Sumptuous Sauteed Apples with Sunbutter and Coconut Milk

I’m totally stealing that thing restaurants do, where the dish that sounds super fancy is basically just a list of the ingredients. I’ve adapted this dessert from a popular paleo dish called apple pie nachos. But I just couldn’t call my version by that name. It’s nothing like apple pie OR nachos, both of which have their own amazing properties.

So what IS this dessert like? It’s a little creamy, sweet without being overpowering, and perfect for a party.

Ingredients
2 apples, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons sunbutter
1 half stopper of liquid stevia [or 2 tablespoons raw honey]
2 tablespoons canned coconut milk
3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, shelled
2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
Splash of cinnamon extract
pinch of sea salt

Directions

Pull out a large skillet and place under medium heat. Add your coconut oil to the pan and let it get very hot.

Now add your apples and pumpkin seeds to it. Use a spatula or spoon to move the apples around to help cook on both sides and not burn. Cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add the coconut milk, sunbutter, stevia and raisins and mix the ingredients to let the flavors meld. Let cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the cinnamon extract, salt, and ground flaxseed on top and mix thoroughly.
Serve warm; enjoy.

Adapted from: http://paleomg.com/superbowl-snacks-apple-pie-nachos/

Chicken Burgers

chicken_patty

Have you ever just been…tired of chicken? Like, maybe you prepared a whole chicken for supper, and it’s time to use the rest up, and you just can’t face another plate of chicken, rice, and veggies?

Make these. Seriously. I was surprised at how well they held together. The recipe, adapted from the fabulous Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar book, lists chicken mince. Just for full disclosure, instead of mince, I used already cooked chicken. (I’ve seen ground turkey mince in stores, but never chicken mince.)

Also, I only used eight ounces, so you may want to use a little bit more seasoning, like mint or extra pepper, if you use the full pound. If the burger patties are not sticking together, consider using another egg, a flaxseed egg, or a few more breadcrumbs.

If you use gluten-free breadcrumbs, make sure the breadcrumbs are low oxalate. I find a lot of gluten-free flours use potato starch, which irritates me.

Ingredients

1 lb. chicken mince (I used already cooked, shredded chicken)
1/2 cup finely chopped mint or 1 teaspoon dried mint (which is what I used)
1 teaspoon ground cumin OR one capsule opened curcumin (low oxalate option)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons gluten-free breadcrumbs
1 egg (to bind)
sea salt and white pepper
coconut oil (for frying)

Directions

Assemble the chicken patties. Combine the mince or shredded, cooked chicken with the herbs, spices and breadcrumbs. Beat the egg and add it. Mix until everything is well combined, then season with salt and white pepper to taste.

Moisten your hands a bit, then divide the mixture into four patties. Make each patty as big as your palm, then press to flatten. Store the patties in your fridge for at least 20 minutes; doing so will help the patties firm up and stay together when you fry them.

Heat one to two teaspoons of coconut oil in a pan over medium heat. Fry the burgers for 4-5 minutes on each side. Make sure the burgers are cooked through. They are ready to eat when they are golden brown and a little crispy on both sides.

The burgers reheat well and are also good cold.

This recipe makes four burgers, which are approximately 240 calories apiece.

Adapted from: https://iquitsugar.com/recipe/chicken-burgers/

Bon appétit!

My Low Oxalate Story

Let me share my experience with you, the method behind the madness that is the low oxalate diet. Oxalates are salts found in plants. They are in trace amounts in many things, such as milk and meat (which makes sense, as the cows that produce milk eat plants). They are in large amounts in certain other things, especially spinach, some legumes and many kinds of nuts, and, sigh, dark chocolate/cocoa products.

In my early 30s, things started to get very painful, the kind of pain you need to see an OB-GYN for. My OB-GYN told me I had lichen sclerosus. Lichen sclerosus is an autoimmune disease. He prescribed steroid cream. The steroid cream would work, and then give me a yeast infection. I felt as if I was trapped.

