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Stuck on a limited diet. Help me be creative...

Dear Chowhounds:
Can you give me ideas to make my limited diet seem more varied? My nutritionist has put me on a mild plain diet to try and address food allergies. The diet is helping me, but I am very bored and this will be going on for many weeks or more. I'm hoping chowhounds can give me some good prep ideas.

I'm limited to 11 foods. I'm not allowed any herbs nor spices nor cooking oil.

1. Lamb
I've never been a fan of lamb. But I've been enjoying broiled lamb chops. I bought a leg of lamb. What is the best cooking method so it will not be greasy??

2. Chicken
I've been enjoying the plain rotisserie chickens from Whole Foods. Even without salt and pepper, they are very tasty. I've tried baking and broiling my own chicken, but it is so bland.

3. Potatoes
I'm so tired of baked potatoes.

4. Rice
Rice is good. I have several varieties. Long grain, short grain, japonica.
I'm making drinks with rice protein powder and bananas. These are not enjoyable; they are fuel. And I use rice cakes as portable fuel.

5. Bananas
Not my favorite fruit, but I eat them for the sake of variety.

6. Apples
I eat fresh apples and applesauce everyday. Not tired of them yet.

7. Cabbage
I love raw cabbage. What's the best way to cook cabbage if you can't use bacon or tomatoes?

8. Brussels sprouts
I haven't made these yet. I like the fresh ones that I buy in the Fall.

9. Brocolli
I've already eaten too much brocolli. Can't look at brocolli. I'm enjoying brocolli rabe. The "Andy Boy" bunches are all I can get.

10. Beets
Not a big fan of beets. But I've been eating canned beet slices, just for variety.

11. Spinach.
I haven't eaten any spinach. I prefer kale or mustard. I may get a box of frozen spinach to keep on hand.

QUESTION: Any way to combine these items into a soup? I can use salt, but no herbs, no alliums, no spices.

P.S. I hope we can keep this discussion focused on food prep and sourcing. Please don't give advice on nutrition or allergies. The moderators won't like it.

Thanks so much!

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  1. I was going to ask if you are allowed butter, but I see that this is it...the only 11 things you can have...no soda, no butter, no-anything-else-besides-what-is-on-the-list, is that right?

    1. Roasted real beets are yummy by themselves..Just cut them up stick them in a pan and roasted for abut an hour.Brussell Sprouts are good this way Actually all vegetables are good this way although I usually use a little olive oil. Rice...I like whole wheat basmati rice...As far as soup goes, I don't know how tasty a soup would be with out any spices
      Try cooking the bananas with the rice for a kind of rice pudding...

      1. How about stuffed cabbage? Take some ground lamb, cook it, drain off the fat, add some of that frozen spinach (or chopped fresh spinach) and some cooked rice. Wrap in cabbage leaves and steam them until the cabbage is tender. Should be tasty even without any spices.

        Sure you can make soup. Simmer some of the leftover rotisserie chicken (including bones) in some water to make broth. I like pureed soups, so I'd strain out the solids, add some potato and some broccoli to the broth and simmer until tender, then remove most of the broth, puree the veggies (and maybe some of the chicken meat) with some broth, then add the broth back in until you get the texture you want. The potato will give it a thick, creamy texture without any cream. You could also make a borscht with cabbage, potato, lamb and beets.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          I think cybermone's suggestion of roasted beets and Ruth's suggestions are both excellent. Another thing you can do is to do a water stir-fry with the meats and vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts and spinach. Just cut them into bite-size pieces or twice bite-size pieces, heat up your wok or large pot, add some water and saute with a bit of salt. You can eat it with rice or mix it up with the rice for a kind of "bi bim bap" (Korean mixed rice).

          I don't know what the rice protein powder tastes like but I've made my own rice milk by boiling some rice in some water and blending and straining them. They were quite tasty blended with a banana for a smoothie.

          You might be tired of baked potatoes, but maybe they will taste different if you top it with either the veggies or meat.

          Elimination diets are tough. I've done one but found out some interesting information about myself. I hope you don't have to do this for too long. Good luck.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            Oh, I also see that you found your own roast chicken bland. But you may want to try doing the Zuni roast chicken (without the herbs). Just salt the chicken and dry brine it for 1-3 days. The salt gets infused into the meat and makes it very juicy while getting the skin very dry and crispy. You may want to check with your nutritionist, though, as brined meat may interfere with your test results.

        2. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

          Thai Cabbage Salad - you could work with the ingredients to suit

          1. Marcella Hazan has a wonderful recipe for chicken fricassee with stewed red cabbage. It's in her "Essentials" book, but this looks about right:

            Can you have wine? If not, I assume you could always sub water or chkn broth. And you could probably cut out the onions and garlic if they're a no too.

            1. Gosh that's tough (I sympathize heavily though for I fear the GI is gonna do something similar with me.)

              I'd par-bake, then slice and grill or toast the potatoes to get a char and more flavor on the skins.

