Chronic “Dieter”

If I’m being completely honest with the world (and myself) I would say I’m a chronic “dieter”. Not the “I need to loose weight” type of diet but the “I need to cure what ails me with food” type.

I have 2 autoimmune diseases and I am always trying to come up with a way to help control them. I am a huge believer in eating foods that work for your body and avoiding foods that do not agree with your body. But in all honesty the journey to find the right and wrong foods is a huge pain in the ass!

As a chef, one of my biggest joys in life is food, and to think that something that makes me so completely happy can also cause me such pain and unattractive symptoms, is very difficult. One of my autoimmune diseases is psoriasis. I have had this since I was about 10, give or take a little. At the time, my doctor referred to the first small spot on my face as a dry patch and had me put a little vaseline on it as needed. Since that time, it has grown and expanded to many areas on my body. I would say my knees and elbows are the worst followed by my face and then some random spots over my mid section (front and back) and on my legs. I guess I would say that the spots on my face bother me the most. They are the most obvious in my opinion. These kinds of imperfections are always worse to the one that is living with it, so I’m not sure if the rest of the world notices them as much as I do. My dear mother insists that they are not obvious but she is my mother so that is not a trustworthy source (sorry mom…I still love you).

When I found out I had celiac decease, my other autoimmune disease, I read that removing gluten from the diet sometimes made psoriasis go into remission, but it could take up to 2 years. Well, I have never been referred to as a patient person (just ask my family), but this time I was. 8 years later, I would still like it to be the magic answer, but clearly it isn’t. So, I continue to try other options. I tried following a vegetarian/vegan diet for 3 months the beginning of the year. That seemed to make things worse. That’s a real shame because I do not have trouble eating vegetarian. Actually, I like that life style but it does not like my skin. So I started to think about what was involved with my meals and what made them different. I realized that practically everything I ate was different. At least the amount of what I was now eating was different. I was eating a lot more grains, beans, vegetables, and tofu. Those are things that I have always eaten but certainly was not having beans every day!

I also noticed that I was bloated all day everyday, which I had never experienced before. I gained about 7 pounds in only a few months. This was the first I had gained weight since I was diagnosed with celiac 7 1/2 years prior. My psoriasis got even worse than it had been. Since I am a bit of a slow learner it took me 3 months to realize that the diet was causing me all the problems. I went back to the standard way of eating.

I then spent a while researching autoimmune diseases and different potential diet changes I could make to try to get things back under control and if I was lucky, even better than prior to the vegetarian diet. All my research keeps leading to eating a Paleo diet. But not just Paleo, a modified much more restrictive version that is working very well for a lot of people. The short explanation is that I have to avoid gluten (no problem…got that down), dairy, corn, soy, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers), legumes, eggs, alcohol, and all other grains. By the way, that list is almost all I was eating while vegetarian. Sort of explains why things went so wrong for me.

I’ve spent the past 2 months trying to eat this way and it has been hard. Very hard! I cheat every weekend and on occasion during the week too. The rest of my family is not following the diet so other food is in the house tempting me. I’m weak I tell you, WEAK!

From what I read, psoriasis is one of the hardest autoimmune diseases to send into remission this way. It can take anywhere from a couple months to a couple years avoiding all these allergens to have it go away. I can’t get through a week, let alone a couple years! Some progress has been made, I think I already determined that corn is a problem and long ago I decided dairy was an issue. They both seem to irritate my bowels which means they are likely to irritate my skin.

So this brings us to the present time. I am so bad at this but on the other hand I guess I am actually doing reasonably well considering what I do for a living and the fact that I have started to figure some things out. Anyhow, I thought if I put this all out to the world that maybe I would do better about following the diet and not cheating. Time will tell! Cross your fingers, say a prayer, or send me positive vibes. Whatever your chosen method is, I’ll take it.

Short Rib Ragout and Tagliatelle

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Slow roasted tender meat makes a perfect topping for tagliatelle. The pasta I used for this meal was Jovial brand gluten free. I have found that it’s one of the best, more readily available pastas on the market. If you have not already tried this brand I strongly encourage you to do so. It really is like traditional pasta.

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The secret ingredient in the sauce is cocoa powder. It gives a deep rich flavor but does not add any true chocolate to the sauce.  I would suggest buying the ribs cut “English” style. I think they cook better cut into these smaller sections than when you have several ribs connected together in the traditional way. I made this two times over the last two weeks using both cuts and found a really big difference between them. You can ask your butcher to cut them this way for you. By the way, I do suggest using a butcher and not buying your meat at the grocery store. I can’t tell you how nice it is to go somewhere that they know your name and the way you eat. I would love to hear from people about the experiences they have had at the butcher.

Short Rib Ragout and Tagliatelle

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp oil
  • 2 lbs short ribs
  • 1 c red wine
  • 1 T heaping tomato paste
  • 16 oz crushed tomato
  • 3/4 c small dice onion
  • 1/2 c small dice carrot
  • 1/2 c small dice celery
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 c beef broth
  • 3 tsp cocoa powder
  • salt, to taste

Instructions:

Salt the ribs on all sides. Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tsp oil to the pan. Add the ribs and brown on all sides. Remove from pan when browned. You may need to do the browning step in several batches so as to not overcrowd the pan. When all the ribs are browned  add the onion, carrot and celery to the pan and cook until softened slightly. Season the vegetables with salt. Deglaze the pan with the red wine but pull the pan off the flame before adding the wine so as to not catch on fire. Next add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, beef broth, garlic, and herbs to the pan. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil and then add the ribs to the sauce. Cook the sauce for 1 1/2 hours with the lid on. Continue cooking the sauce for another 1 hour or until the ribs are tender and fall off the bones. Remove the bones and shred the meat. Add the shredded meat to the sauce as well as the cocoa powder and cook for a final 30 minutes and season to taste.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Serve the sauce over the pasta.

Gnocchi with Sausage and Pumpkin Cream Sauce

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What is it about a soft pillow of potato that makes me so happy? What makes me even happier you might ask? I was able to find them in a gluten free version. Here in Eastern PA we are so lucky to have access to many wonderful foods. In South Philly there is an Italian Market full of some of the most wonderful meat, produce, oil, vinegar, pasta and the list goes on and on. One of the shops has these pillowy dumplings and they are gluten free. If you are not aware, I better inform you…most store bought gnocchi have wheat added to them. Sad really, when it is completely unnecessary. These are from Italy and taste very good. They cook in about 2 minutes and the sauce comes together in about 15 minutes. This is a quick, easy and delicious dinner that is great for week nights and you would be proud to serve it to guests as well. Pair with a green vegetable or salad.

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Gluten free potato gnocchi

Gnocchi with Sausage and Pumpkin Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped fine
  • 12 oz. precooked chicken apple sausage, sliced on bias
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 1/2 c pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
  • salt to taste
  • 2 lbs. gnocchi

Instructions:

Warm a saute pan over medium heat. Add oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add shallot, garlic and sage to pan and sauté for 1 minute. To the shallot mixture add sausage slices and sauté until browned about 5 minutes. Pour in wine to deglaze the pan and reduce down for 1 minute. Add pumpkin puree and heavy cream and stir to combine. Stir in parmesan cheese. Cook approximately 5 minutes to heat through. Season with salt to taste. Be careful not to add too much salt since the parmesan is salty.

Cook gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and toss with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6