One day, I got fed up and went to another OB-GYN. She reviewed my huge file—many visits for itching and burning, and yellow discharge. She informed me that my other OB-GYN had misdiagnosed me and that I actually had lichen simplex, something he’d neglected to mention. Lichen simplex is eczema caused by repeated scratching; basically, it’s skin irritation, and not necessarily an autoimmune disease.

I was very angry. When I’d googled “lichen sclerosus,” I had first heard the word “oxalate,” and “low oxalate diet.” I glumly (and incorrectly) figured since I had an autoimmune disease, it wouldn’t help. I was especially angry at how the new doctor dismissed my symptoms, stating bluntly that the yellow discharge was simply mucus tinged with urine.

Then why on earth did the steroid cream make it go away temporarily? In my ever more frantic searching, lichen simplex and low oxalate diet kept coming up in the searches. I decided to give it a shot.

Imagine my surprise to discover virtually everything I was eating was high in oxalate. Oxalate is especially concentrated in spinach, almonds, and black beans. At the time, I was a strict vegetarian, and had been for over a decade. I learned about the three food categories of oxalate—low, medium, and high. I was mostly living off of frozen commercial veggie burgers. I was eating almonds by the fistful for the extra nutrients and protein. I was drowning myself in oxalates every day without even realizing it.

I immediately started by cutting out the spinach. I accidentally backslid by ordering a sandwich with spinach, and sure enough, four hours later, there was burning and itching.

I started off by discovering the Vulvar Pain Foundation, abbreviated as the VP Foundation. I devoured nearly every word on the Trying Low Oxalates message board. I read everything I could on Heidi’s excellent site, lowoxalateinfo.com. I experienced something really weird—brace yourself for TMI. The message boards had promised that things would get worse before they got better. I was achy, irritable, and, one day, I found something very strange when I went to the bathroom. I had passed tiny, black crystals in my urine. Supposedly, this sort of thing was a sign of oxalates leaving your body, something that mostly happened in stool.

I kept cutting out the big ticket items, first spinach, then almonds, then most beans. Even though I could have easily gotten my protein from a serving of tofu (medium oxalate) I was so fed up with soy I mostly cut that out, too. I began eating meat again.

I started using the steroid cream less and less. The itching and burning intensifies when I backslide, but overall, my symptoms are much better. I am vigilant about what “mixed greens” means in a restaurant so I can avoid spinach. I switched my daily sandwich to a daily salad, and the only cereal that comes in the house now is Rice Chex. I am learning to make ice cream with coconut milk, and trying to cut back on flour, hence all the recipes you’ll find on the site with coconut flour.

Aside from the low oxalate housekeeping, this experience has given me something valuable. I still have pain, but I have reduced my suffering. Sometimes, even when I eat just right, I still have pain. When I was first diagnosed, I felt broken. It felt unfair, wrong. Why couldn’t I eat what I wanted? What did I have to eat or not eat to be totally pain free?

Now, I feel that I can think through the pain. The pain just is. I still have flashes of self-pity—I’m only human. But being able to breathe through the hurt is much better than angrily sitting with it, frantically googling, convinced I could find a magic elixir.

I’m still experimenting, still tweaking things about my diet all the time. I joke with friends that it’s like a religion. I want to spread the word! Eat what makes you feel good, before and after. It’s slowly working for me. My body and mind are still healing, but it feels good to have a sense of how far I’ve come.

Soaked Oats–Sweet and Savory Breakfast ideas

oats

I’ve said it before on this site: I don’t really like oatmeal. Why, then, do I insist on experimenting with oats? I still occasionally munch on Blueberry Breakfast Oats
for breakfast, but I was reading Heidi’s oatmeal cookie recipe, and I thought…hmm, lots of people are talking about the health benefits of soaked oats. Heidi mentions in her recipe here http://lowoxalateinfo.com/oatmeal-raisin-cookies/ that oats soaked overnight have much of the oxalate leach out into the water. Rinse them and they are ready to be used in her delicious cookie recipe…or a simple breakfast.

