I Have An Airborne Allergy…And It’s Not To Peanuts

Grocery shopping is tedious. But it can also be fun; sometimes it’s cool to go to different cities and wander through the supermarket to see what different places sell. My family always stops by a local supermarket when we go on vacation both to get provisions and because my dad loves discovering new products. Like interestingly-flavored Triscuits or cool oreos or whatever’s new. So buying food can be an adventure.

Sometimes, it’s not a great adventure. It’s like Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland instead of the awesome Indiana Jones (no offense, Pirates fans, but the ride is mediocre).

For instance, tonight I went to the Santa Monica Co-Op. A lovely place with lots of organic fruits and vegetables. Unique products. I go there because I know I’ll get organic stuff (which I have to these days) and they have so many kinds of squash, and it’s right near my office. It’s a delight.

Except when they have horseradish. They don’t always. But this was the second time I’ve noticed fresh horseradish there, and of course, been sick.

Yup, I have an airborne allergy to horseradish. Not peanuts. Not treenuts. Not eggs. Not the “usuals.” But horseradish. That food that almost no one uses.

So yeah, it’s a lot more simple than managing an airborne peanut allergy. People eat peanuts a lot. Though, people also get it when you can’t be around them.  I must look like a crazy person run away from the fruits and vegetable aisle. Literally, run.

Luckily, this time wasn’t so severe. I just got dizzy, lost most of my voice, got cloudy thoughts, and some ear itching. My throat is swelling a bit now. See, you can’t take benedryl when you have to drive home from the grocery store. I’m not dying, just uncomfortable and I guess sick, but a car accident could be a lot more fatal. (Don’t worry, I’ll take the benedryl as soon as I finish writing this. At this point, time doesn’t matter).

It got me thinking, though:  you never hear people talk about doing adult activities with an airborne allergy. What do you do when you’re grocery shopping and you suddenly can’t anymore? Or you can’t buy the foods you needed to because they’re too close to your allergen? The last time I ate food that was near horseradish — an apple that was in the fridge with the horseradish we were going to use for Passover (yes I’m stubborn and don’t want my family to use a different vegetable for maror so I used to just leave the house when my mom would grate it and we’d keep it in another room for the whole seder except when people would gulp it down, and yes, now that I’m hypersensitive we won’t use it again) — I went to the ER. So I don’t buy anything near it anymore. I run.

The solution, I guess, is for someone to grocery shop for me. Once, my friend J came to visit me in LA and we were going to cook for Shabbat together. I had a cold at the time, and she asked me to stay away from the vegetable aisle in the supermarket while she shopped there because I’m always more allergic when I’m sick. I refused. Then I started uncontrollably coughing. She sent me to the cereal aisle and told me to wait there while she picked out the foods we needed. I told her I didn’t need to.

“Cindy, you can’t be in the vegetable aisle.”

“But you’re not always here, sometimes I have to be in this aisle.”

“And then you don’t buy most vegetables because they are too close to things you can’t be near. I want to cook with these vegetables and you can eat them, so let me buy things you otherwise couldn’t. Take advantage of my being here. Stop being stupid and go wait.”

And she was right. I almost never bought fresh produce. If I did, it was whatever came in plastic boxes and was kept far away from everything else. But I can’t eat processed foods right now so I have to buy everything fresh. It’s delicious, but hard. Because I can’t just wait in the cereal aisle while I astrally project my non-allergenic self to the produce aisle.

J, wanna come back to LA and help me grocery shop? And make delicious soups from peeled carrots and celery? Because that’s the other thing – I can’t touch the vegetables that touch the things I’m airborne allergic to (horseradish, and I’m guessing the bacteria on leafy greens [I’m not allergic to leafy greens themselves, apparently, but I can never be around too many of them without getting sick and I’m allergic to the xanthan in xanthan gum, which is the aforementioned bacteria]). So J peeled, washed, and chopped everything we made that time.

But I wonder…how can one be truly independent when one can’t even be around certain foods? It’s not like we can ban any allergenic foods from grocery stores. And even so, who else is allergic to horseradish to my degree? Not enough people, that’s for sure. Food delivery services don’t let you pick, and everything is cross-contaminated. Friends are nice, but I could never accept that help on a regular basis. A food nanny? Maybe that’s the solution.

