Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tapioca Pizza Crust (AIP)

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that when you purchase an item your price stays the same, but I make a small commission to help run my blog. See more information here.*

Are you ready for pizza night?! I LOVE PIZZA!!! It's up there with ice cream as one of my most favorite foods on the face of the earth. Pizza is also one of the trickiest pies to make AIP. No joke. The crust, the tomato sauce, the cheese. Nope, nope, nopes! But I refused to give up! I refused to be defeated. Creativity in the kitchen is kinda my new thing after all. 

Everyone has their own idea of the perfect pizza. Luckily, this recipe is pretty adaptable. Make sure to read through all the notes and suggestions and ideas. I tried to make this one as flexible as possible. If you don't see something different mentioned, it's because I haven't tried it yet! Make sure to do your own experiments and report back to me so I can share with others! Pizza is so highly individual, just like AIP! That's how we make it all work.

To me, the perfect crust is slightly crispy on the outside and chewy and delicious on the inside. This is hard to replicate on AIP, but like I said, I'm not a quitter. I absolutely loved the Domestic Man's Grain-Free Flatbread (AIP-friendly!), and originally I used it to make my pizza crust. But it wasn't the perfect pizza crust just yet. So I used that recipe and did some more tweaking. And then I discovered Grazed and Enthused's Rosemary & Proscuitto Stromboli (yep, AIP too!). Such a gorgeous and beautiful stromboli (genius recipe, I'm telling you). She actually used the crust and made it gooey in order to make a cheese-like texture. So the idea was born. I had to combine the two to create a crisp and chewy crust that also had a gooey, cheesy texture. And I finally nailed it. (But for all you thin-crust diehards out there, I've included that variation also.)

Now this one really just requires a little bit of thinking outside the box. Luckily, there are lots of Nomato Sauce and Fauxmato Marinara recipes for you to choose from if you like a classic pie. I also thought through lots of variations, and I've included some fun ones also. Scroll down for these options!

Yeah, okay, so dairy is out. Who cares? If the rest of the toppings taste like a million bucks, we already got the ooey, gooey texture in the crust. If you're dying for a little bit of the cheesy taste, then nutritional yeast is a nice little add on. There's also Zucchini Cheese now, and lemme tell ya, it melts like a charm over pizza toppings. I've also included a few other ideas to keep the pizza moist. Besides, add extra sauce or a dipping sauce, and who needs the cheese?

It's definitely time to go cook up a pie. This has been one of the funnest recipe developments I've worked on. Who says no to eating lots of pizza??

Tapioca Pizza Crust
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp Collagen Protein (or gelatin)
½ cup coconut milk
2 tbsp hot water

Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet in the oven and preheat the oven to 500°F. 

While the oven is preheating, combine the tapioca flour, sea salt, oregano, and rosemary in a medium bowl. 

Pour the coconut milk into a small bowl and add the gelatin, mixing thoroughly. Add the hot water to the coconut mixture and mix again. 

Add the olive oil and the coconut milk mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients, and stir until it starts to form a stiff dough. If there are too many dry pieces, keep mixing (by hand if necessary) until it all comes together. The dough should be a stiff ball that is slightly moist and barely sticky to the touch. 

If your dough is too runny, add tapioca flour in 1 tbsp increments until it firms. If the dough is too stiff or dry, add hot water in 1 tbsp increments until its mostly smooth and firm. 

Once the oven is fully preheated, carefully remove the cast iron skillet from the oven. Coat the skillet with a thin layer of olive oil or coconut oil. 

For THICK/CHEWY CRUST: Carefully press the dough into the pan, keeping the thickness around a ¼ inch or thicker. Place the crust in the oven for 3 minutes. Remove and top with sauce of choice (see below for suggestions). Top with toppings of choice (see below for suggestions). Cook on the middle rack for 8-12 minutes or until the crust is lightly crispy on the outside but still gives slightly when touched. The inside should be chewy and the parts covered by sauce should be slightly gooey (like cheese!). 

