Lentejas, por favor!

I studied in Spain for a semester when I was a youngling, and while there I lived with a wonderful Spanish couple named Trini and Pepe. Trini would often come into the room I shared with my American roommate and ask us, “Que quereis comer??” There was only one thing Trini made that we didn’t want to eat–cold hard boiled eggs stuffed with tuna and dropped in marinara sauce–but otherwise we loved all her food, so this was always a hard question.

Trini, Pepe, their son, and all of my many Dutch and American hostsiblings, gathered around the table after another spectacular Spanish meal.scan0079

Trini made flawless paella with squid and gambas the size of your hand, on Tuesday afternoons, as if it was no big deal. She would serve huge platters of golden, whole fried anchovies with lemon as an appetizer. Pepe owned a bakery and would make us homemade flan, serving only the perfect ones that slid onto the plate without cracking, and cakes made with chocolate and butter and nuts and three kinds of alcohol.

Trini and Pepe’s talents were not limited to the kitchen.scan0073

In other words, it was a food paradise, but one of the most-requested dishes in the house was also one of the humblest: lentejas con chorizo. A bowl of lentil soup with a chunk of Pepe’s crusty white bread just always seemed to hit the spot.

So, when I found out that lentils (as long as they are properly soaked overnight) are SCD-legal, I immediately thought about Trini’s lentejas. This version is not super authentic, since I can never seem to find real Spanish chorizo and since I substitute carrots for potatoes and American bacon for a Spanish cured ham, but it’s satisfying, nutritious, easy to make, and reminiscent of Andalucia all the same.

This is all you will need, plus some spices (and the lentils of course!). p1000684

Saute your bacon with peppers and onions. Remove bacon when it’s done and set aside. p1000686

Add in other veggies and sausage and cook until all the veggies are soft.p1000688

Now add in the chicken stock and lentils, bring to a boil and reduce down to a simmer.p1000689

Cook until lentils are soft. Taste and adjust seasoning, and serve!p1000691

Sopa de Lentejas Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 1 cup dried brown lentils, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-3 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2-3 pieces bacon
  • 3 links smoked sausage, sliced (check ingredients to see if it is SCD legal; I used a smoked chicken apple sausage)
  • 3 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 small carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • The night before you want to make this, place lentils in a stockpot with enough water to generously cover them. Bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat off, cover, and leave to soak overnight. When you are ready to cook them, strain them, discard the soaking water, and rinse with fresh water.
  • Cook bacon in large stockpot until starting to brown. Add in olive oil, bell peppers, and onions and cook over medium heat until soft.
  • Remove bacon and set aside. Add in tomatoes, carrots, garlic, and sausage, and cook about 5 more minutes, until vegetables are mostly soft and tomatoes have started breaking down. Chop up bacon and add back into the pot.
  • Add in the soaked, drained, and rinsed lentils and enough chicken stock to cover them by 1-2 inches. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and let simmer about 45 minutes, until lentils are very soft and much of the liquid has reduced. Taste and adjust seasoning.
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The Fat Conundrum

I was inspired to do this post because a very dear friend and former roommate recently visited me, and we had several conversations about how strange it was that back when I lived with her I just found it impossible to lose weight, in spite of the “healthy” lifestyle I was living. She saw me exercising regularly, trying to follow a relatively low-fat, heart-healthy, mostly vegetarian diet–the kind of diet doctors often recommend to the overweight and obese–and still gaining weight. Now she witnessed me shoveling nuts and mayonnaise in my mouth every day and still dropping pounds.

Here are pictures of me from about four years apart.  The picture of me on the right, in the blue dress, was taken just this week. The picture on the left, in the black dress and red belt, is from about four years ago. Today I want to talk about the idea that dietary fat is what makes you fat, present some evidence that this is misguided, and do a little compare and contrast with my diet, lifestyle, and weight four years ago and now.

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Mimi 2010

BMI: 34.2 (obese, nearly 60 pounds overweight)

Exercise: nearly daily, at least 1 hour. This picture was taken not long after running a 10k for which I trained religiously. I also regularly did yoga, went on walks, took spinning and zumba classes, swam laps, and worked out on gym equipment.

Dietary Staples: whole-wheat bagels, whole-grain cereal, skim lactose-free milk, vanilla soymilk, nonfat fruit-flavored yogurts, tofu and soy meat substitutes, all kinds of fruits and vegetables, salads with store-bought light vinaigrette, peanut butter, whole-wheat sandwich bread, whole-wheat flour and corn tortillas, sweet potatoes, occasional (less than once a week) fish or chicken, pasta with homemade sauces or store-bought pesto, brown rice, homemade fruit smoothies, ice cream, frozen diet dinners, olive oil, vegan butter substitute, egg whites, soft cheeses, diet soda, coffee, beer, wine, cocktails.

