Swedish Egg

Swedish Egg

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tomato-Marsala Short Ribs w/ Spinach & Carrots - a Delicious Slow Cooker Recipe

A couple posts back, the picture at left appeared with the caption "Food is Love, Exhibit B." (Exhibit A was a potato chip that came out of the bag in a perfect heart shape.)

Potato chips may offer dreamy, drug-like comfort in the moment (confessions of a chip-a-holic), but they in no way offer love to your body in the way that real food delivers.

The dish, of course, is Tomato-Marsala Short Ribs, and I made it in my slow cooker. YUM.

As someone who works 40 hours a week and is committed to eating a Paleo-style/whole food/SIBO-safe diet, I consider the slow cooker to be a godsend. There's nothing like coming home at dinner time and having a wholesome, digestible and delicious dinner ready to enjoy!

Many people only think of using their slow cooker during the winter months, but I love it for summer use, too, since slow cooking doesn't heat up your kitchen like stove top or oven cooking will. Such a great invention!

So far, I've made this recipe twice, once with short ribs, and again with a 2 pound boneless pot roast. Both dishes came out great, with Marsala wine being the distinguishing ingredient. I've not cooked with Marsala before, but I will again! Adds a little something special for sure.

Tomato-Marsala Short Ribs with Spinach & Carrots

Makes 4 servings

4 good sized, grass fed beef short ribs (1+ pounds total)
1 Tbs coconut oil or ghee
Himalayan pink salt & fresh ground black pepper
6-8 organic carrots, peeled
2-4 Roma tomatoes
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1/4 cup tomato paste mixed with 1/2 cup water, or 3/4 cup sugar-free organic tomato sauce
1 teaspoon each oregano and thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 handful chopped chives or green onions
1 bay leaf
1-2 handfuls baby spinach per serving
additional salt, Nama Shoyu (naturally fermented tamari) or coconut aminos to taste

Sprinkle short ribs on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat coconut oil or ghee in a skillet over medium-high heat, and brown short ribs on all sides. While ribs are browning, chop carrots and tomatoes into 1-inch chunks and add to bottom of crock pot. When ribs are browned, place them on top of the veggies in the crock pot and sprinkle with chives. It will look like this:

Go back to your skillet and turn heat off if you didn't already. Allow skillet to cool for a minute and then pour in Marsala wine to deglaze the pan.

Add tomato paste-water mixture (or tomato sauce) and seasonings (oregano, thyme, cayenne/red pepper) and stir to combine. Pour this Marsala-tomato sauce over the short ribs and veggies in the crock pot, stir gently, and tuck in a bay leaf for good measure. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Before serving, stir in 1-2 handfuls of baby spinach per person and allow to wilt. This takes about 2 minutes with the cover on. Please note that depending on how many people are eating this dish, you may have leftovers. You want to add fresh spinach every time so it always will be fresh and green. Swiss chard can stand in for spinach any day.

Add extra salt, Nama Shoyu or coconut aminos to taste. Serve in shallow bowls, as there will be lots of yummy sauce!

Note: When ribs are done cooking, the meat will just fall off the bone. It's up to you if you want to remove all the bones and break up the meat before serving, like a stew as pictured up top, or put a whole short rib in each dish and ladle sauce on top. Take your pick. ;-)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

My Cheating Fart

Food is Love - Exhibit A

As anyone who’s ever followed a restricted diet knows, maintaining your resolve can be very, very challenging. Even if you are restricting for health reasons, even if you know what the consequences of diverging from your program will be, temptation is always out there. It doesn’t matter if you are a newbie or an experienced practitioner of SIBO-safe eating. Nobody’s perfect. We all fall down. Which is why the ability to pick oneself up is such a gift.

I haven’t posted much in the past few months. Without going into full-on confession mode, the truth is I’ve been struggling with the holding of firm dietary boundaries, and it set my progress back. I flared. I started feeling sorry for myself. My stomach hurt a lot (like every day). Constipation increased. I was gaining weight and feeling sluggish. Poor me!

