One of my pet peeves as a Food Allergic Person (FAP) happens almost every time I want to take part in large-scale celebration. Let’s say it’s an upcoming New Year’s Eve event at a beautiful hotel. The organizer is selling tickets to the posh event, and the tickets are available in a number of levels. Here’s an example:
1. Bells and Whistles. Pay $$$$ for tickets, and you get a premium table in the VIP room and seating, access to a full-food buffet, unlimited drink tickets, and arrangements for safe transportation to and from the event.
2. A Bell and A Whistle. Pay $$$ for tickets, you get a table in the main room, access to the full-food buffet, three drink tickets, and you arrange your own safe transportation.
3. No Bells and No Whistles. Pay $$ for tickets, no table (stand up and eat), access to the full-food buffet, two drink tickets, and you arrange your own safe transportation.
4. There is no option #4 (except being told, “We can’t help you.”).
For the FAP and people on a medically-necessary diet, , packages #1 through #3 are useless to us (and in many cases, dangerous to us). You are paying for food and drink that you should not consume unless you are completely prepared to play roulette with your health and safety.
With cross-contamination, poorly marked foods, and unclear ingredients, you do not know what you are consuming. If you have food sensitivities, you may also encounter them when consuming alcohol, which most of us also know are highly discouraged if you have GI issues, Autoimmune Disease, or have multiple food allergies or intolerances, because alcohol can inflame your GI tract. And you know the saying: hell hath no fury like a GI tract scorned.
Every year since I was diagnosed with Autoimmune Disease and multiple severe food allergies, New Year’s plans and other special occasions are an important consideration, and one that can be embedded with emotional stories as we try to celebrate with family and friends. This year, make sure you get through the maze not only intact, but with flying colors.
Last year around this time, I wrote about five “must-haves” that ever person who wants to cook real food to improve their health should have in their kitchen, and now I’m ready to add five more for this year’s list!
When you are eating food you make yourself all year round with very few exceptions, not only should your food be the highest quality ingredients you can afford, but your kitchen tools and equipment should be things that work, get a lot of use, and are durable. They should also either save you time, or work effectively to help make your food tasty.
After the end-of-year gifts are unwrapped, and perhaps you have a little extra pocket money to purchase an item, I support your desire to invest in your health by turning your kitchen into a health center through the cooking of nutritious meals.
Here are my five must-have’s for this year (after you already scored on my five must-have’s from last year):
1. Sous vide cooking device. After receiving a Sansaire Sous-vide Immersion Circulator for my birthday this year (yes, I asked for a cooking device for my birthday!), I have discovered the joys of juicy, perfectly-cooked meats. What I didn’t fully understand was that sous-vide cooking is just the first step; what you do with the meat after it is cooked to perfection is completely up to you: sear it with a torch, braise it on the grill briefly, or deep fry it afterwards.
I have since poached eggs and salmon for the loveliest breakfasts, and created simple but beautiful dishes with lamb that look like they fell out of a fancy cookbook.
If a circulator device is too spendy for your budget, you can also learn to cook the sous-vide method using a precise digital thermometer and thick plastic Ziploc bags. Either way, if you haven’t tried sous-vide cooking at home, you will want to make one of these options a new must-have and must-do!
2. Panini grill pan. When it became clear that any kind of gluten-free bread and I were not meant for one another, I became obsessed with this idea that my food needed to still look like it could have panini grill marks seared across it. Yes, even a mini gluten-free pizza crust, for the love of bread!
And if you are among the fortunate who can have GF bread and some kind of dairy-free butter, spread, or non-dairy cheese, what would look better than those three dark stripes across the face of the bread from a panini grill pan? Calphalon’s Contemporary Non-Stick Panini Pan will get it done.
3. Travel Sized Blender. After traveling to several cities and staying in every kind of accommodations from an AirBnB to a Bed and Breakfast to a hotel suite, that one thing I can’t seem to do without is a blender.
Even if your destination accommodations has one, you can’t know if it was cleaned properly of your allergens, and you don’t want to put your hand down to the blade to try to scrape that bit of gluten, nuts, dried milk, or peanut butter off it. No no no.
