Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Roast a Chicken, Create Stock, Mash a Rutabaga...

I've wanted to make my own stock for a very long time, even when the only stock I'd have considered making would be veggie.  It's one of those things that seems (is) so easy, but that I just never did. 

I've recently learned that bone broth is a great source of a couple amino acids: proline and glycine.  Apparently, we can make both of them on our own, but it's more efficient if we get them from our diets.  I've always loved really brothy soups, so the thought of sipping my own rich stock as a snack or part of a meal was even more appealing after learning the health benefits of doing so. 

To make chicken stock, I'd need bones and bits.  This meant that my other contemplation of roasting a whole chicken was going to have to happen as well. 

So, first up: Dinner.

Roasted Whole Chicken

I read a lot of recipes for roasting chicken, but they were all pretty fussy.  I decided to keep it simple for my first go-round.  

I bought a 4lb chicken at Whole Foods.  I made my wonderful husband deal with unwrapping it and taking out the envelope of bits.  I put the envelope of bits into a ziplock and into the fridge for their moment the following day.  Next, I asked him to stuff the cavity with a lemon and an onion that I'd quartered, as well as about six garlic cloves.  Next, I brushed a roasting dish with grass-fed butter and once I (he) got the chicken settled, I liberally brushed it with the butter as well.  I followed with a heavy seasoning of salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.  Into the oven- I don't think it could be any easier.
375F for about 80 minutes.  You want to go about 20 minutes per pound, and your meat thermometer should read 165F.  I checked it at 60 minutes, but it needed the full 80.  Make sure you don't hit bone when you take the temperature.  Here's a picture of where you should place the thermometer.

After you have dinner, pick the chicken clean and store the leftovers for soup or chicken salad or for midnight snacks.  This is SO much easier to do when the chicken is warm, so it's worth doing even if you'd rather just put it away and watch a movie.  Leave the carcass in the roasting pan.  Remove the lemons, but you can leave the other aromatics.  Wrap the dish and put in the fridge for the next day.

***Auto-immune friendly if alternate fat was used to brush over chicken.  Bacon fat would be yummy.

Scott did a great job stuffing in all the aromatics!

Golden Brown

When the chicken was about 45 minutes away from being ready, I started the Rutabaga Broccoli mash.  I saw this idea in a cookbook I was perusing at Barnes and Noble, but I cannot remember which one to give credit.  I didn't write down the recipe, so this is what I did with the idea.

Rutabaga Broccoli Mash

1 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced into about 1" cubes
chicken or veggie stock (or water)
1-2 cups of steamed brocolli florets, chopped
(2 small crowns, cut into florets and put in a covered pan with a bit of stock or water and salt.  Cook until tender over medium heat)
1 TBSP half and half (had I had a can of coconut milk already opened, I'd have preferred to use that, but I didn't and didn't want to open one for such a small amount)
1 TBSP ghee (you could use grass-fed butter or coconut oil instead)
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 TBSP dried chives
salt and pepper to taste
***Auto-immune friendly if coconut milk and oil are used

Place the diced rutabaga into a small sauce pot and cover with stock or water.  Cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until fork tender.  Drain and return to pot.  Using a potato masher, mash rutabaga and add in all additional ingredients.  Combine and season to taste.

This turned out so well, totally surpassed my expectations.  This would be good beside any protein, but would also be a hearty addition to a vegetarian plate, or as a base under a lentil dal or bean stew.

Dinner was delicious.  Even more exciting was that I was going to make stock the next day as a result of this awesome meal!

Chicken Stock

I think you could add/omit pretty easily here... I love bay, so I added 3 bay leaves, but if you love thyme, a bunch of thyme would be good too.  And I think any root veggies or squash would work.  I don't think you could do much to mess it up considering you will strain everything out in the end.  

1 chicken carcass and bones
1 envelope of the innards and bits
2 medium carrots, chopped into a few pieces
4 stalks of celery- ideally the leaves from the heart of celery too, chopped into a few pieces
1 medium onion- I had 1/2 of a yellow and 1/2 of a red, so I just used those
5 garlic cloves, or more if you aren't using the ones you roasted with
3 bay leaves
good pinch of salt
Filtered water

Once you get everything into a heavy bottomed dutch oven, (I used a 7qt) cover with the filtered water and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce the heat and simmer for at least 6 hours, uncovering for the last hour.  You can let it go longer if you want.  For like a day or two if you really want to.
When it's done, strain from one pot into another with a mesh strainer.  Discard the bits, or eat some of them as Scott did, and once it's a little cooled, transfer the stock to containers.

The next day, the layer of fat will be easy to remove.

The next day, there will be a layer of fat on top of the stock.  That's totally ok, it's super good for you.  Once it warms it will be perfectly smooth and velvety.  I warmed some up in a small coffee cup to sip one day, and on another I warmed it on the stove and added some of the leftover chicken and a couple tablespoons of tiny tiny circle corn pastas to make a soup. I plan to have a little each day, but it could easily be frozen for your next pot of soup.  I couldn't help but think just how rich a smooth butternut squash soup would be with this as the base... and that could happen because after this weekend, I no longer fear roasting whole chickens or making stock- in fact, I have NO idea why I was ever intimidated because both really require so little from the cook. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

AIP Rant and Plantain Crackers

Disclaimer:  I really have to tell you- I sorted out a lot writing this post.  This is the crap I've been thinking about constantly for days and days and getting it down has been incredibly therapeutic.  That said... unless you are going through auto-immune issues, you may cry from boredom.  So, if AIP isn't your thing, just scroll down and take note of the incredible crackers I made.  

I'm so type A.  I'm so black or white, this or that.  I've been like this my whole life, and even though it's been many years since I realized this about myself and am able to (mostly) pinpoint when I might be in a negative zone of this personality trait, it still happens.  Like constantly.

My moving toward an Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP) diet has been no different.  I was cool being 80/20 there for a bit, but once the new year hit, I thought I was ready for the next big step.  And when I wasn't, it really... I guess it hurt my feelings?  I felt like I was failing myself. 

So, then the stress and anxiety over failing set in.  Of course it did. 