For THIN/CRISPY CRUST: Use a bigger pan (or less dough) and press the dough out until its less than ¼ inch. Place in the oven and cook 5 minutes. Top with sauce and toppings of choice (see below for suggestions and ideas). Cook on the bottom rack 8-12 minutes or until the crust is crispy. Don't overcook or the crust can turn very cracker-like.

Don't worry if the dough starts to melt or spread when it hits the hot pan. Just do your best to press the dough out, using a light coating of tapioca flour or olive oil on your hands if necessary. Be very cautious of the sides of the skillet; they are HOT!

*Sauce Suggestions
  • Nutritional Yeast (1 tbsp)
  • Zucchini Cheese
  • I also like to include toppings like sliced zucchini or sauteed mushrooms and onions which helping give a moist, cheesy feel to the pizza
*Coconut-free Option: Instead of coconut milk, use ¼ cup cold water to bloom the gelatin and then add ¼ cup hot water. Do not add the extra tablespoons of hot water unless the dough is too dry. This dough may not be as gooey under the sauce as the coconut-version but the consistency of the crust is still pretty tasty.

Pizza Ideas:
Hawaiian BBQ Pizza: Pulled pork with BBQ sauce, sauteed onions, summer squash, kale, spinach, and nutritional yeast.
Mexican Pizza: Restaurant-style salsa with chicken breast strips, sauteed onions, zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms, nutritional yeast.
White Pizza: Garlic Aioli Sauce (and dipping sauce!) with kale, artichokes, chicken sausage, and nutritional yeast.

Olive tapenade sauce with leftover chicken, spinach, squash, and bacon.

Artichoke spinach dip for the sauce (recipe in development) with ground veal, kale, sliced zucchini, and zucchini cheese!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Nightshade-free Master Tonic (AIP)

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that when you purchase an item your price stays the same, but I make a small commission to help run my blog. See more information here.*

Well, hello again! My break this time around has been much too long. I initially took an unscheduled, but much needed digital vacation at the end of the year. My original intentions were to be back and running things smoothly by the first of the year. I got the flu, and then a severe upper respiratory infection/ear infection, which turned into laryngitis and lastly, bronchitis. So we can definitely say that I've had a rough last two weeks. And I'm VERY BEHIND on my blog.

The good news is that I'm almost back to normal, and getting this sick while AIP was a very educational experience for me. Being this sick taught me the importance of rest, medicine, and bone broth.

First of all, when it comes to rest, sitting in front of the tv isn't going to cut it. You have to turn the tv off and GET INTO BED! I learned that while it's hard for me to sit still and do nothing (especially when I'm feeling unwell), once I crawled into bed with no distractions, I actually slept more and rested better.

And when it comes to medicine? As much as I like to keep things all-natural and homeopathic, there comes a point when you have to realize what's working and what isn't. Being a martyr doesn't get you better. Sometimes you have to give in and go to the doctor and take what they prescribe. Yes, know all your options, but then know when to weigh out the risks and benefit and make an educated choice that will get you better. In this case, I had to put aside my short-term AIP-goals in order to get better sooner so that I could get back to focusing on my long-term healing goals: I took a steroid shot and oral steroids. This isn't ideal, but I had to get back on my feet.

The last thing I have to stress is just how important bone broth is in our healing journey. I have never doubted the healing benefits of bone broth. I thought I did a pretty good job incorporating bone broth into my diet. But I haven't made it a number one priority. And I didn't realize how much more I could be doing for myself until I got sick and had soup for most of my meals. And I was pretty impressed by the results. My normally flat and flimsy nails are nice and arched and strong. There is at least a 50% improvement of my nail plate and nail bed in the last two weeks. I wish I had before and after pictures to show you, but trust me when I say: "ADD MORE BONE BROTH TO YOUR DIET! DAILY IF POSSIBLE!" And don't forget to add in some gelatin and collagen supplements on the days you can't!

