A few months ago, I shared my experiences of the elimination diet my husband and I did last winter. We discovered that wheat and possibly all gluten products aggravated his arthritis and he is lactose-intolerant, but we lost weight and felt more energized and less bloated.
I didn't have any arthritis flare-ups with the wheat but in the spirit of solidarity and a harmonious home, I have been experimenting with different wheat-free meals and have enjoyed branching out into foods I would never have tried. The biggest problem is the bread.
We tried two brands of gluten-free bread. One of them was too dry and cardboard-like and the other not spongy enough for his liking. So he went cold turkey and hasn't eaten bread in months. That cannot be said for me.
However, alternatives in the home are brown rice cakes, corn tortillas and rice crackers. If my husband has a pizza craving, we use the gluten-free pizza crusts I found at Murray's Market on Summerland Key that are pretty good.
For the sweet tooth, I found lots of excellent-tasting gluten-free cakes and cookies for sale at the Good Food Conspiracy on Big Pine Key. And chocolate is gluten-free.
With several rice cereals on the market and no ban on eggs, breakfast is easy. Brown and white rice, sweet and white potatoes and Asian rice noodles make up for any cravings the wheat may leave behind. While shopping for snacks I found plenty of healthy-leaning options for rice, vegetable, potato and corn chips and crackers.
We eat lots of vegetables and salads and I have instituted a meatless midweek program. During the week for two or three evenings I make a meatless dinner. This is where the experimentation has been most interesting.
Rice and beans is easy, as are lentils cooked different ways. Shepherd's pie made with lentils is almost like the meat-based version. My other favorite is rosemary polenta, basically coarse cornmeal, water, milk, butter, Parmesan and chopped rosemary.
Minestrone with white beans and kale is very filling. I finally tried quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, and after the first mushy attempt, I figured it out and have a great recipe for quinoa and vegetable salad. Quinoa is high in protein, nutrients and gluten-free.
It's not just wheat substitutes that have had an overhaul in this house. Recently at a friend's dinner party, I scored a big hit with a simple shredded carrot salad with chopped cilantro and cumin dressing.
Living in the Keys also means we get access to lots of fresh tropical fruit. We are lucky to have friends with mango trees who are happy to share their bounty. For us, a sweet ripe mango for dessert is hard to beat.
During the summer months I get most of my vegetables though my organic buying club but will get my vegetable garden ready for October's planting. My successes and failures in Keys gardening have taught me that leafy greens, herbs, radishes, peppers and tomatoes work well, so I will concentrate on those and buy the rest.
We are what we eat and by rethinking our food choices, we are improving our health, conserving resources and enjoying our food adventures along the way.
Shirley Gun is a member of the Keyswide nonprofit Green Living & Energy Education. She writes about green living and the four Rs -- reducing, reusing, recycling and rot (composting). She can be reached at email@example.com.