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FBF Blog (49)

I have always wondered why balsamic vinegar gives me a tummy ache?  And, why has it taken me 10 years to find the answer?

Balsamic Vinaigrette used to be my go to order out at a restaurant and consequently my go to way of leaving the restaurant feeling yucky.  My thought was vinaigrettes are healthier than dressings like ranch or caesar, dressings with more fat and; therefore, a better option.  Why then was I feeling bloated and why was my gut yelling at me when I was choosing balsamic vinaigrette?  

I had no idea what was in balsamic vinegar and to be honest didn't realize I needed to know.  It hadn't occurred to me that my healthy choice was not healthy for me.  I didn't know that balsamic vinegar could contain anything other than vinegar.  And, I assumed it was a healthy choice because it was low in fat and I was putting in on a salad.  I realized I was still stuck in the 1990's way of thinking about food.  

It has been really hard for me to rid myself of the food rules I learned in college.  Food rules like fat is bad, carbs are good; and all salads are healthy.  I assumed any salad I ordered with balsamic vinaigrette was healthy because it was low in fat and was called a salad.  I had no idea how much sugar and man-made sweeteners were added to those supposedly healthy salads.  And, had no idea that all of this sugar was wreaking havoc on my gut and entire body.

When I was finally diagnosed with Fructose Malabsorption in 2007 many of these food rules were necessarily replaced with new rules about how to live with a food intolerance.  Once I started eliminating all processed man-made sweeteners and reducing my daily fructose intake to less than 15 grams I started to feel a lot better and started making better choices.  My new salads were not full of craisins and honey glazed almonds.  My dietitian had taught me that those foods were super high in added sugars and fructose and obviously a bad choice for me.  Instead I learned how to enjoy salads with cucumbers, radishes and a few slices of green pepper.

Why then were my new low fructose salads causing me stomach distress?  What was I eating?

Recently I revisited the Food Intolerance Network's list of foods and fructose amounts.  As I was reviewing the alphabetical list my jaw dropped on the second letter, B.  I couldn't believe it!  Balsamic Vinegar has 7.4 grams of fructose.  How did I not know this?  No wonder my salads felt like they were poisoning me.  7.4 grams of fructose per serving!  The way I use salad dressing, more as a side dish vs a salad dressing meant I was potentially eating over 15 grams of fructose just in my salad.  My gut was yelling at me because it wasn't happy; it was being invaded and was trying to tell me to stop eating balsamic vinaigrette.

Since my diagnosis 10 plus years ago dietitians, nutritionists and gastroenterologists have learned a lot more about Fructose Malabsorption.  We now know what foods are safe and what foods are not safe.  We know how to limit our fructose loads and balance our glucose and fructose intake.  We also know how excess fructose can cause chronic inflammation and a myriad of symptoms beyond an irritable gut.  I know so much about Fructose Malabsorption I feel like I should write a Wikipedia article.  With all of this knowledge how did it not occur to me to look into what is in balsamic vinegar?  After 10 years of living with this intolerance how was I still making such a big mistake?  

Why?  Because let's be honest it is so hard and exhausting to put so much effort into eating.  Sometimes I just want to go out to eat and order food without questioning the waiter like he is being accused of directly poisoning me.  I want to look at a menu and see options, not limitations.  

But, that is not my life.  If I want to feel healthy I need to make healthy choices.  I need to know what is in my food.  Balsamic vinegar is not an option for me.  

I am not feeling sorry for myself.  I feel so much better now that I know what was poisoning me and how to avoid high fructose foods.  My gut is happy, I am not living in a constant state of brain fog and my joints do not ache all day long.

Yes, I am still going to make mistakes.  However, I am going to learn from these mistakes.  I am going to learn what is healthy for me and write my own set of food rules.  

For example, did you know apple cider vinegar has 0 grams of fructose?  Yes, 0-how awesome is that?  7.4 less grams of fructose than balsamic vinegar awesome.  I honestly had no idea that vinegars could or couldn't have fructose and all vinegars are not created equally.  Thank you Food Intolerance Network for helping me.  Thank you for teaching me what is good for me and what isn't good for me.

Last week I decided to make a caprese salad sans the balsamic vinegar reduction because I added a new food rule to my collection.  Rule #34:  balsamic vinegar is a definite no for me.  

Instead of a balsamic vinegar reduction I made a simple vinaigrette with apple cider vinegar.  I substituted the tomatoes for strawberries to make it more appealing to my kids and added cucumbers.  By adding cucumbers I didn't feel the need to serve another vegetable at dinner.  Food rule #7:  always serve vegetables at dinner.  

We loved the salad.  And, I loved that I was eating something healthy for me. 