It isn’t fair that fresh fruit in season is so delicious. Not to mention Kettle Potato Chips, New York Cheddar (see Exhibit A, above). It isn’t fair that others can eat those foods without consequence, but I can’t—not without paying the price in pain and bloating.

But that’s my situation. I have SIBO. And I don’t believe it is ever, forever going away. I’ve had IBS-C since I was in my teens. My gut was damaged long ago by emotional and behavioral trauma, and my motiity and microbiome is permanently altered. There is no cure. In fact, the main takeaway message (for me) from the 2017 Integrative SIBO Conference I attended in March, was this:

SIBO is a chronic, relapsing condition for the majority. Two thirds of all cases will never be cured. Ongoing management is expected.

If you are in the lucky one third of people with SIBO for whom the condition is not chronic, I am so happy for you! There’s a light at the end of your tunnel.

For most of us, though, 100% symptom resolution is not expected. Why? Because in the majority of cases, elimination of the underlying cause is not possible.

Yes, with proper treatment, 80-90% symptom resolution is expected, which is great, but relapse is expected, too. According to SIBO expert Allison Siebecker, the common timeframe for relapse is 2.5 months. But it can happen in 2 weeks, or even 2 days if there is an underlying structural cause, or if the condition was not completely eradicated by one round of antibiotics, in which case multiple rounds are called for. And even then.

SIBO is a chronic, relapsing condition for the majority.

Just as taking insulin doesn’t cure diabetes, antibiotics will not fix our problem forever. People will feel better, but not 100%. There is usually not a cure for SIBO that makes it so you never have to think about it again. Ongoing management is expected.

This is sobering, indeed. But it’s not a death sentence, no more than birth itself. Ongoing management required just means that we have to accept, grow up, keep learning and, if we chance to tumble, we get back on the horse.

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to be in Maine and meet up with Amanda Crutcher, a nutritionist friend of mine from way back, who shined some light on my resolve. She told me how she’s eating these days, and it’s exactly how I need to be eating, too (not that I didn’t know how, but knowing and doing are two different things.)

Amanda inspired me to firm up my boundaries (no more nuts and fruit for dinner like I’d had the night before, “because I was travelling”—hel-lo!). She reminded me to focus my diet on a) vegetables that are both low-FODMAP and low starch, and b) clean animal foods.

Food is Love - Exhibit B
Clean animal food means: grass fed meats, wild-caught fish, pastured eggs and full fat/lactose-free dairy products, such as raw milk aged cheese and organic heavy cream. Amanda pointed out that chicken, upon which I’d been relying (so easy! so tasty!) often can cause problems due to being grain fed, and hence high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. And she motivated me to resume the beneficial practice of Intermittent Fasting (aka Meal Spacing, a critical strategy for SIBO) with more diligence and attention.

Amanda also introduced me to a podcast called The Health Edge, which I began listening to immediately on the drive home, and am now recommending to you. Check it out!

On that note, I will leave you with a promise to always be honest here, never hold myself up on any kind of pedestal, and hopefully be back soon with more recipes, tips, resources and inspiration. May you be true to yourself and successful in your efforts. Management is not so bad. We just have to be strong, and never stop trying.

xo Diana

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

SIBO Spaghetti Squash Shrimp Scampi

Before the spiralizer was invented, few food sensations could compare with the firm, toothy bite of well-cooked pasta. But there was always one exception: spaghetti squash.

Some of you may remember this unusual vegetable from your mother's Weight Watcher days. It's an oblong, yellow melon-shaped squash with golden flesh that separates into long, spaghetti-like strands after cooking. Unlike 'real' pasta, however, spaghetti squash is low in the kind of carbohydrates that feed SIBO bugs, making it a perfect food for you and me.

Spaghetti squash is more nutritious than pasta, too. A one cup serving provides vitamins and minerals including beta carotene, vitamin K, niacin, folate, calcium and iron. Plus a pinch of protein (1 gram) to boot.

But perhaps the best thing about this tasty vegetable is the cool factor. It's super easy to prepare, and it's fun to make.

Are you sold yet?

