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

Chocolate Cashew Clusters (Paleo, Gluten-Free, No Added Sugar)

Anybody who knows me knows I love chocolate. I can pass up most sweets but not chocolate. Some people say there’s always room for Jell-O, I say there’s always room for chocolate. Have you seen the graphic floating around social … Continue reading

Em’s Paleo Granola (Plus How and Why to Soak or Sprout Your Nuts and Seeds)

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            Since going completely grain-free three months ago I’ve found several ways to recreate old favorites but one thing I do miss is oats.  I have always loved oatmeal in all its different forms, but I have loved creating fun and yummy granola recipes.  It is so expensive to buy but easy to make yourself and the possibilities are endless.

            Until I stopped eating grains that is and oats were out!  I still have them around the house and make them for my son.  He loves them and overnight oats are one of his favorite breakfasts.  I love the portability of granola and have been on the search for some good Paleo snacks that won’t break the bank.  I have found a couple of granola-like recipes on Pinterest and have tried some good ones but most are…kind of boring.

            Are you grain free?  Most of the recipes I have found that mimic oats call for coconut.  And like oat-based granola it seemed simple.  Your base (in this case coconut) some nuts and dried fruit, a sweetener and liquid of some kind to hold it all together and some seasoning and voila!  I found a recipe last week I liked the best of those I’d tried so far, but it still needed something so I set to tweaking and adding some of the things I’d tried in other recipes or simply just liked, I created my own and wanted to share.  It’s a little sweet and full of nuts, so that means a treat for me.  I’ve had mixed reactions to nuts, but find if I limit the amount I eat I do ok.  This is filling and just sweet enough.  I keep mine dairy-free with some cold coconut milk but it was also very good on top of some goat’s milk yogurt.  Need some extra sweet?  Try adding some Enjoy Life chocolate chips!

This is very versatile so feel free to change the ingredients according to your family’s tastes or what you have in your pantry (read to the end for a note on properly preparing and storing your nuts and seeds).  Full of healthy fats from the coconut oil, nuts, and seeds, in addition to protein and Omega-3’s, plus no refined sugar this is a healthier version of a breakfast treat I hope your family enjoys as much as mine does.   My husband doesn’t care for coconut, but raved about this, so give it a try.  Here it is!

 

Em’s Paleo Granola (Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar Free)

 

Ingredients

2 cups coconut chips (shredded would be fine too, but I like the larger flakes for granola.  Also, check the ingredients to make sure there are no added ingredients, like sugar or anything artificial; there should be one thing only on the ingredient list: coconut!)

¼ cup cashews*

¼ cup sunflower seeds*

¼ cup pumpkin seeds*

¼ cup pecans*

1/3 cup maple syrup or honey, or a mixture of both

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup chia seeds

¼ cup hemp seeds

½ cup raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruit

 

Process

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Melt coconut oil with maple syrup and/or honey in a small saucepan over medium heat until it starts to bubble and simmer.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the coconut chips, cashews, pumpkin seeds, pecans, cinnamon, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and dried fruit; mix well.       
  4. Pour coconut oil/maple syrup/honey mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well to evenly coat.
  5. Spread onto a parchment or silpat-lined baking pan and spread out evenly.
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until starting to brown.
  7. Remove from the oven and using a spatula give it a quick toss to break it into pieces.  Let cool and crumble a little further if you want to before storing in an airtight jar. 
  8. Enjoy!  This rarely lasts more than a couple of days at my house but if it does at your house it should stay fresh for about two weeks.

 

Soaked or Sprouted Nuts and Seeds           

            I’ve done a previous blog post about soaking nuts and you can find it here:  https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/crispy-walnuts-and-pecans-and-why-you-should-soak-them/.  Here I had prepared walnuts and pecans.  You can use this process with most nuts, although the cashews should be handled slightly differently.  The fact is “raw” cashews have already been heated twice and so they don’t lend as well to the soaking process but still have enzymes that should be neutralized; with a little extra care it is easily done.