Now like I said before, I prefer to go to the doctor as a last resort. Usually, I have more success with all natural remedies like elderberry syrup or fermented garlic. My most recent discovery that usually helps is the Master Tonic. The Master Tonic is also known as Fire Cider and Witches Brew.

The Master Tonic is a traditional, natural remedy for any number of illnesses, infections, or plagues; while it's usually recommended for the common cold, it's been touted as healing even more than that. How? It’s naturally antiviral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic. Some people have claimed that it can cure the most chronic conditions and persistent diseases. The most important part of making an effective Master Tonic is to use FRESH ingredients that stimulate blood circulation throughout the body.

Traditionally, the Master Tonic also uses a hot pepper like jalapeños or habaneros. Since this isn't an option for those of us following AIP, I chose to substitute lemongrass instead since it has anti-inflammatory properties.

Here are common health-benefits to the ingredients in the tonic.
  • Ginger is naturally antimicrobial and boosts your immune system. It has a warming effect on the body, which causes us to sweat and expel toxins. It is also known to calm the gastrointestinal tract and enhance blood flow. It can also help with chills, colds, and fever. 
  • Horseradish is naturally antibacterial and anti-parasitic, and it stimulates your immune system. It has warming properties and acts as an expectorant, so it’s a potent herb for your sinuses and lungs. It helps open up your sinus passages and increases circulation there, which is where the common cold and influenza commonly begins.
  • Onions are a good source of the antioxidant Quercetin, which is anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antiviral. Quercetin is also thought to have anti-cancer properties.
  • Garlic is antibacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. It can also enhance blood flow.
  • Turmeric is a strong anti-inflammatory and is also warming. Turmeric is also known to have pain-relieving properties.
  • Lemongrass is mostly used to alleviate common respiratory conditions like laryngitis and sore throats. It is also known to be an anti-pyretic, which reduces high fevers (hence why it's called fevergrass in some cultures). Lemongrass has strong pain-relieving properties and can help to alleviate muscle spasms (All pain types like abdominal pain, headaches, joint pains, digestive tract spasms). Because of this pain-relieving property, lemongrass may even help to repair damaged connective tissue such as cartilage, ligaments and tendons (this makes me believe it's a good substitute for most of us with AI issues!)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: There are tons and tons and tons of uses for ACV. But the focus here is that it helps your body eliminate toxins. The fermentation process that creates ACV might also strengthen the immune system, promote digestion, and relieve sore throats, colds, and sinus infections.
Nightshade-free Master Tonic
3 oz chopped ginger
3 oz chopped horseradish
3 oz chopped onions
3 oz chopped garlic
3 oz chopped turmeric
3 oz chopped lemongrass
1 qt apple cider vinegar

*It is strongly recommended by traditional fermenters that the Master Tonic be made on the New Moon and strained on the Full Moon. This is said to encourage the most positive energy and healing properties of the Master Tonic. If you're superstitious or just believe in good vibes, I suggest following the schedule. If not, then the Master Tonic needs to sit for two weeks.*

Combine all the solids in a quart mason jar. This should fill the jar approximately half-way. Fill the remainder of the jar with apple cider vinegar (you won't use all of it). Secure the lid and place the jar in a dark cabinet out of direct light but where it is easily accessible. Shake the jar vigorously at least once a day for two weeks. After two weeks, strain the liquid into an airtight bottle. You can then use the solids in recipes or dehydrate them and then grind them into a seasoning powder (just wear gloves and goggles while grinding as the mixture is potent!).

To use the Master Tonic:
  • Gargle and swallow. Don’t dilute with water.
  • Take ½-1 oz, three times daily at the first signs of a cold
  • If you’re already sick, then take it six times daily
  • You can also use it as flavoring in soups for an extra kick!