No, I don't own stock in a spaghetti squash operation. I just had one of these babies hanging around all week, so I decided to make SIBO Shrimp Scampi. Didn't follow a recipe or measure, so the amounts listed below are estimates.

Here are a few Recipe Notes.

Instead of butter, I used chicken fat-and-drippings (aka sauce) from a pot-roasted chicken. This is a uniquely flavorful ingredient I sometimes have on hand. Whenever I roast a chicken, I always pour off and save the sauce in a clean jar in the refrigerator, where it forms a thick layer of fat on top and keeps for a week or two. If you happen to have any of this precious elixir in your fridge, do use it in this recipe! Otherwise, butter will do.

I used frozen shrimp but there's no reason not to use fresh. The quantity of shrimp you'll need really depends on their size, as well as your appetite. Each spaghetti squash serves two people, so in terms of shrimp, use what you need.

If you're wondering how to make the "spaghetti", it's easy! Just drag the tines of a fork across the cooked innards of your squash, and watch the magic happen.

Finally, you'll notice an optional clove of garlic in the recipe below. Please opt out if you are new to SIBO eating or flaring. Garlic contains both fermentable carbs (FODMAPs) and sulfur compounds, a deadly combo when it comes to gas and bloating. I avoided garlic like the plague during my first two years of SIBO eating, and am only just now re-introducing it, once in a while and in tiny quantities for that hit of flavor. Garlic-infused oil is a decent substitute for fresh garlic if you want the taste without the FODMAPs.

And now....the recipe. Bon appetit!

SIBO Spaghetti Squash Shrimp Scampi

Serves 2


1 spaghetti squash
10-12 whole frozen pre-cooked shrimp, thawed
1 Tbs butter or chicken fat
1/2-1 cup chicken broth
3 Tbs chopped chives or green onion tops
1 small clove garlic, grated or pressed (optional, only for those in gut-stable mode)
pinch Himalayan salt & pepper to taste
2-4 Tbs parmesan cheese


Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, use a spoon to scoop out and discard seeds. Place prepared halves, cut side down, in baking dish filled with about an inch of water. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until fork tender. Remove from oven to cool. Each half spaghetti squash serves 1 person.

Melt butter in saucepan, add shrimp and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth (more or less depending on how large the shrimp are—this will be the sauce), garlic (if using), chives, pinch of salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Simmer, covered for 5 minutes.

Fun part: While scampi simmers, place each half cooked squash on individual dinner plate (shallow bowls are ideal) and use a fork to scrape spaghetti strands from squash, right onto the dish. You should get about 2 cups spaghetti per each half squash.

When scampi is done simmering, divide shrimp in two portions and arrange over spaghetti squash mounds. Spoon sauce over top and sprinkle with grated parm.

Monday, May 8, 2017

SIBO Snack Pack

Because eggs are one of my safe foods, I have found gently hard-boiled eggs to be a satisfying and safe snack during all stages of treatment, including maintenance. Olives as well, just not too many.

When flaring or just starting out with the diet, it's best to stick with cooked SIBO-safe foods, as they are easiest to digest. After advancing to eating raw vegetables (generally 2-3 months in for most folks), you can enjoy a yummy DIY snack pack like this!

Clockwise from top left: organic baby rainbow carrots, hard boiled egg (free-range, local), organic cherry tomatoes, Greek olive medley, guacamole.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hot Salad Bar

Unless you prepare it yourself, in your own kitchen, you can never be sure if a dish or a meal is going to be totally SIBO-safe. And then there's life in the real world, where restaurants exist. Newbies are wise to dine at home for a while as they get symptoms under control and adjust to a new way of cooking and eating. Fortunately, that phase doesn't last forever!  I've been on this journey long enough to feel comfortable taking a few risks with eating out. In general, I find salad bars and hot bars a pretty good bet. Today's lunch-on-the-go features sauteed vegetables, chicken salad and a ripe avocado-tomato medley. Besides needing to pick out the sautéed onions, the selection was near perfect. Thank you Maple Farms in Hadley, MA. It was delicious!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Fiber & Constipation: The Dirty Truth?

