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Eat Like a Canadian January 26, 2013

Posted by starshipexercise in MIgraine, Recipes and Food.
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When I went to Victoria, BC with my dragon boat team over the summer for the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival, I bought a bag of oatmeal for the hotel suite. I am an obsessive label-reader from way back, so of course I noticed that the recommended serving size was 1/3 cup uncooked oats.

Wait, what?

It was a popular brand of oats, the same brand I buy at home, and I’ve been using 1/2 cup for my serving size all this time. Did the American oats call for a bigger portion size, or had I been eating too much oatmeal due to user error?

When I got home, I rushed to the kitchen to check, and sure enough, my US-purchased oats recommended 1/2 cup portion size. I did some quick guesstimation (I don’t really do math) and concluded that the actual nutritional info for the US oats and the Canada oats are similar. Canadians just have a smaller portion size. Why? WHY, bitches?

This has been troubling me for months. We already have major issues with portion distortion, why are we, in the US, encouraged to start with a larger portion size to begin with?(Click here for some handy ways to judge portion size visually.)

And what’s the result? Are Canadians skinnier than Americans?

Why yes, yes they are. Obesity is an epidemic across the developed world, and Canada is no exception. However, current statistics (as of Q4 2012) show that while the US tops the list of obesity rates in first-world countries, Canada is at #6.

I decided to run an experiment. For one week, I ate a slightly smaller portion of oatmeal every morning. Instead of measuring out 1/2 cup, I only took 1/3 cup. You will never believe what happened: absolutely nothing. Not only did I not starve to a slow, horrendous death, I didn’t even feel more hungry than usual.

I started my oatmeal experiment about two weeks before the holidays. Coincidentally, we had a huge yoga class that morning. We did a very basic sun salutation series set to some very lovely (but generic) background music. Going into savasana, we reflected on the crowded room, the quieter than normal music, the less complex vinyasa flow; yet we could still claim our space on our mats and feel the sweat on our skin.  Our teacher’s exact words were “Notice how little you actually need.” That’s good advice, especially when we’re surrounded by spectacle and excess.

I have also recently discovered PB2. If you’ve never had it, look it up. You used to only be able to get it online, but I’ve been seeing it in stores lately. It’s powdered peanut butter, and they’ve removed a ton of the fat and calories as part of the process, but you still get a nice hit of protein. There’s a chocolate flavor, but it’s not super chocolately or super peanut buttery. I didn’t love the chocolate. My advice is to stick with the regular PB2. And of course, if peanuts are a migraine trigger for you, skip it entirely. I find I can have it once or twice a week, especially if I stick to a half portion (and avoiding any other potential triggers, and assuming the weather holds, it’s not that time of the month, I’ve gotten plenty of sleep and fluids, and well, you know the drill), without any repercussions.

PB2 Cherry Oatmeal

Servings: 1

1/3 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats
1 tbsp PB2 powder (that’s 1/2 serving)
1/3 cup frozen dark, pitted, unsweetened cherries
dash of cinnamon
pinch of kosher salt
1 cap full of vanilla extract (optional)
2/3 cup water, plus more if needed

Combine ingredients in large bowl. Nuke for three minutes. Stir, add more water if needed. Enjoy.


We are fine but becoming dangerous January 20, 2013

Posted by starshipexercise in MIgraine, Recipes and Food.
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We are fine but becoming dangerous.

That was the sum total of a text my dad sent me one fine day. Well, that and a self-portrait of him and my mother looking kind of gangsta. (I blame his employer for giving him an iPhone.) I admit, I was immediately intrigued. It turns out they were picking a new floor for their kitchen.  Oooooo. Scaweee.

My parents are pretty awesome. If you want to get some of your own, apparently they’re highly rated on Amazon.


After the past two days of migraines, I felt a lot better today. Started out not too bad, and got better as the day progressed. By the time of this writing, I am almost fine. Practically dangerous, even. Day three of migraine recovery went like this:

Bitch research.

Yesterday I realized I’m something of a frugivore. That means I like fruit. A lot. Since I’m eating anything I want while getting over this migraine, I’m pretty full of it right now. Just keep that in mind.

