Trail Mixes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have a sweet tooth that won’t quit, but not many ways to easily satisfy it and still stay within the bounds of acceptable FODMAP intake. I’m especially partial to chocolate, but the stuff I can eat is dark and somewhat bitter, because I can neither have dairy nor soy lecithin. I devised these simple sweet and salty trail mixes to help satisfy these cravings in a somewhat healthier, more satisfying way. The important thing to remember is these ingredients still need to be consumed in small quantities, but they go over a lot better than say a candy bar or soda packed with high fructose corn syrup. You can also pour it in a jar, shake it up and voila, you have a sweet tooth snack for a couple of weeks. The formula is simple:

Trail Mix

  • 12 ounces nuts
  • 6 ounces dried fruit
  • 3 ounces dairy free chocolate chips, such as simple truth or enjoy life
  • 1 ounce unsweetened flake coconut

There are several options you can choose from depending on your tolerance, allergies and tastes. I’m partial to walnuts and raisins in this combo, as it reminds me of Derby pie. Peanuts and raisins alone are a little reminiscent of peanut butter and jelly. Mix in some roasted almonds and you get the almond joy vibe. Add cranberries to any mix for a pleasant little tang. You can even add in some pretzels or a little cereal if this fits your dietary allowance. I haven’t ventured much beyond raisins and cranberries, as dried fruits can have a pretty high sugar content and many of the fruits that are commonly dried either contain too many polyols for me or I’m flat out allergic, but if you aren’t so sensitive to polyols, there are plenty of options out there. Just remember to keep your fruit total low and your portion size sensible.

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Mast Cell Hell

pollen-death-star-anyquestionsp-2640074I’m beyond aggravated with this whole mast cell situation. Just yesterday I began to feel better for the first time in two weeks, but as soon as I left my house this morning, I got triggered all over again. I can’t even go for my pelvic floor therapy without getting triggered. I walked through the doors and the whole place reeked of bleach. Then I sat down in the outpatient therapy room and had to leave because two different women smelled like they bathed in their perfume. I was a headachy, snotty mess by the time my therapist called me back. I told her if I don’t get my masks in by next week, I may not come, but she showed me a tiny waiting room I can go to that no one ever uses where I can wait for her next time, in case they aren’t in by our next appointment. Given the bleach situation, I don’t feel completely comfortable with that, so I hope my masks come in time. I really don’t want to set myself back in my therapy.

What really sucks is that it’s interfering with my progress in several areas. I was just getting back on my feet after trying to drive with Uber, so I was just getting back to where I was with exercising and rebuilding my muscle. I was also just starting to make strong strides with the pelvic floor exercises and it’s still going well, but both my therapist and I can tell it made me weaker and it was slowing my progress and ability to do as much.

Another major bummer is that when my histamine load gets really high, it begins affecting my bladder and I start having accidents. When this happened last week, I completely freaked out until I put 2 and 2 together. Histamines get expressed through our urine and histamine overload causes bladder burning and pain and can cause incontinence when it’s bad enough. This confirms for me that pelvic floor dysfunction wasn’t my only problem in this department. Part of me was really hoping I was wrong about having mast cell, but it’s becoming more and more undeniable.

At least this prompted me to put in a call to the local mast cell/allergy specialist, something I’ve been waiting to do for way too long because I kept thinking seeing other specialists were more important. Now I’m thinking that since I didn’t really understand how MCAS works that I really have no idea just how much it might be contributing to keeping me down and if I have more help and medication support for the real allergies I have, I might get somewhere. I spent a good deal of time reading about some of the medications and things I can use that might help. Many of them I already take, but there are still some to explore. This seems like a pretty good site for this kind of info, in case you’re interested.

So I guess I’m going to be wearing masks out until I can get this all in check again, which may not be until next winter. I’m beyond tired of being exhausted, dealing with constant subluxations and dislocations, headaches, breathing problems and so on. I’m nervous about it. I hate using my wheelchair and braces and cane and anything else that makes me stand out and I don’t like the way people treat me when I do. I can only imagine how they’ll react to me wearing a fucking mask. I don’t know if I’d be better off decorating them and making them my own or leaving them as plain as possible so they better blend in with my face. I’m also claustrophobic, so I’m not crazy about having things on my face in the first place.  If anyone has any advice on pulling this shit off with dignity, I’ll take it, lol.

