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Monday, August 14, 2017

Cooking Without Nightshades

Sometimes I start craving food that I know I should not eat. Pizza, spaghetti, barbecue, mashed potatoes... It is not a craving I can ignore until it goes away, so I've found nightshade-free substitutes. It's a good thing I enjoy cooking.



Potatoes

Sweet potatoes have been a life-saver. I've tried white sweet potatoes and purple sweet potatoes as well as the usual orange ones. My favorite for mashed potatoes is the purple. The texture is the most similar to regular mashed potatoes. Be warned if you try this: it is very, very purple.

Peppers

I don't have a handy substitute for peppers. Depending on the recipe, I substitute onion, zucchini, or carrot. For spices, black or white pepper provide some heat without giving me debilitating joint pain. Paprika is usually there for color, so it can be left out completely. I got familiar with my spices, and started getting creative with them. I don't miss the nightshade spices all that much anymore.

Tomatoes

The most interesting thing I've learned to replace is tomatoes. It seems I always have to use a combination of ingredients: pumpkin purée, beets, carrots, even cranberry sauce. At times I read a recipe thinking that there's no way it will taste good, but somehow it does.

Replacement recipes taste a little different from the originals, but they satisfy my cravings. I now keep nightshade-free ketchup on hand, I found a "marinara sauce" I like. I also keep a Pinterest board of recipes for reference. It is a challenge to cook without nightshades, but I have ways to eat what I like without being sick.

And Eggplant?

Who craves eggplant? Ummm...not me.

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Want to read more about my experience with Nightshades?

So Much Better
Nightshades: How I Found Out
Nightshades Where You Don't Expect

***
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Monday, August 7, 2017

Nightshades Where You Don't Expect

Nightshade vegetables hide everywhere

It has been a year since I eliminated nightshades from my diet. The first few months I read the labels on all my food. I became frustrated finding nightshades added to otherwise safe-to-eat foods. Paprika was in mayonnaise "for color," potato starch added as an anti-caking agent in shredded cheese, tomato powder was on ranch flavored corn chips. When I came across sweet potato fries coated in potato starch I cried.

I learned that "spices" and "natural flavors" are both suspect. According to the FDA either of those could contain nightshades...or not. Ambiguity is not my friend when it comes to food labels.

In Restaurants

And that handy list of allergies and sensitivities that restaurants are required to have? Nightshades are too obscure of a sensitivity to be on it. Worse, not all restaurants give information on exact ingredients. Eating at those restaurants becomes a guessing game with my health at risk if I lose. (I'll give kudos to Smashburger for having the best online menu I've found for weird allergies and sensitivities.)

A few things I've learned: Chicken, grilled or fried, has nightshade seasonings. Hamburgers are usually ok. I just order them without tomato and ketchup. And make sure it's not a potato bun. I'm aware that there's usually some paprika in the mayonnaise and mustard--and the cheese if I order a cheeseburger.

See why I got frustrated?

I came to the conclusion that, unless I cook everything from scratch, I'm going to be eating some nightshades. My body seems to handle the little bit I get from eating out ok. The important thing is that I am able to make informed decisions about my food, and I am happy with the balance I have found.

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Want to read more about my experience with Nightshades?

So Much Better
Nightshades: How I Found Out
Cooking Without Nightshades

***
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Monday, July 31, 2017

Nightshades: How I Found Out

My sister always hated eggplant. She said it makes her tongue buzz. I thought that was weird. We did not eat much eggplant growing up, so it was inconsequential. Or so we thought...

Two years ago my sister complained that sun dried tomatoes gave her tongue the same buzzing sensation. I decided to research. I discovered eggplant and tomatoes are related! So are peppers and potatoes. They are all in the Solanaceae family--Nightshades. I found that some people can be sensitive to these vegetables, and jokingly recommended that my sister give them up. She did not give them up immediately, but she did start paying attention to how eating them affected her.

It wasn't until last summer that anyone made the connection between nightshades and my health. My sister complained about potato chips making her mouth feel like it was torn up. I recalled getting the same feeling from something I ate, but could not remember what. Within a week I found out what it was: chili.

Then my mom read an article that said eating nightshades can exacerbate symptoms for those with autoimmune diseases. Sometimes eating nightshades can even cause the symptoms. What really got her attention was that nightshade sensitivity is hereditary.

I did not like being told I needed to stop eating nightshades. I snacked regularly on peppers and tomatoes. I loved pizza, spaghetti, and barbecue. But I decided to try it and see if it would improve my health.

It did. My health improved so much that even six months pregnant I had more energy than I had had in ten years.

I discovered that nightshades were everywhere. Sure, I knew to avoid French fries and ketchup, but I discovered they hide in unexpected food. I started reading every food label.

It was worth the diet change to feel better. After a while, I experimented with adding nightshades back into my diet and immediately had fatigue and joint pain that lasted at least a day. I may gaze longingly at tomatoes and peppers now, but I'm not going to eat them! the sacrifice is worth it to have my health.

***
Want to read more about my experience with Nightshades?

So Much Better
Nightshades Where You Don't Expect
Cooking Without Nightshades

***
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Monday, July 24, 2017

So Much Better

In my post about Being Still I made a reference to my poor health, and in my previous post I mentioned that my health has improved drastically. To understand how drastic, it's time for backstory.

I've had stomach problems, migraine headaches, and fatigue since I was a teenager. In my early twenties I developed joint pain in every major joint in my body. I was almost always in pain, always tired, and at least slightly nauseated most of the time. As a young stay-at-home-mom, keeping  up with the house and baby was a struggle. A lot of stuff simply was not done.

