Friday, February 29, 2008

Quinoa Sunflower Seed Clusters

There are some people who have to learn lessons the hard way. Then there's a second category of people who have to repeat learning the same lesson more than once the hard way. I think I fall into the second category when it comes to food.
The problem is whenever I get to feeling pretty good I get more cocky about what I eat. That would be the case this week. I made a fat-free fruit compote with a topping made up of ground rolled oats and buckwheat flour. Even ground, uncooked oatmeal is too hard to digest for someone with gastroparesis/IBS. Bottom line, don't eat uncooked oatmeal in any form. That is unless you enjoy being miserable for two to three days.
Well, fortunately that has passed. And Pumpkin, the cat, and I are celebrating leap year with some beautiful tulips, sent from a friend who was our house guest last week. Also, to prove that I've learned my lesson about uncooked oatmeal, I decided to alter a recipe which uses that dreaded ingredient. I changed the original recipe, called Quinoa, Apricot and Nut Clusters, by leaving out the nuts, dried apricots, eggs and rolled oats, and renamed it Quinoa Sunflower Seed Clusters. I left out the dried fruit because that is another ingredient that is "lethal" for someone with my problem. Here is the recipe with my modifications and optional ingredients for those who can handle eggs, rolled oats, dried fruit and nuts. Individuals with IBS-type symptoms should use egg whites only, rather than whole eggs. Finely ground nuts may be tolerated in some cases.

Quinoa Sunflower Seed Clusters

(Makes approximately 20 clusters)

These clusters are a healthy alternative to cookies. Two clusters have approximately 320 calories, 11 g. fat, 49 g. carbs, 10 g. protein and 5 g. fiber.

3/4 cup quinoa

1 1/2 cups quinoa flakes (or old-fashioned oatmeal) Note: The quinoa flakes are much more digestible than the oats. Just eat the clusters in moderation.

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds (I grind them but you may leave them whole.)

1 cup peeled, drained canned apricots (finely chopped) or replace this with 1 cup chopped dried apricots or whole dried cherries

Optional: 1/2 cup chopped nuts (Walnuts, pistachios, almonds, cashews work well.)

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/4 cup agave nectar or maple syrup or honey (Avoid honey if you have IBS.)

2 T. safflower, sunflower or other vegetable oil

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Egg replacer for two eggs plus 1 large egg white, lightly beaten (or use equivalent egg whites)

Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the quinoa, return to a boil, cover and reduce the heat. Cook at low heat until the quinoa is cooked or about 15 minutes. For those with normal stomachs, the quinoa should be slightly undercooked or about 12 minutes. Transfer the quinoa to a large, rimmed cookie sheet. Bake, fluffing with a fork occasionally, until the quinoa is pale golden, about 30-35 minutes. Let cook in a large bowl.

Spread the quinoa flakes or oats on a baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add the flakes or oats to the cooked quinoa. Spread the sunflower seeds on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 7 minutes. If grinding the seeds, allow to cook before placing in a coffee grinder. Add the seeds to quinoa mixture and allow to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Toss the apricots (dried or not dried), optional nuts, sugar and salt with the quinoa mixture. Beat the agave nectar, maple syrup or honey, vegetable oil, and vanilla with egg replacer or eggs. Stir into the quinoa mixture.

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper, lightly spray with pan spray. Spoon 1/4 cup batter onto sheet for each cluster or use an ice cream scoop. Space the clusters about 3 inches apart. Flatten to 1/4-inch thickness. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until crisp, about 25 minutes. Note: If you are using egg replacer, you may need to leave the clusters in the oven slightly longer. When done, remove from the oven and let cool. The clusters store well for several days in the refrigerator. Freeze extras.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hot amaranth cereal with toasted pumpkin seeds and IBS tips

My belly is a lot more peaceful now, just like Pumpkin at the right. I have gastroparesis, akin to severe IBS, and food intolerances. I have tried eliminating certain foods and that has helped but not enough to make my stomach anything close to tolerable. It wasn't until the past two weeks that I discovered how to have a fairly peaceful belly.

My secret is every morning I split my breakfast in half and eat just half. I save the other half for a late morning snack. How does this help? Like others with slow digestive systems, I can never overload my stomach or I'm looking for trouble. Basically, my digestive system is so slow that by morning the next day, dinner from the previous night has still not left the building so to speak. If I try to shove a full breakfast in my stomach too, I'm going to have symptoms of bloating, nausea, digestive distress all day. Just a little breakfast doesn't produce those symptoms. I put a little in the tank to give myself a bit to go on and give dinner a chance to be fully digested. Then I put a little more in late morning and I'm set.
It really seems to be working. I haven't felt this well in months. Of course, there are lots of other things I do as well to manage my stomach situation but this trick is the frosting on the cake. It changed a barely tolerable situation into a totally tolerable one.

