Stew Are You? I Lamb What I Lamb.

I wouldn’t blame you if you closed the browser tab after reading that headline. It hurt me to write it as much as it probably hurt you to read it. 🙂

Spiced Lamb Stew

This is another recipe that I’m not quite sure how I came across it, but I found this lamb stew recipe on The Kitchn website and printed it out, intending to make it someday. Someday arrived in March when I needed to use a Groupon that I had purchased for the upscale butcher in the Denver area, Tony’s Market. I had $40 to spend and figured that lamb tends to be expensive, so  why not buy the lamb and make the stew?

I spent almost all of it on the 2lbs of lamb that I needed for the recipe.

Luckily, the rest of the ingredients aren’t that expensive – spices, carrots, onion, garlic, red wine. So this will tend to be a meal that I make maybe once a year. Or less.

My wife doesn’t like lamb, so I took everything to my parent’s house and cooked for them and my aunt, who are fans of lamb. And they loved it.

The recipe recommends to spice the meat and let it rest for a day.

Spiced lamb in glass bowl

Brown the meat and then add the mirepoix – which I modified, probably using less onion than it called for, and using celery salt instead of celery itself. That’s because of my colitis, some vegetables cook down well, but celery is one that I’ve found doesn’t play nice with me.

Brown the meat

It cooks for a long time, but that gives everyone a chance to get really hungry!

mirepoix

The recipe calls for serving over rice or couscous, which is against the SCD & Paleo, but the rest of my family isn’t on the diet so they had it over rice and raved about the whole meal. I loved it, too! (SCD/Paleo folks could maybe use “cauliflower rice” if you’re so inclined)

The recipe says it could be made with other stew meat, although I’m not sure I’d want to make it with beef. I guess it would be ok, but I like the taste of the lamb combined with the spices. Your call. 🙂 It’s really good though! Especially on cold nights where you want something hearty and warm.

The Tastiest Catch – SCD Crab Cakes!

Crab Cakes In pan - brown

Tasty crab cakes!

 

When one goes on a diet like the SCD where large swaths of the American/Western diet are jettisoned, one of the first things people do is try to create foods like they used to eat. These don’t always turn out well. Making bread is one that usually disappoints first – it’s usually flat and dense. Doable, but it’s not like a soft pretzel or spongy bun. I’ve made some pretty good batches of ketchup – and some that were, well, let’s say “off.”

When you have a full family around you who cares about you and wants to see you happy, they will approach you with recipes from time to time, hoping that they will work out. Sometimes there’s a key ingredient that you can’t have that leaves the whole recipe wanting, or it calls for something like cream of mushroom soup, for which there is no easy substitution.

About a year and a half ago, I get an e-mail from my wife with the message “Do you think we could use your almond flour as a binder or would that not work? Change the taste?” and a link to a Disney blog recipe for lump crab cakes from Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. I smiled at her kindness and clicked the link, bracing for one of the previous scenarios. I glanced over the ingredients list and got more excited as I read farther down and everything was “legal”. (Those of you on the diet know how this feels!) At the end of the ingredients list, there were only 2 non-legal items I could see: sriracha in the tartar sauce (sriracha usually has sugar in it), and panko crumbs in the crab cakes.

Crab Cake Mix

Golf ball

 

I giddily responded that almond flour should work fine, so let’s try it! As for the tartar sauce, my family’s not big on sauces anyway, so I figured I could try the tartar with just a dash of Tabasco in place of the sriracha.

Crab Cakes in pan

Flatten the golf ball

 

 

Crab cakes in pan

Browned and yummy!

 

In short – they’re *fantastic*. We don’t have them often because crab is expensive (duh) and they’re also *very* rich and filling – so much so that we only use 1/2 cup of mayo in the recipe instead of the 3/4 cup that is called for. But they’re crab cakes! Some of the best I’ve had, actually. So thanks, Disney! And a big thanks to my wife for her constant support. It’s not easy living with someone on the SCD, but she’s always been supportive. <3

Crab cakes on platter

These crab cakes go fast!

