October 10, 2014

Protein Cooking

You may be thinking that was a typo. But no, I meant, “protein cooking,” not, “Low-protein cooking.” Because, for many of us, we are not living our PKU life in isolation, we are a part of a family! We often end up cooking protein and low-protein food side by side.

Rice-stuffed peppers next to Turkey-stuffed peppers

Rice-stuffed peppers next to Turkey-stuffed peppers

Growing up I am sure I took it for granted that my mom cooked two meals pretty much every night for dinner. There was the normal or protein dish, and then there was my dish. Then she was always good at serving a fruit and vegetable that we would all eat. Bless her for doing that for me and our family!

Now I have my own family and I have the challenge of cooking two meals a night. Because I am used to my diet, it’s not that resisting the protein foods is hard. It is actually that motivating myself to cook something I can’t eat is difficult at times. But I do my best. Also, I’m not that good at cooking meat! And I don’t have as big of a food repertoire, so I have to really try to get out of the box.

I should add, my husband is very understanding, never complains, and almost always likes what I cook! So I am lucky. :)

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Since protein-cooking has been a struggle for me I imagine it has been hard for others as well. So I would like to share some things that help me.

5 Ways to Navigate Protein-Cooking as a PKUer:

1. Find a recipe you are excited about

Sometimes you may have to make a sacrifice and just cook your family’s favorite meal, even if you can’t eat it. But most of the time I think it is a good idea to think of something that sounds good to you. For me, cooking takes a lot of mental energy. I have a handful of recipes that I’m really comfortable with. But when I go online and try to look for new ones, in order to motivate myself to plan, shop for and cook a new recipe, I have to be excited to eat it myself.

An example of this would be my recent discovery of Southwest Salad. My husband liked it in a restaurant so I thought I’d try to make it for him, but it sounded really good to me too.

2. Aim for health, but take it easy some days

I know using as much whole food as possible is ideal. But I need to be realistic for my circumstances and phase of life (a young family trying to get through grad-school with a 1 year old and a budget). Sometimes I have to use canned soups, and even the occasional freezer meal. I have found that most of the time it is pretty doable to plan for about three meals a week that are more fresh or harder to prepare, and the rest of the time I go for more convenience.

Examples: Grilled cheese and tomato soup; fish, tater tots and green beans

3. When it comes to meat, the Crock Pot is your friend

I hope to improve my meat-cooking skills, but in the mean time, the crock pot is a great way to almost guarantee it will turn out well. Casseroles are simple as well. Also, making use of prepared meats like meatballs and sausages is easier than trying to make the perfect fried chicken or grilled steak (…actually I’ve never even tried to make steak). As far as chicken goes, mine often turns our dry. But recently we discovered that chicken with the skin on stays more moist and my husband really likes it.

Examples: Crock pot chili (ground beef, beans, onions, tomatoes, spices),Casserole (pre-cooked ham or sausage, rice , cream of mushroom soup, onions, cheese), Crock pot sweet and sour meatballs (store-bought sauce, meatballs, green peppers, pineapple)

4. Branch Out with Protein Sources

Meat isn’t the only way to get protein (as we all well know!) Try using legumes, chick peas, quinoa, nuts, peanut butter, tofu? (haven’t done that myself) to mix things up. Add on cheese (to almost anything if you’re my husband); add bacon bits to soups and salads. Canned meats such as tuna, salmon and even chicken can be really helpful.

Also, sometimes instead of doing two main dishes, my husband and I share a main dish but I throw in a protein side for him such as edamame if we are having Asian food like this oriental salad or chow-mein dish.

5. Master the art of the low-protein version

My mom was good at this. I have shared a few examples of this on my blog. When the family had casserole she would make “goop” for me. When they had burritos I got low-protein mexi-rice with all the veggies. The idea is to take the flavor of whatever you are making for the family, and apply it to a food that is lower in protein such as low-protein pasta.

Examples:

Beef stroganoff | lo-pro stroganoff

Taco Salad with black beans and cheese | lo-pro taco salad

Pasta or Quinoa salad | Lo-pro Pasta salad 

Southwest salad with black beans and cheese | lo-pro southwest salad

Stuffed peppers with beef | stuffed peppers with rice or low-pro rice

 

So if you are a PKUer cooking for a family of protein-eaters, I hope this has inspired you or given you some good ideas.

What do you like to cook for your family?

 

 

September 22, 2014

Creative Cooking for PKU Families Event

This Saturday I went to an awesome event hosted by my PKU clinic at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, sponsored by BioMarin Pharmeceutical Inc.

It was held in a cooking studio called AndyFood. There were a couple presentations followed by a cooking workshop by Chef Andy Broder. I learned some interesting things, got inspired about cooking and met a bunch of awesome people!

