Gluten free: Day 5 through 5 3/4

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So, I didn’t make it two weeks. Since I began eating gluten-free, my pain and fatigue had gone from bad to worse. I was used to having foot pain first thing in the morning and at night, but now it was all day. And it was unbearable at times. If I were reclined on the couch, I couldn’t lightly touch the top of one foot with my other foot without it feeling like my foot was being crushed.

On the positive side, I made a yummy “mac” and cheese. Mixing in the chicken meatballs added texture and dimension in taste. I didn’t measure the amount of pasta and cheese because I add cheese to the béchamel based sight. So these are approximations.

Cheesy gluten-free “mac” and cheese

3 cups uncooked brown rice penne
1 cup skim milk
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, sliced in 1/2 Tbsp size pieces
1 Tbsp corn starch
~ 1 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar
~ 1-2 cups freshly grated fontina
Salt, to taste

Directions
Bring water to to a boil in saucepan. Season water with 1-2 pinches of kosher salt; add penne, cook according to package instructions. I used Tinkyada.

While water is coming to a boil, heat the milk in a saucepan on low to medium-low heat. Heating the milk will avoid clumping when you make your béchamel.

Melt butter in another saucepan on medium-high heat. Whisk in corn starch until completely incorporated. Allow mixture to simmer for approximately two minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Simmer until mixture is a medium sandy color. Slowly whisk in warm milk, whisking constantly until milk is fully incorporated. Simmer mixture for a few minutes, stirring constantly to avoid scalding. Once béchamel has thickened to the desired level of thickness for your sauce, remove pan from heat and stir in cheese. Season with salt to taste, approximately 1/2 teaspoon.

Pour cooked penne into the cheese sauce and stir to combine.

By the end of the day…
With all the pain I was in and fatigue weighing down on me, this was my general attitude toward eating gluten-free by dinner time….
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So I did what was probably the worst thing possible after having been gluten-free for several days; I had a turkey burger and fries. After dinner, my intestines reciprocated that middle finger from before dinner. To be fair, though, this particular burger has always given me some amount of intestinal distress. It does the same to Mike as well. But flooding my system with gluten like that was stupid, I know. I ended up being gassy for a couple of days, but by the next day, the pain in my body and fatigue has eased up. They continued to do so over the course the next few days.

My takeaway
It may have been a coincidence that my pain and fatigue became so bad the week that I tried out going gluten-free. The only way to really know is to try it again at some point. Until then, I’m definitely going to cut down on the amount of gluten in my diet. Cutting down on the gluten, if nothing else, helped my sugar remain stable and potentially had a positive effect on my weight. Finally, living gluten-free obviously takes a lot of prior planning and energy. Convenience food, like fast food, was generally not an option. On the one hand, that’s clearly good for my health. On the other hand, I then have to have the ability to stand and the energy to cook which, as all people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue know, isn’t always possible. Clearly, I would need to make food with plenty of leftovers or freeze portions. (And I don’t really count the crockpot as a much better option since plenty of prep work is usually still involved.

So, is gluten-free for me? I think the answer is a clear, resounding, *shrug* I dunno.

Gluten free: Days 3 and 4

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I knew when I began eating gluten-free that I was going to make black bean brownies and breakfast quinoa. The quinoa is simple to make, so long as you don’t really follow the directions. Honestly, sometimes I feel like the laws of physics cease to exist in the Cooking Light test kitchen. So, let’s do this correctly, shall we?

Breakfast Quinoa

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
3/4 cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup sliced banana

Place quinoa in a fine sieve, and place the sieve in a large bowl. Rinse and drain quinoa. Repeat the procedure twice. Drain well. Combine quinoa, coconut milk, 2 tablespoons water, brown sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally.
Serves 4.

Rather than eating this as a meal, I ate it as a protein-filled snack. It will fill you up quickly. It also freezes well, if you are inclined to make a large batch and freeze individual portions.

On day 4, I was pleased to find that I didn’t have to wrestle my jeans on like I have been lately. That, along with not being as hungry, were the about the only things that were better. My pain and fatigue were so much worse. My feet and legs hurt all day to the point that by nighttime, I was hobbling just 15 feet from the couch to the bathroom. Unfortunately, Mike and I have not reached the level of relationship synergy that allows him to pee for me, but he was able to fetch other things I needed that night.
That morning, I rated my fatigue level at about a 6 out of 10. (Which I would imagine would feel worse for people who aren’t used to this level of fatigue.) By 11:20 am, I wasn’t able to keep my eyes open. Normally I avoid taking naps so that I can try to keep my circadian rhythm in a normal pattern. But that morning, I was physically unable to avoid it.

Recipe modified from Cooking Light

Black bean brownies

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It was awhile ago that a friend of mine suggested that I try making black bean brownies and compare them to regular brownies. She said that they supposedly tasted just like regular brownies. I adore brownies so, naturally, my initial reaction was…

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But I finally gave them a try yesterday. I was surprised to discover that I had all the necessary ingredients on hand. While they certainly were more involved than opening a box and stirring in oil and eggs, they were simple and came together fairly quickly.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups black beans, (15 oz can) drained and rinsed very well
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup or agave
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup chocolate chips, plus more to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients except chips in a food processor. Blend until completely smooth and large pieces of bean skin are not visible. Stir in the chips, then pour into a 8×8 pan coated with non-stick cooking spray. Bake 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Let cool at least 15 minutes before trying to cut.

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The verdict
I discovered that you really do need to let the brownies mostly cool before trying to cut into them, otherwise they just fall apart. Once cooled, the consistency is much like a piece of fudge. The texture is mostly smooth, but slightly gritty. Overall, the taste was chocolately, with a hint of oatmeal aftertaste. You can tell that something is a little off, but you don’t care because they’re rich and delicious.

The nice things about these brownies is that they’re kid approved. Rachael and a friend tasted them after school and loved them. Rachael declared that I make the best brownies. It was only after they had eaten them did I reveal that they were made with black beans. Rachael was even able to be bribed to get out of bed this morning if i sent one with her lunch today. So I would say that these are an excellent way to sneak fiber and protein into your kid’s diets.

In the end, I think these are a great way to satisfy a snack craving. They’re yummy and it would be difficult to guess that they’re made with black beans. But do they taste just like brownies? No. Anyone hoping for a cakey or chewy, dense brownies will not find it in these. However, I would absolutely make these again.

Query: are they still healthy if you eat half the tray in one afternoon? Asking for a friend.

Recipe via Chocolate Covered Katie