Other standard strategies individuals with IBS or other digestive disorders should put into practice every day include:
  • No processed foods

  • No dairy

  • Cook all veggies or fruits (with the exception of ripe, soft fruits e.g. peaches)

  • Avoid red meat

  • No caffeine

  • No carbonated drinks

  • No artificial sweeteners

  • No high fiber grains or vegetables

  • No fried foods or artificial fats

  • No popcorn

  • No high fat foods

  • No egg yolks (I can't eggs at all. I'm allergic.)

  • Approach legumes, such as beans, cautiously.

  • No coconut milk (too high in fat)

  • No alcohol

  • No whole nuts. Make sure they are ground up. (I can't eat nuts at all because I'm allergic.)

There are many other rules that I live by in order to keep my stomach "functioning." I'll share them through my blog.

Here is one of my favorite breakfast foods that I do the half now/half later strategy with.

Hot Amaranth Cereal with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Cranberries

Amaranth is a wonderful grain with a sweet, nutty taste. It seems like I'm eating a dessert when I have it because it's so yummy. It's also a super grain, high in protein and even calcium. It's very digestible, and I never have any problem with it if I do the half now/half later strategy. The pumpkin seeds are well tolerated if toasted. You also can grind them to make them more tolerable. Note: I add 1 T. of ground golden flax seed but I had to work up to this amount over several months.

1/4 cup whole amaranth grains (available at health food stores)

2 T. toasted pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup cranberries, cooked until soft in 2 T. grape juice concentrate

1 T. ground flax (optional)

1 T. vegan rice protein powder (optional)

1 tsp. olive oil or other oil

In a medium saucepan, toast the amaranth grains in olive oil for a few minutes. In the meantime, heat 1 cup of water to boiling in the microwave. Add the boiling water to the grains. Toss in the ground flax and protein powder. Cook the grains uncovered for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Serve with 1-2 T. of cranberry sauce and 1-2 T. of toasted pumpkin seeds. But don't forget to split it in half first. Of course, this is not necessary if you don't have my problem.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

IBS symptoms continue to plague me

This blog is continuing to evolve over time just as has my journey to try to find a solution to my stomach/IBS-like issues. I have suffered for years with daily discomfort and sometimes disabling stomach and digestive problems that doctors have labeled as gastroparesis (paralysis of the stomach) which is a fancy way of saying severe IBS. At the time I received my diagnosis, I was happy because at least I had a name to put with my symptoms. But then there came the shrugs of doctors' shoulders when asked what could be done to help me. There was no cure, no medication, nothing they could hold out to offer me hope for relief.

That left me with only one solution. Begin my own search for answers and remedies. I have been pointed in many directions by naturopaths, other "experts" and well-meaning friends who believed they would be able to solve or at least lessen my symptoms. Some of these side journeys have been beneficial, such as uncovering food allergies through elimination or rotation diets.

It was on one of these side journeys that I began this blog as a chronicle of my experiences on a rotation diet. Now I realize that despite my hopes, the rotation diet won't be a solution but rather another piece in the puzzle to improving my condition. That's not to say that I won't continue to follow a diet free of the food allergens that aggravate my condition.

In future blog entries, I will address my ongoing experiences in looking for ways to improve/reduce my gastroparesis, IBS symptoms, maintain good health and eat well. I believe, by way of experience, I have become something of an expert and want to share whatever I can that will help others. In the meantime, I am keeping the faith that this journey will lead me to improved well-being. And my animal companions always keep me smiling.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gluten-free chocolate (or carob) peppermint ice cream sandwiches for Valentine's Day

We still have snow on the ground but Valentine's Day is coming. But today is cold and blustery again. I'm sure hoping spring is almost here especially after the long winter we've had in Idaho with nearly double our normal snowfall. I'm looking forward to Valentine's Day more than usual this year as a great way to celebrate friends and loved ones, and the coming of spring.

Here's what pumpkin does on a cold winter day.

Today I'm craving chocolate and mint. Give me anything with chocolate and mint, and I'll be your valentine. Actually give me mint chocolate any day of the week. Carob will do the trick too. I modified a recipe from a cookbook, called Eating for IBS, by Heather Von Vorous, for peppermint ice cream sandwiches to make them gluten-free and egg-free. They are absolutely delicious, easy to make, and safe if you have digestive issues. I have to hide them from the non-allergic folks in my household because they would disappear faster than you can say, "Yummy!"