 

 

Apple Cider Vinaigrette (serving size, 8):

Mix together:

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper 

 

Caprese Salad (serving size, 1):

Toss:

  • 10 cucumber slices, chopped into small bite size pieces
  • 3 strawberries, sliced
  • 4 large basil leaves, sliced
  • 15 mini mozzarella pearls

Tips:

  1. I like to use Maille Dijon Mustard.  It is a simple recipe, but adds the right amount of pungent flavor to any dish.
  2. I used 2 teaspoons of the vinaigrette on each salad and saved the rest for salads later in the week.
  3. 3 strawberries have less than .75 grams of fructose.  That's a healthy choice for me, and my kids prefer this salad if it is made with strawberries vs tomatoes.  A little sweet goes a long way when it comes to kids.  
Tuesday, 24 July 2018 21:16

My Brother and the Agave Incident

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You know how you have those stories in your family that you pass down from generation to generation?  Those stories that always make you laugh as soon as they are mentioned and transport you instantly back in time?  In my family our stories include Sao Feng from Pirates of the Caribbean, David Hasselhoff and Captiva Island, a mule deer, banana tubing at Grandview, and the Minneapolis Pedal Pub.  These stories are our favorite stories to tell.  When ever we meet someone new and have them over for dinner one of these stories inevitably comes up in conversation and makes us laugh so hard our cheeks ache.  These are the stories that define us.  When told, these stories turn strangers into friends and awkward moments into intimate gatherings.  

Over the 4th of July we spent 10 glorious days on Gull Lake with my parents, my brother and sister in law, my nieces, my cousins and a good friend.  After a long day on the water or on the golf course we would all meet on our screened-in porch for dinner, a few cocktails and lots of story telling.  10 nights of family time and laughter is so good for my soul.  I reconnected with my family and was reminded why it is so important to spend time with those we love.  

One evening, my brother and cousin declared it Margarita Night!  They are both avid athletes and conscientious about their diet.  They primarily eat food from the Earth and limit man-made highly processed food products.  So Margarita Night did not come from a mix.  My brother spent a painstakingly 30 minutes squeezing fresh limes and purchased an "organic" tequila.  It was 93 degrees and 93% humid in the shade that evening so the margaritas went down pretty quickly.  Needless to say we laughed a lot and retold many of our favorite stories.  

Later than evening, after my brother and his wife had put the girls to bed my brother started to feel kind of yucky.  At first he noticed his gut was talking back to him.  It was rumbling and gurgling and basically yelling at him; warning him that something was about to happen.  Then the intense pain set in.  The pain in your gut that makes you sweat and you don't know if your body is going to eject the invader from your top end or bottom end.  I will not get into the rest of the details, but will let you know that my brother's gut decided to purge the intruder through the back door.  

The next morning I looked at my brother and instantly knew something was wrong.  He had dark circles under his eyes and looked a little green.  He told me what happened, and I simply looked at him and said, "you have been agaved!".  "Agaved?", he questioned.  "Yes," I responded.  "The supposedly organic tequila you purchased was made with 100% agave syrup".  

My brother gave me one of those looks like here we go again - my sister, the know it all, it about to impart wisdom on her little brother.  In fact, I was.  

I informed my brother that "agave syrup is basically high-fructose corn syrup masquerading as a health food.” (a).  And, agave syrup is actually higher in fructose than high-fructose corn syrup.(b)  It contains 90% fructose.  I concluded with the simple fact that the agave plant is used as a natural laxative in herbal medicine practices. (c).  Hence, that is why he spent the evening having a "Dumb and Dumber moment".

My brother was shocked.  He assumed the tequila he purchased was healthier.  After all, it's label claimed it was a healthy choice.  It was made with agave syrup and agave syrup is a "natural product".  Clearly my brother had been duped.  He was trying to make a healthy choice, one that concurs with his food beliefs and diet culture.  My brother had been "agaved"!!!  

Even Dr. Oz has been "agaved".  In 2014 he posted the following on his blog:  "Over the past few months, I’ve become increasingly concerned about a sweetener that I’ve recommended on my show in the past. After careful consideration of the available research, today I’m asking you to eliminate agave from your kitchen and your diet." (d)

Later in the day my brother started to feel better and was ready to laugh about his evening.  I did feel bad for him, but I also knew that this would become one of those stories we add to our collection.  I now lovingly refer to it as:  "My brother and the agave incident."

Sources:

a.  Debunking the Blue Agave Myth

b.  Is Agave Nectar Good for You?

c.  Agave Nectar Side Effects

d. Dr Oz's Blog

 

36 hours and counting until my daughter, Grace, leaves for summer camp.  

Yes, I am completely nervous and also super excited for Grace to embark on this adventure.  This is Grace's 4th year going to overnight camp.  It gets easier each year to send her off on the 5 hour journey to the North Shore for 5 nights of old fashioned fun with her dearest friends and cousins.  

Why am I nervous?  

Because Grace is living with Fructose Malabsorption.  Sending Grace off to camp, far away from my watchful eye is so scary for me, but definitely the best thing for her.  For 5 days Grace has to completely own her food intolerance, shout it out loud to all of the campers, and still have a wonderful time.  I am completely amazed by my daughter as she prepares for camp each summer.  

