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Space Cadet

Lately I’ve been operating a few fries short of a Happy Meal.  Which is very unlike me.  But today, I realized that my phone meeting with Barbara Allan is scheduled for next Wednesday and not today.  After 3 or 8 more mishaps like that one all in one day, Fiddledaddy was prompted to quip, “Well, I don’t remember brain damage being one of the side affects of Methotrexate.”

Seriously.  I find myself standing in the middle of the garage for no reason.  And it isn’t until I limp back into the kitchen that I remember I went out to retrieve bread from the freezer.  So I go back to the garage, and get side tracked by the laundry calling my name from the dryer, and then I find myself back in the kitchen looking for the bread.

Which is still out in the freezer.

And by the way, I’ve been off of Methotrexate for nearly 2 weeks now.  Which is what I really intended to talk about, but LOOK, MY KEYBOARD IS REALLY REALLY FILTHY AND HOW DO YOU CLEAN A KEYBOARD?

Anyhoo.  Going off of the Methotrexate was one of the harder decisions that I’ve had to make since this whole ordeal began 34 years 9 months ago.  I was terrified to not be under my Rheumatologist’s umbrella of RA medications.  But I knew that she wanted me to go on something stronger, as well as stay on the Methotrexate.  And I think I was even more afraid of that.

Yet, another part of me wanted to try to fight this thing using nutrition, and I knew that it would be harder to get off of the medication the longer I was on it.  And please know that this was an extremely personal decision, and that I’m not advocating getting off of RA meds.  I just want to journal my, well, journey, and I have no idea what the outcome will be. It’s like writing a book when you have absolutely no idea how it’s going to end.  I do have my family physician keeping close tabs on me, as well as a guidance counselor who is used to dealing with people with chronic illnesses.

So, technically, this time I’m not really flying by the seat of my control top pantyhose.

The day after I deliberately did not take my weekly dose of Methotrexate, I received the results of my food sensitivity test.  AND WHAT LUCK!  All the foods that I’ve been ingesting at break neck speed because THEY ARE HEALTHY are the very foods that show up on my test as Severe Intolerance all the way down to Mild Intolerance.

Foods such as blueberries, mushrooms, and asparagus are SEVERE and I must stay away from them for 6 months.  Then innocuous delights such as apples, chicken, honey, NAVY BEANS, spinach, tapioca (key ingredient in all of my favorite rice bread products), and turkey all show up as Moderate Intolerance and must be avoided for 3 to 6 months.

Then there’s a whole bunch of stuff under Mild Intolerance such as broccoli, cantaloupe, banana, basil, cauliflower, yellow squash, plus some that I need to eat rarely, and never repeat closer than 4 days apart.

After perusing this list, and having been completely overwhelmed by ALL THE RESEARCH I’ve been reading, I headed for the shower and had a good cry.

Then afterward, I pulled myself up by my leg brace, and faced the list once more.  But this time I decided to concentrate on the things which show absolutely no intolerance to whatsoever.

Things I really do love.  Like chick peas, lima beans, white potatoes, eggs, avocados, watermelon, oranges, mangos, salmon, corn, and rice.  The tricky part for me is to make sure that I’m getting enough protein, since BEANS (excluding green beans) show up as an intolerance.  However, lentils are fine and dandy.

I started scouring my pantry, looking at ingredients, determining what is not dead to me.  And I was pleasantly surprised to find that I would not waste away, as I had already envisioned in my obituary.  In all caps.  SADLY, SHE STARVED TO DEATH.

For the rest of the day, I avoided everything I was sensitive to.

And a weird thing happened.  On Sunday I woke up feeling better.  I did not use my leg brace all day, and did not need any pain killers.  I was ecstatic and shouted my good news to anyone who would listen.

But.  Then on Monday I woke up with the usual pain and stiffness, and the need for pain meds before noon.  Back to the shower.  More crying.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

What I’ve discovered is that I am likely going through detox.  Which can last any where from a couple of days up to 10.  And I have the classic symptoms, flu like symptoms, and general malaise.

