Saturday, September 20, 2014

Cucumber & Octopus Salad (AIP)

I remember dining out at an Asian buffet with a several friends a few years ago. I was thrilled they had octopus salad. My friends thought I was gross. The baby octopus tentacles were too much for them. They were entertained, but more disturbed than anything else. I chomped down as much as possible for dramatic effect.

I spent many of my early childhood years in Hawaii, so trying weird and crazy things wasn't very, well, weird or crazy. Our traditional family meals are strongly focused on Portuguese and Italian foods with a New England influence. We grew up eating Japanese, Chinese, and Korean at home and in restaurants regularly. In fact, when traveling with my family, the new tradition is to find the strangest cuisines we haven't tried yet. Ethiopian, Indian, Thai, Peruvian, Nepalese—yep, I've tried them all. Ok, there are still several on my bucket list, but going AIP has brought a lot of my food experiments to a halt. Most ethnic foods contain lots of nightshades, and aside from corn and gluten, nightshades seem to be the one group of foods that I can't be even a little bit flexible about. I've had to cut back on eating out a lot, most especially at ethnic restaurants unfortunately.

Instead, I've been challenging myself to recreate dishes in the kitchen. Some are much easier than others, and some take just that extra little bit of inspiration. I was ecstatic when I found octopus at my local grocery. It's impossible to find octopus salad that's gluten free, and Tako Sunomono is definitely a favorite Japanese dish of mine.

This recipe is a perfect balance of crunchy & chewy and sweet & sour. The English cucumber is important; it's the long, skinny cucumber without the waxy coating and less seeds. You can substitute a regular cucumber, but it won't be the same texture. If you're against using sugar or sweets, then you can skip the honey, but it really needs at least some to give the dish the hint of sweetness and balance that is characteristic of the Japanese dish. And while, this recipe might look a little more complicated, it's very tasty and rewarding and a wonderful opportunity to try something new.

Cucumber & Octopus Salad
½ lb raw, whole baby octopus
1 English cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp sea salt
⅓ dried wakame seaweed, chopped into small pieces
3 tbsp coconut vinegar
1 tbsp honey or sugar (optional; use less or more to taste)
1 tsp coconut aminos
⅛ tsp sea salt
1 tsp sesame seed (omit for AIP)

Set a medium pot with water on the stove to boil. Meanwhile, push the head of the octopus inside out and make sure there are no internal tissue remaining. Put the head back right side out. Push down on the middle of the inside of the neck to push the beak out of the bottom of the octopus; you should see a little black beak poking out underneath in the center of the tentacles. Pull it all the way out. Clean all the octopodes (this is actually the correct form of octopus in the plural, in case you were wondering) the same way. Rinse and add to the pot of boiling water. Boil for 45 minutes. When the octopus is fork tender, remove from heat and allow the octopus to cool in its own liquids while you prepare the rest of the salad.

In a separate dish, sprinkle the cucumber slices with the tablespoon of salt. Allow to sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place the seaweed in a bowl and fill the bowl with enough hot water to cover; set aside. Going back to the cucumbers, squeeze out the excess moisture from the slices, then rinse off all the salt, and squeeze again.

In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut vinegar, honey, coconut aminos, sea salt, and sesame seed (if using). Set aside.

Going back to the octopus, strain, rinse with cool water, and chop into large, rough chunks. Add to a medium bowl. Slice the cucumber slices into halves and add to the bowl. Strain the wakame, rinse with cold water, strain again, and add to the bowl. Pour the dressing over the top of the salad and toss well. Chill for 15-20 minutes and serve.

PS: Years later, my group of friends was still grossed out by the tentacles in my salad. And yes, I still chomped away for dramatic effect!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Beef Tongue & Onion Soup (AIP)

In honor of this year's #MostOffalWeekEver, I created this delicious beef & onion soup. I scoured the web for an AIP-friendly beef tongue recipe. At the time, I could only find one. So I took it upon myself to change that. It was a simple and basic and bland recipe, and I needed this one to have some oomph!