Mimi 2014

BMI: 27.6 (about 15 pounds above ideal weight for my height) yes, that means I’ve lost 45ish pounds, which I think gives me a right to talk about some of this stuff. I’m still hoping to lose these last 15 pounds, but I want to make sure that it’s because I’m trying to lose it, not because I’m sick and my body isn’t absorbing nutrients.

Exercise: basically none. This is not by choice, but I’ve only recently been able to start walking (2 miles at a time, a few times per week). I hope to increase walking and start yoga again soon as well.

Dietary Staples: full-fat plain kefir and yogurt, all kinds of peeled fruits and cooked vegetables, lots of nuts and nut butters and flours, homemade almond and coconut milk, hard cheeses, poultry, fish and shellfish, beef, lamb, bacon, eggs, butter, coconut oil, olive oil, homemade mayonnaise, honey, lentils, homemade fruit smoothies, tea, coffee, coconut water, occasional glass of wine or cocktail, very occasional (typically less than once a week) serving of white or wild rice, oatmeal, or white bread or tortillas, dark chocolate.

It is important to note that even though we eat dairy and/or meat at most meals, we usually: a) choose grass-fed, organic meat and dairy when possible because it has a better fat profile b) limit the serving size of animal products and incorporate plenty of veggies, fruits, and nuts (we also try to have one or two vegetarian meals most weeks) and c) choose seafood, eggs, and poultry more often than beef, lamb, and pork. That is to say, we are not following an Atkins-style eat all the bacon diet. I’m also not eating coconut oil by the spoonful, btw.

Conclusions and Caveats

I am unable to say how much of the weight loss I have experienced is due to diet, how much is due to a suppressed appetite, and how much is due to my body just not absorbing nutrients as well. But, my husband is sort of the control in this experiment, and he has pretty much stayed at the same weight since starting SCD in spite of rather more frequent indulgences and generally larger portions. And, as I mentioned before, prior to being diagnosed with Crohn’s or showing any symptoms my husband and I both did lose a significant amount of weight when on the paleo diet, which is very similar to SCD.

In addition to losing weight, other indicators of my health have improved. While I was still mostly vegetarian, some bloodwork showed that I was anemic; very recent bloodwork has shown that I am not anemic anymore, even though it is a very common problem with IBD. My cholesterol is currently slightly lower than it was while a mostly vegetarian.

I’m not suggesting my weight loss can be explained by diet alone; in fact, I’m not even recommending SCD as a weight loss diet because that’s not what it is meant for. Still, the question remains, why is it that I am the thinnest I’ve been in my adult life while on a high-fat diet, and the heaviest I’ve ever been while on a low-fat, low-calorie, “heart healthy” diet? Here are my thoughts.

  • Processed food is a thing of the past. SCD-legal processed food does not exist, so by default you have to make pretty much everything you will consume from scratch. Say goodbye to giving in to a frozen pizza after a hard day at work, or accidentally eating half a box of Annie’s white cheddar bunnies snack crackers because you were bored!
  • A corollary to the first point: you can’t just pick something up. My husband and I do go out to eat occasionally or eat at other people’s homes, and in these situations, I try to make decent decisions based on what’s available, and enjoy my food. But, on a day-in, day-out basis, I know picking up a meal or a snack is a very bad idea for me, so I just don’t do it. Ever. This takes a whole lot of temptations out of the picture altogether.
  • Food with fat in it tastes better. To make “low fat” food palatable, fat is often replaced with all kinds of sugar, sodium, and other questionable artificial flavors that are likely more harmful than the fat they are meant to replace. Just eat real food, people, even if it has butter in it.
  • Fat makes meals more satiating and reduces cravings. My husband and I were both struck by the fact that, when we eat paleo or SCD style, the food we eat leaves us feeling so satisfied but not bloated. We do much better at recognizing “full” signals earlier, and when we do stop eating we feel good, not stuffed and miserable. Since the smaller amounts of carbohydrates and sugars don’t cause major spikes and crashes in blood sugar, we have fewer cravings and we feel satisfied for much longer.
  • Eating real food changes your tastes. Food that I know I would have enjoyed previously now tastes a little too sweet, or a little too salty, or just plain “off.” It might not seem like it at first but you will eventually reach a point where fresh, simple, whole food tastes the best, and it is more enjoyable because you know it will make you feel good, too.
  • Even WebMD, that stalwart of conventional medical advice, agrees that combining fat with other foods helps our bodies absorb nutrients better. Mostly eliminating grains and replacing them with veggies, fruits, and healthy fats from sources like fish, nuts, and plant oils means that you are getting more of the nutrients your body needs, period. And when your body is struggling with a chronic condition and not absorbing nutrients properly, this is really important. Being kind and supportive to your body means that it can do all of its jobs–including metabolizing food and putting it to good use–better.
  • Your microbiome matters. Check out this article for a really good and accessible summary of the amazing scientific advances being made in the link between gut health and overall health. In short, highly processed junk food containing starches and sugars, antibiotics, and stress (among other things) can cause an overgrowth of bad bacteria and die-off of good bacteria, which is associated with inflammation in general, metabolic syndrome, weight gain, IBD, and numerous other health problems. Eating probiotic foods like fermented dairy and cultured vegetables, as well as food containing prebiotics (some whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts are good sources) can actually rapidly change the microbiome in your gut by colonizing it with more diverse, good bugs. So, this is yet another argument for eating whole, real, unprocessed food if weight loss and healing is a goal.

