Rough day calls for an easy dinner

Today has been rough. Loads of fatigue. I basically only peeled myself off the couch to make sure my kid was fed. On days like today, if it ain’t easy, it ain’t happenin’. But with the right things in the fridge, throwing something kid friendly and healthy together is simple and easy.

Grassfed, uncured hot dogs, pickles (the only ones I can find that don’t have yellow #5 added ūüôĄ) wrapped in Applegate Black Forest ham. Microwaved broccoli. Baby spinach saut√©ed in pork lard. Cinnamon carrots cooked in Kerrygold butter. And, of course, avocado.

Perfect alternative to sugar loaded ketchup.

Not your usual hotdog. Applegate is a great, easily accessible brand that I trust for convenience foods like lunch meat and uncured bacon.

This is so sad, but this is literally the ONLY brand of pickles I’ve been able to find at the grocery store that doesn’t contain yellow #5. And they’re literally the exact same color as regular pickles. So silly. ūü§¶ūüŹľ‚Äć‚ôÄÔłŹ

Stuffed Avocados

I’m venturing back into the paleo-ish world and y’all- it’s so much easier to be paleo now than it was 6 years ago. Publix has coconut aminos! Whattttt??? Plus all these dressings and marinades. I’m stoked!

Recent health struggles have reminded me that I can’t out-supplement a bad diet, so while I don’t plan to be as strict as I was back in 2013, I know my body functions best when I’m following Paleo principles. So this was dinner last night…

Spring mix greens and avocados (stuffed with mushrooms, onions, and garlic sautéed in pork lard) drizzled in paleo ranch. Roasted red peppers, grapes, and 2 fried eggs, over medium.

Simple. Fast. Yum.

Day 2, and Why I Do Paleo

In conversations with friends, there have been lots of questions about the specifics of this fast. What does “paleo” really mean (other than eating a bunch of meat like a caveman) and why subject myself to something so restrictive? And why only liquids on Wednesdays?

So let me try to explain some of that here.

I’m not going to go into how the paleo diet helps to heal/manage autoimmune disease. There’s a lot of resources out there that explain it well. In my opinion, one of the best available is The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne. Here’s a link to the kindle edition where you can “try a sample” and see what I’m talking about. http://www.amazon.com/The-Paleo-Approach-Reverse-Autoimmune-ebook/dp/B00I44JHTE

From my own experience and working with an integrative doctor on my healing process, I know that my body has a hard time processing toxins. I know that the proteins in wheat and dairy can cross react with the molecular structure (or whatever) of my own cells and confuse my overzealous immune system. I know that my body is sensitive to fluctuations in blood sugar, and this is exacerbated when I consume caffeine. And even though I rarely experience digestive discomfort, I know the root of my most serious health concerns lies in what’s happening in my belly.

Paleo helps alleviate these issues. Consuming only liquids during the day on Wednesdays will give my digestive system even more of a break so healing can take place more quickly. But this part has spiritual implications as well. The idea is that in denying physical desires, and focusing on things of the spirit, one can weaken the flesh (sinful nature) and strengthen the spirit. I believe this concept can easily be taken too far, and I don’t believe that fasting brings anyone closer to God. But I think it’s a helpful tool to use as I work on growing more mature in my faith.

I don’t intend to get too deep into the prayer part on this blog, but I can tell you, on day 2 of this fast, God is already making moves on my heart. He’s digging into my perceptions of my role as a mom, and drawing some pretty interesting correlations between my relationship with my daughter and His relationship with me. Heavy stuff, but so, so good.

I also do not intend to post every morsel of food that I put in my mouth (as I have in the past). It’s time consuming and unnecessary. But I do want to show a realistic view of how to execute a healing diet, and keep myself accountable, so I’ll post as many of those meals as I can. I’m making very little effort on presentation these days, so the food may not be pretty, but it’ll be paleo.

For example, breakfast… 2 eggs fried in uncured bacon grease over raw, fermented sauerkraut, with bananas and a chai latte (with almond milk). Nothing fancy there. But it’s quick, and it works.

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This soup, however, is pretty impressive. It doesn’t look like much. But it’s freakin’ delicious. And gets even better over time as it sits in the fridge- kinda like chili. It’s a Thai-ish chicken noodle soup.

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Saut√© onions, garlic, and ginger in coconut oil at the bottom of a soup pot. Pour in some coconut aminos (paleo version of soy sauce) and fish sauce (Red Boat brand is good). Then add chicken stock, carrots, celery, and chicken. After a while, add coconut milk and tons of fresh herbs- whatever you’ve got. I used cilantro, thyme, basil, oregano, and rosemary. When you’ve got about 20 minutes left of cooking time, add a bag of kelp noodles. They’re super nutritious and are a perfect grain free noodle option in any Asian-inspired dish. In the last 5 min, add lime juice, zest, and my secret, unnecessary, but super delicious ingredient- a drop or 2 of lemongrass essential oil (therapeutic grade, like Young Living). While I’m sure any medicinal qualities of the oil were probably cooked out, it really gave the soup a fresh, unique flavor.

I only ate 2 official meals today, but probably consumed about 700 calories in Justin’s Maple Almond Butter. By the spoonful. Right out of the jar. That stuff is ridiculous.

What I’ve been eating (when I’m not eating crap)

Despite my best efforts at sticking to strict paleo, my emotional wounds have called for emotional eating. As these wounds slowly begin healing, I find it easier to take better care of my health. But it’s a process and I have to go easy on myself. So I’m not going to post the photos of the crap I’ve eaten lately (delicious and sometimes very well made, high quality crap- just not good for my body and physical healing process). This “crap” has included KFC, McDonald’s, and Taco Bell; cupcakes and snack food at parties; midnight PB&J’s (though I often use sunflower butter and organic jam); Keebler cookies and Quaker granola bars; and whatever I feel like eating at social functions and when out at restaurants with friends.

I quickly destroy all evidence of “bad” food- receipts, wrappers, etc. But here is some evidence of good, healing foods I’ve been eating.

Grass-fed beef burger on a bed of Bubbie’s sauerkraut, topped with all the usual suspects (organic mustard and ketchup, homemade paleo mayo- recipe below). A big slice of tomato and a blob of guacamole. All on a butter lettuce “bun”.

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Tomato slices topped with mustard, Applegate ham, and chopped fresh basil, broiled until warm, juicy, and delicious.

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Homemade dried fruit. (Thanks, Mom, for the dehydrator!) Apples, strawberries, bananas, and peaches. This stuff is seriously like candy.

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Grassfed meatballs with ketchup, sauerkraut, guac, and a boiled egg. With a side of Brussels sprouts and olives. This was one of those random “pull things out of the fridge and make a meal out of it” dinners.

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Lunch with my munchkin. Applegate, uncured, grass-fed beef hot dog with ketchup, sauerkraut, and the only pickle I could find without yellow #4. The carrots are also pickled. And a cup of unsweetened applesauce to balance all that saltiness.

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Tuna-avocado boats with carrots. The tuna salad has sauerkraut and homemade paleo mayo, which is super easy to make and tastes soooo much better than store bought. Just make sure you’re using high quality eggs. Bring all ingredients to room temp, then blend 2 eggs, juice of a lemon, and a tablespoon of mustard in a blender. While blending, drizzle in avocado (or olive, or coconut, or whatever’s healthy) oil until it “sets up”. You’ll know when that happens. So yummy.

