My IBS Journey

April is IBS awareness month, and for way too many of my years, I’ve been entirely too aware of IBS. You could say it owned me for parts of the past decade. I know many of you can relate.

So here’s my story and a few thoughts on IBS—and this applies to other digestive disorders, too.

In 2003, I started having massive digestive issues. It actually began around Easter, and I remember this distinctly, because I couldn’t manage to stomach my favorite candy eggs. I was in the bathroom 20+ times a day, and I was physically and emotionally wrecked. I lost 40 pounds, 30 in one month. I didn’t think that was physiologically possible, but indeed it was.

At that point, I was already a nutritionist, running the breastfeeding programs for DC WIC and didn’t have a clue about digestive disorders. Neither did the gastroenterologist I was seeing, apparently. He did an endoscopy (no biopsies) and a colonoscopy, and told me that since I was a dietitian I should figure it out.

In desperation, I saw a wide range of practitioners. I spent a whole lot of money, did a whole lot of tests, and not much useful happened. Lots of people told me to go on antidepressants. On a lark I went gluten-free and I was pretty immediately less miserable. It helped my digestion a bit, but the biggest change was in my fatigue, balance and stability and overall pain levels.

Over many, many years and gobs of trial and error, I’ve found the foods that fit me and those that didn’t. Getting diagnosed with SIBO really did wonders for my digestion. This happened first in 2005, then I had a re occurrence in 2010. And for many years I’ve been great without any issues. However, thanks to a recurrent dental issue needing gobs of antibiotics, I’m unfortunately staring down round 3 of SIBO.

So…key take home messages:

There’s a lot you can do for yourself. Anyone who says diet doesn’t help digestive disorders needs to update their medical reading. There’s good data on low FODMAP for IBS and IBD, SCD for IBD (I have a paper on it coming in June!) and…you know, different things work for different people. Sometimes it’s FODMAPs, sometimes grains, sometimes meat, sometimes fatty foods…we may all have different irritants.  Mindfulness can be a huge help for digestive and other pain, and so can physical activity and overall self-care.

Listen to your doctors and health care team…but not too much. Lots of doctors said I wouldn’t walk again—I can now, even if not perfectly. All the docs I consulted said PCOS is lifelong and only treatable by medication, and my levels have normalized for more than a decade without meds. I had a Sjogrens’ flare in 2011 and was told I’d have to learn to live with the symptoms, but (knock on wood) those symptoms have been gone for the last 5 years.  I do take the input of my health care team seriously, but I do my best not be limited by their expectations. I’m only interested in working with people who will help me try to get to my best and healthiest self.

And lastly—none of us have total control over our genes and bodies. The idea that our actions influence our health is really empowering and also very accurate. The flip side of that is falling into the idea that if we’ve got illnesses it’s a personal failing or flaw, and if we just work harder, everything will be perfect. So the wholesome message that we can influence our health can be distorted into a really destructive message of pain and body shame.

I think it’s important to talk about stories of hope. I can’t count the number of times people come to see me and say, I have *fill in the blank* (IBS, gastroparesis, SIBO, etc.) but no one ever gets better. That’s just not true! and it’s a sad and limiting message to hear.

If you’re interested in sharing your journey to a happier tummy, check out posts #IBelieveinyourStory from Kate Scarlata.



Posted in cheryl's musings | 4 Comments

Chocolate PB Fudge–Happy Blogniversary!

I’ve been blogging for 9 years now. 9 years! So, to celebrate, I give you fudge.

I love peanut butter. Lovelovelovelovelovelovelove. And I avoided it for years, and then gradually reintroduced it a decade later…no problem at all. So I’m making up for lost time with my beloved peanut butter.

E loves this fudge, and it was actually the dessert that disappeared first at our annual party. I adore this fudge, but my tastes can be a little…different, since I rarely eat sweeteners.  So I have ample reassurance that it has wide appeal beyond just super crunchy people like me.

And it’s easy. And you can make it ahead for a party. Pretty awesome, I tell ya!

4.5 oz unsweetened chocolate

1 cup PB (unsalted, crunchy is super-awesome)

3 TBSP coconut oil

1 cup creamed honey*

2 tsp vanilla stevia (optional)

½ tsp sea salt

¼ cup chopped salted peanuts

Melt the chocolate–90 seconds in a heavy glass bowl in the microwave, or use a double boiler. Stir in the peanut butter, coconut oil and creamed honey until combined, and then stir in the salt.

If it’s not sweet enough, add in the stevia. It seems to depend on the kind of creamed honey. Sometimes it’s already perfect without.

Pour the fudgy mix into a a bread pan lined with wax paper. Press chopped peanuts into the top.