 

Grandma’s Potato Salad

This potato salad is unlike any other potato salad I have ever tasted before and it’s always been a big hit with any crowd, so it’s often my go to picnic/barbecue/pot luck recipe. According to my Great Grandmother Petty, it’s a recipe that came from the Schreiber side of the family, so she always assumed it was German. I’ve had to modify it only slightly, replacing diced yellow onion with the dark green parts of scallions, which should only be added when serving, as they don’ t have a very long shelf life and look a whole lot prettier that way, anyway.

Like most recipes in my family that have been passed down from one generation to the next, I don’t know that this recipe has ever actually been written down. There were no measurements to go by. Instead, my mother and grandmother always just added what looked right to them, stirred, tasted and adjusted as needed. This usually yielded great results, though I have to admit as my mother aged and her lupus and undiagnosed EDS began to take their cognitive toll, we came to fear dinner invitations a bit. As my sisters and brother never learned her recipes and she’s gone now, I am the sole owner of this family knowledge, which makes me sad, as I have no children of my own for whom I can pass this knowledge. So instead, I pass it on to you, with properly assigned measurements. I hope it brings your family as much joy as it’s always brought me and mine.

Grandma’s Potato Salad

  • 4 large or 6 medium Russet Potatoes
  • 3 eggs, hard boiled and diced
  • 1/3 cup dill pickle chips, diced
  • 8 slices hardwood smoked bacon
  • 2-2 1/2 cups low FODMAP mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons bacon grease
  • 1/2 teaspoon Celery Seed
  • 1 teaspoon Parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
  • 2-3 scallions (dark parts only), diced

One day to 8 hours before making, boil potatoes whole in a large stock pot over medium-high to high heat. DO NOT remove the skins. Potatoes are cooked through when a fork slides through the middle easily. Drain and allow to cool before refrigerating at least 4 hours. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until well browned on both sides. Remove and set on paper towels to drain. Reserve 3 tablespoons of bacon grease.

Peel cold potatoes, removing eyes and bad spots. Cut into 1-1 1/2 ” pieces. Place cut potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Pour reserved bacon fat over potatoes and crumble bacon on top. Add remaining ingredients, except scallions. Using a large, sturdy spoon, stir until all ingredients are well distributed throughout your potatoes. Best if covered and refrigerated overnight. Sprinkle with scallions before serving.

Mast Cell Manic

A flare has me pretty disenchanted with the world right now. It also has me wondering if mast cell activation syndrome is the key to what keeps me in this strange cycle of never being able to sustain any sort of stability for very long. When you have an immediate, notable reaction to something that kicks off weeks of symptoms like I’ve been going through, it’s pretty hard to deny the direct link.

The irony is that I triggered a mast cell attack trying to address a different trigger. I noticed a little mold growing around my stabilization bar in the shower and I knew we’d run out of mold killer, so I picked up a gallon at Lowe’s and sat it in the floor of the back seat on my way to the grocery store. Well, it tipped over and I guess the lid wasn’t on very tight, so it began to leak. By the time I came out of the grocery store with a full week of groceries, my car was completely filled with the smell of bleach, which happens to be a very strong trigger for me going back to my childhood.

a4400ff49eef894a870a654c7c54f673By the time I got home, I had a terrible headache and felt nauseated and confused. My lungs and sinuses burn and I’m coughing and congested. Things have snowballed into heavy fatigue and other signs of inflammation, including an overnight gain of 6 lbs. A couple days after exposure, I lost control of my bladder 3 times in 2 days, a very strong sign that I have an overabundance of histamines. Then the subluxations and dislocations hit because the inflammation always affects my joints. For three days, my left collarbone refused to stay in place.  One of my lumbar vertebrae popped out for 24 hours, and both ankles collapsed.

To make matters worse, about 5 days in, I dragged myself to pelvic floor therapy hoping it would be the kick in the pants I needed, only to be confronted with a mop and bucket, the smell of bleach filling the wet hallways. This kicked things into overdrive, at least doubling the amount of time I was affected by all this. I could have just died when I walked in there and smelled that smell.

