Somewhere along the journey of losing 100 pounds, I realized I was never going to exist on chee-tos, Totino pizza rolls, and ginger ale ever again. Along the way, a little at a time, my diet become more and more clean, more real, more whole. It has left the inner parts of the grocery store and made it to mainly to the perimeter. For some time now, I've made food. From real, mainly organic, ingredients. For about 6 years I was vegetarian. Next, the whole joint super inflamed thing started becoming an issue a couple of years ago, and I gave up gluten.
Umm.... We won't talk about when I'm on vacation. Or a couple months ago when I basically had a short hiatus that may or may not have included an entire Fried Talapia Reuben at Tarrant's Cafe. I just read this post from when I first became gluten free and if my Then Self read this Now Self's current post she would be very disappointed.
I had actually started eating seafood occasionally when I gave up gluten, but without the gluten to help source my protein, I began eating meat again. Eating meat feels good to my body. Surprisingly so. Physically at least. Ethically I still fight it a bit.
Not having gluten in my life is ok. Overall, I don't miss it that much when cooking. The gluten I use in cooking has been easy to replace. (The oh so versatile Rice Chex...) Eating out is more difficult, but I make it work. Overall, it's just not that bad, but I'm not celiac. If I have gluten in a sauce or give into temptation and have a bite of something I will not be running to the toilet. I am fairy certain the inside of my body would not agree with that statement, but I don't fall to terrible immediate symptoms like some. Admittedly, I sometimes don't want to ask 500 questions of a server. Sometimes I don't want to appear rude to a host. And I guess sometimes I am just weak and want a Reuben. I feel for those who don't have that freedom.
That all said, it's time for the next step of taking control over this wonderful autoimmune body of mine. I swear I practically cry every time I read all the foods those with autoimmune issues should avoid. Y'all ready? Imagine Paleo but a million times more restrictive. Here goes: Grains (as in ALL of them- rice, corn, wheat, the lot.), beans, legumes, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, sugar, every vegetable oil outside of coconut and olive, chocolate, caffeine, coffee, alcohol (um, have you met me?!), nightshade vegetables, and possibly FODMAPs. (They include onions. If you have read my very first post, or know me at all... no. Can't be, will not be me.)
I started reading about it in much more depth only about a month ago. I feel so behind. At that time, I was miserable. Yes, there was my gluten downfall- and I should say it was just a few meals, not like I was eating it daily, but I was feeling so bad, even though it'd been a month or so since my escapade. EVERYTHING in my body was aching and hurting beyond recent memory. And it was not because I like to lift heavy things at the gym. I felt like I was on fire. Sitting at Barnes and Noble (latte in hand, obviously) with hips so sore it hurt to sit and the middle of my back burning through my skin, I realized I felt just like I did 100 pounds ago. Lost and confused and not knowing where to start. So, I decided to start where I started 100 pounds ago. With one thing at a time. One change at a time.
I thought a lot about what foods I'd been eating that had been different. Obviously, the few cheats with gluten, but I'd done that before and not felt THIS bad. So, what was different? Tomatoes. It was the cusp of fall and I had been absolutely about some meatballs and sauce. And tomato based soups, chili, and things like enchilada casserole. I'd been cooking with tomatoes every weekend and eating those leftovers all week long consistently for about a month. I don't dislike fresh tomatoes, but I don't seek them out, so I don't take in nearly as much of them in the summer months. I figured it seemed most logical to start by cutting out nightshades.
Nightshades include tomatoes, white potatoes (not sweet thank you sweet Jesus), eggplant, and... so sadly, peppers. All peppers. EVERY single one of them. That's where it hurts. (At least peppercorns are safe.) A quick Google will give you loads of info on how these veggies contain alkaloids, which are basically poison to folks with sensitivities. The alkaloids in nightshades has been connected to chronic joint pain and inflammation.
In my reading, I have noted that tomatoes seem to be the biggest offenders of those with nightshade issues, just like gluten is to those with grain allergies. I've also read that some people can tolerate very small doses of nightshades, while others can tolerate none. I felt like I should be hopeful for the membership into the first group. With this thought in mind, I have had the following small amounts of nightshades in the past month: I used a jalapeno in some guacamole, prepared Curry (cayenne) in the recipe I'm posting today, taken a few bites of hash browns when we went out for breakfast, enjoyed an olive tapenade a friend brought over that had a bit of tomato in it, and indulged in the paprika that was sprinkled on the NOT roasted red pepper hummus I purchased.