Monday, December 15, 2014

AIP Holiday Baked Goods Recipe Roundup

AIP Holiday Baked Goods Recipe Roundup
With just 10 days before the big holiday, it’s definitely officially Christmastime. There’s the décor and carols and parties aplenty. On the Gulf Coast, I’m back and forth between flip flops and boots, coats and short sleeves, but most of the rest of the country is warming themselves by the fireplace or under a pretty blanket of snow. Christmastime means something different for everyone. We all have our little traditions that help get us in the spirit of the holiday. Growing up, my favorite tradition was the day each year that my mom and I spent together in the kitchen baking batches and batches of baked goods like cookies and breads and dessert bars to share with family, friends, and neighbors. We’d make all kinds and divvy them all up into a mixed assortment to give away.

Pre-Paleo, baking was one of my favorite pastimes. I loved the routine and ritual of baking something from scratch from start to finish. After I started Paleo, baking became less and less of a priority because I didn’t enjoy almond flour concoctions. At that time, it was pretty much almond flour or nothing. I switched to using white rice flour for some goods, but the more and more research I did, the more I felt that desserts weren’t really “Paleo” even if the ingredients were. So I slowly transitioned to not eating many desserts at all. And that’s where I stand, especially now as someone who is trying to closely follow the Autoimmune Protocol.

My stance is that baked desserts aren’t AIP. Now bear with me and hear me out. The idea of the Autoimmune Protocol is to eat nutrient dense foods that heal our bodies and provide us with the most nourishment we can get. All the baked goods might taste delicious, and they might have safe ingredients, but they are almost never nutrient dense and usually have high quantities of ingredients that we should be consuming in moderation, like coconut flour or sugars. So if you ask me if that dessert is AIP? I’m going to say, “No, it’s not.”

But. There’s always a “but”. The desserts might not be AIP, but I do think they are “AIP-friendly”. That’s not an official term, but you’ll see it often on my blog. What does that mean? While the idea behind desserts and baked goods may not completely jive with all the essentials of AIP, if all the ingredients are approved on the protocol, then I feel this makes them “AIP-friendly.” And I firmly believe that AIP-friendly baked goods and desserts have a place in the Autoimmune Paleo lifestyle or any other healing diet.

Because AIP isn’t just about the food. AIP is about learning our bodies, and learning to cut back on stress and enjoy life so that we can nourish our souls too.  Now I’m not arguing in favor of binge-eating or emotional eating, but we get cravings for comfort foods, and they are called “comfort foods” for a reason. Mark Sisson has a great article about Why We Crave Comfort Foods, where he addresses the psychological aspect of eating certain foods, and why it’s not always that bad to cave and enjoy them in moderation.

AIP treats allow us to do just that, and to do that without completely derailing our healing efforts. AIP can be extremely difficult, because this isn’t a diet where 80/20 or cheat days are feasible. You’re either all in or you’re dealing with serious setbacks every time you consume a damaging food. And that’s why I’m glad for the other bloggers who create these fabulous treats for us. I may not be much of a baker myself any more, but any dessert or treat that allows us to “splurge” or enjoy ourselves and stay compliant to the Autoimmune Protocol at the same time is something that I can truly appreciate.

So this year for Christmas, I’m not going to spend the day baking batches and batches of desserts and confections to share. I’ve decided to round up the best AIP Holiday Baked Goods to share with all of you instead. Merry Christmas!

*Special thanks to all the bloggers of the AIP community that take so much time developing these recipes. It’s a true science and art form that I personally struggle with, so I couldn’t have created such a wonderful roundup without their help!*


Bars & Handpies




Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chunky Beef Stew (AIP)

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that when you purchase an item your price stays the same, but I make a small commission to help run my blog. See more information here.*

I'd say "Let's get ready for winter!" with this newest recipe, but from the looks of the weather map... Well, winter has already hit pretty hard for most of the country. I'm still hanging out down here on the Gulf Coast in flip flops and a light December! Our cold will hit us eventually, but in the meantime, there are lots of rainy days where soup makes the perfect go-to. And a traditional beef stew is what's on the menu!