For now, I guess I’ll wait for the dead of summer so horseradish season will be truly over.

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I’m Finally Not Allergic to Milk, and Now It’s Not Kosher?!

I’m going to take a brief detour from the main focus of this blog — my life with allergies — to discuss a whole other food issue. And that is, the question of whether or not cow’s milk is kosher.

For the record, everyone paskens (rules) that it is.

But that doesn’t stop some public figures from expressing their personal stringencies, and what I’d like to discuss is: 1) why that’s a problem for the kashrut-observant Jewish population and 2) why dairy is important and community-wide veganism is unhealthy. And a disclaimer, before I get into it  all — the article I’m referencing was written by Rav Shmuly Yanklowitz, who I know personally and quite like. I think Shmuly is kind, has the best of intentions, is generous, and smart. But I also think his article in this week’s Jewish Journal was very, very dangerous.

The Backstory

This week, Los Angeles’ premiere Jewish publication The Jewish Journal published a cover story called “When You Drink Milk, Does the Cow Matter? Why a Leading Rabbi Believe Milk Today May Be Treif (unkosher).” And I’m betting 98% of the reasoning behind this article was to stir controversy, increase ad sales, and get a ton more clicks to their website. (Has working in journalism made me too cynical?) Even though I really, really, really don’t want to drive traffic to obvious link bait, I also think once controversy is stirred, it has to be addressed, and the below won’t make much sense without reading the whole article. Two sides, and all that. So, with great reluctance: read the full article here.

Fine, these cows are on an organic farm, but don’t they look totally milkable?

some experience).

A few things from the article particularly stood out to me:

In the first paragraph, Rav Shmuly mentions how he and his wife decided to stop consuming dairy products when they got married, but kept it private. Until now, when they found out that the Rosh Yeshivah (head Rabbi of a school) at Yeshivah University, Rav Hershel Schachter, also doesn’t consume dairy products. Apparently, the weight of two people – and as I infer, two people from very different Orthodox Jewish approaches – makes this an issue worth discussing.

Rav Shmuly then argues for the ethics of animals; they are mistreated and certainly we aren’t supposed to derive benefit from the mistreatment of animals. He then states that the benefits we all believe we get from cow’s milk – calcium and vitamin C – are not necessarily the benefits we’re led to believe and in fact, cow’s milk is harmful to us. And there are lobbyists involved.

And the part that really gets to me?

“Experts estimate that if all Americans ate a vegan diet, that alone would cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 6 percent. Changing our diets is the most powerful way to help the environment.”

He also mentions: “We must also consider moving toward almond, soy, rice, and coconut milk alternatives, until the dairy industry cleans up its act. There is no shortage of affordable, healthy, tasty alternatives, so it is relatively easy for us to make the change in accordance with our consciences.”

Why It Bothers Me: From a Jewish Perspective

Rav Shmuly is best known for founding the social justice group Uri L’Tzedek. He’s a graduate of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, the most left-leaning liberal Orthodox rabbinic school. He’s a poster child for a new way of liberal observance, and is the last type of person anyone would associate with unnecessary stringencies. We expect stringencies from the more ultra-Orthodox community. Even the centrist Orthodox community. But when liberal rabbis start arguing for stringencies, we just give credence to the right and encourage them to keep doing so. While Rav Shmuly agreeing with Rav Schachter is nice and communal hugging and all that, it also gives weight to the potential opinion of “I’m going to follow Rav Schacter’s lead, [by the by, Rav Schachter does not think anyone else, even his own children, should take on his stringency,] even that liberal rabbi guy from Rabbi Weiss’ school holds by that law.” And then what happens? One Jewish Journal link-bait piece stirs up a new movement of veganism.

Additionally, Judaism is not meant to be the sort of religion that forces you to give up all earthly pleasures. It’s not a religion that tries to bind you against living life the way you want to. In fact a person who takes on extra stringencies, such as a nazir who doesn’t cut his hair or drink wine, is told to give a sin-offering sacrifice by the Torah. What’s his sin? Not living the life God laid out for him. We are not add nor detract from the Torah. And sure, maybe halachically (according to Jewish law) we can’t have milk anymore because of dairy practices. But Jewish law is supposed to be LIVED. It’s called halacha — translated from the root of the word “to walk” — because we walk with it. We move with it. It moves with us. Giving up milk — a kosher product — for an assumption about all dairy products in America — is just unreasonable and not livable. And that’s outside the spirit of the law, which includes an element for tircha d’tzivura (an unnecessary extra burden for the community). Should we try to advocate for animal rights? Sure. Should we try to buy milk from cows that are housed on smaller dairy farms? Sure. But that’s harder to rally for, and there won’t be a big enough dent in the dairy industry to make change.