The feeling is lessening somewhat, and I’m hopeful that this new food regiment will improve my range of motion and general health.  Basically, by controlling what nutrients my body is getting, I am enabling my body’s natural immune system to fight this disease on its own.

One thing I do know.  I’m not getting worse.  And since getting off Methotrexate my menses has once again reappeared (never thought I’d be happy about that) but it’s my body’s way of getting everything back in order.

Fiddledaddy ordered me a juicer today.  I like to think of it as an early Christmas present.  Because jewelry is over rated…

And I made myself reacquainted with the interior of our gym today as well.  I worked on the Nu-step for 12 minutes, and the bike for 5.   Then I dipped my knee into the jacuzzi, but was a little nervous to go further because all the bubbles made it difficult to see if anything was floating around, or laying in wait at the bottom.

You just can never be too careful…

~~~~~~~

On a lighter note, when Fiddledaddy went to pick Jensen up from Awana tonight, he was sitting in a little miniature chair with his arm draped around E’s shoulder.  “DADDY, DON’T WE LOOK CUTE TOGETHER?”

Fiddledaddy (prompting):  “Yes, but you are just friends, right?”

E:  “Yes, the best best best BEST of friends.”

I want to just bottle them up and keep them at this age for a sweet forever.

Detox

I got the results back from the food intolerance test that involved Nurse Ratchett and the subsequent 60 mile trip into Orlando to find someone who could get 4 vials of blood out of me.  Without hitting me in the face first.

Holy moly.  I’m sensitive to stuff I never dreamed of.  So I’m avoiding everything that I’m even remotely sensitive to.  And now I’m experiencing the joys of de-tox.  Which is akin to throwing myself under a bus.  And then asking the driver to drive back and forth over me.

This should end soon, so I hear.  And then I have much to report.  I have a phone meeting with the author of “Conquering Arthritis” on Wednesday to go over the results of the blood tests.  Wherein I will be in sponge mode and hang on her every word.

Thank you to those of you that have been sending me wonderful recipes!!!  And I know so many of you are praying for me and please know that I realize through the power of prayer comes the most powerful healing!

I’ll be back.  When this bus stops mowing me down.  🙂

Digging for gold

This has been a week that has particularly tested my endurance.  It has certainly been one of the more painful weeks that I’ve had.  Which is frustrating, because in the last 2 weeks, I’ve given up many of the things that I dearly love: dairy, wheat/gluten, and meat.  Please don’t get me wrong, eating in a far healthier way has not been that difficult at all.  In fact, if it weren’t for all the joint inflammation, I would say that I feel better than I’ve felt in a long while.

But, when you are trying to heal yourself from the inside out, it tends to take a good long while to clean out all of the years of fried okra, gravy, and Oreos.

And I’m not saying those things are bad at all, but in my case, when dealing with a disease of the auto-immune system, I’ve been slowly killing myself, and I had no idea.

One interesting thing that I’ve learned this week, after talking to my family doctor, is that I need to really focus on foods that are not acidic, but promote a more alkaline environment.  When I am able to achieve that, this disease, whether it’s really R.A., Lyme disease, or whathaveyou, likely won’t stand a chance.  This will allow my own body to be able to fight off this disease on its own.

And it just takes time.

Well.  Y’all know how patient I tend to be.  NOT.  I want a singular pill to cure me, and I want it now.

I had hoped that Methatrexate was my magical cure, but for me, it has caused more problems, and is doing nothing for the inflammation.

Tomorrow (Friday) is the day that I have to definitively decide whether or not to discontinue my weekly dosage of Methotrexate.  And I have to inform my Rheumatologist.

And hope that she supports my decision to fight this disease through natural means.

I’m quite certain that she will want me to go on a stronger medication, but the type of medication that it is, will only suppress my natural immune system even more.  And there is no guarantee that it will work.

And will likely cause me to sprout warts on my nose.

(That isn’t one of the listed side affects, I’m just assuming that it will happen to me.  Because I like to be different.)

