Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Plenty of Plentils To Go Around - Enjoy Life Foods Sampling

What a great bunch of free samples I received this time form Enjoy Life Foods! They just look all happy and buddy-buddy, don't they? These are crunchy lentil chips that come in 4 flavors- Garlic & Parmesan, Light Sea Salt, Dill & Sour Cream and Margherita Pizza. Unlike some other lentil-based chips that are out there, Plentils are free of wheat, egg, dairy, soy, peanuts, fish, tree nuts and shellfish. And in our house, this means no worries.

I do want to mention that when I received these, I noticed that one of the ingredients listed was maltodextrin. This put up a red flag for me as an allergy mom because we are so programmed to fish out allergens hidden under other titles. So for me, my immediate thought was malto = milk. I quickly Googled it and I found that maltodextrin is usually made from rice, corn, or potato starch and is produced by cooking down the starch. Just to be on the safe side, I emailed the representative at Enjoy Life Foods who promptly responded with "Just as with the rest of our products, these are dairy free, so no worries!". And with this, I moved forward!

This time, I decided to go deep undercover and be sneaky..... I am always so quick to force-feed my latest food concoctions into people's mouths. This time, I laid low and played it cool. I happened to be invited over to a party and offered to bring a pick food. Perfect! But you can't just show up with a bag or two of chips (kind of tacky). So I tried to keep it simple and healthy. I chopped up some
carrots and celery and I whipped up a fast black bean dip and placed some handfuls of the Light Sea Salt and Garlic & Parmesan Plentils onto the plate. Off we went to see how it would go. A few people asked "Hey, what are these?" and others just munched but all in all, I would say they were received very well.

Recipe for Black Bean Dip:
1 Can Black Beans, rinsed (or) 1 cup of black beans, soaked and cooked
2-3 Tablespoons Grapeseed Oil (may need to add more depending on the consistency)
1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
Sea salt to taste
Lemon Juice as needed

Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and puree. If the beans are too thick, add a tiny bit more oil or a splash of lemon juice. Refrigerate leftovers.

The Margherita Pizza chips were a whole, different ballgame. Usually when I get samples, I put them away so I can figure out what kind of recipe to use it for and then I let everyone eat them. This time, the bag was opened and I think I was allowed to have two chips from the entire bag. I've heard of this phenomena in other parts of the world where the young scavenge for food and hoard it, leaving the others in the pack to die of starvation but never have I seen it so close to home. It would be days until I had the strength to get back into my kitchen and try some new recipes. The agony!

After my brush with alienation, I bounced back. I decided to try making a dairy-free dip using the Dill & Sour Cream Plentils. Why not? If it was awful, I would just save it for my husband (snicker, snicker). I decided to make only a small amount in case it was a disaster. Using my mini-chopper, I crushed up some of the Dill & Sour Cream Plentils and mixed it with just enough Follow Your Heart Grapeseed Vegenaise. And why not get some lentils in there to get some extra protein while you are snacking? It was a bit thicker than the regular chip dip but I have to admit, it tasted pretty darn close!

Dairy-Free Dill & Sour Cream Dip
Desired amount of Enjoy Life Foods Dill & Sour Cream Plentils Chips
Follow Your Heart Grapeseed Vegenaise

Using a mini chopper, grind the chips into a fine powder. Mix in the Vegenaise until you have reached the desired consistency. (This dip will be thicker than a dairy-based dip.) Use up leftovers within a day or two since the Vegenaise begins to separate and gets oily.

Somehow, by the grace of God, I still had some Plentils leftover. I could have given them to the children but then I remembered the horrible incident with the Margherita Pizza chips! My brain began to buzz. I had chicken and I had tilapia and I was in a cooking groove. My husband came home to a dinner with two main courses and both were well-liked and very easy to make.

I decided to go with the grinding idea and I breaded the chicken and the fish to make some very delightful, dairy-free, gluten free dinners. For the chicken, I used the Garlic & Parmesan Plentils.

Awesome Allergy-Friendly Chicken
2 Chicken Breasts, washed                           
2 Tablespoons Follow Your Heart Grapeseed Vegenaise
1/2 Cup Enjoy Life Foods Garlic & Parmesan Plentils Chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, coat the chicken breast with the Vegenaise so that it's completely covered.

Using a mini chopper, grind the Plentils into a fine powder. Cover the coated chicken breasts and place them into a casserole dish with sides (chicken will splatter a tiny bit). Bake in the oven until there is no pink and the juice runs clear. Enjoy!

For the fish, I also used the's my newest go-to coater for frying foods. I didn't completely coat the fish, I simply topped it with a nice mixture. It was tasty though!