But where there will be dents if milk starts being “unkosher” is in the community. First, let’s look at what giving up dairy products actually requires — and let’s keep in mind that people don’t have all that much money all the time, especially when Jewish day school can be up to $20k a year:

1. Disposing of all dairy pots and pans, and silverware, china, etc.

2. Making a kitchen where dairy was once cooked totally kosher again.

3. Throwing out ANY product in the house that may contain milk. Any dry goods, any cereals, and also any cheeses, ice cream, yogurts, etc.

4. Shutting down every kosher dairy restaurant. This means the loss of livelihoods for any restaurant owner and workers. Oh, and any kosher cheese companies, who also have workers.

5. Stopping to certify products that contain milk, which will be a huge loss to the Orthodox Union and other kosher certification organizations (especially now that the “dairy equipment” label is gone, and anything on dairy equipment would no longer  be able to be certified kosher). This will increase the price of certification on all other products, to ensure the OU and its counterparts have enough money to function, which in turn raises prices of kosher goods.

6. Families who aren’t vegan will need to buy more meat, beans, soy, and lentils to gain the protein from cheese. These items are not cheap.

7. Not everyone will adhere to this ruling, because it’s too insane. So there will be communal rifts where a person won’t eat at another person’s house, or potentially associate with them, if one eats cheese and one does not. We already have a “shidduch crisis (getting-our-children-married crisis)” from all the disparate behaviour in Orthodoxy. Now we’re going to add “Does she eat dairy? Do her parents? Siblings? When did they stop?” to the dating questionaires? Good luck solving that crisis, now.

8. As much as almond, soy, rice, and coconut milk are “affordable” for Rav Shmuly, they’re not really that cheap. A gallon of 2% milk at Von’s is $4.19. A quart of almond milk at Von’s is $3.59. That’s almost the same price for a quarter as much product. Sure, you might be able to splurge if you’re vegan and not buying kosher meat, but it’s unreasonable to think everyone will be vegan.

If milk isn’t kosher anymore, the Miller family will need a new job. Maybe Uri L’Tzedek is hiring.

And all of the above takes into account only “normal eaters.” Sure, if you can eat everything kosher in the world, giving up dairy isn’t hard. I mean, honestly, I gave up dairy and 50 other things for the last few months, and I’m still kicking. Half my original size, more tired, and have like no nutrients, but that’s probably from the other things and not the dairy. I could live without cheese, milk, etc. FOR SURE. It’s a top 8 allergen, so many people live without dairy, and they get by just fine.

BUT they have no choice. Keeping kosher is hard enough when you’re on a restricted diet. Outlawing more foods to constrict our diets even more is just not acceptable for someone who already has biologically imposed food restrictions. And sure, you can argue that God wouldn’t want you to suffer, so you can eat dairy if you’ll be too unhealthy without it (not sure if that argument is valid, but you can argue it), but you’ll still run into problems when it comes to community — just because I can hypothetically eat non kosher food does not mean my family can nor does it mean the community can, and thus I become isolated. And, who wants a food restriction to also impede the way they serve God, or the way they are perceived to do so? The thing that hurts me most about my allergies is the fact that participating in Jewish rituals is harder when I can’t eat the foods. My heart breaks every Passover that I can’t eat the bitter herbs. It’s a reminder of a disability, and just salt in the wound that not only can I not eat properly or play properly or go to work without being sick, but I can’t even serve God to the extent to which a “normal eater” can.

Why It Bothers Me: From an Allergic Perspective

If I were a vegan, I’d live in this supermarket aisle.

Aside from the above, the thing that bothers me the most about this article from an allergic perspective is Rav Shmuly’s call to veganism.

Newsflash: not everyone is able to be a vegan. Whether we want to be vegans or not — I personally don’t believe in veganism and wouldn’t if I could eat everything in front of me — not everyone can.

For instance, if I were a vegan, and living on my current diet, I would only be able to get protein from beans.