A difficult aspect of dealing with my health issues has been how it is affecting my family.  They stand by helplessly in the morning, and watch me struggle to put one foot in front of the other.  They see me drop things in the kitchen, for no reason at all.  And they, on rare occasions, are witness to my tears of frustration.

Fiddledaddy wants his wife back.  My children want their mommy back.  I want my life back.

Through strength that only comes from God, prayer, my husband, and my sheer stubbornness, I’ve managed to keep things plodding along here in our home.  It has been important to me that my children still attend all of their usual activities, wearing clean(ish) clothes, with their bellies full of good food.

I will admit that there are days that can only be accomplished by well timed doses of pain medication.

My husband keeps insisting that I sit down and take it easy.  Today I admitted to him that I’m afraid that if I stop, I’ll never get back up.

My children, while they delight in driving me to the brink of a nervous breakdown, are also my joy.  Which is why I wanted to share the following with you.

Jensen, who has officially joined Awana as a Sparkie, just learned his first Bible verse in its entirety (with just one little word error, which we’re still working on).  He was awfully proud of himself, and wanted to share it with us at the dinner table.  Listen all the way to the end.  Because it will be evident to you how the fruit of the Holy Spirit has truly touched his heart.

[audio:http://www.fiddledeedee.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/John3-16.mp3|titles=John3-16]

Have a wonderfully blessed weekend, everyone!

I am not a carnivore

I was describing to my friend Kelli in an e-mail over the weekend, how when my arms are inflamed, I am not unlike a T-Rex.  You know, the dinosaur with the little short arms that only can do so much.

But what the T-Rex lacks in arm strength, he more than makes up for in his bark.

Much like me.

She wrote me back, “Have you seen Meet the Robinson’s?  ‘Really big head, itty bitty arms.’  Oh how that just made me laugh.”

And that made me laugh.  Kelli and I share the same off center sense of humor, and I treasure her for that, among many other things.

Well.  Hang in there with me, I will tie this together in a rambling moment.  Something that I’m pursuing as I am trying to get answers and healing during this arduous process of finding the right medication and IS THIS REALLY R.A.? is through this website:  http://mychristiancare.org/restore/.

My SIL works for The Christian Care Ministry, and she recommended their Restore program to me.  In a nutshell, it is basically personalized coaching for REVERSING DISEASE.  Diet and exercise are key.  As well as PRAYER!

Since I have discovered that Methatrexate is not working to reduce any inflammation, and the chances of EVER getting me on Prednisone again are not good, I want desperately to find a way to cure this disease from the inside out.  Instead of just masking the symptoms.

So, I’m working with a personal “health” coach through the Restore Ministry.  Her name is Angela, and we had our first phone conversation on Saturday night.  I adore her.  We will be having a more in depth meeting in a couple of weeks, but to get me started, she has recommended that I go on a plant based diet.

I’ve already been diary/gluten free for the last month.  I’ve been reticent about being a vegetarian because, well, WHERE’S THE BEEF?   And I’ve feared that I wouldn’t get enough protein and would be sidelined with a migraine because of the lack of protein.  Because I NEED PROTEIN.

I’ve been reading about the benefits of a plant based diet when dealing with a disease of the auto-immune system.  After talking with Angela about it, and getting all sorts of great information about how much protein I can glean from vegetables and beans, I decided to try it.

We’re already keeping a good deal of fresh organic fruits and vegetables in the house that we’re getting from a local co-op.  And now I’m giving myself a crash course in how to cook beans, soups, and how to assemble fun salads.

I KNOW!  This from the girl that considered Oreos a food group.

Sunday was my first day completely eating a plant based diet.

And you know what?  Dietarily speaking, I feel great.  I’m not hungry, and not craving anything I’m not suppose to have.  I also, eerily, have more energy than I’ve had in a while.  And that could simply be my imagination, but I’m going to claim it.  Even though it’s only been one day.

I’m also going to ask to be re-tested for Lyme Disease.  I just have a sneaking suspicion that something else is going on.