 

Crispy Cashews

1 tablespoon sea saltSoak the cashews in the filtered water and salt for 6 hours and no longer.  Drain well.  Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a warm oven (about 200 degrees) for 12 to 24 hours, turning every once in a while, until completely dry and crisp.  Store in an airtight container (I use a repurposed glass jar that I’ve labeled and keep them in my pantry).            For the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds they can be sprouted.  Have you seen pepitas in the grocery store and wondered what the difference between them and regular pumpkin seeds is?  Pepitas have already been soaked and lightly roasted and they are one of the few I often buy.  Sprouted nuts and seeds can be bought at most health food stores, as can flour made from them, but I find them more expensive and choose to make my own.  It takes just a little time and a big batch lasts quite a while.  To sprout your seeds all you need is a quart-sized glass jar and a sprouting lid.  You can order the sprouting lids online, but I’ve found a few layers of cheesecloth held in place by the wire rim of the jar works fine.  Here’s how to sprout your sunflower and pumpkin seeds:

 

Sprouted Sunflower Seeds 

The process to start is the same – fill your jar as above and soak as indicated but rinse these 3 times a day and let your sprouts reach about ¼-inch long, about 3 days.  Store these in the refrigerator as well.  These are yummy in salads or as a quick snack…or in granola!           

 

            I hope I’ve inspired you to soak or sprout your nuts and seeds.  The little bit of time and effort well outweigh the nutritional benefits in my opinion.  On my most recent leg of my healing journey I have reintroduced nuts and seeds after initially eliminating them.  I can only handle limited amounts of them, but I have found the crispy nuts and sprouted seeds go down much easier.  See what they

            Happy eating and stay healthy!

 

Emily

 

Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.; 1999, New Trends Publishing, Inc.; ISBN 0-9670897-3-5/978-0-9670897-3-7; pgs. 112-115, 512-515

Homemade Sauerkraut (Probiotic-Rich)

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            I have been learning so much on my real food journey, and I am continuing to learn and often being surprised along the way.  I changed to a Paleo diet at the end of March, moving to a grain-free, real-food diet to help resolve some ongoing digestive issues and terrible eczema. 

            One of the surprises I encountered was they are not two separate health issues but their roots are the same!  Your digestive system is interconnected with the rest of your body so intricately that any imbalance can throw off other parts of your body and cause other problems.  I’ve mentioned some of mine in previous posts; including the aforementioned eczema and tummy troubles I’ve also dealt with a lot of dental issues, bad acne and other skin issues, insomnia, depression, and anxiety issues to name a few.  A lot of the research I have personally done points to the same underlying issues and since I have been cleaning up my diet and way of life I am noticing a difference – slowly and subtly in some ways, but there!  It takes time for the body to heal and I have found several great tools to help me along the way.

            Enter fermented foods into our diet!  Fermentation was once widely used before refrigeration as a means of preserving foods.  The production of lactic acid in the fermentation process helps preserve the food but also produces good, gut-healing bacteria and probiotics.

            One of our favorites is sauerkraut.  I come from German heritage and we ate a lot of sauerkraut growing up.  I actually liked it but never dreamed of making it myself once I was on my own.  I found a recipe for it last year and realized how easy it is and have been making it ever since.  There are some good store-bought brands out there.  If I’m either in a pinch or wasn’t organized enough to start a new batch before the previous ran out we like Bubbies and Sonoma Brewery brands; they are both raw and contain the probiotics you want.  Stay away from the canned stuff; you should find it in the refrigerated section.

            It is so easy to make yourself and there are several ways to do it.  I’ve tried several and found a way that worked for us.  I’ve done it so many times I don’t even use a recipe anymore or measure.  And it always works.  I’d made untold batches before I finally realized I needed to share (part of that was after Easter when every single guest we had at some point in the day pointed at the jars in the back corner of my counter and curiously asked, ‘What is that?’ or ‘What are you doing?’)  I had thought about it already and my next batch I took pictures each day to show how it changes; it’s fascinating really.