No nuts, no soy (not yet), no lentils, no fish. No eggs, no cheese, no meat. Honestly, the only difference for me personally right now would be meat, because I’m not eating those other things anyway, but I can’t go more than a day without meat or I can’t drive properly, much less think straight. People need protein to survive, and I barely get enough of it as it is.

Not to mention calcium. Even if milk having calcium is a myth, like Rav Shmuly insinuates, the other sources of calcium in food are leafy greens, soy, almonds, and white beans. So, I guess I could eat white beans. And get a whopping 96 mg of calcium per serving…which I’m only eating 3 times a week.

And honestly, my diet is totally not sustainable long term. Cheese and eggs will be  a hugely welcome addition. If you can’t have carbs — like most vegans need to — you don’t really get very many calories. I mean, unless you eat a ton of processed foods. And chemicals. Yum, that’s SUPER HEALTHY. And I’m sure the production of those chemicals is awesome for our environment. Rav Shmuly argues that dairy cows have too many hormones and antibiotics being fed to them. That’s animal cruelty. Well, the chemicals is soy burgers aren’t that great for humans. Who knows what the next generation of humans will suffer from because of how many faux-foods and processed foods we ingest?!

Vegans can’t live without soy. And soy is a really common allergen. Now, I’m not a scientist, but I know my body, and I know I got to where I am because of overdosing on foods I was mildly sensitive to. Eating tofu, soy burgers, soy cheese, and soy milk, not to mention actual, you know, edamame, is so unhealthy when it’s consumed that often. We need diversity in our diets. How do you get diversity in your diet if you can’t eat enough? Sure, if you’re a totally normal eater, you’re fine being vegan. But if you have some food restrictions, I don’t think it makes any sense. And with as many as 15 million people having food allergies — not to mention those with Celiac, food sensitivities, diabetes, or other food-related issues — calling for all Americans to go vegan is just not okay.

Calling for all people who keep kosher to give up dairy is not okay, either (and neither is writing an article that suggests as much). Giving up dairy is not a choice for some people. Did Rav Shmuly research how many products have traces of milk? Anyone with a milk allergy knows that it can be heart-breaking to go grocery shopping and read label after label of “Milk. Death. Milk. Death. Milk. Death.” Why impose that on an entire population who already is restricted in its diet? Why make life harder for people for whom eating is already a heart-wrenching experience? Why not have compassion for the human population to the same degree as the animal population?

I’m sure Rav Shmuly did not mean to offend the food-restricted populous with his article. I know him well enough to know that. But, I do think he didn’t consider it when formulating his argument. And that’s a topic for a whole other time — but an important not nonetheless.

Teff.

With Rabbis saying things like “only eat peeled asparagus, don’t eat strawberries, don’t drink tap water, you can’t eat lettuce unless you eat it from this supervisor, you can’t have broccoli etc.,” I imagine the kashrut-observant population will be down to a list of “acceptable foods” that’s shorter than mine. And that’s just a hell of a lot of malnourishment.

Or, I guess, a bonus to the teff-growers of Ethiopia, because they’ll see a certain spike in consumption.

This is what an allergic reaction feels like.

This is what I imagine is happening in my throat right now.

I typically write after I’ve had an allergic reacton but I feel like memory is less conducive to truth than living in the moment.

About an hour ago, I returned to my desk after lunch. I’d gone home to eat (sometimes it’s just easier to prepare my food at home in the daytime as oppossed to the night before, and eating in my own space is usually safer), ate just fine, drove back to work just fine, sat back down at my desk probably 30 minutes after I’d finished eating (maybe 40?), started my work and

BOOM.

That’s what it felt like. Like some little human or like a green plastic army invaded my throat, set up shop, and stomped their feet.

BOOM.

Throat started swelling. Total dry mouth. I felt trapped. And my voice was gone.

But I don’t know what I’m reacting to. My food was fine. I ate it yesterday and I didn’t pass my overdose limit, and it happened so much after eating. Usually my reactions are within minutes of contact with the allergen.

So I did the logical thing. Called my mom to see if I needed benedryl. In the middle of talking to her, I realized I couldn’t handle talking and breathing at the same time — my airwaves weren’t blocked but the throat swelling was bad — so I answered my own question and took the benedryl. Which, yes, my mom suggested, too.

