Sunday, January 25, 2009

Five Food Group Cookies

Our endless winter with no sun drags on and as it does, my health seems to deteriorate. I can't seem to eat anything without ending up with stomach or intestinal pain; my muscles and joints ache so much I can barely walk a block without pain; I have sinus pain and headaches; and of course, no energy. I decided to take a friend's advice and go have my blood tested for Vitamin D deficiency.

At first, I ignored his suggestion because I have been taking 1,000 IU of Vitamin D all winter. I thought I couldn't possibly have a Vitamin D deficiency but after doing some more internet research, I found enough information to support that possibility. I already knew 85 percent of the U.S. population may be Vitamin D deficient but I didn't know that individuals with darker complexions are more likely to have this condition. That explains why even in Hawaii (land of the sun) they have a high Vitamin D deficiency. In addition, people with stomach/intestinal disorders are at risk because they cannot absorb Vitamin D added to foods or in vitamin form.

Many of the symptoms I am experiencing are typical of Vitamin D deficiency although other disorders have similar symptoms. All that explains why I am going for testing next week. Hopefully, I'll find some explanation for my endless winter symptoms.

During one of my "bursts" of energy, I decided to whip up some cookies for the family. I was inspired by cookies I saw in a local coffee shop, called "Five Food Group Cookies," obviously a name designed to take away the guilt of having a cookie because after all, you're eating all five groups and satisfying your sweet tooth. I took a basic vegan carrot-raisin cookie recipe and doctored it up to give it all five food groups.

Five Food Group Cookies (makes 2 dozen small or 1 dozen large)


1/2 cup soy flour

1/2 cup gluten-free flour such as sorghum flour or if using wheat flour, try whole wheat

1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup gluten-free oatmeal or quinoa flakes (I prefer quinoa because it's more digestible.)

Optional: add 1-2 tablespoons for vegan rice protein powder to bump up the protein

1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or nuts such as walnuts if not allergic

1/3 cup raisins or dried cherries or cranberries

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

2 large carrots, finely shredded

1/4 cup canola oil combined with 1/4 cup natural applesauce

1/2 cup maple syrup or other liquidy sweetener

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat over to 375 degrees. I did 400 degrees but watched them carefully. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add seeds or nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, chocolate chips and carrots. In a different bowl, whisk together the oil, applesauce, syrup and vanilla. Add this to the dry ingredients and blend well.

Drop batter by tablespoonsful for large cookies or teaspoonsful for smaller ones onto sprayed cookie sheet. Dip the spoon into cold water to keep dough from sticking. Flatten the cookies to about 1/2-inch thickness. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. The cookies may take a little longer because the dough is quite moist. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack.

Cautions: Be careful eating these if your stomach is sensitive to dried fruit or just leave it out of the recipe. After all you have the fruit in the added applesauce. Another caution would be the uncooked oats or quinoa. Even though these ingredients will absorb some moisture during cooking, it's not the same as cooking them first before mixing them in. I wouldn't eat more than one small or half a large cookie every few days. Give most of them to family and friends. They'll love them because they are getting all five food groups and some sugar too!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shrimp soba noodle bowls

Tummy troubles persist, coming and going every three days. Now I must do some detective work to see if these problems are being caused by some new food sensitivity or if it's just a problem of the season. Where I live, we experience severe inversions during the winter which produces foggy, sunless days and freezing cold temperatures. Not exactly conducive to wanting to be outside walking or doing any other outdoor activity.

Yesterday was absolutely the pits. My stomach hurt so bad all I could do was sit on the couch curled up in a blanket watching really awful Saturday TV programming. But I didn't care. The only thing that gave me some comfort was peppermint tea. I think that's all I lived on yesterday.

Actually I did try eating some Shrimp Soba Noodles but despite how tasty it was I walked away after eating just a little. It is really important when you have a stomach attack that you continue trying to eat something easy on the stomach with lots of soluble fiber. This noodle dish fills the bill.

Shrimp Soba Noodle Bowls
(Serves 4)


1 pkg. soba noodles (Make sure you buy the 100 percent buckwheat ones. Some are made with a blend of wheat and buckwheat. Don't buy those if you are sensitive to wheat or gluten.)

1-2 T. canola oil

1/2 pound shrimp (I just buy the frozen, medium-sized shrimp that is already peeled with tails removed.)

