The Ice Cream Incident

As I wrote in my last post, I've been experimenting with my diet in order to alleviate my chronic sinus issues. This experiment began two weeks ago by eliminating gluten from diet. It was challenging and frustrating...dining out at lunch entailed research, cooking dinner was like doing grad school homework, and snacking, well, snacking resulted in lots of potato chips. :)

For most of the first week, I ate Quinoa Breakfast Porridge for breakfast, lunches consisted of leftover fajita filling from dinner earlier in the week, a rice noodle dish from one of my favorite Asian restaurants in town, and a veggie bowl from Chipotle, and dinner consisted of whatever I could throw together - mostly GF pasta, chili, or a hamburger with no bun. I did venture away from gluten-free one time and ate pizza, and as I wrote earlier, the result was not a pleasant one. Aside from that, I had been feeling great.

As week two arrived, I vowed to stick with the gluten-free diet, convinced that it was the problem. Then on Wednesday, I made a terrible mistake. I had an intense craving for Coldstone after I ate my bowl of chili at work, so I ventured out on a mission for ice cream. I made sure to select a gluten-free flavor (FYI Coldstone's "cake batter" flavors are not gluten-free) and mix-ins. The staff at Coldstone was careful to get clean equipment to mix my delightful treat, wish was a pleasant surprise to this GF newbie, and the result was a "Like It"-sized coffee ice cream with white chocolate chips, chocolate chips, and almonds. It. Was. Divine! And I returned to work a very happy girl.

Fast forward about an hour and a half when I realized I had a nauseating headache, and I was horribly dizzy. As time passed, the roof of my mouth began to hurt, my ears felt like they were going to explode, my nasal passages felt horribly swollen, and breathing was difficult. I muddled through it and the remainder of my work day, wondering where the gluten had snuck in. Later that evening, still confused by how I felt and the lack of correlation to my diet throughout the day, I posted to Facebook about it and mentioned that I was sure I hadn't eaten any gluten.

After several comments from friends questioning the Coldstone, it hit me. I realized, for the previous week and a half, I had inadvertently cut my dairy consumption as well as cutting out gluten. Milk has always caused digestive issues for me, so for over a year now, I've been using soy milk in my morning coffee, which is the majority of my "dairy" consumption. And over the course of my GF diet, I had eaten a little cheese on my chili, and my fajitas were served with cheese and sour cream (after which I felt a little crappy, but I blamed it on the chips at lunch). And of course, there was cheese on the pizza that made me feel so crummy the week before.

And now, the ice cream. The pieces were beginning to form a clear picture. Maybe gluten isn't my issue...but maybe dairy is? So, with the help of some awesome friends on Facebook, I decided I would let myself recover from "The Ice Cream Incident", then I would experiment with adding gluten back to my diet. I vowed that today would be the day. I felt great yesterday, and if I ate gluten today, I would at least be at home with my bed nearby to endure the misery.

Then I made a terrible mistake. The other day, before "The Ice Cream Incident", I bought some gouda. I LOVE gouda, and it was calling my name last night. I tried to resist, but I finally gave in to the temptation and ate a small amount thinking it wouldn't hurt too badly. Boy was I wrong! I went to bed last night in complete misery, and I woke up this morning feeling only slight relief. I'm just now, at 2pm, beginning to feel better.

So, the decision has been made. No. More. Dairy. Tonight at dinner, in the hopes of ruling out the gluten issue, I will eat something fabulously glutinous (yet dairy-free)...I just have to decide what it will be. Once that's done, and I know how it makes me feel, I'll know whether my problem is just dairy, or if gluten is also playing a role.

On Tuesday, I go back to the allergist, and I would really like to be able to tell her that I have solved the case of the mysterious sinus problems! And I really hope to return my diet to its new normal very soon...no more dairy and no more experiments! (Except for the pesky high cholesterol issue that's gotten worse since the last time I mentioned it here! But that's another blog post! LOL)

Enjoy your Sunday Funday, folks! :)


Quinoa Breakfast Porridge

A few months ago when I found out my cholesterol was a whopping 256, I decided to try to eat a vegan breakfast, vegetarian lunch, and omnivorous dinner. It only lasted a few weeks, but one thing stuck...quinoa. I love it! And while most people I know eat it as a savory side dish, I (of course) went straight for a sweet dish for breakfast. When it comes to hot breakfast cereals, I cannot stand the pasty texture of oatmeal, but this dish makes a nice substitute.

