LIFE

Elimination Diets and Food Sensitivities

Hi there! Recently in one of my Institute of Integrative Nutrition course we covered autoimmune disorders and food sensitivities. There is scientific studies that have closely linked certain foods and food sensitivities to autoimmune disorders. The main culprits were listed as gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, and corn. My course explained that these 5 foods have been known to cause inflammation in the body and increased inflammation can lead to autoimmune disorders.

When i was 15 or 16 I started to have issues with my right eye. It became red, light sensitive, with blurry vision, and pain. All of these symptoms came within 7 days and I was diagnosed with viral pink eye by three different doctors but the medication was not working so my mom demanded we see an eye doctor. The eye doctor took one look and diagnosed me with Uveitis which is medical jargon for inflammation in the eye. Uveitis can be caused three different ways, the first being trauma to the eyes, the second being an autoimmune disorder, and the third is simply unidentified causes. At that time I revealed I took at least 4 advil a day to help with my back pain that we had assumed had come from carrying my backpack around all day. At that point the eye doctor took more blood tests and it was revealed that I had a gene that is linked to the autoimmune system so I was referred to a rheumatologist. At that appointment I was fine but the next day I woke up and could not walk because my ankles had swollen the size of lacrosse or tennis balls. When we called the doctor she diagnosed me with juvenile arthritis. From there I was placed on multiple medications to suppress my immune system which I am still on today. It was supposed to be around a 7 year journey to get better and off the medications but we have hit the 7 year mark and we are just now slowly getting off the medications. This background is the reason I found the food sensitivities and inflammation lecture so fascinating.

The lecture suggested people try an elimination diet where you cut out all 5 of the foods for three weeks and then slowly re-incorporate them back into your diet one at a time. I thought that would not be too difficult and I eat a lot of soy and gluten products so I would be interested to know if I feel better without them. I made a mock meal plan and am now in the middle of the second week of the elimination diet. I honestly did not think it would be this hard. I really want tacos for some reason and it has taken all my strength not to break. However, I am hopeful to see how it works out. I will also post the meals that I had eaten during the elimination diet at one point.

Have you guys ever completed an elimination diet or found out you have a food sensitivity? Let me know in the comments below.

FOOD

Munchie Monday: April Recipe Test

This month my coworkers picked two recipes for me from a random cookbook I own. This month they picked one savory main dish and a dessert. The main dish was the mac n cheese dish from The Vegan Bible. The recipe requires the following ingredients:

  • Elbow noodles
  • Chopped onion
  • Chopped red bell pepper
  • Chopped celery
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Flour
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Dairy free milk
  • Mustard
  • Hot pepper sauce
  • Paprika

Overall, the recipe was super easy to make, probably the easiest vegan mac n cheese I have ever made without processed ingredients. Basically you mix the seasonings with the diary free milk in a saucepan until in thickens into a cheese sauce. You add the cheese sauce to the cooked elbow noodles and mix in the chopped veggies. It tasted really good and creamy but I definitely think I would double the cheese sauce to noodles because I like it saucy. I will say that while it made enough to last a whole week by the end of the week it was not as appetizing. I really did not want to eat it at the end of the week.

The dessert recipe was a chocolate chip banana bread from the Gluten Free Vegan Baking cookbook. It requires the following ingredients:

  • Vegan butter
  • Gluten free flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Brown sugar
  • Vegan chocolate chips
  • Chopped almonds
  • Ripe bananas
  • Almond milk
  • Canola oil
  • Almond extract

Like most dessert recipes you combine the dry ingredients and then the wet then pour into the pan to cook. It was easy to make but difficult to cook through fully. The outside of the bread was finished cooking fairly quickly while the middle was not. I had to put it back in the oven several times because the middle wasn’t cooked. Even when I thought it was fully cooked when I went to cut it into slices for my coworkers the middle was not done and the rest was falling apart. It ended up being a hot mess, however, it did taste good. If I ever made it again I might try adding a flax egg or something to keep it together more. Overall, it was a good week and I definitely think I could play around more with the mac n cheese to fit my tastes better.

Comment below what cookbooks you love to use?

