Pineapple Frozen Yogurt

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This recipe came about in kind of a strange way…I bought a carton of yogurt I really didn’t like. I was at a store I don’t often go to and couldn’t find my usual brand. And every other brand I recognized was all skim milk. So I grabbed one that was supposedly Greek yogurt but turned out to be kind of slimy and icky but I couldn’t stand to just throw a whole container away. I had some pineapple and was suddenly inspired!
I added a little of this and a little of that and all of three of us loved it. Even my hubby, who isn’t crazy about frozen yogurt, especially the fruity kinds. (He prefers the chocolate variety. Or peanut butter. Or chocolate and peanut butter…you get the idea.)

A few notes about the ingredients:

Yogurt: So, what about the skim milk? Part of it for me is I eat almost no dairy. The almost? Is yogurt. That, and the occasional real cheese on pizza every once in a while. I also use ghee in place of butter (butter that has been clarified and the lactose and casein are removed; it’s easier to digest and rich in vitamins – yes, it’s from real butter and it’s good for you!). And I hate to admit I’ve become a bit of a yogurt snob. I’ve become very picky about it, but part of that is as I mentioned, it’s usually the only dairy I have. I just have not been able to make or find a store-bought dairy-free version I like, so if I’m going to cheat on the dairy, then why not enjoy it?! The other thing is a personal choice. The other part of the picky is the type of dairy.

I largely stay away from dairy because I don’t handle it well, but have discovered I do fine with small amounts of good-quality, full fat dairy. Skim milk is very processed; all the fats – and the vitamins it naturally contains – are taken out then synthetic vitamins are added back in. That doesn’t make much sense to me. And recent studies actually claim that full fat dairy is actually better for you. I bought into the low/no-fat fad years ago…and ended up the unhealthiest I have ever been. When I simply started focusing on real, wholesome food I lost weight I had been struggling with for years (without really trying which I didn’t think was humanly possible) and several health issues drastically improved or disappeared completely. It’s a matter of personal choice, but an interesting one I did not come about lightly.
And fermented dairy, aka yogurt, is easier on the tummy. Does it ever bother me? Sometimes. I actually consider it a treat. It’s one of the few things I’ve been able to reintroduce to an already quite restricted diet and I enjoy it. Like I said, personal choice. Here’s some food for thought. In her book, Nourishing Traditions, the author Sally Fallon says “the fermentation of milk results in numerous beneficial changes. Fermentation breaks down casein, or milk protein, one of the most difficult proteins to digest. Culturing restores many of the enzymes destroyed during pasteurization including lactase, which helps digest lactose or milk sugar. Lactase produced during the culturing process allows many people who are sensitive to fresh milk to tolerate fermented milk products. Both vitamin B and vitamin C content of milk increase during fermentation.”

Collagen Peptide: Collagen is an insoluble protein made up of amino acids. You can find it naturally in things like a well-made broth and in cuts of meat that contain skin and bone. It contains high amounts of proteins and also vitamins. It’s good for your gut as well as your hair, skin, and nails. I get it in powder form and add it to just about anything. I try to add it to at least something every day (there’s no taste and you won’t even tell it’s in there). I add it to my coffee, yogurt, smoothies, hot cereals, and even some baked goods! There are lots of good articles out there about its benefits if you’re curious. I started using it years ago and haven’t looked back.

Pineapple: These are one of my favorite fruits! Super sweet but also so good for you. Fresh is best, and it’s on the Clean Fifteen list, which means It’s low on the pesticide scale and safe to buy conventional over organic (hence, it’s more budget-friendly!). Pineapple is very hydrating and anti-inflammatory, it boosts energy, is a natural decongestant, and is rich in vitamins like vitamin C, B6, folate, and thiamin. It contains minerals like manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium. It’s also a good source of fiber and healthy carbohydrates. (Yes, there is such a thing as a healthy carb; they fuel your body, regulate your blood sugar, and make you feel fuller – as opposed to the opposite that an unhealthy carb does.)

Ginger and Turmeric: These are anti-inflammatory spices that taste good and are good for you! Ginger is great for the immune system and can relieve an upset tummy. It’s also a natural anti-viral. Both are natural detoxifiers for the body. Turmeric is also good for the digestive tract. It’s also very good for the liver and it has been used in Chinese medicine as a natural anti-depressant. The health benefits are good, but I used them because I like them and think they are a great accompaniment to the pineapple.
Himalayan Pink Salt: Himalayan Pink Salt contains 80-plus minerals and elements without the negative effects your run of the mill table salt contains, where all the minerals except for sodium and chloride are stripped away. It also helps balance the pH in your body, which is very important. Here, I added it for its health benefits, but also because a small amount of salt helps balance the sweet.

Raw Honey: The difference between raw and conventional honey is raw honey has not been heated, which can destroy the vitamins, nutrients, and enzymes it contains. Local honey, which I used, is also a great choice if you suffer from allergies or environmentally-induced asthma. It will contain local pollen, which can help in the anti-histamine reaction the allergies induce. It has anti-viral and anti-fungal properties and can help stabilize blood sugar, instead of throwing it out of whack like refined sugar does. Also, check your labels. You might be surprised to find how much of that regular “honey” is actually high fructose corn syrup. I’ve even seen some that advertise, “made with real honey,” and maybe it was, but the first ingredient is the aforementioned highly processed corn syrup and honey is very low on a very long list. When buying honey, whether raw or not, there should only be ONE ingredient: HONEY. I initially wasn’t going to add any but then added only about a teaspoon full after adding the ginger and turmeric; the sweet helps balance the spice, I think.

I hope you found this information helpful. I personally find it really interesting when someone breaks down ingredients I may or not be familiar with. It’s good to always be learning! Now onto the recipe! Note, some of the amounts are approximate because I really did just add everything to taste and according to what I had in my fridge/pantry. Please feel free to adjust to your personal tastes. Enjoy!

Pineapple Frozen Yogurt
1-1/2 cups pineapple, cubed
16 ounces plain yogurt of choice
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
¼ teaspoon powdered turmeric
1 scoop (or about 2 heaping tablespoons) collagen peptide
A pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt
Raw Honey to taste

~ Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Add to an ice cream maker and churn until thickened. Mine took about twenty minutes – just long enough for me to do the other dishes before we enjoyed this for dessert!

In Good (and pineapple-flavored) health,
Emily

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Sources:
Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. Nourishing Traditions. Washington, DC., 1999
http://time.com/4279538/low-fat-milk-vs-whole-milk/
http://holisticsquid.com/milk-hero-or-villian/
https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/pineapples.html
https://wellnessmama.com/3058/collagen-hydrolysate/
http://fitlife.tv/10-health-benefits-of-turmeric/
https://ritely.com/benefits-of-ginger/
http://www.lifejacks.com/health-benefits-himalayan-pink-salt/
https://bodyunburdened.com/health-benefits-raw-honey/

Paleo & AIP Shepherd’s Pie

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I made this over a week ago, hence the pretty fall photo edit, and was in the midst of getting the recipe jotted for the blog…and we all got sick!  Then there was Thanksgiving and a week of recovering, family stuff, and regular day-to-day goings on of the PreciousBelovedBlessing house.  So, here it is!

 

I love fall.  It’s my favorite time of year and who doesn’t love comfort food?!  I haven’t made Shepherd’s Pie in ages and it doesn’t come to mind when you are thinking either paleo or AIP, but it sounded good one night, so I looked at what I had in the fridge and decided to wing it.

 

What is paleo or AIP, you might be wondering.  Paleo is a type of diet that uses inspiration from our ancestors for a cleaner, less refined or processed, way of living.  It is free from grains, dairy (in some cases), and refined sugars, and basically anything artificial.  To me, it simply means a cleaner way of living.  AIP stands for Autoimmune Protocol, which is a version of the paleo diet that also eliminates nuts, seeds, definitely dairy, and nightshades, among other things.  I don’t think any one diet or lifestyle is one size fits all.  I eat the way I do to help me manage autoimmune issues such as Celiacs disease, eczema, asthma, and some other things.  I have found certain things I can have and certain things I can’t.

 

One thing I have never been able to reintroduce are nightshades.  A nightshade is a certain genre of a seed or plant with a make up that can be very irritating to the gut of some people – and I am one of them.  This includes – in this dish for instance – white potatoes and tomatoes.  I have discovered I can have a small amount of good-quality dairy on occasion, but my son (who also has to eat gluten-free) can’t tolerate any, but I had tried a couple of side dish recipes that used just a little fat and a food processor and had whipped up amazing mashed potato-like goodness, so I gave this a try.

 

I had sweet potatoes in my cupboard, ground beef in my fridge, along with some pureed pumpkin (a great substitute for the traditional tomato), and lots of veggies.  Here is what I came up with.  We all loved it, including my husband who isn’t crazy about sweet potatoes!  The ghee I have reintroduced successfully, but if you are still in the elimination diet phase of AIP use whatever cooking fat you prefer, like lard or coconut oil.

 

Enjoy!

 

Paleo & AIP Shepherd’s Pie

 

Topping:

4 medium sweet potatoes (yams would work as well)

2 Tablespoons ghee (or cooking fat of choice)

1 clove garlic

Dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, and basil to taste (I used probably about a Tablespoon total of the three when mixed)

Sea salt to taste

 

Bottom Layer:

1 pound ground beef (or other ground meat; Shepherd’s Pie is traditionally made with lamb, which would be good; I just used what I had on hand)

1 small onion

2-3 celery ribs, chopped

2 carrots, chopped (or more if preferred – mine were pretty big)

2 cups sliced kale (spinach or chard would be good too)

2 cloves garlic, minced

Dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, and basil to taste

2 Tablespoons plain pumpkin puree (canned ok, but NOT pumpkin pie filling!)

2 cups stock or broth (preferably homemade)

1 Tablespoon arrowroot starch

 

To Make:

First, cook the sweet potatoes.  Peel and cube them and place in a large pot of salted water.  Bring to a boil and simmer about 15 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.  Drain and set aside.