If my joint pain wasn't too bad, fatigue kept me from doing much. Do the dishes, take a nap. Vacuum a room, take a nap. Fold some laundry, take a nap. Cook dinner, and my energy was completely gone and I was ready for bed. I alternated between thinking I was just lazy and the vague idea that something was genuinely wrong with me.

When someone mentioned lupus I started researching. Lupus sounded a lot like what I was experiencing. I had blood tests done, but the only thing that showed up was a vitamin D deficiency. I was prescribed a supplement, but it didn't help much.

I was still hobbling around the house trying to keep up with necessary chores with what little energy I had. It's embarrassing how much of my housework my mom or grandmother did for me when they visited.

Pain was as much a mental battle as it was a physical battle. Some days it wasn't the level of pain that made me cry, it was the fact that I was in pain and I had no hope of it going away. My perception of pain became skewed. It became hard to communicate just how bad it was. I was so tired of living like that. Days without pain weren't even a comfort because I knew they wouldn't last.

But now? I am completely well! I have energy! I don't hurt constantly! I don't hobble around the house! I can do stuff! I'm keeping up with the house, a baby, and a toddler with more energy than I've had since I was a child. It's wonderful!

So what changed? I discovered that nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant) make me horrendously sick and I stopped eating them.

I'll go into more depth on the nightshades in my next post. This has been a difficult post for me to write. I give God the credit for leading me to the knowledge of how to be well just as much as if He had healed me outright.

***
Want to read more about my experience with Nightshades?

Nightshades: How I Found Out
Nightshades Where You Don't Expect
Cooking Without Nightshades

***
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Monday, July 17, 2017

I'm baaaaaack!

Sometimes during the grieving process you take a step back to get some distance, and learn better how to cope with your new reality. Eventually, though, you come back to the familiar with new perspective.

When I quit NaNoWriMo in 2015, I had no intention of letting my blog idle. It was our first Christmas without Dad, and Christmas was Dad's favorite holiday. That holiday season hit me hard. The anniversary of his death was just over a month later.

Less than a month after that would have been Nadia's due date.

Within two weeks of that, I lost my grandmother. It was an emotional time for me.

During that time, I played the banjo a lot, even wrote a few songs. I journaled some, and dabbled in poetry. I even occasionally used drawing as a way to express what I was feeling. Mostly daffodils. But my blog has lain dormant until now.

It hasn't been all bad, though. Two years is enough time for positive changes. Our second son was born in January, and he has been a delight. Also, during my pregnancy, I had a drastic change in my health. I feel better than I have felt in over ten years. I call this a miracle.

So I'm back to being active online. Looking forward to what lies ahead.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I Quit NaNoWriMo

November is finally over. It's a little bittersweet for me this year. I'm happy for each NaNoWriMo participant that meets their goal. It just wasn't for me this year.

I still stand by what I said when I finally decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I knew I was not likely to finish. I tried anyways. Two weeks in, I made the decision to quit.


This past month has been a real crunch to get the upstairs apartment ready for my Mom to move in. Sweetie took off almost three weeks of work, people have been in and out constantly, and I'd been on toddler-watch without much of a break to write. Most of my writing got done late at night after everyone else had gone to bed. My sleep was suffering, and when my sleep suffers, so does my mood.

The first week was still awesome. I was meeting my daily word counts like it was nothing. Everything was going smoothly when we left on our trip to go visit my sister. I had compensated with my daily goals to account for taking a few days off for our trip and again for Thanksgiving, so I wasn't worried about that.

The thing you have to watch out for when you take a complete break like I did is the lost momentum. I tried writing on the trip back home, and only managed half the daily word count. I wasn't too worried, as I knew I could catch up easily still as long as I would sit down and do the work.

Then I got home and went through my mail. I had jury duty scheduled for the next week. That was the proverbial nail in the coffin for me. I decided to quit NaNoWriMo for this year before I became too stressed out. Sometimes when things spin out of control, it's kinder to let go of the things you can control. I've done it before, and that's what I did this time, too.

I still have all the benefits I've talked about that came with participating in NaNoWriMo. Meal planning is something I plan to continue. I got enough of the story figured out and out of my head that it's not plaguing me in quite the same way that it was. I don't regret my decision to write, and I don't regret my decision to stop.

Except I haven't really quit writing. It seems I can't. Sure, I stopped writing my fiction, but that just means I start writing in my journal more. And poems. And songs. I guess I'll just have to keep writing as long as my finger keeps itching.

***

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More about NaNoWriMo?
My Characters Won't Behave
NaNoWriMo 2014 vs 2015
My NaNoWriMo Essentials

Saturday, November 7, 2015

My Characters Won't Behave

I know I'm not the only person that deals with this. I just feel like complaining... I started having trouble with a character being overly hostile. When I complained about it to my family, I was told to just make the character behave. I wish.



Non-writers seem to be under the impression that writers control their characters. For me, it's more like I rent head-space to my characters. Except I don't actually get the benefit of collecting rent.

When I was dealing with this particular character, I had intended for her to be rude, but the intensity of her behavior was unexpected, and told me there was more to it. So I took a day and explored why she was behaving this way. What I got at the end of the day was her character arc. It was important for me to know, even if what I actually wrote gets scrapped.

This is why I don't bother getting too detailed with my outlining. Things go off on tangents too often and I would have to scrap half of my outline. It's what works for me.

Before that I had a side character decide to tag along for the whole adventure...and become the love interest. I was not planning on including any romance in this story, but he's not going away. I'm trying telling myself that it helps add to the conflict.

So...only a week into NaNoWriMo and things are spinning out of control nicely. I've come to the conclusion is that if the characters are behaving perfectly, something is wrong.

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More about NaNoWriMo?
Four Benefits of NaNoWriMo
NaNoWriMo Prep Time
What I Did To Silence My Inner Editor