Crock Pot Balsamic Roast with Sweet Onions

>> Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Crock pots might seem a little old fashioned to those who haven't yet discovered how magical they are. It's true, many of the old crock pot recipes are pretty grandma-esque and gnarly but there are a lot of things you can make in a crock pot that might surprise you. I have big plans for some coconut creme brulee and there is just no beating chili that is hot and ready the second you get home from work.

I came across this recipe on Ask Georgie and it looked too easy to be true. It's CRAZY simple and CRAZY delicious. The beef gets so tender it just melts under your fork and the sweet onions combine with the balsamic and tomato sauce to make a rich and flavorful gravy. Not only is this recipe easy peasy lemon squeezy AND packed with iron-rich protein, it's also crazy cheap! When I made it, London Broil was on sale and I made the whole meal (enough for about 6 servings) for under $10!!! You're killing me Larry!
Recipe Adapted from

-1.75 lb top round beef (aka London Broil), trimmed of excess fat
- kosher salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp canola oil
- 1 large sweet onion
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 Tbsp white wine
Season beef on both sides with decent dusting of salt and seasonings.
Heat oil in a large pan until very hot, and brown beef on both sides.
Slice the onion into thick half  rings, and place in bottom of slow cooker. Place meat on top.
In a small bowl, stir together tomato sauce and balsamic vinegar.
Deglaze browning pan with water and white wine.
 Pour water/wine/pan dripping mixture and tomato balsamic mixture over beef.
Place lid on crock and cook for 6-8 hours on low.
Mmmmm. If you do all these steps in the morning, you will come home from work to a smell that will make your mouth water!
Serve with a nice starchy side like mashed potatoes or my new fave, cauliflower puree (recipe coming soon!)


SIBO and me

>> Monday, April 19, 2010

I left you again. I'm sorry. Problem is, I haven't been feeling so hot. It seems like just when I get one ailment under control, another pops up in it's place.  I am not here to throw a pity party, I'm mostly here to make excuses for why I have neglected my blog and it's readers.

There are no recipes here and no pictures. It's probably a pretty dry read and if you want to skip it, that's a-okay with me. I plan to have a recipe for you tomorrow and you can check back for it then.

This entry is a bit of a primer on my main health issues and how I ended up here. SIBO (I think) is what caused the symptoms that made me decide to try an elimination diet and what  led to me becoming the gluten freebie you now know and love. Once I cut out the gluten, the SIBO seemingly went away for quite a while and I was feeling pretty durn good and pretty durn proud of myself for being able to eschew the ingredient that lurks within almost all of my favorite foods. Now, it seems, SIBO has found me. Even without gluten as it's guide. I'm feeling those symptoms that drove me to the doctor the first time. I will try not to be too graphic but I get asked about this stuff a lot. If you are acutely sensitive to discussions of an intestinal nature, maybe skip this section.  I know I use the internet as a resource to find others who are experiencing symptoms like me and I want to add my voice to the growing discussion about SIBO and how to deal with it and I also want to help educate people who might recognize these symptoms in themselves or might just be curious about what people with SIBO experience.

Here are some of the symptoms that have returned to let me know that my intestines are once again overpopulated by sugar-hungry bacteria.
1. Noises. These bacteria like to party and it makes my stomach sound like there are lions in there having a nice long chat about the rain in Spain or something.
2. Gas. I will leave it at that so those of you who know me in real life can continue to look me in the eye.
3. A swinging pendulum of bathroom issues. I think that sums it up nicely.
4. Cravings like you would not believe for carbs of all kinds, rice, g-free pasta, chips, fruit. I want it all, all the time.
5. Tightness or pain in my stomach
6. Feeling like I swallowed a few gallons of wet cement and they hardened in my digestive tract
7. Fatness. The first time I had SIBO I gained about 25 lbs in about a month. It was scary. This time around, I haven't gained that much weight that quickly but I bloat very easily and pants that fit me with room to spare one day will be impossible to zip the next.
8. A hard to describe feeling of being unwell. Just not feeling like myself.
9. Feeling tired and easily worn out

The first time I went through these symptoms I took a hydrogen breath test (then four subsequent tests to determine if my bacteria levels were back to normal.) The test consists of not eating after eight PM the day before then drinking a cup of sugar solution in the doctors office. For four hours you sit in the doctors office, breathing into a tube every twenty minutes. The test measures how much hydrogen is produced by the bacteria in your system processing the sugar solution. The first time I took the test, it was clear to the doctor that I had SIBO. He put me on my first round of very expensive antibiotics then tested me again, My levels were even higher. We tried a combo of two different types of antibiotics and my levels tested higher still. Finally, after months of tears and frustration I had a blood test done on my own time and my own dime (no help from insurance) to determine if I might have food intolerances that might be causing these bacteria to continue to multiply. The test results provided me with some lists, one of food to avoid completely for 6 months, one of food to avoid completely for three months and one of food to rotate and only eat once every three days.