Refrigerate overnight.

Cut into pieces and enjoy!

*creamed honey is honey with air whipped in Thanks to Shirley, I learned something new about creamed honey! It’s actually crystallized differently than regular honey. I get it at a monastery I go to, but I’ve seen it at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, too. I don’t think regular honey would work.


Posted in dessert, recipe | 1 Comment

When words fail me.

I haven’t been blogging as often for many reasons, but for at least the last year, I’ve been at a loss for how to respond to what I’ve seen happening in our country.

This is a food blog, not a political blog. But in some ways it feels frivolous to talk about dessert when it feels like the world I know is falling apart.

My father was born in Iraq, and was a refugee as a child. My (Jewish) family was forced to flee due to religious persecution. My grandmother’s biggest hurt was that her neighbors, who she once considered friends, stood by silently and did nothing to prevent violence against their Jewish neighbors and former friends.

I can personally assure you that children and adults who suffer these kind of traumas don’t just magically shake them off, and this pain and suffering affects future generations.

We are inflicting the very same kind of damage to our Muslim, Native, immigrant and trans communities right now, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s naive to believe the fear-mongering will stop there.

We, collectively and personally are deciding who we are and what we stand for. Our actions (or inaction) in the next months and year are important than ever to our country and our planet.

One of my very favorite wise women, Dianne Connelly spoke of living in a way that honors your ancestors and grandchildren. That feels like a particularly reliable compass through turbulent times. I know I will regret it if I don’t make sure that I can live with my choices decades from now.

So please. Choose kindness. For yourself, and for those around you. Maybe that’s making phone calls or writing letters. Maybe it’s donating money. Heck, maybe it’s running for office. Or maybe it’s just being much more conscious about offering kindness to the people you see every day. Especially the people you habitually pass by and don’t really see.

But choose to care. It matters.

And Genghis Khat says hi.

Posted in cheryl's musings | 6 Comments


With the Superbowl right around the corner, I’ve updated one of my very favorite recipes with a few tweaks. This always goes at warp speed at our parties. Count me in for anything that involves avocado, lime, cilantro and tomatoes!

1 avocado, diced
3 medium sized tomatoes, diced
1/2 sweet pepper (red, yellow or orange) diced
1 Tablespoon diced sweet onion
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 lime
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Add everything together, mix 20 min prior to serving, and enjoy!

While tortilla chips are the classic pairing, try jicama sticks for a nice crunch with some extra healthy fiber.

For a winter-friendly version or if you’re short on time, use a can of drained diced tomatoes instead of the fresh tomatoes.



Posted in main meal, recipe, side dish, vegetables, weekend herb blogging | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Meringue Christmas Trees

*please note, some posts on this website do contain affiliate links*

Aren’t these adorable?

I love making meringues. They’ve delicious, they’re festive, they decorate and keep well, and they work for people who are Paleo, people looking for a lighter dessert…the list goes on. They’ve been a staple over the years in Chez Harris, but I’ve recently switched to a different recipe because I didn’t want to deal with finding grain-free powdered sugar. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  • 3 egg whites–separate them a day before baking, and leave out 1 hour before making for best results
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • dash of salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground vanilla bean*
  • food coloring–I used the new Color from Nature line from Mc Cormick.

    Meringue Snowmen from

Whatever toppings amuse you.

Preheat oven to 250, and prepare 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Put a medium, flat tip in piping bag. In a pinch, you can just use a plastic bag instead of a pastry bag, and places like Michael’s are great to find these kits locally.

Whip egg whites on medium speed with cream of tartar and salt. Turn up to high speed, add sugar 1 TBSP at a time. Add in vanilla beans. Continue to beat on high for ~5-6 min, or until you have stiff peaks.

Add food coloring, and pipe out into shapes. This batch was trees, but I’ve done snowmen, ghosts, and all sorts of fun shapes. Decorate as desired.

Bake at 250 for 45 minutes. Keep oven shut and leave them there overnight.

Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

*because you don’t want to add too much total moisture, ground vanilla bean is better than vanilla extract if you’re going to color the cookies. If you’re not adding food coloring, it doesn’t matter.

*please note, some posts do contain affiliate links*

Posted in dessert, recipe | Leave a comment

Raynaud’s Survival Tips (updated)


Since I had my first Raynaud’s attack of the season last week and it’s supposed to get cold on Thursday, I figured it was time to update and re-share this post.

