Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Road to Healing

Oh my, it has been a day.  Last night, I wrote up a long winded post basically whining about how absolutely terrible I felt.  I feel almost consistently bloated, moody/depressed, run down, unable to fall asleep nightly, sore all over, breaking out in tiny dry eczema patches and currently dealing with three freaking canker sores, a problem that went away when I went dairy free, not to mention the stubborn dregs of acne that I just cannot completely banish.  I decided not to post it though, because there was really no point.  It was just a vent session and I felt like a hypochondriac, inventing a ton of potential conditions, and I wanted to hold off until I could read it through and either add something useful, or decide that it was necessary to share.  That was yesterday.

Today, I woke feeling vibrant, energetic and cheerful.  I was literally jittery with energy all day and kept wondering if I had unknowingly consumed a ton of caffeine  Only one thing changed that I can identify: last night at 9pm, I made sure my alarm was set and then put down my phone.  I picked up an old paperback and read until 10, at which time my eyes were getting droopy and I was genuinely ready to sleep.  My mind was blown.  I can't take credit for this phenomenon.  I discovered the other day that I can multitask well enough at work to listen to some badass health podcasts and still get shit done. I spent yesterday obsessively listening to The Nourished Podcast and Harder to Kill Radio.  On The Nourished, NTP Shawn Mynar (known as Well Belly), dropped a knowledge bomb on me when she described symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue as being unable to shut the brain down at night to fall asleep and equally unable to wake up in the morning.  My brain went "DING!" as this is a struggle I've been having for months after never previously having trouble sleeping before.  I simply attributed it to a) not expending enough energy during the day to be tired at night and b) not liking my job or waking up before the sun.  I decided to try the simplest of her suggestions, which is to avoid electronics an hour before bed.  I usually relax in bed or on the couch catching up on Instagram or reading a book on my iPad.  Unfortunately, even a relaxing book can sabotage you on an electric screen.  It's that simple.  Do you have trouble sleeping?  Try it out.  I promise, you won't die.

One of the other interesting things she said was about the CAUSE of adrenal fatigue, which is chronic stress.  I currently have the least stressful job, relationship and home situation of my adult life, but what else I have been dealing with is an undiagnosed gut disorder that has me in near constant discomfort and frustration.  The physical stress of a gut imbalance can be just as harmful to the cortisol levels, so I am gladly going to take on some of the coping mechanisms suggested by Shawn and Meg (the hosts of The Nourished), which include putting away electronics, as well as baths, meditation and magnesium.  I'm so looking forward to a great night's sleep again.

Another thing happened today.  I got THE call from my doctor's office.  My much awaited 10 vials of blood work came back and I actually had a hit.  I haven't seen the doctor for details yet, but I was informed that I have H pylori (and NOT candida, yay!), which I have since been doing some furious Googling about as I had NO idea what that was.  It wasn't even on my radar of suspected (based purely on self-diagnosis) conditions.  Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria found in the stomach that is a cause of gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) and stomach ulcers.  Interestingly, chronic low stomach acid appears to be a contributing factor to the occurrence of H pylori as it does not thrive in the acidic environment of the stomach; plus, H pylori suppresses stomach acid further, in order for it to survive.  I have been reacting well to things like ACV and I took 9 Betaine HCL pills with dinner with no reaction, so I am quite sure that low stomach acid is still a problem for me and I plan to continue treating myself as such.

I also read that lactic acid (as found in dairy products) suppresses H pylori, which I found interesting, because these gut problems have been slowly developing the last two years or so, AFTER I went paleo, started eating healthier and, most importantly, cut dairy.  Interesting, huh?

I'm looking forward to meeting with my doctor to find out more details and discuss treatment.  The most common treatment is a 3 pronged approach of 2 antibiotics and an antacid.  I am NOT excited about taking antibiotics and plan to discuss more thoroughly with her about how likely it is that I need to follow that protocol, or whether I can try the natural approach first.  As for an antacid, I refuse to budge there.  The belief is that its best to reduce the stomach acid levels temporarily to allow the inflammation to heal, but I'd rather not take that risk, as I have read in many places that higher stomach acid levels help banish the H pylori faster and for good.

Whatever answers/medications I get from my doctor, I plan to bring straight to my naturopath to get her opinion.  If they are in agreement about using the antibiotics to banish the bacteria, then I am confident the naturopath will be able to work with me on rebuilding my gut flora afterwards.  Antibiotics don't discriminate, they will kill ALL the bacteria in my gut, good and bad.  If I can avoid the antibiotics, then I look forward to working with my naturopath on natural treatment methods.

It's weird to be excited, right?  But, I'm frankly relieved.  I have answers, I have direction.  Now, I can focus on healing.  The moral of the story, kids: YOU know your body better than your doctor.  If something feels wrong, especially chronically, do not let anyone tell you to take X meds for the rest of your life or ignore it.  I refused to take "here's more heartburn meds" for an answer and now I have a REAL answer, and a cure on the horizon.  Soon, I can stop surviving and start THRIVING.

EDIT today 8/7/15:

Just saw my primary care doc this morning to go over test results.  I have a new respect for her as she rubbed me the wrong way last time, but today, she seemed much more thorough and considerate.  As to my H pylori result, this was a basic test that says it is in my system, but she wants to do further testing (poop samples, yay!) to discover the extent.  It could be an old infection that I just need to eradicate fully and she has given me the go ahead to pursue natural healing.  I also need to up my probiotic game and get to fully reintroduce ferments as well as begin a probiotic supplement.  They also checked dairy, which is still a definite no go (a fact I already knew, but it's nice to get confirmation).  I'm excited to meet up with my naturopath and pursue fully healing my gut and becoming the best me possible.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Meal Planning and... ok, mostly babbling...