When it comes to auto-immune symptoms, mine are few compared to many.  I battle with anxiety and depression, but have a generally good handle on it.  (Thank you to my gym addiction and to Rhodiola.)  I have the joint pain thing, but keeping nightshades mainly out of my diet and Turmeric supplements in my diet seems to be key.  There's my vitiligo... which thankfully has grown slowly over the past 11 years... and it's not super noticeable with my pale skin.

It does seem I'm starting to deal with more sinus issues... And some mild skin issues have popped up too- dermatitis and even a bout of Rosacea (my trigger seems to be oranges, so I feel lucky there.  Although I love and miss oranges, I'd die if exercise was a trigger like it is for some.)

Nothing is out of control, and this is why I wanted so badly to commit to AIP because I don't want it to get out of control.  Through reading, I am learning that many auto-immune women (where are the men?! I know they exist, but they don't write about it.) were like me- until they had children.  And after giving birth, all hell broke loose.  Interesting because it was only after having me that my mom's vitiligo spread like wild fire, although she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 16.  Giving birth doesn't seem to be in my future, but it doesn't mean I couldn't experience more serious symptoms as I age because aging seems to be bringing additional mild symptoms.   

When I realized I just wasn't ready, I spent a lot of time thinking.  I know I'm willful.  I know I can do things I decide to do, so it was perplexing.  I don't have some great reason as to why I felt like I couldn't do it other than I really love some of the foods that aren't included in AIP.  I love cooking and I love to eat.  I love going to great restaurants and having new food experiences.  I love the social aspect of food.  Whatever reason, thinking of giving foods up was stressful and anxiety causing and that's really SO not the goal.  If eating an AIP diet was going to cause me so much issue, wasn't it sort of counter-productive?  I also found the more I read, the more caught up I got, and it just all ended up increasing my anxiety.  I need to pull back a bit. 

I came to the conclusion that maybe I could just take one more step toward the goal.  Maybe my previous step was too big.  I need to go back to what I said a few posts ago- one habit change at a time, just like I did to lose 100lbs.  It didn't happen all at once.  I just need to back up a bit.

Here is a run down of the AIP no-no's that I am finding issue with and my thoughts for improvement. 

1.  Corn.  I heart popcorn and tortilla chips and corn tortillas... When you are gluten free, you get really close with corn. You kinda know it's wrong, but, you just can't help yourself.  Corn is the bad boy you hate to love. 
Fix- Cut out popcorn as a snack on a regular and put in "treat" category.  Cut down on tortilla chips.  I need to go from having a handful a few times a week to having a handful maybe once a week- and more importantly- be sure to only buy non-GMO.  So long Frito Lay Cantina... you will be greatly missed.  Green Mountain Gringo are really good, though. 

2.  Coffee.  Holy Hell.  I was all on board using coconut creamer and still keeping the coffee for a bit, but cutting down.  Cutting down is going ok... but, eff coconut creamer (see #3).  I can't lie to myself anymore, it's not half and half. Coffee as a morning ritual is also something that's important to me.  Although I love tea and drink it daily, I really love having coffee in the morning. 
Fix- Having one small cup of organic coffee per day with organic grass-fed half and half.  One day a week I get a Starbucks treat.  (Not 3-4 days/week.  That habit is so easy when students love to give Starbucks cards as gifts.) 

3.  Dairy.  Half and half, ranch, and sour cream really, really get me.  And cheese to an extent, but I leave it alone more easily than the other three.
Fix- Organic Grass-fed and limited amounts.  Same with butter.  I still use butter.  My goal is to make my own Mayo and then my own ranch with coconut milk.  That's on the list.  For now, I buy the cleanest ranch I can find and continue to cut it with homemade balsamic vinaigrette on my salads. 

4.  Nuts.  Almonds.  I can more easily give up every single other nut and seed.  Almonds are in a class by themselves.  Larabars, almond milk, almonds on my salads, almond meal and flour in gluten free baking, almond butter... need I go on? 
Fix- I got nothin' on this right now.  Moving on.

5.  Eggs.  I have pulled back from depending on eggs for breakfast.  Overall, I am eating fewer eggs for sure.  I'm skeptical if I really even need to eliminate eggs because eggs make me feel really good when I eat them.  I buy organic, local eggs hatched from free roaming happy hens.  They're fantastic and have almost orange yolks that are delicious.  The downside is that hens, when given the freedom to hatch as they'd like and to do their thing, don't always produce eggs.  This means that sometimes you can't buy them. 

6.  Nightshades.  Not a huge issue.  I've cut back substantially when I made the connection to my joint pain and it's not been that hard.  I seem to be okay with nightshades if I just have a few bites here and there. 
Fix- I've stopped making tomato based food and I don't eat nearly the amount of peppers I used to.  I am not cooking with nightshades at all, other than a tablespoon of tomato paste here or there, and in some seasonings... although I am mindful.  

7.  Alcohol.  I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a drink beside my computer at the moment.  To give myself some credit, it's only because I opened a lovely craft cider (Potter's Sorachi Ace) on Friday, and if I don't finish it, it will go to waste.  It's too expensive (and delicious) to go to waste. 
Fix- As a general rule, I am limiting drinks to twice/week and no more than two drinks each time.  This is an improvement, even if that is hard to believe.  I went 10 days without a drink and I will admit- that was really difficult.  Soda water with some lime or pomegranate juice is helpful though.  For some reason, that really does work if it's a Friday night and I don't want to drink but I feel deserving.  (Why do I feel I DESERVE a drink? hmmmm.) 

8.  Chocolate. So, sad, right?  
Fix-Green and Black's Organic 85% Dark Chocolate... it's always been my favorite, so now it should be my only.

9.  Beans and Legumes.  Not too much of an issue outside of hummus- also hitting a seed here with the tahini made from sesame seeds.  But, I am not missing beans much and haven't had them in some time- outside of hummus. 

10.  Rice.  I love rice chex.  But, I can go without eating cereal pretty easily.  Just once in awhile... once in awhile, I HAVE to have cereal- and not always with milk. I just like to snack on it.  (I could add in gluten free certified oats/granola to the cereal issue too.) I also use rice chex for breading and binding.  Rice crackers are pretty freaking great too. 
Fix- I don't have any ideas when it comes to cereal, but... I can learn about alternate binders and make my own crackers occasionally... which leads to...