 

Tools Needed

One cabbage, organic if possible and very fresh to ensure the maximum amount of nutrients

A large bowl for mixing

A cutting board and large knife or food processor

Non-Iodized or Unrefined Sea Salt, 1 to 2 tablespoons

1-3 quart-sized mason jars with tight-fitting lids (how many you need will depend on the size of your cabbage)

A bit of patience

 

The Process

            Chop the cabbage finely.  You can use a food processor for this if you want to.  I read somewhere someone chops half of it and puts the other half in the food processor to have a mix of very fine and not so fine shreds.  I simply use my big knife and a little bit of muscle.  It gets the job done.

            Put it in a large bowl and add the salt.  After several batches I have figured out I like to add a little salt then toss it.  Add a little more salt and toss it again; it’s easier to distribute it this way.

            Next you’re going to knead or mix it for three minutes.  You want to mix it really well and squeeze it.  Turn it and squeeze.  This starts to draw out the moisture in the cabbage.  Then cover and set aside and forget it about for six to eight hours.  The batch here I was taking pictures of I had a cabbage so big it took two bowls! 

            I started doing this first thing in the morning and letting it sit all day, packing it in the jars before bed, but it’s also nice to do this at night and let it sit all night, packing them in the jars in the morning.

            You want to use good-sized jars with wide mouths and tight-fitting lids, preferably quart-sized, but I didn’t buy myself any mason jars until just recently, using whatever jars I have on hand (I drive my husband nuts hoarding jars from peanut butter, pickles, etc.)

            Knead the cabbage one more time to break it down even more, another three minutes.  Then pack it tightly into your jars and cover with the brine you’ve created.  Leave about 1-inch to the top of the jar.  If you run out of juice, which has happened to me, you can make more, by simply mixing additional salt with some water.  Once you have a finished batch save a little of your leftover juice and add to the new jars – it will jump-start the breakdown and hasten the process next time, plus give your next batch an extra probiotic boost.

            Close your jars tightly and place on a plate or tray.  They do occasionally release juice, despite being closed tightly.  It’s normal and part of the process.  Let it in a corner of your kitchen and leave it about five to seven days before you start checking it.  You’ll see it start to break down relatively quickly and I find it fascinating.  We’ve even heard it bubbling before!

            The next step is a matter of personal taste.  It depends on how tart you like it.  This batch was finished at a busy time and sat for a few more days than I usually let it.  Hubby and Blessing loved it but it was a little strong for me.  If you open the jar and taste it and think it has a little more percolating to do just close it back up and give it another day or two then check it again.  I was always worried at first of not doing it right and having more bad bacteria than good but I have read that if something doesn’t go right you’ll know and it will likely smell so bad nothing could tempt you to eat it.  A little mold at the top of jar sometimes happens and it doesn’t mean it’s gone bad; just scoop it off with a spoon and be sure you keep the brine above the cabbage.

            I’ve lost count how many batches we’ve made (there is almost always a batch brewing in our kitchen) and never had any problems and you’ll develop a nose for it.  I can usually tell by the smell before tasting it whether it’s ready or not.  It is a slightly sour smell but not unpleasant.  If you’re feeling leery about it buy yourself a batch first and see what it should look, smell, and taste like.

            This is not an exact science and very forgiving.  You can also add whatever you want to it, any variety of herbs or other vegetables.  My next batch I want to try making Cortido, which is the Latin American version of sauerkraut with pineapple vinegar, carrots, onion, and oregano.  

            If you’re looking to start adding fermented foods to your diet this is a great place to start.  I still buy some of our fermented foods, like Kombucha, but I’m looking forward to trying to make our own.  We also love Bubbies brand pickles, but I now make our own ketchup and mayo, which I then lacto-ferment.  It’s an easy, inexpensive way to add a boost of gut-healthy probiotics to pretty much any meal!  One thing I also want to try to make is Kimchi, which I can’t find nightshade free anymore, so I simply need to make my own.