FOOD

Munchie Monday: Electric Cheetah Review

Happy Monday! Today’s Munchie Monday is a restaurant review! A friend and I spent a Saturday hanging out downtown Grand Rapids and wanted to try Electric Cheetah because it is a hyped up restaurant in our area. Nearly every college kid has been there and highly recommends it. We both have dietary restrictions, I am vegan and she is gluten free and mostly diary free. The menu had several gluten free options clearly labeled as well as vegetarian options also labeled. However, there were no clearly labeled vegan options. This was because they did not have a single vegan option on the menu which is strange because their “sister” restaurant has at least 2 vegan options everyday. I examined the menu and found that I could get a vegetarian salad without the cheese and even add tofu for an added price while remaining vegan. I considered doing that as well except for the cost. The salad was $13 as is and to add a small amount of tofu would have cost an additional $6. I typically do not eat salads and I never order them from restaurants because I think if I am going out to eat and spending what I spend for a weeks worth of groceries in one meal it should be something I don’t or can’t make at home. With that said I ended up ordering a side of french fries that was half regular fries and half sweet potato fries. Usually I don’t mind ordering just a side of fries at fast food restaurants but at this point in time I kind of expect sit down restaurants to have at least more than one side that is vegan or can be made vegan. I will state that we did not look up the menu before hand so it is entirely my own fault for not having many options but as this is a review I would have to say I would not go back and I do not think it was worth the prices. Let me know what your favorite restaurant is down below!

FOOD

Munchie Monday: Taco Salad Recipes

Hi and welcome back to Life in Progress! Recently I made a ridiculously good Taco Salad so i figured i would briefly share how I made it! Below are the ingredients I used.

  • Brown Rice
  • Dried Black Beans
  • Frozen Organic Corn
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 1 Head of Romaine Lettuce
  • 1 bag of Spinach
  • Trader Joe’s Soyrizo
  • Trader Joe’s Fiesta Cashew Queso Dip
  • Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Seasoning
  • Cilantro
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Salt

Basically, I combined the brown rice, corn, half the onion (chopped), and the seasonings in a rice cooker and cooked those for an hour stirring occasionally. While that cooked I added 1 cup of the dried and rinsed black beans to a pot of boiling water and reduced it to a simmer and covered it. I let that simmer until there was almost no liquid left and then proceeded to season it to my preference and mash the black beans to create homemade refried black beans. While the black beans simmered in a skillet I fried up half of the onion in a splash of olive oil with some minced garlic. Once the onions were almost translucent I added in half of the Trader Joe’s Soyrizo and let it cook through. Once it was cooked through and my rice mixture was finished I through it together and mixed well. I set that aside to cool before storing it in the fridge. While waiting, I rinsed a whole bag of spinach and a head of romaine lettuce. Once rinsed i roughly chopped them and set aside in a bowl for easy access.

I stored everything in separate containers so I could construct the taco salad to my liking each day. I started with about a cup of greens as the base, topped with two spoonfuls of the rice and soyrizo mixture. Then I finished it off with a small scoop of the homemade black beans and Trader Joe’s Fiesta Cashew Queso Dip. I would heat it in the microwave at work for about a minute and then throughly stir to combined all the ingredients. This meal was so good I could eat it for an entire additional week if I had more. The only downside I would say is that the homemade refried black beans took all day to simmer down and that was after they had been soaked overnight in water. I will definitely be making this recipe again, maybe even adding more veggies to it. I figured I would share since it was quick, easy, and healthy. Let me know if you’ve ever made taco salad and how it differs from mine!

FOOD

Munchie Monday: Fiesta Cashew Dip Review

Hey there! This Munchie Monday I wanted to recommend one of my new favorite products that I cannot stop eating! It’s the Trader Joe’s Fiesta Cashew Dip and I am obsessed. It is made from all plant based ingredients with minimal added salt, sugar, and oil. This cheese is thick and creamy and so delicious. I have used it with burritos, tacos, Mexican rice, taco salad, etc. The first time I bought it I almost started eating by the spoonful. It is similar to the type of cashew cheese you can make at home but thicker. It costs around $4.50 at my local Trader Joe’s store but I’d say it is well worth it. Now anytime I make any type of Mexican related dishes I will be adding it to my ingredient list. Because it is so think I don’t think I would just use it as a regular chips and crackers dip. I prefer a runnier consistency for chip dips but mixing it into rice or a taco is perfect!

Let me know below if you have ever tried Trader Joe’s Fiesta Cashew dip and what you thought!