I'm proud of my #MostOffalWeekEver this year. I got a lot more daring than last. I did fall off the wayside a little bit towards the end. I've had way too much on my plate, as usual. I finally realized that it's so empowering to recognize that you can handle so much more than you ever used to before. But then it's so easy to pile everything on until you have become overwhelmed. So I took the last few weeks off and gave myself some breathing room. We had our huge grand opening at the new salon that I work at. I went out with some friends and enjoyed the holiday at the beach. And I've also been making some changes. Mostly mental ones, but I'm going to start incorporating them into reality as soon as I'm able.

I have two photography jobs that are either in the works or pending. As soon as I finish with them, I will be putting my photography on hold until further notice. I love being behind the camera, but I don't like being in front of the computer for hours on end, editing photos until my eyes cross. I don't have the patience for it anymore. I have so much more energy on my good days, and regardless of good day or bad, I'd rather be socializing or in the kitchen. I am officially over feeling guilty because I can't be in the kitchen enough because I'm too busy editing photos, and I'm officially over feeling guilty because I'm in the kitchen when I should be editing photos. I'm tired of playing tug of war. I do enjoy photography. But I enjoy cooking more. And it serves to improve my health. So win, win. Something has to take a back seat, and photography's going to have to be it.

I also have a part time cashier job that I've been working to finish paying off a scholarship. I've dropped down to one night a week; it was still too much, but not very negotiable. My boss picked up on some of my frustration, and she's offered a different position that will allow me more flexibility and will be less stress. It's only one night a week. I've said yes. And at the end of October, my commitment should be met with the company, and I'll officially be free to do strictly hair and blogging!

It's still a lot of works in progress. But mentally, I feel a little more relieved. I've also been seeing a holistic chiropractor. I've only had two visits, but I already am starting to feel some improvements. Mainly, the adjustments have helped with a lot of pain and tension issues. But it's also been very reassuring to find someone in person, in real life, in the flesh, who knows more about nutrition and healing than I do. AND who doesn't think I'm crazy for eating beef tongue and homemade bone broths to feel better.

Beef Tongue & Onion Soup
1-1¼ lb beef tongue
1 large carrot, cut into chunks
6-8 whole cloves
4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp fat (coconut oil, beef tallow, etc)
4 large onions, sliced
4 cups beef broth
¼ cup red wine vinegar
⅛ cup sherry
¼ cup coconut aminos
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1½ tbsp onion powder
1½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sea salt (or more to taste)

Rinse the tongue well and place in the crockpot. Add carrots, cloves, garlic, bay leaf, and salt to the pot. Fill with water until tongue is just submerged. Cook on low for 8 hours. Allow to cool and peel the outer layer off the tongue. Slice thinly or into small bite-sized chunks. Set aside. In a dutch oven, melt cooking fat. Add onions and saute over medium heat until they start to turn translucent and reduce. Add 1-2 cups of the remaining strained liquid from cooking to the tongue and 2 cups of beef broth or use all 4 cups homemade beef broth. Add red wine vinegar, sherry, coconut aminos, apple cider vinegar, and spices and herbs. Cook on medium high for 15-20 minutes or until soup reduces by at least a third to one half and thickens slightly.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Raw Truth about Living AIP

The Raw Truth about Living AIP

There's no recipe today. Today is just one heartfelt and personal post about living AIP. There's the long version and the short version. I think you should read both, but then again it's my blog so of course my opinion is biased. This post is raw and real and fairly emotional. You've been warned.

The Long Truth
Living with autoimmune disease is like trying to walk a tightrope with a rabid monkey on your back. Gotta find my balance again.     —Tangie P.
A Facebook friend shared this as her status this afternoon. I held it together for all of two and a half minutes while I said bye after visiting a friend and walked to the car. As soon as I slid behind the wheel and slammed the door shut, I promptly burst into tears. Because it is so true.