I was really grateful to be diagnosed with Raynaud’s a quite few years ago. No, not right way, but as soon as the dust settled, it was actually a relief. I was in such pain whenever it was cold, and it was truly unbearable. I’m sad to say I blamed myself for years, because I thought I was doing something wrong or just complaining too much.  As a teen I was at track meets with purple hands and feet, and sometimes my lips and face would turn purple! Since everyone else was okay, so I assumed that I just was whiny and needed to toughen up. (why do we do that to ourselves?) So it was actually a huge weight off to find out that there was a real reason the cold was so mat

But then part 2 is, okay then, now what?

I’ve been able to make a lot of changes by what I do and what I wear.

The best purchase I think I’ve ever made was a heated floor mat. I got a small one (above) which was about 2 foot by 3 foot, and it was a complete fail. Or at least, it was a fail for me. It was catted in about 60 seconds flat, and G would OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnot share with me, no matter how much I begged. So now I have a big one, and it’s often catted as well, but there’s room for the two of us. Yes, it’s pricey, but I honestly think it’s the best investment I’ve made in years in my health, and I think that’s made a bigger difference for me than anything else. I am pushing for heated floors for my work space at home (eventually) but because that’s so expensive, it’s going to be a while.

I also have a ridiculous amount of clothes from Under Armour that I wear every day under my normal clothes, just about from November to April. My favorite? The base 4 leggings. They’re supposed to be for going outside in “brutal cold”, I need to wear them even INSIDE daily, just to avoid the numbness and tingling. And for super duper cold days?  They have extreme coldgear leggings, which are thicker and not as comfortable, but they’re such a huge help for my circulation so I don’t mind being bulky. I hate to admit it, but when it’s really cold, I have to wear both–and pants over them. It’s the only way to go outside and walk on the coldest of days.

It’s annoying, but such a big help! It’s kinda painful to spend $90 on a pair of pants, but I wear them every day so it kinda-sorta evens out. The UA site also has an outlet which I tend to stalk to get more stuff. More recently, My Fitness Pal has been sending out some decent coupons for Under Armour as well, so that may be a help, too. I also really like that they have pants for short people like moi and that they have the leggings numbered by coldness rating. I did try out the leggings from Nike and I found the site really hard to navigate and didn’t like how those leggings fit, either.

I’ve got the UA gloves, but I’m not crazy about those and still looking for something that may work better. Suggestions are welcome.

The combination of wearing leggings/warming shirts under my clothes and OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAusing the heated floor mat daily makes all the difference in the world. I honestly can’t imagine how I managed to deal with the pain and numbness  all those years…and I can’t believe it took so long to realize how simple the solution was!

So weeks like this one aren’t super comfy, but they’re doable. Between all that stuff and an ungodly number of blankies, I’m all good.

I know most people don’t have to go to such extremes, but honestly, I can’t believe that it took me so many years to realize that this was a necessity for me and take it seriously, and I’m sure I’m not the only one out there.

*please note, some posts do contain affiliate links*

Posted in news | Leave a comment

Pumpkin carving XV

food-leftAh yes, yummy Autumn food. We just finished our 15th (!!!) annual pumpkin carving party, and it was so much fun seeing old friends. Of course, we’ll be fishing pumpkin seeds out from random places for a few months, but that’s par for the course.

Lots of delicious food, and a few new recipes that I’ll share ASAP.


Hot mulled apple cider


caramel dip

Raw caramel dip from Whole Life nutrition and honey crisp apples




Spinach and artichoke dip. I’ll share the recipe soon, I promise!spinach-artichoke-dip







apple crisp 2013

Apple crisp Vegan, grain-free—one of my very favorites




Chocolate Chip Cookies: I do believe there would be a riot if I didn’t make Carrie’s cookies every year.






Amazing…new recipe. I’ll have to post it soon. It was E’s favorite.

Chocolate PB fudge


pretty pralinesPralines  This batch is made with a classic recipe


Brownies (see pic above) I used a new recipe because I wanted  a flaky top. And it WAS flaky…but it didn’t fill out the pan well, so I’ll need to tweak that.

My Sweet Potato Pie (pictured above)

Pumpkin Paleo Bread:

I used this recipe, and good good feedback.

We did have food, even though most people didn’t notice. I made this White Chicken Chili, and I absolutely love it. It was in the crockpot, and super simple.

I need a nap…and I’ll be happily eating leftovers for the next week!


Posted in dessert, recipe | 1 Comment

Nourishing Meals: a review!

nm-front-coverI was excited to receive Ali and Tom’s newest book, Nourishing Meals. The book has a great balance of recipes, which are great for any/every body, and information about why a whole food diet supports the body. All recipes are gluten-free, dairy and soy free and whole food based. Some are grain free, some are egg free, etc. and they’re clearly marked so that it’s easy to find recipes that meet your needs.The biggest dilemma was what to make first!

