…hey figland. it’s me.

(tap tap) “Is this thing on? Testing one, two.”

Hey there, Fancy Fig friends. Long time no blog, right? Sorry about that. I am writing to you from a sassy and sweet new little kitchen. I don’t really have any cooking-related news for you. No crazy endeavors, no new recipes, no dynamite photographs. But, as I look back on recent posts, I still get weak in the knees looking at those amazing Cook For Love soft pretzels I made back in March. That needs to happen again, soon. I would eat soft pretzels every day for the rest of my life if I could, mustard included.

I’ve mostly been trying to keep up with my routine and staying stocked up on my low-protein staples.

Merry Christmas to y’all. Have a wonderful New Year. I hope to be up and running again soon, hopefully with some sort of awesome edible to share.


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guest post: pregnancy and maternal PKU, part III

Michelle Hobbs, a PKU patient from Seattle and mother-to-be, shares her pre-conception and pregnancy journey. This is the third post of a three-part series on her experience with maternal PKU. If you wish to follow Michelle’s third trimester progress and life experiences with PKU you may visit her blog Eat.Run.Live.PKU. Learn more about maternal PKU here.

This is my advice for any pregnant PKU’er:

Take it one day at a time.

It is easier to focus on a single day at a time. It easily becomes overwhelming, especially during the first trimester, when you start to contemplate the rest of the pregnancy. There were days and still are, where I freak out in my own mind despite knowing levels are in range. I think this stems from childhood and it being drilled into my head all that could go wrong with a PKU pregnancy. Add in the fertility struggles and the general variables in pregnancy and it’s amazing to me that I have not pulled all my hair out at this point, it will all be worth it.

Find an OB you feel comfortable with.

Make sure you have an OB that you have a good rapport with, listens to your and has your best interest at heart. Someone who shows the willingness to work with your other healthcare providers and be given a little direction.

Choose a PKU clinic you feel comfortable with.

Good communication with your PKU providers is essential. I live in Washington and go to a clinic in Portland, Oregon.  It is a bit of a commute but we communicate very well over email and they happen to have “My Chart” a hospital based online portal to communicate with patients regarding blood results, messages, etc.

Be your own health advocate.

I believe in being my own health advocate, I do not expect every doctor to understand PKU to the degree I do. Doctors have specialties and if they were a “jack of all trades,” they would not be a specialist. Outside of my PKU clinic I make sure I inform my doctors about PKU and I even brought in an envelope full of maternal PKU information to my OB. We did meet with him before we even started “trying” and made sure he would be willing to work with us, my PKU clinic and up for the overall “challenge” since I would be his first PKU patient. To our surprise, 3 years later, we walked in…pregnant and he was already working with a pregnant PKU’er…he has 2 of us at one time!!

Build a support system around you.

I am very fortunate to have a very supportive husband. He even cooks for me from time to time. This has been very helpful when I have been too tired to cook myself. I also have a very supportive family and amazingly supportive friends.

Have a system set up.

However you track your phe intake, have a system in place for tracking phe, preparing and carrying formula, food preparation and knowing what you have on hand for food ingredients. Being organized and prepared is a huge help with the PKU diet.

This concludes the three-part guest post by Michelle Hobbs on pregnancy and maternal PKU. If you wish to follow Michelle’s blog, visit Eat.Run.Live.PKU


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guest post: pregnancy and maternal pku, part II

Michelle Hobbs, a PKU patient from Seattle and mother-to-be, shares her pre-conception and pregnancy journey. This is the second post of a three-part series on her experience with maternal PKU. If you wish to follow Michelle’s third trimester progress and life experiences with PKU you may visit her blog Eat.Run.Live.PKU. Learn more about maternal PKU here.

Many people have asked what it is like to have 1350mg phe (27g protein) to work with versus my pre-pregnancy 500mg phe (10g protein) and honestly it has not been as easy as I thought it would be. I have the advantage of being a dietitian and feel that has helped. We (I say we, because I involve my hubby in every decision about my diet!) have chosen not to add animal protein in for 2 main reasons; 1. We plan to try for more kids right away and the minute I have this baby my phe intake will go right back down to 500mg per day and 2. Having a background in nutrition I know most animal protein has 7g protein per 1oz and not a lot of calories, if I add in even 2oz chicken the calories would not benefit me. I will admit to eating a hot dog when we were out of town at a BBQ and I turned to Jeremy (my husband) and told him, “I would rather have a portabella mushroom, it tastes better!”  I have loved vegetables all my life and fruit has been my main craving over the last 32 weeks.

With the increased phe intake I have played around with a few different foods; quinoa and avocado, chickpeas in salad with salad dressing, breads with olive oil, avocado, hummus, almonds, Kind bars, sherbet, low protein pasta with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese, kale, Swiss chard and working to incorporate many more greens that are higher in phe (spinach, mustard greens, more kale and peas)!  I LOVE cupcakes too…I LOVE both the Cook for Love cupcakes and a local bakery that makes cupcakes; I estimate them at 200mg per cupcake and my level was not affected.

