Thursday, March 14, 2013

Three Nutrious Recipes for a Clear Liquid diet

I spent the last week on what the doctor calls a clear liquid diet.  It's not much fun.  There are all sorts of reasons why a doctor might recommend this, but in my case it comes from a reoccurring problem with my gut.  When I eat a food that I'm sensitive to then my digestion shuts down and there is much pain.  It's my primary motivation for cooking everything from scratch and why I started this blog.  Surely I'm not the only one out there with these interests.

By making my meals from ingredients instead of ready-made food-like items, then I know everything that goes into what I eat.  But every now and again, I grow slack, eat something where I don't know who made it, and this is what happens.

For the clear liquid diet, the doctor recommended for me to have mostly fruit juice and broth.  No tomato, no dairy, low to no fat, and for me no soy.

The biggest problem I had with this diet was that there is nothing to grab hold of the 'food' in the stomach and slow release it.  Bread, pasta, and other carbs hold on to the food and slow the digestion, which makes one less likely to spike your bloodsugars.  Protein also helps regulate how the body absorbs energy from the food.  On top of all this, the fruit juice is very high in sugars, so my first day on this diet was a real roller-coaster.  Even without diabetes  I could feel my bloodsugars soar and plummet in the space of a few minutes.  It was exhausting and, well if you know a person with diabetes  you know how dangerous it can be.

Day two, I focused on broths and strained soups, with a bit of watered down fruit juice.  This went much better.  I didn't want to just use packet and cube broth because there tend to be a lot of salt (and finding a soy-free broth is not easy).

As I didn't know how long this diet would go on (a couple of days or a couple of months) I wanted pack as much nutrition as I could into liquid form without, and since puréeing food is not an option (I checked with my doctor)  I read a bit then set to work making broths.

Here are a few recipes that I enjoyed the most.

Soy Free Miso Soup

This can be made vegan friendly by making the dashi stock from just kombu (seaweed) and leaving out the bacon.

Speaking of bacon, check with your doctor specifically about bacon, even as a flavouring for your soup broth.  In some cases this is a huge no-no.  Given that I'm using my own home made bacon and I know exactly what went into curing it, I felt okay to put a small amount in my soup.

For the Dashi Stock  

See Just Hungry's post for a more in depth look at making Dashi.

About 4 inches of Kombu
Generous handful of dried fish like tiny anchovies, or shrimp
Small handful bonitio flakes
South River makes a soy free miso
that is rather chunky

Note how we are using so much more in this than usual, that's because we are just eating the broth and trying to get as much flavour into it as possible.

  • Put the Kombu in the water and soak for at least 10 min.  
  • Add the fish and bring to a slight boil.  Add the fish flakes.
  • Simmer for about 10 min.  You don't need to strain because we will be straining it as we pour it into the mug.

For the miso soup

Soy free Miso paste (or you can use any good regular miso paste if you can handle soy).  I'm using South River Chick Pea Miso paste, which is chunky  which is fine most of the time, but for this, it needs to be mashed into a paste before using
About 1" of 1 rasher of bacon chopped
one green onion.

  • Add the miso paste and bacon to the Dashi and simmer for about 10 min.
  • Just before serving, turn off the heat and add the green onions.
  • Strain into a mug.

Roasted Chicken Broth in a slow cooker

If you are a fan of roasting whole chicken, then you probably have a few carcases in your freezer.  But if not, then you can either leave the house while the rest of the family enjoys a roast chicken or you can buy some chicken bones from your local butcher.  It won't have the same flavour with raw chicken bones as with roasted, but it will still be very yummy.  

Just know that either way, if you choose fresh or roasted, the better quality the bird, the better the broth.  

1 chicken carcase from a roast chicken, or the equivalent amount of bones (fresh or frozen is fine)
One onion
2 carrots
Two gloshes (larger than a glug) of a natural vinegar like apple cider
Bay leaf
3 pepper corns
1 large Tbs salt
(if you like some other veg like celery, fennel, whatever.)

  • Wash and roughly chop the veg.  No need to peal anything, although personally I peal the onion.
  • Put the carcase and everything else in the slow cooker.  Cover with water.  Put on high for at least 2 hours, then turn to low.  About 8 hours later (I do this overnight) it should be done.  
  • Strain and put broth in fridge, and when it's completely cool skim off the fat from the top.
  • Heat up to serve.  If it's too mild tasting, you can lightly fry some garlic in the bottom of the pan before adding broth, bring to boil, add salt to taste.  Strain into a mug.

Why Vinegar?  It helps extract nourishment from the bones and reduces any gamy taste that the meat may impart into your broth.

Why skim the fat?  Well, normally I'm a huge advocate of having more brain healthy fats in the diet, but in this instance, one wants to avoid anything that makes the digestive system work hard, which includes fat.