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And homemade veal jerky. I got the recipe from Eat Like a Dinosaur by the Paleo Parents. Fantastic cookbook with an illustrated story for kids to help explain the whys behind eating paleo, and each recipe is kid-friendly with lots of tips on how they can help in the kitchen. Munchkin loves helping cook (and eat) dinosaur food.

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I’m still kickin’!

After successfully weaning off of prednisone in late October 2013, some things in my personal life began falling apart. By January, I was in such a desperate place emotionally that I could barely eat at all, much less follow a healthy diet. My health hasn’t been great, but it’s been tremendously better than what I experienced last year, despite eating almost exclusively dairy and gluten (comfort foods!) for months. That all came crashing down a couple of weeks ago when a minor throat infection landed me in the hospital overnight. It was a wake up call. I’d also recently been having pretty consistent upset stomachs. Clearly, I’ve destroyed the progress I’d made healing my gut in 2013, and it’s time to get back at it, regardless of my still fluctuating emotional state.

After all my research and experimentation last year, I learned that the Paleo diet works best for my individual goals and issues. Specifically, I credit the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol for finally helping me get off that horrific steroid that everyone loves to hate. As my health situation is not as dire as it was last year, I am going to ease back into this by eating squeaky clean Paleo for 3 weeks and seeing how things go. I started 5 days ago, and have already noticed improvements. Several months ago, I developed a strange rash near each eye on my upper cheeks. It’s been there for months. Five days on Paleo and it’s completely gone. Also, no more upset stomach.

Here are some examples of what I’ve been eating.

Breakfast usually consists of lots of bacon (Applegate Farms uncured), fruit, and chai tea with almond milk.

This morning, it was Applegate chicken and apple sausage and lots of cherries.

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Lunch usually involves leftovers, Applegate lunch meat or grass-fed hot dogs, or tuna/salmon salad with homemade paleo mayo (2 eggs, juice of half a lemon, dab of mustard- all room temp and whirled in blender while drizzling in avocado or olive oil until it “sets up”) and raw sauerkraut (as pictured below) with olives, tomatoes, and basil leaves.

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Coming off of several months of eating mostly simple starches and sugar, I’m having to satisfy those cravings with Paleo-friendly treats. Hopefully, over time, they’ll become less necessary.

My daughter has dubbed this “banana swirl”. Frozen bananas with a bit of almond milk, maple syrup, and vanilla extract, topped with cinnamon. Yum! Instant paleo ice cream.

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And I got a super simple chocolate coconut pudding recipe from a friend (1 can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight and only use the cream that collects on top, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder) and topped it with fried bananas. The bananas were fried in grass-fed butter, my one dairy allowance.

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It’s good to be back. Not sure how consistent I’ll be, but I’m ready to start taking care of myself again. Is there really any other choice?

How NOT to travel on AIP

We recently took a trip to Puerto Rico for 4 days for a wedding. I was extremely worried about maintaining such a restrictive diet while traveling, so I put a lot of effort into being prepared. To my knowledge, there are no Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or organic markets in PR, but I knew I could find an abundance of tropical fruit to supplement what I could pack in my suitcase. Our hotel room had a mini fridge and coffee maker where I could boil water for tea, but I had no method of cooking meat or veggies. I was most concerned about having access to quality protein during the trip, so I sprang for some Sophia’s Survival Foods grass fed beef jerky, which has two flavors that are AIP friendly. I also brought along several tins of BPA free, wild-caught tuna and salmon. For quality fats, I packed garlic-infused olive oil, packets of coconut butter, olives, and a few avocados (which are abundant in PR, but we had some at the house that would’ve gone bad while we were away). For healthy carbs (and to satisfy my sweet tooth while everyone else was eating piraguas, pan sobao, and mallorcas) I brought a bunch of dried fruit: pineapple and coconut, apples, and mango. Plus some homemade fig/coconut bars and coconut/date balls (similar to this recipe, but omitted the cashews and agave). I packed several tea bags and cans of coconut water for when I got tired of drinking plain water, and homemade seaweed snacks for when the salty cravings hit. Here’s my stash just prior to packing.

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Our travel day went smoothly, and with lots of jerky, seaweed snacks, and dried fruit in my bag, I was never hungry. Though I did stare longingly at other passengers’ pizza slices, sandwiches, pastries, and lattes.

When we arrived, we went straight to the closest grocery store and stocked up on fresh fruit and leafy greens. I felt well prepared to be completely AIP compliant for the duration of the trip.

I was exhausted from traveling, so I stayed in the hotel room and slept while the rest of the family ventured out the next morning. I ate lots of fresh fruit and more jerky for breakfast. And lunch. The wedding was that evening, and as I contemplated what to put in my bag to eat for dinner while the rest of the guests dined on the fancy, professionally catered, four-course meal, I started to dread eating more jerky and dried fruit. And I wasn’t feeling the tuna. We weren’t even at the wedding yet, but I was already feeling excluded from the festivities. I certainly couldn’t drink alcohol (because I KNOW I react badly to alcohol) or eat wedding cake (too much refined sugar), but couldn’t I at least eat the same meal as everyone else? So I decided to just pack some dried fruit to eat in lieu of wedding cake, and allow myself a cheat dinner.

It was incredibly delicious. Some kind of pea soup garnished with a root chip- I wanted to lick the bowl. Then, beautiful greens arranged like a shell or fan and tied at the bottom with a thinly sliced cucumber, with tomatoes, bleu cheese, prosciutto, and a lovely vinaigrette. Again, had to stop myself from licking the plate. Then pork medallions with tamarind gravy, mashed potatoes, shredded carrots, and crispy asparagus. I gave my dinner roll away, but added the leftover butter to my mashed potatoes.

Then we danced the night away. I couldn’t drink like everyone else, but it didn’t matter because I was buzzed on the amazing meal I’d just eaten.

Then they brought out the cake. Chocolate with white cherry icing. And I realized I’d already eaten my dried fruit in the car on the way back from the ceremony. And I just really wanted some cake. And I’d already deviated from my diet plan, so what could it hurt? I’d just take a couple of bites. Mmmmmm. That was really good. What the heck- I’ll just eat the whole thing.

When I’d scraped off every last chocolatey crumb and every last smidge of icing, I leaned back, and realized I felt nauseous. It was definitely too much sugar, too fast. And I immediately regretted it. Eating the meal was fine, but I should’ve skipped out on the cake. Now, all there was to do was wait and see what the repercussions would be.

The next morning, I felt a little hung over, but was otherwise fine. (And everyone else was hungover, too, so I fit right in.) The whole crew met for brunch at Denny’s, and, again, I just couldn’t stomach the thought of more fruit and jerky. So I figured I’d just get what I want, but not go crazy.

So much for that. I got the Lumberjack Grand Slam. Two eggs, two sausage links, two slices of bacon, ham, hash-browns, toast (asked for whole wheat, but there really wasn’t anything “whole” about it), and two pancakes loaded with hopefully regular butter (as opposed to fake buttery spread) and drizzled with totally fake syrup. I doubt there was a drop of anything from a maple tree in that bottle. Anyway, I gobbled up everything but the hash-browns and a few bites of pancake. Oh- and I had decaf coffee (because I KNOW my system can’t handle that level of caffeine) with non-dairy creamer, which is loaded with nastiness.

Sooooo, between the wedding dinner and brunch, I definitely was exposed to gluten, dairy, nightshades, eggs, nitrates/nitrites, seeds (coffee), and all kinds of preservatives, additives, rancid oils, and high fructose corn syrup.