Just a few of the recipes that caught my eye:

  • Grain-free coconut flour flatbreads
  • Spicy black-eyed pea soup
  • Sauteed Brussels sprouts with shallots and cranberries
  • Rutabaga fries
  • Herb roasted halibut
  • Plantain tortillas
  • banana coconut cookies
  • raw vanilla white chocolates
  • chocolate brownie cupcakes

I really wanted to make the rutabaga fries first because I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a rutabaga, but alas, I couldn’t find one. So, raw-chocolatesum, twist my arm, I made the raw vanilla white chocolates.

The raw vanilla white chocolates were ridiculously easy to make, and the flavor is luscious. I made the cashew butter at home, which was simple. The recipe took maybe 5 minutes to make, and then time in the freezer, of course.The only difficulty is not caramel-dipeating too many!

Also, I do want to give a shout-out to the raw caramel dip. I’ve been using Ali’s recipe for years, and it’s a hit every single year.

You can order the book here, and there’s even a bonus ebook on healthy gluten-free school lunches.

Note: I have not been paid or otherwise compensated for this post–my review is because I like this book! I did receive a free copy, at my request.

Posted in review | Leave a comment

Voluntary allergen statements…

Seen the new headlines on labels and gluten? There’s a new study out and it’s worth a blog wf-almondspost, both because it’s important, and easy to misunderstand.

Tricia Thompson of Gluten-Free Watchdog, Trisha Lyon and Amy Jones authored Allergen advisory statements for wheat: do they help US consumers with celiac disease make safe food choices?  Yes, this is a small study, but it’s an important conversation to have.

First, allergen advisory statements are those pesky statements you see on the chocolate bars you’ve been lovingly eyeing. You know, those times where the product looks delicious, the ingredients look fine, and then you see the “made on shared facilities” “made in a shared factory” or similar statements seen on packages. Most people see those as warnings of increased risk of gluten contamination, and allergy guidelines recommend removing those products, but according to this study, products with those warning statements were no more likely to contain gluten or wheat than products without.

Those statements have been a long-term irritant from my perspective, because a) they’re confusing and b) they’re voluntary, and people often don’t realize a statement that has that comment may have the exact same amount of risk as packages without. Most people I see are avoiding the “made in a factory” statements and choosing products without those warnings–and that may give a false sense of security.

But (and this is a big deal) you’re still best off with a package marked “gluten-free” and preferably with a gluten-free certification, such as GIG’s or CSA, especially for flour or grain products. That hasn’t changed.

Bottom line: FDA needs to do a better job and actually define those statements–or better yet, require companies to monitor and/or eliminate cross contamination with major allergens. We, collectively, can and should be doing better. So many people’s health is at stake.


Posted in news | Leave a comment

Simply Gluten-Free’s 5 Ingredient Cookbook–Review

meal from carols book

Have you seen Carol of Simply…Gluten-Free’s new cookbook, Simply Gluten Free 5 Ingredient Cookbook: Fast, Fresh & Simple! 15-Minute Recipes ? I’ve been having fun with it. I’ve only had it 3 days, and I’ve made 3 recipes, and I’ve got a bunch of dog-eared pages. The No Bake Pistachio Chocolate Truffle Cake is definitely happening next weekend.

First of all, like all of Carol’s books, pictures are amazing, and there are pictures for every single recipe. Part of what I like is that all the recipes are pretty simple dishes that happen to be gluten-free and most are the kinds of things I like to make.potatoes grilled Many are dairy/soy/egg/grain/sugar free, and there aren’t a ton of gluten-free flours used, which I see as a big plus.

I made the garlicky grilled potatoes with cute little red potatoes I got at the Farmer’s market, and garlic and onions from my garden. It was simple and delicious, and I adore grilling, because it means my husband does all the work 😉 They were perfect and creamy, and had some awesome browned bits. My potatoes will be up in a month or so, and this would be a great way to use the little ones.

I used the same skillet for the Shrimp Scampi, so we were starting out with even richer pan juices. I haven’t made shrimp scampi in years and had forgotten how simple and carol's white bean dipdelicious it is to make. I used olive oil instead of butter, which worked perfectly.

I also made the White Bean Dip, and it took all of 3 minutes to put together. It’s a nice change from hummus, and I’d probably add in rosemary or thyme the next time around. Or roasted garlic? The possibilities are endless, and this was a simple and delicious template for any bean dip.

I’ve worked on the Simply Gluten-Free Magazine, Carol’s mag for years, so I know Carol’s work, and I was excited even before I got the cookbook! I did receive a copy of this book at my request, but I was not paid for this review.


Posted in review | Leave a comment