Coping with a diagnosis of celiac disease or food allergies and learning to eat healthfully can have some very key things in common: they teach you to look for alternatives to what you formerly consumed. They teach you to combine foods in new ways. They teach you to seek out foods you formerly wouldn’t have eaten—or eating as often—and learn to enjoy those foods immensely. Combining the diagnosis eating with the healthful eating can be even more of a challenge, or, to look on the bright side, even more of an adventure.
Once I got past my initial panic, I began to enjoy learning to embrace some of the alternatives. I need to go back and label the earlier ones with my ‘baked potato of the week’ category, but creating new toppings for a slowwww-baked potato (baked for 3 hours!) has been one fun food creation activity for me in the last few months. One trick I’ve learned with baking potatoes is to buy a bag of (organic–it’s especially important since you’ll eat the skin) potatoes instead of picking out single ones. In my pantry closet, baking potatoes stay good for at least a couple of weeks, and the ones that are sold in bags are reasonable potato portions. If I buy the ones sold individually, I’m likely to be able to find only potatoes that are about the size of my head. When I buy the bulk bags of potatoes, I get potatoes of a more reasonable size. (If I get really small ones, I can always eat two. But the toppings I pile on tend to fill me up where even one moderately sized potato works just fine.)
This past week, I made an easy homemade vegetarian chili in about 20 minutes. I had bought some chili-ish ingredients (canned beans, canned tomatoes, frozen corn, fresh red pepper, etc.), and I just made it up as I went along until it looked and tasted right. I did throw in an ounce of dark chocolate so that my chili would have that touch of richness and sweetness to contrast with the starchy, salt-sprinkled potato. I spread some soft goat cheese inside each slow-baked potato, poured the chili in, and topped it all with chopped cilantro and green onions. Mmm delicious, and very filling: a great, easy winter meal.
Something else I’ve realized lately is that I love me some tacos. Actually, I already knew that I loved tacos. But what I realized, or remembered, is that at several restaurants over my lifetime, I have loved ordering soft corn tacos filled with less conventional taco fillings. Fish tacos are one of my favorite foods. (I know they’re common elsewhere, but many people in the South look at them askance.) I’ve had tacos filled with fried chicken, tomato slices, and honey mustard. Yum. And so on. Last week, when I was developing a cold and just wanted a quick dinner, I was trying to figure out how to make the tacos I had planned for dinner less labor-intensive. Then I noticed my leftover gluten-free pulled pork and gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free coleslaw. Voila. Pork and coleslaw tacos. Tasty and easy.
I’m going to be running with this unconventional taco idea in various directions for a long while. . . . Ideas, anyone?