Use only coconut oil or other heatable, extra virgin oils.

What about fermented foods: are they good?

Fermented foods are naturally rich in probiotics, so yes!–With some cautions in place. Ensure that the foods do not have chemical, sugar, or salt added. Sauerkraut, kim chi, and even kefir or plain, whole yogurt are rich in probiotics, though the latter two are dairy based and may need to be excluded from the diet for a period of time when first beginning to heal leaky gut.

Is banana good?

During a leaky gut diet, you may want to avoid bananas. Though they are nutrient, fiber, and mineral dense (especially with potassium), they are also high in sugar, and many people can develop allergies to bananas. Small portions of banana may be added much later in the diet, but be aware of your overall sugar consumption. Once your body is healed, be it a few months or even years, bananas are good when consumed in moderation. Aside from the afore mentioned benefits, they also contain FOS, which is food for beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Is Coconut Milk Good?

Depending on how pure the coconut milk is, any source of coconut can be healing, have anti-inflammatory properties, and is made up of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs, or sometimes MCTs–medium chain triglycerides) which are easier for the body to digest than many other fats. Many store-bought containers of coconut milk will have fillers and ingredients difficult to digest and absorb, such as calcium carbonate. Guar gum, usually derived from corn, is a thickener found in many premade sources of coconut milk as well and is disruptive to the gut-healing process.

Is Coconut Oil Good?

A resounding yes! Coconut oil is heavy in nutritious fats easily absorbed by the body, and has immune-supporting and healing components. It can inhibit candida growth and help support healthy digestion. Ensure that coconut oil is unrefined and extra virgin.

Can leaky gut cause acid reflux?

Here comes a surprise: acid reflux is not always as a result of high stomach acid. In fact, in many cases it evolves as a result of low acid. When you have low acid, which means that of a more alkaline variety, then you not only have a build up of undigested food stuffs but also can develop reflux which is thought to be as a consequence of fermentation rather than degrading of foods. This can also present, and often does even prior to reflux, as bloating and general ‘gassiness.’

Can leaky gut cause symptoms of anxiety?

Many people with leaky gut syndrome suffer from increased anxiety. For some people this will only happen at a social level and they may feel less confident than they once did when they are exposed to larger gatherings of people. Others find that this anxiety is so extreme they are affected even in their home environment and when attempting to cope with the normal routine of everyday life. What has to be appreciated is that when the body is coping with leaky gut syndrome it is affecting the nervous system. Most particularly if affects the autonomous ‘fight or flight’ system and essentially the body is remaining in a more or less, constant state of high alert. These are not responses which we have conscious control over. This aspect of the nervous system, together with that of the enteric nervous system, which controls our gut, takes over automatically.

Inflammation and Leaky Gut

Inflammation due to leaky gut can arise in several different ways. Firstly the change in the intestinal environment causes irritation to the digestive system itself. Then, when the balance of gut microflora changes, bacteria can release more toxins which set up an inflammatory response. As the tight junctions of the intestinal wall are affected and molecules seep through into the blood stream, yet again they prompt an inflammatory/immune response. This is, of course, excluding several other factors including how these molecules adversely affect the parts of the body in which they settle. Other aspects relating to inflammation relate to how the stomach lining responds to a more alkaline environment and the over production of gastrin. Also it should be taken into consideration that the food eaten is likely to be fermented rather than degraded in the stomach cavity and the bigger picture suggests internal effects which are constantly thrown into an inflammatory response.

Is Ibuprofen good for leaky gut?

Ibuprofen comes under the classification of NSAIDs (Non-steriodal anti-inflammatory) drugs which are thought to contribute to causing leaky gut syndrome. Originally the theory, which was precisely that, a theory, was derided by the orthodox medical community, however in the past few years research has confirmed that Ibuprofen can indeed result in leaky gut syndrome. A report published in 2014 by the National Institute of Health in the UK confirmed that Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs result not only in inflammation of the intestinal lining but also in increased permeability. Although much of the research which has taken place focuses on the effects of people with celiac (coeliac) disease and the increased intolerance to substances such as gluten, such drugs can obviously detrimentally affect those with leaky gut whether their condition is diagnosed or not.

Immune System and Leaky Gut Syndrome

When the integrity of the intestinal wall becomes compromised it lets through molecules which are too large and some toxins and bacteria. Although nutrients are actually meant to pass through the intestinal wall, the structure of it means they should only pass through when they have reached a certain point in the digestive process. Because in leaky gut the gaps in the wall are bigger then this barrier is breached. Because of this our immune system responds. These particles become foreign bodies and our immune system does what it’s supposed to do – fend off invaders. It may well be that these ‘invaders’ are substances which would, at a later point in the digestive process, normally be sent through the intestinal wall, but because they are sent through at the wrong point and they are of the wrong ‘structure’ the body simply does not recognize them. The immune system then goes into overdrive and it sets off all kinds of reactions including that of our endocrine system. This means that not only can all the glands in our body be affected but also that our hormonal system becomes erratic. So, when you get thyroid dysfunction or sleep problems, or even excessive sweating, these can all be signals that your immune system is being adversely affected by a leaky gut. Many people find today that they test positive for antibodies in various parts of the body: again an indicator that the body is overreacting when foreign particles are entering the body.

