Thursday, January 9, 2014

Grain Glut; Research and Recipes

Today I wanted to share a fantastic new recipe I tried yesterday. I made it up from various sources, and we didn't have a bit left over, so I think you might be excited about it too. Why am I so excited? Well, because the main ingredient in this recipe is cauliflower! And my kids scarfed it down like you wouldn't believe! What you do is grate up raw cauliflower using a box grater or food processor so it resembles rice. Then you sauté it in a couple tablespoons of oil until it's tender and use it as you would rice in any recipe. I got the idea from a Wheat Belly Jambalaya recipe, but you could use it for fried rice, chicken and rice casserole, and any other recipe you want! So, here it is, kid-approved Three-Cheese Cauliflower Risotto!

Three-Cheese Cauliflower Risotto
Yields 6 side-dish servings
One medium-size head cauliflower, grated into "rice"
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons soy powder or flour
1 1/4 cups half and half or heavy cream
1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum (optional for extra thick sauce)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 ounces Gouda cheese, shredded
2 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
dash nutmeg, or to taste
Chop the cauliflower and grate it on a box grater or food processor into "rice". Melt coconut oil in a dutch oven or deep skillet and sauté cauliflower 5 minutes or until tender. Set aside. In a saucepan, melt butter. Stir in soy powder or soy flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and cook about 1 minute until thick and bubbly. Whisk half and half in all at once and keep whisking  constantly until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. If the sauce is not tightening up enough, whisk in Xanthan Gum to thicken the sauce (I found this at Harris Teeter; you could order it from Vitacost or Amazon as well). Stir in the cheeses and keep stirring until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower "rice", stir to combine, and simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches the texture of risotto. Taste, correct seasonings, and serve hot.

Before Christmas I'd been working on trying to lose the weight I gained over the course of a foot injury and then a long stretch of illness last year. We were doing a lower-carb diet where you were allowed to have a cheat night every fourth day. That wasn't working so well for me, though Jerry lost weight on it. Then I abandoned all attempt to lose over the holiday and just tried to focus on maintaining my weight.
I've noticed restricting carbohydrates a lot, like eating only 20 grams on Atkins' Induction Phase, makes it much easier for me to avoid over-eating and especially stops me from craving junk and eating it at night. I really think different diets work for different people, probably due to genetics and individual metabolism, so you have to experiment and find out what works best for you.
I also noticed, when I was eating the carbohydrate blowout that is Christmas dinner, my allergies seemed much worse. I've had this happen before when on diets where you restrict grains and then add them back. Adding grains to my diet when I've been restricting them often causes me to get itchy and rashy. Everyone always says that must mean I'm allergic to gluten, but that isn't it because I've had it happen with oatmeal and other gluten-free grains as well. This has thus far just been an irritating fact of life for me, but this Christmas things got scary.
On Christmas Day I was just observing how itchy my throat and ears were getting and wondering if it was related to the unaccustomed foods we'd been eating when I went down to my sister's basement to look around. We hadn't seen her new house before and she and my brother-in-law were relating all the renovations they plan for the basement. When we came upstairs my tongue started itching really bad. I took some medicine, but that night my tongue and throat swelled so much I felt like I was choking all night. I've managed to avoid having an Epi-Pen all my life, but I may have to get one if I'm going to get fast reactions like that. Usually I have allergic reactions that escalate over several days so I have time to go to the doctor.
My sister's house has a bunch of plumbing issues, and they've had several leaks, so my guess is they have mold hiding behind their walls. Mold is yet another allergen for me. I don't usually react that badly, though, so I was wondering about it. Then I was at the store a few days later and saw the January 6th issue of First for Women. I noticed it had a month of menus with shopping lists for a low-carb diet, so I picked it up. When I was first married I had an issue of First with a cookbook insert like that and we used it so often those recipes became staples in my weekly rotation, so I was excited to see a low-carb version.
Well, besides the menu, there was an article about how manipulation of grain crops over the years has resulted in wheat that causes more celiac disease, allergic reactions, and insulin spikes than the wheat of 40 years ago. This isn't the only scary article I've read about this, either. I recently read another study that showed, even though seed companies claim seeds infused with Round-Up or other pesticides are safe for humans, they aren't. Some scientists believe the recent spike in leaky gut syndrome and celiac disease is due to the herbicides in the grain we eat acting on our digestive tracts as they do on weeds, by poking holes in the linings of our intestines as they do the sheath of the weeds' seeds. Even if you don't contract leaky gut syndrome, many scientists believe modern grains cause constant irritation and inflammation inside the body. I've heard this enough lately from a variety of sources to think limiting grains is a good idea for health as well as weight loss. I have enough trouble with irritants in my body because of my allergies, so I hope watching my diet will give my system a chance to rest and settle. I will let you know how it's working! But I think my cauliflower risotto recipe is good enough even for people who aren't restricting grains to enjoy!

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