After brunch, I felt really tired. But that was to be expected after a day of traveling followed by a late night partying. I had to be extremely mindful of my energy levels and not push myself, so I spent the remainder of the afternoon in the hotel room, sleeping, while everyone else went out. The rest of my meals that day were AIP compliant, including this delicious tuna salad (tuna, capers, coconut butter, and lime juice) on a bed of greens with carrot sticks and topped with guacamole (avocado, lime juice, chopped culantro).

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The next day was our travel day back home. I stuck with fruit and jerky for breakfast, but had crackers, cheddar cheese “product”, and a few bites of chex mix on the plane, along with a ginger ale. (I didn’t plan as well as I did on the way there.) And when we got to MIA, we ate at La Carreta. For any Latinos that frequent the Miami airport, you know this is the place to be for authentic, home style island fare. I figured it would be my last hurrah, and loaded my plate with cheesy sausage pasta and mashed potatoes, and shared a tres leche with my husband and daughter.

I half expected to wake up this morning with crazy stomach bloat, a swollen tongue, and no energy to get out of bed and get my daughter to school. But I was fine. I’ve had a few lesions coming and going, with a worrisome one at the back of my throat, but everything seems to be holding steady. I did need a nap this afternoon, but that’s not entirely abnormal, and I expected it as I’m still recovering from the traveling.

So, all in all, I seem to have handled the trip relatively well, along with the barrage of reintroductions of restricted AIP foods. I don’t believe that just because I didn’t have an immediate reaction, it’s ok for me to eat these foods again. I think I’ve made progress in healing my gut and building my immune system with probiotics, etc. But I’m still having autoimmune reactions, so I still have a lot of healing to do. I know there is a connection between my flares and hormonal fluctuations, so my focus may be shifting to balance my hormones in the near future.

I think sticking to AIP through the holidays may not be realistic for me, judging by my epic failure during this PR trip. I’m not sure what or how I’ll reintroduce foods, but I’m going to need to loosen up the restrictions if my sanity is going to survive the holiday season. Until I decide how to properly reintroduce foods, I’ll be back on AIP in the meantime.

This morning, I was back to my usual meat patties with chimichurri and raw sauerkraut. After four days with no probiotics, I know I’ve got some re-inoculating to do. And while I did enjoy my weekend away from AIP, I’m happy to be back to my healing diet. I’m grateful to have gotten through it without immediate repercussions, but I’m certainly not going to push my luck. Pancakes aren’t THAT delicious.

Recovering! (and a confession)

Feeling much, much better. Totally back to normal. Getting to bed early (even if I don’t sleep very well through the night) has made a big difference in how quickly I heal and how well I feel during the day. Baby girl has had a cold, so it’s kind of like sleeping with a sniveling piglet who bonks me over the head with her sippy cup in the middle of the night and randomly whines in her sleep… “But I toldddddd Mommy I wanted some grapesssss. She faileddddddd meeeeeee.” Not really a prime sleep environment. Plus, considering that I’m still recovering from that last flare, I haven’t had high expectations for my energy levels during the day. But they’ve been really strong. Cleaned the whole house on Wednesday (after being sick for so long, it was disgusting!), got baby girl off to school Thursday and wore her out at the playground later in the afternoon, and so far today, I’ve made a big batch of lamb/veal/grass-fed beef patties to freeze, along with making breakfast for the family. Don’t know what the afternoon will have in store for us, but I don’t expect I’ll need a nap.

Now that I can eat again, here’s what I’ve been eating…

Made an organic (but not grass-fed) beef pot roast on Wednesday. Lots of carrots, onions, celery, garlic, herbs, and some chopped bacon for extra fat and flavor. Served it topped with homemade kraut, or on a bed of mashed cauliflower. Or on a bed of cauliflower topped with kraut…

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One thing I’ve been suffering from is lack of convenient, portable, AIP compliant snack foods. I love Larabars, but no nuts on AIP makes them a no-go for now. So I made a variation using unsweetened dried coconut and dried figs. Had to add a bit of cinnamon and honey for flavor, but they turned out great. Blended everything up in the food processor, then mashed into the bottom of a small plastic container to form them into bars. Wrapped in snack size zip-lock bags, and done! Portable snack. AIP friendly.

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And for breakfast this morning, I made sweet potato “nests” topped with an egg for my husband and daughter. No eggs for me on AIP, so I just had an eggless nest with raw kraut and 2 of the delicious lamb/veal/grass-fed beef patties I’d just made. (Sorry, ate half a patty before remembering to take a pic.) That stuff floating around on top of my orange juice is fermented cod liver oil- one of the few supplements I’m taking these days. It sounds disgusting (and it is if you try to take it straight), but mixed in some juice, you can hardly tell it’s there. My 3-year-old drinks it like this with no problem.

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Ok. Confession time. Wednesday was my first day eating solid food after nearly a week of liquids (see previous post). My mouth was still hurting, and no matter what I ate I still felt hungry. I think my blood sugar was out of whack after not eating for so long. I’d been walking past my daughter’s bucket of Halloween candy daily, with no desire to eat any of that processed, fake, GMO-laden, glutenized, unnaturally colored and preserved, poisonous junk. But something happened on Wednesday. Something changed. I had to have it. I was like a junkie. Hiding from my kid, hunkered down next to the garbage can in the kitchen.

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I ate four pieces. The ones pictured above, plus a snack sized bag of skittles. Well, not the ACTUAL ones pictured above. At the time, there was no thought of picture-taking or blogging. In fact, I was more concerned with hiding the evidence. From who? I don’t know. But understand, I view this stuff as poison and honestly believe that it heavily contributes to the disease I am fighting. But I could. not. stop. myself.

It’s now been two days, and I haven’t had any immediate reactions. Though I don’t know how it might affect my long-term healing (gluten exposure can take months to get out of your system). At any rate, this reinforced the importance of blood sugar regulation to control cravings. And reminded me that “if it’s in the house, I WILL eat it.” It’s not a matter of willpower. It’s a matter of setting yourself up for success. That candy would not normally have been tempting for me, but given the unique combination of factors that were beyond my control, I was left with an insatiable craving for sugar, calories, and fat that was impossible to deny in that moment.

So now, I move on. I wish I hadn’t eaten that crap, but I understand why I did. And I’m grateful there were no immediately noticeable consequences. And now the candy is put away in an inaccessible spot where we will all probably forget about it until next Halloween. At which point it will still be perfectly fresh. Ugh! That’s disgusting. ūüėČ

What I’ve Been Eatin’

Today has been a long day. Despite my best efforts, I haven’t been getting to sleep early enough the past few days, and it’s caught up to me. I have several oral lesions and I’m exhausted. I’d call it a mini flare. I’m still able to eat normal foods, it just takes a bit more time and effort. Planning on knocking out early tonight. Hoping that’ll jumpstart the healing process.

Here’s what I’ve been eating lately:

Coconut butter is a new discovery for me. The Artisana brand is super delicious and way smoother than what I can make in my own food processor. Spread it on some pear slices- fantastic AIP snack.

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This was breakfast, but it would work any time of day. Saut√©ed sweet potatoes with garlic and spinach, and my very own AIP meatloaf patties. I always make a double batch and freeze extras for quick meals when I’m tired or rushed (or sick). Love ’em!

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This was my plate of food from a recent party. I brought a salmon salad for me and a dish of roasted garlicky broccoli to share so I’d be sure to have something to eat. But it turned out that there was more food that was AIP compliant at the party. My husband’s grandfather made a delicious baked yuca dish, and my mother-in-law smoked a brisket (she only used a tenderizer on it, which wasn’t ideal for my diet, but not a huge deviation from it). It was soooo delicious. And really fun to enjoy eating with a large group (without having my own “special” food). There was a lot at the party that I couldn’t eat, but I was full on this stuff. So it didn’t matter.