Instead, try a travel sized blender, like the Magic Bullet Blender. For just around $40, you have a tool that you can make your smoothies, puree vegetables for a soup, or in my case, make my “bike food” for when I have long training rides. Goes into your checked luggage. They are not lightweight (none of them are), yet if you travel, it could help you make eating while on travel more healthy and safe.
I don’t have a picture of one for you because this is going to be my gift to me, after borrowing one from a friend who hadn’t used hers much. Happy Holidays to me (and my tummy!). When not on travel, it will be in my office, so I can make myself smoothies, protein shakes, and carrot ginger soup (my favorite).
4. Canning Tools (bottles, lids, pot for sterilizing). Of all the “must-have’s”, this one is perhaps the cheapest, yet packs a lot of punch in terms of what you can do for your guts and your food budget.
By purchasing food in season and either freezing it immediately until you have time to do some canning, or canning immediately, you can nourish your body with everything from fermented foods you make yourself, to your own low-sugar fruit spread, to summer fruits you may choose to eat in the dead of winter.
You can buy mason jars with lids from your local craft store, or alternatively opt into a jar and lid program where you can buy packs of lids, because it’s the lids that you need to replace more frequently for the best seal.
If you have never canned anything before and don’t have any of the necessary tools, you might want to start with a simple kit and buy some jars. If you have some of the pieces, then you might want to shop around to pick up just the tools you are missing. I’ve gotten into fermenting daikon root and cabbage, and canning fruit.
5. Pot with pour spout and draining lid. One of the ways you can produce a meal quickly with less mess and no need for a colander is to purchase a pot with a pour spout and drain lid.
For absolute safety, you can assign your pot to yourself and any family member who is gluten free, so you can safely drain your GF pasta without worrying about gluten particles stuck in the tiny holes of an old colander, which you will never be sure is completely clean on those old plastic ones, ick.
I cannot tell you how many meals I have produced in a single pot like this one. Makes clean up a breeze. I bought two of them from Anolon last year, and I use these pots frequently. You decide if you want the premium model with the copper bottom for even heat distribution.
Honestly, just limiting my must-have list to five items is really tough! Yet I’m looking forward to next December, when I’ll add five more after doing my own careful experimentation and in-the-kitchen research to help all your Hungry Minions make food fun again.
To your health, to your Happy Tummy, and to a gut-strong 2017! Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
P.S. Need a stocking stuffer idea for your favorite cook-at-home best buddy? Try the Chef’n Kale, Greens, and Herbs Stripper. I use this to prepare kale quickly for dehydrating on my Cabelas Food Dehydrator, allowing me to carry greens with me on travel. Simply add hot water to rehydrate.
On any given week, I receive well-intended yet unhelpful suggestions from people who believe they can “help” me. Sometimes it’s from a well-meaning Vegan person who thinks my Paleo options are not only immoral and cruel, they are unhealthy for me. As usual, I kindly ask that person to design me a minimum 1538 calorie meal plan free from nuts, dairy, seeds, soy, legumes, beans, gluten (including no corn), alliums, goards (pumpkin, squash, cucumbers), and certain oils, certain sugars, plus more calories on my training days that are easily absorbed, do not cause my guts to rebel and fall apart, and deliver iron, protein, and healthy fat well enough that I don’t suffer a loss in cognitive processing.
Every person I’ve encountered who has looked at that list usually tells me it cannot be done without severely compromising my health.
And so, here I am again, stating the obvious: nutrition is an individual matter. Stop eating like everyone else.
Instead, eat like only you can, and only you should:. Eat like you.
Among my friends, they have a reply to newcomers who mean well when they suggest a food or new recipe to me: “That sounds safe, but is it ‘Imei safe’?
They say this because I am my own canary in a coal mine: if it isn’t safe for me to eat, it might not be so good for them either. Why? Because while all of the ingredients in processed foods are FDA-approved for public safety, a good amount of them will still leave me writhing on the floor, vomiting, cramping, racing for the toilets, or leading to poor nutritional status over time.
Yet the real truth of eating well and transforming your life is a journey of discovery, trial and error, and extreme customization. What we’re learning more than ever is that a nutritional profile that works for one may not work perfectly for another.
The good news: there exists one shared food factor among those who have autoimmune disease and food allergies, one in which no health expert would ever argue against. It is a simple equation: eat a natural diet free from highly processed foods.
By doing so, you will not eat in the manner of everyone else. You will eat like you.