ASD Recovery Recipe: Anything Pasta

So I’ve discovered that I can make a decent pasta meal out of anything “vegetable” in my refrigerator. Like, virtually anything.

Last night I planned to make white bean skordalia. By the time I discovered that I forgot to advance-soak the cannellini beans, I had only minutes to devise another dinner. I surveyed the kitchen and assembled these ingredients:

->Carrots, with their green tops. I always cook the carrot greens. Once when I was checking out, the supermarket cashier casually snapped off the carrot greens and tossed them in a garbage bin. I promptly commenced a lengthy oration on the benefits of carrot greens.

->Red onions.

->Garlic.

->Celery.

->Toasted onion salt. With Martin’s current low-salicylate diet limiting spices so much, I’ve been trying to get creative with salt.

->Pine nuts. I avoid the pine nuts from China. I’m not anti-China, but I am concerned with shortcomings in China’s food-safety schema.

->Green lentil pasta.

I prepped the carrots (greens and all) and celery in a vinegar bath, then cut them into pieces and put them in my food processor. October 13, 2011, I wrote a post titled, “Kitchen News: An Update on the Hunt for a Food Processor With Glass Bowl,” which (based on total unique views) is the most popular post ever to grace this blog. Five-and-a-half years later, I am still without a glass food processor. I processed the carrots and celery almost to a paste. Then I chopped the onions and garlic roughly and added them to the food processor.

While the pasta was cooking, I heated a generous amount of oil and fried the finely minced vegetables. When they were almost done, I added onion salt and a scoop of pine nuts.

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Finally I drenched the cooked pasta in cold water to prevent mushiness and added it to the veggie pan.

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The resulting dinner was pasta coated in lovely crunchy-garlicky bits. Martin said, “Oh yes, this is delicious!” and Adrian ate every last bit from the pan.

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Must remember—“night in a pinch” will henceforth be known as “garlic pasta dinner.”

On Food and Genetics, and Judgment

Time to elaborate again on a comment response I made recently.

In response to my post about Martin’s golden week, I received this comment from a reader:

We are not on a biomed path as our son’s extremely restrictive food choices preclude this. Also his autism is visible throughout our family tree and heritable traits probably can’t be eliminated entirely by an altered diet. However our son’s behaviour varies considerably depending on who is looking after him and how secure he feels. Not all sides are helpful . . . while low-sal may well be helping don’t ignore the effect of his environment out of hand. There’s a lovely book called Uniquely Human about this sort of thing [that] might be worth a look. Thanks for writing—we are on a path much more to do with movement than food due to our family’s ASD presentation but we have the same burden of analysis and choices as you seem to! Bonne Chance

This was my response:

Thanks for reading! A few thoughts on your comment: I agree that environment is also relevant, and we pay a great deal of attention to environment and behavioral assists. But seldom (in my experience, never) do they yield an immediate effect; a substitute aide does not make a great day, or week—though a new aide certainly can change the course of the year. In terms of the biomed path, I don’t know of any child whose autism was corrected entirely by an altered diet. Diet is only the foundation of the healing path. Moving along that path requires supplementation, methylation assistance, detoxification, etc., specific to the child.

Genetic and inheritable traits also play a great role in my son’s condition. I would be naïve to think otherwise. Both my brothers have immune disorders, and psychological/psychiatric conditions (which I now would call health conditions) are endemic in my family. That does not mean my son’s autism cannot be lessened, if not resolved, through biomed. Epigenetics, neuroplasticity, and all that I know about the science of healing suggest otherwise.

In terms of your son having extremely restrictive food choices—well, that brings me to a paradox. In my experience working with biomed families, children who restrict their food choices are usually the biggest beneficiaries of biomed, once it gets going. The food aversions, which often have underlying digestive causes, tend to disappear once the irritants are removed from the diet. I would encourage you to give it a try!

But even if it’s not right for your family, that’s okay too. It sounds like you are doing a lot for your son in any event, and I hope it will get him where he needs to be. Whatever approach we take, we are all in this together.

These are the three points I’d like to discuss further:

  1. Picky eating is a reason to pursue biomed and dietary changes, not a reason to discount them.
  2. Genetics don’t always get to write a child’s future, at least not every aspect of the future.
  3. If picky eating or genetics are keeping you from pursuing biomed and/or dietary changes, that’s okay.