So, they have less oxalate, but how do soaked oats TASTE?

Folks, they taste pretty good. I soak them overnight, rinse them, throw something sweet or savory on them and heat them up for breakfast. No boiling, 30 seconds to a minute in the microwave, max. The most work I ever do for them is poach an egg ahead of time.

Here are some topping and ingredient ideas for your oats:

Poached egg, sage and olive oil with salt and white pepper to taste

Scrambled egg mixed in with the oatmeal, some salt, olive oil and garlic powder

Blueberries and a few drops of liquid stevia

Thyme, garlic powder and a pinch of salt

Sunbutter and jam (blueberry is my favorite, naturally, but use whatever you and your body like)

Cooked, chopped uncured bacon and a pinch each of garlic powder and white pepper

Pumpkin seeds and pureed, cooked pumpkin or squash (especially good with butter and herbs like sage). Add cinnamon extract and liquid stevia along with the ginger for a sweet version.

Melted coconut oil, coconut milk and shredded coconut

Melted coconut oil and some slightly sweet protein powder (I use vanilla V Core)

Here are instructions for soaking them. If you like traditional oatmeal, add another ½ cup of water to the soaked, rinsed oats and boil them gently for five minutes.

½ cup oats
½ cup water

Combine the oats and water in an airtight container; cover. Wait overnight or for eight hours. Rinse the oats and strain then. In a hurry? Rinse out and dry the container, then use that to take your oats with you. To heat the oats, microwave them for at least 30 seconds or heat them on the stovetop on medium low until warm.

What sounds good to you? I think savory AND sweet soaked oats are going to be part of my weekly meal plan for a long time.

Cheesy Bread Bites

0y

I…kind of can’t stop eating these things. They are delicious by themselves, but also pretty good with a little cheese between two, like a mini-sandwich. I’ve experimented with the flatter version, too. While good, they are not very cracker like, and not very sturdy when dipped.

½ cup ground flaxseed
3 eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (can use coconut oil)
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
½ cup of coconut flour, sifted
One opened curcumin capsule
Big pinch of salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ cup ground flaxseed

Preheat your over to 400 degrees and line a baking pan with parchment paper. Blend the flaxseed, eggs, butter, salt, spices and cheese. Add ½ cup of the coconut flour. Knead the dough until it is moist and slightly sticky. Add a bit more coconut flour if the dough is too wet. If the dough is too dry, add more water, another egg, or a little more melted butter. Shape the dough into balls the size of a walnut; flatten them with a fork until they are less than ½ inch thick. For crackers, make them even thinner. Bake for 7 minutes and then turn them; bake for 8 more minutes until golden brown on both sides.

I have tried these with cheddar, goat cheese, and Daiya. The cheddar was my favorite. The Daiya vegan cheese is mostly made out of tapioca starch, so it has a higher oxalate content.

I got this recipe from Sarah Wilson’s excellent I Quit Sugar program. I adapted them to be lower in oxalate by replacing the chia seed with ground flaxseed. Then, I made them more IC friendly by replacing the chili flakes with white pepper and other spices.

Enjoy!

New Year’s Black-Eyed Peas

black_eyed_peas2

New Year’s Day is a special time for me. Long after the midnight revel has ended, and the noisemakers are put away, it is a day to reflect. And to cook. I have wonderful memories of going over to my grandmother’s house on New Year’s Day. We would eat pork roast (which I avoided during a 15-year stint of vegetarianism), and collards, and, of course, black-eyed peas.

“Eat some more for good luck!” she’d say. The collards represented money; the black-eyed peas, luck. Some years I go without the collards, but I would never, ever skip the black-eyed peas.