Now it’s been almost two weeks and I’m still struggling and trying to identify things around my house that might be contributing to my histamine load because I can’t seem to stop coughing or kick the fatigue. I can get the inflammation down superficially for a day or two by taking a toradol shot, but it just shoots right back up. I still can’t seem to get any real energy up and everything hurts. Even doing my pelvic floor therapy is a challenge. I have therapy again in two days, but I’m wary of leaving my house and keeping the cycle going.

To this point, I’ve avoided trying the histamine diet because I’ve had a nice long streak of doing well and haven’t had any noticeable changes in symptoms when I eat some of the things that are listed on the histamine diet. I mean, I try to avoid big triggers like bleu cheese, jalapenos and alcohol (both for POTS and MCAS), but I’ve tested tomatoes and have never seen any correlation in symptoms with them like I do when I indulge in a glass of wine. Generally speaking, I’d say that’s probably fine as it works for me, but I wonder if during a flare I shouldn’t be more careful, trying to get myself back under that magic number until I can get stabilized. I’m really still learning about mast cell and how all this craziness works. I don’t even have a diagnosis, though it’s pretty clear how much these things trigger me.

I guess if anything, this experience has caused me to reexamine the historical patterns of these unpredictable cycles and makes me realize that getting a diagnosis and some help with these problems is really going to be key for me ever finding any kind of stability in my condition, if that’s even possible. There are drugs to try that might help and if I want stability they are probably my best chance.  I’m already on zyrtec, zantac, flonase, and singulair. I also take benedryl whenever necessary, and used to have an over the counter inhaler, but can’t find one of those anymore. What I probably need is a mast cell stabilizer like cromolyn.

I’ve been putting it off forever because in part, it’s like getting autonomic testing. They make you come off all the drugs and everything that’s protecting you from all the triggers and symptoms, so they can test you for it and it’s a huge disruption to your life and what precious wellness you’ve managed to make for yourself and there’s no guarantee that they’re going to capture you in the proper state even when you do. And even if everything goes as planned and they do get the results necessary to treat you, it just doesn’t seem like there’s that much they can do to help other than give you a drug or two to try, or throw you in a mask and say, “Yep, this is your life. Good luck living it functionally.”

Maybe that’s the decades of rejection and hopelessness talking. I hope it is. But it does often appear that way as a rare disease spoonie. Diagnoses feel good because they’re validating, but they so rarely ever lead to any significant improvements that it becomes disheartening to continue to pursue them, especially in the face of white coat syndrome, which is getting a little better since I switched to the University system hospital, but still something I have to battle through every time I walk through the doors of a medical office.

I suppose if, NO, WHEN I go through testing, I will simply have to open up that bottle of mold cleaner and take a huge whiff and then I know I will definitely get the reading intended. Of course, if I do that without all my meds, I could possibly have a real anaphylactic reaction and kill myself, but at least I would have an answer, lol. Maybe I should stick with something slightly less lethal, like 15 minutes in the sun. LOL. Allergen Roulette, anyone?

Roasted Tomatoes w/ Bleu Cheese

Roasting tomatoes really brings out their rich sweetness. Add a few herbs and a little bleu cheese and moderately boring plum tomatoes become culinary bombshells of flavor. Since tomatoes and bleu cheese are both naturally low in FODMAPs, it’s also a win-win for FODMAPers.

These tomatoes make a great appetizer, are a wonderful topper for sandwiches or burgers, and work well as a side dish. I like to fix a bunch and store them in the refrigerator for a few days to use as part of breakfast or lunch, as they’re just as good cold as they are hot.

If you can’t do bleu cheese, try adding some asiago or gruyer a few minutes before taking them from the oven. With my MCAS, I had to give up the stinky cheeses because I react too much to mold, but there are many strong, well-aged cheeses that will do nicely in this recipe.

Roasted Tomatoes w/ Bleu Cheese

  • 10-12 Roma Tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh ground pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 4 ounces crumbled bleu cheese

Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise and remove any seeds. Place tomatoes cut side down on a tray and allow to drain for 15 minutes.