IMG_3125Me and baby! I could not have made it through this event without the help of various wonderful dietitians that held and distracted an over-tired baby girl while I mingled and cooked.

Presentations

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One of my favorite parts was hearing from Christine Brown, the Executive Director of the National PKU Alliance. She got us up to date on the latest goings on in research, education, support and advocacy. So much good stuff! One piece of news I found particularly interesting is that soon they will be launching a website specifically geared toward adults. Topics featured will include weight management, bone health, maternal PKU etc. Here is the statement on NPKUA’s webpage:

Plans are underway to create an adult focused website that will serve as the virtual home of the program and a community base for adults with PKU. Conceptually developed by adults with PKU, and specifically geared to the education and social support of PKU Adults, the website will be the only one of its kind. The hope is that this platform will also serve as an educational center for all aspects of adult PKU with educational webinars, short instructional videos, and social networking capabilities.

Cooking workshop

Andy demonstrated how to make several low-protein dishes and then let us jump in and help in the preparation.

Andy and his Sous-Chef

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The most inspiring parts for me were learning of two new ideas for meat subsitutes:

Jicama

He used this in ministrone soup as well in a stroganoff — shake n’ bake style.

Jack Fruit

This stuff sort of shreds like pulled pork! So it tasted great in his BBQ pulled jackfruit sliders recipe. I hope to try these myself so look for upcoming blog posts!

jackfruit

Pictures

Potatoes au gratin with sweet potatoes, low-protein rice, and vegan cheese

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Everyone helping out

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Grant (resident young PKU super-star) making biscuits!

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An awesome couple I met who has an 8-month old baby with PKU. They were smart and got a baby-sitter. :) They are gonna rock low-protein cooking for their son!

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Minestrone soup with jicama, other veggies and low-protein rice

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Elena loved everything! And she does not have PKU, so that means it was really good :)
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August 20, 2014

Southwest Salad

This is another restaurant inspiration. I’ll admit, when we were first married, my cooking repertoire was sort of small. When I was single I was ok repeating spaghetti, pasta, tomato soup, etc. But Now that I have a family I like to create variety. I have gradually been collecting more and more recipes that are simple and reasonably healthy. There are plenty of recipes out there of course, but it has taken me time to find the ones that work well for me.

Recently my husband had southwest salad at a buffet we went to, and loved it. So I went home to look up recipes. I soon realized this is one of those recipes that could be really complicated, but doesn’t need to be. Also, it was one that can be easily adapted for my diet, so the work for one meal is making two. That is always nice when you are cooking for both PKU and normal eaters!

So here is my southwest salad recipe:

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Iceberg lettuce

Onion (could be green, red or white…I had white on hand this time)

Corn (canned or frozen, thawed)

Tomatoes, diced

Avocado, cubed

Cilantro

Tortilla strips

Online I found lots of recipes for different dressings, but I preferred to just go with the quick and easy way of simply mixing BBQ sauce and ranch. It tastes delicious! I would guess I did about 2 parts ranch, 1 part BBQ sauce. (you know me, I’m an estimator)

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For your information, for the PROTEIN VERSION I add black beans, possibly canned chicken, and shredded cheese. That’s it! Two versions of one easy, tasty meal.

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August 12, 2014

Homemade Raspberry Jam

This is the first time I’ve done anything like this, so I am excited about it! This was freezer jam so it was really easy. Turned out delicious! And there’s nothing better than knowing you made it yourself!

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To make raspberry freezer jam, I simply followed the recipe that came with the pectin packet

I bought 4 lbs of raspberries in bulk. I actually mashed them up and put them in the freezer for a couple weeks until I had all the tools and time to make the jam.

To make freezer jam you need:

  • Fruit
  • Pectin (found in the jell-o section)
  • Caning jars
  • Sugar
  • Sauce pan, bowls, spoon/spatulas
  • A funnel would be helpful

There are recipes for jam online, but I simply followed the instructions and recipe that came in the pectin packet. For anyone interested I will walk you through my process.

First I had to thaw the raspberries. I put them in the fridge the day before making the jam. Then I just had to stir them a bit once I put them in this bowl.

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Washed the jars and lids

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The recipe says you can strain half of the berries to get out some seeds. I strained less than half because I didn’t want to run out of raspberries. You have to use the exact amount the recipe calls for. Little PKU shout out– I used my formula can to balance the strainer! :)

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Measured out the sugar and stirred it into the raspberries.

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Next I had to boil the pectin according to the instructions, and stir that into the raspberry/sugar mixture. I didn’t have a funnel so I used a measuring cup with a pour spout to pour the jam into the jars.

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I had to let the jam set for 24 hours. Then I put one can in the fridge and the other three in the freezer.

That’s it! No fancy equipment required.

Oh, and this sweet girl woke up in the middle of the process. She was such a good girl and had some lunch in her high chair while I finished the final step of pouring the jam into the jars.