 

For Tartar Sauce: At least 1 hour before serving, mix well 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickle, 1 tsp Old Bay, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp chopped fresh chives, 1/8 tsp ground black pepper (and 1 tsp pepper sauce if wanted). Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Stir Fry Time!

Being a bit of a recipe tinkerer, stir frys are always fun for me. It’s kind of like omelets – open up the fridge and what can we find to put in here?

StirFryIngredients

I took the base of the recipe from one of my SCD-style cookbooks (Grain-Free Gourmet by Jodi Bager and Jenny Lass) and then adjusted to my family’s tastes. The recipe calls for onion, but i don’t really digest onion well unless it’s really soft sautĂ©ed, and my family’s not too crazy about it either, so I left it out. I might have sprinkled in some onion powder while the veg were cooking. 🙂 The recipe calls for peanut oil, which imbues the dish with a Chinese-food flavor and aroma. I’m not sure if peanut oil is okay on the Paleo diet – I checked the list on the Ultimate Paleo Guide website and it said peanuts themselves were not allowed because they are legumes, but didn’t mention the oil. I’m guessing that hardcore followers would eschew the oil, but that’s your call, y’all. If it’s not allowed, switch it up with one that is!

Stir Fry Pan

I also used baby bok choy, just a few leaves. My family doesn’t love the red bell pepper, but I do like it. Might just do a few pepper strips just for me in the future. And as you can see, I added broccoli as well. 🙂

Stir Fry Plate

This plate has rice on it, which is not allowed on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. This is what my family’s plates looked like. I put this picture up to show how the dish can be adjusted/added to in order to make it a more traditional family dish. I just served up more of the stir fry instead of the rice. Yum!My kids added some soy sauce, my wife and I prefer tamari, which is a form of gluten-free soy sauce. Read more about the differences between soy sauce and tamari on the kitchn blog.

I might improvise chicken or shrimp for the protein (make sure you cook those in a separate pan all the way through!), or leave the meat out for a pure vegetarian stir fry. All sorts of vegetables can be added or substituted. Green beans and snow peas make me gassy (thanks, colitis!), but your mileage may vary. I’ve seen people use asparagus, zucchini and/or yellow squash, and I suppose you could toss some shredded cabbage in there to wilt as well. Like I said, I’m a freestyler.

So have fun, be creative, and enjoy!

The Dietary Dignitary Origin Story

Yes, much like Batman had to become the Batman, I was not born with a hundred gluten/grain/starch/sugar free recipes in my back pocket. My origin story starts as many do – with a catalytic moment. For me, that moment was when I was informed of my Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis .

I was diagnosed in 1994 after dealing with some visible symptoms – mostly blood in my stool. I was told at the time to take Azulfidine (sulfasalazine is the generic) and that I could otherwise eat or drink anything that I wanted.

I took that advice and after a year of living with increasingly more and more dire symptoms, I went to a different doctor. Very poor retention and/or absorption of foods (to the point where if I ate a Whopper from Burger King, I’d see sesame seeds about 4 hours later) had led to me lose quite a bit of weight, and I was losing blood as well. My new doctor did some blood tests and found that I was anemic, had no Iron stores and was pretty much wasting away. He later told me that with the amount of blood left in my system, had I lost all that blood at one time (car accident, etc) I most likely would have died, but my body just adjusted to losing a bit over time to the point where it was getting by with so little.

I started getting Iron shots as my stomach couldn’t handle a supplement. I think I was getting 2 or 3 shots per week. My new doctor said “You can’t eat just anything” and told me to cut out a LOT of foods that I was eating that would not help – mainly insoluble fibers. I pared my diet down to mostly chicken & rice to sort of “zero out” my system. My doc suggested going very basic and then adding other foods little by little to see what my system could tolerate, and so I did. I drank mostly juices, laid off the sodas and alcohol. Ate the bland diet as is usually called for – toast, crackers, chicken (no seasonings) and rice, etc.