As to point 1—“There is no way I could do a gluten-free or dairy-free diet, because my son will eat only cheese tortellini, breaded chicken nuggets, and pretzels.” “I tried a special diet once, and she didn’t eat for three days. Literally. Finally I gave in because she would pass out otherwise.” I hear these statements frequently when other special-needs parents find out that we do biomed. I also hear their corollary, the failure-to-thrive argument: “My son is so skinny and small for his age, even though he eats a ton. I have to give him milkshakes constantly just to keep his weight up.”

Years ago, I attended a presentation by Dr. Arthur Krigsman. (Yes, I know Dr. Krigsman is controversial. At this point, I find that many doctors doing research and providing non-pharmaceutical medical treatment to children with autism are called quacks. I’ve had to get past that and start making my own decisions.) Although biomed parents (as far as I could tell) filled much of the audience, Dr. Krigsman was speaking as part of a panel discussion aimed primarily at physicians, and therefore much of what he said went over my head. I think I understood him to say that many children on the spectrum exhibit lesions and inflammation throughout the digestive tract, including in the esophagus and stomach. Dr. Krigsman calls this condition “autistic enterocolitis.” These lesions, like so much of what affects our children, originate from unbalanced immune response to normal gastrointestinal action. Picky eating, or food aversions, might be a sign of pain from such digestive troubles: Kids express their hurt by avoiding the foods that exacerbate that hurt. In such a scenario, a kid who is not eating, or is severely restricting his own diet, needs biomed. Like, really, really needs biomed, or some form of medical intervention to begin healing the digestive tract.

Speaking from my own experience, when Martin was young, before we started biomed, he “postured”: He would bend forward with his stomach tight and his fists clenched at his side. He also slept with “elevator butt.” (I stole that term from one of my law school classmates, who used to scratch the base of my cat’s tail, then yell “elevator butt!” when the kitty straightened only her back legs.) Martin frequently slept with his face smashed into the mattress and his butt in the air, as if to relieve pressure on his gut. Both the posturing and the elevator butt ceased within a few months of dietary changes. Whether he actually had enterocolitis, or just some lesser form of irritation, I don’t know. But he was in pain, and a restricted diet relieved that pain.

During Dr. Krigsman’s presentation, I couldn’t help but think of “Jonas,” a boy I know with undiagnosed behavioral issues that resemble seizure-related oppositional defiant disorder. At the time, Jonas would eat nothing but processed yogurt drinks or green shakes. I searched for a way to raise the issue of entrocolitis with his mother, a single woman constantly overwhelmed with managing Jonas’s behaviors and shuttling him to various therapies, including eating therapy. I never found the right moment, or non-threatening way, to bring it up. I consider that a shortcoming.

I don’t believe that “autistic enterocolitis” is the only reason a kid on the spectrum might avoid foods. Martin’s friend Bobby, who is on a GFCFSF diet, limits himself even further because of taste and texture issues. He will not eat soft or chewy foods. Martin himself would be happy to repeat his two or three favorite foods every meal. I consider that a form of perseverative behavior. Again, these are issues best addressed (in my world view) through biomedical intervention, to resolve what’s causing the aversions or perseveration—although I don’t discount the complimentary role of behavioral therapy, such as RDI.

As to the child who allegedly needs milkshakes to put on weight, if a boy eats and eats but cannot gain weight or grow taller, plainly he has a health problem that is not being addressed. His body is not processing the food’s nutrition adequately, which means he probably isn’t getting the foods that his body can process. Which brings me to dietary changes . . . .

As to point 2—I have heard from parents who say they don’t have any reason to bother with biomed because genetic mutations are to blame for their child’s autism. I get that. I really do. Once you discover what havoc genes can wreck, it can feel almost pointless to try altering the course. Even without the genetic component, it can feel almost pointless. I’ve been at this six years, and we aren’t “there” yet, wherever the heck “there” is. But consider two factors. First, genetics are often a predisposition, not a path certain. Genetics might set the stage, but environmental factors often raise the curtain. You know my favorite environmental villains: processed foods, glyphosate, pesticides, C-sections, antibiotics, vaccines (gulp! I said it again), pollution. Carrying the silly set-the-stage analogy further—if environmental factors raise the curtain, then altering the environmental factors can change lower it again. Even if, for example, a vaccine activates an MTHFR mutation, interventions to restore the immune system can calm the mutation.