Finally- a recipe!  Thanks for sticking with me.  

thepaleomom is a great site.  She's super smart and has great recipes and ideas.  I need to stop reading her articles on auto-immunity right now, but I am glad to know she is there when I am ready.  I may or may not have wanted to strangle her when she said my body could think coffee is gluten, but, she means well. 
These crackers are her recipe and you can find it here.  She also talks at length about plantains in youtube video at the end of the post.  I knew jack about plaintains, so that was helpful for me. 
I've wanted to make these for awhile now, but the plantains I bought initially weren't green enough.  So, then I had to let them sit for a week or so, and then I made her plaintain pancakes once they were super ripe.  Each weekend I would look for green plantains, but they were never green enough.

At Whole Foods yesterday, I finally found GREEN plantains! 

Plantain Crackers

2 large GREEN plantains, peeled (see her video if you are like me and clueless about how to go about this.)  It should produce 2 cups once pureed.  I thought mine looked like 2 cups, but I didn't measure it.  She says give or take 1/4 cup and I really felt good about it.
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp salt (I thought, this is it?  What about some garlic?  Chives?  Something?  Nah.  Doesn't need it.  On. Point.)

Place the peeled plantains cut into chunks, along with the melted coconut oil and salt into a food processer.  You will need to process it for a good 2 minutes, but stop it now and again to scrape the sides.  When its enough, it should look like hummus.  Ironically. 

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment and pour out the batter.  Use a spatula to patiently spread it out to pretty much fill the sheet.  Once you get it pretty good, you really have to have a light hand to spread it the rest of the way.  It's sort of calming. 

You bake it for 10 minutes on 300, then taken it out and score with  pizza cutter. Back in.  She says 50-55 minutes, but also that she's gone up to 70 minutes.  I went a full 70 and then turned my broiler on high for about 3 minutes.  They seemed really oily and I wasn't sure that was ok, but.  They're fine.  I pulled them out and got them onto a cooling rack pretty quickly. 

The cooler they get, the crunchier they are.  Crazy good.  Really, you're going to love them and be super excited. 

Although they are fabulous just on their own, I should probably let you know how well they pair with Cava Mezze Kalamata Hummus...

one step at a time, indeed. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Break the Fast

For those of you who know me, you know I'm in bed by 7:30-8:00pm and up around 3:45am when Siri so kindly wakes me- or I wake myself, which is more common these days.  This is an odd schedule to most, and I definitely take some slack about my retirement schedule, but it really works for me.  More so than I could have ever imagined.

I actually have Hurricane Irene to thank for all of this.  In August of 2011, we lost power for 6 days.  Neighbors had power (how lovely it was of them to keep their curtains and blinds wide open with every light in their house on and TVs taunting us...) but, our little row of homes did not.  This happened to coincide with the first work week back to school, and showering and getting presentable was necessary.  So, I went to the gym to get ready.  And I figured if I'm going to go to the gym, I might as well do something while I'm there.  And my new routine was born.

I could not believe the energy I had!  Also, knowing my workout was behind me allowed me to feel like I could actually decompress after a day of 5th graders instead of trying to find one less shred of energy for going to the gym.  Since getting our pup, I often come home and walk or run him, giving myself a little light activity at the end of the day without the stress of having to get an awesome workout in.  It's been 2 1/2 years and it's positively the best health change I have made.  And I can't even begin to tell you about the awesome community that exists at the gym at 5 in the morning.  You wouldn't believe that many people could be that happy and that energized so early, but it's true.  On the occasion I have gone at 4:30pm I have found the environment to be much colder, hostile, irritable... and that makes sense.  Everyone just wants to go home, maybe?    

So what do I eat at 4am?  Actually, not much.  I'm still weening off coffee- this really is going to be the hardest for me, I believe... so, right now, coconut milk in my coffee is enough to get my system going.  Once coffee is behind me, I believe I'll have a bite of something, but that's about all I can really handle in the morning.  I've also discovered that- for me- I do better on an empty stomach at the gym.  And it's not like I go and do 30 minutes on the eliptical and leave... I am either in a hard ass tabata spin class or I am on the floor lifting really heavy things and running sprints.  Either way, a fairly empty belly seems to be fine for me.  I've also worked on primal running- tapping into that part of the brain when you ran because you needed to protect yourself or get food- I think that's also easier when your body is gearing up for a meal.  I think being a little hungry helps me to mentally get there when I am on a treadmill, in a gym, with Usher blasting through my headphones...

I actually used to eat a decent sized breakfast- and then once I started to lift heavier I noticed I would get nauseous- which is why I stopped.  Everyone is different.  One guy I lift with has like 6 egg whites and a protein shake and oatmeal before coming in.  Another HUGE guy I lift with only has a banana.  Another has oatmeal, and then staggers protein for a couple of hours starting right after he leaves the gym.  I don't know if there is a right and wrong.  You can find articles that support each option.  I've not had any trouble building muscle (I REALLY want to update my blog photo!!!) and I've put it all on since I've started morning workouts on an empty belly.  So, take that for what it's worth, play around, and see what works best for you and makes you feel good.

Once I am showered and heading to school I am famished and ready to eat.  I usually warm something up on my way to my classroom and am finishing my meal as my kids walk through the door.  Most of the time I just have leftovers, (Mrs. Linham, are you eating GARLIC?!) but sometimes I really just want breakfast food.  Peeking around on Paleo sites hasn't given me the inspiration and excitement I'd hoped for, but I did see a post for beef sausage and decided I could do something with that.  Here it is.

Breakfast Chicken Sausage Patties
Makes about 12 patties

1 pound of ground chicken thighs
1 medium apple, small dice
1/4 cup onion, fine dice
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1-2 pinches of salt
1 pinch of black pepper
Coconut Oil

Add about a tsp of coconut oil to a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the apple, onion, 1 pinch of salt, pepper, and thyme.  Cook until soft and fragrant.  Add the garlic and cook a minute more.  Taste, remembering that you are adding a pound of chicken to it.   I always am careful with salt, but add a bit more if needed for your taste.  Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit while you work on taking down Christmas decorations (so depressing). 