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I’ve been having this for breakfast most mornings. AIP meatloaf patties made into an actual meatloaf, alongside mashed cauliflower or fermented cabbage (pictured here). And a big ol’ mug of bone broth.

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This works as a snack or light lunch alongside a smoothie. Smoked salmon and olive rolls. The brand of smoked salmon that I use (Echo Falls) has only wild caught salmon, salt, and natural hardwood smoke as ingredients.

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Off to bed! Hope the little one cooperates!

Pumpkin Pie, Y’all! (and an awesome AIP pie crust)

We went to the pumpkin patch yesterday to get our pumpkin. Last year, I discovered that I am a masterful pumpkin carver. Seriously. I am. Our jack-o-lantern had my daughter’s name for a mouth. I think I’m gonna have to dig up a picture to prove how awesome it was. Yes, yes I am. ¬†Here it is.

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Anyway, she’s been obsessed with having pumpkin pie ever since we got home from the pumpkin patch. So I decided to come up with a version that was delicious and compliant with the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol, so that we could enjoy it together.

One of my favorite new ingredients that I’m finding to be extremely versatile is the plantain. Green plantains make yummy chips or tostones, yellow ones are delicious baked or fried in coconut oil. Green plantains are a great binder for savory dishes, such as this recipe for AIP meatloaf. Super ripe, black plantains are great for sweet dishes, such as this AIP friendly pancake recipe. So when I was trying to decide what to use for the crust, and just happened to have an almost completely black plantain in the pantry, I knew I had to try it.

I’ve also been making a lot of homemade coconut milk using unsweetened dried coconut, and saving the “milked” coconut in the freezer. Today I blended some of that back in with a bit of coconut oil and honey to make a pretty close approximation of coconut butter. Mixing this “coconut butter” with the mashed plantain made a perfect pie crust. And Little Miss got to help! She’s a great plantain masher and crust spreader.

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We baked the crust for 40 minutes in a 375 oven until it was brown and toasty. I love how the ridges left by spreading it with a fork toasted up, making it crispy and flaky, like a conventional pie crust.

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Then we made and poured on this recipe for pumpkin pudding. It seemed a bit runny at first, but after chilling in the fridge overnight, the gelatin set and gave a nice, pumpkin pie texture.

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Time to cut into it and see if it holds up like pumpkin pie… It does! Beautiful!

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But something’s missing. I can’t pass up the chance to whip up some super-easy, wholesome chocolate sauce! Spoonful of carob powder and a splash of pure maple syrup, and…. Voila!

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Right now, as I’m typing this, I’m having a big slice with a cup of tea. So perfect.

Here’s the recipe for the crust.

Ingredients:
1 super-duper ripe almost completely black plantain (blacker=sweeter)
1/4 cup coconut butter
2 tablespoons raw, local honey (this brand is ok, but local is always better)
Pinch of himilayan sea salt
2 tablespoons coconut oil

Directions:
Have the nearest toddler mash the plantain with a fork. You may need to help with the big chunks. They will want to use their hands. Let them. Then mix in the coconut butter, honey, and salt, continuing to mash the plantain to get it smoother and smoother. It doesn’t have to be completely smooth, just not totally lumpy.

Grease a pie plate with the coconut oil, then spread the crust mixture into the pan as evenly as possible, filling in any holes. Bake in a 375 oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown and toasty.

Let the crust cool completely, meanwhile blend up this recipe for pumpkin pudding. Pour over the pie crust when it is completely cool. You will have some extra pudding leftover, so have some dishes available to put it in. I love these little plastic containers for pudding. They’re bpa-free, and perfectly sized for a single serving. ¬†They remind me of the super convenient pudding cups at the grocery store. But by making your own, you can avoid the sugar, modified corn starch, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, sodium stearoyl lactylate, and artificial flavors. And that’s the one that doesn’t have any high fructose corn syrup or preservatives! Ugh. Disgusting.

Anyway, let the pie sit overnight in the fridge, and by morning, you’ll have a delicious, healthy pumpkin pie! ¬†Yay!

Double Chocolate Pudding (with hidden pumpkin and avocado)

My kid loves chocolate, and she loves a good pudding (as long as it’s smooth, not “bumpy,” such as the tapioca-like chia pudding I often made before eliminating seeds on AIP). She loved a chocolate pudding I made a while back using avocado. I’ve long since lost the recipe, but thought I’d try a variation on it today. I also love sneaking veggies and super-nutrition into baby girl’s “treats”.

I’ve been looking for an excuse to make that chocolate sauce again, anyway. Turned out awesome.

Double Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients:

The pudding-
2 avocados
1 can of organic, BPA free pumpkin
1 tablespoon coconut butter
2 tablespoons raw, local honey
2 tablespoons cocoa (or carob powder for AIP compliance)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Pinch of salt

The sauce-
Equal parts pure maple syrup and cocoa (or carob) powder, mixed together until smooth. (May need to sift the powder to avoid lumps- mine was still kinda lumpy).

Blend all pudding ingredients together until smooth. Top with the chocolate sauce.

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My first original recipe: AIP Meatloaf Patties

Grass-fed or pastured meat patties are a staple in the Autoimmune Paleo world. ¬†Even given the severe restrictions of the diet, there are lots of options for seasoning and enhancing a meat patty. ¬†Herbs, veggies, non-nightshade and non-seed spices. ¬†So I found it frustrating when the first couple of recipes I followed didn’t turn out that great. ¬†Sure, I may have overcooked one batch a bit, but I am far from a perfectionist in the kitchen. ¬†Perfection is just never going to happen for me. ¬†Sometimes, the oven timer goes off and I don’t get there to take out whatever’s baking until half an hour later. ¬†Thank goodness my oven automatically shuts off when the time’s up, otherwise I probably would’ve burned the house down by now. ¬†But my point is, grass-fed ground beef is typically leaner and seems to be slightly more finicky than conventional meat, meaning a few minutes overdone yields a rock hard meat patty. ¬†But there is a very simple, and extremely nutritious solution… add tons of veggies! ¬†Finely diced onions, grated carrots and zucchini, minced garlic, chopped mushrooms, pureed squash or plantain… anything that has it’s own moisture will impart all that nutritious juicy-ness to the meat patty, whether it’s a hamburger, a breakfast sausage, or a meat loaf. ¬†This revelation led me to create my first original recipe. ¬†I guess it’s not TOTALLY original, because the foundation for the tomato sauce ingredients came from Against All Grain’s Tomato-less Meat Sauce Recipe. ¬†Once I figured out how to make a nightshade free “tomato” sauce, adding it to the meat patties along with a plantain “binder” (since I can’t use eggs or any type of breadcrumbs) to make it all taste like tomatoey meatloaf goodness was just intuitive. ¬†So, without further ado….

Autoimmune Paleo Friendly Meatloaf Patties (can also be made into muffins or an actual meatloaf, just increase cooking time)

Ingredients:

1 small or 1/2 large beet

2 carrots

1 green plantain

4 cloves garlic

1 onion, chopped

1 pound of grass-fed ground beef

salt to taste

 

Directions:

For the “tomato” sauce, add the beet, carrots, plantain, garlic, and salt to a vitamix or other high powered blender or food processor. ¬†Process at low speeds, using the tamper tool (or stopping to scrape down the sides often) to get all bits incorporated. ¬†Some small chunks are OK.