Typically, we receive the camp menu one week in advance and start planning and shopping.  We choose to send Grace up with safe food substitutions vs relying on the camp staff to make those substitutions.  The camp Grace attends has a very caring and competent health and meal service department who would gladly make substitutions for Grace.  However, Grace has discovered that she feels more comfortable reading labels at home and choosing safe foods rather than having to worry about it up at camp.

Each year as I "patiently" wait for Grace to get off of the camp bus I am bursting with nervous energy.  I want Grace to have fun, feel like a regular kid and also own her allergy.  As soon as Grace gets in our car I give Grace the 3rd degree.  I try to start easy and ask normal mom questions like:

"Who was in your cabin?

Who was your counselor?

What did you choose for 11:00 activity?

Did you see any wild life?"

And then speaking of wild life my Mama Bear shows up to the conversation.

"How are you feeling?

Does your tummy hurt?

Did you get sick at all?

How did the other kids treat you when your special meals were delivered?"

Every year Grace answers all of my questions with ease.  She inherently knows that its best to answer me and not get annoyed.  She knows I am coming from a place of love and concern.  Occasionally, Grace's answers to these questions break my heart.  Especially, the first few years when she talked about how it was hard to feel different and how she just wanted to blend in.  Or, the year she ate a snack she shouldn't have and had to go to her emergency Fructose Malabsorption kit and take 2 glucose tablets and drink two bottles of water.

As I sit here getting her ready to go to camp again I realize how great this experience is for both Grace and me.  I am learning to let go and Grace is learning to own her intolerance.  I am learning to trust her and she is learning to trust herself.  I would just like to say, "thank you for summer camp."  If I was on Jimmy Fallon I would write a thank you note to summer camp.

"Dear Summer Camp,

Thank you for helping me to teach my daughter how to take ownership of her food intolerance.

Thank you for Grace's friends and cousins who support her.

Thank you for forcing me to relinquish control.

And, dear Summer Camp please help me this year not to ask so many questions when Grace returns.

Let me live in the moment and feel lucky that both Grace and I have had this opportunity.

Warmly, Lindsay Sorem (AKA Mama Bear)"

 

Grace's tips for a successful summer camp experience:

  1. Have your parents talk to the health staff before camp and make sure they can supply you a menu and list of ingredients.
  2. Once you receive the menu find substitutions for the things you can not eat so you can feel more normal.  My mom and I find safe cookies, bread, and breakfast foods that are similar to the food the other kids are eating.
  3. Even though you are nervous tell your campmates and counselor right away about your allergy.  They will become your support system for the week.
  4. Realize that it is ok to be different.  Everyone has something that makes them different.  Rather than different try to think of yourself as unique.
  5. Pack an emergency food intolerance kit.  I have Fructose Malabsorption.  I pack glucose tablets, Smartie Pops and bottles of water.  The glucose tablets and the glucose in the suckers help the fructose get absorbed.  My mom calls it the glucose spaceship.
  6. Be prepared for your family to ask you a lot of questions and be ready to give them answers.  They want to hear all about your time up at camp.
  7. Remember to have a lot of fun!  You are at camp without your parents!

 

 

Is your story similar to mine?  Did you struggle for years before finding an answer to what was making you feel so sick?  Did you ignore or explain away many of your symptoms? That is my story.

I assumed my constant brain fog and exhaustion were due to our hectic life schedule (even though I was sleeping 8 hours every night).  I presumed my joints throbbed because I had logged too many hours in the pool pursuing my dream of becoming a collegiate swimmer.  And, I definitely knew why all winter long I had sinus infections, bronchitis and a constant runny nose.  It was because I was around little kids. I was just one of those people who got sick a lot.  In fact, one of my friends called me “Leaky Lindsay”.

Never did I think these symptoms were severe enough to talk to a doctor.  It was much easier to explain them away and just trudge on day to day feeling only 50% healthy.  It wasn’t until I started to have an irritable bowel that I sought out medical advice. I easily avoided dealing with all of my other symptoms, but I couldn’t ignore my stomach pain or the fact that I was so bloated I looked like I was 3 months pregnant.  No, I was not expecting at this time, I just had a large belly full of undigested fructose that was wreaking havoc on my entire body. I had no idea my brain fog, achy joints and sinus issues were also due to Fructose Malabsorption.

In fact when I was first diagnosed with Fructose Malabsorption; and learned how to avoid foods that are high in fructose and man-made sweeteners it never occurred to me that my entire body would change, not just my gut.  One month into changing my diet I started to notice many changes. I wasn’t seeking out a mid-afternoon Starbucks run. I could make it all day without yawning. I could actually focus on a conversation in the late afternoon and not feel like I was living in Seattle battling the fog.  When I woke up in the morning I didn’t feel like an 85 year old. In fact I started jumping out of bed ready to tackle the day. And, my first holiday season without bronchitis and too many antibiotics was a holiday miracle!

Why didn’t I advocate for myself when I was feeling awful?  Why did if I have to put on a brave face and live only ½ of a life?  Now knowing how great I feel I wish I would have listened to my body and found an answer sooner.  