Time will tell how this dietary change will affect my healing.  I’m hopeful.  Even though I’m no longer a Carnivore, like my friend the T-Rex.

But my bark is still mighty powerful.

A vegetarian. Who would have ever thunk it.

If you all have any good vegetarian type recipes (especially using beans or Tofu), I would love it if you’d share them with me.  I’ve picked up a few cookbooks from the library, but recipes that have been tried and true are what I really need!

Blood from a Turnip

One of the things that we’re exploring, while looking for way to keep my Rheumatoid Arthritis at bay, are food sensitivities that I may have.  So, I was scheduled to have some fancy shmancy food allergy tests done by a company that specializes in that sort of thing.  And in order for that to happen, a nurse-type person was to come to my home and drain me of blood.  Four vials, to be precise.

This nurse-type person, who we’ll call Nurse Ratchett for the sake of the story, called yesterday to confirm our appointment.  I alerted her that I was typically a difficult draw.

I’ve been this way ever since I can remember.  And recently, my dad told me that I come by it honest, since he is also a difficult stick.  Shy veins run in my family.

I heard Nurse Ratchett exhale loudly, and she paused, “Well, drink a lot of water.” She also asked me if I was on any medication and I rattled off my laundry list.  She then told me not to take anything 48 hours prior to the draw.  And since the draw was the next day, I told her that I would stop all pain meds immediately.

I had been told that Prednisone was the only problem medication for this blood work, and I had been off of it for a week.  The new NO MEDS WHATSOEVER rule was unfortunate, because I was just starting to get a migraine.  And I will also mention that my knee felt like someone had just had batting practice with it.

But whatever.  I do what I’m told.  No meds.

By the time Nurse Ratchett arrived, I was in full Migraine meltdown.  And had very little sleep the night before.  When she came in, she asked me if I was a difficult draw (again).  I re-informed her that yes, it takes a very special nurse to extract blood from me.

Again, heavy exhale.

She was not instilling a good deal of confidence in me, that she knew what she was doing.  I proudly showed her my very best vein, which I had been heating up with a heating pad.  And I had a lot of time to heat it up, since she needed to go back out to her car to get A NEEDLE.

Finally she went after my very best vein, and exasperated, I heard her say, “Nothing.” At this point, I went to my happy place, and tried not to look at her fumbling around with the tourniquet and needle.  Because, OUCH.  Even after digging about, she could not get one drop of blood out of my very best vein.

She moved on to my 2nd and 3rd best vein, and she became even more exasperated, “Nothing.” Finally, she went BACK to my very best vein and tried once more.  Digging around until I thought I was going to have to go make change for the cuss jar.

She finally gave up.  She said that another tech would have to schedule, because I could not go to my favorite clinic, the one that knows what they are doing, because of company rules, blah, blah, blah.

After she left, I went running for my pain meds.  But Fiddledaddy stopped me before I had gotten the child-proof cap loosened.  It seems that he called the company, and discovered that we could get the blood drawn at Florida Hospital.  IN ORLANDO.  But it was imperative that it be done today so that FedEx could expedite the shipping of the blood to the lab.

That meant an hour long car ride, with 3 antsy children, and a migraine.

Fiddledaddy consoled me by promising to take me to Whole Foods Market in Orlando afterward.

He knows my love language.

After an eternity in the waiting room of the hospital, I was at last ushered into the lab by a gal brimming with blood drawing confidence.  She looked at my arms, especially eying the bruised vein that had already been poked twice.  She applied the tourniquet, got out a 25 gauge needle (much smaller than Nurse Ratchet’s) and went in with little pain.  And no digging around.

Bingo.

Because of the size of the needle, it took longer than normal, but Nurse Cheryl (my new best friend) was able to extract 4 vials of blood from me quite easily.  One stick.  No digging for gold.

The minute she finished, I fished the lone Tramadol out of my purse and went in search of water.  It was then I learned that I needed only be pain med free FOUR HOURS prior to the blood draw.

And now I wait for the results.  Ultimately, my dream is to get myself off of the Methotrexate, and try to control this disease solely through diet and exercise.