 

While the potatoes cook preheat the oven to 400 degrees (F) and grease a large baking dish.  (I used a 9×13” pan – there are only three of us, but I wanted lots of leftovers for the busy upcoming holiday week.)

 

Next, brown the meat, breaking it up into small pieces, season lightly with salt, and remove from pan with a slotted spoon when finished cooking; set aside.  Into the hot pan add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook a few minutes, until softened and the onion is fragrant.  Add the kale and cook until wilted, mixing well.

 

While that is cooking add the arrowroot starch to the broth and whisk well to combine.  Add to the pan, along with the garlic, herbs, and pumpkin, stirring well to combine.  Continue cooking until the sauce is thick and bubbly; this may take a few minutes.  Then add the browned meat and pour all into your prepared pan.

 

Lastly, take your drained sweet potatoes and put in a blender or food processor.  Add the remaining topping ingredients and blend until combined and fluffy.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be and then add to the top of the meat mixture.  I did this by spooning dallops over the top before carefully spreading it.  It takes a little time but is worth the effort!

 

Bake about 45 minutes, or until browned and bubbling.

 

Enjoy!

 

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and you enjoy this dish.  I’m definitely going to be making it again!

 

Have a great day,

Emily

Pumpkin Pie Porridge (Paleo, AIP)

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It’s November and finally feeling like fall in Southern California! We are loving it. And on chilly mornings who doesn’t love a hot breakfast? At our house we can eat pumpkin something or hot porridge any time of year, but in the spirit of pumpkin everything going on right now, plus the fact I haven’t posted a recipe in ages I thought I would throw my pumpkin into the pot so to speak. I haven’t posted anything pumpkin related since this time last year, my own version of a Pumpkin Spice Latte, which you can find here: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/pumpkin-spice-latte-dairy-free-aip-variaton-refined-sugar-free/.

I love porridge and hot cereal and miss oatmeal since going grain-free over a year ago and have made several paleo-friendly recipes that we like but I decided to combine the two. We tried a pumpkin porridge last year that we all enjoyed (including my husband who isn’t a porridge fan) and have made since, but it is loaded with nuts. I follow a version of the paleo diet called the Autoimmune Protocol and can have nuts, but they are a treat for me and I really have to limit the amount I eat or else suffer some pretty unpleasant consequences. Many others contain eggs or seeds, or frankly ingredients I find a little odd (cauliflower seems to be a popular choice and I haven’t gotten the gumption to try it yet). I have been trying a few of the so-called forbidden ingredients as of late, trying to reintroduce a few things, which I do every once in a while as my body continues to heal, to see how I do. I’ve had mixed results so when I can find something that will fill me up and taste good and be completely AIP I prefer that.

This version is nut, seed, dairy, egg, and nightshade free and contains several very healthy ingredients but tastes like a treat with texture really reminiscent of the oatmeal I miss. A few notes about the ingredients if you’re curious…or just skip ahead to the recipe! Lately when I cook I try to use things full of healthy fats and proteins; it is really hard for me stay strict AIP and feel satiated. Several of these really help with that.

Coconut contains fiber, which helps you fill up, and also stabilizes blood sugar (even if you don’t have blood sugar issues – which I do not – stable blood sugar makes you feel full and happy). It also contains a fair amount of protein, a bit of calcium, and even Vitamin C! When buying make sure you check the label; they often contain added sweeteners, preservatives or anti-caking agents. There should be just one thing in the ingredients list…coconut! You can make coconut milk yourself (I should really do a tutorial!), but right now my blender is broken so I am buying it. Make sure you find it in a BPA-free container; some contain additives like guar gum which some are sensitive to so keep that in mind when choosing a brand to buy.

You can use either fresh or canned pumpkin in this; did you know that pumpkin is one of the only foods that keeps its nutrients when canned (again, a BPA-free container). When using fresh you may need to adjust the liquid and use a little less, but it’s up to you. Pumpkin is a good source of carbohydrates (no, carbs are not bad for you!), and also is loaded with vitamins, fiber, mono-unsaturated fats, and even contain anti-inflammatory properties.

Collagen is high in protein and I add it to all kinds of things (I actually add it to my coffee or tea every morning!). It’s great for your hair, skin, and nails, as well as the tummy and other digestive issues, and even your hormones! Look for a good, clean source. I am currently using the Great Lakes brand, green can, but I have heard good things about the Vital Proteins brand as well.

Molasses I added for the flavor, but did you know it’s also a good source of iron, calcium, and potassium? Look for unsulphured and avoid any with added ingredients.

Even maple syrup has a few health benefits (the real stuff anyway). A darker, pure maple syrup is the best choice. Did you know it has up to 24 different antioxidants as well as vitamins like zinc, manganese, potassium, and calcium? We use it because we like the taste and it’s a healthier alternative to refined sugar or artificial sweetener. You could also use honey here if you wanted (I just thought the maple would compliment the pumpkin really well).

The spices pack a nutritional punch as well, believe it or not! All three are very anti-inflammatory (a big plus when dealing with autoimmune issues) but also protect your heart and can fight diabetes and are also a good source of antioxidants. And they taste great, giving it that spicy, yummy pie flavor.

I used Himalayan Pink Salt which contains more minerals than regular salt and is very detoxifying, but it’s a matter of personal preference.

But enough of all that! On to the good stuff!

Pumpkin Pie Porridge

Serves 1-2

¾ to 1 cup coconut milk (depending on how thick you like it)
3 Tablespoons coconut flour
2 Tablespoons finely shredded coconut
½ cup pumpkin puree
1 Tablespoon collagen powder
1 teaspoon molasses
1-2 teaspoons maple syrup (according to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of sea salt

Combine coconut milk, coconut flour and shredded coconut and whisk together to combine and remove the lumps. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cooking until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in pumpkin puree then add remaining ingredients, stirring thoroughly to combine. Serve with your favorite toppings (I used chopped persimmons and pomegranate seeds here – very fall!). Add a little love and enjoy!

I made a single batch this morning and shared it with my four-year-old, but we often like to double this. Re-warm on the stove with a little extra coconut milk and it turns out great!

Have a great day,
Emily

Moving & AIP ~ What I Wish I Had Known

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This is actually a post I considered writing about six months ago and never did. Most of the reason will be evident by the end of this. The other was because I thought of it and dismissed it after a while, and then suddenly felt the urge to write it so hopefully it will speak to someone out there.

If you follow me then you have probably previously read about my healing journey, so I will be brief, but if you haven’t, I was diagnosed with Celiacs disease in 2008 and then last year moved from a gluten-free diet to a grain-free, paleo, and autoimmune protocol diet to deal with some ongoing issues that I learned were all autoimmune-related and inter-connected.

What is the autoimmune protocol? Simply put, it’s a stricter version of the paleo diet which removes any potential gut irritants, such as dairy, nuts, seeds, eggs, nightshades, alcohol, and other things. These things in someone like me can actually cause an immune reaction in my body; in my case, the eczema and asthma flare and I have digestive issues and it can even effect me emotionally. I consider myself on a “modified” AIP diet in that I have successfully reintroduced certain foods. For instance, I can have a small amount of good-quality dairy and I can have a little coffee, an occasional glass of wine, or nuts as long as I don’t over-do it and they are all “treats” for me.

My body is still healing and I am still learning about myself, different ways to heal, and come to term with what I am dealing with. There is much more to the story, but I’ll focus on the task at hand. Moving is hard. It can be stressful and exhausting and even emotional. If you are dealing with any kind of health issue it can all be even more so, but especially one that can be exasperated by things like stress, fatigue, and emotions!

We moved into our current home last December, after only living in our previous home for ten months. It was not planned. Something happened at the end of October. We began searching for another place shortly thereafter then placed notice on November fifteenth and began moving on December first. It was crazy. It was stressful. It was emotional. Then in the middle we almost had to move again. When we were finally moved in after two weeks it was the middle of December and the holiday rush was on.

I don’t recommend that, but as I stated it couldn’t be avoided. Now, I don’t really want to go into the whole story. I thought about talking about here at the time and dismissed it for various reasons, but thought I would start at the beginning just so you can understand what happened and the effect it had on me.

A little over a week before Halloween my three-year-old son and I were at the park on our apartment complex property. It was a daily occurrence for us and I had always felt safe there, but odd things had been happening of late. Security sort of things and none of it to us but we had heard about it. So my son is playing in the park and I notice a car pull up and stop out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was strange and looked at them once or twice and felt very uncomfortable. There is watching, staring, and just plain leering at someone. I finally took a step in their direction to politely ask if they were lost (although I really didn’t want to be that nice) and in the moment I moved toward them they literally screeched away they left so fast.

The hair stood up on the back of my neck and I felt sick. Something about that was just not right. I grabbed my cell-phone from my pocket and snapped as many pictures as I could, but only got two before they sped out of sight. I was so freaked out I grabbed my son and we headed home. I saw this car twice more on the walk back to our apartment. They followed us home and parked and watched my garage door go down.

I have never been so frightened in my life. I called our office and the security company on site and when I called my husband he told me to call the police. Even thinking back on it to write about it I am almost shaking. It was beyond horrible and the six more weeks we lived there I could never go back to the park or on the walks we used to take every day. I was too freaked out and had never felt so unsafe in my life.

I’ll skip ahead a little bit because it is all a very long story but what happened next surprises me almost as much as what initially happened. I had to leave a message at the office and the security company representative I spoke to was sitting in an office in Texas! The next day I received a phone call from our apartment office from someone absolutely livid I had called the police and they actually berated me for reacting as I had. I was flabbergasted I was being punished for being the victim. Our community had an online forum and I had posted something the night before, explaining what had happened and the blurry photo of the car as it retreated. They demanded I take the post down and apologize to the couple in the car. I was at a loss and got off the phone in tears, refusing to take the post down. I felt my neighbors had a right to know what had happened. Regardless of who these people were or their intentions, their behavior was completely inappropriate and I felt (and still do) I was well within my rights to react as I did, as a mother protecting her child.