Are you like me?  Do you have other symptoms beyond an irritable bowel?  Are you trying to explain away these symptoms?

Do you have weird skin rashes or suffer from eczema? Are you worried about your next migraine, hoping it won’t happen on an important day at work?  Has your child been diagnosed with ADHD, but something tells you it might be something your child is eating?

Yes, all of these maladies can be caused by Fructose Malabsorption.

When your body doesn’t have the right mechanics to breakdown and transport the fructose in your food choices it causes a downward spiral of events.  Without getting too technical or using medical jargon, when you digest more fructose than your body can handle it causes an inflammation response in your body.  Your body is trying to do the right thing. It is trying to rid itself from the fructose invader. It does this in multiple ways. Water is pulled out of your cells and sent to your gut in hopes that the fructose villain can be flushed out.  This is why you can get a dry mouth, suffer from headaches and feel like you are living in Seattle. Your body becomes dehydrated. In addition, your immune system which is like the most super of Superwoman releases special chemicals called cytokines.  Think of cytokines as the Robin to the Batman. They are the workers trying to destroy the offensive fructose. Cytokines produce a mucus effect in your body that can contribute to lung and sinus issues and cause all sorts of other symptoms.

Doctors and scientists are starting to recognize that Fructose Malabsorption doesn’t just harm your gut, in can negatively affect your entire body.  Many of my favorite doctors are now recognizing the Fructose Malabsorption and chronic inflammation connection. We are the ones teaching them by informing them of how we are feeling.

If you are living only ½ of a life find someone who can help you.  Someone who can help you heal your body from the inside out, who can teach you what and what not to eat, and who recognizes the other symptoms of Fructose Malabsorption beyond an irritable bowel.

 

Resources:

If you prefer technical language and medical jargon this is a great article about chronic inflammation: Inflammatory Symptoms and Food Intolerances

If you are looking for a local dietitan/doctor to help you check out: healthprofs.com

Monday, 25 June 2018 01:36

S'mores Dilemma and the 4th of July

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Summers in Minnesota are all about spending time on one of our 10,000 lakes.  Each year on July 4th our cities become ghost towns.  Everyone flocks to one of our local lakes or heads North to spend time with familiy and friends.  We are fortunate to have a lake place in Brainerd, a two hour drive from our city home.  My parents spend the summer Up North and we visit almost every weekend and spend time on the lake over the 4th of July.  During the day we spend most of the time on the lake fishing, tubing, paddle boarding, kayaking, enjoying boat lunch picnics and swimming to the floating raft.  At night we like to sit on the screened in porch, listen to the waves and play board games.  Currently we are obsessed with playing Sequence and 5 Crowns.  Every year on Independence Day we make a red, white and blue cake with fresh berries.  My 14 and 11 year old love this tradition.  Jack and Grace put away their teenage tendencies and embrace the cake decorating.  Here is a picture of my kids and their grandfather with our 2012 USA flag masterpiece.

 

Another tradition Minnesotans love is making S'mores over an open campfire.  At our cabin we have a built in fire pit with bench seating right by the lake.  But, to be honest we do not use it very often.  My daughter, Grace, can not have S'mores because of her Fructose Malabsorption.  Graham crackers are typically made with honey, a definite "no" for FM patients and marshmallows are made with high fructose man-made sweeteners, another "no" in her world.  I have truly visited every grocery store and every online food market looking for safe marshmallows and graham crackers.  It is heart breaking for me that Grace can not participate in this tradition.  I loved roasting marshmallows as a kid.  The combination of chocolate with a slightly burnt marshmallow and two crisp graham crackers was heavenly.  I want Grace to enjoy this tradition.  As her mom I need to make this happen.  This July 4th we are adding a new tradition to our annual vacation, S'mores by the campfire. 

It is the end of June and we are getting ready to spend another July 4th holiday at the lake.  And, this year rather than looking for a man-made product I have decided to try making homemade marshmallows and graham crackers.  Yesterday, I spent 30 minutes browsing the internet to find safe recipes and 60 minutes in my kitchen whipping up marshmallows and rolling out graham cracker dough.  Both of my kids were full of doubt.  Before the graham crackers even entered the oven they were bargaining for ice cream having already determined my creation would not be good.  How could they doubt me?  To be honest, I was doubting myself.  Homemade marshmallows, no way could I pull this off.

Well, flash forward a few hours later and "Wallah" I had created a mouth watering, totally delicious S'more!  The graham crackers were crisp and the marshmallows were sticky, creamy and tasted exactly like what I enjoyed as a kid.  I couldn't believe it.  In fact as I was putting Grace to bed last night I said to her, "Guess what I did today?"  And she said, "what?".  I responded, "I made marshmallows!".  We both laughed until our cheeks hurt and then talked about all the ways we were going to use our new marshmallows.  How about S'mores pie, and S'mores ice cream?  Just like the Girl Scouts coined in 1927, we want "some more of our S'mores"!

 

I used a recipe from Genius Kitchen for the marshmallows.  