The bottom line, is that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. I’m not advocating giving up bananas for sausage if you want to lose weight. I’m not suggesting you can cure IBD with enough kefir. And I’m not even close to saying I’ll never eat another greasy cheeseburger in my life. My point is just that I think counting calories, and especially restricting healthy fats, is not the whole answer to losing weight. Eat traditional, real, nutrient-dense foods you make you from scratch in your own kitchen 90% of the time, stop eating when you are satisfied, get plenty of rest, and exercise if you are able. I trust that more than any fad diet you can throw at me!

 

Nut Butter Coconut Chocolate Cups

Ok, here’s the thing. Technically chocolate, even raw cacao, is not SCD legal. BUT I can’t find a very good reason for this. One potential reason is that it is potentially addictive (duh, but so is coffee–much more so, actually–and it is allowed with caveats) and another is that cacao is a chemically complex food that might contain trace amounts of illegal carbohydrates (sucrose, to be specific), as well as compounds that aid in the reproduction of viruses and suppress the immune system.

On the other hand, there is tons of solid information coming out about how nutritious cacao can be. One ounce of cocoa contains nearly a quarter of the recommended daily value of iron, 35 % RDV of magnesium, and over 50% RDV of copper and manganese. It’s a good source of protein, fiber, and numerous essential minerals–many of which are chronically deficient in IBD sufferers. Additionally, cocoa is very high in antioxidants, which protect against aging, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even inflammation. Consumption of cacao is allowed–and even encouraged–in some other gut restorative diets such as GAPS and paleo. So, I’m sorry, Elaine, but you’ll have to provide me with a better argument to get me to give up cocoa.

Not all chocolate is created equal, however. Fermenting and processing can significantly reduce the antioxidants available in chocolate, and other ingredients usually used to make chocolate–such as sugars, milk, and certain preservatives–are (convincingly) problematic for people with IBD. If you are going to indulge in chocolate, it’s so much better for you to make your own so that you can control your ingredients. It can take a little hunting to track down the ingredients you need, but once you acquire them they should last for a good amount of time. I use this cacao powder, which is raw and only partially fermented to preserve as many antioxidants as possible. This is my source of cocoa butter. I hear you can buy it at Whole Foods, but I don’t go to Whole Foods regularly, and anyway the wafer form is super easy to measure.

I got the basic chocolate recipe from this site, but my husband is addicted to these delicious coconut-covered almond chocolates from Sprouts and I was inspired by them, along with a glut of raw hazelnuts, to come up with a new filling. If you don’t want to make your own nut butter filling, you can also use a prepared one from the store (just check the ingredients). I have also made these with a layer of almond butter and a layer of coconut butter, and they are quite tasty.

Once you’ve roasted the nuts, turn them out into a clean kitchen towel and wrap them up to steam for a few minutes.p1000654

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Peel them as well as you can but don’t worry about some skins sticking around.p1000657

Here is what the butter should look like once well combined and processed.p1000658

Use a double boiler to melt your chocolate and honey. Or, you know, just a bowl on top of a pot. Whatever.p1000659

Allmmooooost melted.p1000661

Stir into the cacao and vanilla and keep stirring until very smooth. I like to do this in a measuring cup so it’s easy to pour.p1000662

Pour in a bit of chocolate.p1000664

Then your filling.p1000665

Then more chocolate. Don’t worry about perfection. You can remove extra chocolate once the candies are set.p1000666

