Gag Me With A Balloon

When Gretchen gave us “phobias” this week for the Spin Cycle, I was a little taken aback – I’ve just got so darn many of them.  I’m afraid of heights, afraid of the dark, am downright claustrophobic, am terrified of being smothered (don’t put anything over my face. Period.) and I tend to get rather nervous during takeoff and landing when I fly.  I won’t have a “real” Christmas tree for fear it will dry out and the lights will set it on fire, I get nervous when I go to bed if there’s still a fire in the fireplace and have I mentioned my obsession with the carbon monoxide detector in the laundry room lately?

Yes, I am a worry-wort.  It’s getting worse as I get older…I’ll probably be a basket case by the time I’m 80.

I do have a very real fear, however.  These days it manifests itself as nervousness when I have to swallow pills, but I literally am afraid of choking and for a very good reason.  I suffer from esophageal dysphagia – more specifically, an esophageal stricture – and it was caused by a combination of chronic gastroesophageal reflux diseas (GERD) and a bad bout with bulimia in my late 20s – early 30s.  Because of the bulimia, my stricture is much higher in my esophagus than one that is caused by GERD alone, and it was so bad by the time I was 38 that eating even tiny bites of food would choke me – I was living on tea, coffee, smooth soups and yogurt by the time I sought medical attention.  (I also reached my lowest weight since high school – why not?  I was walking at least 3 miles a day, since we had no car and I had to walk to and from work, and was consuming approximately 400 calories a day.)  Everyone around me learned how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

I’ve had my throat dilated three times in ten years, which I’m sure would surprise the doctor who performed the original procedure; my stricture was so bad he told me to expect to endure the procedure three times a year for the rest of my life.  Not likely – it was a year before the second, and yet another three years before the third, shortly after I moved to Ohio.  I may have to have another, but it’s been six years since the last and the stricture is just beginning to bother me again.  Difficulty swallowing pills is always the first sign, and a couple of my larger supplements have been giving me a tiny bit of a problem lately.

I think the fact that it’s been so long since I’ve needed treatment for the dysphagia has a great deal to do with the fact that I no longer suffer from the GERD.  I used to carry an economy-size bottle of Rolaids with me at all times, but now the only time I suffer from heartburn is when I eat something containing grains, refined sugar, processed soy or vegetable oils – all of the things that contributed to the myriad of other health problems I once suffered.

Recently, a young coworker of mine (a very young coworker – he’s just turned 29) who has been on Prilosec for years to treat his GERD just underwent a dilation for the very same thing.  He’s upset, anxious and disillusioned; why hasn’t the medication he’s been taking prevented this?  His diet is atrocious – I’ve caught him eating giant Twix bars for breakfast, and there is always candy and crap in his office.  I think his main problem is that he’s simply bought into the same conventional wisdom bullshit that is spoonfed to the American public on a daily basis:  everything is okay in moderation as long you remain active and take in fewer calories than you expend.  The kid truly thinks that because he exercises and is trim and muscular that he can eat anything and everything he wants (he’s told me this) and he’ll be fine.  Well, maybe this will change his mind.

Ah, well.  When we’re young, we tend to think we will always be young.  But I’m here to tell you that you won’t be, and what you eat today will affect your health tomorrow.  So do something about it before you’re in an operating theatre, sedated, and having balloons stuck down your throat so you don’t choke to death on a spoonful of Jello.

That is all.

Sausage and Red Pepper Tomato Sauce

It must be Monday, y’all!  So let’s link up all our best real food recipes that can be made ahead!

Recently, I began noticing a certain blogger who is a contributor to Chowstalker.  I began noticing her not just because she was posting wonderful-looking recipes, but because instead of accompanying the recipes with a photo, she was posting gorgeous – and creative – illustrations.  Her name is Alex Boake, and she is a professional illustrator based in Toronto, as well as a marvelous cook.

I began following Alex’s blog, and she has become a contributor to Make Ahead Monday (in fact, she’s linked up this very recipe).  Recently, she contacted me and suggested we do a “recipe swap” – she’d choose a recipe I’d posted, cook it and do one of her marvelous illustrations, and I would choose one of her recipes, cook and photograph it.  I agreed quite eagerly, and we decided on the recipes and when we would post them.

It was hard to choose which of Alex’s delicious recipes to cook but I decided on this one – Sausage and Red Pepper Tomato Sauce.  And I am so glad I did – this is one of the best pasta sauces I’ve ever had.  It also makes a ton – I fed it to eight people for dinner and still had 6 quart jars leftover for my freezer; the recipe will initially fill an 8-quart stock pot to the brim.

