Sunday, February 23, 2014

Weekend Cooking 2/23

Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  This is perfect for me since I love food and cooking almost as much as I love books!

Paleo and Anti-Candida Diets
It's been a while since I've written a Weekend Cooking post because food and cooking have been in a great state of flux at our house lately. First, my oldest son and I went on a sugar-free diet to try to address some of our health problems. I improved, but he was still in bad shape (and spring semester of college was starting), so we consulted with a biochemist/registered dietician who had helped him previously. She put him on a super-strict diet - no grains, no dairy, no sugar... Well, it is easier to tell you what he can eat - mainly just meat, about 10 different veggies, 1 pear a day but no other fruit, and seeds. That's about it! He's been on that very restrictive diet for about two weeks now (plus we made other drastic changes to his medications and supplements) and is doing better.

Although he 's eating at school, except on Sundays when he comes home, my husband decided to start the Paleo Diet, in part for moral support to our son and in part for weight loss. In case you haven't heard of it, the Paleo Diet is all about eating as our caveman ancestors did - no processed foods, a very natural diet - so in many ways, it is similar to my son's current diet restrictions (no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no starchy veggies).

Soooo....what all this means is that I have had to drastically change the way I cook and get very creative! I normally cook with fresh, whole foods and little processed or prefab stuff, so that's no different (and I've been dairy-free for a decade), but leaving out grains and potatoes is a bit of a challenge. I have been relying heavily on homemade soups with meat and veggies in them and on meals with some sort of meat or fish plus 2 veggie sides. Here is some of what I made this week (I really need to try to remember to take pictures!):

One night, I pan-seared salmon filets (and finished it with a simple sauce of lime juice, lemon juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar), and we had roasted asparagus spears and Kickin' Collard Greens for sides. Those are two of our all-time favorite veggie sides, and the salmon was great, so that meal was a hit. The greens cooked this way are absolutely delicious (we cook them a bit longer than the recipe calls for) - my 16-year old son says he is the only kid in his entire school cafeteria who eats greens when they are on the lunch menu!

Another hit was Beef and Cabbage Soup, a reader recipe from an ancient Cooking Light issue (early 90's I think). It was very simple: saute ground beef, onion, and celery; add chopped carrots and cabbage, plus chicken broth, chopped tomatoes, and some seasonings (salt, pepper, basil, oregano), and simmer. I especially enjoyed this soup because its flavors reminded me of a favorite Ukrainian dish my family eats on holidays, holubtsi (aka cabbage rolls). Plus the soup provided two meals (and lunch, too!).

I was able to use a Cooking Light recipe as is, though it was a tiny bit of a cheat for the Paleo Diet: Kung Pao Chicken Tacos. These were SO good! It's basically a fusion recipe - taking Chinese-style Kung Pao chicken and putting it into corn tortillas - and the flavors were outstanding. The corn tortillas aren't technically allowed on the Paleo Diet, but it was a small sacrifice (my husband left the peanuts out of his serving). Great flavors in this dish!

We had another fish plus 2 veggies meal late in the week. And today, we are having the exact same meal that we had last Sunday, for my son who is visiting from college - grilled steaks, green beans, and pureed cauliflower. This strict diet has been very difficult for him, but steak helps, as it is his favorite, and green beans are his favorite vegetable. I've also been creating all sorts of goodies for him, using coconut flour, coconut oil, unsweeetened chocolate (with a touch of coconut sugar and stevia)...but that is a topic for another day.

So, those are our current cooking challenges...and successes! I hope you have been enjoying some good food this week, too.


  1. Wow, you've had quite a challenging time in the kitchen! I embraced a meat/fish plus 2 veggie sides dinner formula last spring and it seems to be better for all of us. The taco recipe looks delicious.

  2. It always helps when a favorite food falls into the "allowed" category. It sounds like you're up to the cooking challenge! When my daughters were diagnosed with celiac and I was wondering if I would end up being the genetic problem and have it too, I was relieved knowing that popcorn and M&Ms are both gluten-free!

  3. Ah, yes, we tried gluten-free for a couple of months last year. Unfortunately, both popcorn and sugar are no-no on Paleo and on my son's diet. But I can have popcorn! And as long as I can have a bit of dark chocolate, I am OK!


  4. Oh my! what a challenge indeed! But it looks like you're starting to get a handle on things.

  5. Wow that Paleo diet sounds intense. Do they think that your sons health issues are brought on by food allergies or just that certain food make his symptoms worse? One of my friends has two sons with Crohn's disease and both ended up with severe depression. I can't help but believe that it was related to such restrictive carb intake. Your thoughts?

  6. Anne -

    well, we have 2 different things going on in the house - my son is on the super-strict diet for medical reasons, and my husband is trying Paleo which isn't nearly as restrictive. My son has multiple health issues - an immune disorder called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (as do I), long-term Lyme disease plus 2 other tick infections, plus the effects of long-term treatment for those infections - over 3 years of constant antibiotics causes all sort of problems on its own. One of those effects is a bad case of yeast overgrowth (candida). I was dealing with this myself this winter (I was also treated for Lyme disease for 3 years and it left its mark, even though I finished treatment a coupe of years ago). So, Jamie's current diet is trying to address ALL of those issues. He was really incapacitated and would not have been able to return to school, so the specialist we are working with tried removing EVERYthing that might have a bad effect on him - basically, a super-clean diet for a while (plus removing a bunch of meds and supplements temporarily) to give his body a chance to heal and his mitochondria a chance to get back to more normal functioning. It seems to be working so far! He's doing much better. He hates the restrictive diet, but believe me, when you've been that sick, you are willing to try anything at all that helps you feel better.

    As for the lack of carbs, my husband has been on the Paleo Diet for 2 weeks, and I've never seen him so full of energy and feeling so happy and good! Most of us eat way too much sugar and white flour these days, and they can be really detrimental to our health, even for someone like my husband without serious health problems. And, of course, my son is feeling much better and happier because he's not bedridden! I am mostly Paleo just by default at the moment, and I have had a really good 2 weeks also.

    Sorry - that was probably WAY more than you wanted to know! ha ha


  7. Hey there, I am linking up from Small Victories Sunday. And I want to say I am so pleased to hear you and your family are trying the caveman like diet. It's so good to see others eat healthy and stop eating bad processed foods. I hope you continue your journey and please feel free to check out my new post on hydrating your skin! It has been a cold winter, and I finally found a few tips to help recover from the coldness here in Minnesota!

  8. Sue, I am sorry your son is battling both CFS and long term Lyme disease. But I am so glad you and he are finding that a restricted diet helps him. I have thought about paleo for myself but my kids underweight and need the calories.

    Thanks for linking up your posts with my Small Victories Sunday linky. Pinning on my Small Victories Sunday Awesomeness board on pinterest.