              Wonder what would happen if you cooked up some rice really really well, then pureed it with other well cooked veggies, then formed into patties and fried in a non-stick skillet or baked.

              I'd roast or grill brussel sprouts, even without oil, they'll be fine, but you could try sprinkling over some lamb or chicken stock.

              Bake some apples, though I know you're not yet tired. Or bake, puree, and stir in some chopped banana and freeze for sorbet ish.

              What if you do a variation on lettuce wraps using spinach leaves instead, and ground lamb. You can also make lamb meat balls, using cooked mashed rice as a binder, then serve w/ applesauce chutney.

              If you like cabbage cooked in bacon, render some ground lamb, and use the fat to cook the cabbage.

              You might grill lengthwise sliced bananas to get a new flavor out of them.

              I'll keep thinking on this... hope this passes soon.

              1. Definitely give real beets a try. They are so different from the cans. Roasting them wrapped in foil is delicious, and doesn't require any olive oil. You can also simply boil them, unpeeled, and they're still light years from the can. I've often heard from people who don't like beets that they enjoy raw, grated beet (with salt, at least).

                That Whole Foods rotisserie chicken has almost certainly encountered salt at some point in its journey to the display case. Lots of people recommend the Zuni method, which produces great results and requires no extra fat, but the most important principle is to salt your bird generously and well in advance (2 days).

                If it's not cheating to do so, throw in some potato chunks under your chicken. They'll roast in the drippings, yum. Also, if it's accepted (since you'd be eating it anyway), maybe you can get some of the chicken fat rendered (schmaltz) to use for roasting or sauteeing other vegetables.

                Likewise with the rice. If you decide to bake some chicken legs (salting in advance is still a good idea, even just overnight), try an arroz con pollo, and your rice will be seasoned with the chicken. Even better if you use as much of a stock as you can get from the bones of past chickens (though obv won't be the same without onion, etc, but it's still flavor).

                Try colcannon. It won't be as delicious without milk and butter, but the sweetness from the cabbage will certainly lively up your potatoes. Make mashed potatoes, and very quickly boil or steam some thinly sliced cabbage. Mix together (when/if you get cooking fat or dairy back, switch to sauteeing the cabbage with a little butter).

                You can also braise the cabbage, cut into wedges, seasoned generously, with a little water, in a dish covered with foil. Add some of the chicken fat, if you can.

                Since you've got the Whole Foods there, it's a great opportunity to explore the variety of choices for each of these, just as you're already doing witht the broccoli rabe. Try all the different kinds of potatoes (esp fingerling/new potatoes, which have such a nice flavor unembellished. Also, can you eat sweet potatoes?), try baby beets or gold beets. Cabbage alsos include napa cabbage, possibly bok choy, definitely savoy cabbage, which is delicious. You could make a nice soup with chicken, savoy cabbage, and spinach (add white beans and macaroni if/when you get them back).

                Maybe you can try the different salts, too. I know WF carries a variety of smoked salts and sea salts in the bulk aisle. That might be a way to enhance the flavor while following the diet.

                1. Oh, and if you can't use any oil or butter, you can render the fat from some chicken (aka schmaltz) and use that to fry (everything tastes better fried!). Just remove the skin with the fat attached and any visible bits of fat and heat them in a pan over low heat -- either on the stove or in the oven. It's amazing how much fat there is under the skin of a chicken! And you can use the crisp chicken skin (called gribnes in Yiddish) like bacon. Shredded brussels sprouts sauteed in chicken fat with crumbled gribnes sounds yummy!

                  1. We made a lovely soup the other day with lamb, cabbage, and potatoes. We did put a few spices in, but frankly, they overwhelmed the flavor, so it would probably be quite nice without spices.

                    I've also stuffed a chicken with vegetables--you could use the brussel sprouts and maybe some shredded cabbage or spinach--and then roasted it. The chicken flavors the veggies and they get steamed in the cavity. Delicious!

                    1. Have you tried baked apples? You don't say anything about sweeteners, but you can just bake them plain if necessary.

                      Are you allowed to eat jasmine rice? It's a plain white rice with a nice distinctive flavor.

                      I find yukon gold potatoes to be more flavorful than russets, especially if you can roast them with your chicken.

                      Grilled bananas.

                      Good luck with your challenge.

                      1. Lots of good suggestions so far - I second the ideas about roasting and grilling the vegetables - that will add a dimension to the flavor without adding spice. Have you tried poaching your chicken? The meat is very tender and can then be shredded into the poaching broth with rice and thinly sliced fresh spinach for a soup/rice bowl dish.

                        Good luck with your fast - several family members of mine have greatly lessened their allergy problems by eliminating certain foods - maybe you will also have good results!

                        1. Can you make your own cooking oil by rendering the fat from chicken or lamb? Or could you buy rendered chicken fat and use it to sautee vegetables? That would be awesome and open you up to a lot more options. I love plain rice with sauteed spinach or cabbage.