Cover and refrigerate until set.p1000667

Then just pop them out of the mold and enjoy!p1000669p1000670

Nut Butter Coconut Chocolate Cups Ingredients (Makes about 15 candies, plus a few tablespoons left over; see note at bottom for dealing with leftovers)

  • 3/4 cups raw hazelnuts, or other raw nuts of choice
  • 2-3 tablespoons coconut butter
  • generous pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup cocoa butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Roast raw hazelnuts in a baking pan for 15-20 minutes, until fragrant and browned but not burned. Pour into a clean kitchen towel and let steam for a few minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub together in the towel or between your hands to remove most of the peels. Don’t worry if you can’t get all of them off.
  • Place hazelnuts, coconut butter, and salt in food processor and process until smooth. If the nut butter is not smooth enough for your taste, keep adding coconut butter or coconut oil until you achieve the desired consistency. I keep mine quite thick so that it holds together better. Taste and add more salt if desired. I like mine a bit salty to contrast with the sweet chocolate.
  • Heat about 1 inch of water in the bottom part of a double boiler over medium-low heat. Add in the honey and cocoa butter and stir until melted.
  • Combine honey and cocoa butter with cacao powder and vanilla extract. Be very careful not to get any water in the mixture at this point or else it can make your chocolate grainy. Taste and adjust to your liking by adding more honey or more cacao.
  • Pour a thin layer of chocolate into the bottom of a silicone chocolate mold (like this one)*. Spoon in a layer of the nut butter. Then top off again with another layer of chocolate. Cover the mold with parchment paper and refrigerate until set.
  • Pop out of the molds and store in refrigerator. Consume within 7 days for best taste and texture (but I bet they won’t last that long!).

*Note: if you don’t have a chocolate mold and don’t want to buy one, just linea glass dish or rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and pour half the chocolate on top. Then, top with the hazelnut butter, and then the other half of the chocolate. Swirl with a knife. Once it has hardened a bit in the refrigerator, cut into pieces and peel off parchment paper. I usually have a bit of chocolate and hazelnut butter left over, anyway, and this is how I avoid waste!

Salmon Fillets and Hazelnuts in Lemon Dill Mayonnaise

Confession: I got the inspiration for this recipe on the back of a package of frozen wild-caught salmon fillets from Costco. I ended up changing it pretty substantially (the original called for fat-free mayonnaise!?) but I think it turned out pretty delish. It also looks kind of fancy. This was so simple to make–it was only about 10 minutes of active time in the kitchen for both the fish and the veggies–but it was tasty and pretty enough that I would not hesitate to serve it to guests.

Cooking fish in mayo sounds kind of weird, but it yields a really moist and flavorful dish. Seriously. Try it.

Snuggle your salmon fillets into a parchment-paper lined roasting pan. These look kind of frozen but really they were pretty much thawed.p1000649

Pour over the mayo and then sprinkle the hazelnuts and lemon zest on top.p1000650

The end! Serve on top of veggies of choice.p1000651p1000652

Salmon Fillets and Hazelnuts in Lemon Dill Mayonnaise Ingredients (Serves 2-4, depending on serving of salmon)

  • 2 fresh salmon fillets
  • 1/3 cup raw chopped hazelnuts
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup avocado oil (or other light-tasting oil like grapeseed, coconut, or non-virgin olive oil or some combination of the above)
  • 1 egg*
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place salmon fillets in casserole dish lined with parchment paper.
  • Add egg, dijon mustard, and lemon juice to food processor. Process until combined. Pour in the 1 cup oil, drop by drop, until the mixture emulsifies.
  • Add dill, salt, and pepper to food processor and pulse several times, until combined.
  • Pour half the mayonnaise over the salmon fillets. Top with hazelnuts and lemon zest. Bake about 30 minutes, until thermometer reads at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Save the other half of the mayo for whatever you like later in the week–it would be great mixed with some canned tuna, onions, and hard-boiled eggs for a quick tuna salad.
  • Serve salmon over veggies of choice (pictured here with roasted asparagus tossed with just a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper). If you like, you can spoon a bit of the baked mayo juices over the veggies for even more flavor.

*Again, exercise caution when using raw eggs. I use these and recommend them to anyone serving young kids, pregnant women, the elderly, or people who may have a compromised immune system. Or, look into pasteurizing your own eggs at home. In this dish it’s not a big deal because the eggs in the mayonnaise will get cooked, but if you plan on serving the leftover mayo raw please be careful. There are a lot of sources arguing that raw eggs (especially from pastured chickens) represent only a very tiny risk salmonella risk, but it’s a risk I’d rather not take since I can so easily avoid it.