The Methotrexate has had a few side affects that are unwelcome.  First of all, there’s the nausea.  Of which I’m not a fan.  And it has made my period come to a grinding halt.

I know.  You’d think I’d be rejoicing.  But I’m a hormonal mess, even more than usual.  And what kind of blog fodder am I going to have if I can’t talk about my menses and pre-menopause?

I’ve had a few of you guys e-mailing me asking if the diet changes are helping yet.  The answer is, I’m not sure.  I’m uncertain what’s the Methotrexate, and what’s the diet changes.

I know that I’ve never eaten this healthy, so that has to be a positive.  But I’m still dealing with inflammation and my knee is still a hot mess.

Also, I wanted to address something.  A very sweet reader left me a comment questioning why the Lord is letting me go through all of this.

The comment touched my heart deeply.  I can only speak about my own experience and opinion.  But I think when we face hardship, we have a choice to make.  We can place blame, or we can let God use a hardship to strengthen and teach us.

For me, this path has made me rely on God more than I ever have in my life.  When I feel like I cannot put one foot in front of the other, I let Him carry me.  God is also teaching me to ask for help, and to rely on my family more.  A hard lesson, for this fiercely independent woman.

I’ve not doubt that I’ll come out stronger and better when I get a handle on living my life with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  And I’ve no doubt that God will use me to help others that are traveling the same path that I am.

Another thing this experience is teaching me, is how important this community of bloggers and readers are to me.  I mean really important.  More than I ever thought possible.  The information that you all share with me, your laughter, and your prayers and encouragement have really sustained me this year.  I believe that this blog and this community are a key ingredient to my healing.

Certainly to my sanity.

And so on I plod.  Grateful for my supportive husband and family.  Grateful for all the things in my life that I might not have even noticed had it not been for an unwelcome health issue.  And grateful to you guys, for your friendship and unwavering support.

Oh, and especially grateful for Purely Decadent Dairy Free Mint Chip Ice Cream made with Coconut Milk.  Sing with me…Sweet Mystery of Life at Last I’ve Found You…

Have a wonderfully blessed weekend, my sweet friends.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Mercifully, the Prednisone madness ended last week.  But within a couple of days, I felt the inflammation returning to my right hand, and left arm.  There was no change in my knee, except to say that at least my leg hadn’t fallen off.

By Friday I was a basket case, because I was also suffering some significant side affects from the Methotrexate, since Friday was my 3rd weekly dose, and it was the entire enchilada.

Meaning that my doctor started me out with a smaller dosage, and I worked my way up to a full dose by the 3rd week.  I talked to the office on Friday, and told them that the inflammation was returning, and I was having dizziness and nausea.

They talked me down from the top of the kitchen counter, telling me not to panic yet, and to watch my symptoms over the weekend.

I knew Fiddledaddy was planning a special Anniversary trip for me, to stay at the same Disney World hotel where we spent our honeymoon 13 years ago.  The plan was to leave on Sunday and stay through Tuesday.  On Saturday he asked me if I felt up to it.

I looked at him through sad, bloodshot eyes, TAKE ME AWAY FROM HERE.  I figured, if worse came to worse, and all I could do was lay in bed, making out my will, at least I could be staring at a different ceiling.  One void of yogurt stains. 

I was feeling better by Sunday, and the inflammation seemed to not be getting worse, so we packed up the van and aimed ourselves toward Disney World.  We’ve stayed a number of the Disney hotels in the years since we’ve moved to Florida, but this was the first time we’d been back to this hotel since our honeymoon.

And really, it was just like going back in time.

Well.  Except that this time we brought our entourage.

And I was high on pain killers.

But except for that, it was just the same.

We stayed in one of the “family suites” at the All-Star Music.  Now, remember, the All-Star hotels are the Motel 6 of Disney World.  And I LOVE them.  The suite had a separate bedroom with a Queen size bed, and the main room had a fold out couch, and two fold out sleeping chairs.  There was a small kitchenette with a small refrigerator, coffee pot, and microwave.  And there were TWO bathrooms.