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My beautiful baby girl is over 1 year old! She likes bananas with the peel on

July 21, 2014

New Milk!

 

 

I have recently started using a different milk for my cereal.

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For someone who likes to stick to her routine, this is kind of big. For many years now I have used Mocha Mix non-dairy creamer on my cereal. I still really like mocha mix, but it is expensive and I was getting annoyed with buy two different expensive milks for my husband and I. My husband likes almond milk. Almond milk is pretty low in protein (only 1 g for a whole cup), but I just didn’t like the way it tasted!

So one day I tried this almond coconut blend. It was pretty good but I could still taste the almond loud and clear. But after a week of traveling and drinking almond milk for convenience, I got used to it and this stuff now tastes great to me! It also only has 1 g of protein for a cup. Now we only buy one kind of milk. Yay!

What do you pour on breakfast cereal?

July 1, 2014

Eggplant Experiment – Cafe Rio “sweet pork”

It’s been an exciting week in the kitchen! The day after making zucchini stroganoff I tried my hand at making homemade Cafe Rio for my husband and I. Cafe Rio, for those of you who don’t know, is a very popular and delicious restaurant in Utah, where I lived for 6 years. There are lots of copycat recipes for Cafe Rio out there. I decided to try making some sweet pork for my husband. For myself, I planned on at least making rice, plus the yummy cilantro dressing, and serving it over salad. But ever since ordering an eggplant dish at a Persian restaurant in San Francisco recently, I had been thinking I should experiment with eggplant as a meat substitute. So, thus “Sweet Pork Eggplant” was born! I used the same sauce on the eggplant as on the pork, and it turned out pretty good! And all together it was a delicious meal.

The tomatillo/cilantro dressing recipe is here: Kalyn’s Kitchen [I used canned tomatillos, and buttermilk ranch from the bottle and it was fine]

My rice was inspired by this recipe: Bountiful Kitchen [Instead of using the dressing I just added cilantro and lime juice to the rice] This could easily be done using low-protein rice for a lower Phe count

The sweet pork recipe I used can be found here: Oh, Sweet Basil: Cafe Rio Sweet Pork

It is really simple. It uses root beer, this sauce, and brown sugar. I used much less brown sugar than it called for, and my husband and I were both pleased with the way it tasted. For the sauce, I called my grocery store ahead of time to make sure they had it. The first one I called did not have it, but the second one did, so I was glad I called. I just poured about 3/4 of the pack over the crock pot pork, and used the remaining 1/4 for my eggplant dish.

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This was a total experiment, so I really had no idea what I was doing. But this is what I did. Preheated the oven to 425. I greased a 11 x 17 baking dish with butter. I quartered the eggplant. I put the pieces of eggplant in the dish and buttered the tops. I put them in the oven for about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, I mixed the Old El Paso sauce, maybe 1/4 cup root beer and probably 1/3 cup brown sugar in a bowl. After the 8 minutes I pulled out the eggplant and covered them with the sauce.

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Then I put them in the oven for another 20 minutes.

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Served this over salad, topped with the rice, dressing and crushed chips (the store I was at didn’t have tortilla strips) It was yummy! Overall another cooking success.

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June 27, 2014

Zucchini Stroganoff – cooking success!

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Ok I am so excited about this! Lately I have been getting more into cooking. In the past it has been a little stressful for me. This is probably partly because I didn’t have much practice — I simply hadn’t developed the skill very much. But for the most part I think it’s because I was torn between my idealistic desire to eat mostly whole foods, and the reality of being a young, inexperienced, low- budget, convenience-seeking mom cooking for myself with PKU plus a husband with opposite nutritional needs.

I have embraced that I appreciate meals that are easy to cook. Also, the further I get away from my college years, where life is fast-paced and stressful, and happily settle into my slower, (though at times stressful in a whole new way) life as a wife, mother and home-maker I have found more motivation and mental energy to put towards cooking yummy meals. I have taken on trickier recipes and enjoyed it!

So anyway, with this new-found confidence and enjoyment of cooking I was lying awake one night thinking of the crock-pot stroganoff I often make for my husband and how good it smells. Normally when I make that for him I make myself some “goop.” But as I lie awake in bed I decided next time I would try making my own stroganoff…without the beef. The next day this idea developed into using vegetables besides mushrooms. I looked up vegetarian stroganoff and didn’t see one that looked good. But I like zucchini so I thought I’d give it a try. I was really happy with how it turned out!

As a disclaimer, I have a relatively mild case of PKU, plus I am nursing a 1 year old and my levels have been pretty low giving me even more flexibility. This recipe may be a little high in Phe for some PKUers. I still feel it is worth sharing because maybe the idea can inspire a recipe with similar flavor, but suited for your individual needs. For example, maybe the sour cream could be taken out and possibly be replaced with heavy whipping cream.