Meatloaf Stuffed Bell Peppers

Is it weird that this is my second meatloaf recipe to post already?

Meatloaf is just so comforting and homey and hard to screw up too badly. Plus I had found a gigantic bag of beautiful bell peppers in Costco, that once again I couldn’t pass up, and stuffing them with meat was an obvious way to use up a bunch of them. The filling is a pretty traditional meatloaf, which cooks a little faster in the bell pepper shells since it is smaller than a whole loaf. Plus you get a little boost of nutrition from the bell peppers and the generous addition of sweet and tangy tomato sauce.

The ingredient list is pretty long, but it’s mostly a lot of spices and, honestly, you probably have most of this stuff in your kitchen right now.

Prep your ingredients.p1000639

This is what the cleaned and halved bell peppers should look like.p1000640

Stuff your peppers.p1000643

On goes the tomato sauce.p1000645

We ate ours with a little spoonful of kefir cheese on top, but this is totally optional!p1000647p1000648

Bell Pepper Meatloaf Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

  • 3-4 bell peppers, any color, halved and cleaned of pith and seeds
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese (sharp is better, so parmesan or sharp cheddar would be good options)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • extra shredded cheese, kefir cheese, or creme fraiche (optional)

Tomato Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 cups tomato sauce or reduced tomato juice (use the tomato juice to be 100% SCD legal)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Bring a pot of salted water to boil and blanch bell peppers for five minutes. Place blanched peppers in a roasting pan, hollow side facing up.
  • Combine all other meatloaf ingredients in a bowl and mix until just blended. Divide the mixture between the bell pepper halves and stuff, pressing down just enough to hold the meatloaf mixture together.
  • Combine all tomato sauce ingredients in a bowl and pour over and between the stuffed bell peppers.
  • Bake uncovered for 50 minutes, until a thermometer reads 160 degrees in the thickest part of the little meatloaves.
  • If desired, top with more shredded cheese in the last ten minutes of baking; or, top with a spoonful of cultured creme fraiche or kefir cheese (as I did) after removing peppers from oven.

Quick Salmon Cakes

I don’t talk to that many people about my diet in real life, because let’s face it, people that go on and on about their dietary restrictions can be boring. But, when I do find someone who is interested and I explain what I should and should not eat, the reaction I usually get is something along the lines of, well…what do you eat?? This question is usually followed with isn’t that expensive? and how do you find the time!? 

I am so grateful that, prior to being diagnosed with Crohn’s, my husband and I had experimented with the Paleo diet and the even more restrictive Whole30. We had done that to lose weight (ha…ha…becoming less and less of a problem every day…!) and it worked well for us. It also forced me to learn how to cook meats (I was previously mostly vegetarian), how to make a lot of new things from scratch, and how to get creative with substitutions. These diets prepared both our palates and skill sets for SCD. The biggest problem I had with Whole30 cooking–and with the SCD–is the amount of time required to prepare for and make meals. It can also be expensive.

I will write more in response to the usual questions in another entry, but one big way we have coped with the challenges posed by preparing SCD legal meals is by becoming super organized about our shopping and meal planning. I can tell you, always, exactly what meals we are going to have between now and my next planned grocery shopping trip. I think ahead by a couple of days so I know if I need to get started on a new batch of almond milk or bone broth. I always make enough of everything so that we have leftovers to take for lunch. We make breakfast for dinner a lot. And I have an arsenal of a few tried and true recipes that are very quick to make in a pinch, and that rely on ingredients that are inexpensive, healthy, and that I will always have on hand–the kind of recipes you can talk yourself into making even when you are getting home late and exhausted and running low on groceries. This is one of those recipes.

Here are all the ingredients you will need.P1000504

Start by finely dicing the onion and cooking in butter over low heat until soft. Let cool slightly. Then place in a bowl and add in all other ingredients. Mix well.P1000505

Use your hands to press the mixture into 6-8 patties. You may notice that the canned salmon has some tiny bones and skin in it. I try to pick out the bones but most cans say that they are edible, and in fact, they do seem soft enough that you won’t notice them once the salmon is cooked. Kind of freaky but…eh…just try not to think about it.P1000508

Heat up cooking oil in pan to medium heat and gently slide in patties. Cook fora few minutes on each side, until golden brown.P1000509

Serve with roasted vegetables (I served with my Mediterranean Roasted Veggies) or salad greens. I had some leftover Everyday Paleo Garlic Basil Mayo so I added a dollop of that to the eat with the patties and veggies. Tzatziki would also be nice. P1000510

Easy peasy!