Dairy-Free Dill & Sour Cream Tilapia Fillets
3 Tilapia
2 Tablespoons Follow Your Heart Grapeseed Vegenaise
2 Cups Enjoy Life Foods Dill & Sour Cream Plentils Chips
1/2 A Lemon

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place the tilapia fillets into a shallow baking dish. Place the Vegenaise on top of the fillets, smoothing them evenly on top of the fish.

Using a mini chopper, grind the Plentils. You can grind them into a powder or you can choose to leave them with some larger pieces, both will be fine.

Sprinkle on top of the fish and add a few dashes of paprika. Finish by squeezing fresh lemon over the top and bake until the fish flakes with a fork.

All in all, I have to say that there has never been a product from Enjoy Life Foods that our family has not liked. They are all great tasting and the fact that I know that their products never contain any foods that could harm my son is even better. After all, sampling is great and finding great snacks is wonderful but a safe food that is healthy and your allergic child likes is priceless.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Love Two Men and I'm Keeping Them Both - Part II

Well, after much criticism and nagging from my husband (love you, honey!), asking me who the second man that I love is, I am here to continue my personal saga.

My strange symptoms that were undiagnosed by many of my Primary Doctors and dismissed by many of the Specialists were finally given names. Now, many people would say that "misery loves company" but I was so happy to have something that explained my aches and  pains that I really didn't care what other people thought at that point. I was given instructions on how to fix it and that's what mattered to me. That and the fact that I could be fixed. I could drive my children to school again and not feel as if I was going to pass out. I could clean my house without having to lay down on the couch for a week afterwards. I could start to think clearly again and just to enjoy the simply things that I had missed. That is priceless to me.

The next hurdle was dealing with my Primary Doctor. Why? Because sometimes I do need to see my regular Primary Physician and if I have to, the last thing that I want to see is another person rolling their eyes at me when I list off the supplements that I am taking. I don't care if they have been to Medical School, I don't care if they have read studies that say that the supplement that I take has no known factual evidence to fix my issue. I don't care if they don't believe in what Dr. A is doing for me. What I do care about is being able to be seen, not having to wait one month to see them and to be treated pleasantly when I am there. I am a very simple person to please. And, in my last Primary Doctor's defense, I do have to say that she did try her best to help me. For the most part, it was her associates that were horrible and the scheduling that did not allow me to see her.

Onward. This led me to my second "love", another Integrative Doctor who we will call Dr. B (get it, Dr A, Dr B...). The same thing happened as the first time- I had been discouraged with trying to see my Doctor and I asked the universe for help. (Please don't think I am strange, I was just at that point and I needed answers, so you do what works for you) Then, one morning I was driving the kids to school and the sign was literally right in front of me. Well, on the side of the road but it seemed like it had been put there for me. Did I read that right? Integrative Family Practice? Avoiding a car accident as I tried to read the sign the next time I passed, I decided to search online.

To my satisfaction, yes they were a real medical practice AND they take insurance! This may sound silly but many Integrative Doctors in my area either don't take insurance or they don't take MY insurance. So this was extremely helpful as well. The office staff was pleasant and cheerful and other than having to complete a mini book on my life for the appointment, I was very happy with the visit. Again, I had found a Doctor that listened to me and did not roll his eyes. I left feeling like he not only agreed with what I was doing to change my health but I felt comfortable bringing my children to him as well because they are a Family Practice.

Why bring the kids? Do I not like their Pediatrician? Of course I do, but both of my children are old enough now where they only go to the Doctors if they are sick. And with much of the information that I have found over the past few years, I feel that it's important to be able to offer my children a better option at health as well. I am not saying that I don't believe in medicine or mainstream medical thought. I simply want to give them a chance to be treated and respected. I don't care if they are only children- they are my children and they are important to me.

That was six months ago. I am happy with my Doctors and my treatment options. I am healthier than I was almost three years ago but still fighting to get back to optimal health. I have been blessed to have met these amazing people as well as so many of my clients that have similar issues. Again, it's not misery loves company. It's more like knowledge is power. I have felt my new clients hesitating to tell me their odd symptoms and I can understand because they too are starting to figure out their own puzzle. They don't need another person rolling their eyes at them. I am here to support whomever I can. I am here to continue my journey and share it with other people to make them stronger. I am here to tell people that you should question your Doctors if you feel, deep down, that something is still not right. Would you rather have done too much or too little? Never second-guess yourself based on what someone else tells you. Don't let anyone take away your motivation to get better. It's your health, your life and in the long run, the most important person will not be the Doctors that didn't want to help you, it will be those who did.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Love Two Men & I'm Keeping Them Both - Part I

Yes, you read that correctly. There are two men in my life and I refuse to get rid of either of them.