Quinoa has a texture more like rice or cous-cous (cue The Man saying "food so nice they named it twice"), and for me, this is much more tolerable. Quinoa's mild, nutty flavor lends itself to a multitude of dishes, and it's considerably healthier than other packaged hot cereals: it's a complete protein and very high in fiber, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Vegetarians and vegans rejoice!

Every weekend, I make a pot of this wonderful hot breakfast and reheat a portion of it each morning. (It's a great dish for reheating!) It's simple, relatively quick-cooking, and it's a delightfully cozy dish as the weather gets colder. It's become a staple for me, and now that I'm eliminating gluten from my diet, this is a welcome mainstay in my diet.

Quinoa Breakfast Porridge
(serves 4)

1 c quinoa, rinsed
1 c water
1 c milk (use a dairy-free milk if it suits you)
2 T flax seed meal
1-2 T raw honey, to taste
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
dried fruit pieces
nuts, chopped

In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa, water, milk, flax seed meal, honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and keep covered until the liquid is completely absorbed, about 10 more minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Serve topped with your choice of chopped fruit and nuts (and I add another tablespoon or two more of milk for extra creaminess).



Going Gluten-Free...And The Challenges Ahead

Yes, I know...it's been a while. I guess you could say I've been going through a bit of an identity crisis...or maybe an early mid-life crisis? (I have always been mature for my age, and I did give away my entire wardrobe...then I bought a new one! LOL) And now my life is drastically changing again...I'm going gluten-free. No, I'm not trying to be trendy. I actually have a pretty valid reason for this dietary experiment.

You see, for the past few months, I haven't felt well physically. Those of you who know me personally probably know that I struggle horribly with recurring sinus infections and migraines. On a daily basis, I deal with mild to moderate sinus pain and pressure and a low-grade headache. It's not fun by any means, but sadly, I've grown accustomed to it. I try to keep a positive outlook, but some days my body declares war. It's exhausting, and it's taken its toll on me over the last few months.

A few months ago, I had a CT scan of my sinuses, and then paid a visit to an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor who sent me home with antibiotics and scheduled a follow-up appointment. Six weeks later, when I went for my appointment, there was no difference in the way I felt, and my sinuses were still terribly inflamed, so he referred me to an allergist. She did a skin test for 126 allergens (yes, that's 126 holes in my back and arms) and sent me away with yet another antibiotic and a slew of other prescriptions. Now here I am, three weeks after all of that, and I don't feel any better...and I have an official diagnosis of chronic sinorhinitis. Sounds fun, huh?

So, last weekend, I made a decision to take matters into my own hands. I cut out gluten...completely. (Are you giving me the same strange look everyone else gave me?! Well, stop it because by Wednesday evening, I felt better than I have felt in years. Yes, I said years...lots of them.) After riding high for a few days of feeling better but still not fully convinced that gluten was a devilish beast, I got a little lazy last night and didn't really feel like cooking. Instead, I threw a frozen pizza in the oven...and proceeded to eat almost half of it. Yes, half...don't judge! :) I was hungry, and it tasted so good. And I figured the damage wouldn't be that bad...until I woke up this morning and felt like I'd been hit by a train. It was full-on body aches, a horrible headache, and a head so full of congestion and swelling that I got dizzy when I got out of bed. Happy freakin' Saturday! OK, I learned my lesson. It was a painful lesson, but I've learned. No. More. Gluten...Ever.

And now my life will never be the same. Lil Ol' Me, who loves to bake delicious, glutinous treats like breads, muffins, cakes, and cookies can no longer eat these things?! Seriously?! It's the end of the world as I know it. I've slowly come to this realization. Like the lesson I learned this morning, it's been a fairly painful realization. I've cried. More than once.

Luckily, the Internet is overflowing with bloggers who are faithfully posting gluten-free recipes with which I can experiment. Though I don't necessarily intend to join them as gluten-free bloggers, I'm not really sure where this journey is going to take me and this blog, but I hope you'll still stop by occasionally to visit. Your support means a lot to me.

The only thing I know at this point is that, after looking at gluten-free recipes I've found online, there are a ton of ingredients listed that I've never heard of. I have no idea what they do, why they're needed, or where to get them. Looking at these recipes, I'm lost. I have to learn to bake all over again. It's daunting, and to be honest, I'm a bit scared. But I refuse to live my life without baked goods and pasta...or with only store-bought, processed garbage.

Please join me as I wade through what feels like Jell-O on the path to gluten-free enlightenment. Advice is welcome, support  is appreciated, and recipes and tips are always welcome. :)

Thanks for listening. Mangia Bene (and gluten-free)!