And I headed back into work. We’re assuming someone ate something for lunch that’s affecting me. Like salmon or wasabi or something? I don’t know. I don’t know why it would linger in the air like this. But all I know is right now, the swelling has calmed but not as much as I’d like it to have. And I have no clue what the cause is, so I bet I’m re-breathing it in.

You know, it’s one thing when it’s food. It’s one thing when I make a mistake, misread a label or something. It’s also fine, I guess, when there’s cross contamination in my food, because it’s expected.

BUT THE FUCKING AIR IN MY OFFICE? Are you kidding?

I know I tend to be upbeat on this blog. I like to laugh, I like to find the hope, but right now I’m just pissed.

Because that’s how an allergic reaction is. Your body goes BOOM, you can’t think straight, you don’t want to leave work because you feel like you always leave work (I mean, on Monday I had a Dr.’s appointment, last Friday the pollen count was so high I couldn’t think straight), you want to keep going because you hate being sick, but BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, the little green plastic army shoots canons in your throat and no one knows and benedryl sort of helps but you’re just over it. You’re just totally over it.

Because telling everyone in your office the details of your health, asking them to not have traces of food on their clothes or to bring back leftovers from lunch because you might get sick, I mean, it’s just ridiculous. It’s rude.

So BOOM.

I wish I had some vapo rub. That sometimes helps. I’m too tired for steroids.

boom?

My Last Lentils (Or, Peppers Are Awesome)

When I originally photographed my lentil/pepper dish, I’d set out to write a piece about how my food allergies don’t actually impede my ability to throw a damn good dinner party. And then I found out I was allergic to lentils (but not to like 50 other things, so I’m not torn about it), so it seemed like the post would be more depressing. And then tonight, I cooked the most beautiful dish with peppers, and I thought — well, peppers are frikkin awesome and the world should know (unless you’re allergic to peppers. In which case, you can totally live without them, tomatoes are fine too, and like really, there are so many hidden food gems).

I do want to talk about dinner party stuff, and I will but I also want to shout from the rooftops: PEPPERS ARE SO PRETTY! And they’re a great food to add to a dish when you can’t add in the flavor punch of garlic and onion or herbs. They’ve got that natural zing, and they make any dish taste great. So, following my story you’ll get two recipes: for lentils and peppers and zucchini pepper primavera “sauce.”

PART 1: Dinner Parties

This past Saturday, I decided to host Shabbat lunch, something I hadn’t done in quite some time. I’d felt like hosting a dinner (or lunch) party when I can only cook “bland” food was something I couldn’t do except with very close friends. But I love hosting Shabbat meals, and I decided that I eat well, and my friend’s visit last weekend inspired me to believe in myself as a cook.

So I prepared a great meal, allergies or not. The menu:

Lemon pepper chicken

Lentils with peppers

Tri-colored quinoa

Sauteed green beans

Grilled pineapple

Apple crumble

Watermelon

Pretty damn impressive, right? Not your usual “Chicken, rice, zucchinni, potatoes, salad” meal. Not that those are bad, but they’re not imaginative. My meal? So imaginative. And it was easy to cook! Grilled pineapple takes 5 minutes on a George Forman grill (longer if you cut it fresh like I did, but totally doable from canned pineapple rings), sauteed green beans takes about 10 (and frozen green beans are pre-washed!), quinoa takes 15, and the lentils and chicken each take 45 but a 45 that you can walk away from and have no prep. It’s a healthy, easy meal and it requires almost no cooking skill because the only additives to the above foods are salt, pepper, and oil (and nothing for the pineapple).

I was feeling pretty good about myself until the actual lunch, when I heard that someone at synagogue whom I’ve never met had asked a friend of mine if I cook foods I’m not allergic to when I invite people over for lunch.

First of all: why are you talking about me if we’ve never spoken? And why are we talking about my health issues? I know I blog about food allergies, but I’m a hell of a lot more interesting.

Second of all: on what planet would I risk my life to cook foods I can’t eat or touch, contaminate my own food and kitchen, risk cross contamination at my lunch, and slave twice as hard JUST SO PEOPLE CAN EAT RICE AND POTATOES! Fine, rice and potatoes turned out not to be allergens — yay — but far as I knew at the time, they were.

