Friday, December 19, 2014

Horseradish Beef Stew (Paleo + AIP)

I am a terrible blogger.  I don't sit down and go "I have to come up with something amazing today to share with people, especially since I haven't blogged in a week (or two, or three)", I just occasionally make something I love SO much that I have to share.  Sometimes that takes a month or two.  Sorry, guys.  But guess what?  This is one of those occasions.
Ah man, stew.  I bloody love stew.  I grew up with my mom making typical beef stew.  Ya know, chunks of beef and potatoes and carrots in a thick gravy made with flour.  So simple, yet so delicious. Then she went vegetarian... so no more beef stew.  And it's really hard to find a good stew.  You see all these "stews" with a thin broth base.  That's not stew.  That's soup.  Like how Manhattan Clam Chowder isn't chowder.  I'm from New England, I know these things.
I learned how to recreate my mom's stew last year using cornstarch to thicken, so I could share with my gluten free roommate.  But now, with corn off limits, I haven't had much luck getting the right thickness with arrowroot.  It just wouldn't cooperate.
So, imagine my joy when I made this beauty.  I didn't really set out to make a stew like I remembered.  I just wanted a tasty combination of beef and horseradish.  Instead, I got magical stew.  Have I said stew enough yet today? Stew.  Stew.  STEW.

Anyway.  Yes, there are lots of ingredients, but I promise.  It's easy.  So easy, a caveman could do it (see what I did there?  PALEO).


Why is my stove always dirty?
Horseradish Beef Stew

Ingredients:

2-3 lbs stew beef/chuck roast
2 tbsp cooking fat
1 red onion, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine (broth works too, but won't be as rich)
4 cups broth (I used chicken, but I bet beef is rich and amazing)
3 medium carrots
1 large sweet potato
1 cup green beans
3-5 tbsp prepared horseradish*
S&P

*aim for one with no additives except vinegar and salt.  I used Boar's Head

Note:  stew is amazingly flexible.  Don't worry about exactness of the ingredients.  I'm an "approximate" kind of cook anyway.  Don't even worry about cooking time.  You could probably tack on another hour before you add the green beans and it'll just get more tender and amazing.


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 and move top rack down to bottom 1/3 of oven
If using chuck roast, chop into 1 inch cubes.  Apply lots of salt and pepper to beef (seriously, don't be stingy)
Heat fat in dutch oven to medium high
Brown meat in batches, remove to a bowl and set aside
Add chopped onion to dutch oven to soften, then add garlic for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant
Pour in cup of wine (or broth), stirring to get bits from the bottom
Simmer to reduce for 5 minutes
Add broth and bring to a boil
Add back beef, including any juice in the bowl, and cover
Place in oven for one hour
Meantime, chop carrots and sweet potato into small cubes, cut green beans into 1/3s
After hour, add carrots and sweets, cook for another hour (you can go longer, don't worry about over cooking), still covered
Finally, mix in green beans.  The sweet potatoes will be a falling apart mess.  THIS IS GOOD!  Let them do their thing as you stir.
Cover and put back in the oven for another 20-30 minutes, depending how soft or crunchy you like your beans.
Stir in horseradish to taste.  You can even leave it out and let individuals add to their bowls if you've got someone who dislikes horseradish (weirdos).  Add s&p to taste, but between the seasoning from the beef and the horseradish, you might be good to go.


The miracle of this stew is that 1.5 hours is way too long for those small chunks of sweet potato and they start falling apart and blending into the broth.  Boom.  Your broth is now gravy.  Now go forth and enjoy this deliciousness.

I usually add more horseradish.  Cus, yum.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Blueberry "Yogurt" Bites (Paleo + AIP)



I discovered during my AIP Whole30 that the hardest thing to eat enough of was fat. I am a nut butter addict, so I had no problems beforehand because whenever I was a bit hungry, I'd pop a spoonful (or three...) of almond or cashew butter in my mouth and go on my merry way.  Don't ever expect me to do that with coconut butter.  Just... no.

Without nuts and seeds to munch for an easy fat source, I'm down to coconut (milk/oil/butter), olives, avocados, bacon and oils/fats.  However, I don't believe cooking my food in an oil/fat really does much and I'm not a huge salad person.  I can devour loads of olives and avocado, but I need some variety in my diet! Also, still not a fan of coconut.  I know, I'm working on it, but I don't think I will ever LOVE the stuff.  So, I disguise it.