The grown-ups bathroom

The kitchenette

The master suite

Master Suite, towel folded in Mickey shape

Family area, we bring our own pillows

I would say, the only drawback to this suite, are the fold out chairs/couch.  I’ve never ever seen a comfortable hotel fold-out anything.  Thankfully, we brought a couple of blow-up mattresses, just to be safe.

We learned that on Sunday night, the Magic Kingdom was going to be open until 1AM.  So a plan was formulated to keep the kids up until they dropped from exhaustion.  And we made them all push me in the wheel chair, just to make certain to achieve our dream.


Emme took this photo of us in front of castle. She missed. If you look closely, you can see part of Fiddledaddy's head.

We had a delightful time until the rain began.  And you would think that as Floridians, we would be prepared for such a thing.  I asked Fiddledaddy, “Where are our rain ponchos?”  “In the back of the garage.” Excellent planning on our part.

But not to be outwitted by a little rain, after a visit to the restroom, I noticed that Fiddledaddy had outfitted the stroller with a plastic cover.  (Yes, our son is 5, but we still stuff him into a stroller, just so we can stow all our gear, sans rain ponchos, beneath. And we made the girls push that too.)  I quizzed Fiddledaddy where he acquired a plastic bag large enough to protect the stroller seat.  “The trash can in the bathroom.”

Allrightythen.

I countered, “Should I visit the ladies room and procure us some rain hats from the tampon waste receptacle in the stalls?”

Really, we are a class act.

I’m beginning to think that the All Star hotels may be too good for us.

(to be continued)

A Letter

Dear Rheumatoid Arthritis,

You came, like a thief in the night, to steal my life away from me.  You think you have robbed me of my joy, and my ability to do some of the most basic tasks.  Like run with my children.  Or take long walks with my husband.  Or at times, brush my own hair.

You are an insidious disease whose only purpose is to ravage and rend useless.  

But I have news for you, Rheumatoid Arthritis.

You have just crossed the wrong girl.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  ~~John 10:10

WFGFDF (sounds like a $2 bad word)

A number of years ago when Jensen’s Atopic Dermatitis was incorrectly diagnosed with food allergies, I became pretty well versed with what Wheat Free, Gluten Free, and Dairy Free products were decent.

After we found out his issues were topical only, I reverted back to cooking with glee, using whatever I found in my refrigerator that didn’t bite me first.  The glory years of cooking.  Fraught with pre-packaged meals that very likely had a shelf life longer than me.

Now as I face my own health issues concerning R.A., my doctor has recommended that I cut dairy, wheat & gluten out of my diet.

Goodbye ChocoVine, so long Oreos, adios columns of Ritz Crackers that simply melted on my tongue.

Instead of concentrating on what I can’t have right now, I’m trying to play up all of the good products that I’m finding.  And I wanted to share a few with you, because I’m amazed at how many people are also having to avoid this in their diet.

Baking Mix: I discovered Fearn Brown Rice Baking Mix years ago.  I’ve kept it on my shelf, even when I didn’t have to worry about gluten because I love it so.  It makes the most excellent pancakes.  There is also a muffin and bread recipe on the package as well.  And happily, I recently discovered that Wal-Mart carries this.

 

Cake & Muffin Mixes: Namaste Foods makes the most amazing product when it comes to an easy flavored baking mix.  I have found this at our tiny health food store (what I would not give for a Whole Foods Market in this town) and it’s a little pricey, but worth the splurge.  My favorite is the Spice Cake Mix flavor.  I make muffins from this mix, adding a little pureed pumpkin and protein powder.  It makes a rather large batch, so I’m able to freeze a few for later.

Protein Powder: This is a must have in my pantry.  I’ve used this brand faithfully for the last number of years, even when I wasn’t wheat free.  NutriBriotic makes a Vegan Rice Protein Powder, and I keep it in both vanilla and chocolate.  The vanilla flavor works well in pancake and muffins.  I use the chocolate flavor in my peanut butter/banana protein shakes.  Now I simply use soy, instead of cow’s milk.

