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Arepas first, then story?  Or story and then arepas?  Mmmm.  Story first I think.  Then arepas (and spiced beef burgers) and you can chow.

Mark and I started this blog as a way to answer the question we are often asked: "What do you eat?"  We usually answer "Lots. Everything." and then falter with "Well we tweak things a bit.  We make almost everything..." and after a bit more stumbling around, we just shut our mouths and smile.  It is a bit awkward at best, confusing to every one more often.  But it is becoming a question we answer more and more often.

Our friends are noticing the changes in all of us and saying..."Hey, what do you eat?  What did
you change? And can we/ should we be eating it and doing it too?"  It's hard not to shout "Yes! Yes, you should be.", because maybe you shouldn't.  Maybe gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, etc. aren't the problem.

I highly recommend getting a blood test for food sensitivities. It isn't the end of the journey but it gives you someplace solid to start.  Mark went round and round with an allergist and skin prick tests with the official result being "No food allergies".  Huh?  My husband has been reactive to milk since he was 12.  It upset his digestive track, set off hay fever like symptoms in his upper respiratory system and more.  But it never showed on a skin prick so no allergy.  Five years ago he broke out in hives.  Small patches at first that gradually increased in severity until the night he woke me up and we went to the emergency room because his tongue was swelling and he looked like "The Thing", being lumpy from his knees to the top of his head.  That began constant trips to the allergist, lots of testing- skin prick and skin plaque, and the frustration of having no answers because nothing was showing up and he wasn't getting any better.  Multiple doctors essentially told us 98% of the time the reason for the hives is never found out, so take lots of medicine, grin and bear it.

I too got tired of the twice a week trips to the allergist, the number of medications  he was taking, which made him so sleepy it was hard for him to function, and the money we were paying for a doctor to tell us nothing.  On one hand there was nothing wrong, as shown by the skin prick tests, and on the other, Mark's hives were probably a response to food and that was why the hives weren't going away. He had to stay on the medication until his body changed and he stopped reacting.    I demanded an ELISA test, which the allergist was reluctant to do and brushed off the results when we got them as being "non-conclusive".   The test checks for antibodies in the blood against proteins from foods.

When it came back with positive results to gluten, dairy, oats, and yeasts, we finally had something we could work with.  We cut the foods out from his diet, mostly.  We messed up here and there.  We didn't read labels as closely as we should have or fully understand what to look for.  After all, why would a corn chip have wheat in it or a non-breaded french fry?  Slip in a little here and there, go out to dinner and cheat a little bit and you are back to square one.  But it did help.  Mark scaled back the medications he was taking.  Down to a normal dose of a single medication!  And when we slipped, he'd take an extra dose and it would be "okay".  Or at least it was controlled.  After all he'd been eating small doses of milk for years and taking an antihistamine as needed. Finally, after watching the positive changes in Mark, slow negative changes in our kids that mimicked Mark's initial problems, and our continuing frustrations with our traditional medical doctors, I began looking for someone who would actually help us manage these food issues.  Not just write another prescription for another pill and tell us that this was probably for life unless something changed physiologically.  I went to a lecture on Chinese herbal medicine.  The Herbalist, during his lecture, touched on food allergies and sensitivities, causes and what you can do to understand them, manage them and in some cases heal them.  And that has brought us to this point in our journey.  I'm the only one in the family left to be tested.  Mark is off all of his allergy medicines and feeling great.  The kids are better (and I'll tell their stories at another time) and more active.  Life is good!

And our friends are asking "What do you eat?" 

This is the start of that answer.  Enjoy!   ~Michelle

Arepas hot off the griddle!

savory corn cakes  One of our favorite ways to eat a sandwich.
2 cups masa arepa flour
1 cup warm water (more or less depending on the consistency of the dough)  
1/2 salt

Stir together the masa arepa flour, salt, and the water in a bowl.  Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes.  Long enough to ensure all the masa arepa has been incorporated and to give the dough an even firm consistency.  Make balls of dough slightly larger than a golf ball and place on plastic wrap.  Place another layer of plastic wrap over top and roll the balls into thick pancakes using a rolling pin.  Cook on an oiled medium hot skillet for approximately 10-15 minutes a side.  Alternately, cook 1-2 minutes on each side until a crunchy crust forms then place in a 350F oven to finish cooking.  15-20 minutes.

Place on a plate and cover with a towel to keep warm until serving.  Fill with your favorite ingredients and enjoy!  If you are lost for a filling try the Spiced Beef Burgers below.

Spiced burger in arepa with chips and Bunny BBQ

Spiced Beef Burgers
2 lbs ground beef
½  sweet white onion thinly sliced
½ tsp. Cumin
1 tsp Oregano
Black pepper
In in a bowl place the onions the meat and mix with ½ tsp cumin, 1 tsp oregano, a dash of salt and a heavy dash of pepper.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Cook in an electric skillet set at 350F or on a skillet on the stove set on medium high.  Cook the meat until the hamburgers are cooked through.

Spiced Burger in a taco shell

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