I started the Autoimmune Protocol almost a year ago. I fought the actual necessity of it for months before caving and admitting it needed to be done (read about that story here). I've been on some variation of AIP almost consecutively for the last 11½ months, and let me just be real here: it has been the most overwhelming roller coaster ride of my life.

Some improvements I saw immediately—weight loss, better digestive health, less bloating, clearer skin, more pain-free days than not, better moods overall. Other symptoms took longer to clear. And then the reality: some of them never cleared altogether. They were well-controlled enough without meds so I figured that I was good to go for reintroductions, and the symptoms would eventually just get better with time.

The fact of the matter is: they aren't. Some have even started regressing towards their previously inflamed state. So as I was leaving my friends' house, nauseous with aching knees and feeling restless and agitated and ill at ease for no apparent reason, I happened to glance at my phone and saw the status. And it just hit home. HARD.

I battle everyday to live my life with asthma, allergies, endometriosis, scalp and nail psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and mood and anxiety disorders. And I'm trying to do that by living the AIP lifestyle. And I feel exactly like my friend—I can't find balance.

I'll be forthright and honest. I will admit that I'm not eating strictly AIP (if you follow my Instagram, you already know). Like not even a healthy modified AIP. I make poor choices with bad oils, natural flavors, dairy, and cross contamination issues weekly—sometimes more than once a week. I consume too much alcohol much too regularly. I bite off way more than I can chew, and I'm constantly stressed because of it. I feel like I'm living life in fast forward one moment and so down and out and behind on everything the next. I have no focus and live in a brain fog for days only to be clear-minded and rife with motivation the next day. There's no consistency from one day to the next. I work too many jobs, but every time I try to cut back, I end up with more on my plate. It's hard to say no because "no" doesn't pay the bills. I'm in a constant search for socialization, and it's hard to say no to invites because saying "no" doesn't chase away the loneliness of being single and living by myself.

And because I can't say no, I'm tired. I'm tired of not getting enough sleep at night, but mostly I'm tired of that fact that my autoimmune condition requires so much sleep for my body to feel normal. I'm tired of the lack of convenience and of reading labels on everything I pick up to put in my mouth. I'm tired of asking about ingredients and recipes when dining out or visiting with family and friends. I'm tired of craving pizzas and cheeseburgers, chips and salsa, my mouth watering for a taste that will be a fleeting second of joy in exchange for hours and days of pain and discomfort later. I'm tired of hearing "Just have one. One can't hurt you." I'm tired of turning down drinks at the bar because I shouldn't drink at all and definitely never risk beer, vodka, or whiskey. I'm tired of being embarrassed to go on first dates because I don't want to have to order my food in front of him. I'm tired of explaining my diet, my food choices, of justifying myself. I'm tired of listening to the jokes and snide comments about eating gluten-free from strangers, friends, and family alike. I'm tired of hearing "Well, what can you eat?!"I'm tired of being asked "Is that on your diet?" I'm tired of being told, "OMG, I could never eat that way!"

Guess what. I hope you never have to. It's one of the hardest things I've ever struggled with. Because I just want to feel normal. I want to be an average 26 year old. I want to run from work to the beach without wondering if there's anything I can eat at the party that won't make me sick, if I should really drink that tequila and club soda with the girls. I want to be able to kiss that cute guy giving me the eyes without wondering if he's been drinking gluten-filled beer or eating spicy nachos (and not because it's that his breath might stink). I want to hang out with friends and coworkers and not care what restaurant they choose for dinner. I want to be able to only have to cook on the nights I want to instead of spending hours on meal prep each week only to realize on Wednesdays that I either prepared way too much or way too little.

I want balance. And I don't know how to find it.

Just to be clear, I'm not writing this because I'm against AIP. And I'm not giving up. I'm writing this because it needs to be said and it needs to be shared. I've had a bad day, maybe even a couple of bad weeks. But I've also had some great moments and some touching triumphs. I have met a wonderful group of AIP bloggers who are beyond supportive and full of knowledge that they are willing to share. I have met a wonderful web community of like-minded individuals who have reached out to each other to create a wonderful virtual network of support and education amongst themselves. I have heard from many of my readers how much I have helped or motivated them through their tough days.