They took the post down for me and the next one after that when I posted something again. They dragged things out, even threatening to evict us. After about two weeks and a particularly rude e-mail from the community manager I filed a complaint with the corporate office and then replied to her, stating I didn’t understand what the problem was, I felt unsafe and unwelcome in my own home, and I did not appreciate her behavior and let her know I had filed a complaint and forwarded all her e-mails with it. Shortly thereafter we received a letter of apology (and frankly quite an insincere one) and permission to break our lease without penalties. We jumped on it and began the move. I was packing before we had even found another place.

I told you this was a long story, and believe me, this is the short version! One thing I will add, DO YOUR RESEARCH! We didn’t look into our community much and just for the heck of it when we were still deciding what to do my husband looked up the crime rate, etc, for our area and we learned one, the crime rate was pretty crummy, and two, there were SIX registered sex offenders in our community. SIX! In the midst of this, we kept hearing more bad stories about our area so that was the final nail in the coffin, so to speak, and we practically ran out of there. Just a few miles up the road, the crime rate drops drastically, and truth be told we are paying slightly more for less space, but there are no registered sex offenders and we live in a gated community with ONSITE security and a lot goes for feeling comfortable in your own home.

So on to the move! Before it even started I was beyond stressed. I had a hard time eating or sleeping. I have never been the paranoid type that will check every door and window and peek in on their sleeping child twelve times in the night and suddenly I was that person. I fought my husband for fifteen years on buying a gun (I have no issue with it, I just didn’t think we needed one) and gave in earlier that year but had hardly even seen it. The night this happened my husband got home, took me to our bedroom, showed me how to open the gun safe and load it, and then he took me to a firing range that next weekend and showed me how to shoot it. My husband got home early one night and I didn’t know it and walked into the garage from the house as he was entering it from outside; I hadn’t heard the garage door and he scared me out of my mind. I was mortified after issuing a blood-curdling scream and knocking over boxes as I tried to get away from him. My own husband. We run a car service with drivers that come and go and I nearly attacked one of them one night when he came to our front door instead of the garage and I could hear something downstairs. That is what this did to me. That takes a toll on your mind, your body, and your emotions. Believe me.

Then I made another mistake. I let people get to me. Anyone else guilty of that? I like to think I am not bothered by the opinions of others but I am only human – and a sensitive one at that – and sometimes the little things get to me. A lot of people we knew seemed to think we were being evicted from our current home and that was mortifying to me. We were leaving of our own accord simply because we did not feel safe. I didn’t feel like I needed to tell them everything why so after we announced we were moving on Facebook and told a few people I received several odd and some downright rude comments or texts, eluding to them wondering why we were moving. It was none of their business and we finally told a few people what had actually happened just to get them to drop it, but it broke my heart. Especially when someone particularly close to us all out asked me if we were and didn’t believe me when I told him/her that we weren’t. It was embarrassing that people could think something like that of us, a little maddening too, and it only added to my stress.

We moved over a period of two weeks because as part of a move-in deal we received two weeks free. It was great for us, in our situation, but as I already stated we placed our notice on November 15, began the move on December 1, and finished on December 15. It sounds like a lot of time but we packed up our entire life in two weeks with a major holiday in the middle and another looming a month away. We run our own business and have a three-year-old son. There was a lot to do in those few very short weeks. Our first angel baby’s birthday was also right in the middle of it and I was riddled with guilt and anxiety we missed our usual family fun time because we were so busy and focused on the move; not to mention the fact at the best of times it is a difficult, trying, and emotional day.

Then one day I was at our new apartment, having some me-time while I worked on my new kitchen, lining cupboards and such. My mom had had a great idea that one of the first things I should do was unpack Christmas decorations so I had them all out on our patio and I was playing Christmas music and sipping a dairy-free latte with plans to move on to decorations when I finished in the kitchen; I was about half done. I walked into the master bedroom for something and was completely assailed by the scent of cigarette smoke. And on came a whole new bout of stress.

I am extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke. I suffer from at times debilitating asthma and cannot stand to be around it. And it was so strong I could have sworn there was someone actually in the room smoking. I felt sick. In more ways than one! What happened next is another long story, but to make it short the people below us smoke AND the previous tenant smoked exclusively in that room. They had done a treatment but it was also damp which can make the smell worse and I had had our windows open, airing out what was already stuffy and chemical-filled air from a not recently occupied apartment that was filled with new carpet, paint, etc.

The management at our new place was fantastic and very sympathetic. They immediately did another treatment and gave us an open-ended offer to move to another unit at no additional cost. This is where the almost moving again in the middle of it comes in. We had no idea what to do and were at almost a complete standstill for a couple of days and then finally just started dumping things in our garage while we tried to make a decision. I actually made myself sick about it. What if we moved and not one person near us smoked but several? And we felt so good in our apartment; it already felt like home. And I had been working so hard and so much was already done. My list of worries went on and on.

In the meantime they did the mentioned treatment and we bought an expensive air purifier (Merry Christmas to me!). To make an even longer story short we stayed where we were and have put up with it. The air purifier does it job and was something I had always thought of getting anyway. The biggest bummer is I can rarely open the windows on that side of the apartment but we make due. And the people below us that are doing the smoking are lovely, very kind people. I diffuse essential oils and have filled any extra space I can find with air purifying house plants, to name a few things; we make the best of it. It’s part of apartment living, unfortunately.

Which brings me to another piece of advice. There is legislation in California that you can no longer smoke in apartments and so it never occurred to me to ask. When I brought this up to our management they stated it was true but they really had no way to enforce it. We were looking at another apartment that actually advertised as no smoking that we may have moved to instead had we known they allowed it on this property. Another place to do your homework and an experience I will chock up as lesson learned.

I didn’t plan on going this much into it so I’ll move on to what I really wanted to talk about, but hopefully now you’ll see what an ordeal this was and why I felt compelled to share. I know there are others that may be moving for reasons much, MUCH more stressful; maybe they have been evicted or their home was destroyed in a natural disaster, or they were transferred out of the blue in their job, or there was a death in the family, or one of a million other reasons. I share what I do to hopefully encourage others and let them know if they are dealing with something similar to me that they are not alone.

So, how does one move in two weeks time? Start with anything you do not absolutely need and keep going! In all honesty, I had slightly more than two weeks because I technically started packing before we placed our notice. What did I pack? I started with books and all my craft stuff, which is quite a bit actually! From there I moved on to extra linens, pictures, knick knacks, and movies. Once I really went all out my husband joked that anything not nailed down was about to disappear and he was right. I turned into a packing machine!

It can be a little overwhelming but just stop and take stock – even make lists if you need to – of what you think you absolutely do and do not need. This is useful even if you have a lot of notice and can take your time packing. By the time the first of December arrived and we were ready to begin we were almost ready to go. I saved the china hutch filled with my husband’s grandmother’s china both our grandmother’s teacups because my plan was to pack it up and take it over and immediately unpack it. For a while we really didn’t know what the Thanksgiving holiday would hold so my kitchen was the last to be packed. I left several pictures on the wall but they were large paintings or professional photos that were taken off the wall, put in my car, and taken right to the new place. I took a good-sized basket and had my son pick out a few favorite toys for the interim during the move and the rest were packed; one was a Rubbermaid container that was taken right to his new room so he had a selection of toys at both places. And there was my husband’s office. That was the very last to go. Much of our business is handled online and so he unhooked everything and packed it up and hauled it to the new place, immediately setting it up again because we couldn’t afford to be down and out of business for any length of time. It’s all about priorities. And sort as you go. Trash or give away anything you don’t need. Clean as you go if you can too. I would clean off a pantry shelf and scrub it, fill nail holes as I pulled off the pictures, etc. It’s a lot less overwhelming that way.

We didn’t spend the night in the new place until almost toward the end of our two week move so that entire time we were in limbo between the two and my time was pretty split between them. I took a couple of laundry baskets and left a few clothes; a couple of pairs of jeans or sweats for both of us, socks and unmentionables, and both short and long-sleeved shirts. The rest got packed into luggage or boxes; which brings me to another point – use your luggage to pack! It works great to put all your clothes in there and then while I was trying to decide how to organize the new bedroom they all slid under the bed and out of the way. I am very environmentally conscious and don’t like using plastic tableware and paper plates but sometimes you have to. The dishes got packed and we made do. I kept a couple of insulated coffee cups plus a mug or two for the microwave and a couple of knives. Everything else was packed. I didn’t go room by room and simply pack it up because we were still living there, but if it wasn’t absolutely needed, it was packed.

This brings me to food. Whether you are on a restricted diet or not, it is really hard to eat well during a move! Our prior move the year before I had planned ahead and had a freezer full of soups and leftovers, but even though I usually have a few in my freezer, that wasn’t the case this time. So what did I do?

During the course of our move, at the new place, I kept a big basket on the counter in the kitchen that was filled with fresh and dried fruit, baby food pouches (both me and my son eat them – they’re great on-the-go), and gluten-free goodies, tea, and instant coffee (we love the Starbucks VIA). In the fridge I had lunchmeat and a big fresh veggie tray for quick meals or snacks and lots of bottled water. I kept a frying pan out at the old place and we were still cooking and the coffee pot waited to make the move until we did. We went out more in those few weeks than we had in a few months at least. We made concessions.

