Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What Ever Shall I Feed My Mother?

The challenge of cooking for my little family unit with our multiple food allergies is compounded when extended family comes to visit. My mom has been a vegetarian for at least 20 years and my father-in-law is diabetic.
My father-in-law is an occasional visitor, although I regularly cook for him; then my husband stocks his freezer full of low-glycemic-index meals during biweekly visits. My mom, on the other hand, comes over about once a week for some grandma time. I like to feed her well since it takes her at least an 1-1/2 hours to get here by public transportation. She was scheduled to come over today and all I had prepared was hummus (click for recipe) and babaganoush (click for recipe.) She loves them, but must be sick of eating the same thing every time she comes over.
I looked in the refrigerator for inspiration. I found scallions, celery, mushrooms, thyme and green.

Now, my father-in-law lives near a gourmet grocer in the Manhattan and my hubby is always finding me interesting ingredients. Recently, he found Argan oil. It has a very exotic taste and I thought this was just the thing to give my ingredients a boost.

If you don't have access to such exotic ingredients, 2 parts of toasted sesame seed oil to 1 part of extra virgin olive oil makes a nice substitute. I started by sauteing the scallions,

then added the rest of the veggies.

I little bit of water, then cover and cook until celery is soft.

Cool and toss with al dente cooked spirals, (rice pasta, of course) chopped olives and the Argan oil or subsitute mentioned above.

Note to self: don't wear a pink shirt when photographing white plateware.

Find the written recipe here. Addendum June 1, 2011. After having this for leftovers, I found that I wasn’t as satisfied with the taste and texture and therefore, removed the recipe.

Eat well and be well,


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Screaming for Joy!

Although I couldn’t mix up a quick sorbet in the food processor the same way one can with a Vitamix, I ended up getting great tasting results by refrigerating my concoction over night, then churning it in an ice cream maker.

Out of the refrigerator for a quick stir to break down the gelatinous texture provided by the arrowroot starch. Churn, scoop, garnish,

and savor! You can freeze the left overs. Just thaw slightly before serving.

Click here for the Orange Chocolate Sorbet recipe.

Be well,


Source of the Problem

Today I was going to on a web fast, but something important came up.

GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, are on the rise. And it’s not pretty. All the great promises of higher crop yield and less resources needed for production are proving to be, well, not so great. Now, I’m not at my most eloquent when talking about this subject. I think it just gets me so riled up that the flood of angry neuro-chemicals coursing through my brain will only allow expletives to come out of my mouth.

So, I’m taking a deep breath, and asking you to take a few minutes out of your day to look at some scientific information posted on Food Democracy Now. In summation, GMOs are causing many health problems in the animal population, such as infertility. And that can only mean one thing for the future: GROWING MEAT IN A LAB! Wha-wha-what?! Yep, this isn’t science fiction. Go check it out for yourself. Here are the google search results for “scientists grow meat.” I’ll wait.

I used to drone on to everyone I met about what goes on in the food industry. Now, I try to be moderate about these things. Being an alarmist is not for me. Being informed is. Buying organics when possible is. Supporting local agriculture is. Growing my own, well, not quite there yet.

Want to be informed? Watch a movie! Food, Inc. has a lot of good information about the food industry in general, and King Corn is about the corn industry specifically.

That’s it. Short and sweet. No droning about the link between GMOs and food allergeries. I’m going back to my web fasting for the day.

Be well,


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream Because We Can't Eat Ice Cream!

One of the disappointments of discovering food allergies and sensitivities later in life, for me, has been that I've been introduced to many delicious foods that have had a negative impact on my health. Yet, the desire for them, still remains. Of course, the best thing about discovering food allergies later in life is that I rid myself of life-long health problems and, so, comparitively, I feel as though I'm getting younger.

But I digress. Back to ICE CREAM! What an integral part of life it is as Memorial Day approaches. I grew up with a local dairy bar which had a miniture golf course. Opening was always Memorial Day weekend. It was a family ritual, sometimes with grandparents, to play a round of golf and indulge in a dip of flavors like Teaberry or Butterscotch.

These types of rituals keep the impact of foods allergies and sensitivities closely tied to happy occasions in life thereby associating postive emotions with negative physical responses. Breaking these connections will vastly contribute to better health in mind, body, and spirit.

Yes, yes, back to ice cream. Now we are presented with an opportunity to repattern responses by having new happy memories associated with foods that keep the immune system from going haywire.