Because, yes. There are lots of those. The tough days. And there are more to come. But I also would not be as accomplished or happy or motivated as I am on my good days if I had not dared to try. I would not be able to taste foods as clearly as I do now, savoring every nuance of flavor and texture with every bite, celebrating in what I can create and enjoy. I wouldn't be as knowledgeable on the necessity of food and proper nutrition to replace medicine and work towards healing myself. I would not be the same me at all. And good days or bad, I don't want to give up on her.

So that's the long truth.

The Short Truth?
It's hard.
But I'm not a quitter.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Chicken Tagine (AIP)

I've been a busy bee, and I've been making lots of changes. I didn't manage to eat as cleanly as I wanted to with #30daysofclean, but I did make a final push to make the last week count. I'm not mad or beating myself up. Even though I could have done much better, I took it as a learning opportunity. I do better with short term goals and challenges. And that's ok. Instead of giving up altogether, I now know that I should make my goals and challenges daily or weekly instead of monthly. Biting off small bites more often is a lot more effective than trying to bite off too much at once and feeling overwhelmed. And I do get overwhelmed easily. I'm learning to admit what my weaknesses are so I can work around them instead of beating myself up for what I can't do.

And I'm learning to revel in what I can do. And to revel in what I enjoy doing. Like cooking and researching and sharing the results. Like sharing good food and good times with friends and family. Like reaching out and meeting new people and trying new things.

If you haven't tried anything new lately, check out this Chicken Tagine (pronounced kinda like tuh-jean) recipe. Tagine is a stew-like dish from North Africa. It's named after the clay pot that it's usually cooked in. The dish is swimming in flavor, and it's hard to overcook. Plus it sits on the stove, simmering away, which makes it a great weeknight dish if you throw everything together the night before.

Chicken Tagine (AIP)
1 stick Ceylon cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns (optional/omit for AIP)
4 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger, peeled
1 handful fresh cilantro leaves or 1 tbsp dried
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 large fermented lemon*
1 large pinch saffron
2 bay leaves
1 3-4 lb whole chicken
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion, sliced thick
½ cup fresh or canned green olives (not marinaded or brined)
1 cup chicken broth

In a small skillet, toast the cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns (if using). Once fragrant, add to spice grinder and grind until fine.* Add the spice mixture, garlic cloves, ginger, cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice, fermented lemon, and saffron to a food processor. Blend until a thick puree. If the mixture is too thick, alternate adding 1 tbsp olive oil or lemon juice until it's well mixed. The mixture should still be more paste-like than liquid. Add the bay leaves and stir. Cut up the chicken into 6-8 pieces (legs, thighs, wings, breasts). Layer the chicken pieces in a bowl with the marinade, making sure to coat as thoroughly as possible. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Marinate at least 2 hours but preferably overnight. Once marinated, remove chicken and reserve marinade. In a tagine pot or dutch oven, heat coconut oil. Add in the chicken to the pan and lightly brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove chicken and set aside on a plate. Add onions to the pot and cook until they start to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Return chicken and all the juices to the pot, trying to keep chicken in one layer if possible. Add marinade, olives, and chicken broth. Cover tightly and cook on medium low heat 30-35 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (180°F with a meat thermometer). Remove bay leaf and serve with juices spooned over chicken pieces.

Suggested sides:
Apricot 'Couscous' (Recipe coming soon)
Moroccan-Spiced Veggies (Recipe coming soon)

*If you don't have fermented lemons, you can add lemon zest, lemon pulp, and or lemon juice to this dish, but it will definitely taste VERY different from the original recipe. Fermented lemons are a lovely concoction is that zesty, tangy, and salty all in one. Because of the fermentation process, you can use the whole lemon including the rind. The taste of fermented lemons is very hard to replicate. If you skip the fermented lemons, you'll need to add more salt to the recipe.
**If you don't have all the whole spices, you can sub 2 tsp cinnamon and ¼ tsp ground cloves. The flavor will be a little less aromatic but should still taste delicious.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Balsamic-Braised Beef Shanks (AIP)

I don't know about you, but I often feel like I have to skimp on dishes because I'm short on time. And I like to keep things budget-friendly and budget-friendly cuts usually require lots of additional time in the kitchen. So how do you make the two work together? Here's another crockpot dish! This recipe does take a little more prep time than most crockpot dishes but once you throw it all together, it's pretty much done unless you choose to make the extra delicious sauce to pour over beef. (And now you aren't going to want to skip it, are you??)