Once it's cool enough to work with, add it to a bowl with the chicken, and mix until just combined.

Heat 2 tsp of coconut oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat (maybe just a hair higher).  Form the chicken into patties that are about 2" in diameter and 1/2" thick.  Once the oil is hot, put them down, but don't crowd them.  They take about 4-5 minutes per side.  Be patient, lower the heat if needed- the sugars from the apple will burn easily, so just watch your heat.  Work in batches until cooking is complete.  Add a bit more coconut oil if needed.
When I think they are done- they should be firm as well- I just cut one open to double check and then eat that one first!  I drained mine on a bit of paper towel before packing them away in Pyrex.  When I am ready for one, I will just give it a bit of a saute, or even throw it in the microwave if I'm in a hurry.

My plan is to make a few pounds of this sausage at once and freeze them in individual servings for easy post-gym grub.  I'll take some greens, or maybe just have some celery sticks and olives on the side to round out the meal. Or a banana like I did yesterday. The patties would also be good with a chunk of sweet potato. 

If you think morning workouts are an impossibility, I challenge you to start thinking about it at least...  Go in slowly, give it a few weeks to build up the time you spend there, adjusting your bedtime, etc.  See how it goes.  I know it's not for everyone, but there was a time when I didn't think it could possibly be for me, and I could not have been more wrong.

It's 6:45am on a Saturday morning as I type, and since my 24 hour gym closes overnight on Fridays and Saturdays, I have 15 minutes to get there and walk through the door right as they open...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pie for Dinner

It even looks cuddly.

This meal is comfort.  It's your favorite hoodie, your fuzziest socks, your most comfy quilt.  It's been a couple of weeks since I made this and just thinking about it I have the urge to snuggle down with a hot cup of tea and lots of blankets and books.

Well Fed by Melissa Joulwan is a great cookbook.  I love that she is all about buying and prepping food ahead, and that she thinks a lot like I do when it comes to food combining.  I squealed with excitement when I saw that there is a section in the book that's just ideas for combining veggies and protein!  I day dream about different combinations, and this book came at a time when I was ready for some new thoughts and inspiration.  She also loves Eastern European food.  In my opinion, that's the most comforting cuisine and is closest to how I define the food I grew up eating.  I heart cabbage.
And, she's a huge fan of Penzey's Spices.
I do believe Ms. Joulwan and I could be friends.  
Her book also has pretty pictures and places for you to take your own notes! And I love the paper it's printed on.  You should buy it.  I bought it when Amazon sucked me into their free shipping with $35 (although that used to be $25, didn't it?) and so I had to buy something else to get the free shipping.  Silly, but you've all done it too, right?

Shepard's Pie is a recipe from Well Fed.  She uses ground lamb, but I went with beef, making this Cottage Pie instead.  I followed her directions for the most part, adding more of this, less of that, making it work for us, but the base of this is not my recipe, however, it's so good that it needs to be shared in as many mediums as possible.

First of all, the mashed cauliflower is like... I really, I don't have words.  It's the mashed cauliflower recipe you only wished existed.  And it's forgiving.  I've made it a few times now, and I don't measure anything, and it always works.  You'll need one batch of this for the pie, so once it's made, just set it aside until needed.

1 large bag of frozen cauliflower
1 garlic clove, crushed (I use more)
1 1/2 TBSP coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
chives if you wish

Cook the cauliflower according to the package- I chose to steam/saute it with some chicken stock- until it's soft, but not overly cooked.  Drain any extra liquid and transfer to a food processor.  In a small pot, combine the oil, milk, garlic, salt and pepper, and heat it through a bit before adding it to the cauliflower and processing it all together until smooth.  Add in chives and give a bit of a pulse to combine, or just use them as a garnish. 

You can get the rest of the dish moving while your cauliflower is cooking.

1 heaping TBSP of coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced- I just used a handful of shredded carrots
2 cloves of garlic (I used more)
2 pounds of grass fed ground beef
1 TBSP tomato paste- I think I used just a little more
1 cup beef or chicken stock
1 tsp coconut aminos (I'd say I went 2 tsp, you could use Tamari or even soy sauce if you wish)
1 tsp dried rosemary (I definitely used more)
1/2 tsp dried thyme (I used a bit more)
3 egg whites
paprika to garnish- I omitted this as I'd already thrown in a bit of nightshade action with the tomato paste.

Oven will need to be preheated to 400 degrees.

Heat a large skillet and add the coconut oil.  Once it's melted, add the onion and carrot, salt and pepper, cover and allow to get soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the beef (or lamb if you choose) and break it up into small pieces and cook until thoroughly done and browned.
Melissa doesn't suggest doing this, and maybe with lamb it's not needed, but I found it necessary to drain off the excess grease.  I used 85% lean, so I had some fat needing drained.  I use the method my dad always used... you lean the pan and push the food to the upper side allowing the grease to fall, then spoon it out.
Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Add tomato paste, stock, coconut aminos, rosemary, and thyme to the pan.  Stir to combine and allow it some time to cook down until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Set the pan aside and allow to cool a little, around 10 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
Beat the 3 egg whites until frothy and stir into the meat mixture.


You'll need a large casserole.  Spread the meat mixture evenly, and then pour out the mashed cauliflower on top.  Carefully.  Then spread it with a very light hand evenly on top of the meat.  Then, gently drag the tongs of a fork across to make criss crosses so it looks all pretty.  Sprinkle with paprika if you like.  Bake for 30 minutes or so, and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.  Kale on the side was perfect. 

So, that's it.  The ultimate comfort food.  When you're feeling all nesting like, make this.  And even though it's really quite easy, it tastes complicated and special enough that I'd make it for guests too- as long as they don't mind if it's a yoga pants and fuzzy socks kind of get together.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

A week of food.

For a really long time now, Sundays have been my cooking day.  Until recently, I would just make something to eat on Sunday that could become leftovers later in the week.  I might prep some veggies for the week, or perhaps bake some chicken.  It stopped there.