Mix the sauce with the ground beef and chopped onion. ¬†I use my hands. ¬†There’s just no easier way to get it all mixed in. ¬†The mixture should be very moist. ¬†

Form into 12 patties and place on a cookie sheet or muffin pan.  Bake at 415 for 40 minutes.  (or 350 for about an hour, or 400 for 40 minutes, or any of these temperatures and times and then just let them sit when the timer goes off until you can finish cleaning the pee off the floor from your potty training toddler and hopefully remember to wash your hands before removing your dinner from the oven).  You could also easily cook them in a frying pan on the stovetop.  No matter what you do, these patties will be moist and yummy!

Serve on a bed of mashed cauliflower with a side of broccoli, or on a bed of salad greens with a side of sweet potato fries… or for breakfast along with a green smoothie. ¬†Here it is on spring mix salad greens with rutabaga fries. This is my comfort food. ¬†Mmmmmmm.

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If you don’t like beets, this is a great way to sneak them in. ¬†My husband hates beets. ¬†I don’t get it. ¬†They’re sweet and earthy and delicious. ¬†But I know they take some getting used to, and apparently some people, like my husband, don’t ever get used to them. ¬†But he gobbled up these meatloaf patties and wanted more. ¬†I don’t think he even realized there were beets in there. ¬†Beets are an AMAZINGLY nutritious vegetable and have LOADS of health benefits. ¬†Check out this link for reasons to work beets into your diet.¬† Along with the carrots and plantain, these patties become extremely nutrient dense. ¬†And you don’t even feel like you’re eating a vegetable! ¬†Can’t beat that! ¬†

Going strong on Autoimmune Paleo Protocol

It finally feels like autumn around here. My daughter got to wear her winter boots and a hoodie to school this morning. Though I’m sure she’ll be sweating in those boots by this afternoon, this little taste of what’s to come is nice. (Baby Girl (3 years old) is convinced all the leaves on the trees will fall off by tonight. That doesn’t happen around here until, oh, maybe January?) At any rate, I am happily blogging from our hammock on the back porch- with a blanket! Lovely!

I have been feeling really, really good. Not amazing. But really good. I have been nearly 100% compliant on the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol. I accidentally ingested nightshade extracts in the ham I was eating. And there are flax and chia seeds in one of the detox supplements I’m taking this week. But I’m ok with that for now. I intend to follow AIP until I stop getting lesions, or for 3 months (which would be until January- right through the holiday season- eeek!) whichever comes first.

My recent focus has been on getting better sleep- higher quality and more of it. I’ve come to realize that, as I continue to heal, I really need closer to 12 hours of sleep per night. That may not always be possible, but I need a bare minimum of 10, and need to get as close to 12 as often as possible. Considering that I have historically slept about 7-8 hours a night, I’m looking at potentially 5 fewer hours of consciousness each day. That seems nuts! But I’m hoping my increased energy and more vibrant health will help me be more productive during the 12 hours I’m awake, so no one will notice that I sleep all the time.

Last night was the first night I accomplished this goal. I’ve been working toward it for weeks, but with a co-sleeping 3 year old who vehemently dislikes being unconscious, it’s been tricky. What I’ve done to make this happen: eliminate her afternoon naps, start dinner earlier (5:30/6), and start our bedtime routine earlier so that we are in bed, reading a book before 8pm. Lights are out at 8, and we listen to e-audiobooks that I download free from the library. We are currently listening to the first Harry Potter book. Baby Girl also loves the Fancy Nancy series, which is fantastic (“which is a fancy word for great”) for building her vocabulary. I’ve also eliminated all nightlights, so we are sleeping in near-total darkness. (I’m basically still afraid of the dark, so this was a big step for me. It was no problem for the toddler. Lol). We have been working backwards from our previous typical bedtime of 11pm/12am. So this is kinda huge. Last night, we were in bed and read 3 books before 8pm. Lights were out by 8 and we were asleep by 8:30. I did wake up a few times during the night, but was able to go back to sleep rather quickly. We didn’t wake up until 7:30 this morning, so that’s 11 full hours of glorious sleep. And I feel great! Over the past couple of days, I’ve been dealing with a few lurking lesions and thrush- all of which were significantly diminished overnight. I need more of this amazingly effective disease treatment! And it’s free!

A few other things I’m doing that I believe are helping in the sleep arena… I’ve been taking a calcium/magnesium supplement forever, but I recently started using topical magnesium oil. This stuff burns when I spray it on my body, so I’m only using it on my feet and covering with socks a few nights per week, but I think that, along with a few Epsom salt baths per week, is really boosting my magnesium levels. And magnesium is extremely important for relaxing muscles and inducing healthy sleep patterns.

I stopped taking all my regular supplements this week except pregnenolone, and added in a 7-day detox formula from Garden of Life. I haven’t changed anything else about how I’m eating because AIP is restrictive enough and I can’t risk losing any weight. I’m just trying to stay really well hydrated and doing more Epsom/baking soda baths to assist with toxin elimination.

And this is some of what I’ve been eating this week:

Bananas, pears, and kiwi topped with the most delicious homemade coconut yogurt. (Coconut cream from 2 refrigerated bpa free cans of coconut milk, mixed with 2-3 good probiotic capsules and cultured in an “off” oven with the light on for 24 hours). Super easy and so rich and tangy!

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What I thought was a great AIP breakfast. (Darn those sneaky nightshade extracts that contaminated my ham!) Applegate Naturals ham, roasted asparagus, and avocado with a salty mug of chicken bone broth (very healing for the gut).

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One of my new favorite snacks: smoked salmon (beware of ingredients!) with coconut yogurt and capers. There was some sugar listed on the salmon ingredients, but from what I understand, the sugar is mostly eliminated during the curing process. And that was the only questionable ingredient in this brand. I checked several other brands and they all had funky stuff in them. I’ve thrown out the package now, but I’ll post more info on this next time I get more smoked salmon.

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Nice AIP lunch… Applegate turkey (boo- carrageenan!) wrapped around homemade fermented carrots (yay- probiotics!) and avocado, with pear slices.

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Pan-fried tilapia (seasoned with only salt) on a mound of mashed cauliflower with a side of sweet, ripe plantains. Yum yum yum yum yum!

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Ingredients for delicious and seasonally appropriate pumpkin pudding. Super easy and AIP friendly. The only potentially tricky part is the gelatin. (This is not conventional store-bought gelatin by the way. ¬†You will NOT find this stuff next to the jell-o at Publix. ¬†Don’t eat that! ¬†This is grass fed and has no added nastiness.) Put all other ingredients in a blender. Put 1/2 tablespoon gelatin in 2 ounces of water and let it “bloom” for 5 minutes. Then add that to the blender as well. Blend everything until smooth, then pour into individual serving cups and refrigerate until “set” (a few hours or overnight). As you can see, it was a hit with my little one. I put these in her lunch for school as a treat, and I feel good about all the vitamins she’s getting from the pumpkin, the amino acids and protein from the gelatin, and the healthy fat from the coconut. And there’s nothing in this “treat” that would be likely to irritate her gut or compromise her immune system in any way (as is the case with most treats!). Totally win/win.

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I have been eating a LOT of canned tuna lately. It’s just so convenient. Good thing it’s wild, sustainably sourced, and BPA free. For this tuna salad, I was out of coconut yogurt, so I added some olive juice for flavor and moisture, along with some olives, chopped celery, and homemade fermented carrots. Turned out quite good. I put some on whole wheat bread for my husband and just ate mine plain with a fork.