I made a couple of minor modifications to the original recipe.  Alex calls for 4 pounds of hot Italian sausage in casings; I was feeding people who weren’t tolerant of extremely spicy foods, so I used 2 pounds of hot Italian sausage and 2 pounds of plain ground pork.  In addition, I only had bulk sausage so I couldn’t pre-cook them in the casings, but I don’t think the sauce suffered from the change.  I increased the mushrooms from 14 ounces (her recipe specifies half of a 28-ounce package) to 1 pound.  I also streamlined the recipe directions a little; Alex presents her recipes in a lovely conversational format, and my OCD kicks in when I begin writing them 🙂 However, the recipe is essentially the same.

I served this over pasta for my guests; Beloved and I had it over a roasted parsnip puree.  I have plans for the leftovers, so expect to see this make a reappearance in the future.  And, as always, if you don’t eat pork you can replace it with turkey sausage/ground turkey.

And please visit Alex’s blog; her recipes are delicious, her illustrations are stunning, and she is a sweetheart.

Sausage and Red Pepper Tomato Sauce
Sausage and Red Pepper Tomato Sauce
Serves: 20
  • 2 pounds bulk hot Italian sausage
  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 4 cans (28 ounces) whole plum tomatoes
  • 4 can (6 oz) cans tomato paste
  • 1 pound sliced white mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons clarified butter or ghee, divided
  • 4 medium onions, diced
  • 4 sweet red peppers, cut into thin strips about 1-inch long
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  1. Wipe the tops of the cans of tomatoes with a clean, damp cloth; remove the lids with a can opener. Using a sharp knife, roughly chop/slice the tomatoes while they are still in the cans. This will help the tomatoes reduce in the sauce as they cook.
  2. Pour the tomatoes into an 8-quart stock pot; add the tomato paste. Bring the mixture briefly to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Add the mushrooms to the sauce.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the ghee or clarified butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent; add the minced garlic and cook for one minute more. Stir the onion/garlic mixture into the sauce in the stock pot. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee to the skillet and cook the red peppers over medium heat just until they begin to soften; add to the sauce.
  4. Stir the bay leaves, basil, salt and oregano into the sauce.
  5. Heat the same skillet you cooked the onions and peppers in over medium-high heat. Cook the sausage and ground pork, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, just until it is no longer pink. Add the meat to the sauce in the stock pot.
  6. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape. Simmer for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce burning on the bottom. Remove the bay leaves and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed, before serving.
  7. Serve over pasta, spaghetti squash, mashed cauliflower, mashed potatoes or roasted parsnip puree. Freeze the remaining portions for later use.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 354 calories, 26.6g total fat, 73.2mg cholesterol, 914.7mg sodium, 785.8mg potassium, 13g carbohydrates, 3.3g fiber, 7.2g sugar, 17g protein.

PLEASE – post recipes with whole, real food ingredients only. Dairy, sprouted grains and legumes and natural sweeteners are allowed, but recipes containing processed or refined ingredients or vegetable oils will be removed.  Don’t forget to link back to this post! Thanks for your cooperation.

Words of Wisdom

No, I still have not finished processing the photos of Patty.  But Jolly and The G Man are moving into their new townhouse this weekend and Beloved seems to be done with the traveling for the time being, so things should be going back to normal (for all of us).  Which will be nice, and hopefully allow me some time to do some of the things I need/want to do.

However, I do have a Fight Back Friday post for you.

I’ve been submitting photos to food photo sharing sites for some time now – Chowstalker, Dessertstalker, The Foodee, Foodgawker and Tastespotting are the main ones, although I occasionally submit to other sites.  Recently, I received an invitation to begin submitting to; like Chowstalker, Dessertstalker and The Foodee, Healthy Aperture only accepts photo where the food meets a certain nutritional criteria.  Unlike the others, though, Healthy Aperture is run by registered dietitians and nutritionists, and they set the criteria.

You see where this is going, don’t you.

Like Foodgawker and Tastespotting, many (if not most) of the photos on Healthy Aperture are for cookies and candies and muffins and cupcakes and the like, although the site owners make it clear that such dishes should be considered “treats only.”  So, earlier this week, I submitted my photo for the grain-and-dairy-free Chicken Fried Steak (a treat if there ever was one) – which was accepted by Chowstalker and Foodgawker, by the by.  I could tell you that I was surprised when the submission was declined, but that would be a lie.  Their reason?  “Nutrition criteria.”

In other words – I fried it in beef tallow.

I wonder if they’d taken it if I’d fried it in canola – it’s such a healthy oil, don’t you know. </sarcasm>

But don’t take my word for it – lets see what Julia Child, who died 2 days before her 92nd birthday, has to say about the whole animal fat/vegetable oil conundrum:

Have a lovely weekend, y’all.