Pasta: Rice pasta is tricky.  I’ve tasted some brands that I think we’re made from my children’s Elmer’s glue.  I’ve found one brand that I love even more than wheat pasta.  Tinkyada makes not only rice spaghetti, elbow macaroni, but also rice lasagna noodles.  My children actually prefer this over wheat, and I’ve been able to find it a Wal-Mart.  It cooks a little bit longer than regular pasta, but the taste is always better.

Chips: I’ve completely let go of my obsession with whole grain tortilla chips.  We found a brand of brown rice crisps called Riceworks, in a Sea Salt flavor.  There are no preservatives and the flavor is wonderful.  I’ve found these also at Wal-Mart.  Frankly, I’m pleasantly surprised at the variety of wheat/gluten free products I’ve been able to buy there.

Cereal:  This is a tough one, because I am a cereal FANatic.  I’m still able to eat gluten free Rice Chex, but I’ve also found a cereal that takes me right back to my youth.  Envirokidz makes an organic gluten free cereal called Gorilla Munch.  I swear to you it tastes like Captain Crunch.  I eat it sparingly because it has 8 grams of sugar in a 3/4 cup serving.  But at least that sugar is from organic evaporated cane juice.  And I’m able to buy it also at Wal-Mart.

Tortillas: I make a chalupas every chance I get.  I love Amy’s Organic Black Refried Beans (can), on top of a brown rice tortilla made by Food for Life. I have to spring for these at the health food store, but I can buy a few packages and freeze them.  My favorite way to eat them is to first saute them in a little extra virgin olive oil to harden them up.

Bread: Does it occur to anyone that I may be a little carb-centric?  I love my carbs.  I do have to limit them somewhat, but these rice based products make me feel like I’m not deprived.  I truly believe that most rice breads are made by the makers of styrofoam.  With only a few exceptions.  A brand called Udi’s makes the most amazing gluten free/dairy free sandwich bread bread.  I have only found this in the health food store.

Margarine: I thought I would never find a margarine that I liked as well as my old standby Smart Balance.  However, Earth Balance makes a wonderful vegan (and soy free) buttery spread made from natural vegetable oils.  I can also use it in my cooking.  Make sure you get the red package.  And I’ve found it at Wal-Mart for about $3.00.

Treats: I’ve never met a dessert I didn’t like.  I have to have a few treats stashed about so that I don’t feel like someone is torturing me by taking away my ChocoVine.  Pamela’s makes a delightful Chunky Chocolate Chip cookie that is wheat, gluten, and dairy free.  I limit myself to one a day.  My will power, it has at last returned.

And since I’m confessing my dessert sins, I will tell you that I keep a small container of Haagen-Dazs all natural Mango Sorbet in the freezer.  Hidden behind the frozen broccoli, so that no one is the wiser.  I have days that a spoon and the sorbet are the only thing standing between me and a padded cell.  There.  Confession is good for the soul.

Cheese: I’m a cheese head.  I love cheese.  I love to cook with cheese.  So this is a tough one.  I’ve tried rice based cheese products, and frankly, well, I hate them.  Recently I was reading about a gluten, soy, and dairy free cheese by Daiya.  Fiddledaddy just found it at the health food store and brought it home for me to peruse.  I tasted it, and did not want to rip out my tongue.  It will do very nicely, and it even melts.  I’ve only tried the Mozzarella, but will be looking for other flavors.

Frozen Meals: In a pinch, I’ve come to love an occasional organic Amy’s Frozen meal.  Some are only gluten free, some are only dairy free, but there are a few that cover both territories.  My kids adore their burritos.

We’ve also made the decision to use more organic fruits and vegetables, as well as organic chicken and ground turkey.  This has been an eye opening experience looking for the best prices.  I tell you what, when you pay $6.00 for a small package of organic chicken breasts, you pay extra careful attention to your culinary skills and allow NOTHING to go to waste.  And yes, I admit it, the taste of the organic is definitely better.

This is all a learning experience.  I’m having to re-think everything I cook, but in the long run, I know I will be serving healthier meals for my family.  And perhaps expediting my own healing as I traverse the winding path of finding my way back to health from R.A.

If you have any tried and true products that are wheat/gluten/dairy free that you’ve found (as well as cookbooks), I’d LOVE to hear about them!

For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, head on over to Kristen’s at We Are THAT Family.