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Something else I’ve been eating a LOT of lately- these AIP meatloaf patties. I’ll post more about these later, because this is my first notable, original recipe. Super exciting! It may be the only one I ever have, but it deserves it’s own post. Here I had them on a bed of greens with a side of rutabaga fries.

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And, finally, a recipe that was truly a revelation for me this week. I have scoured grocery and health food store shelves for a wholesome chocolate sauce. It may be out there, but I haven’t found it. During my flirtations with raw veganism, I found a recipe for chocolate sauce that was delicious, but a bit complicated and time consuming for something that I would only enjoy on occasion, and even then, only a small bit at a time. I saw this combination as part of a larger recipe and the lightbulb that went off in my head was blinding. I can’t believe I never thought of this!

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It’s so incredibly simple! I can’t have chocolate on AIP, so I had to use carob powder. But the potential variations are mouth-watering! I can’t wait to do a Mexican chocolate sauce: a little raw cacao, vanilla, and cinnamon mixed into that maple syrup. Wow! This sauce can be used as a topping or as a mix for hot chocolate or chocolate milk. This has opened up a whole new world for me. Still gotta be careful, because nobody wants the sugar rush that would follow too much maple syrup, but this will add an easy, decadent layer to lots of dishes.

Such as this one. Plantain pancakes topped with coconut cream and chocolate sauce. (Husband and kid went NUTS for these!) Two ripe (mostly black) plantains mashed up with cinnamon and fried (1/4 cup scoops) in coconut oil. Topped with unsweetened coconut cream and super sweet chocolate sauce. We had this for breakfast, but it really should be a dessert. It’s THAT decadent.

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Sorry for the crazy-long post! Now that I’m getting my energy back, I have a lot to say. Probably need to be posting daily to get it out in a more manageable format. I’ll work on that! ūüôā

The medical community’s odd view of health and an AIP version of an old favorite.

My husband and I took an online health assessment for our insurance company and got $100 each toward our HSA after speaking to someone over the phone about our assessment results. Part of the conversation I had with this person (the HealthMatters Professional, hereafter dubbed HP) struck me as funny.

HP: Do you limit your consumption of red meat?
Me: No.
HP: Do you limit your consumption of fatty foods?
Me: No.
HP: Do you limit your consumption of sugar?
Me: Yes.
HP: Do you eat 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables each day?
Me: Yes.
HP: Do you plan to take steps to improve your diet?
Me: Ummmm, based on my research, it doesn’t get much healthier than what I’m eating. So, no.

And then later, after explaining my hospitalization and struggle to get off medication and continuing struggle with autoimmune disease, the lady tells me, “Well, you’re obviously very healthy.” Ummmm, what? I constantly have lesions in my mouth that sometimes make it impossible to eat, I struggle with extreme exhaustion and debilitating feverish aches and painful skin sensitivity during flares. I was hospitalized for this condition in the not-too-distant past, and had a close call in the even-less-distant past and was only kept out of the hospital thanks to a quick thinking doctor and a high dose steroid injection. But I am “obviously” very healthy. What kind of standards are we using here? In what definition of “healthy” would that apply to me? This comment stood out to me because I’ve heard it before from my family doctor, the one who treated me in the hospital in January and gave me that high dose steroid injection a few months ago. Once I was beyond the crisis situation, he told me, “Well, you’re quite healthy. I don’t need to see you back until it’s time for your yearly physical.” Granted, I don’t want to see him for anything other than crisis situations and a yearly physical, but to say I’m healthy? Constantly on the brink of a physical melt down is healthy? I’m getting healthier every day and I’m certainly healthier than I would be if I wasn’t paying such close attention to what I put on and in my body. And I WILL be truly healthy soon. But I’m not there yet. And it blows my mind that conventional health professionals would consider me “healthy”. That’s just crazy.

Anyway, I’m still feeling pretty good on this 5th day sans prednisone. Had a moment this afternoon where exhaustion just hit me like a load of bricks and I had to stop what I was doing and go relax for a couple of hours. It was nap time for my daughter, so it worked out nicely, but I can’t wait for the day my adrenals and hormones are balanced and I have strong, steady energy from sun-up to sun-down.

Here’s what I’ve been eating…

Tuna salad (BPA free, wild caught tuna, raw sauerkraut, and homemade coconut yogurt) and garlicky plantain chips. Perfect dipping partners.

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Didn’t think it existed, but here’s an AIP compliant spaghetti and meat sauce. Without grains and nightshades, I thought our old staple would be inaccessible to me until my gut heals. This takes a little more work, but totally hits the spot left empty by Italian comfort food. I veered from the original recipe because I didn’t have some of the ingredients (and didn’t want to use butter or wine due to AIP restrictions) but you can see Against All Grain’s original recipe here.

Zucchini noodles made easy thanks to my handy-dandy spiralizer.

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Onions, garlic, carrots, and beets go into the pot with a bit of Applegate Farms ham. Then added lots of homemade chicken bone broth.

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It’s all pur√©ed with an immersion blender, then you add the meat (I used ground buffalo) and fresh herbs (I used sage, rosemary, and oregano from the garden). Throw in the noodles for the last few minutes of cooking, top with parsley, and voila…

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Super delicious AIP friendly spaghetti and meat sauce. (Non-paleo husband and kid approved.)

AIP Breakfast and “Ham with Jam”

Feeling soooo much better today! Yayyyyyyy!!!!! Mouth still has lots of healing to do, and I have to be careful if someone makes me smile or laugh, because this lesion on my lip is no joke and has cracked painfully and bled on several occasions. I have an extremely funny husband and daughter, so while I am still delighted by their humor, it comes with what feels like a punch in the mouth. But it’s worth it. Laughter is healing.

I’m eating lots of solid foods today!!! Yum! And dipping my toes into the AIP (Autoimmune Paleo Protocol). Made beef breakfast patties and kale chips today.

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Served ’em with avocado, clementines, and a pickle spear (at my daughter’s request). The pickle was marinated with carrots and red peppers, so technically is not compliant with AIP (because of the nightshades- peppers) but I’m moving into this protocol slowly.

Here’s what went into the breakfast patties. The herbs are from the garden. Parsley, rosemary, and sage.

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I over cooked them a bit, but they still came out good. This meal took me FOREVER to eat, since every bite feels like a mini-marathon. But it was delicious, and the lesions have healed enough at this point that it is possible, if laborious, to eat, so I’m taking full advantage.

My daughter and I have been reading a book called “Ham with Jam” most nights before bed. It’s a free app from ABCmouse, and is so nice to have (along with all their other book-apps) when I’m sick and can barely talk, much less read a bedtime story. Each book has a “read to me” option, so a narrator reads the book for us. We still get our nighttime reading ritual, even when I’m too sick to do it myself. Anyway, this “Ham with Jam” book is about a little girl who likes jam, but detests ham, and a little boy who enjoys ham, but doesn’t like jam. They come up with the genius idea of putting the two together and it’s so delicious that both kids change their minds and end up liking both foods. It sounded pretty good, so I decided to try a healthier version of it.

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Rinsed and diced the strawberries, then mixed them with a teaspoon of honey and rolled them up in a slice of Applegate ham. The sweet/salty combination is delish!

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And I’ll have to double check the ingredients in the ham, but I’m pretty sure it’s AIP friendly.

My sweet husband picked up some coconut water for me yesterday, so I drank a lot of that and felt really hydrated. Continuing with that today, and I’ve been focusing on getting to bed by 10pm. I’m rarely (never) asleep by 10, but getting to bed earlier is becoming easier. Hopefully I can soon adjust my internal clock enough to not only be in bed by 10, but be fully asleep by 10. I think this will be easier to do as the days continue to get shorter and shorter. This timing of sleep-hours is vital to adrenal function, so as I taper off the last few mg of this steroid, giving my adrenals every fighting chance will be really important. And it makes a big difference in how I feel throughout the day (and how quickly I heal from flares).