Gluten-free Chocolate (or Carob)Peppermint Ice Cream Sandwiches

(makes about 4-6 sandwiches, depending on how large you make them)

For the "ice cream:"

1/2 cup granulated organic sugar
1 T. tapioca starch (or corn starch)
2 1/3 cups vanilla or plain rice milk (or soy milk)
egg replacer for 2 eggs (or egg whites from two eggs)
1 tsp. peppermint extract

Prepare the egg replacer, whisking until foamy. Set aside. In a large saucepan, whisk together sugar and tapioca starch. Then whisk in the rice milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently, and boil whisking constantly for one minute. Remove from heat. Whisk several spoonfuls of hot rice milk mixture into the egg replacer. Then whisk the egg mixture back into the saucepan of hot rice milk. Return the pan to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture returns to a boil. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Place in the refrigerator to chill until freezing in an ice cream maker. Or as an alternative, freeze the mixture in the freezer and remove to let it thaw slightly just before assembling the sandwiches. Either procedure yields a tasty treat. Note: You also can mix in some "safe " chocolate shavings or mini-carob or chocolate chips to the ice cream mixture just before it freezes.

For the chocolate (or carob) mint sandwiches:

1 cup brown rice flour
2/3 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (or use carob powder)
1 tsp. g/f baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil (your choice)
1 tsp. mint (I really love mint but if you don't use slightly less)
egg replacer for 4 eggs (or egg whites from 4 eggs), nice and foamy

Sift first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, and whisk together until thoroughly combined. In a small bowl, whisk together oil and egg replacer. Then add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and stir until well combined. The original recipe recommended covering and refrigerating the mixture until firm. I skipped this step and it works fine.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. Drop the dough by tablespoons, evenly spaced on the cookie sheets. Dampen your hands with cold water and flatten the balls into nice round cookies about 1/4-inch thick. You can make them bigger if you want "large" sandwiches. Bake 8-9 minutes until set but not hard. If cookies are large, they may take longer to bake. Keep an eye on them as they are baking. Remove the cookies from the pan to cool.

To assemble the ice cream sandwiches:

Soften the peppermint ice cream slightly. Spread some between two cookies. The filling should be at least twice as thick as the cookies. But I won't tell if you make it thicker. Press the cookies together gently. Put the sandwiches in a container and freeze until firm. When hard, wrap them individually in plastic wrap for storage. To serve, remove from the freezer a few minutes early to allow them to soften a bit.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I've been tagged

Lea has tagged me. Now that I have been tagged, I am supposed to list seven random things about myself, post the rules, then link back to the person who tagged me and tag seven more unsuspecting bloggers.
Here are the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share seven random and weird things about yourself.
3. Tag seven random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Random, weird things about myself:

1. My husband has this old dilapidated car that he says he loves but he always makes me drive it. The car is so bad it has a rock for an emergency brake. That's right. When you park, you have to get the rock out and put it behind the rear wheel so the car won't roll away. Several times, I've driven away without the rock and then my husband accuses me of losing his emergency brake.

2. I was called Susie Creamcheese in college because I was too nice and didn't do any wild stuff. But then I went on one of those college tours to Europe and got nicknamed Vino. I don't know why because I didn't drink.

3. I'm afraid of heights. Even a ladder is too high up for me.

4. But I'm not afraid of spiders. I've always felt sorry for them during the winter so I let them live in my house. But now my cat, Pumpkin, has ruined their winter hideaway because he hunts them down and gobbles them up.

5. I rode an elephant when I lived in Thailand. I wanted to buy one and bring it home but they eat too much, 100 pounds of hay a day.

6. My husband and I got rid of our TV when our kids were young but now we have seven TVs. We collected them all because our son was working at a place that went out of business and he adopted all of their leftover television sets for free. We've actually given several away but still have seven.

7. I used to build tree houses when I was a kid. I had five treehouses at one time. I wanted a different one for every day of the week but ran out of suitable trees.

New "taggies:"

Terilynn at


This blog entry is for individuals, like myself, who want some healthy snacks that are low-carb and free of food allergens, including gluten, dairy, nuts, peanuts and eggs. Actually, they are quite yummy even if you don't have those food issues.

I have hypothyroidism, along with food sensitivities. To help manage my weight, I try to eat only two small servings of whole grains and one to two servings of fruit each day. Another words, it's kind of a low-carb diet, but a healthy one because I eat lots of veggies instead of tons of protein. As you can see, my cat, Oreo, prefers the low-carb diet as well. She wasn't supposed to be checking out the sole filets that were defrosting on a plate but you know cats. They beat to their own drum.