As I wrote in response to the blog comment above, I recognize the role Martin’s genetics played in his development of autism. Without going into too much detail (even though FindingMyKid is written anonymously, I feel icky about compromising privacy), my family has genetic gifts—for example, we are “book smart” and breeze through standardized exams, and we are not prone to obesity—and shortcomings. Both my brothers have immune disorders. The elder suffers from a wide range of food and environmental allergies, plus eczema and chronic bronchitis. The younger has environmental allergies. Long before I produced Martin, I myself fell victim to depression, a disease also prevalent in my husband’s family. There’s addiction on both sides of the family tree. So when it comes to immune and related disorders, genetics were not in Martin’s favor. Genetic testing has confirmed the existence of mutations that make him susceptible to autism.

As I understand the history, decades ago we might have been advised against vaccinating Martin at all, based on immune disorder in the immediate family. Let’s add that Martin’s vaccinations followed Pitocin, loss of heart rate during labor, an unplanned C-section, antibiotics in the NICU, and plenty of immune insults I don’t need to repeat again.

The way that I look at it, Martin’s genetic predisposition to immune disorder made him vulnerable to the effects of environmental factors, and now makes our path to recovery more arduous. But it is no reason to abandon him to (perceived) fate.

Then there’s the matter of epigenetics. According to this helpful webpage, epigenetics is “the study of potentially heritable changes in gene expression (active versus inactive genes) that does not involve changes to the underlying DNA sequence—a change in phenotype without a change in genotype—which in turn affects how cells read the genes.” That means that environmental circumstances can cause genes to be silenced or expressed over time. We can influence which genes express themselves, and how. I’d like to seize that power, to whatever extent I manage.

As to point 3—I’ve said this from time to time, and it bears repeating: You don’t need to approach autism biomedically to be my friend. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Because this is a blog about biomedical recovery from autism, and because I unabashedly favor biomed, I worry that I must come off as an intolerant person. Since FindingMyKid is written anonymously, I have to ask you to take my word for this: My blog personality and my live personality are different. By now, a large percentage of my acquaintance comprises families affected by autism. Half of those families, I estimate, are pursuing biomedical recovery. The others are not. It’s like having friends who don’t love the New York Rangers, or even hockey in general. I prattle about the Rangers, they listen kindly, and then we find connection in whatever petty topics non-hockey people enjoy. When it comes to friends who have children on the spectrum but don’t pursue biomed, I answer questions (when asked) about what we are up to, I ask what they are up to, and we find connection in the stuff we both know, like sleepless nights, IEP meetings, adaptive sports.

I had the advantage of implementing dietary changes when Martin was just two years old, when he was more malleable. Maybe you don’t want to change your child’s diet because he’s picky, or underweight, or you’re skeptical about biomed. Or maybe dietary changes are too much to manage with a large family, or small budget, or unsupportive co-parent. Maybe knowing your child’s genetic make-up has convinced you that biomed interventions would be fruitless. Maybe you are making satisfactory progress with behavioral therapies. That is totally fine.

Judgment does not become us.

Eureka!

Salicylates.

They are the compounds in many plant foods that keep them from spoiling. Most fruits, and some vegetables, are salicylate-rich, as are virtually all spices, with turmeric/curry being among the worst offenders. Animal products (meat, eggs, dairy) are low-salicylate unless they’re spiced or cured. According to my research so far, just about anything fermented is high-salicylate.

According to “drugs.com,” salicylates (in their synthetic form?) do more than delay food rot:

Salicylates are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandin and other mediators in the process of inflammation and have anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and analgesic properties. Salicylates can be used to reduce fever, pain and inflammation such as in arthritis.

In any event, salicylates can cause food sensitivities. The Feingold Diet, an elimination diet popular among parents of children with behavioral challenges, recommends cutting salicylates (along with additives, colorings, and other irritants) then trying higher-salicylate foods one-by-one to test tolerance levels. I’ve found a handful of websites dedicated to low-sal diets—that’s the lingo, apparently, to avoid pronouncing “salicylate” constantly—including this one and this one. Some people try, miraculously, to manage a low-sal SCD regimen.

The last week of 2016, we were skiing again, in Park City, Utah. Christmas day we flew from New York City to Salt Lake City and spent the night in a downtown hotel. The next morning we drove to Park City and picked up our rental skis. That afternoon, as Martin took a lesson at the National Ability Center and Adrian skied a few initial runs, I went to the Whole Foods Market and stocked up to cook for seven days. We reconvened at our rented condominium, had dinner, and hit the sack.