This recipe does contain alcohol. What??! Alcohol on AIP?? That's a NO! Yup, alcohol should definitely be avoided because it's damaging to the gut lining. I think we can all agree that that's exactly what we are trying to avoid on the Autoimmune Protocol. So why does my recipe include wine? The alcohol itself is damaging to the gut, so if you cook all of it out of the dish (the super long cooking time here helps), then most of us eating AIP are good to go. If you want to read more about it, then be sure to check out the Paleo Mom's post here.

Balsamic-Braised Beef Shanks
2 lbs beef shanks
1 tbsp fat of choice
3 oz shallots, peeled
½ cup carrots, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
4 oz beef broth
4 oz balsamic vinegar
4 oz Cabernet Sauvignon or preferred red wine*

Salt the beef shanks on both sides. In a large skillet, heat the fat on medium high heat. Sear the beef shanks on both sides about two minutes. Place the beef shanks in the crockpot. Lower the heat and add the shallots and carrots until softened. Add garlic and rosemary and cook until fragrant about 30 seconds. Add wine to pan to deglaze, scraping up all the brown bits. Add the balsamic vinegar and beef broth. Mix thoroughly and pour the liquid mixture into the crockpot. Turn the crockpot on low for 5-6 hours until beef shanks fall off the bone and are tender. Make sure to save your bones for broth (I keep them in a bag in the freezer until I have a full batch).

Optional step: Pour all the juices after cooking into a pan and cook over medium heat until reduced into a thick reduction sauce. Pour over the top before serving.

*Wine is fine if it's cooked all the way in the dish like this. But if you don't tolerate the yeast or sulfites in wine or you would like to avoid altogether, use the same amount of beef broth in its place.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Awesome AIP Mayo (AIP)

So #30daysofclean hasn't been as easy I thought it would be. I've done the strictest form of AIP, and yet I'm struggling with just cleaning up my diet. I chose a rough 30 days to give it a go (but let's be honest, there's never an easy time). I went to New Orleans for a fun day trip and came across an awesome Paleo bakery called FARE: Food For Health. Let's just say it's hard to turn down a cupcake and a brownie when they're gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free, and sugar-free AND I didn't have to bake it myself. Then there was Naked Pizza. Hands down, the best gluten-free pizza I ever had, but it wasn't on the #30daysofclean idea list. So I got de-railed and then unprepared and it's thrown off my schedule. I let it mess me up instead of pushing through. This weekend is my birthday. I'm going to want a cupcake. I can't help it. And I have an awesome Paleo friend, Chrissy, who's offered to bake me a gluten-free, corn-free, soy-free, grain-free, nut-free cupcake. I'm going to eat it. But I'm going to stay on track otherwise. Because I know it's important. And I know that the bazillion pimples on my chin and the painful canker sores in my mouth are from eating too many nuts last week.

I could get completely discouraged. Ok, I won't lie. I want to just give up and say it doesn't matter. But the cystic acne lining my jaw and the sores inside my mouth are the reminder of why I'm doing what I'm doing. And I'm going to stay positive. I have learned from this experience even after eating AIP for almost a year. I didn't realize that nuts caused the canker sores and acne, and now I know that it's a good thing that I continue to avoid them. I've also discovered that oil pulling (I use coconut) helps sooth canker sores a lot. If you're not oil pulling, you definitely need to check this out and give it a try!