            See?  It’s easy!  And one thing I have learned (which I’m not always great about doing) is when you finish one batch and put it in the fridge start another one!  That way you will always have another batch ready.  These will keep for months in the fridge, if not longer.  Some say they aren’t fully ready for about six months or so; they’ve never lasted that long in our house for us to find out!  If you have the room, you can do as many batches as you want at a time.  You find cabbage on sale or have a plethora from your garden and time to prepare it and the room for it to sit, great!  Store it on the top shelf of your fridge.

            If you’re looking for some inspiration there are a ton of books out there and websites.  My current favorite is the fermented fruits and vegetables chapter in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (I just bought some daikon yesterday to prepare her pickled version).  Sandor Katz also has some great resources.

            Happy fermenting!

 

Emily

Real Food Camping Pselos-Style

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          My husband and I fell in love on a camping trip.  Every summer growing up the youth group of my church went on a several-day camping/canoe trip and in the summer of 1995 my husband came to my home town in Nebraska from California to visit his sister.  To make a long story short we had met before, when his sister moved to my hometown, and had been writing each other for some time (with pen, paper, and stamps!  It wasn’t until near the end of our courtship we were able to start e-mailing each other; gosh, that makes me feel old).  So, we were already friends.  His sister thought he’d enjoy the time with kids his age so she came along on the camping trip as a chaperone and my (future) husband as a guest.

            It was kismet.  Or something like it.  The whole trip we were literally thrust together again and again.  We’d get on the bus to find only one seat left and have to sit together.  Our seats would be next to each other at dinner.  And the big one – when it came time to pick partners for the two-man canoes we were the only two without a partner.  You see, you had to ride in a canoe with someone who had been along before and everyone else was paired up.  It was hilarious; I had been canoeing before but had never steered the canoe.  It was interesting and there are several funny stories from that weekend.  We were stranded on sand bars several times or there was how we went through “The Chute” backwards (a rather tricky part of the river where it abruptly dropped several feet and could be a bit treacherous if you weren’t careful; no one believed us we went down backwards and came out unscathed!).

            Suffice it to say, you stick two people alone in a canoe for three days and one of two things are going to happen – they’re either going to end up loving or hating each other.  Luckily, our result was the former over the latter.  My mom actually joked at our wedding reception three years later, “Don’t send your kids on the youth group canoe trip because THIS is what happens!”  She was joking of course, and she and my dad love my husband, but that is how our love story started.

            Ironically, I’m not much of an outdoor girl.  I’m more of the “glam-ping” type.  I’ll go camping in a tent but with one condition – there has to be an actual bathroom – no holes in the ground.  We started our camping adventures tent camping and had a lot of fun but we haven’t been in years.  Then we decided to upgrade and last month rented a 22-foot trailer complete with a real bed, air conditioning, our own bathroom and shower, and all the other comforts of home – my kind of camping! 

            I was posting to Instagram bits of our trip but never did an actual post about it.  As we are planning our next trip in a few days and I am thinking of ideas I decided to share our trip with you!

            I was posting what I did to show how easy real food camping can be.  It takes a little more prep but not that much more planning and I have to say I wasn’t as organized as I thought and ended up doing most of our prep the day before and even some the morning of, and it all got done and we ate some really yummy food!  Here’s a break-down of what we had.

            We’ve eliminated most processed foods from our diets but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good convenience foods out there.  I bought a package of pre-cut fruit salad for convenience (and because it looked good!) of pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew; I also had a bunch of fresh bananas plus apples and mango.  We stopped at our favorite local farm stand on our way out of town for a case of bottled water and a couple of last minute things.  We all wanted something cold to drink and I got myself a freshly squeezed juice (carrot, lemon, ginger, and kale) and only drank part of it; it lasted most of the weekend.  While there I splurged and bought us pre-made muffins from the bakery there.  They have these Paleo muffins that are amazing.  I don’t buy them often but they are such a treat.  I got me one for each morning and muffins and biscuits for hubby and Blessing.