MENU SAMPLE: A Day in the Life of 1100 mg phe*

MichelleHobbsMenuClearly my struggle is calories and I am working on that. The good news is that the baby’s growth is on track! In addition to my phe intake, my prescribed protein from formula is 70g per day. I tend to go between 70-90g protein from formula per day. I have been using Phenylade MTE AA Blend, Phlexy-10 Tablets and just now am tolerating Restore Light and Bettermilk Orange again. MTE AA Blend is not a formula that contains a lot of vitamins and minerals; I take them in addition to my formula. I really like MTE AA Blend and tolerate it well. I am happy to take additional vitamins and minerals to offset the need to switch to a formula I know I would have trouble getting down.

My daily vitamin and mineral supplement intake includes: Kuvan 14 pills, Prenatal, B-complex, Folic Acid, baby aspirin, and calcium.

*Michelle was at 30 weeks and 1100mg phe (22 g protein) at the time she wrote this entry. 

Stay tuned for Pregnancy and Maternal PKU, Part III with Michelle Hobbs. She shares encouragement and advice for PKU moms-to-be based on her personal experience. 

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guest post: pregnancy and maternal PKU, part I

Michelle Hobbs, a PKU patient from Seattle and mother-to-be, shares her pre-conception and pregnancy journey. If you wish to follow Michelle’s third trimester progress and life experiences with PKU you may visit her blog Eat.Run.Live.PKU. Learn more about maternal PKU here.

Growing up it was drilled into my head that pregnancy must be planned. Levels need to be between 2-6mg/dl for a successful pregnancy and the fear was set in at an early age! I can honestly say one of the greatest experiences I had, as a young adult was attending the Emory Metabolic Camp for girls. I listened carefully and watched with very wide and open eyes as an adult told her story about following a less than optimal diet while pregnant. As tears fell down her face all I could think about was how brave she was to sit in front of us and share her experience about her baby who had been affected by not following the PKU diet while pregnant. It was at that exact moment that I knew there was no other option to having a healthy child. EVERY female pku’er should attend this camp at some point in their life!

Fast forward 10 years and here I was a dietitian (who had the privilege to work in a metabolic clinic with PKU patients), married and about to dive into the fertility challenge I never imagined we would face. I will save the details for a different day, after 3 years of a fertility battle (unrelated to PKU) we are currently 32 weeks pregnant with a healthy baby boy!!! I would be lying if I told you I have been faithful to my PKU diet my whole life, I tend to be a bit “laxed” when life’s craziness takes over and well college…that was a different story! I managed to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Science and looking back, probably could have done better with a stricter diet but try to live my life without regret as much as possible.  I can say when I ventured outside my allotted phe range it was mainly increased breads, pasta, starches, etc.

Needless to say my diet was perfected by the time we began to conceive and during the fertility challenge I decided to add Kuvan into the mix, I was able to increase my phe intake from 350mg per day to 500mg, not a huge increase but enough to increase my calorie intake! I also feel much better with taking Kuvan; less mood swings, increased energy and just a better clarity! My husband loves Kuvan even more than I do.  Yes, I am still taking it and feel 100% comfortable using it during this pregnancy – I did my homework and if you are contemplating it, suggest you do too!

I have been one of the “lucky ones” in that I had very little morning sickness, nausea, etc. and my levels have maintained within good control. My goal has been to keep between 2-4mg/dl.  At my clinic visit last week, I was told my average level during this pregnancy has been 2.4mg/dl, the lowest level being 0.7mg/dl and highest of 6.0mg/dl.  My phe intake has increased from 500-1350mg as of now and I have been informed the third trimester (where the baby grows the fastest) is where my blood phe levels will likely continue to decrease and I will  continue to increase my phe intake in addition to my calorie intake based on my blood phe levels. Adequate calorie intake continues to be my nemesis throughout this pregnancy.

Stay tuned for Pregnancy and Maternal PKU, Part II and Part III with Michelle Hobbs. She shares how her diet has evolved throughout pregnancy (including a menu example) and personal advice for PKU moms-to-be. 


Filed under diet management, guest post, meal planning

soft pretzels

Finished Pretzels

Hi. How are you? Long time no blog. It’s April! I can’t believe it! And it’s snowing.

On second thought, maybe we ought to avoid weather conversation for sanity’s sake. Let’s move right on to pretzel-y things. It probably is no surprise to you by now…I made pretzels. Soft pretzels. Soft delicious pretzels. Soft delicious pretzels that are PKU-friendly. Soft delicious pretzels that are PKU-friendly that I could eat every day forever and ever. PRETZELS. It’s a savory dream come true. Let’s be honest: There is a shortage of tasty low protein savory treats.

Here is my confession: These pretzels are the most delicious and satisfying PKU baked good that I have ever made. It was a bittersweet experience really. It was amazing…but are all my future low protein cooking endeavors destined to live in the shadow of these pretzels? Or maybe every time I make something from a yeast dough it will feel like this first experience with Cook For Love’s soft pretzel recipe. I hope the latter. Then I can sing, “It feels like the first time…it feels like the very first time.” Now I am tempted to write an entire song parodying a Foreigner hit. I’ll spare you.