First step, sautee onions and garlic in olive oil

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While those cook slice zucchini

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I use Better than Boullion for my beef broth. I got this ready (in the microwave, actually) then added it to the vegetables so the zucchini could soak up that beef flavor

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The I added the mushrooms, onion soup mix and cream of mushroom soup. After emptying the cream of mushroom can I just add less than half a can of water to thin it out.

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I was so happy with how this meal turned out and it was so fun to have a new flavor on my menu! Also, my husband doesn’t need meat every night so this was his meal too. Besides the separate pasta, I loved having both of our meals in the same pan!

Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 Tb Olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup quartered zucchini
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1 (1 oz) packet onion soup mix
  • 1 (15 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • A least 2 servings Low-protein pasta

Directions

  1. Slice the onions in large slices and sautee in olive oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes
  2. Add the garlic, turn the heat to low and let the onions cook until they are soft and translucent
  3. Boil water and cook low-protein pasta of your choice according to package directions
  4. Return heat to medium, add the quartered zucchini and beef broth and cook until the zucchini becomes softer and you can see the seeds
  5. Add mushrooms, onion soup mix and cream of mushroom soup. Add less than half a can of water and mix it all together. Cook until everything is warm
  6. A few minutes before serving stir in the sour cream
  7. Serve zucchini stroganoff over  low-protein pasta
June 18, 2014

Fresh Pineapple Fruit Salad

Fresh Pineapple Fruit Salad

Pineapples were on sale, so I grabbed one. I had no idea how to tell if they were ripe…but this girl in the store actually stopped to fill me in! I was so grateful! You pull off one of the top leaves and if it comes out easily, it’s ripe!

This was also my first time cutting a pineapple, so I watched this handy-dandy video to learn how.

I had some bananas on hand and I had bought a mango as well so I put it all together and served it with dinner. Yum! The fresh pineapple was delicious.

May 29, 2014

Berry Pops

My cutie-pie is turning 1 at the end of June!

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Baby girl showing her teeth in the sunshine

Summer is upon us. Well, at least it is here in Arizona where the high is 107 this week! So popsicles are sounding good. I found these cute, slightly corny popsicle molds at the dollar store.

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For my first attempt at popsicle-making I used the frozen triple berry medley and rice milk. And I threw in a strawberry popsicle I had in the freezer. These were pretty hearty -– a little berry-heavy, so next time I would probably do more rice milk. But overall they were pretty good! Definitely cooled me down on a hot afternoon.

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Ingredients: 

1 cup frozen triple berry medley

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp lemon juice

1 Tb honey

¾ cup rice milk

1 creamy strawberry popsicle

Put berries and sugar in fridge over night to thaw and get…sugary. The next day, place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into popsicle molds and place in freezer until frozen. When popsicles are frozen solid run under warm water to dislodge and enjoy.

 

Possible variations worth trying:

  • Drop of vanilla extract
  • Coconut milk or other non-dairy creamer
  • Tropical fruit blend with orange juice
  • Lemonade pops

 

 

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March 28, 2014

High Calorie Low Protein Food Options

Anyone who has ever tried to gain weight, or any pregnant woman who has tried to keep up calorically with a growing fetus in the last trimester knows it can be difficult with the PKU diet. Here are some ideas of how to get more calories from foods that are low in protein. First some suggestions, then some nutrition facts.

  • Oil, mayo, heavy whipping cream can be stirred into mashed potatoes, pasta salad, soup, marinara sauce
  • Salad dressing, mayo, avocado can be used as dip for chips, vegetables
  • Top crackers or bread with jelly, honey, cream cheese, mayo and avocado
  • Honey, chocolate syrup, heavy whipping cream can be added to formula, pudding, and used as fruit dip
  • Snack pack lemon pudding
  • Biscoff spread

ganze und halbe avocado isoliert auf weiss

From the Children’s Memorial Hospital Department of Clinical Nutrition:

  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil (120 calories, 0 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise (100 calories, 0.1 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon Miracle Whip (70 calories, 0.1 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon heavy whipping cream (52 calories, 0.3 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon pancake syrup (55 calories, 0 g protein)
  • 2 Tablespoons sweet & sour sauce (40 calories, 0 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon jelly (50 calories, 0 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon French dressing (60 calories, 0 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter/margarine (102 calories, 0.1 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon honey (65 calories, 0 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon cream cheese (50 calories 1 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon chocolate syrup (52 calories, 0.4 g protein)
  • 2 Tablespoons raisins (54 calories, 0.6 g protein)
  • 2 Tablespoons BBQ sauce (50 calories, 0.2 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon Ranch dressing (85 calories, 0.2 g protein)
  • 2 Tablespoons avocado (40 calories, 0.4 g protein)
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