                          What about a nice crisp salad of thinly sliced apples, cabbage and roasted beets. You could also add shredded chicken to the dish and make it a meal.

                          As others have suggested, a hearty soups with lamb, chicken, potatoes, spinach/cabbage is nice. I think combining the chicken and lamb to make the broth is better than just using straight lamb because I find lamb broth too overpowering.

                          Marcella Hazan has a good slow simmered cabbage dish that I think is simple and delicious.

                          1. OP here. Thank you all so much for your encouragment!! This is exactly the sort of advice I was looking for. So many great suggestions...cooking chicken with cabbage, making potato brocolli soup, lamb in spinach wraps, stuffed cabbage, roasted beets, grilled bananas, and more. I'm a bit hesitant about cooking with chicken fat or lamb fat but will give it a try.

                            I've always loved to cook with lots of ingredients, layers, and flavors. This diet is showing me how little I know about basic cooking - like how to roast a leg of lamb or poach a chicken. I may get Mark Bittman's big yellow cookbook. This is an opportunity to develop those important basic skills.

                            Thanks to you all! I will try some of these suggestions and report back.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: val ann c

                              That's right -- make your lemons into lemonade! I wouldn't suggest cooking in lamb fat unless you really like it -- many people find lamb fat unpleasantly gamey. But chicken fat is very mild and good for lots of things.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                Yeah you are right about the lamb fat, if you do it, use it conservatively. It will probably be quiet strong.

                            2. OP here.
                              I just wanted to check in and thank everyone who gave me suggestions. While there were lots of creative suggestions here, I confess I have not been very creative with my food prep. I've made peace with the limitations and have been eating simply with the freshest, best quality ingredients.

                              Since I last posted, I have added garlic and other alliums, olive oil, sunflower oil, all sorts of greens, sweet potatoes and carrots, and occasional well-cooked white beans or chick peas.

                              With New Jersey in the growing season, there is no shortage of delicious locally-grown greens and alliums!

                              I learned that I am allergic to wheat, yeast, and dairy. I have not yet tested for soy, citrus, eggs, nuts, and chocolate -- so those items are still off the diet.

                              I tried using ground lamb, as suggested by one poster. I liked the flavor of ground lamb with spinach and rice. But lamb is just too greasy. I eat the occasional broiled lamb chop just for variety.

                              Another poster suggested poached chicken. I learned how to poach chicken properly. Made with garlic, scallions, and salt, the poached chicken is delicious and I use the meat and broth for all kinds of soups, salads, etc.

                              Another poster encouraged beets. I find I love raw shredded beets.

                              I've enjoyed exploring the many varieties of rice and potatoes. Terra potato chips are my new vice.

                              This diet has changed my life. I don't even feel deprived because I am so much healthier and more comfortable. I do miss dining out. The occasional "cheat meal" at a good restaurant is really a treat. Though is it very hard to get "back on the wagon" after a cheat meal.

                              A sincere thanks to all of you!

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: val ann c

                                Thank you so much for reporting back! It is so encouraging to know that you got such a payoff for undergoing the rigorous elimination diet (good health) and also learned about new cooking techniques and food likes along the way. Silver linings all around. And hopefully once you finish all your testing you will be able to eat out a bit more.

                                1. re: GretchenS

                                  I searched to see if anyone has mentioned vinegar...is it allowed? Rice wine vinegar can really add a splash of flavor to veggies of all kinds and preps. If you can go with balsamic, then you're really talkin' flavor! Especially for the lamb and the beets. Good luck with the rest of your diet/diagnosis (I am a former vegetarian who became soy-intolerant after pregnancy, so I feel your pain!).

                                  1. re: powella

                                    In a yeast-free diet, vinegars are generally not recommended.

                                    VAC, congratulations for making it this far! I find that a lot of people have issues with dairy and wheat and yeast. I had a patient go off of yeast because of a lot of issues. Within three days, he said it was somebody pulling the blanket that was covering his head for years. I'm glad to hear that you're feeling better.

                                2. re: val ann c

                                  So happy to hear the diet's working out! This is embarrassingly simple, but if you're still trying to embrace the spinach, I really love spinach sauteed with sliced or minced garlic, a little bit of vegetable oil, and a sprinkle of salt. Actually, I do this with any leafy Asian green... baby bok choy has the silkiest texture when done this way. Add some chicken for a quick main to have with rice.

                                  1. re: val ann c

                                    Lamb doesn't have to be greasy. Get leaner cuts, and trim the fat before cooking. Thanks for posting an update, it's great to hear progress, and thank goodness you can add alliums now! :)

                                  2. Potato, beet, spinach, broccoli soup. Throw the spinach in last so it doesn't get overcooked.

                                    1. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that all you really need to make your own saurkraut is cabbage and salt.