I was recently diagnosed with being gluten intolerant. It is a very hard thing to come to terms with since I am a gluten junkie. A few years ago, when I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis I gave up gluten for nearly a year and felt great. Even then, I attributed my well being more to the removal of gluten from my diet than following a plant based diet. Being vegan and gluten-free was a challenge that interfered with my lifestyle and that of my family so I started to reintroduce it to my diet. The arthritis seemed to stay under control with the aid of medications, and life went on as I happily indulged in my favorite sourdough breads, durum wheat pastas, and baked goods. It all seemed just fine for quite awhile until last summer when I started to not feel so well and unbeknownst to me, the role gluten was playing in my lackluster health was furthest from my mind.
Over the past 8 months I was growing increasingly frustrated with not feeling well. I was more and more tired, achy, and started gaining weight in spite of eating healthfully. Sure, I indulged over the holidays and weekends from time to time, but even when I was diligently counting calories and exercising I seemed to continue to physically blow up. When I say blow up, I literally mean it. Not only was I gaining weight but I was experiencing bloat and digestive issues beyond anything I had ever experienced before. My tummy got so bloated that my kids even thought I was pregnant. As bloated as I was in my belly, I was puffed up everywhere else in my body as well from my face to my toes, with headaches, nausea, and acid reflux to go along with it. As you can imagine, this is not only frustrating to feel so lousy, but can really get you down emotionally.
By the end of 2013, it got so bad that I started to enlist the help of my doctors. It was suspected that I had everything from a parasite to intestinal bacteria overgrowth, and even overactive hormones. I endured tests involving all of my bodily fluids from blood to stool, and sat through hours of breath tests, ultra sounds, and a cat scan that involved drinking the worst tasting stuff you could imagine only to find that everything was just fine. That is excellent news to come away with, but I have never wanted to have something wrong with me more so I would at least have an answer.
Through a process of elimination with the assistance and help of internet searches and my own dietary history, I asked my doctor to run a gluten sensitivity test. I began eliminating gluten from my diet at that point as well, but in a cheaters sort of way. I did not fully eliminate it as much as I cut it way back. The blood antibody tests came back confirming a severe sensitivity to gluten and that it was most likely causing intestinal permeability caused by the ingesting of foods containing gluten.
The good news is that my intestinal issues can be remedied with diligent use of specific supplements and the removal of any gluten in my diet. "But I don't have go crazy and read labels or ask about ingredients when I eat in restaurants, do I?" This was my question to my doctor which he answered by telling me that indeed I do. In fact, he said not to even eat gluten free pasta boiled on the same water as wheat pasta if I want to heal.
It has been over 2 weeks that I have been off of gluten completely, but my physical health has only slightly improved. I will continue on this gluten-free journey, but am still convinced that I will be able to renew my relationship with those foods I love sometime in the future. Perhaps I am fooling myself and should just do what is best to keep me in good health. I will keep you posted, but in the meantime I will be sharing the recipes that I will create that will be free of gluten starting with this one for Polenta Stuffed Chile Rellenos. When you eat things like this, a gluten-free diet does not seem that bad at all.
Polenta Stuffed Chiles Rellenos with Mushroom Hash
For all ingredients, please consider using those that are grown organically.
|sweet onion, chopped
|cremini or assorted mushrooms, sliced
Prepare the recipe for Creamy Polenta and allow it to cool. I like to prepare it as a component for dinner the night before using what remains for rellenos the next day.
Roast the poblano chiles under a broiler until the skins begin to blister. turn the chiles with tongs until the skins are blistered all the way around the peppers.
Allow the peppers to cool until you can handle them without burning your fingers.
Leaving the stems intact, carefully slice along the length of each pepper beginning at the stem. Do not cut through to the other side. You only want to make an opening sufficient to stuff the polenta and be able to close them back up when you are finished with the task.
Once the peppers are opened, carefully remove the seeds and ribs from the inside of each pepper.
Use your hands to stuff 1/3 to 1/2 cup of polenta into each pepper. How much polenta used will depend greatly on the size of the individual pepper. They should be well stuffed so when the peppers are wrapped around the polenta they will retain the essence of their original shape.
Arrange the stuffed peppers in a glass baking dish and set aside.
This dish can be prepared up to a day in advance and refrigerated at this point.
About 30-45 minutes before being ready to serve this dish, heat the oven to 425 F.
Put the prepared chiles into the preheated oven with a drizzling of olive oil and about 1/3 cup vegetable or chicken stock or top with 1/3 cup of canned chopped tomatoes. Roast the chiles for about 30 minutes until they are heated through and beginning to turn golden brown.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with sea salt and cook for about 5-10 minutes until they start to caramelize.
Add the zucchini to the pan and cook for another 5-10 minutes.
Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside before proceeding with the mushrooms.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for another 5 doing your best to keep from stirring them around. Not stirring them will allow them to brown and develop a nice flavor. After 3-5 minutes, toss the mushrooms so they can cook on all sides.
Add the scallions and the zucchini mixture to the mushrooms, toss together and cook for about 5 minutes to be sure everything is heated through.
Plate the vegetables with the chiles served on top. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro leaves and serve immediately.
Refrigerate the leftovers. The rellenos are delicious the next day.