So instead of giving up, I've devoted some extra time into fine-tuning a recipe that I've been working on: a delicious AIP mayo. I've tried other egg-free mayos; there are some really delicious recipes out there from other AIP bloggers like Mickey Trescott's Garlic Mayo and He won't know it Paleo's Creamy Egg-Free Mayo. But I needed something with easy to find ingredients and a great consistency because I'm super picky when it comes to mayo. So I came up with this creamy, tangy, and delicious mayo that's egg-free and coconut free (for those of you who aren't having success with coconut).

Awesome AIP Mayo
2 perfectly ripe avocados
¼ cup ACV (apple cider vinegar)
¼ cup EVOO
1½ tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt

In a tall narrow measuring cup, add all the ingredients and blend up and down with an immersion blender until smooth and creamy. Chill before serving. Makes about 1½ cups. Good in the fridge for a minimum of 2-3 days.

This may work in a food processor, but I haven't tried it so I can't make promises. If it does work, or you find another method, please share. I love getting feedback!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Crockpot Veal Proven├žal Soup (AIP)

All my life I've been a burgers and pizza kind of girl. I like real, hearty foods and lots of it. Yeah, I know. Neither of those choices are really AIP. So where am I going with this? When you like awesome foods, you tend to have a habit of biting off more than you can chew. And unfortunately, that's the story of my life in general and definitely right now.

I have a Bachelor's in photography. I went to school for cosmetology, and I'm busy starting a career doing hair (which I love). I feel pressured to use my BFA because I spent thousands of dollars on this ridiculously over-priced piece of paper called a diploma and people love my work. While I'm glad that people enjoy it, I don't always. I love my new job at the salon, but I'm paid commission. As a first year stylist, that's a huge struggle. I know that it's going to be worth it in the long run, but it also means days and days that I sit with no clients while I get my name out there. And days that I sit without clients means days that I sit without getting paid. So in the meantime, I'm working a part time job to help pay the bills and work off a scholarship that I received to help fund cosmetology school. And I'm taking photo gigs. All while trying to eat AIP (or mostly AIP after several successful introductions). Oh, and blog out new recipes here. I'm not complaining. I'm still learning balance. I'm still learning to take smaller bites and focus on one thing at a time. I'm trying to really narrow my focus to the things that I love best and to create priorities to what's most important. I know I can do it, but I have to say that I'm grateful for the support, encouragement, and patience so far!

I've let my diet slip a lot in the last few months while I finished school, and started a new career. I'm a little behind blogging about it, but I started #30 Days of Clean on Monday. The idea behind 30 Days of Clean was to reset my mental and physical approach to food. There are lots of friends participating with me, but everyone chose to do their own requirements to "clean up" their own diets. And that's my favorite part of 30 Days of Clean: it's all individual. My requirements are posted below. I'm sharing all of my photos in real time on Instagram, but you can also follow along at the end of the day on my Facebook page. If you follow along, be sure to tag #30daysofclean and @theprimordialtable.

When it all boils down, I am a total foodie at heart. But my ultimate goal is health and nutrition. Some days are easier than others. Other days take all you've got. So for the hard days, I'm working on crockpot recipes. I always love a good crockpot recipe that requires me to simply toss most of the ingredients in and go. This soup is perfect and is a great source of bone broth, which is extremely beneficial to a healing gut. I mean, the stuff helps heal your guts, promotes healthy digestions, reduces inflammation, fights infection, and promotes healthy hair, nails, and bone health/growth. That means it's an AIP power food. Need I say more???

No! Let's eat!

Crockpot Veal Proven├žal Soup
2 lbs veal neck pieces
2 white sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 celery stick, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tsp sea salt
¼ tsp rosemary
¼ tsp savory
¼ tsp thyme
¼ tsp basil
¼ tsp marjoram
¼ lavender
¼ parsley
⅛ tsp oregano
⅛ tsp tarragon
4-6 cups beef broth

Place everything in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours until meat falls off the bone pieces. Remove bones and reserve for future broth making (I store mine in a gallon bag in the freezer). Add more salt if desired. Serve.