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday


Chocolate Strawberry Bucheron

Beloved and I attended our first winter farmer’s market last weekend.  We picked up some onions and leeks, collards and apples, as well as several beautiful heads of garlic.

The Goat Cheese Lady was there, too.

Jeanie Mackenzie is one of the sweetest people you could ever meet, and her cheeses are just to DIE for (if you will recall, her handmade artisan goat cheeses were largely responsible for my quick defection from Whole30 last June).  They’ve figured very prominently in several recipes, whether I’ve mentioned it or not.  They are simply spectacular…and she had some Bucheron.

I darn near kissed her.  (I told you I love my farmers…and my cheese makers, too!)

As usual, I really had no idea what I was going to do with it, although some organic California strawberries and lightly salted, roasted pistachios inspired me.  And what an inspiration it was; this dish is rich and decadent, yet fruity but not too sweet, all at the same time.

It was, as The Young One said, “a righteous dessert.”

Oh, yeah.

Chocolate Strawberry Bucheron
Chocolate Strawberry Bucheron
Serves: 6
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 1/4 cup [url href=”″ target=”_blank”]dark chocolate balsamic vinegar[/url]
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pistachios, toasted and chopped
  • 6 ounces Bucheron or other aged goat cheese
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries, coconut sugar and dark chocolate balsamic vinegar. Stir; cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Cut the bucheron into 6 equal slices, and place each slice on a plate or wide, shallow bowl. Arrange the strawberries evenly over the slices of cheese, then drizzle with the vinegar.
  3. Sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and serve.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 156 calories, 8.1g total fat, 13mg cholesterol, 108.4mg sodium, 265.9mg potassium, 14.8g carbohydrates, 3.1g fiber, 10g sugar, 7g protein.



Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy

Yes – chicken fried steak.

With gravy.

It’s been a long time since I’ve made chicken fried steak, which is really a shame because Beloved, The Young One and I all really love it.  But I thought once I’d given up grains and dairy that I’d never have it again, and that made me sad – chicken fried steak may be the state dish of Oklahoma, but we Texans are quite fond of it, as well, and it’s literally been years since I’ve eaten any.

But when we were watching Patty be cut up a couple of weeks ago, I was watching them slice our round steaks when a thought popped into my head.

“Hey, can you tenderize some of that?”

I’d no sooner asked, when they whipped out this contraption:

Meat Tenderizer

And before I knew it, half of our round steaks had been tenderized, and I was thinking about how to make grain-free, dairy-free chicken fried steak.  With gravy.

And all was right with the world.

The actual cooking of the dish went fairly smoothly once I’d decided how I was going to go about it.  Now, for those readers with nut allergies (hi, Keith!), I used almond milk for the gravy but you could use So Delicious ® Unsweetened Coconut Beverage, or even just dilute canned coconut milk with water and it should work just fine (I may use the latter option myself next time).  I will say that I wasn’t sure about the gravy when I tasted it by itself – it just doesn’t taste like a gravy made with milk (of course) – but once it was on the steak, it was all wonderful.  I really couldn’t have been more pleased.

This is neither low calorie nor low carb – I don’t think anyone would classify chicken fried steak as “health food” under any circumstance – but as an occasional treat, it is a delicious comfort food alternative for those of us who do not consume grains or dairy, either by choice or necessity.

Note:  if you want to sub the tapioca and almond milk with flour and cow’s milk, go right ahead – the recipe is pretty much the basic one for chicken fried steak.  With gravy.

Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy
Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy
Serves: 6
  • 2 pounds round steak, cut into 6 equal pieces and tenderized
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • few grinds black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond milk or other milk substitute
  • 2 cups tallow
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 2 cups almond milk or other milk substitute, at room temperature
  1. Melt the tallow in a large, heavy skillet over high heat; bring to 350 F.
  2. Stir the salt, pepper and tapioca flour together in a shallow dish. Whisk together the eggs and 1/2 cup almond milk or milk substitute in a medium bowl until well blended.
  3. Dredge the pieces of steak in the tapioca flour, shaking off the excess. Dip them in the egg mixture, then coat them again with the seasoned tapioca.
  4. Place the steaks in the tallow and fry until they are brown and crispy, and the steak is just cooked through, turning once. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate and keep warm.
  5. Place two tablespoons of the remaining tallow in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk the two tablespoons of tapioca starch into the 2 cups of room temperature almond milk or milk substitute, then whisk the tapioca mixture slowly and steadily into the tallow in the saucepan. Cook, stirring continuously, until the gravy reaches desired consistency; season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Plate each steak and spoon the gravy over the top. Serve immediately.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 440 calories, 21.8g total fat, 175.6mg cholesterol, 377.8mg sodium, 616.1mg potassium, 22.2g carbohydrates, 1.2g fiber, <1g sugar, 36.2g protein.