Fried Bananas and Belly Bloat

Still struggling, but seem to have hit a plateau. I don’t think this flare will get any worse. Now it’s just a matter of being patient and waiting it out. Today was day 3 on the couch. Mentally feeling a little stir-crazy, but physically, I just don’t want to move. I did get up at one point to clean up the kitchen a bit, and to make these…

Chai Fried Bananas

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It’s 2 bananas fried in a tablespoon of salted ghee and sprinkled with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and clove. These are such a yummy treat. Makes a fantastic dessert. And no need for additional sweeteners whatsoever. The bananas caramelize and each bite is like cracking into creme br√Ľl√©e. When it hurts so much to eat, I really need something that is so delicious that I’ll endure the pain. This did the trick. I ate all but 6 or 7 pieces. That was the only solid food I had today. But staying nourished with smoothies and warmed, spiced coconut milk. Felt like I had a hard time staying hydrated today. It just hurts and is so tiring to keep drinking water. And I make a mess because it dribbles out around my swollen lip. Would’ve loved some coconut water. I always feel so hydrated after drinking that stuff.

Ok, so, when I took these pictures I had no intention of posting them anywhere. It was purely for my own information. But the change has been so drastic, and this is a big part of how I’m gauging what foods are inflammatory for me or not. I’ve talked before about how much my bloated, distended stomach was reduced after eliminating grains. I wish a had a “before eliminating grains” picture, because that was where the most noticeable difference happened. I easily looked four months pregnant (and I showed a LOT at four months!). But here are 2 pictures of my stomach 3 weeks after eliminating grains.

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I’d say I was down to about 2 months pregnant-looking in those pictures. And my stomach stayed that way for several weeks. Then, during this recent flare, it shrunk even more. Flares sometimes end up being sort of forced detox periods for me (as long as I can avoid pain meds). But even during flares, I typically eat eggs. It’s a soft, slippery, easy to swallow food that works when my mouth is all jacked up. We just happened to be out of eggs this week, and I was too sick to go shopping, so we were eating (or in my case, mostly drinking) other things. I think this further shrinkage may be due to the inadvertent elimination of eggs. Though I’ve eliminated and reintroduced them before with no noticeable reaction, if I was consuming other inflammatory foods at the same time, it’s unlikely that I would’ve noticed. Anyway, here’s my belly pics from this morning (five weeks after eliminating grains, two weeks after the previous pictures… I swear I’m not sucking in and I have not done a single core exercise in, oh, about 6 months).

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My stomach is almost as flat as my husband’s now- and he’s a very lean guy. I think there still may be a very slight bit of lingering inflammation, but it is greatly reduced. So I should be able to notice as soon as it returns and identify the offending foods. Since I have no other digestive issues (thankfully) this is the best way for me to recognize what foods are messing with my digestion and causing the autoimmune reactions throughout my body.

I’ve said this before, but I want to reiterate… I’ve looked 4 months pregnant for the past 3 years (ever since the birth of my daughter). Even when I lost a huge amount of weight (and was down to 116 lbs, at 5’7″ and with my build, that’s way too skinny) I still had the baby belly. I knew it wasn’t an issue of fat, but I figured it had something to do with my stomach muscles not being the same after being so stretched out during pregnancy (I was REALLY huge- like abnormally huge- strangers often thought I was having twins). I thought I just needed to work on my core strength and build those muscles back up. Then, when I had a crisis situation back in June and had to get a high dose (80 mg) steroid injection on top of doubling my usual prednisone dosage to 40 mg per day, my stomach suddenly shrunk (even flatter than it is now- it was practically concave). Once that happened, I knew instinctively that the belly was caused by some sort of severe inflammation in my digestive system. My doctor (nice guy, saved my life in the hospital, but clueless about my disease and digestive health) said the steroid injection would not have caused my stomach to go flat. He suggested that perhaps I had had a large bowel movement. Lol. I was like, “Ummmmm, no. I’ve had this belly for 3 years. I don’t think it has anything to do with bowel movements.” The four-month baby belly returned within a week, but I knew finding how to reduce that inflammation through my diet would be key to my long term healing process.

So, even though at this point I am still very sick, I find encouragement in this progress. I WILL get there. I WILL be well. Eventually. ūüôā

Pondering AIP (Autoimmune Paleo) Protocol

I felt so good last week, I really thought I’d turned a corner and the rest of the taper would be easy. Yeah- not so much. Dropped to 2 mg on Sunday, so today is day 3. I have a huge lesion on my tongue and several smaller ones throughout my mouth. Plus 3 medium sized ones on my lips. Lots of thrush, but thankfully, my tongue is not as swollen as it would usually be with a lesion this size. Since it doesn’t restrict my chewing too much, I have been able to get in a little bit of solid food each day. Yesterday, I drank a big mug of chicken bone broth, several smoothies (with spinach, bananas, strawberries, and Garden of Life meal replacements), and a small bowl of leftover meatloaf and mashed cauliflower. Kind of have a constant empty feeling in my stomach, but I know I’m staying hydrated and getting decent nutrition. I’ve had several stubborn headaches lately, too. And I’m out of my Young Living PanAway essential oil, so I’ve been subbing with a cheaper brand of wintergreen, helichrysum, and peppermint. And drinking lots of water. And taking long, hot Epsom salt baths. So far, I’ve made it through without caving and taking ibuprofen. But it has not been comfortable.

My husband stayed home from work this week to take care of our daughter (and me) since I’ve rarely left the couch in the past 2 days. Watching lots of Netflix and keeping myself distracted from the pain. As long as I’m not talking, eating, drinking, or swallowing, I can almost forget what’s going on in my mouth. But I’m also extremely tired, dozing off while watching TV and sleeping a lot of the day. I am achy and feel slightly feverish. My skin is super-sensitive, so little things hurt more than they should. And if I go a long time without opening my mouth, it gets stuck together. Especially when I wake up from sleeping, but it can happen when I just haven’t opened my mouth for a while. Isn’t that disgusting? I have to wet my lips with water from the sink and slowly pry them open. I watched a zombie movie the other day (World War Z-great movie), and it dawned on me that my mouth is totally zombified when I’m flaring, chunks of rotting flesh and all. So gross.

There are a few things in my diet that I think could still be causing systemic inflammation. For one, since I eliminated grains, I started eating a lot more nuts- mostly cashews and almonds. And I usually don’t soak them first. Nuts and seeds have something in them that makes them indigestible (anti-nutrients? or phytic acid?). When you soak them, it helps neutralize some of that… whatever… that makes them indigestible. Click here for an article that explains it way better than I just did. At any rate, if you have a leaky gut (which I most likely do, since I have an autoimmune disease) those indigestible particles can get through the gut lining and into the bloodstream, where they are recognized as foreign and attacked by immune cells- causing further confusion and malfunction of an already spastic immune system. So, I think I am going to need to eliminate nuts and seeds for a while. At least to let my gut heal a bit and then re-introduce them to see how I react.

Another food category I’m considering eliminating is nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and potatoes). All this time, I thought nightshade elimination was really only for people with autoimmune arthritis. But the more I read about the effects they have on digestion, the smarter I think it would be to at least do a test elimination.