            As far as convenience foods go I also bought flavored coconut water, a great way to rehydrate – it was going to be hot!  If I buy it and don’t make it I usually buy a big container of the plain but I splurged again and got several of the little flavored ones; flavored for a treat and the smaller bottles since they are more portable.  (Check your labels to make sure they aren’t loaded with sugar; the ones I found were just coconut water and real fruit purée.)  I also bought some dried fruit (you’ll see the dates in the picture but we also had raisins and dried pineapple).  I bought hubby some chips and salsa; not something I do often but I wanted a fun treat for him and he loves it.  The salsa is something I can make but I did a little picking and choosing what I was willing to make or buy.  You don’t want to start your trip all worn out and stressed out! 

            On to what I made.  For snacks I made hubby some homemade popcorn.  I simply put some coconut oil (about 1/3 cup or so) in the bottom of a good-sized saucepan with a little sea salt over medium-high to high heat.  To that I added ½ cup popcorn kernels and swirled it well to coat the kernels with the oil.  Cover and continue to swirl it every so often until it starts to pop.  It is so simple and he loves it.  A big bag of that lasted him all weekend and made an easy, very portable, and wholesome real food snack.

            For meals and for snacking I sliced up some fresh vegetables, carrots and cucumber, and bought some grape tomatoes (which hubby loves).  I usually make my own bread but I bought some grain free buns (by Against the Grain Gourmet) and served me up some tuna sandwiches with raw milk cheddar and homemade Seed Crackers (recipe at http://www.wholefoodsimply.com/seed-crackers/ – they are grain, nut, egg, and dairy free and I use savory instead of sweet seasonings) and homemade sauerkraut.  I had a loaf of sourdough bread with some natural peanut butter and some Applegate Farms lunchmeat for hubby and Blessing.

            For dinners I had planned hot grilled sandwiches for over the fire and foil packs.  I made two kinds of foil packs, chicken and beef, and half had white potato and the other half sweet potato (hubby does not eat completely Paleo and he doesn’t care for sweet potato).  I seasoned the meat simply with some sea salt and pepper plus garlic.  Then I sliced the potatoes and added some frozen broccoli.  I added dallops of ghee to hubby’s and coconut oil to me and Blessing’s before wrapping them up tight and they were ready for the fire!  (I did that all ahead of time, by the way, at home.)

            We just needed a fire!  Both nights we were there the wind blew too much until too late in the evening for a campfire in time for dinner so we had sandwiches or just lunchmeat and cheese, veggies, fruit, and chips/crackers.  Luckily, I had taken a lot of everything so we had a nice variety, although we were ready for a hot meal when we got home on Sunday!  That night the wind was good so we headed down to the pool of our apartment complex and grilled our foil packs on one of the barbecue grills there!  We enjoyed them poolside and they were very yummy.

            For treats I made some Cashew Chocolate Chip Cookies that were grain free, gluten free, and dairy free.  They were really good and a perfect sweet in the afternoon after some time at the splash pad or after dinner.  You can find the recipe, by The Paleo Mom, for those here: http://www.thepaleomom.com/2014/02/chocolate-chip-cookies.html.  (I used palm shortening so they would be dairy free and honey in place of the evaporated cane juice; both worked fine and they were a yummy treat.)

            We’re heading out on our second camping trip this weekend, and are so excited!  We are staying an extra day this time and having a company picnic.  Our transportation business is celebrating its one year anniversary so this is a celebration of that and a chance to show our appreciation to our employees.  We’ve asked everyone to bring a side dish to share and we are grilling hamburgers.  I’ll make myself something I can eat but also share (I’m thinking about a sweet potato salad).  I’m also making some homemade ice cream and considering a batch of our favorite coconut flour cupcakes.