A few tips:

  1. I skipped the coconut part. 
  2. You need to watch out for vanilla. Many brands use corn syrup. You may need to visit your local co-op to find real vanilla, vanilla made from Madagascar beans. Yes, this type of vanilla is expensive, but it lasts a long time and will not give you a tummy ache. We prefer Rodelle vanilla extract.  
  3. We needed to cool the marshmallows in our fridge.  

Graham Cracker Recipe:

I changed a recipe suggestion I found on the internet.  I wanted to incorporate graham flour.

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup flour + flour for rolling out the dough
  • 1 1/3 cup graham flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two large baking sheets.
  2. Using an electric mixer combine the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl for a few minutes until it is light and fluffy.
  3. Stir in the dry ingredients.
  4. Stir in the water.
  5. Allow the dough to cool in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Using the extra flour roll out the dough to 1/8 of an inch thick.  Cut the dough into squares.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes and use a fork to make holes in the crackers.

Tips:

  1. It is hard to find graham flour in your local grocery store.  You can order Bob's Red Mill Graham Flour, 24-ounce at many online markets.
  2. Allow the crackers to cool and dry out for at least 3 hours before you make the S'mores.
  3. Make sure you use brown sugar that does NOT contain molasses. Molasses is not good for people who suffer from Fructose Malabsorption. I use the Wild Harvest brand.
Tuesday, 19 June 2018 21:02

The Gateway Salad: Caesar Salad

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My daughter, Grace, played in a hockey tournament last month.  Let me be honest, this is not an unusual occurrence in our house.  With 3 hockey players in our family there are a lot of hockey tournaments filling up my calendar!    

 

As soon as my 11 year old hits the ice Grace’s sweet, cuddly, “love bug” persona gives way to this aggressive, determined to win athlete. Grace works her tail off and cheers on her teammates with equal zeal.  She truly loves hockey tournament weekends, and adores her hockey friends. She thrives in this environment. 

 

Typically, in between games we host her hockey friends at our house for post and pre-game meals.  Jeff and I love sitting around the dining room table with her hockey friends, watching them interrupt each other, and reveling in this time spent together.  Last month we hosted 3 friends for a pre-game pasta meal. I made my “Mama Sorem” Meatballs and Caesar salad. The four girls ate as if they were division one football players sitting down at a training table. 

 

At the game later that night one of the mom’s asked me what I served.  She was shocked to hear that her picky, non-adventurous daughter ate salad.  I wasn’t shocked at all. I simply looked at her and said, “Caesar salad, it’s the gateway salad.” My friend laughed, looked at me with a doubtful expression and repeated, “Caesar salad, the gateway salad?”

 

“Yes, Caesar salad, it the first salad you try, the one that tastes so good that it opens up your palate to branch out and try more exotic salads like Italian,1000 Island and even Greek salads.”

 

My friend was thrilled that her daughter had branched out.  She wanted to know more.

 

“Why the Caesar salad?”

 

“How can I take advantage of this new found discovery?”

 

“Ooh, what can I hide among the Caesar dressing?”

 

Honestly, I am not sure what gives Caesar salad a cult like following among Jack and Grace’s friends.  You would think ranch dressing would be more idolized. After all, Caesar salad is made with anchovies.  Gross! I love Caesar salad, but would never eat an anchovy and highly doubt my kids would either. 

 

I think the Caesar loves comes from the Romano cheese.  It gives it that tangy, nutty sweetness. 

Once I discovered the magic of the Caesar salad I started taking advantage of it.  I would micro-chope cucumbers and radishes into tiny matchsticks, and dice broccoli into minute pieces and hide it among the creamy Caesar dressing.  Fork by fork Jack and Grace would eat all of the hidden vegetables. It undoubtedly is magic! 

 

One of our favorite summer meals is Chicken Caesar Salad.  I make my "Mom's Oven Chicken", slice it up on a bed of power greens, clean out my vegetable drawer, add any vegetable we have left over, and top it off with Caesar dressing.  It’s a quick, easy and healthy dinner on my table in 30 minutes.

 

Caesar Dressing:

 

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup Thrive Market Greek Olive Oil
  • 1/2 shredded Pecorino Romano Cheese
  • 2 dashes Sky Valley Sriracha Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Just Mayo
  • 2 teaspoons Maille Dijon Mustard
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (equivalent to two cloves)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

 

Directions:

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.

 

Tips:

  1. Our family prefers Just Mayo.  It is minimally processed, made in small batches, non-GMO, dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free.
  2. I like to use Maille Dijon Mustard.  It is a simple recipe, but adds the right amount of pungent flavor to any dish.
  3. Lately I have been shopping online at Thrive Market.  We recently discovered the Greek Olive Oil.  It is organic, non-GMO, raw, vegan, has no trans fats and no artificial ingredients, is preservative-free, and comes from a single origin.
  4. My kids love when I make my "Mom's Oven Chicken" or Chicken Milanese with Caesar salad.  
  5. I like to use a Zulay citrus squeezer.  It helps me get the last drop out of every lemon.