The short of it is, I credit that second doctor with saving my life because he identified the problems over and above the previous docs I had seen. He got me back to healthy again, and taught me to manage my symptoms accordingly. I still took sulfasalazine and I would go into remission, would then forget to take the drugs (I don’t like being on drugs anyway. I feel that many times they mask a problem) and be off them for months at a time. My symptoms would return and I’d go back on the drugs to try and mitigate them. Sometimes it would help, sometimes not. I never found a “trigger” food or drink that would bring me out of remission, or cause a flare up. Sometimes I could drink beer for weeks and not go back into a flare. I could eat loads of ice cream and not see a difference in my health. But somehow, sometime, the symptoms would creep back. Starting with blood.

Fast forward to March ’04. I’d been in a colitis flare for about 2 months, the sulfasalazine didn’t seem to be helping, and I was wondering what my options were. I joined a Crohn’s and Colitis group online and I was reading through the discussion threads. Some people in that group had luck with some treatments, some had ileostomies, etc. Then I saw a lone link to a book called “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” that a friend in a different online community had recommended a few months prior. I went to check it out on Amazon and found over 120 reviews of the book (there are now almost 650!). The diet that was described in the book is called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, or SCD. Some people said that it didn’t work for them, that it was too hard, etc. Most were ecstatic in the results they got for their various diseases (Crohn’s, colitis, celiac, autism). What it amounts to is a diet, based on science, about what can set the gut off. The author, Elaine Gottschall, had a daughter who was diagnosed with Colitis at 4 years old, I believe, back in the 50s or 60s. After going to various doctors and such, none of whom were much help and telling her that only surgery would cure her daughter, she talked with Dr. Sidney Haas who asked her what her daughter ate. Elaine claims it was the first doctor to ask her that question.

Dr. Haas basically prescribed a very strict diet, and here’s where the science part comes in. (Elaine has since gone on to get degrees in biology, nutritional biochemistry, and cellular biology to support the theories.) Basically, she has done more work, but has come to the conclusion that what is eaten by people who have the diseases is what feeds bad bacteria in the body. It’s not that the bacteria are inherently bad, but they’re part of the problem in people with Crohn’s or Colitis.

The diet is easier to explain as the things you cannot eat. No grains, starches, refined sugars, or uncultured dairy (examples of cultured dairy are many cheeses and yogurt). Of course, this eliminates many things that were previously considered “bland” – rice, potatoes, pasta, etc. The things you can eat, once you get over the restrictions, are many and varied. Fresh meats, vegetables (not canned, though, sometimes there are “illegal” additives), fruits. Eggs. Nuts. Etc. Some veggies might not be allowed depending on the severity of your condition. If you read the BtVC website, you’ll get the idea. I’m just giving a brief outline.

When I started on the diet, I just wanted to see if it made any sort of difference. I figured, at worst, I’d be right back where I was, which was somewhat managable, except for flareups. At best, I would be cured, as many have said that they have been (including Elaine’s daughter). Elaine suggested being on the diet for at least two years. That’s at least two years without pizza crust, bread, soda (that’s pop to the rest of you in the midwest ;), fettucini, a glass of milk, french fries, etc.

Starting the diet back then was tough for me because my wife was out of town, I was caring for our two daughters, I came down with a cold, and it was difficult to get the nutrition I was looking for and needing from just what we had in our cupboards. My parents were supportive (with the diet and helping with my kids – they were planning on helping some anyway) and we were cooking things that I could eat. I went to the store a couple of times and bought some more “legal” food and started on it pretty strictly. The first week was very rough. Being sick didn’t help, and I was tired and hungry. The second week, I felt like I was getting better, both from my cold and internally. As the week progressed, I was surprised at how much better my colitis was doing. I noticed that I was making fewer trips to the bathroom. I noticed that overall, in that regard, things were improving.

I’ve kept on the diet for the past 10 years now. The first couple of weeks on the diet were nothing short of amazing to me. I only had to make one trip to the bathroom on the Saturday and Sunday of the second week, for what I usually would have gone maybe 3 or 4 or more times in the morning before I’d go to work, a few more times in the morning (mornings have always been my worst time of day), maybe once or twice in the afternoon, maybe once at night. But I only went once. *Once*! Even when I was in remission before, I still had to go more than once, and, shall we say, things still weren’t as they are for “normal” folks. Those first couple of weeks it was pretty normal for me. As normal as I had been in the 10 years prior. I felt that, if things continued, this could be the second thing that saves my life.