2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely minced

2 -3 garlic cloves minced

Ground black pepper

2 bunches of green onions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces on an angle

2-3 carrots peeled and cut into matchsticks and steamed

1 bunch bok choy, chopped

6-8 asparagus speers cut into 3-4 inch pieces and steamed

broccoli spears, steamed

1/3 cup sherry cooking wine

1/3 cup gluten-free soy sauce

1 T. agave nectar

1 T. sesame seed oil

Heat a large pot of salted water for the noodles. Place the noodles into boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain.

Steam the veggies (broccoli, carrot, bok choy, asparagus).

Thaw the shrimp by plunging in hot water. Drain.

In a large skillet, heat the canola oil. Toss in the ginger and garlic and saute. Add in the green onions, sherry, soy sauce, agave nectar and sesame oil. Bring to a bubble and simmer one minute.

To the ginger/garlic mixture, add the drained noodles, thawed shrimp and veggies and toss to combine. To serve, place in bowls.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Vegan pumpkin bread

After having a good fall, I've had nothing but tummy troubles this winter. I've spent the past two weeks being sick, then better for a few hours, then sick again. It feels like you have the stomach flu but you don't. It's just more typical stomach problems. Anyhow, when I feel like this it's really difficult to get interested in eating. But for some reason, this vegan pumpkin bread sounded tasty.

Pumpkin is supposed to be good for tummy troubles. I'm always on the lookout for tasty recipes utilizing pumpkin. The cinnamon and other spices you usually add to it can really help settle a stomach. This pumpkin bread is delicious and dangerous, because I can't stop eating it. Here's the recipe.

Vegan Pumpkin Bread
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce
1/4-1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup water
egg replacer for 2 eggs
1 2/3 cup sorghum or other gluten-free flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a nine-inch bread pan.
Whisk together the agave nectar, pumpkin, applesauce, water and egg replacer and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring well to combine. Pour into prepared pan, and sprinkle a bit of extra spices on top if desired.

Bake for about one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the pumpkin bread comes out clean. Serve your pumpkin bread warm.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Turkey Quinoa Soup

The really cold, stuck-in-the-house days of winter have arrived and so have my dreaded stomach problems. The last few days I've looked and felt like death warmed over or whatever that expression is. I've tried very hard this winter to follow my rotation diet and get plenty of exercise. Those are the only things that seem to help my stomach issues. I've also been trying a light box this winter and taking Vitamin D. The jury is still out on whether these help or not.

The past few weeks the temps have been below 30 degrees with a wind chill factor and I've been forced indoors to exercise. It's just not the same as getting outside. I also realize the importance of staying on a pretty rigid schedule for meal times. You know how some people can function just fine having erratic eating times. That's not me and I'm guessing if you have stomach problems, it's probably not good for you either. Anyhow, with Christmas and the holidays, meal times can get out of control a bit especially if you're invited to someone else's house. My conclusion is that's what contributed to my current state of stomach affairs---eating a little bit differently because of the holidays and restricted outdoor exercise. My advice: if you don't want to suffer the consequences, stick to your eating plan and meal times. Vary things as little as possible and you might have a chance of avoiding getting sick.

And of course, if you're eating out, make sure you know what's in everything. I almost learned this the hard way a few weeks ago. I was about to chow down on some delicious roasted chicken prepared by my host. I had mentioned earlier that I was intolerant of dairy products and that suddenly rang a bell with the cook who said, "I'm sorry but a basted the chicken with butter." I appreciated her alerting me and fortunately I had my back-up soup with me. Here's the recipe for my delicious back-up soup, also known as Turkey Quinoa Vegetable Soup.

Ingredients for soup: serves 8

1 T. olive oil

3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced

3-4 celery stalks, chopped

3-4 stalks of chard, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups water

3 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa rinsed

2 cups leftover turkey or chicken cooked and diced

1-2 T. dry parsley

1-2 garlic gloves minced

1/2 tsp. coarse black pepper and sea salt

Roasted vegetables for garnish:

3-4 peeled zucchinis, cut into half moons

10 mushrooms, sliced

1 cup snap peas

2-3 yukon potatoes, peeled and quartered


For the soup: in a large sauce pan, heat 1 T. of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic to the heated oil and saute lightly. Then add the chopped veggies (except chard greens) to the heated oil and saute until veggies just start to brown. Stir in 2 cups of water and 3 cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the rinsed quinoa, the turkey or chicken, parsley, black pepper and salt. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low and cook for about 20-30 minutes.

For the roasted veggie topping: While the soup is cooking, prepare the roasted veggies. Toss all the veggies in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a sprayed roasting pan and place in the oven, heated to 400-425 degrees. Roast the veggies until slightly brown and tender.

Ladle the soup in bowls and top with a generous serving of the roasted veggies. Save the extras for your back-up plan meal.