With this information I went on a very strict rotation diet for 6 months. I did not eat any wheat, onions, garlic, almonds and apricots and I limited dozens of other foods. Sounds random, I know but I was desperate at this point. After a few weeks on the diet, the weight began to melt off and symptoms began to dissipate. I went back to the doctor for a breath test and this time, even though I didn't take any antibiotics, my SIBO test was negative, the bacteria levels in my small intestine had returned to normal. My doctor was pretty surprised, he didn't think cutting out gluten would make any difference but it was obvious that it had.

In my research I have learned that gluten intolerance can really do a number on one's body in ways you might not imagine. I am pretty sure my iron-deficiency anemia is caused by malabsorbtion due to gluten intolerance and it seems like there is a pretty clear correlation between cutting out gluten and getting rid of SIBO. All that said, I have been gluten free for about a year now and the SIBO and anemia still seem to be making trouble for me. This week I am scheduled to have a four-hour I.V. iron infusion that will hopefully boost my blood iron levels and re-train my body into producing and holding onto iron. The SIBO symptoms come and go. I have not been 100% gluten free for this year and it's possible that eating gluten even in tiny and infrequent amounts has damaged my digestive tract or caused my digestion to become unregulated, allowing bacteria levels to build back up.

It seems the most common method of treating recurring or chronic SIBO is a very strict diet. My doctor wanted me to go on an entirely liquid diet for 3 months but my insurance would not cover the diet (it consisted of cans of aspartame-rich, sugar-free liquid. Yummy.) Through internet research I have discovered that many SIBO sufferers go on an entirely sugar free diet. This is scarier than it might sound at first blush. No fruit. No grains. No carbohydrates of any kind. SIBO bacteria live off of sugar. That is all they eat. If you want to starve them out, they can't have even a speck of sugar and this is a very tall order. I am not ready to try this diet yet and I don't know if I ever will be. Food is my life. It is my passion, my career, my happiness. I think about food when I wake up in the morning and daydream about it all day. The idea of building a life where I the thing I enjoy most is severely restricted to the point of near elimination is more that I can handle at this point in my life. If my symptoms get worse or become more frequent, I may change my mind but for now, I am just stuck here. I am hoping that the iron infusion might offer some relief for some of my symptoms and I will keep you posted on how I do. My real hope is that I feel well enough most of the time to post recipes and stories regularly without feeling the need to even mention my illnesses or how I feel.
Thanks for bearing with me. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.


Pesto Torte

>> Friday, April 2, 2010

I came across this awesome appetizer at my sous-chef's family holiday party. His cousin's boyfriend brought this dish and I gained 13 pounds scarfing it down. I forced him at knife point to give me the recipe and reluctantly, he finally did. His looked better than mine but I think he's had more practice and though this recipe is pretty cool to look at, the real payoff is how good it tastes. It's addictive. Don't say I didn't warn you.
This recipe is perfect for Christmas, it's all red and green and white and green and white. I know it's Easter now and Christmas was forever ago but again, it tastes good no matter when or where you serve it.

You get two for the price of one with this post: the torte recipe AND my pesto recipe. The spinach in my pesto keeps the pesto fresh and green, adds iron and makes the taste a little milder and less bitter. I make big batches and freeze my leftovers to eat later on gluten free pasta or chicken.


Cheese Mix:
- 8 oz neufchatel
- 8 oz mascarpone

Soften and combine using an electric mixer.
- 2-3 cups basil
- 2-3 cups spinach
- 1/2 - 1 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup whole garlic cloves
- 1 cup parmigiano reggiano, cut into small chunks
- 2-4 Tbsp olive oil
Blend in food processor, start with small amounts of everything then adjust to your personal taste.

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto: (I used packaged for this one but here is a recipe for making your own)
- 1 (8.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- Salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup  fresh basil leaves
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp lemon zest

(Blend in food processor until completely incorporated)

Line a bowl with plastic wrap and secure with a rubberband and spray lightly with olive oil spray. Using a spatula, carefully spread a layer of the cheese mixture on the bottom of the bowl. I tried to make my layers about 3/4" thick.
Next carefully smooth on a layer of the sun-dried tomato pesto.
Add another layer of cheese mixture then smooth a layer of basil pesto over that.
Continue alternating red, white, green, white, red, white until the bowl is full or you run out of one of your dips. Then wrap the remaining plastic wrap around the top layer and place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. To serve, invert the bowl on a platter or plate and remove the plastic wrap. Voila: a colorful and utterly delicious torte! Serve with gluten free crackers or (I know it sounds weird but it's really good) tortilla chips.