In the 10 years since, I can’t say that I’ve been cured by the diet, not by a long shot. There have been a couple of times in the past few years that I’ve been on prednisone to help get my symptoms under control. I’m not sure what caused those flares, but they were some of the worst I’ve had since I was really sick back in 1995. I guess you could say I’m lucky in that a short dose of Prednisone (tapering for less than 10 days) is enough to get my body back on track. When I’m in a flare, I still can’t really identify what caused it or how to get out of it, although the SCD chicken soup seems to help.

I have followed the Specific Carbohydrate Diet very strictly for over 10 years and have a lot of good recipes to show for it. I only take some vitamin supplements, and no drugs (excepting the occasional Imodium). My cholesterol and blood pressure levels are low. I lost about 50 lbs in about 4 months when I first started the diet (see the picture below) – which was too much, too fast. I realized that I wasn’t eating enough fats in my diet and corrected that. Since then, my weight has stabilized around 170 lbs for a 6’2″ man.

My quality of life with Ulcerative Colitis has been most affected by my needing to know where bathrooms are at all times. Knowing where to get off on the freeway should the need arise. Not being able to take public transportation because they don’t have toilets. Feeling uneasy about going places that I didn’t know the “bathroom situation”. When my kids were babies, I would think about what later years would be like, going to field hockey games and the like, having to scope out if there were restroom facilities at the field or not. It’s a horrible, creeping feeling that disturbs and informs everything I do. Like at parties or being out with friends, all I want to do is hang out and have a good time, but I spend part of it wondering about my problems instead of just being able to relax. A trip into DC many years ago with my kids was just this side of abject terror for me, hoping that I’d have places to go to the bathroom if I needed to. I even skipped going to a Civil War battlefield near my sister-in-law because….it was just a field. Nothing else, no facilities. “I can’t go there! What if…?!?” I’ve found a few things that have helped with the anxiety in the intervening years – mostly daily meditation – but nothing natural to heal the symptoms completely.

Please feel free to ask me any questions about my experiences with Ulcerative Colitis or life on the SCD. I’m very open about my life in this regard, because after years of feeling ashamed or embarrassed about it, I’ve come to my peace with my disease. I know that I’ve learned a lot from having UC – compassion for others, patience for myself, and love of life. I’ve always had a pretty good life health-wise, even with colitis, and I realize that I could be so much worse off. If there’s any way I can help you, let me know either by leaving a comment here on the blog or sending an e-mail to sam@dietarydignitary.com.

SamOnBoat

This is me 3 months after starting the SCD in 2004. You can see how big the XL t-shirt is on my now Medium-size frame! Even with the quick weight loss, I kept buying Large t-shirts for years.

Yes on 105 – Why *not* label GMOs?

YesOn105

It’s rare that I wade into political issues. Frankly, so many issues devolve into sniping that I can’t even be bothered. However, being that this is a blog about special diets and I have a condition (ulcerative colitis) that may be a result of environmental factors, the issue of Genetically Modified Organisms – GMOs – is one that hits close to home. I’m not saying that GMOs caused my colitis, but then again, I don’t know what did cause it.

First up, let me say that I’m not a scientist, but this fact does not disqualify me from having an informed opinion. Personally, I’m not given to hyperbole or shouting someone down to make my point. In fact, if one side is shouting about their issue or point of view, oftentimes it’s fairly easy to find a cogent rebuttal.

Proposition 105 isn’t about shouting, however. It’s simply about labeling foods that have been genetically modified. Voting Yes on 105 is not voting for a ban on GMOs. While there are people who would like a ban, that’s not why I’m writing.

The question I would like to pose to people and companies who oppose GMO labeling is this: Why aren’t you for labeling, if GMO products are completely safe? If GM foods are beneficial in every way, why aren’t the companies producing GMOs fighting for labeling their product?

It seems odd that companies would want to obscure that their products are genetically modified, but they do want to obscure that fact – to the tune of millions of dollars against GMO labeling. In fact, Monsanto ($4+ million), PepsiCo ($1+ million), Kraft Foods ($1 million), General Mills Inc ($800,000+), and Dow Agrosciences LLC ($300k) have together contributed almost $8,000,000 to fight GMO labeling in Colorado.

