Paleo & AIP Shepherd’s Pie

PhotoGrid_1448319573902

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

Moving & AIP ~ What I Wish I Had Known

0133c6c69ec77070da13b82affc51719ce6dc665ca

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.)

010c95c9d01076e2c2c2e92463bcf1ebfe550d6cfa

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!

01d3a685c26f327371389ee13215dd3a4f80948c1a

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.

01ec8bf8a4c262e750ede6e25fce0dd1f9bf4f44ce

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.

012e2aba3780c9f6ff17f736183ff1bc74055986d0

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.)

01ad7a0655647bb8ce32f1d00d3b6a635e48213856

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

Bone Broth Butternut Soup {Paleo, AIP, Dairy-Free}

01123c9db3071e9cc4cc2f433c988ca630caa00dc0

Still looking for one more dish for Thanksgiving? How about a lovely, comforting bowl of butternut squash soup that you can make today, have a bit for supper tonight, and then put in your slow cooker to keep warm for dinner tomorrow without a thing to do with it. Actual time I spent on this yesterday was only about twenty to thirty minutes.

I just realized something. I declared this AIP and dairy-free – and then used the picture of hubby’s bowl with the cheese on top! It was so much prettier than my plain one though! It is a raw, grass-fed cheddar which is primal. For me, I can handle small amounts of the right kind of dairy and I tasted this with the cheese and it was very good, but I liked it without just as well. It’s so creamy you would think it had dairy in it but there is none at all.

I started this yesterday morning, putting the squash in the slow cooker to slowly roast. I quartered it, removed the seeds, and placed it in the slow cooker; that was it. Then when we were ready to eat I sautéed my veggies and scooped the flesh from the skin. The skin of a butternut squash is edible and I think bits of it fell in as I was scooping because it got so tender, so it’s up to you. I take it off, but leave the skins of the apples on. No one will ever know and you get the extra vitamins the skin contains.

A quick note about bone broth. If you’re not making your own you need to start! It is so easy and delicious, not to mention economical. I buy an entire chicken and boil it and we get several meals out of the meat from the bones and at least two and sometimes three quarts of broth, depending how big the chicken is. Homemade bone broth is full of gut-healing gelatin and my family and I like it plain and hot, straight out of a coffee mug, but I always keep some in the freezer for meals like this. I pulled the jar out of the freezer the night before but I’ve also thawed them on the fly in a bowl of warm water. I used chicken (because it was what I had) but I used to make this with vegetable broth all the time; beef broth would also work. It’s a matter of taste.

Store-bought versions do not have the nutritional benefits of homemade and in addition they are often packed with sodium, gluten, and preservatives, among other things. It’s so easy to do too! Want to know more about this super food? Check out a previous post I did about it here: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/homemade-bone-broth-from-a-whole-chicken-plus-a-yummy-soup-recipe-2/

01d21abc178859a2f8519751ff7e682339a50a1123

There’s another soup recipe in this post too; chicken and cabbage. It was a recipe of my mom’s I tried to recreate and though mine was very yummy it wasn’t as good as hers. I made it with her, basically acting as her sous chef, and did it just as she did, but I think that had more to do though with the fact it was my mama who made it. Everything she makes is always better! She taught me to cook and I am still learning from her! She lives in Nebraska and me in California, so I miss her – especially this week with it being a holiday! – but now I’m thinking about her and getting all sentimental so I should move on!

If you’ve read any of my other posts the last couple of weeks we are moving – in four days! It’s going to be a little crazy around here, so as yummy as this was last night I may freeze the leftovers to thaw in a week or so when we need something yummy and comforting after a busy day. I’ve got another batch of bone broth simmering in my slow cooker right this moment too! I’ll use it in a recipe of a grain-free stuffing dish I am making to take to Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt’s house and then maybe another dish or just a jar in the fridge for a quick, nutritional boost! (As excited as we are, moving can be a little stressful and you need to take care of yourself.)

One more note; butternut squash are at their peak now and one of my favorite vegetables. A former favorite recipe I have yet to convert is a butternut squash risotto recipe that is out of this world – I’m going to have to start working on that! You can peel and cube them now for freezing and enjoy this next spring and I’ve also found butternut squash all prepared in the frozen vegetable section. So while I recommend using fresh (it will have the best taste, trust me) it’s not necessary. I added lots of onion, garlic, and ginger too; since I learned all three were very healing with anti-inflammatory properties I add them prolifically to almost every savory dish I make now! This soup is also full of vitamins and with the extra veggies and the bit of fruit for sweetness I hope this will become one of your family’s favorites as it is ours!

Bone Broth Butternut Soup {Paleo, AIP, Dairy-Free}
1 small to medium butternut squash (about 1-1/2 to 2 pounds)
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 apple, cored and roughly chopped
1 quart broth (whatever you have on hand, preferably homemade)
Sea salt to taste
1 Tablespoon dried thyme

Instructions:

Prepare ahead. Earlier in the day, rinse your squash and remove both ends with a large, sharp knife. I like to halve it width-wise (I find it easier that way) then lengthwise. Remove any seeds and place in a slow cooker on low heat. Let cook for at least four hours or until tender. Remove from slow cooker and let cool enough to handle. Scoop tender flesh from skin with a spoon and set aside.