My new obsession, Cranberries...NO, they are not just a Thanksgiving side dish:

Lately, I have become obsessed with cranberries.  It all started at Thanksgiving.  Every year I look forward to Thanksgiving cranberries.  They are my favorite part of the holiday meal.  In my opinion turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes need the tartness of the cranberry to bring out their savory flavors.  Without the cranberry the other traditional foods just don’t have the same flavor and are just not as good.  


When I was cleaning up Thanksgiving evening and packaging up our leftovers I noticed that most of my guests do not share this obsession-there were a lot of leftover cranberries.  I wondered where is the cranberry love?  After all blackberries and blueberries are hot foods right now.  They can be found on most top 10 healthy food lists.  But, why not the cranberry?  Cranberries, too, are packed with antioxidants and nutrients just like their more favored berry cousins.  Cranberries even have their own advertising campaign. Have you seen the commercial of the guy water skiing in a cranberry bog?  You can’t do that in a blueberry bush. I knew that evening that I needed to embrace the cranberry and turn my family into cranberry lovers.


As I was pondering over what to cook with a cranberry I knew I should ease my family into my cranberry obsession.  I intentionally chose to start with cranberry streusel muffins knowing that the brown sugar, oatmeal topping would trick my kids into trying the muffins.  It worked!  The kids loved the muffins and actually loved the flavor of the cranberries.  The tartness balances the sugar in the muffin mix and makes them quite delectable.


As I was experimenting with cranberry recipes it occurred to me how good cranberries are for people suffering with Fructose Malabsorption.  Cranberries only have .7 grams of fructose per serving.  They have the lowest amount of fructose of any fruit.  Wow!  Need I say more; time to love the cranberry.  Well yes, I will say more.  Cranberries are known to reduce overall inflammation and studies have shown that this anti-inflammatory component can benefit people living with digestive disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.  This is a powerful little berry.


However, please do not confuse a cranberry with a craisin.  Craisins are like raisins, or any dried fruit, they have a lot of fructose.  A typical serving of craisins has 40 grams of fructose-definitely not Fructose Malabsorption friendly, definitely not gut friendly, and definitely not something you should embrace.


Let’s be honest.  The cranberry streusel muffins were an easy sell in my house.  Everyone loves a good muffin.   But, how about a salad?  Wouldn’t it be great if I could pack my kids a chicken cranberry salad for lunch that they actually enjoyed?  I would feel like a super mom providing my kids with a low sugar, anti-inflammatory, super kid lunch.  I was up for the challenge.  The only obstacle standing in my way of super mom success was the raw cranberry.  I knew raw cranberries would not be good in a salad.  After a few attempts I conquered the obstacle and came up with a super easy solution.  I put ½ cup of frozen cranberries in a coffee mug, covered them with water and microwaved them for one minute:  perfecto, cranberry success!  They were soft, not over cooked and added a texture similar to the forbidden craisin to my salad.  And, yes I do feel like a super mom when I pack this salad for lunch for my kids.


We are all now embracing and in fact loving cranberries at our house.  Do you share the cranberry love?  If so, please send me your favorite cranberry recipe.  And, by the way the next item on my cranberry bucket list is to visit a cranberry bog.  I might even try the water skiing.

 


Cranberry Chicken Salad:


Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup Just Mayo
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fresh Litehouse Basil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large chicken breasts, cooked and diced
  • ½ cup frozen cranberries


Directions:

  1. Mix mayo through fresh lemon juice together in a medium bowl.
  2. Add chicken and mix.
  3. Place cranberries in a coffee mug, cover the cranberries with water and microwave for one minute.
  4. Drain the cranberries and add them to the salad mixture.

Tips:

  1. Our family prefers Just Mayo.  It is minimally processed, made in small batches, non-GMO, dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free.
  2. I prefer to use rice vinegar.  It has no added sugars.
  3. Your favorite fresh vegetables would be a great addition to this salad.
  4. We use Litehouse Basil at our house.  It is freeze dried, not dried like spices you find in your spice aisle; and gives a very fresh flavor to dishes.  I have hard time keeping basil leaves fresh in my fridge.  Litehouse gives me this fresh option.  In the summer I grow fresh basil and love to use it.  That is not an option during our cold Minnesota winters.

 

 


Cranberry Streusel Muffins:

About a month ago I started a science experiment; a sugar science experiment to be exact.  I have been reducing the amount of sugar in all recipes by 50%.  It is working.  It doesn't change the recipe or the taste.  For more information on this experiment check out My Sugar Experiment.  I am planning on trying it with this recipe, too.


Ingredients:

Streusel topping:

  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Muffins:

  • 2 cups flour
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup frozen cranberries


Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 12 serving muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl mix the streusel topping ingredients together with your fingers until the mixture comes together in clumps.  Set this aside.
  3. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Make a well in the center of the mix.  Add the eggs to the well and whisk it.  
  4. Stir in the milk and melted butter.
  5. Gently fold in the cranberries.
  6. Divide the batter among the muffin cups and top with the streusel topping.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  8. Allow them to cool for 5 minutes.