Quick Salmon Cakes Ingredients

  • 1 14.75 ounce can wild-caught salmon (it should only list fish, water, and possibly sea salt as ingredients. Whole Foods’ 365 store brand works well), drained and flaked
  • 1/4 cup blanched almond flour or almond meal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or other cooking oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon dried ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Method

  • Heat butter over low heat and add diced onions. Cook on low heat until soft. Let cool slightly.
  • Combine onions with all other ingredients except for cooking oil into bowl. Mix well with hands and shape into 6-8 patties. Try to squeeze out extra moisture as much as possible.
  • Heat cooking oil over medium heat and slide patties into pan. Cook for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown.
  • Serve with roasted veggies (pictured here are my Mediterranean Roasted Veggies) or salad greens, and your favorite creamy salad dressing or dip if desired.

Portabella Beef Stacks with Garlic Basil Mayonnaise and Wilted Spinach

We went to Costco last weekend with Chris’s mom and sister and we discovered the biggest mushrooms in the world. I had not planned on cooking with mushroom caps, but we couldn’t pass these up.

Is it portobello, portobella, portabello, or portabella? Nobody knows! I looked it up and they are all acceptable variants, but “The Mushroom Council” goes with the double a spelling, so I will, too. I wouldn’t want to cross The Mushroom Council.

Anyway, I think the nutritional value of mushrooms is underappreciated. They are an excellent source of selenium and a very good source of most B vitamins. They contain substances that balance the immune system. That is, they don’t just rev up the immune system, which is bad for people with autoimmune disorders who already have an out-of-control immune system; they actually alter the way the immune system works to encourage appropriate and balanced immune response. They also block production of pro-inflammatory molecules, which can help reduce or prevent chronic inflammation. Double bonus for us!

In addition to all this, mushrooms are a culinary delight. They are simple to cook and they develop a wonderful meaty texture and earthy flavor. While they pack a big punch, they are really low in calories. We are talking around 30 calories for an entire mushroom cap, which can make mushrooms a great choice for people who are actively trying to lose weight.

When we got home with our Costco haul I went to work figuring out how best to use our mushroom treasures, and this is what I invented, loosely inspired by Everyday Paleo’s Basil Pork Burgers, which we have made and loved many times.

Prep your veggie ingredients.p1000599

Start with the mayo so you can have it prepped and can keep it refrigerated until ready to serve. I learned to make homemade mayo thanks to Everyday Paleo. Here is her demo. Her basic mayo recipe has never failed me and is one of very few recipes I know by heart! Here I take her basic mayo recipe (already mixed up in the bottom of the food processor) and add in seasoning and fresh basil and garlic. p1000602

Now on to the mushrooms. See what I mean? Biggest. Mushrooms. Ever.p1000596

This is what they should look like cleaned out. You can still see a little texture where the gills were but most of them have been scooped out.p1000597

Here they are ready to go into the oven.p1000598

While they are baking, get your beef patties on the stove.p1000606

And your wilted spinach.p1000605

When the beef, spinach, and mushrooms are all done cooking, assemble!p1000607

Then pull your mayo out of the fridge and add a generous dollop. Devour. This is SCD legal food that is guaranteed to make you totally forget you are “on a diet.” p1000608

Portabella Beef Stack Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 4 portabella mushroom caps, woody stems and gills removed
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/3 cup fresh chopped basil
  • olive oil

Wilted Spinach Ingredients

  • 5 ounces raw baby spinach
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon scd-legal balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Garlic Basil Mayonnaise Ingredients

  • 1 egg*
  • 1 cup avocado oil (or other mild-tasting oil such as not extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, or a blend of these)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced**
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Method

Garlic Basil Mayo

  • Put the egg, lemon juice, and mustard in a blender or food processor. Blend until combined.
  • Add the oil, drop by drop. It will take some time but eventually the mixture will emulsify and thicken. Once it does, turn the food processor or blender off. You don’t want to overprocess.
  • Add the basil, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper. Blend again just until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Portabella Beef Stacks

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Drizzle a bit of olive oil over each mushroom cap, rub it all over both sides with your hands, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Place mushroom caps on a rimmed baking sheet (because they will release a lot of liquid as they cook) and bake for 20-30 minutes depending on size, flipping once.
  • While the mushrooms are baking, combine all remaining ingredients in a bowl. Mix well and shape into 4 patties. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and sear on both sides, until a thermometer inserted at the thickest point reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit, or until the beef is cooked to your liking.