My friend responded that of course I don’t cook extra food, and my food is good (I mean, I eat lamb, bison, and duck on a regular basis. Pretty damn good is more like it!). The girl replied that she wouldn’t ever come to me for lunch, it sounded crazy.

Well, bitch, you’re not invited.

Seriously. It was one thing when I was in fourth grade and the insensitive kids at school said mean things. It’s another when a woman in her mid-20s makes snide remarks behind my back about my cooking in relation to my health. It upset me so much. It’s hard enough not to eat. It’s hard enough to feel like a food outcast. But I’ve always persisted knowing the food outcast thing was only in my head.

And it’s mostly in my head. Except when insensitive people say shit like that. When they judge you for a health concern. Instead of thinking, “oh, she cooks every single thing she eats, I’d love to go there for lunch because she’s probably become a good cook” or “oh man, it’s impressive that even though she has all these food allergies and eating is hard for her, she tries to serve other people food — even though they can’t serve her food” or even”damn, that’s a lot of allergies, I hope she’s okay.” It gets me questioning and feeling sorry for myself and I hate that. I’m stronger than that.

I have to be.

PART 2: Recipes

Lentils and Peppers

I won’t be making this any time soon (at least not until my food challenge for lentils proves I’m asymptomatic, right?!) but it was delicious, and if I had to go out with a lentil hurrah, I’m glad this was it.

It’s also so easy.

  • Cook lentils according to the instructions on the bag.
  • When they are almost done (95% soft), throw in cut up red pepper. Or any color pepper. Add salt, pepper, and oil.
  • Stir.
  • Cook the lentils until they are done.

Cook time — approx 1 hour Prep time — approx 5 minutes Total Time — approx 1 hour 5 minutes, but you can watch TV or do anything else during the hour.

Zucchini/Pepper Sauce

Cut a zucchini, or in the photo’s case, a yellow longnecked squah or Mexican squash

Cut multicolored sweet peppers – usually sold in box form. I LOVED that my box had purple pepper. Like Peter Piper except purple peppers not pickled peppers.

Toss them into a pan that’s coated with oil (safflower, olive, canola, whatevs)

Stir on medium heat until soft.

Serve over pasta, millet, quinoa, chicken, anything!

You can also add garlic, onion, basil, oregano (all spices can be fresh or powdered/dried), tomatoes, or snap peas. And parmesan cheese!

Cook time: approx 10 minutes. Prep time — approx five minutes. Total time — approx 15 minutes

On July 18, I Will Eat Again!

I got the results of my Johns Hopkins blood test today (or, as I’ve been quipping, I returned from my astral/blood vacation in D.C.). And they are overwhelmingly negative. Negative meaning I’m not as allergic as we thought. Positive because, well, yay.

Anything that came out negative means I am not allergic to it. I may still have a chemical reaction but it is not an allergy and I am not as risk for anaphylaxis. Anything positive means my blood tests as allergic, but I may not experience symptoms. I can do food challenges (the doctor feeds me a food and I hang around for 2 hours to see if I react) for any foods I tested on the low scale for. And I can eat the foods I tested negative for — after July 18, because I tested positive to some things that I’d previously been fine with, and I’ve eaten them, so to ensure I don’t have a false reaction due to mild allergens in my system, I have to wait 30 days. But in 30 days…I can eat!

To keep track, I made a handy dandy chart. This compares my blood test results (accurate) to my skin test results (less accurate). It also accounts for foods that don’t have blood tests. Anything above .1 is positive. Anything with something in the ones column isn’t worth challenging.

Hello, foods!