            I’ll be making popcorn again for hubby and I already have some grain free muffins in the freezer.  There’ll be sandwich fixings and sauerkraut, plus foil packs again – only this time with fish.  We are taking a small barbecue grill along this time that we can move out of the wind if need be, and I’m also planning some grilled steaks and chicken one night we’ll serve over salad greens.  They’ll be lots of fresh fruit and veggies, dried fruit, and I may buy some Larabars or make an extra batch of muffins or cookies for snacking along with some sparkling water and Kombucha.

            I finally bought my first Great Lakes grass-fed gelatin and can’t wait to make my first marshmallows but we’ll see if I have time.  I searched and searched on the last trip for some all-natural ones and had no luck.  I was shocked what’s in conventional marshmallows.  Corn syrup wasn’t a huge surprise, but that’s a no-no for me, there were a few ingredients I couldn’t recognize (or pronounce for that matter), and the big surprise?  Artificial coloring…blue!  I thought, ‘Um, these are white!  What’s the blue coloring for?’  I have no idea.  I have found a recipe that is just gelatin, water, honey, and arrowroot powder.  That’s it.  Hopefully I’ll have time to make some; I want s’mores!

            It is possible to go real food camping!  It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought, and we ate some really yummy food, had several treats, but still stayed within my Paleo lifestyle and everything else was “real food.”  It’s all about balance and give and take.  I’ve found some great suggestions and articles on Pinterest and even created a “Camping” board.  You can find it at http://  www.pinterest.com/epselos/camping/.  I’m open to any suggestions or ideas you may have too!  I’ll surely be posting to Instagram again on this next trip and you can follow me here:  http://www.intagram.com/preciousbelovedblessing

            Our first camping trip was a huge success and the little guy had a ball.  The campground was beautiful and the lovely picture of the lake?  That was from our campsite!  The weather was a little hot in the middle of the day but cool in the mornings and evenings and we had air conditioning in the trailer (a perk of “Glam-ping!”) and the campground has a splash pad to keep cool (which our little one absolutely LOVES).  I planned for everything and had coats, sweatshirts, and jeans packed along with our bathing suits and shorts and tank tops!  I’d always rather have it and not need it, and the sweatshirts were great at night around the campfire.

            For entertaining the little guy there was the splash pad that I mentioned and a big park that was a lot of fun.  We had his little toddler bike for him to ride, his wagon, and a stroller.  I let him pick out several toys and books to pack in a bag and we had a portable DVD player for music or a short movie at bedtime.  We packed his port-a-crib with his blankets and favorite snuggle toys to be familiar and for outside we had a couple of outdoor toys and a bubble machine.  He got very dirty, scraped up both knees, and likely ate a little dirt, but he had a ball!  And that was what it was all about.

            Don’t stress the small stuff.  Make some concessions here or there if you need to.  I’m not completely worried that everything I put in my mouth is 100% Paleo.  I’m more worried whether or not it’s going to create an immune response or tummy trouble, so I focus mostly on just good, clean food.  We’re still on a budget and so I make most of what I can and have made some concessions, but I think I’m making it work pretty well.  I am still strictly no grain but have found I can handle small amounts of raw milk cheese or goat’s milk.  I can oddly handle eggs ok if they baked into something but have a mixed response to straight eggs, so I overall stay away from those and consider them a treat.  I also have a mixed reaction to nuts, so those are a treat as well. 

            My point?  I have found what works for me.  There is no one-size-fits-all rule here.  Find a balance, what works for you, what you like, and don’t forget to enjoy the journey.  Stay tuned!  I’ll work up another post next week about the upcoming trip.

 

Have a great day!

Emily

My Continuing Healing Journey (Through Diet, Positivity, Love, and Prayer)

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            I have been learning so much on my real food journey and I am continuing to learn and often being surprised along the way.  I changed to a Paleo diet at the end of March, moving to a grain-free, dairy-free diet to help resolve some ongoing digestive issues and terrible eczema.  