Wilted Spinach

  • Heat pan until very hot. Add bacon and cook on both sides until crispy and browned. Remove bacon, tear or crumble it into pieces, and set aside.
  • Turn heat to medium and add diced onions. Cook until soft.
  • Add baby spinach and chicken stock. Toss a few times until just wilted and remove from heat. Add balsamic vinegar.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt and pepper until it is seasoned to your liking.

To assemble, place a serving of spinach on each plate. Top with a mushroom cap (hollow part facing upward) and a beef patty. Add a generous dollop of homemade mayo on top, or get fancy and drizzle it across the whole dish.

*I have been eating raw eggs my whole life and have never gotten sick from them. Food poisoning can be especially dangerous for people with IBD, however, so I have recently switched to using pasteurized eggs if I am planning on eating eggs raw or undercooked. If you are serving this mayo to anyone with a compromised immune system, pregnant women, young children, or the elderly, you should really make an effort to acquire pasteurized whole eggs (they sell them at every Sprouts in my area) or look into pasteurizing your own eggs at home, because salmonella can be quite dangerous for these people.

**Combining oil and garlic or fresh herbs can present a real risk for botulism. Plain homemade mayo (without garlic or herbs) can keep for about a week if it is sealed and refrigerated, but once you add garlic and herbs you need to be extra careful about refrigeration and use or discard within 2-3 days. See this article for additional safety tips.

Dairy Free Peachy Mint Ice Cream

Ok, you guys, I know what I’m eating for the rest of the summer.

In the rest of the northern hemisphere, it might be a season called “spring” right now. But in the desert, we have moved right on to summer. I already feel like just skipping meals altogether and only consuming cold beverages and smoothies until October. But my biggest illegal craving has been ice cream, frozen yogurt, gelato…I’m dying for it, but I know how much I will regret indulging afterwards. So, I’ve come up with a sweet and refreshing frozen treat that is based mostly off of actual frozen fruit. I mean, I’m not going to lie; it’s not my old favorite Karamel Sutra (sigh) but it also doesn’t leave me feeling like I’m going to die every time I eat it.

First blend up the cream with the mint and honey. Once you add the fruit you really don’t want to over-process because the food processor motor will heat up and melt it.cam00059_2

Add peaches.cam00060_2

Done! Seriously, how easy was that!?cam00062_2

Dairy Free Peachy Mint Ice Cream (Serves 2, or 1 on a bad day…)

  • 1/2 cup cold coconut cream
  • 1 cup frozen peaches (technically, any frozen fruit will do, and I can imagine strawberries or mango being realllly good for example, but this Texas girl has a thing for peach ice cream)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon honey, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method

  • Combine coconut cream, mint, honey, and vanilla in food processor and process until the mint is well incorporated.
  • Add the frozen peaches and process until smooth.
  • Eat immediately; or, if you want it a little more solid, pop it into the freezer for about 30 minutes. If you freeze it much longer than that, you might need to let it thaw slightly and then re-blend it a little to make it creamy rather than icy. Garnish with extra mint if desired

Smoked Salmon Pizza on Herbed Flatbread Crust

You may have noticed that blanched almond flour has changed my life. You can put that stuff in a food processor with a little butter and a little liquid, maybe an egg, spices or herbs or honey or whatever you like, and you have a pie crust or a pizza crust or a pot pie topping or whatever floats your boat in no time.

How did I not know about almond flour before??

There was a time when Chris and I would order pizza like once a week, and spend all day having a Lost marathon. Those days are over, for a lot of reasons, one of which is that we killed Lost (sigh). But, we still end up having some variation of “pizza” almost every week. Now our pizza is usually grain-free and homemade, but it still seems like a treat every time. Plus, we have complete control over the ingredients and can come up with all kinds of new variations. Usually we use some kind of pesto or traditional red sauce, veggies, and meat, but this week I had some smoked salmon that we needed to use (long story involving a recipe that I thought sounded good but Chris vetoed…) so we got creative with our pizza night. The result was an herby cream cheese and lox inspired dinner!