A more direct observation can be made when we start to become sensitive to certain foods – foods that the body should be able to cope with under normal circumstances. This is the immune system starting to recognize normal foodstuffs as enemies simply because they are entering the body at the wrong point and in an unrecognizable form when you have leaky gut.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Leaky Gut Syndrome Are They Connected?

Some people believe that their IBS could possibly be a cause of their leaky gut syndrome, however what is more likely is that IBS is a collection of symptoms indicating that they have gut dysbiosis and intestinal overgrowth which will ultimately lead to Leaky Gut Syndrome. Of course this could be construed as being a possible cause but really it is simply the progression of an illness. In the same way that some patients achieve a diagnosis of IBS and which later is attributed to SIBO, then this can eventually be diagnosed as leaky gut syndrome. The symptoms of IBS are general stomach pain and cramping which may often be alleviated after passing a motion. Additional indicators of IBS can be: suffering pain on intercourse, excessive wind, backache, nausea, excessive urination during the night time, lethargy, incontinence and bloating. Some people also suffer from low mood or depression which is usually put down to being a result of dealing with their condition. Of course, if IBS evolves from a digestive dysfunction then the real truth of the matter is that they probably are not obtaining the nutrients they need to ensure such problems as neurotransmitter production is not lacking. Still, rarely is IBS currently seen as the initiation of a more chronic condition, despite the fact that this often turns out to be the case.

I was especially interested in what she had to say about IBS, anxiety, acid reflux and the use of NSAIDS.  I take an aspirin and an antacid daily.  I used to take Prilosec every day until I got a weird side effect: my big toenails started to grow out funny.  I was able to wean myself off of the Prilosec, but it took about another year for my toenails to grow out normally.  I take the aspirin for arthritis joint pain.  I am hoping that by taking the Kombucha that I can stop taking both of these.

She also mentions that white rice can make symptoms worse.  This is bad for those of us with gluten intolerance-most gluten free packaged flours and mixes have white or brown rice as their base.  I don’t know if I can give these up entirely.

My whole mission of drinking Kombucha is to be able to eat wheat and dairy again in really small amounts.  I am not sure if that will ever happen, but I am hopeful.  I am also hoping to alleviate my joint pain and have more energy.  I realized that Kombucha is not a miracle elixer.  But it will be interesting to see if it makes any difference in how I feel overall.

So what else can you do to alleviate leaky gut?

  • Avoid dairy, sugar, gluten and soy
  • avoid processed foods
  • avoid nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers or any fruit with seeds)

Sugar is definitely my downfall.  I love tomatoes and potatoes.  Could I give all of this up?  I don’t know if I could.  I am starting slow.  I am also going to try to cut back on my sugar intake.  Avoiding rice is almost impossible.

You have to pick your battles.  Giving up gluten and dairy was a big step, and one with definite benefits.  But I still get IBS symptoms, and it’s not just from being “glutened”.  It will be a journey.  And hopefully, one worth taking.

What is Kombucha and can it help with gluten intolerance?


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No doubt you have heard about Kombucha.  It seems it is all over the media lately, touted as a cure-all for everything.  But can it help with IBS and gluten intolerance?  I DO NOT recommend it for Celiac disease.

What is Kombucha, exactly?  This article explores that, as well as some myths vs facts.  Here are some excerpts:

Kombucha has been around for thousands of years, believed to have originated in China, traveled throughout Asia and Russia and eventually became a health craze in the US over the past two decades. Legend has it that it was named after a Korean physician Kombu who healed the Japanese Emperor Inyko with the tea, and the tea was then named after him: “Kombu” + “cha” (which means tea.)

The science of fermentation is one practiced in homes, rather than laboratories, and for that reason it has an air of mystery. These living foods change from batch to batch, and since they can’t be patented or highly controlled,  there’s no real incentive for the science community to spend resources in research. Therefore, health claims tend to be anecdotal, and certain assumptions about the “science” behind the process get spread with no real evidence to support those assumptions. We know fermented foods are powerful in their ability to support a healthy body, and restore balance to an unhealthy one. We don’t really know the fine details of how this occurs.

Kombucha can be store bought, or made at home.  It contains:

a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), a term coined by kombucha enthusiast Len Porzio in the mid-1990’s. It may not look appetizing, but it creates a very popular fermented beverage that goes for $4 a bottle in the health food stores.  The final product contains a blend of beneficial bacteria and yeast (probiotics) as well as certain acids and enzymes that aid digestion, detoxify the body, and promote health.

My oldest son has had a lot of success by slowly incorporating Kombucha into his diet.  He is able to eat limited amounts of gluten and dairy.  But he did warn me that it can make you feel worse at first.  He said to start with a small amount, such as an ounce, and slowly increase by one ounce at a time, as tolerated.  He also said not to get discouraged if my symptoms worsen at first.  They might also worsen as I increase the amount.