Martin had been having a troublesome few months, as you may know. When Martin is having a tough time, even if he’s sleeping well (which, these days, he almost invariably is), I often find myself awake during the night, fretting. Such was the case that first night in Park City. I woke around 3:30 am (which is 5:30 am in New York, just about when I usually get up) and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I moved to the sofa with my iPad and started reading.

I’m not sure why I felt compelled to navigate directly to salicylates. I’d thought about salicylates once or twice in the distant past and, for whatever reason, not pursued the topic, probably because I was onto some other next big thing. But this occasion, in the wee hours on a Park City sofa, I read a page about salicylate sensitivity, then another. And another. And another. I read about hyperactivity. Anxiety. Sensitivity. Uncontrollable laughter.

I thought, “This sounds like Martin. This sounds a lot like Martin.”

Martin’s diet has been clean for years. We’ve done GAPS, modified GAPS, SCD, and custom variations to account for mitochondrial dysfunction. We’ve made much progress toward heal Martin’s gut; he no longer “postures,” his belly is flat, his bowel movements are works of art. Still, he exhibits physical manifestations that may be food-related, like occasional shiners and visible inflammation. I’ve taken him recently for allergy testing, both traditional and naturopathic. I’ve discovered the beef allergy and a few others, including horses (riding them, not eating them, though there was once an unfortunate incident in South America when Martin ate some jerky after I failed to recognize the local word for “horse”). I avoid what I’m told to avoid.

But I’ve never put Martin on a low-sal diet.

By this time it was 4:30 am. I texted my friend Stacey, “I think Martin might be salicylate-intolerant. I really think I might be onto something.”

Her reply came hours later, when we were already skiing: “I don’t even know what that means, but hey glad you’re getting somewhere.” To the extent one can hear frustration in a text message, I heard some frustration in hers. I know she’s been having an even tougher time with her son, and feeling like they aren’t making much progress toward recovery.

That evening, I texted back, truthfully: “At the moment, I’m getting nowhere. He’s a complete disaster today.” I mean, why did you think I was texting you about salicylates at 4:30 am? “But I’m going to try removing salicylates from his diet and see what happens.”

I couldn’t put my low-sal plan into effect immediately. I’d already spent hundreds of dollars at the Whole Foods Market, stocking us up for the week. I had freeze-dried pineapple (high-sal!), fresh sweet potatoes (high-sal!), Lärabars (dates and almonds, high-sal!), coconut oil (extra high-sal!). Plus, I couldn’t find just one website that compiled all the salicylate contents that I needed to know about. Nori seaweed? Ground flax meal? Kohlrabi? Who could give me these important facts? I spent my evenings, after skiing and cooking, surfing around to put together the most comprehensive list I could. Different sources even disagreed on the salicylate content in some foods, like cauliflower and parsley.

I searched for a low-sal cookbook and finally located one, which needed to be sent from New Zealand. I ordered it immediately.

I returned to the Whole Foods Market and picked up lower-sal safflower oil—the store didn’t have the sunflower oil I was looking for—and white potatoes for breakfast. For the ski week, I managed what I would call “reduced-salicylate” but not “low-salicylate.” Martin had turkey bacon (unacceptable for celery salt and spices) and bison hot dogs (same), plus carrots and other medium-sal veggies. His mountainside snacks were still the nut- and seed-based products I’d brought to Utah or purchased on-site, though I did make an effort to send the cashew (low-sal) versions instead of the almond (high-sal) versions.

Our second-to-last morning in Utah, when I was almost out of food, I made Martin a “breakfast tortilla,” which was peanut butter spread between two almond tortillas and fried. Peanut butter is medium-salicylate, and almonds are high-salicylate, making this breakfast the largest serving of salicylates he’d had all week. Midway through breakfast, Martin started laughing. Laughing so hard he could barely get food into his mouth. Laughing so hard he needed to leave the table to jump. Martin laughs inappropriately, often. But this was of a new magnitude.

I asked him what was going on. He replied, “I don’t know! I can’t stop laughing!”

Uncontrollable laughter. Was this salicylate-related? When Adrian emerged, from the shower, I relayed what had happened. He could also see for himself, as Martin was still laughing. We decided immediately to explore a low-sal diet to the fullest. Adrian said, “I support this. Let me know what you need from me.”