Please enjoy this recipe. I adapted it from this lovely website:

http://www.yourveganmom.com/your_vegan_mom/2011/12/black-eyed-peas.html

While it’s not going to give the same taste of paprika, the curcumin gives the dish an interesting, deep flavor. If you are not on a low oxalate diet, cumin will do just fine and still be IC friendly. The red pepper gives the dish both color and a lower amount of oxalate.

I do soak my peas, which is probably not necessary, but it helps me worry less about the dish being ready in time for company! Taste the dish often as the beans get soft enough. Add a little extra salt or other seasoning if you need to. In just a few hours, you will have a scrumptious dish to help ring in the New Year. I enjoy this dish with a bit of cornbread (it’s hard to limit myself to one piece!)

1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons of garlic powder
1 opened curcumin capsule
salt and white pepper to taste
2 cups dried black-eyed peas
6 cups water
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs thyme
Optional if tolerated: pinch of smoked salt
finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and scallions to garnish

In a large pot over medium-high heat, brown the onion and red bell pepper in the butter. Stir in the garlic powder and opened curcumin capsule. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until the beans are soft, about 2 hours.

Have a Happy New Year; I hope this dish helps you enjoy it all the more.

Roasted Pumpkin

pumpkin

Halloween has long come and gone. I was shocked, though, to find my uncarved pumpkin was still good by December! Roasting it whole was fun and yielded a lot of delicious squashy goodness. Squash, especially pumpkin, is one of the most low oxalate things you can eat.

Another nice thing about pumpkin: It can help fill the role of a satisfying starch. If you are avoiding grains altogether, pumpkin is your friend. Pumpkin can even be a treat for your pets; my vet recommends giving a cat or dog on a diet a little pumpkin to ease hunger in between meals.

Trying this recipe, with a big pumpkin or small pumpkin, is absolutely worth it.

Ingredients
one pumpkin, uncarved

Gently wash and dry the outside of your pumpkin. Do not use your pumpkin if there are signs of mold or rot; patchy skin is normal. Using a sharp knife, puncture the skin of the pumpkin. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove an oven rack so there is enough room for the pumpkin. Place the pumpkin on a baking tray.

Cook it whole for two hours at 350F degrees.

Let the pumpkin cool all the way down, then peel and seed it. First, scoop the strings and seeds out from the middle. If you like, discard the strings and save the seeds. They are very good boiled with a little salt and then baked.

Using a food processor, puree the peeled pumpkin. I suggest using a strainer or cheesecloth to remove any excess water.

Pumpkin freezes well. Use the pumpkin puree to add to soups or desserts, such as pumpkin chicken soup or pumpkin parfait. You can also leave chunks of it whole and enjoy as a very simple side dish.

What ways have you used pumpkins? I would like to put soup IN a pumpkin for a dinner party, kind of like a bread bowl without the bread. I feel as if all the holidays are running together this year; I was hopelessly unprepared for Christmas, but getting the last Halloween decoration on the dinner table reset something in my brain. In honor of more Holiday Time Warps, expect a black-eyed pea recipe soon.

Tortilla Espanola

Do you ever crave something simple? Something you can make with common kitchen staples…or make to use up the five-pound bag of red potatoes you bought pretty much because it was on sale?

Then this dish, my friends, is for you. Red potatoes are lower oxalate than many other kinds of potatoes. You can very easily cut the recipe in half, but it does refrigerate well and keeps for a few days. This recipe makes four servings. If you are having guests over for brunch, it would be the perfect thing to whip up (especially if everyone is sick of Thanksgiving leftovers).

potato_fritattaww

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
About 4 small red potatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 onion, thinly sliced
Salt and white pepper (garlic powder is a nice addition)
8 large eggs
Suggested garnish: freshly cut chives

Preheat the broiler to high. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet or non-stick pan. Add the potato and onion slices, season with salt and white pepper, and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until the potatoes and onion are soft but not browned. This could take 10 minutes or a bit longer.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs and season with salt and white pepper. Scrape the potato mixture into the bowl and mix gently with the eggs.