Kombucha can make you feel worse. TRUE. While most people feel benefits from drinking kombucha, some people’s symptoms worsen. There are a few potential reasons for this: (1) Healing Crisis: Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of the GAPS Diet, says: “Apart from good bacteria a healthy body is populated by beneficial yeasts which normally protect the person from pathogenic (bad) yeasts, such as candida albicans. Kefir (and kombucha) contain these beneficial yeasts (as well as the beneficial bacteria) which help to take pathogenic yeasts under control.”  This is a good thing, but sometimes the body goes through a reaction to the mass die-off of bad bacteria and yeast, and temporarily symptoms worsen. This can last from a few days to a few weeks, but when the symptoms pass, people’s health improves dramatically. (2): Update: Gluten Cross-Reaction has proven to be a myth. Thanks to reader Sarah for this new information. (3) Histamine or Yeast Intolerance: Fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria which improve the health of most people, with the exception of those who are yeast or histamine intolerant. In those cases, negative symptoms from drinking kombucha don’t improve with time, like they do with a healing crisis. So what do you do if you feel like kombucha is making you feel worse? First, lower the amount of kombucha you are drinking, and only increase as your body is able to handle it without discomfort. If you are experiencing a healing crisis, lower doses should slow down the die-off reaction and alleviate your symptoms. If you continue to have discomfort at small doses, stop drinking it altogether and try again in 6 months. (Food intolerances often disappear as we heal.)

So how would someone with gluten and dairy intolerance find out if this would enable them to eat limited amounts of gluten and dairy?  I am about to find out.  I will be trying out this theory and will be posting my results.  I do not expect miracles.  I will still be writing this blog with the focus on gluten and dairy free living.

Here are my goals in this experiment:

  1. To lessen my IBS symptoms.  Eliminating gluten and dairy have helped quite a bit, but I am hoping to improve my symptoms even more.
  2. To get through the possible side effects and be able to tell the difference between them and my IBS
  3. To try to stick with it and not give up
  4. To go out to dinner and order what I want
  5. To eat real bread
  6. To not be sick for days after being glutened
  7. To drink real milk and eat real cream and butter
  8. To eat pizza
  9. To have dinner at a friend’s house
  10. To feel better overall

I will be making posts on my progress, so stay tuned!

 

Is it safe? Review of Smashburger, Murfreesboro


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The other day, my husband and I took a drive to Murfreesboro.  Anytime we take a day trip, it becomes a challenge to find a place to stop for lunch that won’t make me deathly sick.

Smashburger is one of the places that is utilizing online allergen menus that you can customize depending on what foods, spices, seeds, fruits, vegetables and additives you want to avoid.  It then gives options based on these choices.

I think this is wonderful, however, how does it translate to reality?  Anytime you choose to dine out with a food allergy or intolerance, it can become a literal crap shoot.  This is the main reason I have mostly stopped dining out.  It simply is not worth the hassle to me to have to be a detective to find a safe meal, and to be chained to my bathroom for several days.  If we are doing an activity after that meal, it becomes an embarrassment when I have to use a public bathroom, especially when it is in a location that is anywhere near a crowd of people.

That said, I have to say that the staff at Smashburger seems to follow that allergen menu pretty carefully.  They have everything in their register so that it can be put right on the order.  But then there is the ‘cover our ass” disclaimer:

In preparing results displayed by our Interactive Allergen Menu and other nutritional disclosures, we have relied on information provided to us by third party food suppliers.

Accordingly, we can make no guarantees regarding the allergen content of these items.

All Smashburger menu items are prepared on shared equipment and cross-contact with any allergens you wish avoid may occur during preparation.

The allergen and nutritional information on this website applies with respect to the United States only.

After carefully selecting gluten, wheat, dairy, nuts and tree nuts products to avoid, I was given several options.  I decided on the classic smashburger and the sweet potato fries. They have just rolled out gluten-free buns as well.   I read the ingredients and there were none of the allergens I had selected.  Yet, I still got sick.

There could be several culprits:

  • The burger was really greasy.  Having IBS and no gall bladder, this could have done it due to the high amount of fat.
  • I had a large glass of Dr. Pepper.  High fructose corn syrup is another irritant
  • The fries were cross contaminated.  They do not have a dedicated fryer.  Although this is not usually a problem for me.  But the fries should not be labeled gluten free
  • The bun was buttered.  This is usually done automatically without a thought from the kitchen staff, although I was assured there was no dairy on my order

These are all things that could be avoided.  I am willing to give them another chance because the food was really, really good.  Next time I will skip the fries, and drink water.

Anytime we choose to dine out, it is a game of Russian roulette.  Is it worth it?  That depends on you and how adventurous you are.  You can peruse menus til you turn blue, but I am convinced there is no such thing as a safe meal out, unless the restaurant is dedicated to serving only allergen free food.  And that is a rare thing these days.

So to Smashburger I say,  you are on the right track, and thank you for the effort.  It is much appreciated.  But please know that if foods are prepared on shared equipment, they are NOT allergen free and should not be labeled as such.

Order at your own risk!