We arrived home late Monday night, January 2. Tuesday morning, I went shopping. This first shopping venture in the low-sal world felt strange. Martin will be eating starchy foods he loves that previously I kept in strict moderation, like potatoes and rice. For cooking, the only plant-based oils I use at home have been raw coconut and extra-virgin oil, both of which are extremely high-sal; now, along with rendered animal fat, I am urged to use sunflower or rice-bran oil, and even (gasp!) the refined forms. Honey, with all its beneficial properties, is out now, even manuka honey. Lower-sal sweeteners are the more refined forms, like sugar cane. (No way. I’ll be sticking to maple syrup and maple sugar, which are allowed.) No more fruit, except papayas, bananas, peeled pears, and peeled golden delicious apples.

Of course, I wonder why Martin is salicylate-sensitive now (if in fact I’m correct). Has he always been this way? Is it new? Will I ever know? Martin is a never-ending series of “why now?”

The cookbook from New Zealand arrived quite promptly, considering the distance it had to travel. I opened it with alacrity, ready to get to work.

. . . And found that virtually every recipe contains (gluten) flour or dairy. Most recipes contain both.

Looks like I’m back to improvising.

What Does a Beef Allergy Have to Do With Lyme Disease?

Although contrary opinions exist, it seems like a tick bite is not the only way to get Lyme disease. A pregnant woman can pass Lyme disease to her unborn child. Other forms of person-to-person transmission are possible, including even transmission sexually. Lyme disease can also be acquired from insects, or (non-tick arthropod) spiders, or theoretically from a blood transfusion.

A tick bite is, however, the most common way that Lyme disease is transmitted.

Something else a tick bite can cause is a red meat allergy.

Seriously?

Yes, seriously. From the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI):

“A bite from the Lone Star tick can cause people to develop an allergy to red meat, including beef and pork. The Lone Star tick has been implicated in initiating the red meat allergy in the US and this tick is found predominantly in the Southeast from Texas, to Iowa, into New England. A meat allergy can develop any time in life. If you are allergic to one type of meat, it is possible you also are allergic to other meats, as well as to poultry, such as chicken, turkey and duck.”

Fabulous! So far Martin has shown the allergy only to beef. On several occasions, eating beef has left him with red spots around his mouth and onto his chin.

 

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Along with my own empirical observations, traditional (patch) testing has pointed to beef allergy, along with milk allergy. I suppose that could be the real link; the same ACAAI website (linked above) says: “Studies have found that a very small percentage of children with milk allergy are also allergic to beef.”

But, if it is Lyme, look at that list—“other meats, as well as to poultry, such as chicken, turkey and duck.” Will we need to cut all those? I’d like to say that maybe Lyme disease will return Martin to veganism earlier than planned. I can’t say that, though. Martin loves seafood. When asked, recently, to name his five favorite foods, this is the list he came up with (in order):

  1. Octopus.
  2. Calamari.
  3. Fish.
  4. Lollipops.
  5. Shrimp.

Don’t even get me started about the fact that my son’s favorite food is an intelligent, advanced creature like the octopus.

The Lyme-beef link, best (?) evidence suggests, lies in “Alpha-Gal.” From PBS:

Though it hasn’t been scientifically proven, researchers think the Lone Star tick produces a sugar from its gut called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or “Alpha-Gal.” In some cases, the human immune system develops an allergic response to that sugar. Because Alpha-Gal is also found in red meat, a bite by the Lone Star tick may translate to an allergic reaction to anything from beef hamburgers to bacon. Repeated tick bites can potentially cause the antibody level of Alpha-Gal to rise, worsening reactions.

That explanation would make sense for Martin, whose immune system has been presenting all sorts of new allergies, some that befuddle me still.

For now, no beef for Martin. Because he hasn’t (yet?) presented with allergic symptoms to other mammalian meats, I’ve substituted bison or elk in his meatballs. I also use turkey—but no chicken at this time, because according to naturopathic food-sensitivity testing, we should be avoiding chicken. The naturopathic testing seems like so much hocus-pocus, sometimes, but what the hey? I mean, if a tick can make my son allergic to cow, who am I to say what’s real anymore?

More… Inclusive

Three months ago, I reported that food is easy. Food became easy when I shifted from a “replicate what we used to eat” and “recipe” model to a minimalist model, like “(Brussels sprouts + oil + salt) + (lentils + paste[onion + ginger + garlic + turmeric+spices]) = meal.”