Bone Broth

Herbs and spices
This recipe is more a guideline than an actual recipe.  There are many ways of making bone broth.  I like a stronger vegetable flavour to the broth and use the bones more as added nutrition than flavour.  

Lamb bones are best if you are having trouble with inflammation   It's one of the only  meats they recommend for a low-inflammation diet.  But they aren't always easy to get, so my second choice would be ox tail for flavour.  Any marrow bone would do however.

Get out your cast iron pot if you have one.  Not only does it have great heat distribution  it adds trace amounts of iron to your food.

Some veg ready to go in
Some bones, lamb, goat, beef, or even oxtail if you can get it

1 large, sweet onion
2 carrots
2 stick cellery
1/2 inch ginger
some fennel fronds
several cloves of garlic
a handful of fresh thyme (or herb of your choice)
2 bay leaves, 4 pepper corns, a pinch of chily flakes, 1 Tbs sea salt
Generous glug of natural vinegar like apple cider or wine

  • place a generous glug of olive oil in the bottom of the pan, preheat on medium while you chop the onions.  Fry the onions slowly at medium to medium low heat while you chop up the rest of the veg.
  • Wash the rest of the veg and herbs (no need to peal the carrots so long as it's well washed) and divide into two sections.  Hard veg like carrots, celery sticks, and the stocks of the fennel fronds go roughly chopped in one pile, and soft veg like thyme, fennel leaves, and spices go in another.  
  • When you've got the rest of the veg ready, crank up the heat on the onions and stir constantly until it just barely starts to brown.  
Fry the onions

  • Toss in the hard veg (carrots, celery, &c) and fry while stirring for about 3 to 6 min until they start to sweat (this helps release more flavour to the broth).
  • Turn down the heat and add the bones, vinegar, and some cool (not too cold or you may damage the pan - but you want cool water as it helps bring more flavour from bones and veg.) water so that it comes almost to the top (leave room for bubbling and for adding more stuff.)
  • Bring to a boil, then add the rest of the ingredients  and simmer for several hours.  At least 4 hours. Skim off any froth you see forming on top.
  • broth simmering away
  • Taste and add more salt as needed.
  • Turn off the heat and let cool for a short time, then strain and place the broth in the fridge.  
  • When completely cold, the fat will be hard and floating on the surface, skim this off.
  • Reheat to serve.

 Don't skimp on the herbs, they are full of amazing super-food-goodness-stuff.  Add a whole 'nother layer of nourishment to your meal.

Here's a tip to add more nutrition and keep your bowels happy during this difficult time; HOWEVER, it's very important to ask your doctor specifically about this before you try this as it can be counterindicated in some situations.

If you make your own kimchi or sauerkraut (not the stuff that's been heat treated or from a can) then you can add one tsp of kimchi or sauerkraut juice to each mug of broth (but not to the boiling liquid as it will kill off the good bacteria).  This adds flavour and probiotic bacteria that will help repopulate your gut with healthy (I'm pretty sure the word I'm looking for here is flora, or is fauna?).

Over all, the key with this clear liquid diet is have a little bit constantly and not try to have set meals.  There aren't that many calories in broth, so unless you go completely overboard (which is doubtful when you feel this miserable) you are not going to have a problem.

One nice thing about this clear liquid diet is that it's affordable, healthy (when guided by your health care professional) and not too challenging to make yummy sustenance.  Chop, Fry, Boil, Strain (easier than pasta).

On a personal note, one of the best things that has come out of all this mess is that I had my blood tested for all sorts of vitamin insufficiencies.  Not only did all the results come back fine, they came back IDEAL!  According to the doc, I have perfect amounts of nutrition in my blood, they can tell how well my body is using things like iron, and the ratios between Cal., Mag. and Zinc.  It's better than most healthy people.  And for a person with a dodgy digestion and who shuns supplements (except in extreme cases) I'm doing so well, they want to retest me to make certain it wasn't a lab error.  (but I know it wasn't).  Well, actually, I'm surprised the iron and B vits are so well balanced given that I eat very little meat (maybe an oz or two a day, not including poultry and fish - even if I'm always blogging about it), and only eat beef every few months.  I must be doing something right.

By stocking my kitchen full of ingredients (instead of ready-made foods) and pairing my foods together in a way to maximize nutritional absorption (fermented cabbage like Kimchi or Sauerkraut with pork, Olive oil with Tomatoes) and by eating a lot of live culture foods, I've managed to create a balanced diet.

Now, if only I could learn not to eat stuff made by strangers.

Once I get some of my energy back, I'll write a post for you about transitioning from a clear liquid diet back onto solid foods.


  1. Thank you for your encouraging words. Starting this today.

  2. Really helpful. My Dad had surgery for bladder cancer. Strangely this entails surgery to the bowel and because of a prolonged recovery he is on day 16 of clear fluids!! This is just what the doctor ordered! Thanks x