Another Week

It’s been a week since superstorm Sandy touched down in the greater tri-state area and wreaked havoc. A week of working from home, running as much as possible, and trying to keep up with the news while simultaneously trying to keep my tears at bay. It’s hard to believe that places I grew up and know so well have been forever changed; and more importantly than that, the friends and family that have had their lives changed as well. As I mentioned last week, I was lucky enough to retain power through the storm and not to suffer any damages myself. My office, as well as my parents, however, haven’t had power since late Sunday, with reports of it not coming back until the end of this week. While it’s easy to get angry at a lack of heat and power, in the grand scheme of things, it could be much worse.

That being said, even though our oven isn’t working, I’ve been cooking up a storm. My most recent creation was vegan buffalo lasagna. All my GI woes have gotten a little better, and while going gluten-free didn’t seem to make a difference, my doctor has suggested I lay low on dairy. I’m still eating dairy, just a lot less. At my last appointment when trying to figure out why I wasn’t getting much better, I just so happened to mention that I loved cheese, and I watched my doctor immediately scribble that information on his legal pad, with exclamation points to follow the statement. Things have been going better, but I’ve also upped my medicine, so we’ll see what happens when I start to dial the medicine back. So, to cater to my new reduced dairy diet and vegetarianism, this particular recipe is dairy and meat free! You can use regular cheese and dressing (and of course add in chicken), but you should give this version a try!

Vegan Buffalo Lasagna
– Serves 4 –  

1 block firm tofu
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 cup Frank’s red hot
1 cup vegan Ranch dressing (i.e. Follow Your Heart)
8 oz. vegan shredded mozzarella cheese (i.e. Daiya)
9 “no boil” lasagna noodles

1. Press the tofu to get out as much water as possible.
2. Meanwhile, combine the Frank’s and ranch dressing together in a bowl.
3. In a separate large bowl, break up the tofu using a fork until it resembles ricotta cheese.
4. Add in the nutritional yeast and 1/2 cup of the dressing mixture, stirring to combine.
5. Take 4-6 tbsp of the dressing mixture to generously coat the bottom of your slow cooker.
6. Layer 3 no boil noodles, followed by 1/3 cup of the tofu mixture, and a 1/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat.
7. After adding the last 3 noodles, pour the remainder of the dressing mixture, being sure to coat everything. Top with the remaining cheese.
8. Cook on high in the slow cooker for 2 hours.

Gluten Free Goodies

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m trying out a gluten-free diet to see if that helps get rid of my GI-woes. I mean it when I say this isn’t necessarily a choice I wanted to make, but one that I felt was necessary in order to try and figure out once and for all what’s going on in my gut. That’s my new goal of 2012 – have a diagnosis and actually feel better by year’s end. So obviously in order for me to start this gluten free diet, I needed to make some quick changes in the kitchen.

I started out with a trip to Trader Joe’s, where I grabbed some necessities (for me). Since we get a CSA box each week, our grocery trips have resulted in picking up less items – just beans, grains, milk, yogurt, some type of snack and dessert, and miscellaneous fruits and veggies we need but didn’t get in our box.

My biggest concern was bread. I don’t usually have sandwiches at work, but I do have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before most long runs. So I picked up a package of Udi’s bread, which tastes a lot more like freshly sliced bread, rather than sandwich bread. The slices are small and the price is high ($4.99), but if it means I can keep my pre-run routine, I’m okay with it. I don’t want to mess with perfection (good joke, my running is far from perfect).

In addition to bread, I wanted to find a pasta alternative; even though I don’t eat pasta too often, with marathon training kicking it up (20 miler is looming!), I wanted it (even if it’s more for my mental state than my body). So, I picked up some corn pasta, which my mom made a face at. Yes, I realize it’s weird, but at this point, I’ll try anything. I’ve also seen some black bean pasta and things like that around the blogosphere, so I’ll be on the lookout for any alternative.

In addition to lunch and dinner staples, I needed to find breakfast options. I typically eat breakfast at work, which involves some sort of cereal – I was used to the luxury of mixing it up each week. A lot of the labels I looked at didn’t blatantly say wheat was or wasn’t included, so I settled on a granola that was labeled gluten free. I found myself typing the same phrase over and over again in Google: “is X gluten free?” I can tell you I learned lot this past weekend! I would have automatically assumed oats weren’t gluten free, but some of them are. Of course the giant tub of steel cut oats I have at home isn’t gluten free, but I’m glad to know there are options out there (like the beloved Love Grown Foods, which I also picked up).

 Snacks were another big concern, since I usually have some type of cracker, fruit, and yogurt (spread throughout the day). While I didn’t need to worry about the fruit and yogurt, I needed to find a substitute for the crackers. I picked up a package of granola bars and rice crackers, and they’re both just okay. I know there are tons of options out there (I’m looking at you, delicious KIND bars), I just have to actually spend the money on them.