I’ve had another shift when it comes to ingredients. For years I’ve thought of cooking for Martin in terms of what I can’t use. I began with, “What would I like to make?” and proceeded to, “What are the ingredients I will have to substitute?” Example: “I’d like to make muffins,” followed by, “Grain flour. And right now, chicken eggs.”

We’re supposed to be avoiding eggs again.

Now, by contrast, I’m launching meals from a new spot. The ingredients come first. I begin with, “What foods will be healing and provide Martin with the particular nutrition he needs today?” and proceed to, “How can I combine those foods into a meal?” Example: Last night I checked the kitchen. Fresh food I had on hand that Martin could eat included peppers, onions, garlic, butternut squash, apples, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, celery, duck eggs, cashew cheese, bison chorizo, and bone broth. In the pantry I had a variety of nuts, along with rice crackers, LäraBars (Martin’s fave), and cookies I’d baked from almond flour, maple syrup, vanilla, baking powder, raisins, and almond chunks.

Today’s menu for Martin:

Breakfast: duck egg cups with peppers and onions; fresh juice made from romaine lettuce and apple.

School snack: Lära Bar.

School lunch: bison chorizo meatballs with added peppers; homemade cookies for dessert.

After-school snack: rice crackers with cashew cheese.

Dinner: cauliflower “fried rice” (no actual rice) with peanuts added for protein; bone broth. In the cauliflower rice recipe, I substituted celery and squash for peas and carrots (making do with what I had), and coconut aminos for soy sauce, since Martin can’t have soy.

So go the days, now. What do I have? What’s good for Martin? From those, what can I prepare?

Tomorrow’s breakfast forecast is nut butter between two almond-flour tortillas, fried in coconut oil and cut into six wedges. School lunch is shaping up to be vegetable lentils with quinoa. Salmon is defrosting for dinner, to be paired with cultured veggies. It’s a pretty good forecast.

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The cauliflower rice for dinner. Not too pretty, but Martin ate the whole bowl without pausing.

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This is not actually the breakfast I served that day, which I forgot to photograph. This is, however, pretty typical for breakfast: coconut-flour berry muffins with homemade veggie-fruit juice.

Food Is Easy

When we first started biomed, I altered Martin’s diet to remove grains, fruits (except avocado and limited tomato), starchy vegetables, dairy, soy, corn, refined sugar (actually, at that time, almost all sugar), and additives. Like any biomed newbie, I had my moment of standing in a Whole Foods Market trying not to cry because I couldn’t find anything my son could eat. I muddled though with elaborate concoctions. Dehydrated flax-seed crackers. Green purée. Spinach pie. When Martin started eating meat, chicken-and-egg bread.

With hindsight I realize that feeding Martin felt so complicated because I was trapped by my prior notions of diet. How could I replace bread to make his sandwiches? What crackers would he use for snacks? Pizza? Pancakes? How could I create a mini-gourmand with few of the ingredients associated with gourmet cooking? Could I invite friends over and offer them a dish of flax seeds?

Labor Day weekend we had three houseguests: my father, my niece (Martin’s buddy, Mandy), and my mother-in-law. In addition, we entertained friends for lunch on Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. In our early biomed days, this might have created a meltdown scenario. (Mine, not Martin’s.) Not so today. Not so with my new mentality: simple meals, few ingredients of high quality.

Saturday morning, Adrian took Martin and Mandy to the gym so that I could prepare. On the counter I had two bags of baby Brussels sprouts; teardrop tomatoes, basil, and two cucumbers from my patio garden; avocados; red onions; garlic; an orange; and three pounds of potatoes. (I don’t do much with potatoes, usually. Organic potatoes are a once-in-a-while treat that Martin loves.)

The Brussels sprouts I washed and trimmed, then stirred with olive oil and ginger-orange salt and placed in a glass pan. The potatoes I washed and quartered, then stirred with olive oil and rosemary salt and placed in a glass pan. Side dishes—done except for baking.

Next I halved the teardrop tomatoes, sliced one cucumber and the basil thinly, and combined them with red onions, olives, capers, fresh lemon juice, crushed garlic, and olive oil. Salad—done.

Before our friends arrived, I made guacamole, which I set on the patio table next to a tray of raw vegetables. I also filled a dish with peanuts (no peanut allergies present that day). Snacks—done. I also sliced an orange and the other cucumber and put them in a glass jug with filtered water and lots of ice. Non-alcoholic beverage—done. Then I turned on the oven and set the Brussels sprouts and potatoes to bake.

