Reintroducing foods after the Whole30: Non-gluten grains

I put off reintroducing non-Whole30-approved foods for several extra days, in effect making a Whole40 instead. Mostly this is because I managed to get a nasty cough that persisted for the last three weeks, and The Farmboy got a cold the week we were supposed to start reintroducing stuff, too. We thought that it would be hard to tell if new foods made us feel crappy, because we already felt crappy. By the way, this meant we stayed on the the Whole30 through 3 Christmas meals with friends and family and two New Years gatherings! And it didn’t even hurt! Woo-hoo!

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Teff is pretty.

Yesterday (Day 41) we felt like it was time to “take off the training wheels”. So we stared our day off with scrambled eggs, homemade kimchi, and sourdough teff-flour pancakes with apples slices and ghee. It was pretty yummy! And teff is an ancient cereal grass, with an attractive nutrient profile (for a grain) similar to millet and amaranth. Unfortunately, I was surprised that I already started to feel some mild inflammation before I had my lunch.

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Uncooked natural stand wild rice, hand harvested in Minnesota. This is the good stuff.

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Uncooked cultivated wild rice: Not worth your time or digestive energy!

Lunch was brussels sprouts, red peppers, and patty pan squash sauteed in ghee, with pastured-pork chorizo. I added about half a cup of wild rice cooked in bone broth that my friend had harvested this fall, and it was so incredibly delicious. Wild rice is an all-time favorite food, subtle and nutty and fast-cooking.

For those who don’t know, there is a huge difference between commercially grown wild rice and the real stuff, taste-wise and also in cultural impact. True wild rice is actually the seed of an aquatic grass- that means it grows in lakes! It is hand-harvested, usually by shaking the stalks over a canoe. The commercial stuff is more like rice, is often grown with chemical and on paddies that artificially flooded, and then mechanically harvested. Right now, there is a lot of controversy surrounding wild rice, as mining practices threaten to make it extinct. Wild rice, or manoomin, is a sacred and traditional food to the indigenous people of Minnesota and Wisconsin (the Anishinaabe or Ojibwe people), and there are lots of people fighting to protect the manoomin. Buying native-harvested wild rice can support these efforts to preserve Anishinaabe culture and food. You can also get it here and here.

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Soup doesn’t get much better than this.

At the next meal, I was lucky enough to be fed a decadent bowl of chicken soup. It was different than the soup I talked about in my last post– this one was made with bone broth, yes, but flavored with scallions, ginger, shiitake mushrooms, red peppers, and lime, with plenty of dark leafy greens. The Farmboy added white rice noodles, which are fun to eat, but honestly the soup would have been just as good without them. Other than the highlighted grain-containing foods, I ate a clean Whole-30 diet all day, with no snacking between meals.

How did it go? Well, I ate only Whole-30 approved foods all day today (Day 42), but I feel some mild effects of the grains. I had a hard time waking up this morning. I had some mild achiness in the joints in my hands and arms. I also felt weirdly “off” before lunch, and I realized I was having low blood sugar. Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t had low blood sugar (with the off-center, distracted, jittery fog it comes with) in several weeks! I think grains 3 meals/day is out after this experiment, for sure. Rice noodles were so not worth it (and the most likely culprit, in my opinion, for my crazy blood sugar fluctuation). I’d rather have the occasional Paleo pancake than risk that blood sugar yuckiness for a sourdough teff pancake. Wild rice, however, is going to make an occasional appearance in my diet in the future. Hopefully, in small amounts and on days when I eat an otherwise Paleo diet.

Comfort: How We Eat to Soothe Our Souls

Food is more than macronutrients and micronutrients. Food is how we express love, how we communicate, how we comfort and care for ourselves. I’ve wanted extra tenderness and gentleness in the past few days, and food has helped me have it. I love to try new foods, new flavors, but this week has been about needing the familiar flavors of comfort.

Eliminating grains, legumes, dairy, and sweeteners can make it more challenging to get that warm, fuzzy feeling that a meal prepared just so can bring. If your family was anything like mine, you were fed some combo of dairy and wheat for birthdays, illnesses, stormy days, or any other occasion that warranted nurturing. Some of the comfort foods I didn’t choose to eat this week include homemade mac and cheese, biscuits and gravy, and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

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Ghee cooling on my countertop makes me happy.

Instead, I made ghee. Rich, smooth, and glowingly yellow. Ghee is my favorite fat. (Shhh, don’t tell bacon fat or coconut oil!) Starting the day with butter melting and simmering while I cooked up some eggs was perfect.

That night we roasted a locally-raised organic chicken that The Farmboy traded for last fall at the farmer’s market. Tarragon, lemon, and sea salt gave the bird some flavor boosting, and the whole things was roasted to a golden color with crispy skin and juicy meat. On the side we ate cauliflower rice with peppers, onions, and other veggies we had on hand. We also ate some of the kale from our chest freezer, sweet from the fall’s frost and drippy with ghee.

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Our roast chicken dinner, mid-meal. The big jar is homemade kimchi, and the other jar is dilly beans, both from farm veggies this last fall.

Then we started a pot of bone broth, and it simmered til the next day. Tonight brought bowls of a beautiful chicken soup, rich with the broth and leftover meat, and filled with colors: the orange of the carrots, the silver of the sauteed onions, the deep green of the kale and the lighter green of slivered celery, the pretty golden of the rutabaga.

After eating my bowlful, I forgot all about any yearning for some variation of wheat-and-dairy, because chicken soup is really just that good on it’s own. I would trade all manner of treats for one more bowlful, but the only leftovers are headed to my freezer for emergency use later. You know, the kind of day when you need someone to draw you a bath or clean the kitchen and mop the floors, or both, and there is no time to cook. Just knowing it’s there is comforting, too.