Now in the Standard American Diet (SAD), there's a lot of smack that goes around for eating red meat or eating "too much" red meat. The claims are that its full of fat and bad for your heart because it causes high cholesterol.

The reality is that beef is a great addition to any healing diet. Red meat is full of essential vitamins., making it nutrient dense. Since most of us with autoimmune disorders tend to have issues with leaky gut (or increased intestinal permeability if you want to use the more official terms), eating nutrient dense foods is part of AIP 101. Why? Because leaky gut means that malabsorption of essential nutrients is more likely, and eating nutrient dense foods is more critical in order to obtain as many nutrients as our body is able.

Specifically, red meat contains significant levels of B vitamins (especially B12, which most people tend to be deficient in), Vitamin D (another common vitamin deficiency), Iron (usually the main issue in individuals suffering from anemia), zinc, copper, phosphorus, chromium, magnesium, cobalt, selenium, and nickel.

The saturated fat and cholesterol argument has also been debunked lately. There's been no consistent evidence that proves that saturated fat makes you fat. In fact, there are more studies and facts showing the benefits of a diet rich in healthy saturated fat. TIME also recently published an article pro-butter versus margarine. For those of us following the Autoimmune Protocol, butter might be out but animal fats such as tallow, lard, bacon fat, and duck fat are great options.

Lastly, if you're eating grass-fed beef, then your source of omega 3 fatty acids is much higher than eating poultry. Omega 6s aren't necessarily bad on their own, but the major issue is the ratio between the two. Because SAD is a diet full of omega 6s, any opportunity to boost omega 3s is an opportunity not to be wasted. If you're worried about your consumption of non-grassfed beef due to budget, no worries. While it's not the AIP or Paleo ideal, not be able to eat grass-fed or pasture-raised for every meal isn't a deal-breaker. As the Paleo Mom states in her post Paleo FAQ: “Can I still do paleo if I can’t afford or source grass-fed beef and organic produce?”:
Whether sourcing exclusively the best quality foods available or buying your groceries at your local superstore, a Paleo diet is still a nutrient-dense diet that reduces inflammation, helps regulate hormones, encourages a healthy gut and generally promotes good health.
 So don't be afraid of beef—grass-fed or not. Add some stew meat to your grocery list, and whip up big pot of this hearty stew. This recipe is also perfect for batch cooking; just freeze and heat up when you're ready for a bowl.

Chunky Beef Stew
¼ cup arrowroot starch
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp parsley flakes
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp garlic powder
2 lbs beef stew meat
3 tbsp beef tallow or coconut oil
1 leek, cleaned and sliced
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups sliced carrots
6 cups beef bone broth
3 cups white sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 bay leaf
2 tsp coconut aminos
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp coconut vinegar (or more red wine vinegar)
2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried thyme (½ tsp ground thyme)

In a medium bowl, combine arrowroot starch, oregano, parsley, sea salt, and garlic powder. Dredge the stew meat in the mixture to lightly coat. Set aside any remaining flour mixture.

In a dutch oven or large soup pot, melt 2 tablespoons of fat over medium low heat. Toss the meat in and cook until browned on all sides (about 2-3 minutes per side). Remove from pan and set aside.

Add remaining tablespoon of fat to the pot. Add leeks, onion, celery, and carrots to the pot. Cook until the edges start to turn translucent, about 5-7 minutes.

Add bone broth and sweet potatoes to the pot. Add remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly. Add stew meat and reserved arrowroot mixture to the broth and stir again. Bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until meat is tender and sweet potatoes are fork-tender. Serve.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook Review (& Recipe)

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that when you purchase an item your price stays the same, but I make a small commission to help run my blog. See more information here.*

The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook Review (& Recipe)
I'm hanging out with Angie Alt today on her Virtual Cookbook Tour for her new cookbook: The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook. Angie is the blogger behind the Alt-ternative Autoimmune blog and a certified health coach. 