Here’s today:

Science Project Breakfast

1/2 gluten free, old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 frozen, pitted cherries (sweet dark variety, unsweetened)
dash cinnamon
pinch kosher salt
1 cup water

  1. Place ingredients in large-ish, microwave safe bowl (or you can use a cereal bowl, and watch oatmeal erupt all over your microwave like cherry-colored lava)
  2. Nuke for 3 minutes
  3. Add cold water if needed to thin it out or cool it down

Why Bother, We’re ALL GOING TO DIE ANYWAY Lunch

2 cups arugula
4 HUGE strawberries, sliced
1 egg + 1 egg white
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Place arugula and strawberries in bowl. 
  2. Scramble eggs.
  3. Scrape the hot eggs into bowl right on top of arugula and strawberries.
  4. Don’t judge me, it’s not THAT weird.
  5. Season and enjoy.

One, Two, Snack, Too

Leftover roasted butternut squash

There’s not really a recipe here, or even a single meal. These are just the things I snacked on throughout the day.

I must be feeling better, because I actually cooked dinner. Plus, I discovered the Rice button on my microwave. I’m intimately familiar with the Popcorn and Potato buttons. I’ve toyed with Defrost and Auto-defrost with varying degrees of success. But I have to admit, in the 10 years I’ve owned that microwave, I never even once noticed the Rice button. Makes me wonder what other buttons I’ve been ignoring all this time because actually, there are a lot of them.

And dayum, it makes good rice. All these years, I’ve been moping around, feeling deprived because I didn’t have a rice cooker. What a waste of good angst.

Beef Stir Fry with Rice Button Rice

Servings: 4

1 cup Jasmine rice
1 3/4 cup water, plus extra for stir fry
1 lb beef, cut up for stir fry
1 large red bell pepper, cut into bite size pieces
1 small bunch of baby broccoli (or maybe they call it broccolini?) cut into bite size pieces
powdered ginger, salt, pepper, powdered garlic, oregano, to taste

  1. In microwave safe container, combine rice and water. Cover, place in microwave and hit RICE button.
  2. Mix stir fry beef with seasonings. Spray pan with canola oil and get it hot. Throw beef in pan and get it nice and brown. Remove beef.
  3. Throw veggies in pan. Season with whatever you like. I just threw in more of what I put on the meat.  I put about 1/2 cup of water in with the veggies to scrape up the good bits and make some juice. We like juice.
  4. Drop meat back in pan, and mix everything together. Everything should finish up right about the same time. Serve in bowls, with some of the pan juices spooned over the rice.

This is not trying to be amazing cuisine. This is plain old, headache-free food. I served my husband his bowl with a bottle of sriracha on the side, so he could en-spice-ify it to his heart’s content.

I Ate a Squash January 20, 2013

Posted by starshipexercise in MIgraine, Recipes and Food.
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Ever said this? “Sure, it’s hot, but you don’t really feel it because at least it’s a dry heat.” I’ve said it myself about Seattle in the summer, on those three days a year (on average) that we have 90+ Fahrenheit degree temperatures. Boy, am I a dupe. YOU DO TOO FEEL IT. Stop lying to yourselves, bitches!

Fortunately, Seattle doesn’t get hot very often. Actually, it’s kind of too bad. For the last week, Seattle has been choking in a miasma of fog, a beautiful and damp blast of frigid meh. Ok, wet cold (being the opposite of dry heat) ain’t so grand, either. I have had a headache on and off for days, and I think the weather isn’t helping (also not helping: the bananas, peanut butter, and Chinese food I ate this week).

I recently discovered a mad pash for wet heat. I know, right? I hate hot weather. I hate humidity. Or do I? That day in hot yoga when we had so much steam rising off of people’s bodies that we actually formed a cloud inside the studio, that was awesome. And recently I had the opportunity to go into a wet sauna, and it was like I could breathe for the first time in forever. It was hot in there, people. And wet. The migraine I’d been feeling finally started to go away. Ok, when you’re butt naked in a room full of women you don’t know, it’s awkward to lay on the bench and put your legs up the wall, but I did it anyway. Best. Savasana. Evaaaa.

Conversely, when I went into the dry sauna…nope. Head hurt more. Hated it.

Today I’m less headachy than the past few days, but it’s there, lurking in the background, ready to come roaring back if I eat the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, think the wrong thing, whatever. There’s headache and then there’s migraine. Headache is just one symptom of migraine. As long as I feel pressure at my temples, my eyes are tearing, or I get that crawly feeling inside my head, I’m going to watch what I eat. That means no migraine triggers at all, even the ones that are safe in small quantities.

No bananas. No citrus, no sake, no PB2. Dammit.

So, what’s a girl to eat? I’m usually pretty careful to make sure I’m getting all the right amounts of protein, veggies, etc, but when I feel like this I give myself permission to eat what I feel like eating, as long as it’s not a migraine trigger. This usually means lots of fruit. Like, bordering on unhealthy quantities of fruit. Partly, because I love fruit. Also, because the last thing I want to do when I have a headache is exert myself, and fruit is usually pretty easy. Just wash and eat.