Place over rack in lowest position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oil and spices. Add tomatoes and toss to coat. Arrange tomatoes on a cookie sheet cut side up, side by side. Bake on lowest rack 30-40 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and browned on the edges.

Transfer to a platter and top with bleu cheese before serving.

Prep time: 20 mins

Cook time: 40 mins

Serves: 8-10

Chicken Monterey

This is a long beloved dish that I stole from another restaurant (surprise, surprise) when they took it off the menu. Bob Evans served Chicken Monterey back when I was a struggling college student working for them for tips back in 1996 and I loved the combination of gooey Monterey jack cheese with bacon, fresh diced tomatoes and green onion. Best of all, I didn’t even have to modify it for my low FODMAP diet, because it comes that way naturally. You just have to make sure to choose a Monterey jack with 1% or less carbohydrate content per serving to ensure its low enough in lactose and use only the dark green parts of the scallions.

Chicken Monterey

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 Chicken Breasts or Cutlets, 4-6 ounces each
  • 4 ounces Monterey jack cheese, sliced
  • 8 slices fully cooked Applwood Smoked Bacon
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 green onions (scallions, dark green part only), diced
  • Salt and Pepper

Pre-heat skillet over medium -high heat. Add oil. Salt and pepper Chicken. Reduce heat to medium and add chicken. Sautee chicken breasts 8-10 minutes per side, until cooked through. Top with Monterey jack and cover to melt, 1-2 minutes. Plate chicken and top with 2 bacon slices each. Sprinkle with diced tomato and onion. Serve hot.

Prep time: 10 mins

Cook time 15-20 mins

Serves: 4

Low FODMAP Taco Seasoning Mix

This is another very simple thing to make; especially if you already have some of my Low FODMAP Chili Powder on hand. It replaces the seasoning packets we’re all used to, without all the high FODMAP ingredients. Add it to some ground beef, pork or chicken and you have some traditional seasoned taco meat all ready to go for your favorite tacos! Looking for something a little less conventional? Try my Chipotle Pork Tacos instead!

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Low FODMAP Taco Seasoning Mix

  • 2 tablespoons low FODMAP Chili Powder
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Pinch of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Combine ingredients. Add to 1 lb browned meat with a ½ cup of water and simmer on medium-low until thickened.

Low FODMAP Barbecue Sauce

I confess, I’ve been dreading writing up this recipe, but with grilling season almost upon us, I knew I needed to get it out. I’ve made my own barbeque for years, but like most, I used ketchup as a base. Since most ketchups have high FODMAP ingredients, I wanted to learn to make it from pure tomato sauce. I’m also one of those people who cook more by intuition than by the measuring spoon, so it’s sometimes difficult for me to assign absolutes to the amount of ingredients I use, especially when it comes to sauces. I add a little of this and a little of that and then make adjustments until I’m happy with the flavor. Of course you can’t really teach someone else to cook this way. I suspect it’s a skill you either come with or develop over a long period of cooking, but some never quite get there. I suspect this is the case with my husband, who like his son is probably somewhere on the Autism spectrum and I drive absolutely bug batty with my shrugs and answers that tend to sound like questions about how much of something to use.

So I had to set aside this method and get out the measuring spoons to attempt to make a recipe that can be easily replicated. This sauce isn’t quite the same sauce I’ve always made, but it’s darn close. It was a lot harder to start from a tomato sauce base than a ketchup base than I thought it would be. It’s your typical sweet and spicy type barbeque sauce. It’s fairly mild with only 1 Tablespoon of my Low FODMAP Chili Powder, so if you like some real heat, go for 1 ½ tablespoons.

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Low FODMAP Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1-1 ½ tablespoons Low FODMAP Chili Powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

In a small sauce pan, combine ingredients and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes. If sauce is thicker than you prefer, add some water to thin out. Let cool. Transfer to a jar or condiment bottle and store in the refrigerator.