Number Food Skin Test
1 orange 2a
2 potato 3b
3 coconut n/a
4 strawberry 0
5 yeast 2b
6 garlic 2b
7 sweet potato 0
8 egg yolk 3b
9 alpha lacalbumin n/a
10 beta lactoglobulin n/a
11 casein n/a
12 gluten n/a
13 cheddar cheese n/a
14 milk 2b
15 rice 3b
16 buckwheat 3b
17 pea 2b
18 soybean 2b
19 almond 3b
20 tomato 2b
21 beef 3b
22 carrot 0
23 kiwi n/a
24 celery n/a
25 parsley 0
26 melon 2b
27 mustard 2b
28 mango 0
29 cacao (chocolate!) 2a
30 avocado 3b
31 clam 2a
32 pineapple 0
33 lettuce 1a
34 cabbage 3b
35 boiled milk n/a
36 egg (yolk and white) n/a
37 plum 3b
38 broccoli 3b
39 green bean n/a
40 cranberry n/a
Number Positive Skin Test?
1 tuna (2.2) 3d
2 salmon (6.85) 4d
3 onion (.11) 3c
4 cod (5.62) 4d
5 wheat (.24) 2b
6 barley (.86) 2a
7 sesame (.85) 3b
8 peanut (.17) 3b
9 hazelnut (8.26) 3b
10 shrimp (.12) 0
11 malt (.11) 2b
12 peach (.11) 0
13 pecan (.44) 0
14 cashew (.12) 3c
15 pistachio (.24) 3b
16 grapefruit (.13) 2b
17 lentil (.38) n/a
18 cucumber (.12) n/a
19 walnut (.34) 2c
20 chickpea (.11) n/a
21 swordfish (.70) n/a
22 watermelon (.37) 0
23 sole (1.75) n/a
Number Food Skin Test
1 blueberry 3b
2 cinnamon 2b
3 coffee 2b
4 mushroom 3b
5 olive 2b
6 green pepper 2a
7 pork 3b
8 sunflower seed 2b

 

Allergy Questions: Answered (Part 1)

A lot of people ask me their allergy questions because I guess I’ve become a bit of an expert on the issue. Before I get into this new post, I want to reiterate that I am not a doctor, nor have I studied biology since freshman year of high school (and no, it was not my best subject). So all of my answers to allergy questions are based solely on personal experience and things doctors have told me.

For any real questions, seek actual medical advice. I’m just here for when you do a pre-doctor’s appointment google search.

QUESTION: Can’t you just get allergy shots and then eat like a normal person?

ANSWER: Nope. Allergy shots are primarily used for environmental allergies, like insect stings, pollen, dust, dander, and mold. They haven’t been proven effective for foods. Plus, they don’t “cure” an allergy, they just lessen its severity. A lot of people get irritated that their allergy shots aren’t covered by insurance — it’s not your insurance’s fault. It’s that it’s not the proper method of care. It’s kind of like being mad at insurance for not covering physical therapy when you have chronic migraines. Totally unrelated. Blame medical research for not being advanced enough in terms of food allergies. Because maybe they can develop something in the future. But right now, avoidance is the only route to ensure safety. Feel free to read more on webmd.

If you have an allergy question you’d like answered, post it in the comments section and I’ll answer it in a future post.

Need Help Expanding Your Diet? Just Ask Me!

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting one of my best friends. She, like most 25 year old women with full time jobs and extracurricular commitments (or whatever extracurricular becomes when you know longer have a curriculum), doesn’t love cooking. She likes eating, sure, but cooking? It’s hard enough to remember you’re hungry, let alone anticipate said hunger and prepare accordingly.

What are we, boy scouts?

Well, I am. I’ve gotten the hang of cooking even though I have no time. And I have to diversify my diet, because that food three times a week rule still totally applies. Much as I like cooking, I like it a lot less than the bevy of other things I can do with my time, and I’d prefer to just eat.

So when my friend sought my advice for branching out beyond stir fry and pasta, I realized that even though I can eat a lot fewer items, I actually eat a lot more than the average person. So my advice to her becomes my advice to you:

1. Crock pot. Everyone says to use crock pots. And I actually don’t love using mine, because by mixing too many foods together, I waste foods for other times during the week. But then I realized I don’t like plain beans and lentils, and therefore, I don’t eat them. But, if they absorbed other flavors, I’d eat them gladly, and leave room for other foods. Five points to me.

I taught my friend how to make an easy turkey stew. A thoughtless turkey stew:

Throw turkey stew meat, a yam, millet (or rice if you have that luxury), beans (I used cannellini beans but any will do), and lentils into a crock pot. Add salt and pepper. Garlic and onion powder, too if you are able. Add enough water to just cover the food. Turn the crockpot on high. Walk away. Come back 6 hours later and eat.

Also good: chicken chili:

Take a can of corn, a can of black beans, two colorful peppers, chicken breasts (or ground chicken, or turkey, or whatever you want), some salsa (or not, I can’t eat salsa and it turns out just fine), salt, pepper, garlic and onion if you can, oil, cayenne pepper if you can, cajun seasoning if you can, and put them in the crock pot. Cover just enough with water (or less if the salsa is goopy). Turn the crock pot on. Six hours later. Chili. Yum.