Angie sent me a copy of her eBook for me to review. I opened it on my Kindle and am loving it! The colors are beautiful, the format is simple and easy to read. The graphic designer in me (I had a couple of classes in college) absolutely loves the small accents and the cleanliness of the design. The photos are rich in color and appetizing. I also love that the recipes are divided up into Elimination Phase and Reintroduction Phase. But the cookbook isn't just recipes. And that's one of the best parts. Angie also covers lots of information regarding what AIP is, how to go about reintroductions, and how to monitor food reactions. The cookbook is a great resource, but she's not done there. She's also touched on Balance, Cheating, and the Farmer's role in AIP. This means she's covered the emotional/mental aspect of AIP and other lifestyle details that you wouldn't find in just any cookbook. I think it's brilliant, because at the end of the day, AIP isn't a diet. The Autoimmune Protocol is a lifestyle change, and it will change your life. The best part is that Angie's cookbook will help you get started, and continue to help you along the way.

As a part of Angie's Virtual Tour "stop" at my house, I decided to do lunch with Angie using recipes from her cookbook. I am still in the elimination phase so I stuck to all strict AIP recipes. The way they are labeled makes it easy! I posted the photos this afternoon on my Instagram, but here's a recap!

Bacon & Artichoke Stuffed Pork Chops
First off, the main course! I selected her Bacon & Artichoke Stuffed Pork Chops. Can we say amazing? The recipe was easily halved to two servings. The dish looks fancy and gourmet, but it whipped up pretty quickly, and then it's popped in the oven to finish cooking so that you can get things done in the meantime. I cooked mine in a cast iron skillet so that I could place the whole dish in the oven. I added in some chopped broccoli tossed with bacon fat for an easy side, which means this has the potential to be a perfect one-pot meal. I didn't make any changes to Angie's recipe itself, and it came out delicious. I love a recipe that's perfect as is or easily flexible.

Honey & Rosemary Glazed Carrots
For an extra side, I made her Honey & Rosemary Glazed Carrots. This dish is super easy and simple, and it's prepped and cooked in minutes! I used organic carrots so after washing, I didn't even peel them. Need a quick weeknight side? Done! The flavor is also simple but balanced. The honey and rosemary pair beautifully together, and it's a nice change for carrots. I don't prepare them often enough because other than roasting, I always run out of ideas. This recipe will change that.

Lunch with Angie
The whole dish was ready in less than an hour, but most of that was dead cooking time where I could work on other things. In my opinion, that means it's a fabulous weeknight meal that's pretty simple and a crowd pleaser.

Rosemary Tea Time Biscuits
Now I couldn't help but choose a dessert to finish out the meal. While I'm not big on sweets, I do like to try baked goods as an occasional treat. So when I was flipping through and trying to decide, the Rosemary Tea Time Biscuits immediately caught my eye for several reasons. First, I love tea, and I've been dying to find an AIP biscuit or cookie recipe that would pair well together with a hot cup. When I scanned the recipe, I noticed that it was not a very sweet recipe so it's perfect for what I was looking for—a nice treat that's not overly sugary. After making the recipe, I fell in love. The texture is light and crumbly and delicate; it is beyond perfect as a tea time treat or as a light dessert. And the flavor is absolutely delectable. A true winner! I served mine with Tiesta Tea's Red Rose Loose Leaf Rooibus for a delicious fall combo.

I am so excited about this cookbook. Angie has done a fabulous job. I've already fallen in love with the eBook. But since I'm a book lover in general, I can't wait to get my hands on the print copy.

You can find the eBook here: 

And the Print version here:

The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook
by Angie Alt

Do your autoimmune bookshelf a favor, and grab yourself a copy. And as a special gift for my lovely readers, Angie has given me permission to provide you with a recipe from her cookbook! And yes, it's more rosemary, but it's my favorite herb right now! 