            One of the surprises I encountered was they are not two separate health issues but their roots are the same!  If you’ve been reading my past posts you know I was diagnosed with Celiacs disease in 2008 and have been following a strict gluten-free diet ever since.  It helped but I’ve still been dealing with some issues.  I’ve still experienced a lot of fatigue, digestive discomfort (and some other unmentionable unpleasantness that goes with it), depression, teeth problems, allergies and respiratory issues, and skin problems. 

            Guess what?!  They’re all related.  I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on where I have no health insurance right now, and through that (and my son’s pediatrician AND pediatric gastro-intestinal doctor have been nice enough to give me some advice as my son has started to experience some of the same issues).  One book that has been startlingly eye-opening is The Paleo Approach, by Sarah Ballantyne.  It was reading this book that made me make the decision to try a Paleo diet, though I’d actually been considering it for the better part of a year or so.

            I had no idea how complex our digestive system was and how if it goes out of wack it will start to affect all sorts of other areas of the body.  The GI specialist my son has been seeing recommended the Paleo diet for me last year, thinking grain-free might help me.  He did not recommend it for my son because of his age and he told me that where I was feeding him whole-food, unrefined whole grains that was really good for him at his young age and we’re hoping some of the digestive issues he has he will simply grow out (he has tested negative for Celiacs and parasites and we are looking into some allergy testing – they want to wait until he gets a little older as they say the results are often unclear at a younger age).  If the allergy tests later this year don’t come up with anything and he’s still having issues we may give Paleo or GAPS (another healing diet) a try for him.

            But I digress.  Sarah begins her book by explaining what led her on her own journey of health issues – many of which were very similar to my own – and she says in the first chapter, “What I discovered was that the link between food and inflammation goes far beyond food sensitivities.  I learned that some foods cause inflammation and inbalances in key hormones that regulate the immune system; that some foods irritate the lining of the gut, interfere with digestion, and deplete nutrients from the body.” 

            All of a sudden all the dots started to connect for me.  I thought I was sensitive to dairy, intolerant of gluten, and that allergies were just something I was going to have to deal with.  I’ve dealt with terrible depression on and off for many years – but I’ve also lost two children, my husband and I have had some financial difficulties, we’ve both experienced a lot of personal and professional disappointment, and even the health issues I’ve already mentioned all take their physical and emotional toll.  I take very good care of my teeth now but I didn’t used to and most, if not all, the issues I’ve mentioned can be very physically tiring.

            All these are very valid issues with legitimate explanations but they can be very closely related and I believe in my case they are.  Celiacs disease is an autoimmune disorder, as is anemia and eczema.  Side effects of these can contain everything I’ve already mentioned.  Whether it is caused by the celiacs or the celiacs is a cause of something else I decided to start healing my body and it was that that led me to start sharing my journey in the first place.

            So, what could I do about it?  I started with the basics.  I learned the enamel of my teeth is weak and it is very typical of people with autoimmune disorders (including celiacs).  I also learned that in addition to that a lot of tooth decay can be blamed to today’s processed, nutritionally lacking food (have you heard of Weston Price?  His research on the subject is fascinating) and so along with doing my best to better care for my teeth and gums it is part of my clean/whole food journey and related to my overall health. Although I don’t care much for meat I moved on from a vegetarian diet as I discovered it was not best for me, thus helping to deal with the anemia that shows up almost every blood test I have had in the last few years.  I still deal with some ongoing insomnia (that has been an issue almost as long as I can remember) but by focusing on trying to get more rest and getting more exercise it has helped with my energy levels and the depression too.  I’m also using prayer and mediation and overall simply trying to change my outlook on life; I’m limiting my contact with some overly critical and negative (and sorry, but frankly toxic) people in my life, and trying to focus on the positive in my life and everything I have to be thankful for (like the two amazing people in the picture with me – that was from our first family camping trip earlier this month).

