I have spend the last few years trying to figure out how to live a normal life with a restricted diet. At one point I had to help our twelve year old son with his diet limitations for a while due to health, then our little grandson who has food allergies, and some few friends and acquaintances who have struggled with food sensitivities. Between my challenges and others, I have learned few things along the way by reading and researching a lot about the difference between food intolerance or sensitivity vs food allergy. The biggest difference is that with food allergy if you eat the wrong thing, that specific food actually attacks the immune system and can potentially be life threatening, while food intolerance is not life threatening at all, it only causes anything from mild to severe symptoms. Unfortunately if you don’t know for sure whether it is a true allergy or intolerance, it can become a real struggle, because sometimes the symptoms appear to almost be the same. But usually your doctor should be able to run either a blood test and/or do a skin test. It is important though to know and understand the difference. For instance, if you are eating out and you are allergic to peanut, obviously the restaurant or the friends you are having dinner with, need to be able to assure you that your meal is peanut free.
Increase In Sensitivity and Allergies
Why are we seeing an increase in food intolerance? Actually science and doctors don’t seem to have a complete answer to this question. Which makes it even more frustrating when you are given a list of foods you can’t eat by your doctor. I’m going to try to keep my personal opinion out, but it sure is difficult. Specially when we see how they use so much pesticides on our crops. And all the processed foods that are on the grocery shelves. Either way, we do have a surge both with allergies and intolerance. I know how hard this can be and hopeless it can feel at times, as I have watched my little grandson suffer so severely with large bloody itchy sores all over his tiny body, I have also seen little neighbor boys exactly the same way. I’ve seen young women who vomit, have diarrhea and suffer with severe migraines and still can’t find any answers after spending thousands of dollars with all kinds of doctors.
Because I like cooking, I have been able to try to use my imagination to the max, to come up with all kinds of meals and treats. I have learned to experiment with recipes. Not only is it hard to figure things out on daily basis, but when I go out to eat at friends or restaurants, it really becomes a big issue. I feel so lucky to have some real close friends who are so mindful of my needs. Always asking me if a certain dining place is even remotely possible for me. Taking something with me is usually the norm when I’m eating away at someones house.The best thing ever, is when my 2-year old grandson shows up for a family dinner, and he runs over with a BIG smile, asking for grandma’s food, that’s when I know, my food is okay!!
Hard With Children
Just with my own surrounding, I know there are as many adults as well as children that struggle with food intolerance and allergies. I try to teach others what I have learned but what is really hard is to watch these kids not being able to have yummy foods and treats to eat. Over the past few years I have found few brands of packaged foods out there that are awesome and work great. There is one in particular brand that has been really good. This brand is free from the top 8 highly allergic/sensitive ingredients. When I buy their products, I know my grandson is not going to have any issues, it is called “Enjoy Life” brand. They have cookies, cake mixes, granola bars and few other things. Their crispy chocolate cookies are my favorite (highly addicting 😉
Help With Dinner
Recently I had a young mother help me with something (yes, have to admit it was technical/computer stuff). I felt so grateful for her talents and abilities. This young mom has six young children and several have suffered from allergies and rashes. This young family has tried every cream, diet and medical profession out there. There quest has been long. Luckily couple of the boys have outgrown their sensitivities, but they have the one boy who is still struggling. I asked her if I could do her a favor in return, by bringing in a meal for their family of eight. She seemed pretty happy about it and said she would love that. Then she said “Maria, my little boy can only have; beans, quinoa, millet, rice, vegetables, olive oil and coconut milk”. I told her it would be just fine. I went home and thought “what am I going to cook for a little boy with that many restrictions???”
I decided to use vegetables from our garden as much as possible and try to supplement with other few things he could eat. So I started creating and writing things down. I ended up cooking a vegan curry dish with quinoa, served it with rice and a salad (I ended up marinating and cooking some chicken too, for the rest of the family, which unfortunately the little guy couldn’t eat, but I knew his siblings would appreciate). To my joy, the mother informed me that same night, that the dinner was a hit!! I was so excited, and impressed that a little kid would be willing to eat such a different meal. But even more impressed, that an entire family of that many were willing to try something new, and support a family member. Here is the recipe I came up with. I would love getting some feedback on it.
Vegan Curry Dish With Quinoa – 8 people
¼ C Olive Oil
1 Large Yellow Onion
5 Garlic Cloves
½ C Quinoa
½ C Water
1 tsp Turmeric
1 ½ tsp Curry
1 tsp Ginger
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Tandoori (Spice)
1 tsp Lemongrass (Optional)
1 Tablespoon Salt (use your own judgment)
3 ½ C Unsweetened Coconut Milk
10-11 C Cubed Butternut Squash
1 Can (15 oz.) Organic Garbanzo Beans (drained and rinsed)
3-4 Tablespoon Coconut Cream
In a large deep dish saucepan add olive oil, chopped onion and pressed garlic. Saute for a minute and then add the turmeric, curry, ginger, thyme, garlic powder, tandoori and lemongrass. Add the water and about half of the coconut milk. Then add the quinoa and cubed butternut squash and salt. Let it all simmer for 15-20 min. Open can and drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. Add the beans to the dish and remainder water and the coconut cream. If you want the dish to have more sauce, just add a little extra water. Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley if you would like. Serve.
3 C Jasmine Rice
4 ½ C Water
¼ C Coconut Oil
2 tsp salt
Add water, rice, salt and oil in a pot. Put the lid on the pot. Cook it on the stove on high. Once it starts boiling, lower the temperature to really low and let it cook for another 15-20 min. Remove the lid and gentle stir. Serve.
Slice tomatoes, cucumbers, onion and some green leaf lettuce. Mix it all in a bowl. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and serve.
Few years ago, I created a seasoning salt for my salads that I sold at Farmers Markets. I still use that mix for any salads I make. It has multiple herbs, garlic and onion powder mixed in it. The point is, you really don’t need an expensive or complicated dressing for your veggies. All you need is a good olive oil and a tasty balsamic vinegar and you have a simple, yummy salad.
The hardest part is still eating out. Last week I arrived to Sweden to be with family, I had ordered a allergen free meal for the plane ride(coach seat), well there was some mix-up so I ended up having to eat only the two apples I had brought with, during the entire 11 hour flight. Sometimes It is real frustrating and hard, but I would rather not eat then be sick. But other times I luck out, and find an amazing salad (make your own style) while I was out for lunch with my nieces today (and I thought I did pretty good with the price to $11 for my meal and I got fresh salmon) Either way, it has become a lifestyle for me, to eat , clean, simple, and unprocessed foods.