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Crohn’s, Cooking and Me: Debbie comes to terms with her fear of Covid and revaluates her diet

Debbie Hamilton in her kitchen.
Debbie Hamilton in her kitchen.

Autumn is just around the corner and the darker nights are beginning to creep in, although it does still feel like summer outside today.

I am making the most of the sunny days as I doubt whether there will be more days like this left this year.

Where do I start with this month’s column? It has been a difficult few weeks, to say the least, which have resulted in me doing a lot of soul searching. I think everybody reaches a pivotal moment in their life where you just stop and re-evaluate what is important and remind yourself that we are only here for a short time.

At a loss

Some may know from my previous column that I lost my dad to Covid right at the beginning of the pandemic, around the same time as all the shielding letters started arriving from the government.

Looking back on it now I was in a bad place, still struggling with my diagnosis then trying to come to terms with my dad’s stroke, which was life changing for him.

Debbie before her second does of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Then suddenly this worldwide pandemic hit and I was classed as “clinically vulnerable”. The letters stated I shouldn’t even sit in the same room as other members of my household or even get outside for a walk.

All this at the same time as Dad was dying from this virus, it has left me deeply affected – more than I ever thought it had.

I was frightened by the virus, my husband and kids hearing over and over again that I didn’t want it being brought into the house. As if we had some kind of control over it, it would be a different state of affairs if this was the case.

Tackling her fear

Well my biggest fear came true last month as my 16-year-old daughter tested positive and I fell apart, trying to cope with a fear that she would get really ill, or that she would pass it on to me and I would end up really ill.

I knew that I had a bit of a fear surrounding the virus but I didn’t realise how deep it ran. Knowing she was poorly in her bedroom and I couldn’t go in and see her or give her a cuddle was awful, I was so stressed for the 10 days she was isolated that my Crohn’s symptoms started to kick in.

Then I fell off my self-made bandwagon, my diet was horrendous.

Fuelled by the steroids I am still currently taking, I ate what I wanted when I wanted – dietary advice I try to give others was completely out the window.

Then I hit a wall last week, resulting in a night of pain, nausea amongst other symptoms – 24 hours where my body paid me back big time. A sleepless night resulted in me thinking long and hard about my situation and my diet.

If I don’t follow my rules it is only me that will pay the price? Why put my body through this?

I am now on day four where I am completely gluten free. I have cut out processed sugars, caffeine and lactose too and within 48 hours my symptoms stopped and I felt so much better.

So now if I am out for a meal I am not going to be too embarrassed to ask for the gluten-free options or to ask for soya milk in my coffee. Why would that make me feel embarrassed? In all honesty I have no idea. I am still a work in progress, I suppose.

This month has been a bit slow on the cooking front for reasons as explained above but I have had some days where I made the right choices.

The garlic prawn linguine.

Seafood is still playing a large part of my diet, garlic prawn linguine is an awesome dish – if you love prawns and garlic this you need to try.

For lunch I have been trying different salads, broccoli and an egg and feta salad which was given to me by Anna at the local farm shop. It was so yummy and the garlic dressing is one I will be using time and time again.

Another salad was my chicken and avocado version with a honey and mustard dressing – this was a massive hit with the family. The dressing would go well with lots of different types of salad so is definitely a winner.

My husband and I are massive cheese lovers, baked Camembert is our go-to for our treat night.

I usually serve it with roasted garlic and a good-quality bread – usually garlic bread (I can never have enough garlic). But I tried to do something a little different, it is my new favourite thing and you have to try it – you will not be disappointed!


Baked Camembert with garlic, chilli and tomatoes

Serves 1-2

Ingredients

  • 3 good-quality cherry tomatoes, deseeded if needed
  • 1 Camembert cheese round
  • Half a chilli (choose your heat and seeds removed if required)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to season

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 160C Fan/180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Take your chopped tomatoes and salt them with sea salt, allowing them to sit for a short time to allow the flavour of the tomatoes to intensify.
  3. Next take the cheese out of its packaging and place in an oven proof dish – large enough to comfortably take the size of the cheese.
  4. Cut diagonal lines across the surface of the cheese being careful to not cut into the sides, this will help the cheese hold its shape.
  5. Next, add your tomatoes, chilli and garlic sprinkling it over the top of the cheese allowing some to tumble down the sides.
  6. Pour your oil and balsamic vinegar over the top of the cheese, add black pepper then pop into the oven for around 15 minutes.
  7. Serve with your favourite bread or enjoy it just on its own.

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