RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Old Bay

Allergies Giveth (Seldomly), and Allergies Taketh Away. Mostly They Just Taketh Away.

Over the past couple of months I’ve been doing another dietary test where I eliminate all potential allergens from what I eat and then slowly reintroduce them to see if I can pinpoint problematic foods. I decided to go through this again in September after feeling miserable for several weeks.

After nearly a month of relatively clean eating, however, I was still experiencing the itchy rashes that I’d hoped would go away after eating only meat and vegetables (I avoided fruit for a time too to cut my sugar intake as much as possible. Sugar can exacerbate allergy symptoms.).

Then, two things happened:

1) I forgot to buy celery one week at the farmer’s market.

2) I tried unpasteurized cider. Because fresh-pressed cider is just too tempting in the fall. At an orchard. On a hot day.

Here’s how the celery factors in. I’ve been making green smoothies almost every morning, using a variety of ingredients, but the core ones are kale, cucumber, parsley and celery, with some source of natural sweetness mixed in (up until recently, just local honey). I even started adding hemp protein powder to make a more substantial snack.

But then I accidentally left a bunch of celery behind at the market one day. I forged ahead that week and simply omitted celery from my smoothies. The following Saturday, I picked up a bunch of celery at the market and added it back in the next morning.

Boom. Skin reaction.

I didn’t want it to be true though. Certain friends and family members of mine will probably disown me after learning of this new allergy (read on to find out why). I hadn’t meant to test celery — maybe it was something else that spurred the reaction? I decided to do a more scientific trial. I studiously paid more attention to everything I was eating and especially¬† whether the items contained celery. Today I reintroduced a food with celery in it. Itchiness set in within minutes. Crap.

Come to find out, almost everything has celery in it. And it comes in many forms — whole celery, celery juice, celery seed and celery salt. Also? Fennel and anise are related to celery. Turns out whatever doesn’t have celery in it probably has fennel or anise instead.

That’s not really true, but fennel and anise are very useful herbs/ingredients and I’d hate to have to omit them too.

But back to plain ol’ celery. Nearly all stocks have celery in them. Okay, I can face having to make my own. Actually, I was pleased to find at least one brand doesn’t have celery in its aseptic container of chicken stock. I found that out this evening while purging my cabinets of everything else that has celery in it. The local food pantry’s about to receive a lot of chicken and veggie broth/stock.

Many natural sausages and bacon (gulp) are treated with celery juice instead of sodium nitrite as a preservative. Actually, sodium nitrite is naturally occurring in celery juice, which is why they add it in. Luckily, the local farm from whence most of my meat comes doesn’t use celery juice. Okay, bacon supply is still in tact.

Here’s where I’ll take the biggest hit though. Guess what popular seasoning blend (especially here on the Shore) has celery (salt) as its main ingredient?

Old Bay.

I put Old Bay on everything. Crabs (duh), any seafood really, potatoes, tuna salad (wait, that’s more seafood), I even used to put it on eggs before I realized I was allergic to eggs. Anyhow, the list goes on. I fear I may not be able to get steamed crabs at a restaurant again. I’ll have to steam them myself.

One friend pointed out that many restaurants make their own seasoning blends for crabs and there’s a chance they don’t all use celery salt. Fingers crossed, but I’m bracing myself for the worst in the meantime. I do plan to contrive a recipe for my own version of Old Bay without celery salt.

So that’s the bad news. The worst news, actually, that I’ve had in this whole allergy discovery process.

But let’s not end this post on a bad note. Remember that cider? That unpasteurized goodness I tried at a local orchard? Well, all that amounts to is mushed up fresh apples, right?

Right. And up until now, for the past 20 years, I haven’t been able to eat fresh apples, or pears, or peaches, or plums, or… you get the idea. Turns out there’s a protein in fresh tree-borne fruit that many people, especially those with tree allergies, are allergic to. The only consolation was that the protein cooks off.

But I really wanted to try that cider! So I had a few sips. And then the best thing happened.

Absolutely nothing happened! My lips didn’t go numb. My gums didn’t start to ache. The back of my throat didn’t itch.

I had bought several apples with which to cook (I could eat those tree-borne fruits once they were cooked, after all). I took a bite out of one. Nothing but pure bliss happened.

You can’t imagine how good a fresh apple tastes after not being able to eat one for 20 years.

Since then, I’ve been eating about 3 apples a day to make up for lost time. The cider goes into my smoothies.

It’s almost consolation for losing Old Bay (at least for the time being). After all, if my fresh fruit allergy could go away, maybe I’ll be able to enjoy Old Bay again.

Let’s hope.


Chesapeake Baked Sweet Potato

(aka the best baked sweet potato I’ve ever made)

Multiply the following measurements by the number of sweet potatoes you plan to bake (tweak these to taste if you want a stronger savory flavor):

1Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp Old Bay
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

Bake the sweet potatoes for 30 minutes at 375 or until they can be pierced easily with a fork. Cut each potato lengthwise and add a pat of butter. Sprinkle on approximately one tablespoon of the above mixture. As the butter melts, it will mix with the spices into the best sweet potato topping you’ve ever tasted.

Elimination Round

Scrambled eggs with arugula and Old Bay.

This blog’s going to be taking a bit of a different tack over the next few weeks. I’ve been advised to try an elimination diet to rule out any food allergies that may be causing me problems. I am already aware of several allergies that I have to some tree nuts and fruits. I’m going to start out this diet eating only meat, veggies and a little fruit (no grains, no caffeine, no alcohol). I’ll have to stick to it for a few weeks before I can gradually start adding things back in.