While the goodies I picked up should get me through the week, there is another equally important gluten free option I need to find… beer! Thanks to the suggestions of Twitter, I have a brand I’m planning on trying that my local liquor store seems to carry. I just have to cross my fingers that when I go, they have it. I also scored some gluten free pizza crust mix at Marshall’s of all places. The package says it makes two 14-inch pizzas, so I can’t wait to try it. I’m glad I can still enjoy pizza Fridays, gluten free style!

In my Googling frenzy over the weekend, I read mixed things about how long it could take to feel better, if you do in fact have a gluten intolerance. For some it’s a matter of two days, while for others it’s months. I’m thinking that I should see some difference within a week or two, and if not, it’s back to the drawing board. Maybe it’s just the time of year (I felt pretty bad around this time last year), or stress, or a combination of it all, and it really isn’t anything I am or am not eating. But the only way to know for sure is to try it. I mean, it can’t hurt (more).

Are there any other must-have gluten free foods I should try? 
I’m trying to stay away from overly processed foods, but am willing to try suggestions! 

Gluten Free – The Way to Be?

Gluten. It’s been my best friend since my early days of swimming – carb loading before swim meets, devouring bagels afterwards, and it stuck around as a tried and true friend for running as well. The thought of not being able to enjoy my beloved gluten always made me thank my lucky stars I didn’t have to worry about it.

As you can guess based on that oh-so-dramatic lead in, I need to try and cut out gluten. When I first went to the doctor back in May he suggested trying a dairy-free diet to see if that made any difference, and it didn’t. After having a boat load of tests (yes, that’s an actual unit of measure), he prescribed me some bile-binding medicine to help with my ‘lazy’ gallbladder. He mentioned I could try a gluten-free diet first, or try the pills, and I opted for the easier solution. Unfortunately the pills haven’t provided me enough relief. While the blood tests I had didn’t pinpoint any dairy or gluten intolerance, I know that there’s something else going on here.

I’ve been jotting down everything I’m eating for the past two months, but haven’t been able to pinpoint anything in particular. So knowing that dairy didn’t make a difference, my only other elimination option is gluten. I have my fingers crossed that this isn’t the issue, but at the same time, part of me just wants to know exactly what it is that’s causing my tummy distress. I’m scheduled for an upper GI Scan and more blood work just to confirm it isn’t Crohn’s, but I just don’t know anymore.

So I’m crossing my fingers that this all gets sorted out sooner rather than later. But in the mean time I’m going to try and eliminate gluten from my diet which is going to be tricky, but may be the answer I’m looking for. And I promise I’m not doing this to be “cool” – I love me some carbs. I’ll keep you posted!

Does anyone have any gluten free resources they’d like to share?
It won’t be that hard, right?!

It’s All Fun and Games Until…

I try not to get too personal on the blog, simply because I don’t feel the need to bore you all to tears. But, since something that’s going on in my personal life is affecting food, I feel like it’s appropriate to mention. I mean, the blog is FOODosaurus Rex, after all!

For quite some time now I’ve been experiencing some, ahhem, bathroom issues. It’s something that has started as a gradual process since about middle school and has gotten increasingly worse over the last few years, with the worst starting about a year ago. At first, I assumed it was because of the increase in running – everyone’s heard of runner’s trots, and I was training for my first marathon. Eventually, though, I realized something was off but couldn’t put my finger on it. Being the stubborn person that I am, I refused to go to the doctor, despite my parents knowing an awesome gastroenterologist.

Can we say stubborn?

Eventually my parents decided to make an appointment for me, and so on Thursday, I finally made it to the doctor’s office that my parents had been suggesting I visit for over a year. I knew from the second I walked in the door that things would work themselves out – instead of going into an exam room, I met with the doctor in his office, and we talked. He asked me questions, and I talked about my bathroom habits with a complete stranger.

While he has a few ideas as to what it may be, we still have to do some tests. You guessed it – endoscopy, colonoscopy, ultrasound… all the fun stuff! And to rule out any lactose intolerance, I can’t have any dairy in the meantime. This wasn’t something I expected, so of course I’m stocked with milk, yogurt, cheese, and milk chocolate. It’s amazing how much you want something when you can’t have it. I’ve also come to realize that I really don’t know what is in my food, and I was shocked when reading the labels how many things have traces of dairy that I never would have suspected. The doctor doesn’t think the cause of my problems are lactose related, but he wants to rule it out – fingers crossed!


So, I’m currently on a quest for dairy-free eats (suggestions welcomed!!), and unfortunately won’t be eating much over the next few weeks. It isn’t going to be easy or fun, but I know it can’t be any worse than I’m feeling now. I’m hoping that everything will be squared away by mid-June, and won’t have to worry about stopping multiple times during a marathon, what I’m eating, or where the nearest bathroom is.