Why so secretive? It’s time for food and agriculture and chemical companies to put up or shut up. Are genetically modified foods safe? Are GM foods beneficial? Then label your GMO products proudly.

Please join Right To Know Colorado in voting YES on 105 and help spread the word that it’s just a label, and that we as consumers have a right to be as informed as possible when buying food for our families and ourselves.

TONIGHT October 6: View the taped debate broadcast on Channel 20 in the Denver metro area featuring Robyn O’Brien representing Yes on 105/Right To Know Colorado.

Laurie’s Perfect Peanut Butter Mini Muffins

Peanut Butter Muffins

Tell me those don’t look wonderful.

I have great sisters-in-law. Since I started on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet in 2004, both of them have taken an interest in my diet. More specifically, they have shown me the kindness of making sure that whenever there’s a gathering at their houses, I have “safe” food to eat. For that I am so very grateful.

This summer, we visited my sister-in-law in Virginia and she had these muffins on hand. Now, they weren’t just for me, she is a marathoner and likes them to eat before she goes out so she has something in her stomach, but not something that’s going to weigh her down. She said she’s been making them for a while and was excited when she realized that I could have them too!

I looked over the ingredients and realized that the recipe is similar to a peanut butter cake that my wife makes for me on my birthdays. The cake ingredients are mainly peanut butter, honey, eggs, and bananas. I don’t really taste the bananas, but I have one of my SCD banana nut muffins every morning for breakfast, so I’m pretty used to banana taste by now. I still don’t think they taste very banana-y-ish.

Muffin ingredients

Not pictured: bananas

The thing about the cake that my wife makes (that drives her batty, actually) is that not being a flour cake, it falls in the middle when taking it out of the oven. The edges stay up as they adhere to the sides of the round pan, but the center, all poofy with the heat and steam, gradually settles. It’s still really tasty and I love it, but it always disappoints her. The trick here is cooking them in a mini muffin pan so that they poof up and don’t have any room in the center to fall! The vinegar seems to help this a bit by reacting with the baking soda, but I’m not a chemist so that’s just a guess on my end.

I ate one or two every day on vacation and it helped keep something in my belly, which is a really good when when traveling. (See my 5 tips for traveling on a special diet over on The WanderEars blog!) I actually would cut them in half, spread a little butter on the open face and put a little honey on them to sweeten them up & add a little lower-glycemic energy boost. I don’ t know why I don’t add more honey to the recipe – I guess I like my little food ritual. 🙂

I hope you enjoy these little munchables!

peanut butter muffins

Our Favorite Salmon Recipe

This is a recipe that we got from my mother-in-law. Before I started on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, we would go to their house on Sundays for dinner, sometimes cooked out on the grill. Very simple ingredients, very simple instructions. This recipe should work for those on the Paleo diet as well.

Start with a layer of bacon on heavy duty foil:

Bacon

Bacon!

To make it SCD legal, I purchase low-sodium bacon from Costco, which is made without sugar.

Next, slice an onion and stack the rings on top of the bacon:

onion layer

Place the salmon on the onions:

SalmonLayer

Sprinkle dill on the salmon:

DillLayer

and, finally, top with slices of lemon:

LemonLayer

I typically cover the top of the salmon with lemon slices but the package of wild salmon I purchased (also at Costco) contained two flanks, and I only had one lemon. (If you don’t like lemon, leave it off) Seal the foil around the whole package:

Wrapped

And then place on the grill, high heat for 20 minutes:

SalmonOnGrill

Or until the fish is flaky. It comes out looking something like this:

FinishedSalmon

The onions tend to be a bit sauteed/carmelized and are a great side. (Honestly, I also pick through the bacon and eat the bits that aren’t charred. :))

That’s it. So easy and so delicious. There’s usually enough fish left over that we make a salmon frittata a couple of days later. Often we have asparagus with this dish and the leftover asparagus makes it into the frittata as well.

Enjoy!