Shit has gotten serious now, though.  I am trying to make sure we have dinners, breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for the week.  I don't want to depend on Lara ALT bars or some of the other filler snacks, like popcorn or hummus that are not autoimmune friendly. 

This is what I did last Sunday: 

Cooked a pound of chicken breasts for salads and post-gym snacks
Cooked a pound of bacon (Whole Foods thick cut dry rubbed) for the soup I was making, salads for the week, and for the bacon fat. 
Steamed a head of cauliflower and tons of broccoli (and used most for making a soup and put aside the rest for salads and snacks)
Roasted a butternut squash (to be put together with other friends to create a meal)
Steamed 2 heads of kale (soon to become besties w/ the butternut squash)
Chopped an onion, parsnips, and Japanese sweet potatoes... Seared 2 large bone in pork chops and baked them with the veggies.  (This will be 2 dinners for us and a lunch for one of us)

Let's Break it Down.

I buy chicken (both breasts and thighs) at Whole Foods, in their 3+ pound family packages.  When I get home, I break it down into 3 portions.  I cut each breast in half and butterfly them, then freeze.  Once thawed, I saute the chicken in coconut oil and spices.  It goes into a container and into the fridge until it's needed.  When I use the chicken for salads, I cut it into bite size pieces and saute the pieces in coconut oil until they get a little brown on all the edges.  Just adds a little more flavor for the salads.  As a snack, I just wrap a piece in foil and eat cold as is. 

For the bacon.  I put the oven on 425 and cover a cookie sheet with foil.  I lay out each slice and put it right in the oven for about 25 minutes until it's crispy.  I lay it out on paper towel and reserve the grease in a ramekin and reserve for later recipes.   I am sure to cover the ramekin with foil since Henry got up on the counter overnight one time when I didn't and well... that was the ONLY time in recent memory that he didn't whine for food all. day. long.  I've started giving him a few drops on his food when I have it around.  He's 12.  It makes him happy.  Once the bacon is cooled, I chop it into little pieces for the soup and for salads and a tiny piece or two for Simcoe's kong. 

High quality bacon is a must.  No nitrates.  Buy the best you can get your hands on.  Worth it. 
Once I roasted the butternut squash (I use coconut oil to roast) and steamed the kale, I chopped up some leftover chicken sausage and added it all to a large saute pan along with some chopped garlic and a little chopped bacon.  Once it came together, it went into a pyrex and into the fridge. 

Oh, and I added some bacon to this too.  When I commit to making a pound of bacon, it goes in almost everything.  How can you argue with that logic? 
The above meal is what I'm really about for breakfast/lunch.  1 starchy veg, 1 green veg, 1 protein, fat and flavor.  Each week I base this on what is on sale, what I have in the fridge/freezer, or I just start with something I am hungry for and go from there.  

The next 2 recipes come from/are inspired by Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo.
If you are considering cleaning up your diet, this book is pretty awesome.  I don't like going around saying I am Paleo because I'm really not.  I am certainly moving in that direction for my autoimmunity and for performance and for my overall feeling awesome, but I'm not comfortable with the label.  (For some reason, I see a bunch of people at a Cross Fit gym sitting around drinking bone broth and degrading others for eating an occasional cracker?? Not a fair assessment, I'm sure... but that's the internet for you.) Not only does she provide an entire education on digestion and such, she has sections for whatever your health issues/goals may be and directs you in eating appropriately.  Her recipes are also fantastic.  Like with most recipes, I alter them a bit to make them my own and to make them work for me, but she has killer ideas. 

The soup. 

Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup
Honestly, this could not be easier and it is crazy delicious and filling for how little it is.  I steamed the broccoli and cauliflower together with salt and pepper in a large soup pot with some chicken stock on the bottom.  When it was soft, I blended it in batches with chicken stock until it had the consistency I wanted.  Oh- I did roast some garlic (several cloves, EVOO, wrapped in foil, baked for about 20 minutes on 400 or so) to one of the batches.  When it was all smooth I allowed it time in the soup pot to come together and to add in some additional salt and pepper.  Into a pyrex and into the fridge.  I will garnish all servings with some bacon crumbles.  

Last is dinner.

Spiced Pork Chops with Root Vegetables 

3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 large onion, quartered, then halved will do
3 Japanese sweet potatoes, cut into pieces- can be a bit larger than parsnips- the parsnips are the slowest cookers in this party.
** Japanese sweet potatoes are pretty small, like a tiny regular variety sweet potato. You can easily omit them (Original recipe doesn't include them at all) or you could use 1 large regular variety sweet potato.  I actually decided I wanted to add Brussels sprouts to this recipe, but it was the weekend after Thanksgiving and there were none to be found at Whole Foods or Kroger.  But, I found the pretty blue sweet potatoes instead.**
1 orange, peeled and cut into segments
Bacon fat or coconut oil

2 large bone in pork chops (Original recipe calls for a loin)
Dry Rub made from:
1 TBSP cumin
1 TBSP corriander
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 tsp salt
Bacon fat or coconut oil

Oven to 375- or to 400 if you have mine.  Put your chopped veggies and orange into large bowl and warm up a little bacon fat or coconut oil.  Pour enough fat over the veg and mix well so they get all glisteny and happy and evenly coated.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour into a large roasting pan and get those into the oven for a 20 minute head start.

Once the vegetables are going for about 15 minutes, dry off your pork chops with a paper towel and coat with the dry rub.  Heat up a little more bacon fat in a saute pan over medium heat and when it's hot, place the chops down for about 2 minutes- don't touch!  Give them a check- do you have you have a nice golden sear?  You should.  If not, go another minute, and then do the same thing on the other side.

Nicely seared.
After searing, pull out the vegetables and place the pork chops on top- and back into the oven.  You want to go until the pork reaches a temp of 145.  Don't have a meat thermometer?  Me either.  Mine died.  I've asked Mr. Nourishment Unadulterated if he could remedy this at Christmas.  I'm feeling hopeful. 
Instead, I went 30 minutes and gave them a check.  They were good to go.  You want them juicy and if it's a tiny bit pink, it's ok.  If you're not cool with that, cook them a little longer.  When you pull them out, they need to rest before you cut into them, so transfer them to a plate, and put your veg back in for about 5-10 minutes if they could use more time.  It's always the damn parsnips.  If all is well, let everything sit while you pour a glass of wine or pull up Real Housewives on the DVR.   Go ahead, you know you want to.  No judgement here since I'm likely watching too. 

The chops I got were quite large, so we shared one for dinner that night and saved the other one.  The next time we had it for dinner, I took all the meat off, cut it into bite size pieces and heated it up, along with the veg, in a non-stick with a little chicken stock.  It ended up being enough for Mr. NU to take for lunch one day.  5 meals out of this.  Nice. 
In a Day...

Here's how a typical day went for me after that huge Sunday prep...

I am at the gym by 5:20am or so.  Although I get up about 4:00am, I don't eat before I work out.  I discovered the power of this about a year ago.  For me- and that is FOR ME- I'm not saying this is the right thing for everyone- my workouts are better on an empty stomach.  I have more energy and push in me.  I do have my coffee, and a change I have made is using coconut milk instead of dairy half and half.  Baby steps. 

I usually don't eat until I get to school- I heat up breakfast around 7:45am before the students walk in.  This week, most days I had the butternut squash/kale/chicken sausage combo.  5th graders smelling garlic first thing in the morning is funny- most of them are intrigued by the food I eat- asking questions, sharing their culinary adventures... I'm hopeful for the next generation and find it so awesome that my kids are open to foods outside of McDonalds and Poptarts.  We talk about food and fitness a lot in Room 20.  Sometimes we do pushups too. 

Snack time in Room 20 is around 9:30-10:00.  We usually have a working snack, so it depends what we've got going on.  This week I was about some celery and olives.  Have you had this combination?  It is super good.  I'd also have about 2-3 ounces of chicken breast cold.  

We eat at 12:41pm.  Yes, 12:41.  I do my best to judge the between recess and lunch read aloud chapters appropriately.  That was easy with our last two read alouds- Wonder by RJ Palacio (one of the best books you will ever read) and Granny Torelli Makes Soup by the most amazing author ever, Sharon Creech.  It's harder to judge the time now, though. We're reading Tangerine by Edward Bloor and those chapters are crazy long.  Those 15 minutes of read aloud each day might be my favorite, and I think my kids would agree. 
For my lunches this week, I went for the soup.  It's always freezing in my room by mid-day, and usually in the teacher's lounge as well, so soup is nice.  I'd follow with an apple or any of my celery or olives leftover from snack.  On harder work out days, I'd also have a packet of tuna packed in olive oil. 

We did have the leftover pork, but we also did salads with the chicken a couple times this week.  Just like the ones in my Autoimmune Blows post.  No egg this week, but bacon sprinkles instead.  And chicken breast instead of thighs.  Salads are a twice a week dinner in our house.  It ensures we get some raw veg and it also makes planning fairly simple.  I've also discovered that even when we think we're not in the mood for salads, as soon as they are made and we have a bite, we realize we are. 

And now it's Sunday again... stay tuned for my next post, I got some good stuff cooking up today! 


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

I started Thanksgiving at 3:30am when the alarm went off.  Scott was heading to Atlanta, I was not.  He was on the road by 4:00 am and I was walking through the doors of American Family Fitness at 4:30 am ready for a 20 minute Abs class and an hour of cycling with my favorite instructor, Joe.  Tabata.  Pyramids. Thankfully, he plays awesome videos and they take away a little of the pain.  A great start to the day.  What is there to be more thankful for than the ability to work out?  It was also nice to visit with all of my gym friends who also live for early morning workouts... No one had to hurry off to work, and it was great to just chill in one of my favorite spaces without feeling rushed whatsoever.

And now the yummy part... A day of indulgence... Autoimmune who?!

I came home and made a Thanksgiving brunch for one.  A slice of toasted Udi's with cream cheese, chicken and apple sausage, and an egg cooked over medium.  For dessert, I pulled out a pumpkin scone from the freezer that I'd baked last month with a strong cup of coffee on the side.  It is Thanksgiving after all.  I get all my baking recipes from The Gluten Free Goddess and you can get that amazing recipe here.

Next came a rest and some reading time before delving into cooking up my signature Thanksgiving dishes.  Sadly, I wasn't spending this Thanksgiving with my man, but I am grateful to have been invited to the home of very sweet friends.

First up are my potatoes.  They are sweet and savory and perfectly creamy.  Everything you want beside a slice of perfectly cooked turkey.  This recipe has its roots so deep I can't even begin.  It goes way back to Amber and me and has had various versions... This is where I'm at with it at the moment...

Sweet and Savory Mashers. 


3-4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 TBSP coconut oil, melted in the microwave for 15 seconds
3 TBSP butter, split
2 TBSP half and half
2 TBSP fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 cup sliced shallots
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425.  Toss the cubed sweet potatoes with the coconut oil and season well with salt.  Place them in an even layer on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Every oven is different, and I end up putting mine up to 450 for the last 10 minutes or so.  You want them to be well done, very soft, falling apart, with some brown bits here and there.  While the potatoes are roasting,  place 1 TBSP of the butter in a small saute pan over medium heat.  When it's bubbly, add the sliced shallots with some salt and pepper.  Cook low and slow until well caramelized.  Don't be afraid to add a few splashes of chicken stock if deglazing is needed.   Set aside when done.
After you pull the sweet potatoes out of the oven, put them in a pot along with the butter, cream, rosemary, and shallots.  Give them a good mix and keep them on low stirring occasionally until you are ready to serve.  Freaking Amazeballs.  Add more salt and pepper if needed.  Or more cream and butter.  Today, it's okay. 

Caramelized Onion Stuffing.

Are you ready for this?  The first time I put this together I thought I might die.  I've been making it every year since.  It's heaven.  HEAVEN.  I really should make it more than just Thanksgiving.  It would be an amazing side dish to any protein.

At the point I was making this, I was running around my kitchen like a mad women to get everything ready and over to my friend's on time, so I have no pictures.  Honestly, it looks like stuffing.  You are intelligent and I think you can get by without a picture on this one. 

Preheat the oven to 375.

First, you need to get the onions going.  In the end, you want about a cup of caramelized onions, so go with about 3 large yellow onions, sliced.  Add 1 TBSP of butter and a TBSP of EVOO to a large saute pan.  When it's hot, add the onions.  Turn down the heat.  Go low and slow for about 40 minutes to an hour.  If deglazing is needed, pour in a little chicken stock.  See my post on onions here for more details and pictures of making caramelized onions.  Set them aside when they are done.  They should look like this:

While the onions are doing their thing and getting all perfect and sweet and lovely...
1/2 stick butter
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
Salt and pepper 
1 TBSP fresh thyme
1 TBSP fresh sage, chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock

2 eggs, beaten
2 TBSP parsley, chopped

1 loaf of Udi's White Bread, left out for a few hours, then cubed

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Aforementioned 1 cup caramelized onions

Melt the butter in a large saute pan.  Add the celery and onion, salt and pepper, and cook until soft.  Add the sage and thyme and give them a few more minutes, then add the broth.  Bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes.  Turn the burner off and allow to cool while you do the following:

Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl and add the parsley and bread.  Stir to combine.  When the broth veggie mixture is not simmering hot, add to the bread along with the caramelized onions and Parmesan cheese and mix well.

Butter a 8 x 11 baking dish.  Pour the stuffing mixture into the dish and top with a bit more Parmesan.  Bake for 30 minutes, covered, then uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

Lovelies, your days of Stove Top are so very over.

My last endeavor was an Apple Crisp, once again, all credit goes to Karina at Gluten Free Goddess.  You can find that recipe here.  It was phenomenal.  Even my non-dessert friend finished his full portion.  That was an enormous complement!  I served it with vanilla ice cream and it was apple pie perfection.  That's definitely happening again. 

Xandy and Roger were wonderful hosts and Simcoe and I had a wonderful time.  I loved that Xandy had a Tree of Thanks on the table and we all filled out what we were thankful for.  Here are mine:

Scott... to be married to my best friend.
The ability to lift, run, and cycle.
Our furry babies, Simcoe and Henry.
Great Friends.

See the little tags of thanks?  How cute, right? And the food... Everything was so freaking good. 

My night is ending with a glass of Cabernet and a little red furry on my lap.  I am hoping I can pull it together at midnight to score a couple good deals on 6pm.com, but at the moment, I am not feeling super confident.  I am confident, however, that my tail will be at the gym tomorrow working that enormous plate of food off my behind.  I'm okay with that. 

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Autoimmune Blows

My constant evolution with the food I use to fuel my body and my workouts continues.  I need to write it out, document the changes I feel, and hopefully figure some things out along the way.  I'm hoping for the experiences of others as well, because who can do this alone? 

Somewhere along the journey of losing 100 pounds, I realized I was never going to exist on chee-tos, Totino pizza rolls, and ginger ale ever again.  Along the way, a little at a time, my diet become more and more clean, more real, more whole.  It has left the inner parts of the grocery store and made it to mainly to the perimeter.  For some time now, I've made food.  From real, mainly organic, ingredients.  For about 6 years I was vegetarian.  Next, the whole joint super inflamed thing started becoming an issue a couple of years ago, and I gave up gluten.

Umm.... We won't talk about when I'm on vacation.  Or a couple months ago when I basically had a short hiatus that may or may not have included an entire Fried Talapia Reuben at Tarrant's Cafe.  I just read this post from when I first became gluten free and if my Then Self read this Now Self's current post she would be very disappointed.

I had actually started eating seafood occasionally when I gave up gluten, but without the gluten to help source my protein, I began eating meat again.  Eating meat feels good to my body.  Surprisingly so.  Physically at least.  Ethically I still fight it a bit. 

Not having gluten in my life is ok.  Overall, I don't miss it that much when cooking.  The gluten I use in cooking has been easy to replace.  (The oh so versatile Rice Chex...)  Eating out is more difficult, but I make it work.  Overall, it's just not that bad, but I'm not celiac.  If I have gluten in a sauce or give into temptation and have a bite of something I will not be running to the toilet.  I am fairy certain the inside of my body would not agree with that statement, but I don't fall to terrible immediate symptoms like some.  Admittedly, I sometimes don't want to ask 500 questions of a server.  Sometimes I don't want to appear rude to a host.  And I guess sometimes I am just weak and want a Reuben.  I feel for those who don't have that freedom. 

That all said, it's time for the next step of taking control over this wonderful autoimmune body of mine.  I swear I practically cry every time I read all the foods those with autoimmune issues should avoid.  Y'all ready?  Imagine Paleo but a million times more restrictive.  Here goes:  Grains (as in ALL of them- rice, corn, wheat, the lot.), beans, legumes, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, sugar, every vegetable oil outside of coconut and olive, chocolate, caffeine, coffee, alcohol (um, have you met me?!), nightshade vegetables, and possibly FODMAPs. (They include onions.  If you have read my very first post, or know me at all... no.  Can't be, will not be me.)

Effing REALLY?!

I started reading about it in much more depth only about a month ago.  I feel so behind.  At that time, I was miserable.  Yes, there was my gluten downfall- and I should say it was just a few meals, not like I was eating it daily, but I was feeling so bad, even though it'd been a month or so since my escapade.  EVERYTHING in my body was aching and hurting beyond recent memory.  And it was not because I like to lift heavy things at the gym.  I felt like I was on fire.  Sitting at Barnes and Noble (latte in hand, obviously) with hips so sore it hurt to sit and the middle of my back burning through my skin, I realized I felt just like I did 100 pounds ago.  Lost and confused and not knowing where to start.  So, I decided to start where I started 100 pounds ago.  With one thing at a time.  One change at a time.

I thought a lot about what foods I'd been eating that had been different.  Obviously, the few cheats with gluten, but I'd done that before and not felt THIS bad.  So, what was different?  Tomatoes.  It was the cusp of fall and I had been absolutely about some meatballs and sauce.  And tomato based soups, chili, and things like enchilada casserole.  I'd been cooking with tomatoes every weekend and eating those leftovers all week long consistently for about a month.  I don't dislike fresh tomatoes, but I don't seek them out, so I don't take in nearly as much of them in the summer months.  I figured it seemed most logical to start by cutting out nightshades.