How do you do that on AIP? Well, I am the only one on AIP, although our son is strictly gluten- and dairy-free. One of the concessions I mentioned was I bought more packaged “convenience” foods than I usually do, but I tried to keep them as clean as possible. I very rarely buy cereal but did, although I chose one that was organic and gluten-free with no refined sugar; it’s what I call a “clean cheat.” The veggie trays and bottled water I don’t make a habit of buying but we had our water cooler at one place and needed pure water at the other. And a bottle is more convenient when you are running to and fro all day. I had my favorite stainless steel water bottle with me I would fill from the water cooler when I could and use the bottles when I couldn’t. As far as the going out we have a natural market nearby that has an awesome salad and soup bar where many things are marked gluten- or dairy-free, but we weren’t moving far and I had been shopping there for a while and had also done my homework and knew the staff and what I could and could not eat. There was another local restaurant we had frequented before and I knew the menu and they were very accommodating. I found a paleo-friendly bakery with a staff that was very knowledgeable. (I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when someone told me they knew what a nightshade was – and I am not exaggerating! That had never happened before.) I treated myself a few times with their coconut milk lattes, chocolate brownies, and amazing sandwiches.

Did I do perfectly on my diet? No, not entirely, but the things I cheated on were things like dairy cheese and yogurt and nut-based grain-free granola when I needed some quick protein or calories. And coffee. I drank way too much coffee over those weeks! Bone broth is a great AIP-friendly option. I had many times I would simply warm a cup of bone broth and put in an insulated cup and head off for the day. Having that on hand also works great for a quick and easy soup. Boil a quart of it and add a package of frozen mixed vegetables and some leftover chicken and voila. It tastes like you slaved for hours. Another tip? Don’t pack your slow cooker. Buy a chicken or roast and some pre-cut veggies, throw them all together in the slow cooker and work all day and have a home cooked meal at the end that will give lots of leftovers. Here’s a sample of what I was posting to Instagram. There are blog posts, meals, World Prematurity Day, trips to the paleo bakery, shopping trips, moving boxes, my first selfie at my front door, salad takeout from the natural market I mentioned, and lots of my cute son, Henry. (You can find me on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/preciousbelovedblessing, by the way.)

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Need some more inspiration? I posted a nightshade-free guacamole recipe in the midst of all this chaos that sprang about from a craving. I used horseradish instead of jalapenos and it was so good I had to jot it down and share before I completely forgot to. You can find it here: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/aip-guacamole/. The post has some more tidbits about the move and food we were eating. Like the idea of the bone broth but have never made your own? I have a post for that too, at: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/homemade-bone-broth-from-a-whole-chicken-plus-a-yummy-soup-recipe-2/. There’s a yummy soup recipe to make in this post but another good one here – also wrote in the midst of the move – so you know it’s quick and easy. Find it at: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/bone-broth-butternut-soup-paleo-aip-dairy-free/.

If you’re looking for an easy on-the-go breakfast or healthy snack and you can handle nuts or seeds try my Paleo Granola; it’s one of my faves and I can eat it right out of the jar but it’s also super yummy with cold coconut milk and fresh fruit on top. It can be found at: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/ems-paleo-granola-plus-how-and-why-to-soak-or-sprout-your-nuts-and-seeds/. There’s also a note at the bottom of this post on soaking and dehydrating nuts. If you can handle them, nuts are a great way to add some protein, vitamins, and calories to your diet and make such an easy, healthy snack, but you need to make sure they are prepared properly. I can only handle small amounts of them but I handle them even better if they are soaked and dried to remove the enzymes that make them hard to digest.

So what else can I add? Thanksgiving passed with a day with my husband’s family. His aunt was gracious enough to invite us and then send us home with a ton of leftovers! I still had a lot of things yet to pack in my kitchen so I made a dairy-free cashew cheese for a gluten- and dairy-free appetizer for my son and I plus to share, and it was amazing; I went to the paleo bakery I mentioned earlier and bought some grain-free crackers to serve with it. Want that recipe too? (Think hummus but with cashews.) You can find it on my Fall/Thanksgiving board on Pinterest along with the Paleo Pumpkin Pie Cheesecakes I made for dessert at https://www.pinterest.com/epselos/fallthanksgiving/. Neither are my recipes, but I wish I could take credit for them; they are amazing! It was great to get away for the day and relax with family. Check out what my caring auntie did on the buffet table!

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Can you see? All the gluten-free dishes were labeled! And that was after calling me and reading labels and checking ingredients. I was so touched. I almost forgot – at the lower left is a grain-free stuffing I also made. I don’t think I’ve posted the recipe before, but may have to. It’s a stuffing recipe I have made over and over and used to use gluten-free cornbread. This year I made it with some grain-free muffins and it was so good! I think I meant to and forgot in the all the crazy. Look for it in a few months then (fall is coming and I am so excited!) It’s my favorite time of year and Thanksgiving my favorite holiday so I look forward to being able to enjoy it this year.

On to my last point: take time to enjoy the little things. Moving is hard. Having to drop everything to celebrate a holiday was hard. Grieving for a beautiful boy I will never see grow up is even harder. Having finally finished the move only to dive head-first into Christmas was exhausting. At one point I just wanted it all to be over. And I had to stop and take stock of what I was thankful for. We live in such a beautiful apartment in a lovely area (you’ve seen how much we enjoy it if you follow me on social media). We took a break over Christmas and I didn’t get much more than Christmas stuff unpacked and that was ok. Here are a couple of happy snaps of taking time to enjoy the little things.

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I love this picture. I was using any box or basket we could spare and the ones I could unload I did as soon as possible then reuse them over and over. We were at the new place one night and were tired and ready to go but not done yet. And I was all proud of myself for having this pile to take back to the old place and I asked my husband to get a picture. Neither of us can remember what he said, but he made some joke, and he caught a picture of me laughing. This is a lot of joy at the end of long day in the middle of a string of long, not very joyful days. The pictures at the heading were the first pictures I took at our new place; our front door and the first time I put my key in the lock, as well as our first family selfie. Joy in the little things.

We would finish working at one place, stop and get some dinner, and then take the scenic route home and look at Christmas lights. Here is my house with little else but Christmas decorations unpacked. I love it. The Christmas tree is a whole other dramatic story that took about three weeks to get up, not getting lit or decorated until two days before Christmas but it was worth the wait. It had been in storage for over ten years and all we had during that time was a tiny little table top tree. With nothing else on the walls it looked like an elf had thrown up in there and it was awesome.

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We took time out for friends and family and didn’t get hardly any unpacking done over Christmas but so what? It was our first holiday in our new home and that is special. Looking back, even as hard as it was, we made some wonderful memories in those weeks. Focusing on that got me through it, as did the real reason for the season we were celebrating. And then over New Year’s we had a huge surprise, it snowed in Southern California! We got several inches that lasted almost a week and every day was spent outside as much as we could stand enjoying it. We have only gotten snow once before in the almost seventeen years I have lived here and it barely lasted a day, so we lived it up this time! (Here is Henry, hugging a snowman a neighbor had made.)

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In all honesty, I stressed at first about the holiday. Christmas is expensive and moving is expensive. The move took priority. Grandparents got homemade ornaments and our gifts to each other were small but meaningful. I like to bake and give homemade treats and that didn’t happen. Nor did the fun party for all our awesome employees I had been thinking about for months. Not to mention all the great holiday blog stuff I was planning for all of you. Again, I had to make myself focus on what was really important.

But that only took me so far. I haven’t talked about this really, but the truth is I had a really hard time of it early this year. My body retaliated for all the missed sleep and meals and cheating I did (albeit how “clean” said cheats may have been) and all the stress and physical labor, and it was just too much. I was exhausted, burned out, and actually got very sick several times (which rarely happens to me) because my immune system was simply on overload.

When you are down and out already everything seems worse and even though we are very thankful for the miracle boy we have big holidays make us miss our two boys we have lost even more. It all snowballed over the last several months for different reasons and you can read more about that in my most previous post.

I went very strict AIP for a while and have only just recently begun reintroducing things like nuts and dairy. And those I can still only handle in very limited amounts. Nine months later. I’ve been looking at other natural and alternative remedies and have gotten back into exercising, yoga, and mediation as a way to heal my body and spirit. It’s slow going and takes patience.

I have a confession to make. We have been here almost nine months and are still unpacking. I just fell into a bad funk and didn’t really have the heart for any decorating and am only just now unpacking some of the boxes I love the most, my books and craft supplies. I’m waking up so to speak, and my husband is very busy and we don’t always have time for projects around the house. The garage where things were dumped in the chaos I mentioned earlier? It is finally being cleared out. Boxes are being unpacked, things organized or gotten rid of, and life is coming together. I am hanging more pictures and planning projects. Life is moving on. It’s not easy, but like me, is a work in progress.

I hope I helped someone with my moving two cents. Leave a comment with your moving tips or on-the-go favorite healthy goodies. I’d love to hear about it!

Love and Hugs,

Emily

Easter 2015 ~ Food, Family, & Finding Joy in the Little Things

The Pselos Family's Easter 2015

Easter has come and gone and I’ve been meaning to write this for the last two weeks because there were some things I wanted to share. I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Ours was lovely. We had been very hot in Southern California the entire week before and it cooled off to where I was chilly outside in my little spring sundress! It was awesome; I am nowhere near ready for summer yet. There is plenty of year left for it to get blazing hot so I will take the cool when and where I can get it!

It ended up being just the three of us. Over a month before we had started asking family what everyone wanted to do and no one ever gave us an answer. Then hubby got a couple of runs that day (our transportation business, Integrity Transportation Service, is always open, which sometimes includes working holidays) so we decided to have our own get-together so that we could plan the day around his schedule. Plus, I actually prefer to cook these days. Yes, it is a lot of work, but at least I know I can eat everything! I often leave dinner parties hungry and/or sick even after trying to communicate with the host and I don’t expect everyone to become an expert, but am sometimes left feeling like an inconvenience – on top of hungry and/or sick – so I just prefer to do the hosting myself.

Everyone else apparently had their own plans, and it turned out to be a nice day, but I was kind of hoping for a busy day. As nice as it is to have just us, sometimes – particularly on holidays – just the three of us makes the house seem kind of empty and overly quiet.

Our son, Christopher, would be eleven this year and his brother, Joshua, five. Both died as a result of extreme prematurity and I miss them more now than I ever have. They are never far from my thoughts and I had been preparing and planning for Easter for weeks. I had been working on my menu and shopping and meal and goodie prepping, and doing fine. Until late Saturday night when I made up the Easter basket for our three-year old and it hit me hard. I was only making one basket when I should have been making three.

Henry's Easter Basket

Henry’s Easter Basket

So I admit a few tears were shed while I put together this fun Easter basket full of things my little boy loves. Everything he received was completely junk-free and fun. There were a couple of books, bubbles, a new baby (as he calls stuffed animals), a Thomas the train engine that chugs and whistles, and a card handmade by his mama. The only sweets he received was a box of Chirps, the clean version of Peeps made by a favorite local grain-free bakery. Here’s a close-up; aren’t they the cutest? They are made with honey and natural colors and real flavors and he was thrilled. He’d actually never had a marshmallow before; it was hilarious but now he may be hooked! I will be sweet-talking Laura at Snackin’ Free to make me a batch before our next camping trip for sure!

Henry’s Chirps, like a paleo Peep!  The blue are blackberry flavored, the yellow are lemon, and the white plain marshmallow.  We got them from a local grain-free and paleo-friendly bakery called, Snackin’ Free.

Henry’s Chirps, like a paleo Peep! The blue are blackberry flavored, the yellow are lemon, and the white plain marshmallow. We got them from a local grain-free and paleo-friendly bakery called, Snackin’ Free.

My husband was out early working, so it was just me and the little guy for breakfast. I have to eat grain-free for health reasons and he has to eat gluten-free, so fun meals can take a little planning. I had had several ideas, about making things or ordering things. I love cinnamon rolls and had found a recipe for them to try and then the bakery we got the Chirps from also had them to order, but in the end I bought a loaf of bread. Yes, plain bread. And it was a huge treat! I rarely have bread around I can eat because it’s quite expensive to buy and though I love to bake it can be a lot of work when you already are preparing a large meal from scratch, plus the ingredients (though it is cheaper than buying in the store) aren’t cheap either.

Then I was doing my meal shopping and my little guy asked for bread. So sweetly and he can be so hard to say no to! So we wandered over to the gluten-free baked goods section in the bakery and there was this loaf of grain-free bread, made locally, that is pretty expensive for bread, but really good. (It’s by Jackalope Good Food Company and worth the occasional splurge.) So while I saw many others on Facebook and Instagram and such serve a fancy brunch or make pancakes, or crepes, or eggs benedict, or such, Henry and I had toast and were absolutely thrilled. Oh, the simple things!

Me and Henry’s Easter breakfast: our grain-free toast with ghee and strawberry jam for me – an almond butter and jam sandwich for him – plus bacon, fresh and local strawberries and orange, dried dates, and Kombucha for him and bulletproof coffee for me.  Simple but divine!

Me and Henry’s Easter breakfast: our grain-free toast with ghee and strawberry jam for me – an almond butter and jam sandwich for him – plus bacon, fresh and local strawberries and orange, dried dates, and Kombucha for him and bulletproof coffee for me. Simple but divine!

My husband got home around mid-morning or so, and I was fighting to get motivated. Our original plan had been to eat at two and I had my plan all laid out and had gotten a meager start, but that was it. And I was emotional. I could hardly stop crying, though I was trying to hide it. Sometimes it just hits you. Many don’t understand, but the fact is you don’t have to be consciously thinking about someone you’ve loved and lost for it to hurt. It can just hit you out of nowhere like a freight train and take you by surprise. It wasn’t like I was thinking, Oh woe is me…my boys aren’t here…I’m sad…etc, etc, etc. It’s just there. And usually has hit you and run you over before you even realize that it’s there.

So my husband, bless his heart, came home to a weepy wife and didn’t even have to ask. He just knew and asked me, “Thinking about the boys?” He understood because he was too. He hugged me and encouraged me a little and then went to take care of some things and play with our son. I could hear him on the phone and the next thing I knew his schedule was cleared for the rest of the day; he had had one more run for later that night he wound up giving to one of our drivers. He had a run early the next morning and would have been out late, so that was part of the reason, but when I asked him later he admitted part of it was he also didn’t want to leave me on a difficult day. I was so touched.

I was initially really disappointed no one joined us, and the house still felt kind of lonely and empty through the day, but on one hand it was nice. It was so relaxed, it took the pressure off the schedule with no one showing up and no work for my husband to get to. On the other hand, there’s nothing like someone showing up your door soon to get you moving and motivated! I set aside my disappointment, worked through my down emotions, and we ended up having a really nice day.

Grief doesn’t go away. And you learn lessons from it. I am still learning but I think most days I do pretty well at just working through it and finding what works for me. (If I didn’t I would never get out of bed in the morning!) One of my struggles is my faith. I am working through it and have come spades and bounds, but there are still days I purposely avoid church. They are Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Even now that we have our little miracle (that I know we have God to thank for!) it still is hard to show up and put on a happy face and pretend I’m not hurting on days that are so focused on the little ones. I’m not saying I am dealing with it exactly as I should, but maybe I am. I have found what works for me. I turned on Pandora radio and turned to our favorite Praise and Worship station, which is so nice in the background, and after fifteen minutes the same song had come on three different times in different versions, but the same song. The last time was the version I was familiar with and why that made me change the channel in tears takes a story.

When I was in labor with my firstborn at twenty-two weeks and trying to stop it a pastor/friend from our church came to visit and brought me a beautiful worship CD by the group, Passion, with the song, Here I Am to Worship. It’s a beautiful song with an amazing message, but it was playing in the background when my son was born, and then again an hour later when he died. It will always be a song I associate with him, and that’s not always a bad thing, but that morning it was. So I changed the channel and after a few minutes came a song that made me take a deep breath and stop what I was doing to see what it was.

One Step at a Time, by Bernward Koch on Pandora, my Relaxation radio station

One Step at a Time, by Bernward Koch on Pandora, my Relaxation radio station

It was so beautiful and just spoke to me somehow and the breath caught in my throat again when I saw the name of the song and the album. Several more popped up through the day and now I want to download the whole album so I can listen to it whenever. It’s instrumental and very soothing, and I am a person really motivated by music. It speaks to me and inspires me – and is one of the places I find joy – but more on that later.

So I turned on my music, started on my dinner, eventually made myself get dressed and put makeup on, and spent time with my family. Our little boy, Henry, is such a joy and made me laugh many times that day. That brings me to the food.

My husband loves ham, and that was my first idea, but then we got to talking about his paternal grandmother who passed away two years ago last month. She was Italian and her husband Greek, and she melded the two together seamlessly and every big feast at Grandma’s house was big on traditional fare, but she loved Easter. Our family is a big melting pot, including along with the Greek and Italian, there is Polish on that side, and mostly German on my side with a little French and Irish mixed in. Quite a combo and we are tried and true American made with Greek, Italian, Polish, and German etc. parts, but I love teaching our son about his heritage and I LOVE family traditions. So we started a new one this year and wanted to honor Grandma Jean on one of her favorite holidays and share it with the little boy she loved so much. Here is Grandma, meeting Henry the first time – one of my favorite pictures of the two of them.

Henry, barely three months old, with his Great-Grandma Jean Pselos on October 30, 2011

Henry, barely three months old, with his Great-Grandma Jean Pselos on October 30, 2011

Grandma Jean was a sweet, fun lady who had quite a personality and we didn’t always get along, but we loved each other fiercely. She was never Mrs. Pselos, or Jean; from the moment I met her, even though me and her grandson were only dating, she was Grandma. And even later, I was never her grandson’s wife, but her granddaughter. She could be a little secretive when it came to her cooking, but I learned a lot from her. She would give advice – just not share recipes! – but she loved company in the kitchen so I learned to watch and help where she let me.

It was really hard on me when she died, and that was part of my tears on Sunday, just thinking about her and the memories. I must admit, I’m tearing up even now as I write! I know she was looking down at us and smiling as we tried to honor her that day and recreate recipes she had perfected over her lifetime and guarded so closely! We worked from memory plus a recipe book she gave us years ago, did some tweaking to make it compliant with me and Henry’s diets, and here was our menu. Completely gluten-free, paleo, and (almost) autoimmune protocol-friendly.

Antipasto
Italian Wedding Soup
Roasted Lamb
Pasta and Homemade Sauce
Salad

For dessert, Grandma made these Italian shortbread cookies covered in powdered sugar, but she made those more for Christmas. Other big family dinners she made cake or would buy these amazing pies from a local market. I ended up making a carrot cake and some almond butter chocolate-covered eggs.

The only thing missing is the potatoes. The Greek part of the meal came from the lamb and potatoes. I thought about it, but that was already going to be a lot of food for three people so we left them out this year. Then when it came time for dinner we had filled up on appetizers, so I nixed the salad too, but notice how it’s at the end of the meal? That’s an Italian thing and one of the lessons from Grandma – flashback to one of my first meals with her and I asked where the salad was at the beginning of the meal!

Our appetizers were super simple and not really planned to be honest. I had thought of a few things in case people came over and we were waiting for my husband to get home from work. Then my son finally fell asleep for his afternoon nap right about the time I was about to put finishing touches on dinner so we paused, pulled out some goodies and relaxed. There was a chicken liver pate I had made a few days before with some grain-free crackers (purchased from the bakery the Chirps came from), olives, fresh vegetables, and cheese.

A simple but delicious spread of homemade pate and crackers, cheese, olives, and veggies.  With red wine.  I couldn’t have the tomatoes and I admit I cheated on the cheese and wine, but it was a holiday!

A simple but delicious spread of homemade pate and crackers, cheese, olives, and veggies. With red wine. I couldn’t have the tomatoes and I admit I cheated on the cheese and wine, but it was a holiday!

One thing I have learned from eating real food is preparation is key. You can’t just open a bunch of cans, boxes, and packages the day of and throw together dinner. It takes planning and a lot of prep but is so worth it! For a big dinner like this I shop as soon as I can and start cooking absolutely everything I can ahead of time. And I make lists. Here I am trying to get organized about five days before Easter, which is actually a little last-minute for me, finalizing my shopping and to-do lists; this was posted to my Instagram.

We are also on a budget. Planning things out allows me to stretch out the expense. If I have a basic idea of what I want to do I can start planning weeks in advance, making sure I am stocked up on pantry staples, or picking something up ahead of time because it’s on sale and then freezing it, or such. It takes a little work, but it’s not hard and well worth it. I spent a lot on groceries for this meal, but we ate leftovers the entire next week. We happen to like leftovers and we like playing with them and making things different. (Like sandwiches, salads, fried rice – made with cauliflower – and the lamb and veggies on top of sweet potatoes for example.)

Dinner turned out amazing, though we still want to tweak the recipes of Grandma’s we tried to recreate. The others I got on-line. I used recipes I found for the pasta and sauce, cake, and candy. As I mentioned earlier everything was (almost) autoimmune protocol-friendly and I was referring to the pasta and almond butter eggs; the pasta was made with almond flour and the eggs with almond butter and chocolate. Those three things are cheats for me but I do ok with them in small amounts as long as I don’t overdue it and it was worth it. It had been so long since I had had pasta, I was beyond excited!

I found the recipe for it on Pinterest, and I was a little intimidated at first, but it was very easy. It is by Paleo Cupboard and you can find it here: http://www.paleocupboard.com/paleo-pasta.html. The sauce is a nightshade-free sauce I have made before and love; it works great in anything calling for tomato sauce, including pasta or pizza. My husband doesn’t like beets, but he likes this sauce, if that’s an indication how good it is, although he had his own sauce. We had one jar of homemade, canned tomato sauce given to us by one of our clients from her garden last year, so he used that (I love it when he gets homemade tips like that!). The No-Mato Sauce comes from The Curious Coconut and can be found at: http://thecuriouscoconut.com/blog/the-best-no-mato-sauce-autoimmune-paleo-marinara. A note about the No-Mato Sauce; I have made it many times and I often have a batch in my freezer, but didn’t this time so I made it fresh. It freezes beautifully and I usually portion it out into two-cup portions (perfect for a pizza), but for a big dish of pasta for the family I might thaw two.

Here is our finished dinner:

The soup and antipasto in Grandma’s soup tureen and china dishes.  Grandma always served soup in this tureen.  Always.  It means a lot to have it.

The soup and antipasto in Grandma’s soup tureen and china dishes. Grandma always served soup in this tureen. Always. It means a lot to have it.

The finished dinner:  roasted lamb, grain-free pasta with nightshade-free sauce, antipasto salad, and Italian Wedding Soup.  All paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free.  And oh, so good!

The finished dinner: roasted lamb, grain-free pasta with nightshade-free sauce, antipasto salad, and Italian Wedding Soup. All paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free. And oh, so good!

I’d been feeling very deprived of lately and still dealing with some eczema, but my body is still healing. I do cheat on things like almond flour and chocolate and red wine on occasion because I am so diligent all the time and I think occasional treats are ok as long as your body can handle them. As I stated already I can eat them; just not all the time or too much. And that bottle of wine is still sitting on my counter a couple of weeks later as I have yet to finish it, and I enjoy and savor each glass because it probably won’t be until the next holiday I open another one! Life is too short to constantly deprive yourself if you ask me. Like dessert!

I love cake and actually haven’t made one since going grain-free. I’ve made cupcakes but not a whole cake. And I had been craving cake. My birthday was last month and I had a couple of recipes I wanted to make and considered ordering one from the bakery I mentioned earlier but didn’t do either and regretted it, so when Easter came around it didn’t take long to decide what I wanted. Carrot cake! It is one of my favorites and so springy! I found this recipe from Health Nut Nation which happened to already be nightshade-free, although most recipes aren’t hard to make that way. She had several frosting options but I ended up using the Best Ever Paleo Frosting by Real Food RN because it has become the only frosting we use; it really is the best ever and is so good and very easy. I used it because I knew it was good and easy and turns out every time. You can find the cake recipe here: http://www.healthnutnation.com/2013/03/27/paleo-carrot-cake/ and the frosting here: http://realfoodrn.com/best-paleo-frosting-ever/.

I made the Copy Cat Reese’s “Peanut Butter” Eggs last year and they were a hit. Hubby isn’t crazy about carrot cake, but loves chocolate and peanut butter so I made these. Last year we had a big family gathering and no one could believe they were dairy- and refined sugar-free. They come from My Whole Food Life and you can find the recipe here: http://mywholefoodlife.com/2014/03/09/copycat-reeses-peanut-butter-eggs/. I tweaked it this year by using half almond butter and half homemade coconut butter. Oh my, so good; I may do them that way from now on. I was trying to lessen the almond impact and it made the inside a little fluffier too. They still really tasted like almond butter. I could slightly taste the coconut, but was never sure if it was simply because I was looking for it. They are very simple and quick and this year it was a joy to have Henry help. He made funny ropes and wanted me to make a bunny and a snowman. Such fun.

Henry helping with the chocolate eggs; he ate many while we worked, but that’s part of the fun!  These only have a handful of ingredients and are completely junk-free.  The eggs are super easy.  Make a ball, flatten it with your hand, and then pinch one end to a point.

Henry helping with the chocolate eggs; he ate many while we worked, but that’s part of the fun! These only have a handful of ingredients and are completely junk-free. The eggs are super easy. Make a ball, flatten it with your hand, and then pinch one end to a point.

The finished dessert ~ Paleo Carrot Cake and the almond butter eggs.  So, so good!  I didn’t make the frosting until right before dessert, but typically I like to put the frosting in the refrigerator for about ten or fifteen minutes before I frost.  This frosting pipes great once it’s firmed up a bit.  I did just round dollops on the cake and I like how it turned out.  I may have to make another this week; just thinking about it my mouth is watering!

The finished dessert ~ Paleo Carrot Cake and the almond butter eggs. So, so good! I didn’t make the frosting until right before dessert, but typically I like to put the frosting in the refrigerator for about ten or fifteen minutes before I frost. This frosting pipes great once it’s firmed up a bit. I did just round dollops on the cake and I like how it turned out. I may have to make another this week; just thinking about it my mouth is watering!

That brings me to my next point ~ finding joy in the little things. That can be really hard when you are hurting, either physically or emotionally. I don’t always do well at this, but I have learned you have to search for it at times and it’s usually never hard to find. Take for instance the music I mentioned earlier or treating myself to pasta, which I love and haven’t eaten in over a year. There was something else I wanted to share as well. In the middle of feeling sorry for myself that morning I sat down for a break to get lost on my phone and opened Instagram, seeing this.

This Instagram account comes from a woman named Nathalie Hillelrich. I know I did not find her by accident. I don’t spend very much time on Twitter. I follow quite a few people, but it’s not often I actually browse my timeline. I did that day, several weeks ago, and an account about infant loss I follow shared a picture and for some reason I clicked on it. What popped up was the picture of a woman and this tiny baby in a NICU that just took my breath away. I ended up following the link to her website which led me to her Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Find her website at http://www.nathaliehimmelrich.com. You can also find her at http://www.grievingparents.net. She has written a book titled, Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple. I’ve ordered it but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. She is inspiring and shares beautiful things, a grieving mama like myself who is moving on after the death of one of her twin daughters. I sent her an e-mail the day I found her and received the loveliest note back. I stumbled across her on a day I was really struggling and felt such a connection to this woman who lives literally half a world away. I sent her another note, asking if I could share this post of hers, to which she graciously agreed; check her out. She’s amazing.

So I submitted the names of my two angel babies, to which she replied, bringing me to tears. It was such a beautiful gesture and to have someone else acknowledge them meant the world to my husband and I.

My comment and Nathalie’s reply on Instagram.  Was just what my hurting heart needed that day.

My comment and Nathalie’s reply on Instagram. Was just what my hurting heart needed that day.

As hard as it is, and as much I miss them, acknowledging them brings me such joy. We do little things, like hanging their pictures, talking about them to our son, hanging stockings at Christmas, lighting candles, buying little trinkets that make us think of them; we have planted trees in their memory, made donations in their names, I wear jewelry with their birthstones, and so on and so forth. After ordering Nathalie’s book this suggestion came up on Amazon and I immediately ordered it. Reading it the first time made me cry.

Someone Came Before You, by Pat Schwiebart, Illustrated by Taylor Bills and put out by a company called Grief Watch (http://www.griefwatch.com).  A lovely book for a child who has come after a loss.  My advice?  Read it with a box of tissues.

Someone Came Before You, by Pat Schwiebart, Illustrated by Taylor Bills and put out by a company called Grief Watch (http://www.griefwatch.com). A lovely book for a child who has come after a loss. My advice? Read it with a box of tissues.

My note to Henry, honoring his brothers, in the book.

My note to Henry, honoring his brothers, in the book.

My son received this in his Easter basket. Henry is three but knows who his brothers are. He recognized them in pictures the first time very young. It gave me goose bumps. I walked by a picture of the two of them and he wasn’t speaking yet but I knew the look of recognition on his face and he reached for them. Believe what you want, but I believe his little spirit recognized them; like he remembered them from Heaven. Even now he likes to kiss their pictures and the boxes of their ashes and he knows who they are. I always wanted it that way. When someone asks me how many children I have the answer is always three. If someone asks if we have any more children than Henry I politely answer we have two boys who are no longer with us. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out thing. Some people ask more, some don’t, and both are ok. Just for me and my heart, I have to acknowledge them. This was another way for me to do that.

So this Easter I found joy in many things. I found joy in enjoying some wonderful, healthy, yet delicious food that is compliant with a sometimes difficult diet and I enjoyed treating myself to a couple of things. I found joy in honoring a woman whose legacy will always leave a mark on our family. I found joy in starting a new tradition. I found joy in getting all dressed up in a pretty little black and white sundress my mama bought me while here in February; it’s a lot of fun dressing up when you don’t do it that often! I found joy in some beautiful music and a lovely gesture from a new friend that served as a salve for my soul on a difficult day. I found joy in a beautiful little boy that I thank God every day for. Henry is a miracle, no doubt about it, and he himself has such joy and sweetness, and you can’t help but smile when you are with him. I found joy with my husband who my relationship with isn’t perfect but we understand each other, love one another unconditionally, and I know I am extremely lucky to have him in my life. And I found joy in my two angel babies whom I also thank God for. I wish they were with me. I wish I could wrap my arms around them right now and hold them close. I ache for them. Every. Day. But I know I will see them again one day and that brings me some small amount of bittersweet joy.

You have to look for it. You have to work for it. But it’s there. Trust me.

Thank you for listening. I know I really went on and on with this one, but I gave you a rare piece of my heart I don’t often share. I hope it touched one of you, whether it be about the food or the family. I have put myself out there to connect with you, be encouraged by you, and an encouragement for you. Leave me a comment or visit me on social media and let’s connect. Thank you again for sharing my journey.

Blessings to you today,
Emily xo

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My One Year Paleo-versary

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Yesterday marked one year since I started my healing journey with a paleo and autoimmune protocol diet. I didn’t set out to mark it in any way, but for some reason the date has stuck in my head; that was a lucky day for me last year, I guess! I thought I’d just take a minute and share with you a few things I’ve learned about the lifestyle and myself.

I like to call it a lifestyle over a diet. You say “diet” and immediately most people go right to the negative, but for me it is a lifestyle. It involved a major lifestyle change and changed more than the way I eat. It is not a fad or a trend to me; simply the way I live. It is purely a cleaner way of living. For me, I did it for health reasons after a lot of research and soul searching.

Which brings me to my first lesson. It’s not right for everybody and it is not one-size-fits-all. You have to make it work for you. I don’t always worry if something is 100% paleo; my focus is on as long as it’s clean, real, and won’t cause an immune reaction in my body. Then it’s ok in my book. I’m still learning, but I have to laugh when I hear or read, Would a caveman eat this? If you have asked that of yourself I don’t mean to be critical; I just think it’s funny. I eat a very clean, very paleo diet, but thanks for modern technology I eat a lot of foods a caveman never ate and I’m thankful for it! I’m talking about things like coffee, red wine, and chocolate. You’re probably thinking, you eat those things on a paleo and AIP diet? The answer is yes and no, but more on that later.

I had already been gluten-free for six years so I thought it would be no huge stretch. I already had several paleo blogs I followed and got yummy recipes from. I always liked the recipes I found because they had good quality, clean ingredients and being paleo they would always be gluten-free. You may be reading this and wonder what a paleo diet or lifestyle is. To me, as I already mentioned, it’s not unevolving (is that a word?) myself back to a primal cavewoman, but focusing on a clean, green, grain-free, refined sugar-free diet complete with quality dairy and meat.

I was actually a vegetarian until a couple of years ago. For me it was about taste; I never cared for it much and there are still things I don’t like. I also jumped on that low-fat bandwagon and believed that all fat was bad. I ate fish once in a great while along with cheese and eggs, and it worked for me for a time.

My first eye opener was my second pregnancy. I could not stand even the sight or smell of meat. It made me violently ill and I am not exaggerating. I thought I was doing a good job of making sure I was consuming plenty of iron and protein but when I was admitted to the hospital at 19 weeks with a failed cerclage we discovered I was quite anemic. I remember one of my doctors discussing it with me after a couple of weeks. It is very common for pregnant women to be anemic, as it is for vegetarians – not to mention pregnant vegetarians! It is also common to get anemic while on bed rest. Your body just processes everything different. I was getting more anemic as time went on and he wasn’t sure which it was attributed to or if it was a combination of all three.

I was given copious amounts of iron before and immediately after the pregnancy to compensate, which is rough. To give you an idea how much I hated it, I cried when they announced they were putting me on iron again during my third pregnancy. It can really do a number on your system and the side effects are not pleasant; at least that was my case. (I was doing better during pregnancy number three but put on iron because I was also on blood thinners to ward against blood clots given I was on very strict and complete bed rest.)

It’s now a joke between me and my husband how my vegetarianism ended. We suspected I was pregnant with baby number three and it was Valentine’s Day. We went out to eat and my husband ordered a steak salad as his first course. It came and looked divine! I turned to him and said, “Can I ask you a weird question?” He agreed and I replied by pointing to his salad and asking, “Can I have some of that?” He lovingly shared it with me, all the while chuckling and shaking his head and observing I must certainly be pregnant if I wanted steak!

I began craving meat so I gave it to my body because I knew it needed it. Your dietary needs grow exponentially when you are growing a human. I had done a lot of research the year before after my first big anemia wake up and was pretty confident. I had even done some extensive reading about pregnancy and vegetarianism, but as I said it was what my body wanted. People would ask if I was craving anything strange to which we had to answer yes. When they asked what everyone who didn’t know me thought it was rather weird we classified meat as strange, but it was for me!

I am getting off track, but after Henry was born I continued eating meat as you need even more iron and protein (along with some vitamins with their most concentrated sources in meat) when you are breastfeeding than when you are pregnant. Then I began researching several healing diets out there and doing a lot of reading and discovered it may be what is best for me. I have a love/hate relationship with meat and I still don’t think I would miss it all that much if you were tell me tomorrow I could never eat it again, but I have discovered for me it is what my body needs and I’m ok with that.

Like I said, it is right for me. I do not judge anyone for being vegan or vegetarian and please do not judge me for my decision either. Some people can get downright ugly when this subject comes up, so I’m just putting that out there.

I think my last two pregnancies may have been a huge autoimmune trigger for me. It was a very stressful time (pregnancy number two was after a previous loss and then after several weeks of complications resulted in another loss). With pregnancy number two I was still vegetarian and focused on eating lots of beans and legumes and grains, which can wreak absolute havoc on a compromised digestive tract. Not to mention lots of medication that did a number on me followed by the emotional roller coaster of the next pregnancy, more medication, more stress, and the fact that our bodies are not meant to be completely still. I basically started having allergic reactions to everything. I had dealt with terrible morning sickness from the beginning, but I was getting even sicker and we had no idea why. I was in a lot of pain, contracting almost daily along with back and joint pain from being so immobile. And the list goes on.

It was worth every moment and more. After eight years of heartache and disappointment we got our miracle, but I think a lot of the medications I was given did a number on my digestive tract and coupled with the stress along with all the normal hormone changes and such that go with any pregnancy it was just too much.

I dealt with severe post-partum depression after he was born and I am still learning about the connections between depression and autoimmunity. It’s fascinating but I’ll talk about it another time. It may have been related or simply been exacerbated by it. The insomnia I had dealt with on and off most of my life came back with a vengeance (and there’s little that’s harder for a new mom than not being able to sleep at all when you are already sleep-deprived!). The joint and back pain didn’t really go away and I had what I thought was the start of carpal tunnel; I would get terrible numbness and pain in my fingers and up my arms. Digestive problems were the norm and not the exception again and a small gluten exposure would make me sick for weeks and not days. I had problems with hives in the hospital and I had dealt with a small amount of eczema most of my life but it was suddenly out of control. I looked like I had an infectious disease and I was BEYOND miserable. It was like an itchy sunburn head to toe; it would itch so bad I would wake in the morning to find blood on the sheets because I had been scratching so much IN MY SLEEP! My husband can also tell you several stories about watching me moan in pain and misery on the floor in tears because it hurt and itched so bad.

I was desperate for relief and I have talked about all this before so I’ll move on, but whether the pregnancy was a catalyst for it or not I don’t know and it really doesn’t matter. I just thought I would share that in case because from what I have learned it very likely had a lot to do with that and maybe by sharing that part of my story someone will see something of themselves in it. I was diagnosed with celiacs after the death of my first-born, which was another trigger. Any big life situation, even the good ones, but especially anything very emotional, physical, or stressful can be a big trigger. Learn how to look for those; if you learn to deal with them and with the knowledge that can make symptoms of autoimmunity worse you can use that information. That is why I shared.

So back to last year. I started my paleo journey jumping head-first into the autoimmune protocol. A paleo diet or lifestyle eliminates all grains, beans, and legumes which as I already mentioned can be very hard on anybody (there is actual science why beans give you gas – you’re having trouble digesting them – there are ways to properly prepare them to help with that, but for people like me it’s just best to avoid them). The autoimmune protocol takes it a step further and eliminates nuts, seeds, dairy, nightshades, alcohol, and a few other things. It starts with an extremely strict elimination phase that I will admit is brutal but necessary. You remove any possible offenders from your diet, give your body a little time to heal and adjust, and then slowly began to add them back in. It was a huge learning experience that was very hard but I am extremely grateful for the knowledge I gleaned from it.

Which brings me to my next lesson learned: don’t sweat the small stuff. My husband can also tell you stories of me throwing the adult version of a tantrum. More than once I am ashamed to admit. As I said, it can be brutal. I was hungry. All. The. Time. I felt like I had a huge list of stuff I couldn’t eat and an extremely small list of what I could. I was still feeling miserable and very hungry on top of it. Many of the foods recommended were too expensive on our budget or I couldn’t find them and all my usual stand-by’s were off-limits. I have since found and learned to be thankful for the actual huge list of yummy, nutritious foods I can eat and which ones work best and keep me full and happy. For me I now need the extra protein I get from the meat I eat and good quality fats like coconut oil or avocados. If you have skin issues, try these; I noticed a huge difference.

How did I learn to deal with it? Well, I’ll be honest. I’m still working on it, but I am learning. I mentioned the coffee, chocolate, and red wine earlier? Well, I have learned what my body can handle and when and how. For the most part. The red wine? Well, when I say I drink red wine it’s MAYBE only once every few months. It is a huge treat. The coffee and chocolate I have mixed reactions to. Overall on any day they won’t bother me, but if I have had a gluten or nightshade exposure or a lot of stress has caused the eczema to flare or something like that, I will have a reaction to it. I keep those three things in my diet as treats because I have eliminated so much I am done depriving myself constantly and so I have learned WHAT WORKS FOR ME and when it’s ok for me to “cheat.”

Nightshades and grains are still a big no and my body still has a lot of healing to do. I am still having some ongoing issues and can trace them to several possible reasons, but I think it comes down to the fact I am still healing. The damage in my body didn’t happen overnight so it’s not going to heal overnight. Eggs and dairy are iffy. Oddly enough I can handle eggs ok if they are baked into something but not a cooked egg, like in an omelet or something. I thought I was crazy until I’ve since talked to a couple of other people who have experienced the same thing. It comes down to science; baking it plus the added ingredients changes its chemical makeup and it’s digested differently. Hopefully I’ll be able to handle them alone eventually; I miss eggs! Nuts and dairy are also special treats. Too much of either and I’m not a happy camper. After the holidays everyone was going on about too much sugar – my indulgence was nuts and dairy – and my body was not happy at me for it.

When I talked about making it work for you that is what I meant. Any of those “iffy” things for me you may see me eat and wonder why, but it’s because I know my body. Do I ever regret those “iffy” choices? Yes, I do. Not always but it happens. I make a mental note for the next time, go a little stricter AIP to get over it, and move on.

A surprise I have experienced is I eat some amazing food. And by that I mean I was eating the same (sometimes drab) things most of the time and these changes in my diet have forced me to think outside the box, get creative, and try new things. I started posting my meals and snacks to Instagram a while back because people were always asking me, “What do you eat?!” Check me out and you’ll see we eat some really yummy but healthy food! You can find me at http://www.instagram.com/preciousbelovedblessing. Some people are really surprised to learn we eat pretty much whatever we want – we just make the changes we need to so the whole family can enjoy them or clean them up so to speak.

We are on a budget as many are and have found a way to make this work for us as well, and are still learning. To follow strict paleo rules all meat must be organic and grass-fed and all produce organic and in-season. Well, organic grass-fed meat is often over twice that of the conventional. I read you should find a local farmer to get it from. I did – I found more than one – and they are outrageously expensive. I mean, like $30 for a small fryer chicken. I am still on the search for a more budget-friendly local source, but we’ve made it work. I have found a couple of small grocers that carry local eggs for a reasonable price; if I can’t find those I have found a non-local free range brand we can afford. I do sometimes buy grass-fed meat – when it goes on sale. One of my local grocery stores puts it on sale for the price of what the conventional beef is priced regularly and I can handle that, so I stock up if the week’s budget allows it. Otherwise, I have found a couple of places with good brands that my tummy handles (if you have trouble digesting grains a meat from an animal fed a heavy grain diet may not go down well). I always go for sustainably farmed, humanely raised and prepared, and no antibiotics. Yes, those cost a bit more, but a happily raised and slaughtered animal makes for better meat. Those are often also prepared without a lot of the extra junk, which I can’t eat (often containing gluten and/or nightshades). There are certain things I have made the decision to spend more money on and other things I haven’t. For instance, I always buy wild, sustainably caught fish; it’s healthier for me and my family as well as the environment. It costs more, yes, but to me it’s worth it. (Do you know what all they put in farmed salmon?! Look it up; you’ll never touch it again.) As far as produce goes there are lists called the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” which outline which produce you absolutely should buy organic and those that are ok. Those have really helped me.

In season is easy for us. We live in Southern California where our local produce contains everything from apples and grapes to avocados and almost every kind of citrus. A great reason to eat local and seasonal? It’s cheaper! Much cheaper! Find a farmer’s market or local farm stand for the best deals. Not sure what is local and when? Ask! They’ll tell you! Of course at those places it’s usually easy to see – what they have is seasonal – but my favorite local farm stand actually has a calendar posted that tells you what and when. We always try to preserve what we can by freezing or drying and I do that for budget mostly and just so we can enjoy what we love more! Do I still buy bags of frozen veggies? You better believe I do! It’s reasonably priced and I stock up on my favorite brands when they go on sale, plus someone has done all the work for me!

I meant to talk more about budget last year after I started my blog but got distracted. I’ve really gone on here so I’ll talk about it another time. There’s more I could get into; I just wanted to share what I have learned and am still learning. Never hesitate to ask me questions or give me suggestions – that’s why I’m writing about this! So we can help each other.

I have lots to share with you, but haven’t taken much time to do it with various things going on. I have some yummy recipes to share but am also working on another post that has been in the making since I started my blog. It’s not easy to write, it won’t be easy for everyone to read, but it’s been very cathartic and I know there are those it will touch. I am trying to be more consistent with the blogging but if you want to keep in touch with me you can follow me on Instagram as I mentioned, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Flickr. My profiles are all @preciousbelovedblessing, except for Twitter which is @PrecBelovBless.

Thank you for continuing on this journey with me. Leave me a comment if you want about your own experiences like these or something you’d like to hear me talk more about. Have a great day and be blessed.

Lots of Hugs,
Emily

AIP Guacamole

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This was not a planned post. I often develop a recipe over a few weeks, making it over and over to get it just right for you guys. Other times the magic simply happens.

I really wanted guacamole the other day! I have found replacements for many old favorites since starting to follow a modified autoimmune protocol diet, but I still miss things sometimes. Like Mexican food! The grains (aka corn tortillas and rice), beans, and nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, and cumin) just wreak havoc with my skin and digestive system and simply aren’t worth it. I love avocados and I love guacamole, so on Sunday when we were out and about and it sounded good we stopped and picked up some ingredients and whipped this up spur of the moment that night. It was so good I had to share!

We are moving in technically just over a week. I say technically because we got two weeks free at our new place so we are using that time to overlap the two and have all that free time to move, so technically we are moving into the new place on December 1 and out of the old on December 15. And we signed the new lease and gave notice to vacate here only a week ago. Crazy, I know. Moving right before Christmas is not something I recommend nor plan on making a holiday tradition (we moved on January 9 of this year into our current place)!

Why we are moving is a long story I considered sharing here then decided not to, but suffice it to say my stock response is security issues. We don’t feel safe here. There have been some creepy things going on that we are just not happy with and don’t feel secure or welcome here after how our property company has dealt with them and treated us so we have decided to move on. It sounds awful but we are very excited about it. It is all for the best!

I will definitely be making this again in the next couple of weeks! I have been planning some quick and easy but wholesome meals for our moving weeks. We drove through our new neighborhood (even though it is only exactly 2.1 miles away from our current place!) and staked out the closest grocery store, Starbucks, etc. and I checked out the local Albertson’s that is literally just around the corner. We have one close by now but I’m not crazy about it and rarely shop there; I simply need to make another trip for too much stuff so it’s not worth it for me. This one has a great organic produce section and several gluten-free favorites. I wasn’t able to really take the time to look for all my usuals, but I brought home some free-range, GMO-free verified chicken, an organic vegetable tray, and my favorite root vegetable chips (by Terra brand with sweet potato, beet, taro, and a few other paleo-friendly goodies). We spent the rest of the afternoon packing and just had a simple but very yummy supper. I put the chicken in the oven seasoned with sea salt, ginger, and garlic and made the guacamole while it was cooking.

This guacamole is AIP-friendly because it contains no nightshades. Instead of the usual jalapenos I used some horseradish for extra bite and a lot of onion, garlic, and fresh cilantro. The batch will easily double, triple, etc. and I bought a ton of avocados to make a bunch but I only fix it in smaller batches. It’s easy and doesn’t take long; nor does it last long enough to have a chance to get brown and watery.

I like to serve this a variety of ways; as already mentioned I ate it with sweet potato chips this time. I love it with plantain chips as well, but have been known to put guacamole on just about anything. Try it with eggs, on chicken or a hamburger (I was smearing it on the roasted chicken the other night!), on a roasted sweet potato, or any favorite grain-free cracker or bread. Jicama, carrots, and cucumber make good dippers too. And bacon; smear it on bacon. Think it sounds weird? Try it. You’ll thank me. The grain-free possibilities are endless – it’s not just for corn chips! What’s your favorite way to eat it?

Enjoy!


AIP Guacamole

Makes about 2 cups
2 ripe avocados
¼ large or ½ small onion
1-2 cloves fresh garlic
Juice of ½ a fresh lemon or lime (I like the taste of lime in guac but lemon works fine; I used it this time around because it was what I had on hand)
1 teaspoon horseradish (I use the Bubbie’s brand; it’s gluten-, preservative-, and junk-free)
A good-sized handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
Sea salt to taste (I used a good-sized pinch)

1. Using a fork, mash the avocado in a bowl with the lemon/lime juice. Finely chop the onion and garlic and mix in.
2. Wash and chop the cilantro and fold in with sea salt to taste.
3. Enjoy right away, or if you can stand it set aside for about an hour to allow the flavors to meld.

So easy! And good for you too! Everything is fresh and full of vitamin C, healthy fats, minerals, potassium, and a host of other goodies. I hope you like my AIP version of guacamole!

Note: To store, (if there’s any leftovers anyway!) place in the fridge with food wrap directly over the guac, completely covered and molded to it basically; it will help prevent browning. This really works!

Have a great week!

Emily