            As far as the allergies and debilitating asthma I have been dealing with part of it started by cleaning up my physical life.  Ten years ago an allergist advised me to remove the two cats from our home.  Repeatedly.  I ignored his advice and my issues got worse and worse.  Then last year my son started to show signs of allergies and breathing problems and though it broke our hearts to do it we made the heart-wrenching decision to say goodbye to them because ultimately our health was more important.  Also we have recently moved and our prior home was surrounded by dirt and very dusty, plus there was a lot of moisture and some mold inside; all of which was badly affecting me.  After a couple of months in a cleaner atmosphere the difference is night and day and I am now using my steroid inhaler (which on its own was messing with my system) less in a week than I used to in a single DAY.

            All of this helped but there were still some issues and it takes the body time to heal, but even in just a couple of months I am seeing a difference.  The biggest struggles that made me make the diet change were the digestive issues and eczema.  I’ve been sharing more about those lately but I was spending a fortune on stuff for my skin and missing out on a lot of things because I was either sick to my stomach or in pain, or my skin looked so bad I was too self-conscious to leave the house.  It was running my life.  I was constantly miserable and unhappy.  My husband can probably tell you story after story of me losing my temper at him or our two-year old for the dumbest most inconsequential things or watching me curled up on the floor and bawling or moaning because I was in terrible pain or itching so bad I literally wanted to peel my skin off.

            That leads me to this.  A couple of pages later Sarah states that, “…diet and lifestyle are intricately intertwined with the body’s ability to heal.”  Realizing that changed my life.  I don’t claim to know it all or swear that you should do it too.  I am doing what I have learned is right for ME and I am sharing it with you only because I am learning so, SO much and simply wanted to share that.

            I went off on more a tangent than I meant to, and I suddenly realized I just shared some things I haven’t told anyone and this has been such an emotional journey (along with the physical) that I’m actually in tears right now.  It’s not easy to share.  To admit to some of the things I have done or felt and I am so thankful for the people in my life that love me unconditionally, flaws and all.  My husband has been so amazing on this journey and so encouraging and I couldn’t do it without him.  He hasn’t exactly followed me on the Paleo diet (I think it has something to do with the fact there is no such thing as a Paleo beer), but he has liked the changes so far and more often than that he picks the grain-free alternative when I give him a choice (he loves cauliflower rice or last night I had my hamburger over a salad and he refused the bread and did the same).  It’s his choice and I’m fine with that.  I just wanted to say how wonderful he has been and understanding and he has been my greatest cheerleader so far.  I am so blessed.

            This started as a completely different post.  It was supposed to be about sauerkraut!!  I just started explaining about healing the body and was going to go on to talk about fermented foods and the job they can do in healing but I’ve gone off on such a different direction than I meant to I decided to make this its own post and I’ll add the sauerkraut one next.  I hope I’m helping somebody out there.  Thank you for listening and for those of you who have been so kind and encouraging.  It is very therapeutic to share this with you, but I hope through it I can help someone else.  I struggled and struggled with a title with this one and it might sound a little hokey but it is so true.

            I know I haven’t been very good at adding blog posts lately (honestly, it’s just part of dealing with some of the aforementioned issues) and I’m trying to get more consistent with it, but if you don’t want to miss a thing please follow me elsewhere too.  I am on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/preciousbelovedblessing, you can follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/precbelovbless, pin with me on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/epselos or follow me on Instagram at http://instagram.com/preciousbelovedblessing

            Thank you again.  Every time I get discouraged and begin to wonder if anyone EVER sees any of this or cares I get a wonderful comment from one of you, spurring me on!  You’re wonderful! 

           I have so much more to share but for now I’m off to soak up some sunshine, get some exercise and spend some time with one of my favorite people.  I’m taking my little boy for a swim in the pool.

 

Have a great day,

Emily

 

The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body, by Sarah Ballantyne, 2014, Victory Belt Publishing, ISBN 1936608391

 

Check out some information from the Weston A. Price Foundation on dental care here: http://www.westonaprice.org/notes-from-yesteryear/