Well, here’s yesterday:

Go Away Stupid Headache Breakfast

1/2 cup leftover brown rice
2 cup fresh spinach
1 egg + 1 egg white
Garlic Powder

  1. Spray big bowl with canola oil (not cooking spray, that stuff has soy; fill up a Misto if your local grocer doesn’t sell pure canola oil in a spray bottle)
  2. Beat egg, mix in remaining ingredients
  3. Nuke 40 seconds. Mix, nuke again for 40 seconds. Mix, nuke for 10 or 20 seconds. Repeat until cooked to desired done-ness.

Not Really Hungry Lunch

Fresh blueberries

  1. Wash
  2. Eat

My Head Hurts, Might Skip Dinner Snack

One small Kabocha squash (botanically speaking, squash is a fruit)
kosher salt, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Wash skin, because it’s totally edible.
  3. Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds
  4. Place cut sides down on baking sheet with sides, because there will be liquid
  5. Roast for about thirty minutes
  6. Let cool for about 20 minutes
  7. Sprinkle with kosher salt and eat

I’m still not very hungry but more just peckish Second Snack (What am i, a hobbit?)

Fresh strawberries

  1. Wash
  2. Eat

OK, Now I’m Hungry Even Though it’s Almost Bedtime Dinner

Oven roasted Yukon Gold potatoes (1/2 large Yukon Gold potato, cut into 1 inch dice)
Oven roasted asparagus (about 10 spears)
Fried egg (One egg)

  1. Prepare two baking sheets with tin foil and canola oil to prevent sticking (I spray mine on).
  2. Scrub and cut potatoes. Arrange on baking sheet and roast in oven at 375 for about 40 min or until done.
  3. Wash asparagus, arrange on baking sheet and throw in oven for last 10 – 12 minutes of potatoes cooking.
  4. You know how to fry an egg, right? I like mine over-easy, so the yolk runs all over and I can sop it up with the potatoes.

Confession: The potatoes and asparagus were left over from dinner the night before. All I did was re-heat them and fry up an egg.

Dammit, I Want Pie Dessert

One bag frozen mango

  1. Put mango in food processor. Turn on.
  2. Slowly add small amounts of water until mango is smooth.
  3. Add whatever spices you like. I put in some maple syrup and cinnamon. It was just ok. I think I’m going to try this with frozen cherries next.

This Soup Stinks Good January 19, 2013

Posted by starshipexercise in MIgraine, Recipes and Food, Uncategorized.
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I love fish sauce. It has this awesome funk to it that is so funky…it’s actually fonnnnn-kaaaay. Anyhoo, I like fish sauce a lot, but it’s a migraine trigger on oh-so-many delicious levels. It’s fermented. It may contain gluten (some do). It’s tasty. Ok, ok, flavor isn’t necessarily a migraine trigger. I’m just feeling sorry for myself.

Not all triggers are created equal. I can tolerate some foods in small quantities, like bananas and citrus. Too much, though, and wham! Headache. There are some foods, though, that I can’t eat any of and fish sauce is one of them. Or, maybe there is a safe amount, I just love it too much to restrict the amount I consume. Whatever, the result is a headache, so why split rabbits?

I do pretty well, food-wise, and although my long no-no list inspires sympathy every where I go, I generally don’t feel deprived. There are so many great foods I can eat, I see the restrictions more as a logistical challenge to be solved.

There are a few things, though, that I miss terribly. One of them is pho, which is rife with fish sauce. I even used to make my own pho (it’s EASY, by the way). I love it enough that when I first went on the elimination diet, I tried making fish sauce-less pho.


Pho really needs that stinky/sour/salty taste, otherwise it’s just soup.

Well, I’m tired of doing without. It’s taken about five years of hard thinking (or maybe I just needed five years to forget what real pho tastes like), but I finally came up with an acceptable alternative. While I was at it, I decided to skinny up the recipe by replacing the traditional rice noodles with shirataki noodles.

Disclaimer: don’t expect this to taste just like pho. You’ll be disappointed. It is delicious, but it’s a pho-alternative, not a pho-replacement. Also, I’m missing some garnishes: bean sprouts, fresh jalapeno and basil would all be traditional, and delicious. But I don’t have any of those today. And the right sauces would be sriracha (rooster), hoisin, and fish sauce, which I have but I can’t eat, so they’re not listed in the ingredients. But by all means, if you have the access and inclination, dress up your soup with all sorts of accessories.