It's not been so bad. And the best part? I feel freaking awesome. Like the best I have felt in a very long time. Not only am I not feeling like a hot little inflamed mess, even the chronic black circles under my eyes (due to my cockroach poop allergies, according to the Doc) are lightening a bit, mentally I feel more clear- fewer anxious and depressed feelings, my knee joints aren't popping constantly, and my workouts have been fierce. Oh, and the best part may be not having to put a hot wash cloth on my lower back to loosen it enough so I can bend down to brush my teeth in the mornings. I think I'm onto something.
The idea is to eliminate all nightshades for 4-6 weeks, then go on a nightshade binge for a day to see what happens in the following 2-3 days. This would then prove your sensitivity. I can see it now. Gluten free pizza for breakfast piled high w/ caramelized green peppers, spicy meatballs in a rich tomato sauce for lunch, and a crock pot full of chili topped with jalapenos for dinner. I don't think I would plan a day out like that for real- although quite fun to imagine- but I am sure I will eventually give in to going to dinner at Maya, or will just absolutely not be able to take another minute without a a cheesy gooey tomatoey pasta casserole... and then we'll see what happens. At the moment, I am feeling really good, so I'm just going to try to go with that.
How I have treated this month with nightshades is close to how I am treating my overall approach to the autoimmune diet. 80% good... 20% still adapting.
My thought about how I will approach my posts, for awhile anyway, is to take the full day around a recipe I want to post and use it as a snapshot of my progress- or lack there of, perhaps.
This is what I ate Thursday... please excuse not only the poor photo quality, but also the somewhat cheesy, yet terribly convenient, photo collage. I aim to do better. But I still might keep the collages. They are crazy fun to make.
Breakfast: Banana- because wow. Look at that pathetic little guy. Needed eaten. I also had sauerkraut, and hash (I know it looks like ass, but I promise it's swoon worthy... please give the recipe below a chance...)
Snack: Green tea (switching to decaf...), and an almond and coconut energy bite
Lunch: Chicken thigh, sweet mashed potato, broccoli simply seasoned with only salt and pepper
Pre-dinner: Thursday evening cocktail: Vodka, soda water, lime juice, splash of cranberry
Dinner: Salad w/ Romaine, spinach, avocado, onion, carrots, cucumber, slivered almonds, broccoli, cauliflower, chicken thigh, homemade balsamic dressing, and a drizzle of Simply Dressed Feta dressing. And a sweet potato and bacon autoimmune diet friendly biscuit.
Promise me you'll try this hash even if it's not pretty. It's super good and comes together in a second once you have the squash roasted. I made it on a Sunday to fuel us through the week for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, but it's fast enough that it would actually be great for a weeknight dinner. Especially easy if the squash was roasted over the weekend prior, and I do love a good weekend food prep for the week ahead!
Beef and Butternut Squash Hash
Preheat oven to 400.
1 medium onion, chopped
Handful of shredded carrots
1 pound grass fed ground beef
1 medium butternut squash
Your favorite Curry- I used Penzey's Vindaloo
Cut the ends from the squash and peel. Slice the squash in half and dig out all of the seeds. Cut in cubes and put the cubes in a bowl. Take about a TBSP of coconut oil and give it a quick melt in the microwave. Pour a tiny bit at a time over the squash and toss until all the cubes are glistening and happy. Pour them out onto a cookie sheet and bake them for about 30 minutes or so. Give them a stir once in awhile if your oven is like mine and the back right corner- even though it's convection- holds a hot spot. You want the squash to be soft and easy to eat. Maybe some little brown bits here and there.
In a saute pan over medium heat, use any remaining coconut oil from before and add a bit more to get a shy TBSP. Add chopped onion and carrot and let them have some time to cook down with some salt and pepper. At this point, I add about 1 TBSP of curry and allow it make the house smell super good. Once the spices have a few moments, add the beef and garlic. Cook until the beef is browned, then add the butternut squash and another TBSP (or to taste) of your curry. Combine well and give the hash a little time to come together and get well acquainted on a low heat.
That's it. Eat from it all week.
If you haven't cooked with coconut oil before, please note that your leftovers will have bits of white- that's the coconut oil. It just hardens again from your fridge. It's all good. It will melt when you warm it up.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading... if you are battling any of this same mess, please leave me a comment or contact me. I could really use some of your thoughts, advice, and support. And your autoimmune friendly recipes are always welcome!