Later, while guests were present, I brushed a large piece of salmon with olive oil, then added salt and capers. Main course for non-vegetarians—ready to grill.

The day before I had prepared a quinoa chocolate cake. To compliment the cake, I put coconut milk, vanilla extract, a dash of sea salt, and coconut crystals into my ice cream maker and set it to churn. When the ice cream was almost firm, I added fresh raspberries. Dessert—done.

That was the food I served: peanuts, and veggies with guac; grilled salmon, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, and tomato salad; cake and ice cream.

Everything was homemade and permissible for Martin to eat. Apart from the cake, preparing the entire afternoon’s menu took about 90 minutes. If our Saturday guests realized they were eating “recovery” food, they made no mention.

For our Sunday guests, the main course comprised burgers and vegetable burgers (no buns), sweet potatoes with coconut oil and cinnamon, garlic green beans, and more salad (the garden won’t quit).

When the time is right, I still enjoy making more complicated dishes; yesterday for dinner I fashioned “nutty patties” out of cashews, walnuts, tahini, onion, parsley, flax seeds (in a yummy way, seriously), and spices. But I’ve realized that life is easier when most meals comprise few ingredients simply prepared. I don’t need “replacements” for bread, crackers, pretzels, and other processed foods. No one misses them, anyway.

Hubby Eats

Managing Martin’s recovery has taught me more than ever about nutrition.

I love my husband, Adrian, and would like to keep him healthy.

I’m kind of a control freak.

These facts were bound to collide at some point. That’s why, except when we go out for dinner or he has a business event, I now prepare every bite of food Adrian eats.

Years ago, Adrian skipped breakfast and, during the work week, bought whatever for lunch. When he decided to manage his diet better to lose a few pounds, he still skipped breakfast but I started sending lunch to the office with him. In the beginning, I sent a sandwich of cheese, fake meat (usually processed soy), greens, and mustard or vegan mayonnaise on whole-wheat bread; two fresh fruits; and two protein snacks like nuts, or veggies and hummus, or (more) cheese and crackers.

As time went on, the bread became sprouted-seed gluten-free, the fake meat became less processed and more lentil-mushroomy, and the cheese and hummus became organic.

Then the sandwiches and fake meat disappeared altogether. Then I insisted on adding breakfast at home. Then an insulated container of lentils snuck into every lunch, to make sure Adrian had enough to tide him over even when he works late (which he usually does). Then I tried to eliminate cheese snacks. That last effort, the cheese, was unsuccessful, although I did manage to switch him to raw-milk cheese, usually purchased directly from a local farm.

As of 2016, Adrian’s weekday menu is as follows:

Breakfast. Smoothie made from plant-based protein powder, nut milk, peanut butter, and frozen berries.

Lunch and snacks. Two bento-style boxes (I use LunchBots) containing avocado (South American by origin, Adrian craves avocado daily), fruits, nuts, cheese, olives, and/or raw veggies, accompanied by a hummus cup or baggie of rice crackers and a container of lentils or legumes.

Dinner: Whatever Martin is eating. Last night, dinner was white beans with home-grown-basil pesto and arugula salad from my garden. Tonight, Samara is preparing her special lentils with onion, garlic, and carrots; Adrian never minds lentils twice in one day. Tomorrow evening, Adrian and Martin will eat fish and fermented kale. In the event Adrian, a pescatarian, cannot eat what Martin is having (say, meatballs), I make him a “hearty salad,” which comprises fresh greens, berries, nuts, and seeds, dressed with olive oil and chickpea miso.

All the food is organic, except the nut milk, because sometimes I buy a brand that is only GMO-free, and the fish, which is wild-caught. Weekends, I make a full breakfast for Adrian and Martin, and we often eat dinner at a restaurant.

Adrian is a corporate attorney at a white-shoe law firm in Manhattan. Last month a visiting friend was ribbing Adrian, asking if he is the only firm partner who brings homemade lunch every day. Adrian laughed and said he didn’t care. “I like my lunch. My lunch is tasty.”

Now, if I could only get my own diet into such good shape.

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Lunch and snacks for Adrian’s day: carrots, strawberries, TigerNut flour cookies, peaches, cheese, pistachios, avocado (coated with lemon juice), grapes, hummus.

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Lentils, heated, being loaded into an insulated container to accompany Adrian’s lunch and snacks.

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More bento boxes, with oranges, pears, avocado, cheese, cold bean salad, and olives.