Now that my Whole30 is over, I don't have to worry so much about SWYPO and can focus totally on nutrition, regardless of the vehicle.  Therefore, I came up with these little morsels.  All of the fats in coconut, almost none of the taste without a bunch of sugar.  Boom.



Blueberry "Yogurt" Fat Bomb Bites

3/4cup fresh blueberries
1/3cup coconut oil, melted
1/4cup coconut milk
1/4cup coconut butter, softened*

Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and pulse until well mixed. Do not worry about the blueberries being totally smooth, that's up to you.
Scoop dollops into a silicon ice cube or candy tray or a paper lined muffin tin.  I used a mini muffin tin for tiny bites.
Refrigerate 30 minutes or until solid.  Store in a sealed container in the fridge.
Keeps for at least 3-4 days, freeze any you don't expect to consume by then.

Try different fruits!  Almost any fresh fruits should work, though the tiny seeds in raspberries and the like may be obnoxious.

*I haven't made these without coconut butter yet, but you may be able to skip by increasing the coconut milk and oil.



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

AIP Whole30 Week 3 & 4 & Wrap-up

I did it!  30 days strict AIP Whole30!



I skipped a summary last week since I was quite sure it would be more of the same as weeks 1&2, alternating between intense whining and happiness. The past few weeks have been rough, I really have felt the deprivation of my limited diet. The social limitations have always been the most difficult part of Whole30 for me, and those are amplified threefold during an AIP. Following the protocol has been made both better and worse by having a partner (sorry, boy). He did the program with me only to be supportive and, while he lost a few pounds he'd picked up recently, he hasn't felt any different and instead moaned about his lack of Nutella, wine and assorted other random food desires. Someone really didn't get into the Whole30 spirit... (And despite all his whining about not wining, he still claims he doesn't "crave" things, he just really likes them on occasion, occasion meaning daily, of course).
Whole30 Day 3 (Forgot to take a day one picture, whoops)
Anyway, being able to share the cooking and the delicious experiments and the stress helped a lot, but I also carried some of the weight (and maybe guilt?) of putting him through this too. I catered a lot of meals and snacks to him and, once they were there, I ate them too. Don't get me wrong, I definitely benefited from this last 30 days, and I'm not blaming it all on the boy. I am responsible for my own actions, and it's my own fault I ate so many bananas, apples and sweet potatoes.

Results: I've lost 3 inches off my waist, which puts me just above my happy weight (I say "weight" subjectively, I did not step on a scale before or after and am only using the weight measurement and a mirror), and all my clothes are comfortable again.  Most importantly, face is feeling smooth and breakout free, except for 1-2 little whiteheads that pop up every couple weeks, which seems like a very normal kinda thing.  Now I just have to wait and see if the residual red marks from old, painful breakouts will fade completely (as they should).  Fingers crossed!

And today! Day 31.  There are still a lot of red spots, but you may notice most of them were already there a month ago.  Residual redness can take a few months to fade after a bad pimple. I just hope there are no scars hiding underneath those spots. Not one remaining painful, cystic pimple. Check out my Week 1 post to compare my face from just 1.5 months ago.  Ouch.

I'm excited for the rest of my healing process, as I still have a lot of work to do! My new goals consist of slow reintroductions while I continue healing, more regular workouts and continuing to eliminate chemicals from my life (between skin/hair care and household cleaning, more on that another time!).

My reintro plan for now is a little rushed, its the holiday season and I want to be able to enjoy my two favorite treats.  If it goes horribly, I'll live without.  If it's less than ideal, then I shall indulge in moderation until the holiday season ends.

Reintro one:  glass of wine to go with an AIP pumpkin pie to celebrate completing the Whole30! Jumping right into reintros seems unwise, I know.  Particularly alcohol.  But hey, Christmas and New Year's is nearly upon us! I'm planning as carefully as I can: 1 glass of a drier wine tonight (day 31) and another this weekend (day 34 or 35) if it seems to go well.

Reintro two: CHOCOLATE.  Gosh, I miss chocolate.  I've picked up a 90%, no soy and no dairy bar of Lindt that I can't wait to take just a nibble out of.  That I will do next week, as I plan to do 3-4 days between each test.

Three: nightshades.  I am not worried about nightshades as I did eliminate them once before and felt no difference, either at cutting them out or reintroducing.  I can do without marinara sauce for a bit longer, but I'd like to be able to toss some paprika back into my cooking. I will take 1-2 weeks testing various nightshades, just to be sure.