Avocado and Ground Seed Gluten-Free Snack

Gluten-free whole-grain tortilla (small or half a 10-inch one) such as quinoa, rice flour or amaranth
Lemon juice
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Ground pepper and salt
Veggies for the top (cucumber, baby greens, watercress, lettuce)
Ground seed mixture

How to make ground seeds: Get a jar, fill it half way with ground flax seeds, one-fourth with ground sunflower seeds and the remainder with ground pumpkin seeds. You can grind the seeds in a coffee grinder. Shake the mixture to evenly distribute all three seeds. Now you have a tasty, healthy seed blend that provides lots of omega fatty acids. And so does the avocado. Store the jar of seeds in the refrigerator.

To assemble your snack: Mash up one-fourth of the avocado with the onions, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Mix in about one tablespoon of the ground seeds. Spread on your tortilla of choice and top with your chosen veggies.

Homemade Hummus

Hummus is totally vegetarian and a delicious source of healthy protein, fats and fiber. It's so easy to make, and the extra stores well in the refrigerator. With this recipe, you'll never be tempted to buy hummus in the store again. You can make it for a fraction of the cost, and it's healthier.

One 16-oz. can of garbanzo beans (low sodium preferred), drained and rinsed
1/4-1/3 cup of tahini butter (made from sesame seeds) Note: You'll find it in the peanut butter section.
4 T of olive oil
2-3 T of lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and ground pepper, to taste
Optional: You can jazz it up by adding chopped parsley or spices such as cumin and cayenne pepper
Note: You can make the hummus lower in fat by using less olive oil and more lemon juice. or substituting some white wine vinegar for 1 T of olive oil.

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and puree into a thick paste. Scoop out the hummus into a food storage container. For one snack, use 2 T of hummus. Serve it with rice crackers, rice cakes. Another tasty idea is to make meat roll-ups. Spread some hummus on a slice of meat and roll it up. If using deli meat, select products that are free of gluten and other allergens as well as preservatives.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Blueberry-glazed chicken for Day 1

I think I've hit a milestone on the rotation diet. I no longer have to look at my rotation foods guide when I'm deciding what to eat on a particular day. This way of eating is definitely coming naturally to me now. It also has been beneficial to me. It's helped me uncover some foods that were the cause of some of my symptoms. It's forced me to eat some foods and try some recipes that are actually quite tasty and healthy.

I've also discovered that you don't have to be completely rigid about this plan. After all, we live in a real world and sometimes your family or friends want to go out to eat. Sometimes you screw up and forget to buy a particular ingredient(s). Sometimes you're just craving something that's not on the rotation plan for that day.

It's really all right to bend the rules a bit. Don't get stressed out about this. Use the Oreo philosophy: just curl up in a red pillow and chill. With Oreo's philosophy in mind, I've decided to alter my rotation of proteins to make it easier for me to remember and manage. Now, I rotate chicken, fish, turkey, fish in that order. Keep it as simple as possible. Same thing with nuts, seeds and oils. I can't eat nuts or peanuts (allergic) so I do sunflower and pumpkin seeds/oil one day, then olive oil, safflower oil, and finally sesame/tahini and avocado in that order.It's not perfect and not quite what the plan lays out but at least I'm getting those healthy mono unsaturated fatty acids.

Keep that in mind if you're considering using a rotation plan. The idea is to vary what you're eating, not to make yourself a prisoner to what you're eating. Your ultimate goal is to keep your body from deciding to launch its defenses against a food that it perceives as the enemy.

Here's a great recipe I discovered for Day 1. It uses blueberries and chicken as the main ingredients. I served potatoes (purple, yellow, white or red) and steamed zucchini on the side. My family loved it even though they're not on a rotation diet.

Blueberry-glazed chicken

1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup red cooking wine
3 T. maple syrup
1 tsp. dijon mustard
3 T. pomegranite juice
optional for seasoning the chicken: garlic powder, paprika, parsley (1 tsp. each)
1/2 tsp. salt and black pepper

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Bring the first five ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for up to 30 minutes. Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Combine desired seasonings from list above and sprinkle on the chicken. Place on a roasting pan.

Wash and quarter potatoes. Toss with cooking oil and salt and pepper. Spread on a baking pan. Roast both chicken and potatoes at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Pull the chicken out and baste with blueberry glaze. Return to oven and roast an additional 5-10 minutes. Serve chicken with additional blueberry glaze plus roasted potatoes and steamed zucchini on the side.