When ready to make your soup take a large pot and place over medium- to medium-heat and add your coconut oil. When hot, add the onion and garlic and let it begin to cook. After a couple of minutes add the ginger, carrots, and apple. Sauté a few minutes, or until veggies begin to get tender. (Note: you don’t have to chop your veggies very fine as you will be blending this later; a rough chop will do.)

When tender add the broth and bring to a boil. Add cooked butternut squash.

Remove from heat and either purée with an immersion blender or add to a blender or food processor in batches and blend. (Be careful with the blender method when blending hot liquids; leave the top slightly vented and place a towel over the vent to prevent splatters.)

If puréeing in a blender return to pan and reheat slightly if necessary and season to taste. If desired, top with a little shredded cheese. Crumbled bacon or caramelized onions are also very good.

Serve and enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow! I am thankful for you! Have a blessed, happy, and healthy holiday.

Hugs to you,

Emily

Double Chocolate Mug Cake (Paleo, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, with AIP-Variation)

01b8fa04bd8b9ea4c1f25a588f0850b64f3a02fc35

Need a break from all things pumpkin? Or busy preparing for the holiday and need a little something for yourself? Don’t need a reason? Come on! It’s chocolate times two. Who needs an excuse?! If you need another, this recipe is also paleo-friendly, grain-free, gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free, plus it’s so good the first thing both my husband and I said to each other on trying it was, “Mmm!” It can also be made autoimmune-protocol compliant – and believe or not, my husband and I liked it better that way!

I personally wasn’t looking for a break from pumpkin; I love it and make pumpkin-flavored goodies all year long. And we are moving a week from yesterday so another family member graciously invited us to join them for Thanksgiving, so I’m not cooking all week. I simply wanted something chocolate the other night. I love mug recipes. I don’t use my microwave very often but when you really want a piece of cake or a muffin and don’t want to spend all that time in the kitchen or wait all that time it’s awesome.

I’ve tried a few mug cake recipes and haven’t been overly impressed. The last one I tried was so dry I literally almost choked on it. I smothered it in yogurt to finish it. (Come on, it was chocolate! I wasn’t going to throw it out.) Also, almost all of them I’ve seen contain almond flour, which is fine for some, but I limit the amount of nuts I eat due to the fact I don’t handle them well. They are a treat for me, and so is this frankly, but I don’t always have almond flour on hand, plus to be honest I’m not crazy about the texture it gives baked goods.

A couple more notes about these. I like adding the wet ingredients first otherwise the dry ingredients tend to clump up badly when you dump the liquid on top. It also helps if you mix as you go. Finally, you can substitute a flax egg and use carob powder over the cocoa powder and it will be completely AIP-friendly. Both ways are very yummy but the flax egg version turns out almost fudgy. It is beyond good!

So I decided to create my own and combined several recipes, add a little of my own twist to it, and here you go! I didn’t tell my husband what I was doing the first time I made these and he came wandering out of our home office, sniffing, while the first one was cooking and I was mixing up the second. We joked having chocolate cake that was this good and that fast was either a really good thing or really bad. Yes, we can now have warm chocolate cake in a matter of minutes. On the other hand, we can have warm chocolate cake in a matter of minutes anytime! This is still a treat; a guilt-free one but a treat nonetheless.

I hope you enjoy it. I had to resist the urge to lick the mug.

Double Chocolate Mug Cake (Paleo, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free with AIP-Variation)
Serves 1
1 egg or 1 flax egg (mix 1 Tablespoon ground flax seed to 3 Tablespoons water and let sit a few minutes to gel)
2-1/2 Tablespoons coconut oil, liquefied
2 Tablespoons honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons coconut milk
3 Tablespoons coconut flour
3 Tablespoons cocoa OR carob powder
1 Tablespoon chocolate chips (I like the Enjoy Life brand; they are dairy, soy, and gluten free. If you are full AIP and do not handle chocolate well there are carob chips out there; try those or just leave them out – it’s still good!)

1. These puff up beautifully so use a good-sized coffee mug. Mix your wet ingredients together – in the cup (one dish is all that’s needed, which is part of the beauty of these) then add the coconut flour and cocoa powder, mixing well to combine. Stir in chocolate chips.
2. Place in the microwave and cook for 2 minutes.
3. Let sit a couple of minutes to cool slightly and then enjoy while still warm. (When I make these for my husband I do his first – being the good wife that I am – and then make mine. While they cool I get him a glass of milk and make me a cup of tea, and they’re perfect; his cools while mine cooks and mine as my tea steeps.)

These would make a great Thanksgiving dessert if it’s just a couple of you and you don’t want to make an entire dessert. Hmm…that got me thinking. Maybe I should make a pumpkin one next!