I know, I'm digressing again. But this weekend, there was a demo for the VitaMix 5200 in the grocery store. Wanting that to be my next kitchen appliance, but not having the cash on hand to invest in it, I decided to try an adapted ice cream recipe in my Waring professional-grade food processor. It made sense to me since it has the same horsepower motor.

I peeled an orange with a knife, reserving 1/3 of the peel while trying to retain much of the inner white pith. The pith is high in bioflavonoids and helps aid the absorbtion of vitamin C, a crucial combination for recovering health.

In to the food processor went the orange, the peel, cocoa, agave syrup, vanilla powder, arrow root starch, salt...

...and ice, just like the VitaMix recipes.

Unfortunately, regardless of having the same horsepower engines, all the ice melted. I think there has to be some different blade configuration.

But not to worry, I have an ice cream maker bowl in the freezer now and will attempt to churn it into something yummy tomorrow. If it works, I'll post the measurements. If not, I'll keep trying for summer is just around the corner!

Addendum: read Screaming for Joy! for the tale of the success click here for the recipe of Orange Chocolate Sorbet.

Be well,


Spicy Fig Chicken with Spinach

Sometimes cooking is so simple that all you need to do is open up your pantry, pull out what you're craving and create a culinary masterpiece. OK, well, maybe not a masterpiece every time, but at the very least, something enjoyable. Tonight's attempt started with a lightly oiled frying pan over medium heat and a chicken breast sprinkled with salt and pepper on both sides. Sear both sides then add a heaping tablespoon of each of the cravings that were hiding in the cupboard, in this case, tomatillo salsa and fig preserves.

Bring it to a simmer

and then throw in some spinach and cover. Cook until done.  Plate and serve.

Devour with a friend and join the clean-plate club.

Be well,


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Food Stylin'

For a few years, I've bee trying to write a cookbook benefiting people with multiple food allergies and sensitivities. I’ve crafted and recorded many recipes with something new always brewing in the back of my mind.

This past winter, I started doing some research into what it would take to actually publish and publicize a book. Thankfully, I live in an area where I have access to an excellent public library system and was able to borrow 6 different books to read on the subject. Amazingly, unless you are already an established and lucrative writer, you need to finance everything yourself; including promotion. To me, that seemed a bit backwards. I decided to share my recipes and knowledge of health and well-being with everyone on the internet.

Photographing food is very new to me. I have an acquaintance who changed her career many years ago to become a food stylist. She started by going to James Beard School of Cooking every evening after work as well as weekends to learn how to cook and plate food. If it wasn't for a crossing of paths with this very creative woman, I would have no idea about food styling. Fortunately I now know and my library had several good books.

Here are some of my attempts today to capture a thousand words to describe the essence of my allergen-free, avocado-based, delicious chocolate pudding (click for recipe.)

Too lonely :(

Yes, that's right, I'm an avocado disguised as chocolate pudding.

Go ahead, dig in!

mmmm, all gone!

I'm not quite sure which picture I'll go with for the final post on my website. Let me know your opinion. AND, in the end, if I’m not satisfied with any of them, I'll just have to try again. I'm sure I can find some volunteer to enjoy every spoonful!

Be well,


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cold Spring Day Cooking.

Today I made a busy day for myself. I made my Apple Maple Oatmeal (click for recipe) again so that I could take a good picture of it. Not quite sure how I did. Maybe it's time to upgrade my camera.

 Then I also wanted to capture a good image of the Sweet Potato Comfort Food (click for recipe.)  I had some ground meat and onions cooking for another dish so I after I snapped some photos I had a nice lunch on this cold Spring day.

I finally got to quantify and photograph my Babaganoush (click for recipe.)

And since everything can’t always go right, my attempt at adapting Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins was less than perfect. I don’t think they cooked long enough and even though they looked fluffy when I took them out of the oven to cool, they sank quickly.

The taste was good but they are quite heavy. It was the first time that I've used palm kernal shortening in baking. I think this will get adjusted soon and hopefully I will be posting a success!

Eat well and be well,

My Experiences with Allergies

As a child, how does one comprehend optimal health? While experiencing constant headaches; fatigue, runny noses, earaches, etc. as a normal state, there is no means of comparison for how you are supposed to feel or think.

At eight years old, I was sent to an allergist and given a skin prick test. The diagnosis was allergies to cats, dogs, pollen, dust and mold. During the next four years, I got a weekly injection to subdue my symptoms with little relief.  By age twelve, I no longer wanted to be medicated. My request was granted, with no other alternative than just-suffer-with-it available.