Tips:

  1. This recipe could be made gluten free by changing to a rice flour blend.  We discovered a great gluten free flour mix that tastes divine in baked products.  Mix 24 oz brown rice flour, 24 ox white rice flour, 24 oz sweet rice flour, 20 oz tapioca flour and 2.5 tablespoons Xanthum Gum in a large container.  When baking equally substitute this mix cup for cup if a recipe calls for regular flour.
Monday, 18 June 2018 11:30

My Favorite Top 5 Kitchen Gadgets

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Here are my top 5 kitchen gadgets we use on a weekly basis.  They will make your cooking life a lot easier.  I have added a link to Amazon for all 5 gadgets.  

1.  Zulay Citrus Squeezer:  My hands are not very strong and sometimes I struggle to squeeze lemons.  This squeezer makes it super easy.  I use fresh lemon juice in a lot of my recipes.  It compliments smoky spices, is a great addition to salad dressings, works well when you bake fish, and my daughter likes to use it when she make lemon buttercream frosting.  We use fresh lemon juice in these recipes:

Chicken and Rice Mediterranean Bowl

Homemade Casear Salad Dressing

Greek Chicken Salad

Homemade Ranch Dip

Greek Nachos

Tuna Salad

Herb Baked Salmon

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Cilantro Lime Rice Bowls and Southwestern Chicken

 

2.  Reynolds Kitchens Cookie Baking Sheets Parchment Paper:  I always use parchment paper when I bake fish.  It makes clean-up a breeze.  These Reynolds Kitchen Baking Sheets fit your standard size cooking sheet perfectly.  Here are my 3 favorite fish recipes:

Herb Baked Salmon

Baked Tilapia, Braised Potatoes and Roasted Asparagus

Asian Glazed Salmon with a Matchstick Salad and Orange Vinaigrette

 

3.  Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker and Warmer:  We use our rice cooker at least two times a week.  White rice is the perfect compliment to so many different types of cuisines.  I also love that using a rice cooker allows you extra prep time when you are trying to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes.  This rice cooker can be set 11 hours before you plan on serving dinner.  It is a huge time saver.

Chicken Sausage and Veggie Saute

Jack and Grace's Favorite Stirfry Recipe

Chicken and Rice Mediterranean Bowl

Cilantro Lime Rice Bowls and Southwestern Chicken

 

4.  Bakerpan Silicone Brownie Mold:  Grace and I have discovered that it is really hard to find safe granola bars at the grocery store.  Most are made with honey, molasses or other man-made commercial sweeteners that are high in fructose.  We have sampled at least a dozen recipes over the last year trying to perfect the perfect granola bar recipe.  It finally occurred to me that I needed to create a simple syrup with sugar and water to replicate the quality of honey, molasses or a high fructose syrup; an ingredient that would help the granola bar ingredients stick together.  I also found this great pan on Amazon and used parchment squares.  You can make individual granola bar bites and clean-up is very easy.  Grace and her friends can make this recipe by themselves and even her friends without Fructose Malabsorption love these.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Gooey Goodness Granola Bars

 

5.  Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5 Ice-cream maker: When you have Fructose Malabsorption it is really tough to find ice-cream that is made with real sugar.  Last year I purchased this ice-cream maker on a whim.  At first my family questioned my purchase.  However, after I made my first batch of chocolate chip vanilla ice-cream they were celebrating my investment.  Honestly, this ice-cream tastes like what I used to eat as a kid on hot summer nights.  It is creamy, super easy to make and the kids love suggesting new flavors.  In addition to many pints of chocolate chip vanilla ice-cream we have made chocolate, coffee, mint chocolate chip and pirate's booty ice-cream.  We actually just purchased a second ice-cream maker for our family's lake home.  We decided we couldn't go one weekend without homemade ice-cream. 

 

 

Recently I’ve been revisiting old cookbooks that have been collecting dust on my shelves.  I found the Strawberry Shortcake cookbook my grandmother gave me in 1980 when I was four years old. When I was a toddler I adored anything Strawberry Shortcake, especially the Lemon Meringue and Blueberry Muffin dolls.  I would spend hours setting them up in miniature scenes and creating fairytales about their latest adventures in Strawberryland.  I  was thrilled when my grandmother gave me the cookbook.  Yes, I loved all things Strawberry Shortcake.  But, I was truly delighted that my grandmother thought I was old enough and ready to cook with her in kitchen.

I can vividly remember watching her prepare dinner at our family cabin on Whitefish Lake. I would sit and play with my Strawberry Shortcake dolls and watch my grandmother whip up all sorts of things from scratch.  She always wore an apron and would quietly hum a 1920s swing tune. Watching her in the kitchen was magical.  My grandmother was completely content in the kitchen.  It was her domain.

What I love most about this cookbook is that it encourages kids to get in the kitchen, make a mess, and start experimenting with flavors. There aren't any complicated directions that need to be followed.  Truly, the whole goal is to engage kids in new and unusual smells, textures, tastes and sights; and to be proud of something they created with their own two hands.