Start by combining all crust ingredients in a food processor.p1000575

This is what the processed dough will look like.p1000576

Shape into a ball and sandwich between two sheets of parchment paper.p1000577

Shape into a flat roundish disc that will fit on a cookie sheet or pizza stone.p1000578

While that’s baking a bit prepare your toppings.p1000579

This is what the crust will look like coming out of the oven the first time.p1000580

Top with cheese mixture, salmon, capers, and chives, and place parchment paper directly on wire rack in oven.p1000581

It’s done when the edges of the crust are browning.p1000582

Gently slice and serve.p1000586

Crust Ingredients (Serves 4) *

  • 2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Topping Ingredients

  • 6-8 ounces smoked salmon, sliced
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (any white cheese that melts well will do; I used a combination of raw white cheddar and swiss)
  • 3 cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 1/2 cup plain strained yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons capers, choppped

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Combine all crust ingredients win a food processor fitted with the dough blade and process until a dough forms.
  • Turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper. Top with another piece of parchment paper. Using your hands and a rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is very thin–no thicker than 1/4 inch. Gently peel off the top sheet of parchment paper and place on pizza stone or cookie sheet.
  • Bake crust for 12 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare your toppings. Mix yogurt, cheese, garlic, and dill together.
  • When crust is done, remove and turn up over to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Drop yogurt mixture on crust in little dollops. Spread very gently. The crust is very fragile and if you try to plop the whole mixture in the middle and spread it over the whole crust you will destroy it. Trust me, it happened to me.
  • Add smoked salmon, capers, and chives.
  • Slide the crust back into the oven on only the sheet of parchment paper. That is, the parchment paper should be sitting directly on the oven rack with the pizza on top.
  • Bake for another 5-10 minutes, until edges of crust are beginning to brown. Slice and serve!

*Note: I think this crust is really nice–it is flaky and flavorful, but it is not really sturdy enough to pick up and eat like traditional pizza. Treat it gently and plan on eating with a fork, and don’t fret if it crumbles a little here and there–it will still taste good!

One Dish Italian Baked Eggs

Chris and I are in the middle of having pretty much our whole house painted and recarpeted. We are very excited to finally be able to make this happen, because our house (which had previously been through 2 foreclosures) needed some serious TLC.

This means that we have been banished from most of the house, though. While we can get into the kitchen, there are little piles of things sitting everywhere. There are pictures from the entryway walls on the island, painters’ toolboxes on the breakfast table chairs, and couches cuddling the dining room table. Since we’ve had to have the doors and windows open to air out paint fumes, our kitchen has also become a fly’s paradise. As you can imagine, this has put a serious damper on our culinary adventures. Still, a girl’s gotta eat!

It would be so easy to pick up sandwiches or pho (and, who am I kidding, it might still reach that point before this is all over), but so far we have successfully been holding on to our diet by scaling back to bare basics. This is one of the dishes that has been getting us through this week. It is super easy to make and clean up, and Chris was a little upset that there wasn’t enough for seconds, which means it is tasty. This is also one of the few ways I can tolerate cooked spinach, which I typically hate, but my GI doc really stressed the importance of cooked leafy greens now that salads are (hopefully temporarily) out of my life. Everyone knows spinach is healthy, but it has special benefits for IBD patients because it is high in iron and folate–both of which are common deficiencies with IBD–and it also is a good source of calcium, which is important because many people with IBD cannot digest dairy. Spinach also contains glycoglycerolipids, which are protective against the damage from inflammation in the digestive tract and cancer.

So, ok, fine, I’ll eat spinach as long as it is mixed in with lots of mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and sausage. This is easy and quick enough to make for a super healthy weekend breakfast, but it’s hearty enough to be good for dinner as well.

Good ratio of yummy veggies to yucky spinach.p1000564

Chicken sausage, onions, and garlic cooking over high heat.p1000565

Then add in your mushrooms and tomatoes.p1000567

Then your spinach. p1000569

Make wells and crack eggs into the pan. Pop in the oven.p1000570

Voila. Our egg yolks are cooked pretty solid because we take leftovers for lunch (and half-cooked eggs don’t keep so well) but feel free to cook a little less time if your like your yolks runny.p1000571

Mmm mmm mmm. I can even forgive the spinach!p1000573

One Dish Italian Baked Eggs Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 3-4 tomatoes, cut into large dice
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 8 ounces whole mushrooms
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 2 links chicken or pork sausage (with only SCD legal ingredients; or, substitute 1/2 pound plain ground meat of your choice and add in extra basil, oregano, fennel, salt, and pepper)
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or equivalent of basil, oregano, and fennel)
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chives or other fresh herbs (optional)

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Melt butter in oven-safe pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add chicken sausage and stir for about one minute.
  • Add onion and garlic and saute for 2-3 more minutes.
  • Add in mushrooms and tomatoes. Continue sauteing until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are very soft and have released most of their liquid.
  • Add Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Stir. Taste and adjust seasoning. It is ok if it tastes just slightly overseasoned right now because you still have to add in the spinach and eggs.
  • Remove pan from heat and stir in baby spinach to wilt. Make a well in the pan for each egg and gently crack into the pan.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes, or until egg yolks are done to your liking. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve!