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

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