Four:  Seeds.  I miss cumin so much.  I am also not particularly worried about this, but I will take my time on this as well. Getting some sunbutter into my diet will add another source of fat and an easy treat.

These 4 will take me 1-2 months alone.  Whew.  I haven't even considered where coffee fits into all this.  Man, I want coffee too. I know the caffeine is bad for my skin, but I'm thinking about procuring some Swiss Water process decaf for an occasional fix or maybe it's time to jump on the Crio Bru (brewing chocolate) bandwagon if my chocolate reintro goes well.  So much to think about.

The remaining testing items are the things I expect most to be a problem (other than alcohol and chocolate, I'm kinda going against sense by testing those first as they are pretty likely a problem, but hey: holidays).  These include: grains (gluten and non), nuts, eggs and dairy.  I'm expecting a good 4-5 months before I get through it all, during which time I plan to be 100% strict paleo.  Whew.

Here's to the journey!

Monday, November 17, 2014

AIP Whole30 Week 2

Whew. Fourteen days. I'm feeling good, but discovering a few things about myself: AIP is extra frustrating when I can't comfort myself with compliant treats (aka SWYPO). I think a regular protocol with treats, not even necessarily sugary ones, but something comforting that's not purely designed for sustenance (like a fruit sweetened cookie, perhaps or some kombucha gummies/jello) would make this process SO much easier. Regular paleo Whole30s are easy because I had nut butters and chocolate chili and COFFEE to fall back on when I needed comfort. Particularly approaching the holiday season, I find the call for treats to be more heavy.
I know that fighting the need for treats is a key part of Whole30, specifically not letting them control you. But, AIP is stressful and exhausting. Sometimes, you just want some banana ice cream. Instead, you apparently eat a banana drowning in coconut milk and wonder if that's crossing the SWYPO line. I said last week that I salute all you folks who are in the AIP for life, I'm understanding even more now. Many of you are low-FODMAP or low sugar. I find I'm becoming much more dependent on fruit for some tasty variety and I can't imagine giving that up too. You amaze and inspire me. 
Alright, enough of the grumbling, onto the good. Aside from the food grumpies I just described, I'm feeling pretty darn good. I'm currently unemployed and therefore sleeping a lot (7-9 hours a night), but I think my stable energy levels and moods can be credited more to my food. Dairy, in particular, contributes to terrible mood swings in me and I'd been rather lax about having just a taste here and there lately. Also, all the sugary, bready indulgences could not have been helping me any. Looking in the mirror, I'm feeling like I'm leaning out. The boy is too, his ab definition is coming back (ooh la la). 
My skin feels a little rough, particularly on my forehead, but it's not quite a new breakout, not sure if that's detox or something else my body isn't appreciating my consumption of. 

I don't like subsistence eating. I have lots of free time. That means lots of food experiments. This week, we've done chili and meatloaf and corned beef and curry, for a few examples. We also managed a successful restaurant adventure. It required just a touch of research for me to find a steak joint that offered sweet potatoes and steamed veggies as sides and the waitress paid close attention and didn't give me too many crazy looks when we asked for everything PLAIN. That led to a pretty damn satisfying meal, I must say, and it was nice to get out of the house for once (I was only stressing till I got to taste the food, I swear). 

As usual, this got wordy, sorry. Check out my Instagram (@better_than_bread) for pics of some of my best eats the past few weeks. I'll leave you with this tasty morsel:


Home cured AIP corned beef.  Don't let the lack of vibrant pink fool you, this was a delicious meal.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

AIP Whole 30 Week 1

Hello, loves.

Months ago, I decided the next step in my health journey, primarily healing my dairy sensitivity and moderate-severe acne, required some more stringent measures.

I believe my dairy sensitivity (specifically the proteins whey and casein) to be caused by leaky gut, a condition that a fair number of people probably unknowingly have, where the gut lining is not able to prevent certain toxins from food leaking into the bloodstream (at which point even the good things can be seen as invaders and are attacked). Modern diets that are heavy in chemicals and frankenfoods are likely the culprits causing imbalances in gut flora (pretty way to say bacteria) and leading to this and many other issues.