Back to the pretzels. I was really intimidated by this recipe. I am not what I would consider to be a dough savvy person. Maybe I’ve been burned a few too many times (figuratively speaking) by finicky PKU bread recipes. But one not-so-warm March day during my spring break, when I was feeling very courageous, I did it. I made some soft pretzel dough and I tried my hand at pretzel twisting for the first time ever.

Much to my surprise, they turned out wonderfully beautiful. Very pretzel-y indeed. I’m perfecting my tricks. As a forewarning, they have sort of a corpse-ish color when you boil them (sorry for the imagery), but don’t let that deter you. They turn a lovely golden-brown in the oven (thanks to the baking soda and sugar). I enjoy these guys with a stone ground mustard, but I know Brenda (founder of Cook For Love) has a cheese sauce recipe on her site that might interest you as well.

You can find the recipe for the pretzels here. Below are photos documenting my experience, which hopefully will give you an idea of what to expect at various steps throughout the recipe. Good luck and enjoy!

Soft Pretzel Ingredients

Pretzel Starter

Dough Consistency

Wrapped Dough


Covered Pretzels

Boiling the Pretzels


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pumpkin bread…muffins

Pumpkin Muffins

Fancy Fig friends! I have things to say. Incredible, isn’t it? Almost two months without a word from me. I am sorry I have been so negligent. Now that I am finally starting to feel a little settled in after starting a new job perhaps you will hear from me more often…or at least more consistently. I can’t make any promises though. Summer seems to be my prime time for cooking. In the winter I just try to get by, a “eat to live” sort of thing. I have been doing a little baking though. Some bread. Some muffins. That’s pretty much it.

In October I made Cook For Love’s pumpkin bread recipe (except muffin style) for the first time. It was a success! They are easy and tasty. And just between us, they also stir up all sorts of sentimental autumn feelings. Yes, I get really nostalgic during the fall. Something about that transition from summer to fall, then fall to winter. Best of all, these muffins are super convenient for weekday breakfasts. I’ll make a whole recipe (minus the raisins, plus some cream cheese frosting) and freeze them. Each night I’ll take one out to let it thaw and in the morning it’s ready for me to eat before work or take on-the-go. Or sometimes I’ll have toast for breakfast and bring the muffin with as part of my lunch.

Okay. Can I apologize for my photo’s lack of quality? If I recall correctly, every time I baked the muffins there was a very legit reason as to why I couldn’t bust out either of my “real” cameras. So I resorted to my iPod camera. Trust me, they were really real reasons. I think that both were dead at the same time. Thanks for trusting me. And thanks for enjoying this high-quality iPod photo of a half-eaten muffin. You know you want in. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!


Filed under bread, breakfast, muffin

ethiopian honey bread

A couple of weeks ago I mustered up the courage to attempt my first loaf of homemade low protein bread since last winter. My first two or three loaves were surprisingly successful. Then, the next three attempts resulted in dense bricks of irregularly shaped bread. So, like I said, I decided to give it another go. I felt hopeful.

I made certain to follow the directions exactly. I checked, double checked, triple checked my measurements…especially the water. Moisture is the key element that determines the bread’s turnout. The directions say that the dough should eventually turn to a “very creamy frosting.” If necessary, add one or two tablespoons of water.

Well, I could tell right away that my dough was way too thick and dry. So I added an extra tablespoon of water. Still too thick. So I added another tablespoon of water. Still too thick, and the bread machine transitioned from the kneading cycle to the rising cycle. I knew that the loaf could turn out only to be another dense brick given the state of the dough at the start of the rising cycle, so I decided to restart the bread machine and add even more water. I ended up adding somewhere between five and seven extra tablespoons of water and restarting the bread machine twice.

I left the house for a couple of hours and returned to find, much to my pleasant surprise, a somewhat normal looking loaf of fresh, warm bread.

This recipe is from the low protein cookbook Apples to Zucchini by Virginia Schuett and Dorothy Corry. She gives a lot of information about ingredients used in the bread recipes, bread machines, trouble shooting and other tips. There are pages of information and too much for me to type here. If you’re interested in trying some of the bread recipes in the book, I really do recommend buying it. There are six bread recipes and two basic savory dough recipes that are used in her specialty bread recipes such as pita bread, foccacia, pizza and calzones.

Ethiopian Honey Bread

1 cup Wel-Plan Baking Mix (110 gm)
1 3/4 cups wheat starch (190 gm)
3 T Metamucil
1 1/2 t active dry yeast (Fleischmann’s)
3/4 t salt
3/4 t ground coriander
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
3 T honey
1 1/4 cups water (290 gm)

Add dry ingredients to a 1 1/2-pound capacity bread machine pan in order listed. Mix well.

Mix together honey and water in a liquid measuring cup.

Start the bread machine. Immediately add liquid ingredients to bread pan all at once, using a rubber scraper to push dry ingredients into center. Close machine lid until bread is completely baked.

Makes 13 slices. 10 mg PHE per slice.

I am still experimenting and learning as I grow more familiar with my bread machine and the specific recipes I use. If you give this recipe a try, let me know how it goes for you and any helpful tips!

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