Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

This recipe draws heavily from Em Schwartz’s Low Fodmap Red Pepper Pasta, to whom I am exceedingly grateful. Desperate for a replacement for tomato sauces, I’ve been trying to find a good red pepper sauce recipe since I started eating low histamine in early 2018. Just roasting and blending red peppers leads to a sauce without any real depth; in this recipe, the pumpkin and milk add body and richness. I also add roasted carrot and celery to round out the flavour. They are my standard substitutions for onion.

Ingredients:

2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
4 red bell peppers
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 cup milk of choice
1 tbsp tapioca starch or corn starch
1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves, chopped
Salt

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Cut the red bell peppers in half and place on a roasting tray. Peel the carrots, then chop carrot and celery into 1 inch pieces and place on a roasting tray. Salt and drizzle all vegetables with olive oil.

3. Roast the red bell peppers, carrot and celery for 20-25 minutes or until pepper skins are wrinkled and carrot and celery are soft.

4. Finely chop basil leaves.

5. Place red peppers, carrot, celery, pumpkin puree, milk, tapioca starch and basil leaves into a blender. Blend until smooth.

6. Pour sauce into a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Once sauce reaches a simmer, reduce heat and continue to stir until it just slightly thickens.  Salt to taste.

This sauce can be used over pasta (I use Tinkyada brown rice pasta), as a component in Chicken Parmigiana, or as a great side sauce for meat.

Bedbound Meditation #1

Grow flowers in the garden of your bed with your mind. I know you’re not really in a garden. I know you sweated through your sheets yesterday and you spilt soup on your pillow last week and you’re still too exhausted to clean it. But today we’re going to make it a garden, because you are beautiful, and you deserve gardens.

Close your eyes. They were probably already closed, but–close them. Feel yourself from the tip of your scalp to your toes. Give those toes a wiggle, if you can. If you can’t, imagine giving them a wiggle. Feel them dig down into the squirmy earth and come up gloriously dirty. Not the dirt of a month without showering, but the dirt of living in the world. Build the loam up in your mind; it’s good earth, and you get out of it what you put in. So make it rich, caked with nutrients, aching for seed. Make it ready for the world you are about to summon out of it.

Now for the flowers. I like sunflowers, geraniums and star lilies, but you do you. Lift your hand, or imagine lifting your hand, and let the seeds spill down onto the earth of your bed. I like chaos, a riot of colour blooming around me like it were growing out of my grave, but your garden should always, always be what you like best. You can add a little fertilizer, a little rain. I’m sure you know deep down inside what will make your flowers bloom.

And now lie back. Or, you know. Stay lying back. But either way, relax. And listen to them grow.

Because this is the secret of your body. It doesn’t have to be up and doing. Even the deep ache of a sick life can make a garden grow. Those flowers are called Hope. Self-compassion. Resilience. Significance. Worth. And you have been growing them every day since you took to your bed. All we are doing now is putting faces to them.

I’m picturing you now. Arms outstretched like a queen. Hair splayed out at wild angles. Sick. Hurting. You haven’t sat up in a week. But your bed, ah, your bed. You are sailing on a sea of flowers. You grew them. You built this garden up out of the hardest soil. And even in the smallest, most hopeless hours, they will never, ever leave you.

Low-Histamine Chunky Pumpkin Soup

Earlier this year I got a new carer, and one of her first tasks as an enthusiastic cook was to come up with meals I could eat without provoking an MCAS flare. Since my MCAS reasserted itself in 2017, I’d been down to a safe list of around 10 foods. (These days I can eat around 20.) Anything else caused hives, itching, stomach problems, and psychiatric symptoms. I’d been eating the same thing for every meal for months, and the thought of it was starting to make me gag. I had to get more creative. On my first session with my new carer, I wrote out a list of ingredients I knew were safe for me and we pored over it together like pirates with a treasure map. I suggested some kind of vegetable soup, and this is what she came up with. It’s delicious, it’s healthy, and it doesn’t build up histamines so rapidly, because it’s vegan. I’m even able to eat leftovers of this one.

Ingredients:

4 carrots
1 parsnip
Half a bunch of celery
3 potatoes
Half a butternut squash or kabocha
1 sprig rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
3 leaves sage
1 29oz can pumpkin puree
1 tbsp olive oil
10-12 cups water
Salt

Method:

1. Slice the carrots and parsnip lengthways and chop into 1/4 inch pieces. Slice the celery into 1/4 inch pieces. Peel butternut squash if using (it is optional to peel the kabocha.) and cut into cubes.

2. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

3. Add the carrots, celery and parsnip and sautée for 5 min.

4. Add 10-12 cups water, depending on desired thickness of soup.

5. Finely chop rosemary, sage, and thyme, and add to the pot.

6. Let the soup cook on medium heat for 10 minutes.

7. Add the cubed squash, and cook for a further 30 minutes.

8. Add the potatoes and salt to taste. Cook for a further 10 minutes.

9. Add the tin of pumpkin puree to the stock and turn the heat down to low.

10. Cook on low for 5 more minutes, adjusting salt levels as needed.

11. Serve.

Makes 6 serves, which can be frozen. Mine go into the fridge to be the next week’s meals.

A bowl with a white and orange pattern, full of chunky orange soup, surrounded by five tupperware containers of the same soup.

Leaves And Bees And Hope

Four walls deep in the world I lie
A wildling from a wilder time,
The thought of it is how I cope:
All covered in leaves and bees and hope.

Four miles deep in the woods I walked
And listened to all the birdlings talk,
A sparrow telling its friends a joke
All covered in leaves and bees and hope.

And when I came out of the woods,
I did not think of cans or shoulds,
I thought of how the froglings croak
All covered in leaves and bees and hope.

And when I had to go to bed
I kept the woods inside my head,
A seedling–no, an envelope–
All covered in leaves and bees and hope.

Now four walls deep in the world I cease
A wildling wrestled down to peace,
I think of lovely things to cope:
All covered in leaves and bees and hope.

–Sarah Stanton

(This piece plopped out of me after I described a dress I own as “covered in leaves and bees and hope.” I thought about all the time I spent out in nature as a kid, and how much I miss being part of that world now I’m bedbound. But it’s not like it’s gone–it’s still there, in my head. And even though I miss the experience, it’s the memories that keep me going.)