Since 19th century health nut Sylvester Graham (the “prophet of bran bread”) began espousing the nutritional and moral superiority of whole vs refined grains, Fiber has assumed a central role in medical lore as essential for healthy digestion and elimination.

Today, whenever issues of constipation come up, one of the first questions you get asked is "Are you eating enough fiber?" Ironically, often, the answer is "Yes!" Many people suffering from irregularity eat extremely high fiber diets. (As a former raw foodist, I myself was an excellent example of this unfortunate phenomenon.) In such cases, adding more fiber is rarely a solution. On the contrary, experience leads many people with bloating symptoms to develop a near mortal fear of fiber (think of the incredible expanding psyllium seed, and other "bulking" agents that threaten to blow your intestines up to monstrous proportions).

At any rate, in response to anecdotal evidence challenging the value of fiber for bowel health, investigators have begun asking: What if fiber isn't the constipation cure-all it's promoted to be? Research designed to answer this question, ended up with remarkable results, as evidenced by the following title:

Stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and its associated symptoms.
[Ho K-S, et al. World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Sep 7; 18(33): 4593–4596]

Here's the scoop on what went down.

Sixty-three constipated adults between the ages of 20 and 80 (median age 47) were enrolled in the study referenced above. All subjects went on a 2-week fiber-free diet. Afterwards, if they had found the fiberless plan to be beneficial in terms of constipation relief (which all of them did), they were asked to remain on as low a fiber diet as possible.

Six months later, a follow-up was performed. 41 of the patients had remained on a no fiber diet, 16 on a reduced fiber diet, and 6 had resumed their high fiber diet for religious or personal reasons. And guess what? Those in the first two groups reported significant improvement in their symptoms, while the few who went back to a high fiber diet remained as constipated as ever.
A classic "zero-fiber" meal: Roast Chicken

Patients on the zero fiber diet got the best results, improving from an average of 3.75 days between bowel movements (sound familiar?) to just 1 day (the dream!) Results for the 16 low-fiber dieters were mixed, but most people in that group also started having daily poops.

To read the entire study, click here. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the paper:

"This study has confirmed that the previous strongly-held belief that the application of dietary fiber to help constipation is but a myth."

"Constipation is often mistaken by the layman as the state of not passing stool, with the subsequent false notion that making more feces will allow easier defecation. In truth, constipation refers to the difficulty in evacuating a rectum packed with feces, and easier defecation cannot possibly be affected by increasing dietary fiber which increases bulky feces."

"It is well known that increasing dietary fiber increases fecal bulk and volume. Therefore in patients where there is already difficulty in expelling large fecal boluses through the anal sphincter, it is illogical to actually expect that bigger or more feces will ameliorate this problem. More and bulkier fecal matter can only aggravate the difficulty by making the stools even bigger and bulkier. Several reviews and a meta-analysis had already shown that dietary fiber does not improve constipation in patients with irritable bowel diseases."

"The role of dietary fiber in constipation is analogous to cars in traffic congestion. The only way to alleviate slow traffic would be to decrease the number of cars and to evacuate the remaining cars quickly. Should we add more cars, the congestion would only be worsened. Similarly, in patients with idiopathic constipation and a colon packed with feces, reduction in dietary fiber would reduce fecal bulk and volume and make evacuation of the smaller and thinner feces easier. Adding dietary fiber would only add to the bulk and volume and thus make evacuation even more difficult."
All this is GREAT news for those of us C types following a SIBO-safe diet! (Since fiber is the Great Fermenter, there is very little of it in a good SIBO protocol.) However, everyone has a different body, and a different response to food. I get terrible bloating from whole grains, but do find that a little "bulk" can sometimes push a stool through. However, I always try to keep it in the realm of the less-fermentable starchy vegetables (carrots, winter squash), sometimes Jasmine rice, and occasionally, Lundberg rice cakes.

What's your experience been with fiber and constipation. I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

NOTE: Thanks to Dr. Norm Robillard for pointing me in the direction of this groundbreaking study. To learn about Dr. Robillard's work, visit his digestivehealthinstitute.com.