Shallot & Rosemary Roasted Butternut Squash
Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 30 minutes | Serves: 4-6
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
2 shallots, diced
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400°F. Put diced squash in a large bowl and drizzle with oil. Add shallots, rosemary and salt. Stir to coat.

Spread squash in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast 30 minutes, stirring halfway through for even browning. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My New Life on AIP

My New Life on AIP

Every time I hashtag an entry on social media or fill out a brief blogger bio, I share my list of autoimmune and autoimmune-related disorders in order to reach out to those who are suffering the same: asthma, allergies, endometriosis, adrenal fatigue, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis. Yeah, it's a list. I'm aware. To those of you who are following along because you're in a similar boat, you get it. To some of my family and friends, they think I'm a hypochondriac. And that's ok. I don't expect someone who hasn't lived it to understand, and like I shared in my The Raw Truth about Living AIP post, I really hope that those skeptical individuals never have to live what we live through in order to understand.

But there's a couple items on the list that I tend to skip. And they should be there. In fact, those same conditions are often glossed over frequently. People don't like to talk about them. Lots of people struggle with them—there are commercials about the issues, there are billboards with hotlines to call if you want to talk about them, there are doctors a dime a dozen more than willing to write you script after script if you need them—but when it comes to daily conversation... Well, people don't like to bring those up; they don't like to acknowledge them. So I'm going to do it. I'm nervous about bringing them up. I'm nervous about acknowledging them. I'm nervous about sharing with you. But I'm going to do it anyways.

So here's my ugly laundry list of conditions—ALL OF THEM:

  • Asthma
  • Severe allergies/Food intolerances
  • Endometriosis
  • Adrenal Fatigue
  • Nail and Scalp Psoriasis
  • Psoriatic Arthritis
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Major Depression/Mood Disorders

Now granted, not all of the conditions are directly autoimmune or autoimmune-related. But the more and more research that is done, the more the argument is that a lot of these issues are all tied together or tend to go hand in hand—they're co-morbid disorders, if you want to use the official terms. (The National Psoriasis Foundation shared an article today with studies that documented the prevalence of depression and anxiety in psoriatic arthritis patients.) And these issues are really not as uncommon as you would think.

So the AIP community has decided to come together and set aside a week each year to talk about Emotional & Mental Health in the AIP community: November 30-December 4. And this year, I'm going to talk about mine.

Looking back to my pre-AIP days, I had some serious mental health issues that were worse than I actually realized at the time. They were socially-crippling, and at my lowest points, I was very high risk for causing personal or permanent harm. I was overwhelmed at everything and struggling with severe anxiety. I was very negative, had trouble interacting with people, didn't do well making friends, often had severe crying spells where I didn't leave the bed for days, couldn't cope with the demands of jobs or deadlines. The anxiety and insecurities caused or exacerbated huge mood swings. The doctors suggested bipolar disorder, but none of the medicines ever worked. No matter what we tried, I only seemed to worsen and continued to spiral downwards.

My brother finally talked me into trying Paleo for "just 30 days", and I slowly started to see a turn around. I was back and forth with Paleo and so up and down with my moods, until I eventually saw some improvements. I did better over the summers, but always seemed to sink even worse into despair when the summers were over. Last summer, I took the plunge and started AIP. And that's when everything changed.

I'd say that AIP gave me my life back, but AIP actually gave me my life. My moods were through the roof happy and content by comparison. They stayed more consistent. I had more energy and willpower. I started to feel more confident and more able. Family members started to notice how much more stable I was emotionally and mentally. My mother was in complete disbelief and didn't think diet could make such a huge difference, but nevertheless, told me: "I don't know exactly what you're doing, but don't stop."