Return the skillet to the heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the mixture of eggs, potatoes and onions, spreading it out in an even layer. Cover and cook over low heat until the egg is set around the edges, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the broiler and broil for 1-2 minutes, until the top is just beginning to brown.

Set a large plate over the skillet and carefully invert the tortilla onto the plate. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from http://www.runnerskitchen.com/tag/tortilla-espanola/

Zucchini and roasted red pepper gratin

Zucchini is still available in this corner of the world, in spite of the cold weather. They sit, on sale, mocking me at the grocery store. Roasted zucchini and tomatoes go so well together, you see. I can’t really eat tomatoes anymore without some discomfort, and tomatoes are no good at this time of year anyway. Then I remember: I can make a version of Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini gratin WITHOUT tomatoes!

I use roasted red pepper, which I buy in a big jar, in place of the tomatoes. They add color and moisture to the dish. Since I don’t use minced garlic, I make sure to taste the rice mixture before putting in the eggs. Feel free to add a little extra seasoning if necessary.

w red_pepper_gratin

1/3 cup uncooked white rice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium), sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 pound roasted red peppers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Table salt and white pepper
1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1.5 teaspoons of garlic powder (if tolerated)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided

Preheat oven to 450°F. Cook the rice. While rice cooks, coat one large baking sheet with a tablespoon of olive oil (a bit less for smaller pans). Spread zucchini slices on the baking sheets in as close to a single layer as you can. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of white pepper. Roast the zucchini for 20 minutes. Flip zucchini halfway through.

Heat large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, heat oil, then add onions, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt to pan. Cover and reduce heat to low, cooking onion until limp and tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Taste bits of your dish to see if you have enough seasoning. Combine onion mixture, rice, eggs, thyme, half of your grated cheese and a half-tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl. Add a good amount of white pepper. Use the remaining half-tablespoon of olive oil to coat a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Spread half of rice mixture in bottom of dish. Arrange half of roasted zucchini on top. Spread remaining rice mixture over it. Arrange remaining zucchini on top, then the roasted red pepper slices. Sprinkle with remaining grated cheese and bake until set and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Adapted from http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/07/zucchini-rice-gratin/

Pumpkin Parfait

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½ cup plain, low fat yogurt
2/3 cup blueberries
½ cup canned or fresh pumpkin puree
2 tsp. vanilla extract, separated
Optional: two teaspoons honey or molasses or ¼ dropper of liquid stevia, blended into the yogurt or pumpkin

Measure out your yogurt and pumpkin into separate containers. Blend them each with a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Alternate spoonfuls of yogurt, pumpkin, and blueberries in a wine glass or other clear glass. Serve immediately.

Fall is finally here! While the live oaks keep their color, the sweet gum trees and a few others have started to turn gorgeous. The wind is getting brisk…and I’ve been working on recipes like apple topping and mulled apple cider. Pumpkins are showing up in the supermarkets more frequently. You no longer get strange looks if you ask where the canned pumpkin is. I just had to make something pumpkin-y.

Pumpkin and parfaits were meant to be. The vanilla extract adds a sweetness and depth of flavor to both the yogurt and the pumpkin. Layered between lashings of blueberries, I found this sweet enough by itself. Feel free to add other flavors—cinnamon or cinnamon extract would be lovely, nutmeg, maybe even a hint of ginger or cardamom. If you enjoy grains, you could toast up some oats and sprinkle them on top. I would recommend eating such a creation quickly—the yogurt will get the oats soggy if you let it sit. As it stands, whether you use frozen or fresh blueberries, you can eat this immediately or prepare it the night before. Do expect a little purple effect if you use frozen blueberries overnight.

I like to serve mine in a wine glass, and you could very easily double the recipe.

Each serving has approximately 165 calories, 20 grams of sugar (mostly from the yogurt and blueberries), and 8 grams of protein.