Reluctantly accepting this as a permanent state of being, I just suffered with it for years.  This suffering included a course of antibiotics every spring for an ear infection, and a course of antibiotics every autumn for strep throat. These infections were excruciatingly painful, and in my final year of college, I was additionally prescribed Tylenol-3 (with codeine) along with the same antibiotics.  It was then that I read an article about herbal remedies for allergy sufferers. I did some further research and started taking Echinacea. It worked wonderfully! I then decided to get off caffeine (no small achievement for a student in a 5-year engineering program with a thesis looming in the background) and replaced aspirin with willow bark for the headaches.

With my thesis behind me, I headed to New York to start my career in lighting and electrical building systems engineering. It only took a few years in the profession to conclude that the lifestyle didn’t suit my true ambitions.

In addition to designing and testing the electrical systems that keep the financial district of New York in good working order, I also completed a two-year certification in Homeopathy at New York Chiropractic College as the first step in my career change.  Delving into this area of study was not only challenging, but also inspirational. This was my fit—engaging content, and a direct connection to humanity.  Even as the only non-medical student, I quickly moved to the top of my class.

Having now found my calling, I then moved to Albuquerque, NM to study at the International Institute of Chinese Medicine. I was very fortunate at this time to meet one of the top instructors for Young Living Essential Oils. We agreed to an exchange of knowledge, and I tutored her home-schooled son in preparation for the GRE and SATs in Mathematics, she gave me personal instruction in Aromatherapy.  In 2001, I graduated with a Master of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Moving back to NYC  I began working as the chief acupuncturist at the Corsello Center, an integrative medical practice incorporating MDs, a psychiatrist, a personal trainer, as well as a nutritionist. I was also working in a dermatological spa in SOHO, where I performed cosmetic acupuncture. My migraines returned with full force while in stressful and toxic environment of NYC, and I decided to move closer to nature. I began practicing in Boone, NC, a sleepy little college town in the Appalachian Mountains. While attending a continuing education seminar on Endocrinology, I learned about testing for food allergies using saliva. I was curious about it, and my test came back positive for soy. "Oh, no big deal," I thought, "I don’t eat that much Chinese food." Armed with my new knowledge, I headed to the grocery store. I wanted to get some chocolate, and literally cried in the aisle after reading every single label, since every item contained soy lecithin. It was quite devastating.

With an acute awareness that there is a connection between what we eat and how it influences our health and emotions, in 2006 I obtained certification as Nutritional Councilor.  The same connections can be made between food allergens and intolerances which, more often than not, are at the core of many health issues. Even through this discovery of food allergies, I continued to have blood work and saliva testing. Nothing was consistent. One would be positive, then negative. It was very frustrating. It seemed as if nothing would be helpful in the long term.  Returning to an allergist, the initial lab work came back showing that I was not allergic to many things that caused me problems in my younger years and still continue to do so today. I knew there had to be a better way to accurately determine allergies, but what?

My husband also suffers with similar allergies and sensitivities.  Now in our 40’s, we are both confirmed foodies, and have been exposed to numerous yummy, delicious and delightful foods.  We share a keen, adventurous palette, and enjoy eating well.  With so many conflicting lab tests, it seemed like we were being thwarted in every direction. I had tried candida diets, eating right for my blood type, food combining, and vegetarianism. Sometimes my health would be good, and then all of a sudden, take a turn for the worse. My husband was going through the same sort of agony.

Having moved forward, and then slid back with so many ill effects, so frequently, the only thing I could think of was to dedicate myself to a strict elimination diet.  Thankfully, my husband signed on too. This took a great deal of commitment, patience and hard work on both of our parts.  By adhering to an elimination diet, we were able to determine that between us, we are allergic or sensitive to seven of the eight common food allergens. This makes finding commercially packaged food almost impossible.

 Fortunately, I am a resourceful and creative cook.  Just because we have food allergens and sensitivities does not mean that we, or anyone else in a similar situation, has to suffer the dim, dismal world of doing without. One of the most defeating feelings for those of us who suffer from multiple food allergens is that the market generally caters to persons with a single food allergen.  Reading the label on nearly every product labeled ‘gluten free’ will almost 100% of the time, reveal the presence of other food allergens.  This was the genesis of my website 8 Food Allergens Free - Delicious! and this blog.  As I am the very busy and focused mother of a two year old, my current practice is currently limited to phone consultations and this web site. I invite you to join me in the on-going work to not only eat foods that are not just allergen free, but delicious!

Thanks for taking the time to read this all the way to the end.

Be well,
Krista J. Essler, LAc