But wait, before you get angry and judge me (or, if you are my husband reading this and you are really confused right now) just take a breath, be open-minded and read further.

Over the years of discovering my son's food allergies, I found myself having strange, unrelated symptoms that caused me to go through a huge variety of tests. I was bounced from Doctor to Doctor, Specialist to Specialist and I was given so many different medications to try that I wound up broke, feeling worse and angry because I still had no answers. How did I go from being healthy, being the Super Mom that does everything all of the time to a puddle on the couch not able to function? Why were all of my Doctors simply chalking it up to stress? By the way...I refuse to use that word now unless it is absolutely necessary. The worst part was that I allowed these Doctors to make me doubt myself when I knew, deep down, there was something else going on with my body.

After two years and a pile of medical bills still unpaid because "this would find out what is causing my symptoms", I felt the pain of being left alone and pushed aside. My Doctors had thrown in the towel and I now felt as if I was "that crazy patient" whenever I was making another appointment. But how did I get here and how could I be making this up inside of my own mind? The pain was real, the dizziness was real, so what was it? I wanted answers and I decided that I would need to find them on my own.

Growing up, you are told that your Doctor is safe, they are there to help you and make you better, right? And, to my previous Primary Doctor's credit, she really did her best for as long as she could. But then the other Doctors began to discuss my huge, thick file and talk amongst themselves. Pretty soon, I had progressed to officially being that crazy patient. I stopped making appointments and I started to research anything and everything that I could. I Googled every pain, every symptom and I spoke to anyone who had an ache or a pain that remotely sounded like mine.I took notes from Dr. Oz and House and Googled even the strangest things that I could not possibly have. But I needed to know and I needed to have answers so that I could move forward and get myself better.

Then, one day, I broke down and I had had enough. I couldn't play with my children, I couldn't be a good wife and I felt alone. My family was great but when you feel horrible and you don't know what else to do, you still feel alone. I cried one night when everyone was sleeping and I asked the universe to please, please help me. Show me a sign or point me to where I needed to go to "fix" myself. I refused to give up and be like this the rest of my life. That week, I received a sign. There, in a free natural magazine that I had passed week after week at the store. The front cover featured an article that described so many of my symptoms that I did not even wait to get home to read it. I went to the car and opened it - dizziness, constantly tired, stomach issues, hormonal imbalances, blood pressure was all there! Not only was it all there but there was a Doctor in my area that I could go to for it.

My first appointment with "Dr. A" was nerve-wracking for me. I was afraid I would leave with no answers or worse, answers that I did not want to hear. In the end, I had a diagnosis and a plan- a healthy plan. And, without me asking, his statement to me that changed my life was "You are not crazy". My diagnosis? Adrenal Fatigue, Candida allergy and hormonal imbalances that were driven by the allergies. I asked the scary question "How long will it take me to get better?" My answer was "6-10 months, if you are lucky". Six to ten months....that would be forever! But as he reminded me, this is nothing compared to the time I had been sick and I agreed. What was the plan of action? I dreaded this..more pills, more tests? Even worse, more money I didn't have? Pills yes but they were all supplements for my vitamin deficiencies. Tests, yes but these were tests that were covered under my insurance copay and those that were not were inexpensive compared to the two MRI's I had previously had.

The best part were the answers- I finally had answers! I began to see how everything fit together, how everything had put my body into the state it was in and why I felt the way I did. Relief washed over me but it was then quickly replaced with anger at all of my previous Doctors. How had they missed these simple things? How had they not listened to me- REALLY listened to me as a person, not as a patient? This was replaced yet again by extreme research and forgiveness...I forgave them for not being the best Doctors they could for me. It had nothing to do with me, just them and that is something that I cannot take personally.

Why was Dr. A so different from the other Doctors? He is an Integrative Medical Doctor, not your typical Primary HMO Doctor. He is a medical Doctor that looks at the whole person, not just the symptoms and he looked at my specific symptoms, not just what was "within normal range". He listened, he understood how I got to where I was and everything that he offered was something that would only benefit my health, not harm it. I have tried to thank him many times for giving me my health back but he says I did it, not him. He is the first man I refuse to give up. I admire him and I love what he does for people. I would not ever jeopardize myself by going back to any of those other Doctors. This is the one time I would have to say that it's ok to be selfish for myself.

To Be Continued............

I normally try to write upbeat articles because laughter is the best rememdy. However, I have recently noticed so many people having the same symptoms that I had, going through such a similar bunch of events that i went through, I feel that it's important to write about it to educate others in case you also are having the same, unresolved issues. Please feel free to reach out if you feel I can help you- Tracy