FOOD

Munchie Monday: Vegan Chopped

Hello and Happy Monday! This past week I set up the Vegan Chopped Challenge and had two of my friends each pull two random ingredients. The four ingredients they chose were mushrooms, peas, artichoke hearts, and peanut butter. The obvious choice was to make an Asian style rice dish with a peanut sauce but I thought that would be cheating since I have made that recipe several times before. I asked a few of my co-workers what they thought and they mostly recommended Asian style dishes as they would be the easiest. However, I took the next week to mull over what to do when I got curious about something. Many vegan cheese sauces use a base of cashew but people often swap out the cashews for other nuts. My question is could you make a vegan cheese sauce with a base of peanut butter? I decided to find out by creating a vegan cheesy vegetable rice dish.

The most complicated part of this “recipe” is making the cheese sauce and that is mostly blending things together. I purchased the ingredients for the recipe and another meal for the week which was very affordable. I believe I spent a total of $28 dollars for everything which means the rice dish would be even less than that. I purchased two russet potatoes, a bag of white onions, a bag of baby carrots, all natural smooth peanut butter, vegetable stock, brown rice, a can of artichoke hearts, frozen peas, and a carton of mushrooms. Below are the main ingredients I based the recipe off of.

I used the potatoes, carrots, onions, and peanut butter as the base of the sauce and simply played with the spices I put in. I used about half the potatoes, carrots, and onions with a fourth a cup of peanut butter. I added garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, nutritional yeast, liquid smoke, salt, and pepper. At first, the peanut butter was overpowering the rest of the ingredients so I added more nutritional yeast, salt, and a little white miso paste. Eventually, it started to taste more like a cheese sauce but with a much stronger nutty undertaste than usual. I added it to some partially cooked rice with the peas and chopped artichoke hearts and mushrooms. I baked it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes to finish cooking all of it and then topped it with the leftover cheese.

I ate it for the first time reheated in the microwave and it was good. I enjoyed it and think it would work in a pinch if you don’t have cashews but I still think I prefer cashews as they have less of an impact on the final taste. Most people either use potatoes and carrots as a base or soaked cashews, not both but I like to combine them to add protein and healthy fats to the recipe. I think the taste of the recipe was not a problem and would work again but I always forget that vegan cheese sauce does not reheat like normal cheese. It is more of a dry consistency especially if you reheat it. If there was a way to reheat it with more of a realistic cheese consistency I think I would love it. Below is a picture of a serving I took for lunch and reheated.

Let me know what you would have made with mushrooms, peas, artichoke hearts, and peanut butter!

FOOD

Munchie Monday: Vegan Scrapple

The first Munchie Monday challenge was a recipe chosen from the Veganize It! Easy DIY Recipes for a Plant-Based Kitchen cookbook written by Robin Robertson. My friend and coworker, Nickole randomly chose Scrapple for the first recipe to recreate. It is a vegan version of a Pennsylvania-Dutch recipe. It was a fairly simple recipe that did not take more than an hour of active cooking. You really just boil some of the ingredients, blend a few others and then combine together to chill overnight in a loaf pan. Below is a picture of the groceries I bought for the recipe and I had a lot of leftover ingredients that I could use in the future.

After setting it in the loaf pan to chill in the fridge overnight I cut it into slices and fried it in a pan. It turned out very similar to a Thanksgiving-themed meatloaf made from tofu. The sage and thyme were the dominant flavors but they were not overpowering. The recipe recommended having it with ketchup or maple syrup so that is what I did. I liked both combinations and proceed to eat it with both for the rest of the week. The outside of the loaf was crispy due to me letting it chill without covering it. The middle was mushy, almost like it had not been cooked all the way. I almost wondered if I would be better to bake it in the oven.

The next night I had the Scrapple in a sandwich which was just as good and I think the extra day in the fridge firmed the slices up a little bit because it was less mushy. This recipe estimated it would yield 12 slices but mine had closer to 16 slices and lasted me a little over a week even with me eating two pieces a night. Overall, I liked the Scrapple and would potentially make it again with different spices simply because sage and thyme are not my favorite seasonings. I think it was tasty and affordable to make and would definitely recommend trying it if you enjoy Thanksgiving-esque meals.

Tune in later on in February for a Vegan Chopped Challenge! Comment below if you have had scrapple and what recipe I should try next!

Link to Veganize It Cookbook: https://www.amazon.com/Veganize-Easy-Recipes-Plant-Based-Kitchen/dp/0544815564

Link to Robin Robertson’s Website: