February 6, 2012

Re-Learning How To Eat

I can't eat them, but I can still ROCK a pie baking contest!
(More on that particular topic in a blog to come.)
I promise you, if you read all the way to the end of this litany of food woes I will give you a recipe.

Despite what Aunt Genocide might say, I am typically a very healthy eater.

Aunt Genocide's opinion is thoroughly skewed, because whenever I cook for her I consider it a "special occasion," and as a result she gets "special occasion" meals.  Which tend to include a lot more butter and the like.

Typically, as a vegetarian and fair weather CSAer, I eat a diet that would impress most nutritionists.  I do- I'm a big believer in eating your colors, I LOVE beets and brussels sprouts and lentils and kale (which I would TOTALLY eat for dinner tonight if I had any beets), I've managed to turn my meat-and-potatoes husband into a salad and cabbage soup loving veggie eating machine (except for brussles sprouts and beets and asparagus- but nobody's perfect.  Yet.).

My restricted diet is killing me.

You see, I have this weird microscopic type of gall bladder disease.  No stones, no huge infections, just malformation on a microscopic level.  The only treatment for it is removing the gall bladder.  But, of course, nobody removes the gall bladder of a pregnant lady unless its actually going to kill her to leave it in.

So, instead of treating my gall bladder disease, I must avoid my gall bladder disease.  And that means not eating foods that your gall bladder helps you digest.

What does the gall bladder do?  It produces the type of bile that digests fat.

...now, I already ate a pretty low-fat diet.  I did.  I didn't cook with a lot of butter (except for Aunt Genocide), I saved french fries and the like for similarly rare occasions, and I avoided anything that looked "gross and greasy," like bad pizza or chimichangas.  My favorite date night cuisines are sushi and Ethiopian- both INCREDIBLY low fat restaurant food.  If I *really* needed to pig out, to feel gross and greasy and truly indulge in the disgusting yet delicious stuff that is fatty food, I'd get breaded mushrooms or onion rings.  That happened maybe twice a year.  I also gave myself a pass for Channukah- where the thing that makes a food "traditional" for the holiday is that it is fried in oil.  Seriously.

That said, I was adamantly opposed to "lite" products.  They trick you with a lack of flavor, and rather than eat a small amount of something fatty (say, a tablespoon of sour cream in your big bowl of borscht), you need to eat A TON OF IT to get the same kind of taste.  In which case, you're eating all sorts of other junk you didn't need.  So I ate regular sour cream, regular cream cheese, regular mayonnaise... I just didn't eat very much of it.  And when the entire fat content of the big bowl of borscht you're enjoying is in the one tablespoon of sour cream you've mixed into it, despite having full-fat condiments, you're still eating a low-fat dish.

But eating "low fat" is not the same as eating "no fat."

It's not a matter of, "Oh, I really shouldn't eat this ice cream!  It's so bad for me!"  It's more like, "If I eat this reduced fat yogurt, I'm going to spend most of my afternoon with stabbing abdominal pain, trapped in the bathroom."  (BTW- Did you know that most "fat free" yogurt contains gelatin, which isn't vegetarian?)

I've found that some very simple fats don't cause me a lot of trouble.  I can eat avocados without being in too much pain, and I've found that cow dairy fats are worse for me than sheep or goat dairy fats.

But sadly, my diet restrictions don't end there.

Eggs inflame the gall bladder.  I can't eat eggs.  And it's not a matter of avoiding scrambled eggs for breakfast, it's when there are eggs in something.  Like bread.  Or chilequiles.

Likewise, I have to avoid spicy foods (which I LOVE).  Spicy foods cause your stomach to produce more bile (hence heartburn), which in turn stimulates your gall bladder... which causes me intense distress.

ADD TO THAT the weird pregnancy aversions and assorted other diet problems- I've basically become lactose intolerant this pregnancy, and bread gives me heartburn through the roof.  Additionally, I've been having some candida problems throughout this pregnancy, so anything too sweet is automatically off the table.  I spent a week living off of frosted flakes (fat free!) with low-fat almond milk.  Boy, do I regret that.

So what is left?

The answer?  Not a whole hell of a lot.

Fruit, vegetables, small amounts of goat and sheep's cheeses, and a few varieties of protein.

I've been eating a lot of tofurkey and seitan.  They're remarkably low-fat.

That said, I love to eat.

I LOVE to eat!

Eating is one of my greatest joys.  I love eating, I love cooking, I love just looking at raw ingredients and thinking about all the amazing things I can do with them.

But this pregnancy, my eating has hit a wall.

Thankfully, I've been learning that there are *some* things I can still eat, some ways I can still cook, and some concessions I can make to *nearly* recreate my favorite pre-pregnancy dishes.

Take this moment for example: right now I'm eating a sandwich.  It contains avocado, tomato, sliced tofukey, and some sheep's milk Manchego cheese, all on sourdough bread.

I've found that the harder the bread, the less trouble I have digesting it.  I have no idea why that is.

I *can* eat, it just takes a whole lot more work than it used to.

With that in mind, I undertook the task of making Superbowl snacks for some friends who came to watch the game at our place last night.

The coup de grace at any similar shin-dig at our house is the bean dip.  I make a wicked bean dip.

Of course, usually, I do so with a variety of ingredients that I just plain can't eat right now.  So I endeavored to make a nearly fat free seven layer bean dip.

And it was, in a word, awesome.

While I normally abhore "fat free" versions of foods that rely on fat for their awesomeness, in this case it really worked.  The lack of flavor in the sour cream and cream cheese were made up for by using a more flavorful salsa (in this case, a roasted poblano salsa), and the big flaw with fat free cheese (its inability to melt properly) was completely hidden by the top layers.  Fat free refried beans are, quite simply, better than the other varieties.  I have pretty much always used them anyway, as the fat in refried beans is almost always lard, which is not vegetarian and is, frankly, gross.

So for your dietary and sports watching pleasure, here is my recipe for Almost Fat Free Eight Layer Bean Dip.

That mostly empty and extremely large blue dish was the bean
dip.  Somebody at our 4th of July party had the brilliant idea
to put it on top of our burgers.  Insanely awesome.
Almost Fat Free Eight Layer Bean Dip
1pkg fat free cream cheese
1 c fat free sour cream
2 15oz cans fat free refried black beans
2c fat free shredded cheddar cheese
2c flavorful salsa (for mild salsa, choose one containing fruit- you'll have a better balance of flavor)
1/2 c sliced black olives
1/2 c frozen corn
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped finely
4-5 avocados
1/4c lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.
Layer one: Spread beans evenly in a casserole/lasagna pan- 9"x11" or larger.
Layer two: In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and sour cream until thoroughly blended.  Spread on top of beans.
Layer 3: Sprinkle corn evenly across the pan.
Layer 4: Sprinkle olives evenly across the pan.
Layer 5: Spread salsa evenly over dish.
Layer 6: Spread shredded cheese evenly over dish.  Cover as completely as you can.

Bake for 20 minutes.  While baking, prepare guacamole (only avocados, lemon juice, salt, and pepper)
Remove from oven, and add top layers.

Layer 7: Spread guacamole over dish- yes, it's piping hot and you're covering it in guacamole.  Yes, that will make the guacamole look gross.  Trust me on this one.
Layer 8: Sprinkle the cilantro LIBERALLY over the whole thing.  Normally, you want to put cilantro in your guacamole.  However, if you put it on top, it stays green, making the whole thing continue to look delicious and appetizing until it's all gone.

In order to enjoy properly, serve with Frontera Blue Corn tortilla chips.  Believe it or not, those "full fat" chips have the same amount of fat as most "low fat" chips (half the amount as standard fried chips), but taste WAY better.  Seriously.

...also, celery is a totally effective bean dip delivery device.



  1. Hey there! I read your blog regularly but I rarely comment. These eating challenges sound very difficult to manage, especially whilst wrangling children and other duties. I did think of two things while reading that might help, but of course, this being the Internet and I not knowing you very well, ymmv.
    1st, an unorthodox gallbladder treatment involving real or synthetic polar bear bile. My scientist neighbor told me about this and while it sounds fantastical it also makes sense because polar bear diets are largely fat and they rarely have gallbladder issues. It may be worth discussing with your doctor.
    Secondly, there is an amazing Brussels sprouts recipe in Veganomicon for cornmeal masala roasted sprouts. The only fat comes from peanut oil. I had never liked boiled or steamed sprouts but I love these roasted ones and it might be a good recipe for you and your hubs

    I wish you fortitude on your journey!

  2. UGH! I can relate and I offer you my most sincere sympathy in your restricted diet. I had to do something similar with two of my children when nursing: one was lactose intolerant and the other had severe reflux. I remember reading labels in the grocery store, ready to chuck items down the hall I would get so pissed trying to find SOMETHING I could eat!

    It sucked, and even more so when my little one would be wailing in pain as we tried to figure out what was and was not ok for me to eat.

    So, I wish you the best of luck, tell you to hang in there, and whatever you do, DON'T GOOGLE CHOCOLATE if you can't have it!!! =)

  3. Hello, I am a new follower from the Stumbling Silly Hop. I would love for you to hop over to Saving and Sharing It and visit.




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