Nightshades include tomatoes, white potatoes (not sweet thank you sweet Jesus), eggplant, and... so sadly, peppers.  All peppers.  EVERY single one of them.  That's where it hurts.  (At least peppercorns are safe.)  A quick Google will give you loads of info on how these veggies contain alkaloids, which are basically poison to folks with sensitivities.  The alkaloids in nightshades has been connected to chronic joint pain and inflammation. 

In my reading, I have noted that tomatoes seem to be the biggest offenders of those with nightshade issues, just like gluten is to those with grain allergies.  I've also read that some people can tolerate very small doses of nightshades, while others can tolerate none.  I felt like I should be hopeful for the membership into the first group. With this thought in mind, I have had the following small amounts of nightshades in the past month:  I used a jalapeno in some guacamole, prepared Curry (cayenne) in the recipe I'm posting today, taken a few bites of hash browns when we went out for breakfast, enjoyed an olive tapenade a friend brought over that had a bit of tomato in it, and indulged in the paprika that was sprinkled on the NOT roasted red pepper hummus I purchased. 

It's not been so bad.  And the best part?  I feel freaking awesome.  Like the best I have felt in a very long time.  Not only am I not feeling like a hot little inflamed mess, even the chronic black circles under my eyes (due to my cockroach poop allergies, according to the Doc) are lightening a bit, mentally I feel more clear- fewer anxious and depressed feelings, my knee joints aren't popping constantly, and my workouts have been fierce.  Oh, and the best part may be not having to put a hot wash cloth on my lower back to loosen it enough so I can bend down to brush my teeth in the mornings.  I think I'm onto something.
The idea is to eliminate all nightshades for 4-6 weeks, then go on a nightshade binge for a day to see what happens in the following 2-3 days.  This would then prove your sensitivity.  I can see it now.  Gluten free pizza for breakfast piled high w/ caramelized green peppers, spicy meatballs in a rich tomato sauce for lunch, and a crock pot full of chili topped with jalapenos for dinner.  I don't think I would plan a day out like that for real- although quite fun to imagine- but I am sure I will eventually give in to going to dinner at Maya, or will just absolutely not be able to take another minute without a a cheesy gooey tomatoey pasta casserole... and then we'll see what happens.  At the moment, I am feeling really good, so I'm just going to try to go with that. 

How I have treated this month with nightshades is close to how I am treating my overall approach to the autoimmune diet.  80% good... 20% still adapting. 

My thought about how I will approach my posts, for awhile anyway, is to take the full day around a recipe I want to post and use it as a snapshot of my progress- or lack there of, perhaps.

This is what I ate Thursday...  please excuse not only the poor photo quality, but also the somewhat cheesy, yet terribly convenient, photo collage.  I aim to do better.  But I still might keep the collages.  They are crazy fun to make. 

Breakfast:  Banana- because wow.  Look at that pathetic little guy.  Needed eaten.  I also had sauerkraut, and hash (I know it looks like ass, but I promise it's swoon worthy... please give the recipe below a chance...)
Snack:  Green tea (switching to decaf...), and an almond and coconut energy bite
Lunch:  Chicken thigh, sweet mashed potato, broccoli simply seasoned with only salt and pepper
Snack:  Hash
Pre-dinner:  Thursday evening cocktail:  Vodka, soda water, lime juice, splash of cranberry
Dinner:  Salad w/ Romaine, spinach, avocado, onion, carrots, cucumber, slivered almonds, broccoli, cauliflower, chicken thigh, homemade balsamic dressing, and a drizzle of Simply Dressed Feta dressing.  And a sweet potato and bacon autoimmune diet friendly biscuit.

Lots of stuff here that has me on the right track... the 80%...  The 20%... Almonds... agave in the energy bite... Vodka and cranberry... Feta dressing drizzle... And I absolutely had coffee w/ half and half that morning, but you all know what a cup of coffee looks like.  I will pat myself on the back for the fact that I am cutting back.  My coffee cup as I type is half full and cold.  And I will do everything in my power to not stop at Starbucks later or grab a coffee at Whole Foods while I shop.  We'll see how it goes.  I just can't completely promise.  Overall, this day is probably a bit better than 80%.  I'm sure I'll make up for that on the weekend.

Promise me you'll try this hash even if it's not pretty.  It's super good and comes together in a second once you have the squash roasted.  I made it on a Sunday to fuel us through the week for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, but it's fast enough that it would actually be great for a weeknight dinner.   Especially easy if the squash was roasted over the weekend prior, and I do love a good weekend food prep for the week ahead!  

Beef and Butternut Squash Hash

Preheat oven to 400.  

Coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Handful of shredded carrots
1 pound grass fed ground beef
1 medium butternut squash
Your favorite Curry- I used Penzey's Vindaloo

Cut the ends from the squash and peel.  Slice the squash in half and dig out all of the seeds.  Cut in cubes and put the cubes in a bowl.  Take about a TBSP of coconut oil and give it a quick melt in the microwave.  Pour a tiny bit at a time over the squash and toss until all the cubes are glistening and happy.  Pour them out onto a cookie sheet and bake them for about 30 minutes or so.  Give them a stir once in awhile if your oven is like mine and the back right corner- even though it's convection- holds a hot spot.  You want the squash to be soft and easy to eat.  Maybe some little brown bits here and there.

In a saute pan over medium heat, use any remaining coconut oil from before and add a bit more to get a shy TBSP.  Add chopped onion and carrot and let them have some time to cook down with some salt and pepper.  At this point, I add about 1 TBSP of curry and allow it make the house smell super good.  Once the spices have a few moments, add the beef and garlic.  Cook until the beef is browned, then add the butternut squash and another TBSP (or to taste) of your curry.  Combine well and give the hash a little time to come together and get well acquainted on a low heat. 

That's it.  Eat from it all week.

If you haven't cooked with coconut oil before, please note that your leftovers will have bits of white- that's the coconut oil.  It just hardens again from your fridge.  It's all good.  It will melt when you warm it up.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading... if you are battling any of this same mess, please leave me a comment or contact me.  I could really use some of your thoughts, advice, and support.  And your autoimmune friendly recipes are always welcome!