The key to my happy mental health was probiotics. AIP encourages the use of fermented foods so the first steps I took when I started AIP was to learn how to make sauerkraut (I like Eileen's recipe at Phoenix Helix: No-Fail No-Pound Sauerkraut) and how to brew my own kombucha. As long as I keep a consistent flow of probiotic-rich foods and drinks in my diet, I improve my gut health and thereby, my mental health. Learning this about myself was the most liberating thing. I could suddenly handle life so much better. I could take on more things. I made new friends and kept the friendships. I mended torn relationships with family members. I approached school and work in a whole new light. I still had ups and downs, but without the roller coaster of crazy highs and nasty lows. I also understood the ups and downs better, and more often nowadays, I can recognize the patterns and either slow them or stop the process before it gets out of control.

I still don't do well over the winters. When Daylight Savings Time ends and the days gets shorter, I immediately see a drop in my moods. I've been struggling the last few weeks with a lack a motivation, a desire to just laze on the couch and let everything go. Initially, I caught myself getting overwhelmed and saddened, because I felt like I was slipping backwards. But when I put things into perspective, I realized that I am still stronger and healthier and better mentally than I was a year ago. This time last year, I felt abandoned and alone when it got darker, and I cried every night on my couch or in bed. This year, I turn on the tv for noise and company. I stay later at work to be around coworkers and friends. I get moving in the kitchen, cooking healthy AIP foods to keep me on track. Yes, it's easy to get lost in the slippery slope of sliding backwards. But if we're smart (and we are if we've gotten this far), we'll stay positive and realize that it's all relative.

Compared to last year? I've come a long way. And winter won't last forever. Summer is months of great healing for me, and they are just around the corner.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pattypan Squash Casserole (AIP)

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This is a late post from my dad's house. I'm not cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. I'll be traveling to Florida to visit family. The decision wasn't made lightly. I'm still eating strict AIP with zero reintroductions. I also don't travel well. The whole process is a lot of stress for me. Because I'm detoxing from a parasite cleanse, I've also been experiencing some small flares here and there. All that aside, family is family so I decided to attempt the trip with a little extra planning.

1. Food: I brought snacks with me. I've got canned tuna, canned olives, sweet potato chips, guacamole, my AIP Restaurant-Style Salsa, fresh fruit, sauerkraut, kombucha, water kefir, and beet juice.
2. Packed Ahead: I wrote out my packing last several days ahead of time so that I could add to it as ideas popped into my head, and that I would be more clear-headed while actually packing.
3. Restaurant: I got the name of the restaurant from a family member and called them ahead of time. I explained that I had several food allergies and intolerance, but that I wanted to eat with my family. I asked to speak to the manager or chef who might be able to best help me with this problem. They said the chef would be willing to either help me the day of or create a special dish for me.
4. Letting Go: I have prepared as best as I can and that's all I can do. At this point, I just have to remind myself to relax and go with the flow and enjoy the special family time together since these moments are few and far between.

I'm excited about tomorrow now. I even remembered to prepare for the 6+ hour car ride by bringing the Paleo Approach with me so I can catch up on some reading!

Enjoy this casserole at your Thanksgiving table. It's a great side dish that AIP and non-AIP will both enjoy!

Pattypan Squash Casserole
6 oz bacon, diced
1 large onion, sliced
2 sticks of celery
3 cups pattypan squash (or summer squash), sliced
10 oz chopped cauliflower
½ cup bone broth
½-14 oz can coconut milk
1 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
⅛ tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp nutritional yeast

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. 
2. Saute bacon until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and set aside. 
3. In leftover bacon fat, saute onion and celery over medium low heat until edges start to turn translucent (about 5-7 minutes). Remove from pan and add to an 8x8 casserole dish. 
4. Saute squash for 3-5 minutes to soften edges, and add to casserole dish. 
5. Steam cauliflower in broth until fork tender. 
6. In a blender or food processor, combine cauliflower with coconut milk, garlic powder, and sea salt until a smooth puree. Add to casserole dish and mix until thoroughly combined. Smooth the top.
7. Top with bacon and nutritional yeast.
8. Cook for 25-35 min or until squash is tender.