Happy Tuesday!

Emily

Pumpkin Spice Latte (Dairy-Free, AIP-Variaton, Refined Sugar-Free)

November 23, 2014 - Pumpkin Spice Latte (Dairy-Free, AIP Variation, Refined Sugar-Free

I have seen no shortage of pumpkin spice latte recipes the last couple of months, but I have yet to see an AIP-complaint one. What is AIP? If you are new to my page, AIP stands for Autoimmune Protocol. It’s a version of the paleo diet that eliminates several items that are damaging to the gut in certain people. I went completely grain free earlier this year, did the super strict elimination diet and have since added various items back in and discovered what I can and cannot have. I have successfully added back into my diet small amounts of nuts, seeds, and eggs, and even a little dairy here or there, but all of those I have to be very careful of. Too much and I am left with an upset tummy and terrible eczema flares.

So, I follow what you could call a modified AIP. One of the things I absolutely cannot tolerate are nightshades. What is a nightshade? It is a term for certain fruits, vegetables and seeds with a certain make up that can cause harmful gut irritation in some individuals, particularly those with autoimmune issues. Some common nightshades include bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and spices like cumin, cayenne, fennel, fenugreek, and spices in a pumpkin spice latte like nutmeg. For me exposure to nightshades – even just a little – makes the eczema flare like crazy and my skin feel like it’s on fire. Not fun.

So, back to the latte. There’s the fact it’s seasoned with nightshade spices, but I only learned about nightshades a couple of months ago. It’s been a few years since I ordered a pumpkin spice latte from that you-know-who coffee chain giant. Why? It was fall and I used to wait all year long for the pumpkin spice latte, but I heard it had gluten in it. I asked in the store and was met with a blank stare. That’s happened more than once and I sure wish they would train their baristas better; they’d get a whole lot more of my business if they did. I did a little research of my own and was shocked.

Number one, there is no pumpkin in it. Not any real pumpkin anyway. That is ARTIFICIAL flavor. And that bright orange color? Well, if the flavor isn’t real where do you think the color comes from? Yeah, it’s not real either. Many of the chains use milk from GMO-grain fed cows. They contain copious amounts of refined sugar, not to mention preservatives. Some of these ingredients are actually banned in other countries! Appetizing, isn’t it? Sorry if I just ruined them for you; I was bummed too but I’m glad I found out. I don’t want any of that junk in my body.

I am not shouting from the rooftops for you to never order one of these again or judging you if you do, but knowledge is power. Now you know and can decide for yourself. I will have a dairy- or refined sugar-containing treat every once in a while but this no-no list is personally a little long for me. And it is SO EASY to make your own – and I can make it dairy- and nightshade-free! Yay, bring on fall and the pumpkin spice lattes again!

One more note about the AIP variation. Try it with dandelion tea. If you are full AIP and cannot tolerate coffee try Roasted Dandelion Root tea. It is so good and has a rich and deep, almost coffee-like flavor. Once you add all the other latte ingredients it’s hard to tell the difference. I personally do not notice much of a difference in my body whether I drink coffee or not so I have left it in my diet. I simply enjoy it and I have had to eliminate so much from my diet I have simply cut back and I limit myself. It’s a treat, and this latte is quite a treat. Believe me. On to the good stuff!

Pumpkin Spice Latte (Dairy Free with AIP Option, Refined Sugar Free)
Serves 1
1 cup milk (for AIP use coconut milk but any dairy-free milk will do – or even cow’s milk if you tolerate dairy! – almond milk is good too if you can handle nuts, lending a bit of a nutty flavor)
1-1/2 Tablespoons pumpkin purée, fresh or canned
½ Tablespoon maple syrup (I like the hint of maple from the syrup but honey works and coconut sugar is also good)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
1-2 shots of espresso OR ½-1 cup strongly-brewed coffee or Dandelion Root tea

1. In a small saucepan combine the milk with your sweetener of choice and the pumpkin and warm over medium heat. Stir in spices.
2. Add the hot espresso, coffee, or tea to your cup (I say 1-2 shots or ½-1 cup because I like to taste the coffee in a latte so I add extra).
3. Optional, steam the milk mixture. If you have an espresso machine use the milk steamer; if not, simply whisk the hot milk mixture to froth it; an immersion blender with the whisk attachment works great or you can put the milk in a jar and vigorously shake it (just use an oven mitt or wrap it in a towel first!) This is just optional but it only takes a second and gives you that nice coffee house froth on top. It’s just fun.
4. If desired, sprinkle a little extra cinnamon on top and then enjoy! Beat that you-know-who giant coffee chain!

This is also good iced. The first couple of times I made it was when it was too hot for a hot latte in the afternoon (I like my coffee black and not sweet at all in the morning). Fall comes late to Southern California, where I am. Simply whisk the milk and spices together and add to chilled coffee or espresso. You can blend it also. It’s super yummy! Enjoy!

011305b0154f097f39ac62a561454f31588a755048

Cheers!

Emily