The only major category left that would keep me from the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol (AIP) would be eggs. I’ve eliminated and reintroduced them before, but if I was eating other inflammatory foods at the time, I may not have noticed a reaction.

So, that’s my plan… to implement AIP in the near future. It’ll be the most restrictive I’ve been with my diet thus far, but there will be little chance of weight loss because I’ll still be getting lots of animal fats and proteins.

This e-cookbook will be my guide. It’s the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook by Mickey Trescott. I’ve been following her blog for a while, and have found her and the Paleo Mom to be two of the best sources of information on the autoimmune protocol.

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The plan is not to have to follow this diet forever. It may take a few months, or a few years. I don’t know. But the idea is to heal my gut so that when I do eat foods that formerly caused inflammation, my body will know what to do with them and they will not cause symptoms. Not that I will ever consume conventional dairy again, but I am really looking forward to the day I can have some organic coffee with grassfed raw cream and a piece of sprouted grain bread with raw cheese.

But even if that’s not a possibility for the rest of my life, I’ll be happy with whatever I CAN eat. And I’ll eat whatever will heal me. Cause health tastes way better than the best coffee, bread, and cheese.

Living Grain Free

I’m on day 6 of 4 mg on the prednisone taper. And this is the best I’ve felt since I began the taper 2 months ago. I’ve been feeling really good for a few days, but was afraid to talk about it too much- didn’t want to jinx it. I’ll be dropping to 2 mg on Sunday. I’m almost there! Almost done! Almost free!

Here’s some examples of what I’ve been eating lately. Grain-free isn’t nearly as tough as I thought it would be. As the Paleo Mom says, it’s only effort until it’s routine.

These are grass fed burgers on a lettuce bun with tomato, avocado, and mushrooms. With rutabaga fries. Seriously delicious.

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Breakfast for the family: saut√©ed sweet potato and beet greens with garlic. Applegate naturals chicken and apple breakfast sausage, and sliced fruit- pluot, banana, and Granny Smith apple. This meal would almost fit within the guidelines of the autoimmune paleo protocol. The sausage is seasoned with spices that include pepper, and nightshades are restricted on the AIP, but it’s pretty close.

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Loving my vitamix¬†and it’s ability to turn large amounts of fruits and veggies into delicious smoothies! Here, I pur√©ed a cucumber (not organic, so I peeled it before blending), a plum, a whole head of romaine, and a beet. I drank 2 big glasses, then blended what was leftover with a frozen banana for my 3 year old. Super sweet and she loved it.

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Super salty lunch salad: 2 cups of baby spinach topped with Applegate naturals uncured salami, raw sauerkraut, and Sicilian style olives. It was tricky to find jarred olives without nasty additives. These have lactic acid and acetic acid (which I think is basically vinegar), but are otherwise just olives, water, and salt. Most of the jarred olives had preservatives, so this was the best option I could find.

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This is now one of my all time favorite recipes. Nut-free, Coconut-free Paleo Muffins from the Paleo Mom. I doubled the batch, made 12 plain muffins, 12 blueberry muffins, and then made blueberry pancakes with what wouldn’t fit in the muffin tins. Everything came out perfect.

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Quick lunch for me while my daughter’s at school: 2 grassfed beef uncured hot dogs with organic ketchup and mustard, olives, raw sauerkraut, and jarred organic shredded red beets.

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I often send these in my daughter’s lunch. Great substitute for a ham sandwich. A grain free crepe from the Against all Grain cookbook, Applegate naturals uncured ham, and raw sauerkraut for a good dose of probiotics to help with digestion.

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And when I eat them myself, I dip it in mustard, and pair it up with a pickle spear, olives, and shredded beets.

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And, in case you missed it in previous posts, this bread recipe is part of what has made my transition to grain-free so easy. Crazy delicious.

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Bread-less Sandwiches and a Paleo Meal for Date Night

I’ve been feeling pretty good the last couple of days and I am so grateful for that. Still on the tail end of this cold (congested and sore throat, but very mild) and oral lesions are mild. So I’ve been able to expand on what I’ve been eating and add in some crunchy leaves (that are really difficult to eat when I’m having lots of issues with my mouth). Considering my recent switch to grain-free, being able to eat leaves is nice because I can wrap traditional sandwich fixings in a leaf and BAM- easy meal.

For example:

Grass fed uncured beef hotdogs with organic ketchup and mustard, and raw sauerkraut on a romaine lettuce leaf, with a side of crunchy carrots and hummus.

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And breakfast this morning was egg “sandwiches”. Uncured ham and an egg fried in coconut oil, topped with avocado and a side of fruit (the purple thing is a pluot, the yellow is a “flavor grenade” pluot, and everybody knows what an orange looks like).

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Some other notable (and mostly paleo) things I’ve been eating lately…

Sardines are supposed to be really healthy. Great way to get those omega 3’s we hear so much about, and lower in mercury than most other fish, particularly canned fish like tuna and salmon. Problem is, I don’t really like sardines. It seems weird that all their bones are in there, and they really need to be prepared in a way that complements their flavor. I’ve had them on crackers with a bit of mustard before, which was good. But crackers (even gf ones) aren’t an option for me anymore. So I found a recipe online for coconut crusted sardines. I love coconut shrimp, so I figured I’d try it. Rinsed the sardines, dredged them in an egg wash, then coated them with coconut and saut√©ed them in coconut oil. Dipped them in organic mustard. Not too bad.

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And for our date night (at home, because I really can’t eat out very easily and this is cheaper anyway) we made (yes, my husband helped) the recipe for meatloaf muffins from my favorite cookbook, Against all Grain. Topped with some organic ketchup and mashed cauliflower. With a side of oven roasted asparagus. Very delicious and comforting meal. (I made a double batch, so we have lots of meatloaf muffins in the freezer for quick meals when we’re busy- or for when I’m sick).

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And date night dessert was sliced pears, tossed in coconut oil and cinnamon, and roasted in the oven. Then topped with coconut cream (from the top of a refrigerated can of coconut milk- organic and BPA free) enhanced with a little local raw honey and vanilla extract. Soooo good.

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This paleo thing is going to be fun. ūüôā

Entertaining (mostly) Grain Free

Had a wonderful time catching up with our old friends (and watching our toddlers get to know each other- so cute!) We ate every meal here at the house during their visit, and the only time I spent in the kitchen (about 20 minutes) involved making this AMAZING grain free bread. (Click here for the recipe from Against All Grain). I misread the recipe and used tablespoons instead of teaspoons for the vinegar. I actually think it turned out even better. Gave it almost a sourdough flavor. We (four adults and two toddlers) ate the entire loaf in one sitting. I served it smothered in grass-fed butter alongside a roasted beet salad with citrus vinaigrette and organic chicken soup- all of which had been made ahead of time and just had to be warmed up and plated. I had a frosty glass of pomegranate kombucha with mine.

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Our friends supplied the steaks for dinner, which the boys grilled while I warmed up the pre-baked sweet potatoes and saut√©ed the sprouts mixture I’d put together ahead of time. Dinner was on the table in 15 minutes. I love being prepared.

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Dessert was not grain free. I made and froze this dish before I made the switch. Though I’m pretty sure it would be easily converted to grain free. I’ll have to try it soon. Anyway, it was a pear/peach cobbler made with brown rice flour (so it IS gluten free at least) and sweetened with honey. I adjusted my Granny’s old peach cobbler recipe to eliminate the refined sugars and wheat flour. Topped it off with coconut whip cream (the delicious white stuff from the top of a refrigerated can of coconut milk, then mixed with vanilla extract and agave). Mmmmmmm. So good.