2. Butternut Squash soup. Ok, so I stole this soup idea from my sister. But basically, make a big soup. Eat some, and save the rest for later. Next time you’re hungry and need something quickly, defrost homemade soup instead of soup in a can or Trader Joe’s or whatever. Healthier, cheaper, and you don’t need to shake anything first.

To make butternut squash soup, cut a butternut squash or buy some frozen cubes, and throw it in a pot with however much water fills the pot. Add salt and pepper. Nutmeg if you’re feeling adventurous. Boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.  If you want it creamy, use an immersion blender to blend it. Eat.

This is just random chicken. Don’t expect yours to look this way. Cooking to eat means you don’t stop for pictures.

3. Roasted chicken. This one takes a little longer to cook, so I recommend cooking it when you’re not hungry, and instead when you’re watching TV. Take a chicken (thighs, breasts, full chicken, whatever). Wash. Throw on salt, pepper, oil, and freshly squeezed lemon. Throw on extra oil if you want the skin to be delicious and crispy. Cook at 400 for around 42 minutes, or the duration of a TV drama without commercials (with commercials, check before the climax of the show, two commercials from the end). Stick a knife in, and if the juices run clear, you’re done. If they don’t, stick it back in the oven and keep checking at commercial breaks.

An alternative is to use garlic powder, onion powder basil, thyme, oregano, and rosemary in addition to salt and pepper. I can’t, but I used to, and it is goooood.

4. George Foreman Grill. Short on time but want meat? The George Foreman Grill will save your life. Just this past Friday, I realized that I’d forgotten to cook lamb and I had ten minutes until sundown. What to do? I quickly scrubbed my GFG, heated the grill on max for 4 minutes, and threw on a lamb patty (just ground lamb that I mushed into a patty, no additives) and cooked it for four minutes. Done. Sabbath observed. Lamb eaten. It was like being in the times of the temple only with electricity.

The GFG can be used for any kind of meat, and it’s always fast. Want chicken? Throw a breast with some seasonings of your choice on the grill. Want turkey? Turkey breast works just as well as chicken. Burgers? Steak? Lamb? Throw. It. On. The. Grill. Eight minutes max, and you’ve got food. Works for veggies too. Though, I prefer a grill pan for that, but it’s slower.

5. Baked potato/Baked sweet potato. Microwaves are incredible. I think I’m going to send some to Ethiopia so they can teach me how to properly cook teff (my new breakfast fave, better luck next time, oatmeal) in one. But here in America, they are good for a lot of things, not least of which are potatoes.

Take a potato. Put it in the microwave on the baked potato setting. Press start. When it beeps, take it out and cut the potato. Add seasonings. Or cheese, and stick it back in to melt for 30 seconds. In a past life, I thought broccoli tasted good on there too. And I can’t attest to it, but mushrooms have a good rap. Sweet potatoes or yams work just fine too, but put them in for 2-3 minutes instead of 4-5 (depending on size). DONE.SIES.

Dumpling Squash. Adorable, quick, and delicious.

6. Dumpling Squash. You can microwave any squash. My favorite is dumpling squash. Wash, and microwave for 4-6 minutes. Open, scoop out the seeds, add salt, pepper, and oil, and eat.

You’re welcome.

7. Spaghetti squash. If you’ve got more time on your hands, buy a spaghetti squash. Poke holes in it with a fork and microwave for 12 minutes, turning the plate every 3. Let it cool for a little while, slice it open, scoop out the seeds, and comb the sides with a fork to get spaghetti pieces. Throw on your favorite pasta sauce, or if you’re like me, oil, salt, and pepper (and maybe some peppers), and eat it. This will make 4-6 portions, if you have a small squash, so you’re good for the rest of the week. And it takes 20 minutes, max.

And that’s just what’s quick. We haven’t even started on quinoa, eggplant, zucchini, or any baked goods. Cooking isn’t hard, and it doesn’t have to be time consuming. You can diversify your diet. I did. All it took was cutting out 60 or so foods to teach me that I can eat more variety.

PS: The (other) irony of this all is that I’m writing it while cooking turkey legs, which will be done any minute after an hour and a half of cooking. But it was easy…