Earlier this weekend, I lived it up, eating pizza, drinking beer and sangria. I gradually weaned myself off of my daily green tea and so far, so good. I haven’t had a headache yet today. I did allow myself two glasses of decaf iced tea.

Herbed grilled chicken.

Breakfast was three scrambled eggs with arugula and chives and a sprinkling of Old Bay (above). Lunch was an Italian tuna salad salad from Piazza Italian Market. I picked up some raw pumpkin seeds and roasted them for an afternoon snack. Dinner was herbed grilled chicken and grilled veggies. I nursed a lemonade throughout the day (yep, I’m counting that as fruit).

Herbed grilled veggies.

All told, it was pretty easy to follow the diet today. I’m concerned about sticking with it at work. I cooked enough chicken and veggies to take some with me for lunch tomorrow. I hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, which I’ll have with some strawberries on the side. I picked up some green grapes and carrots to snack on, along with the pumpkin seeds. Here’s hoping I can resist the temptation of all the processed foods at the downstairs cafe of my building.

Garden Update

My squash plants are gigantic and there’s already several buds on both. The zucchini plants are doing much better. Three of my tomato plants are thriving. The fourth is the runt of the litter, but I hope it will still do well. I scored a pumpkin plant from friends over the weekend, though I’m not sure it’s going to make it. The large leaves wilted on the drive home. I planted it and watered it right away, but only the baby leaves appear to be surviving. Fingers crossed. It would be so cool to grow pumpkins. I planted it in front of my tomato planter, dislodging several spring bulbs in the process. Ah well…

The Haul: Sweet and Sour Edition

I didn’t make it to the markets this weekend because I was visiting friends, but they happened to have a sour cherry tree that was ripe for picking in their backyard. I scored enough cherries to make a pie or crisp at a later date. It was a lot of fun picking the cherries with their fam (pitting them, a little less so). We probably picked enough cherries for 10 pies and the tree was still laden.

The Haul: 2011 Finale

Today was the last day of the Easton open-air farmer’s market and I’m happy to report that my freezer is now full. Here’s what I bought today:

  • 2 frozen whole chickens
  • 2 lbs. bacon
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • A lot of broccoli florets
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions

Alas, Chapel Country Creamery wasn’t at the market today so I had to run by the store for some cheese and yogurt. I needed the cheese to make this broccoli cheese soup. The recipe calls for Velveeta (WTH, Cooking Light?), but I wasn’t about to use that. I used a mixture of sharp cheddar and provolone instead.

I had to make several adjustments. First of all, I apparently had waaaaayyy more than one pound of broccoli florets and so I had to add some water to cover them in the pot. This also meant upping the amount of milk and cheese (hence the addition of some provolone as I’d run out of cheddar). I was afraid that watering down the broth would affect the flavor so I added cayenne pepper and Old Bay to the soup.

Unfortunately, it came out more watery than it should have (I don’t think it was because of adding the extra liquid — the soup never thickened like it was supposed to with the addition of the flour). I let it simmer for an extra five minutes after adding the cheese and processing part of it, but it’s still a little too thin. I’m hoping it will thicken up more as I reheat it for leftovers (of which I have 6 pints!).

I made my run to the Amish market last night, as I had other things I had to attend to this morning — there I bought milk, cream cheese, oatmeal, syrup and peanut butter. The cream cheese and peanut butter will be used in cookies I’ll be baking today and tomorrow.

I also made a Target run. I had to stock up on some snacks and other essentials for my sister’s visit at Christmas. I also bought some Oreos (gasp!) and chocolate chips (semi-sweet and white) for one of the cookie recipes.

Hey, there are a couple of times a year when I indulge in packaged foods — Christmas and vacation. I figure it’s okay to relax the rules every once in a while. I don’t want to drive those companies out of business completely after all — I just think we rely on them too much on the whole.

Stay tuned for a post or two about the cookies!

Not My Mom’s Fried Flounder

As I mentioned yesterday, I had really good fried flounder down on the OBX and wanted to try and recreate it for dinner this weekend. I found this recipe for Low Country Fried Flounder, which I think came closest to the preparation I had last week.

I had to make a few adjustments — I didn’t have any pancake flour or cornmeal, which was a bummer because the flounder last week definitely had a cornmeal crust. I simply substituted all-purpose flour for both and ground the pecans very fine. I didn’t have Guinness on hand — the darkest beer I had was a Magic Hat seasonal IPA and so that’s what I used (and sipped as I cooked and ate).

I thought this recipe called for a pitiful amount of Old Bay and at least doubled it in the flour coating in addition to sprinkling the fried flounder with more Old Bay and salt once it came out of the pan.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right utensil for flipping the flounder in the oil and so the pieces started to come apart as they fried. This didn’t really matter to me because I was going to make sandwiches out of the pieces anyhow. I piled the flounder onto potato rolls spread with tartar sauce, added thin slices of tomato and slivers of banana pepper. I could have done without the pepper strips when all was said and done, but I needed to use the pepper for something.

I ate the sandwiches with potato salad from Captain’s Ketch, where I bought the flounder.

They’re Not Crabs, But They’ll Have to Do

My plans today to enjoy crabs with friends from out of town at Cantler’s in Annapolis were thwarted today by traffic and car trouble. On my return home, I was desperate to throw Old Bay on something, anything, and call it lunch. My best option was a pile of sweet potatoes leftover from last year’s farm share.

I used Ellie Krieger’s recipe after searching around to see what my options were. It’s a fairly basic recipe and I of course adapted it by dousing the fries with Old Bay at every opportunity.

The result, while not crabs, proved satisfactory:

Not crabs, but they'll do.


Yup, the chard was a bit more palatable when thrown together with spaghetti and leftover scallops (and olive oil and pepper and Old Bay):

And Parm.