Quick Faux Pho

Servings: 4

2 inches fresh ginger, peeled
2 cinnamon sticks
3 dried star anise
3 large cloves garlic, halved
4 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup unfiltered sake (do not use sweet cooking sake, you want the strongest, sourest sake you can find)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb total)
2 14 oz packages of Shirataki noodles (I use the yam variety, but the tofu ones are easier to find and are therefore more convenient if you can have soy)
lots of salt, to taste
1 cup shredded carrot (for garnish)
fresh cilantro (for garnish)

Preheat broiler. Toast ginger, cinnamon, anise, and garlic under broiler for one or two minutes, or longer if needed. Check frequently. Anise in particularly can go from zero to crispy very quickly.

Bring stock up to a simmer. Place ginger, cinnamon, and anise in a large coffee filter (contents should be loose), and tie off with one end of a long piece of kitchen twine. Tie the other end of the twine to one of the handles on your pot. Drop the garlic straight into the soup. Bring back up to a simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add the chicken breasts, sake, and lemon juice, and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes. Add salt and taste it to make sure it’s salty enough.

Meanwhile, break open those shirataki noodles. Drain them in a colander, rinse them well, and dry em off as best you can. You may need to cut them, sometimes shirataki noodles are really just one long noodle wound around itself a million times (sort of like every necklace in my jewelry box). Divide the noodles equally between four bowls.

Salt the soup, and when it tastes right, remove the chicken breast and garlic. Chop and divide between four bowls. Garnish with carrot and cilantro. Ladle the broth into each bowl, enough to cover the contents.

Stinks pretty good, even if I do say so myself.

Calories 338.4
Total Fat 6.1 g
Cholesterol 80.2 mg
Sodium 1,200 mg
Total Carbohydrate 16.7 g
Dietary Fiber 0.3 g
Protein 33.9 g

Weight Watcher’s PPV: 6

I Am A Flank Steak Ninja with Superior Marinade Foo January 18, 2013

Posted by starshipexercise in MIgraine, Recipes and Food.
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Marinades are the bane of my existence. They make things (especially meats) more tasty, but they are generally full of migraine triggers, and it’s the triggers that make the marinades work. Without the acids (i.e. vinegar) or enzymes (i.e. pineapple) to break the meat down and pull in the flavor, what’s the point?

One of my go-to recipes (for other people, cuz I can’t eat the stuff) has been flank steak marinated in salsa, lime juice, and a little canola oil. Well, I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines, people. I want me some flank steak!

Salsa’s not so bad, you know. Take out the tomato and onion, you’re basically left with cilantro. A smart girl can do a lot with cilantro.

I made dinner for a party of 6, and since they were good friends I felt compelled to experiment on them. I wanted to make a flank steak, marinated with ingredients that I could tolerate. In the end, I used two ingredients from the headache list: sake (all alcohol is a potential trigger) and lime juice.  These two ingredients, however, I have found that I personally can tolerate in limited quantities (every migraine-eer is different, so be careful). There are other, more traditional marinade ingredients which can give me a headache just from being in the same room.

By the way, this is divine.

More Tasty Sake-Marinated Flank Steak

Servings: 6

1 1/4 lb flank steak, trimmed of fat and silver skin
1/2 cup sake*
1 cup fresh cilantro, rough chopped
1 fire-roasted mild jalepeno
5 cloves garlic, rough chopped
5 cloves garlic, rough chopped
.5 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp canola oil
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Using a sharp knife, score a shallow diamond pattern in the steak, across the grain. Put meat in ziploc freezer bag. Buzz all non-meat ingredients around in a food processor. Pour into bag over meat. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, depending on how good you want your meat to stink.

Preheat broiler. Make sure your top rack is positioned as close to the heat as possible. I like to heat up my pan under the broiler so I get a nice sizzle when I slap the meat on it. When everything is nice and hot, put the meat under the broiler for four minutes. Turn meat over and broil for additional four minutes. Let rest for 5 – 10 minutes before slicing, cross-wise against the grain.

Calories 184.4
Total Fat 7.9 g
Cholesterol 47.3 mg
Sodium 117.5
Total Carbohydrate 2.3 g
Dietary Fiber 0.1 g
Protein 19.6 g

Weight Watcher’s Points Plus Value: 5

* Some sake is made with additional Koji enzymes derived from barley to impart extra flavor, and there is some debate regarding whether this is safe for Celiacs. If you’re sensitive, there are certified GF sakes available.

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