Autoimmune Disease: The Clean Eating Cookbook, by Lisa Poloniato Marchese, CHN, is a clearly written, easy-to-use and wonderfully supportive cookbook, especially for novice cooks like me. But the cookbook is more than a variety of recipes for appetizers, main courses, snacks and smoothies. For me, simply, the cookbook offers hope.
After going gluten-free nine months ago and not getting the expected symptom improvement for my Hashimoto’s – I felt better, just not better ‘enough’ — I coughed up the steep fees for the ALCAT food sensitivity/intolerance test, hoping to fix my leaky gut issues by learning which foods were still causing issues and preventing me from truly healing.
The results showed I have severe, moderate and mild intolerances to staple foods such as canola oil, rice, salmon, romaine lettuce, sweet potato, and even cocoa (among a long list of other foods). Thankfully, coffee and corn were on the ‘acceptable food’ list – I savor my morning coffee, and a favorite snack is chips and salsa. An additional challenge is that I have hypoglycemia, so I have to be very careful with sugar and carbohydrate intake, or I will onset a flare fairly quickly. If I have too many of these glycemic-induced flares, my doctors warn that I will develop type 2 diabetes.
For me, the biggest change after the ALCAT was the elimination of rice and canola oil. Since most gluten-free products are made with rice flour, this basically translated to no more bread, cookies, and cake. I never paid much attention, but canola oil is found in tons of snack and other foods, such as the gluten-free frozen chicken nuggets I feed myself and my kids, the dried vegetable chips I (used to) buy in bulk from Whole Foods, and a ridiculous number of other snack foods, even organic ones.
Enter Lisa’s cookbook. Not only gluten-free, it’s dairy, egg, grain, soy and nut free. Many of the recipes require a food processor and not a lot of pre-prep, so they are simple and easy to make. Lisa adds little notes at the top of the recipe to explain what it ‘replaces’, with ideas for how to eat or serve the recipe with other foods. And best of all, the food tastes good! And it makes you feel good – no spikes in blood sugar. No bloating. Amazing.
Snacks have been my most difficult adjustment; up until now, I’ve tried to buy high quality, organic or natural snacks, rather than make snacks for life-on-the-go with kids, work and managing AutoimmuneMom.com. Getting the ALCAT results made me accept the reality that I cannot rely on shopping at natural grocery stores to feed myself. I have to buy ingredients and make my own snacks.
The snack I love best from Autoimmune Disease: The Clean Eating Cookbook is the Choconana Drops. These easy drop “cookies” call for bananas, coconut oil, coconut milk, water, coconut flour, honey and chocolate chips. I have gotten into a routine of making them every weekend, so that I have them on hand throughout the week in the fridge for a quick morning snack or an afternoon energy boost. The recipe is super simple, and it’s very easy to use substitutions. For example, the recipe calls for chocolate chips which usually contain cocoa (on my intolerance list according to the ALCAT). So I substitute for ½ cup of dried cranberries, which give the drop cookie a nice flavor. One week I had an extra peach, but not enough bananas, so I finely cut up the peach and added it in with the cranberries. The combination of the peach, banana and cranberries has been my favorite modification so far.
Despite the cocoa ban, I have cheated a little (seriously, can you imagine life without chocolate? impossible!). Before, I used to buy dark chocolate bars and eat the little squares at night after the kids were in bed. So seeing cocoa on the ‘moderate intolerance’ column was just depressing. But I have made the peppermint fudge recipe in the cookbook twice; with 1 tablespoon of cocoa, it’s just a little bit of chocolate that hasn’t bothered me. While it tastes different from the fudge from the corner candy shop, it thankfully does not give me a hypoglycemic flare and satisfies that need for a little bit of chocolate.
Over the summer, I made the fudge while we were on vacation and kept it in the freezer. After I’d eaten the mini cups for a few days, we went out the next night for ice cream. I found the ice cream to be too much and ended up throwing away most of my cone because it tasted too sickly sweet. That has never happened to me before – I’m one who loves desserts of any kind. But after getting used to honey, maple syrup and coconut as the sweeteners from Lisa’s cookbook, the desire for conventional sugars decreased, which I was thrilled about.
I haven’t even scratched the surface of the cookbook, but there are so many ways to cook a nice dinner, or add to a main course from the many choices in the book. I’m looking forward to trying the dips and sides (like the turnip fries!) this fall during football season and the cookie and pie recipes during the holiday season. I’m so grateful to Lisa for asking me to review this cookbook, and it has been like a virtual hug to have received it during a time of great change in my diet and my life.
Lisa herself is an awesome resource; she is generously open to answering questions and helping those with autoimmune conditions. She can be reached on her Facebook page: Autoimmune Disease, Clean Eating and You.
Katie Cleary is the founder of AutoimmuneMom.com. She lives with three autoimmune conditions, her husband, kids and mini labradoodle dog in Austin, Texas.