October 21, just after completing my move (ouch)

November 5, Whole30 Day 3 (less stress = so much better!)
My acne problem, I have already primarily traced to severe hormonal imbalances, which may be exacerbated by food/leaky gut issues, but are definitely related to stress (work, life, etc).  I know I'm pretty sensitive to stress and, since up and leaving my job and home a month ago, my skin has made drastic strides towards improvement. The breakouts on my temples and forehead, however, seem to be directly related to food I consume as they are a different pattern and type of breakout than the chin and jaw hormonal acne.  I suspect primarily eggs; I believe over-consumption of eggs combined with my existing gut issues has led to an additional sensitivity.  Skin being the largest detox organ, it makes sense that it would manifest this way.


SO, all of this together made me decide that the next logical step was an Autoimmune Protocol.  AIP is a specific diet plan designed for sufferers of any number of autoimmune conditions.  The Paleo Mom has a very extensive list of her site. The protocol is a very strict form of Paleo designed to eliminate EVERY inflammatory food from one's diet to allow the body to heal without stress and with proper nourishment from health promoting, anti-inflammatory foods.  The basics to avoid during the protocol are: grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol, refined sugars, nuts, seeds, eggs and nightshades.  This still leaves a number of fruits and veggies and all kinds of meat and fish to still ensure a varied diet.  It's daunting, I know, but if AIP can help people manage and even eliminate symptoms of severe autoimmune conditions, I figure it can help with my acne and sensitivities.


I decided to take on another Whole30, this one with an AIP focus.  That means no honey, maple syrup or paleo-ified treats during the process for 30 days.  I've done my first week and I want to share with you what I've learned.

First and foremost, people who live an AIP life amaze me.  It's such a difficult way to be, especially in our world where everything is so fast paced and food is so social, it's incredibly difficult to imagine being able to partake in things like going out to eat with friends or just grabbing something on the go because your day is over scheduled. Since becoming paleo alone, I've discovered what terrible things could be lurking in a seemingly innocuous piece of food.  Steamed broccoli at a restaurant?  Probably still coated in soy and hydrogenated oil containing margarine.  And did you know that margarine also contains dairy?  I mean, really.  I am quite sure that after a strict month and a slow month or two of re-introductions (starting with the things I suspect to be the least issue), I will be able to return to eating more normally, with clear skin and possibly reduced or no dairy and egg issues.

After just a week, my body has settled into this new eating style.  I really really want a piece of chocolate or a cup of coffee (DESPERATELY) or, certainly, a glass of wine, but I feel good.  My moods are more stable, I'm feeling more energy and excitement about cooking fun things that are compliant.  I'm excited to see what the next month brings and am very hopeful for clear skin (seriously, it's been six years since the last time my skin was completely clear, I deserve it) and a healthy gut at the end.

To all you AIPers for life, I raise my bubbly glass of kombucha to you.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Zombie blog!

Guess what?  I'm alive!  

It's been nearly a year since I was actually here and thinking about food and recipes, versus just whining about life and the suffering of a Whole30 (no, really).  Lots has happened since then and I'm in a whole new place, mentally, physically and emotionally.  I'm finding my passion for food returning.  

In honor of this moments feeling, I wanted to bring back this blog and get back to SHARING my passion and my food.  I also wanted it to be special.  I am NOT a baker; I'm not good at it and I usually don't like it.  I've also realized today that I am no good at cake decorating, but we'll talk about that later.  But, celebrations call for cake, right?  So, I made a damned cake.  And it's tasty, even if it's not nearly as pretty as it was in my head.  Best part?  It's all real food.


Now hold on, first, I feel a rant coming on.  I WILL call this treat real food, but I will NOT call it "healthy".  I really hate the word "healthy" in terms of treats and desserts.  I see it happens a lot, particularly from Paleo bloggers or people who "clean-up" favorite treats.  While I love those people and their creations, I say desserts are more than just the sum of their parts.  Sure, they could be made with the exact same ingredients that you might eat separately on a day to day basis (in my case: eggs, plantain and nut butter, which makes a great breakfast!), but when you put them all together in a specific way, it creates a whole new flavor and texture that your brain will respond to differently.  This is more of an emotional health than physical. It creates an incredibly unhealthy relationship with food if you just live on two ingredient banana pancakes.  Am I babbling?  Probably.  But did I make a point?  I hope so.  I only say this to clarify that I will never refer to a dessert/treat as "healthy" and you should not consider them a substitute for an actual meal (except for those days where you decide to have cake for dinner... or breakfast... that totally happens).  You won’t see many desserts from me, I want to focus on whole, healing foods.  But, everyone deserves a treat now and then.