—————————

Bonus potato side dish recipe:

There’s an accompanying side dish to this that’s also made in foil but is not SCD- or Paleo diet legal, but I remember that it’s tasty, even though I haven’t had it in years. 🙂 I forget the exact number of medium potatoes (4? 6?), but they’re cut into about 1/2 inch cubes, laid on a sheet of heavy-duty foil. Take a 1/2 cup stick of butter and cube it as well, distributing on the potatoes. Shake some seasoned salt (or Tony Chachere’s) on top of the potatoes & butter. Seal in foil and place on the grill on high heat for about 40 minutes. Crispy potatoes on the bottom, the rest of the potatoes are nice and salty and tasty.

Almond Flour Showdown!

Almond Flour Muffin
 
When I started on the SCD back in 2004, I bought Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour because it was the BobsRedMillAlmondMealmost readily available in the stores close to me. I used it mostly to make the muffin recipe in Breaking the Vicious Cycle, but would make bread occasionally.

 

HoneyvilleAlmondFlourA few years into the diet, I started buying in bulk from Honeyville. I could get a 5lb. bag of blanched almond flour for a good deal less than Bob’s 1lb. bags that I was buying locally. I don’t recall thinking too much about the difference between the two at the time, it was finance that was the driving factor.

However, I recently had the chance to use Bob’s almond flour again. I made the Disneyland crab cake recipe for my parents  (recipe coming in a future post!) and didn’t notice much of a difference at the time, largely because I’ve only made that recipe a couple of times and didn’t have a good sense of the mouthfeel that the almond flour imparts. I used the leftover Bob’s almond flour and made my SCD muffins with it, mixed with some of the Honeyville Grain almond flour. WOW. Huge difference. The Honeyville almond flour has a finer grind to it which lends to a more muffin-like texture. Which is to say that the Bob’s Red Mill almond flour seems like there are little “beads” of almonds. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but it doesn’t belong in my muffin. I much prefer the finer grind.

What I’m trying to say is that I’ll be sticking with Honeyville when I need almond flour.*

*This is not a paid endorsement, just my opinion.

Fryer’s Premium

Most days that I can, I start with a really good breakfast, like this one:

eggs mushrooms tomatoes bacon

The good stuff!

I got this recipe from a Jamie Oliver cookbook, The Naked Chef Takes Off. It’s called “Midnight Pan-Cooked Breakfast,” (p. 27) and I love it because it’s not so much a recipe as a story about coming home from the pub and wanting an easy fry to serve to his friends, using whatever’s on hand. He does specifically call out mushrooms, bacon, tomatoes, sausages & eggs, and that’s what I’ve typically used. I’ve made my own pork sausage sometimes, and my local Whole Foods used to sell a prepackaged pork breakfast sausage that didn’t have refined sugar (a no-no on the SCD), but they don’t sell that anymore and apparently refined sugar is a staple of breakfast sausage. (Ok, we know sugar is in almost everything anymore, but why sausages?)

Anyway, mine here looks horrible because I didn’t use a nonstick skillet and shove under the broiler like Jamie says to do to finish cooking the tops of the eggs. I had to turn mine and it became a quick mess, so I just dumped it onto the plate and added a little 505 Southwestern chipotle honey green chile on top. Fabulous.

Besides, food is meant to taste good, not look good – a lesson I learned on my senior class trip to Mexico. Perhaps a story for another time, however.

Enjoy!

Hello!

Welcome to Dietary Dignitary. My name is Sam, and I have been eating according to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for over 8 years. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis almost 20 years ago, and while it’s been a tough road at times, I certainly don’t have it as bad as others I’ve known.

My aim for this site is threefold:

  1. I hope to provide some support to people on the SCD, but also other special diets like paleo or primal that don’t eat carbs or grains. It’s a wide net cast in a small pond, but I think there’s a lot of common ground.
  2. I also hope to show families how they can eat together when only one member is adhering to their diet of choice. It seems difficult at first, but I’m here to let you know that it can be done.
  3. Lastly, I aim to help people who aren’t comfortable with cooking to relax in the kitchen and realize that they have the knowledge and skills to cook for themselves and adapt recipes for their situations.

The recipes & essays will follow soon, but I wanted to get this page up so that people had something relevant to read.

So…welcome!

-Sam