Pot Roast Poutine for Two

This FODMAP approved recipe is easy to make with leftovers from my Beef Pot Roast in Red Wine Sauce. No, it’s not traditional poutine and yes, but all may be forgiven once you taste the pure gravy bliss. It provides more protein than traditional poutine and none of the high FODMAP ingredients likely to upset spoonie tummies. Best of all, it’s really easy, so you won’t get worn out cooking.

If you have the energy, you could make your own fries. It’s really up to you how much time you want to invest and I’m sure it would be heaven over fresh cut fries, but I like to save this recipe for a limited spoons kind of day, so I generally use organic frozen fries and still tastes divine.

To make it low FODMAP, I excluded high fructans such as garlic and yellow onion, opting instead for the safe, dark green part of the scallion. You also want to take care with your cheese selection. If you use cheddar cheese curds, they’re probably okay, but beware of softer whey cheeses such as farmers, ricotta, and cream cheeses. The easiest way is to check the carbohydrate content on the back:

If you have a hard time finding cheese curds (I found these at the Kroger deli section for 99 cents), then try crumbling some white cheddar cheese in bar form. It works out great and gives it tgat authentic look of curds.

It’s important to note that you can’t just make the red wine sauce and pour it on the fries without it having first cooked with the pot roast. It’s an important step and tastes a good deal different without the juices of the pot roast included. However, you could add 1 cup low FODMAP beef stock to it, let it simmer down and you’ll probably get something close, but this is just a theory.

Pot Roast Poutine for Two

  • 8 ounces frozen organic French fries
  • 6 ounces fully cooked pot roast
  • 1 ½-2 cups Red Wine Sauce
  • 2 ounces cheese curds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped scallions (dark green parts only)

Cook fries according to package directions while you prep meat, cheese and gravy.

In a small saucepan over medium low, reheat the red wine sauce, whisking until smooth and allowing it to simmer if it needs to thicken. Stir occasionally. Be careful not to thicken it too much, but if you do, simply add a little water and whisk until smooth.

Cut pot roast into bite sized chunks and place in a microwave safe dish. Cover in plastic.

When fries are ready, microwave beef covered in plastic for 1 min to 1 min 30 secs while arranging fries on individual plates. Top with beef and cover with gravy. Sprinkle with cheese curds and scallions. Serve hot.

Serves: 2

Prep time: 20 minutes

Chipotle Pork Tacos

I love the smokey hot flavor of chipotle peppers, especially with pork. This recipe gives you that wonderful flavor with just the right amount of heat to make for a flavorful, but not too hot chipotle taco. When I realized that I could no longer use whole chipotles in adobo sauce (you can’t find them without onion), I nearly cried. That is until I discovered McCormack carries Chipotle chili powder. My old recipe needed a lot of adapting, but it turned out to be really simple.  Now, I can still have that wonderful flavor without the GI upset. Using a whole tenderloin creates a lot of pork, but to me, that’s a good thing, because I can freeze the leftovers in meal sized portions and then have several quick and easy meals to rely on later.

If you’re looking for a more affordable cut, or prefer your pork with a little more fat, you could also use a pork shoulder roast for this recipe, instead.

Chipotle Pork Tacos

  • 3-5 lb pork tenderloin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Chipotle Chili Powder
  • taco sized tortillas, flour, corn or gluten-free
  • red peppers, julienned
  • Shredded Monterrey jack cheese
  • shredded lettuce
  • diced tomato
  • diced scallions (dark green part only)
  • lactose free sour cream

Grease the sides and bottom of slow cooker and pre-heat on low. Pre-heat a large skillet on medium high and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Coat the entire tenderloin in Chipotle chili powder and sear in skillet on all sides (approximately 3 minutes per side). Place seared tenderloin in slow cooker and pour any remaining juices from the pan over top. Allow to cook 4-6 hours, or until tenderloin begins to fall apart.

Once fully cooked, shred the pot roast in its own juices, allowing the meat to soak up some of the liquid. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat. DO NOT wring out the excess juices. Place pork in a bowl or serving dish.

In a small skillet over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and red peppers. Sear peppers for 3-5 minutes and place in a serving dish or toss in with the pork.  Serve with tortillas and all the fixings.

Prep Time: 30 mins

Cook Time: 4 -6 hours

Serves: 8-10