Rant.  Done.  I think.  Anyway, those of you from my absolute favorite app TwoGrand (seriously, check it out if you haven't), might recognize this cake as being very similar to the plantain mug cake that's become a recent craze (also seriously, I feel famous, no lie).  You are correct, I doubled the recipe and added more sweet (who don't like sweet?!) cus this is a dessert, gosh darn it!

I used a 8” cast iron skillet to bake my cake since I don’t have a full size cake pan.  It was the best choice I ever made, except that I really needed twice as much cake for a pan that size, it’s too thin for layering.  Either way, cooking in cast iron is a dream.

Festive Chocolate Plantain Cake with Pumpkin "Cream Cheese" Frosting

Cake

1 ripe plantain (yellow or black)
2 eggs
2 tbsp nut/seed/peanut butter (dealer’s choice)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2-3 tbsp honey/maple syrup
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350.
Blend/thoroughly mix all ingredients, except baking soda.  Adjust sweet and salt to taste (it’s better if it’s a touch sweeter than you want, some of it bakes out).
Mix in baking soda.  
Grease 8” cake pan/skillet with butter or coconut oil (8” should make a thick enough cake you can cut it in half and add a middle cake layer, 10” makes a thin cake) and pour in batter.
Bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I was so excited by this part.  Yay, cast iron!


Pumpkin “Cream Cheese” Frosting

1 cup raw cashews (soaked 4+ hours)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp coconut butter (coconut oil could work in place)
3 tbsp maple syrup/honey
1tsp cinnamon
salt to taste

Soak your cashews a minimum of 4 hours, up to overnight.  Refrigerate if soaking beyond 4 hours. Drain ands rinse.
Add cashew, pumpkin puree, water and lemon juice to a food processor or high speed blender, blend until smooth.  Add salt to taste, it should be tasting like pumpkin cream cheese now.  
Add the remaining ingredients and blend until fully incorporated.
Tada! You have frosting!
When cake is cool enough, remove from the pan. If you made a thick cake, cut it into two pieces to allow a layer of frosting in the center.  
Frost the darned thing.  Use lots of frosting.  Duh.


Optional Chocolate Ganache for decorating

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup/honey
2/3 cup cocoa powder
Mix all ingredients together well.  
Add to a piping bag with a really small tip, or a sandwich bag, cut the tip off.  

Decorate away!  Do better than I did… no, really.


Well... it was a nice idea, right?  I had to fix that mess somehow.  Worst.  Spiderweb.  Ever.














That's a little better, right?  More importantly, it's tasty.  

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Whole30 the Second (Whole45)

It's been a pretty intense holiday season, but I am back and Whole30ing again! Well, Whole45ing... Yeah. I had a rough month after I finished my last Whole30. Holidays, winter blues and some heavy emotional stuff took a huge toll on me and I broke down and just started eating. I just didn't care, essentially if I wanted it, I ate it. Even dairy... Though in minimal amounts. I'd have just a bite of frosted cake, a couple chocolate chip cookies, a tiny taste of that cheesy dish. But gluten, processed, junk filled things, also made their way into my body relatively often and in large amounts. My headaches came back, my motivation disintegrated and I got a pretty nasty cold that I am still recovering from. Ugh. Needless to say, my desire for comfort food is vanishing in the wake of my need to feel right again. 

So here's to day one. I've spent the morning fasting, drinking water and herbal tea, to give my digestive system a bit of a rest. Generally, fasting seems to be frowned upon by Whole30ers, but I use it only as an occasional break to reset my body and start fresh. I'm not even putting myself through a full 24 hours and am looking forward to a good lunch soon. 

I'm doing this just a little bit different this time.  First, I've joined the Whole9 forum and plan to keep a public log, similar to this, but much more intensive. Also, I am going to continue taking my supplements even though some contain non-compliant ingredients. Many people have asked this question and the response tends to be "doctor prescribed meds are forgivable, supplements are not" regarding ingredients, but I'm going to go ahead and consider these meds, since they are selected by my naturopath to conquer some issues that I don't think diet alone can remedy. So, I will be daily partaking in small amounts of rice flour, soybean oil and soy lecithin. I hope it doesn't really mess things up for me, but I just can't afford to replace 3 already expensive supplements with new bottles and I don't think I should go without. I haven't gotten any responses from others to give me more direction on it, so here goes. Clear skin, are you in my future?

I hope to have tasty recipes to share soon, I haven't been doing much cooking, but I do have a brownie recipe I am pretty damn proud of that will be going up eventually.