Last weekend we went up to my parent's lake place and I decided it would be fun to re-create the monster sandwich recipe featured in my 1980 copy of Strawberry Shortcakes's Cooking Fun.  I gathered vegetables, fruit, deli meats, different types of breads and sandwich spreads and asked them to get creative.  At first there was a little bit of hesitancy, but once they let go of their inhibitions their imagination ran wild.  It was very interesting to watch my parents, Jeff, Jack and Grace use the different shapes and textures found in the fresh food to create monster hair with roast beef, long stubby carrot noses and peach slice incisors.

 

 

My 11-year-old daughter, Grace, just graduated from fifth grade and what she wanted most for graduation was cake decorating tools .  Grace uses up all of her screen time to watch shows like Cupcake Wars on the Food Network.  Before graduation I was discussing Grace's passion with a work colleague.  She suggested that I purchase the cookbook, Cake Bible, to go along with the icing spatulas, piping tips and frosting bags.  Grace opened her present the night before her graduation and read the Cake Bible cover to cover. It was fascinating to watch her become engrossed in this cookbook.  It hardly has any pictures and there aren't any food star celebrity endorsements.  The Cake Bible is just old-fashioned cake recipes. I gave Grace a pack of 100 sticky notes to mark her favorite recipes.  She used all 100 notes!  

This weekend after making the monster sandwiches Grace embarked on her first solo baking adventure.  After four solid hours spent in the cabin's kitchen Grace had made a chocolate buttercream cake with the cocoa espresso whipped cream frosting.  I was shocked!  It was decadent.  It looked and tasted like something I would buy at our local bakery.  To go along with the cake Grace also created white buttercream cupcakes.  When the cupcakes were cool she cut out the middle of each cupcake and piped in a raspberry coulis.  By the way how does she know what a coulis is and how to make one?  The Food Network! To finish off the cupcakes Grace made the most heavenly lemon butter cream frosting.  Simply divine!

Just like my Strawberry Shortcake recipe book, the Cake Bible encourages us all, big or small, to get in the kitchen, try different flavors and create things with our own two hands.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, 08 June 2018 11:16

Joy Of Cooking

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Recently I posted one of my favorite Julia Child's quotes:  "You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients" on my Instagram page.  As I was meal planning that same day it occurred to me that my family isn't looking for a masterpiece, they are craving a family meal.  They desire time spent together around our kitchen table sharing our days, laughing and spending time together.  Sometimes our family dinners are 15 minutes long and we all talk at the same time as we quickly eat a turkey sandwich before we rush out the door to activities.  Other evenings I have time to prepare a dinner that is a little more complicated then putting fresh turkey on bakery bread.  What Julia Child made me realize is that it isn't a fancy meal that beckons my family to the table, it's fresh food and time spent together that calls them.

How I can a get back to basics like Julia Child suggested, but at the same time come up with new ideas so I am not rotating the same 12 recipes?  Where do I start on this new cooking adventure?  Where do I find tips and recipe suggestions for "good food from fresh ingredients"?  Many recipes I do come across on the internet and see while browsing cookbooks are masterpieces.  It feels completely daunting to embark on making many of these suggested meals and most of them are not basic or easy.  

It occurred to me the answer is on my cookbook shelf.  I own my mom's Joy of Cooking cookbook that was published in 1964.  You will not find any glossy pictures in this book, just simple recipes and tips on how to cook fresh in season food.  The pages of my cookbook are slightly yellowed, some pages are falling out and the dessert section is speckled with cocoa powder and my mom's handwriting.  My mom is an excellent baker!  One of her favorites is page 643, the Buche do Noel:  a simply divine chocolate roll cake with whipped cream frosting and a chocolate glaze.  You will also find in the Joy of Cooking cookbook over 500 simple recipes, tips on how to pick the perfect cut of beef and nutrition information.

I am all in this summer to put together "good food from fresh ingredients", focus on using in season foods, and not get suckered in to "masterpieces".  I am going to embrace Julia Child's motto and go back to the basics.  Like the authors of Joy of Cooking ask, "What Shall We Have for Dinner" tonight?

The first new recipe I made out of my rediscovered Joy of Cooking cookbook was "Fish Baked In A Covered Dish", page 352.  I determined I couldn't get any simpler than this.  The recipe title actually made me laugh out loud, "Fish Baked In A Covered Dish."  No catchy name, no fancy words like "au bleu" or "consommé" in this recipe title; just baked fish in a dish.  It sounds like a Dr. Seuss rhyme.  I need to tell you it was delicious and very easy.  I prepared the fish in less than 2 minutes, watched it bake for 20 minutes and then finished it with a little butter, fresh herbs, lemon juice and capers.  It's not a fancy meal, it's not a masterpiece that you could find at a 3 star Michelin restaurant, but it brought my family to the table and gave us an opportunity to spend time together. 

 

why we should all eat simple whole fresh foods

 

 

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