So, remember how I said I was going to post every week about my meal plans?  I have a REALLY difficult time forming habits.  All it takes is one missed day and, boom, back to square one.  It's something that I've both been working on improving and also working on accepting about myself.
After the weeks I did post, we went on an awesome mini weekend trip up to northern AL for some vineyarding and foodie adventures.  I took that week off from meal planning and we just sorta winged it, eating things from the freezer and cobbling together simple meals. There is NOTHING wrong with going to simple meal route.  I sometimes realize that I take on too much when it comes to meals because I get excited and want to make ALL THE THINGS! It can be exhausting sometimes when every meal is a fair amount of work and planning and recipe reading.

I'm starting to finally get the hang of meal planning.  I'm cooking some super fun recipes I've found, but alternating with some super simple things that I can make myself.  This week, lunches will either be leftovers (I made too much food last week!) or cold cuts and fresh veggies. As to leftovers, I'm still working on portion sizing.  The boy is eating less food than he used to and I'm having difficulty scaling back.  Our freezer is already too full to add more uneaten food.  It's a work in progress, ok?

What was fun about this week was that I finally got myself back to the farmers market! We generally have lazy Saturday mornings and, by the time I remember around 1030-1130, it's too late to go.  Oops.  This week, I set an alarm and everything.  And it was great.

$24!
Unfortunately, the local growers here are pretty "conventional".  If I want to find organic/pastured/grass fed, I have to do a bit of driving (I get meat and lamb from a farm 45 minutes away and whole pastured chickens from 1.5 hours away... that doesn't happen often), so I didn't see any organically raised produce.  But, I still believe in helping local farms and the produce was CHEAP. Like a grocery bag half full of okra for $3 cheap.  I also got a dozen eggs from chickens that have access to a large open yard and are supplemented with corn feed as my usual supplier of pastured chicken eggs has been short lately.

My goal with this is to buy what's available at markets first and then meal plan around that, which should save me some money. I got a bunch of super adorable tiny delicata squash that I think will be awesome roasted for breakfast. Why winter squash were available in July, I don't know.  I was too excited to ask.  I'm gonna eat that ish.


Highlights from last week:

Made the baked chicken wings from Paleo Takeout by Russ Crandall, using my own seasonings/sauces.  It was the best method of preparing wings we've tried yet and "Wings Wednesday" is officially here to stay.


I did the ultimate (and yet so common) stupid thing of putting a spoon in the Vitamix I JUST GOT for my birthday and badly mangled the blades and scuffed up the container (but check out the spoon!).  I fessed up to Vitamix, hoping for some sort of discount on a replacement, and they appreciated my candor and are sending me a replacement for FREE! So that was a very bad, followed by a very good, day.  Be polite and honest, kids: people WILL want to help you in return!


I also made the Kalbi recipe today from the aforementioned Paleo Takeout and it was also amazing.  I may be a little obsessed with this book.












Food prep this week was short and sweet:

Hardboiled some eggs and made blueberry turkey sausage patties for breakfasts.  Our current schedule of Meatza Monday, Taco Tuesday and Wings Wednesday makes figuring out most meals really easy and, since we're eating up leftovers, there are no lunches to prep.  This is what my meal plan usually looks like to start, though it goes through endless mods before the week ends (I've already changed up breakfast and eliminated curry from the menu).

Wanna see more?  check me out on Instagram as @better_than_bread.  More food porn, less babble, I promise.

That's all, folks.  Have a great week!





Family time with my loves yesterday.  Make time to relax!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Another Week, Another Plan

I survived a week, y'all!  Actually, week 1 of my new meal planning went surprisingly well.  My fridge was full to bursting at the beginning, but by the end, I just had a few sets of leftovers that I've actually worked into this week's plan.  The prepped lunches and breakfasts made each morning move very smoothly.  Sometimes I was extra lazy at home and then packed up my breakfast to lug to the office too.
Dinner wasn't a perfect system.  I came home, we went for a swim, took a shower, then started prep and I pulled off some tasty meals.  But I still found myself wanting to plop on the couch after dinner rather than clean up the fresh mess I had made.  That part is simply going to come down to sheer willpower... and sometimes, I will be going to bed with a messy kitchen.  But hey, that's life.  

I'm pretty excited about this week's plan again, and I've had a really busy day in the kitchen getting ready for it.  First things first though, I broke in my new waffle iron with a batch of Brittany Angell's Extra Crispy Paleo Waffles, which were amazing and a fulfilling treat after being totally waffle-less for over a year.  On that note, I've decided that every weekend, I will enjoy a totally SWYPO paleo treat, such as waffles or pancakes or, heck, donuts.  Because, life is too short and I spent too much time craving and not enough time having!

Also, shout out to my new Misto!  It's advertised as a "low fat cooking" tool, but I just see it as all the convenience of Pam with none of the gross! It's basically a refillable pressurized spray bottle, which I filled with olive oil and used to keep my waffle iron happily greased. Plus, mine is purple.  Boom.

Anyway, after my amazing breakfast, I went shopping for the week's needs.  I won't try to tell you how to be paleo on a budget or any of that shenanigans because, honestly, I haven't figured it out.  Phil and I spent a lot on groceries for 2 people.  He eats a LOT, and, I guess, so do I.  for about $100, I got: 
4lbs ground beef (conventional 97%)
1lb boneless chicken thighs (step 2)
1.5lbs pork chops (conventional)
2 dozen free range eggs
a whole lotta non-organic produce
a few canned/jarred essentials like coconut milk, salsa, almond butter, olives
random needs like paper towels

Now, I'm listing the "quality" of the meats and produce I got for a reason.  Grass-fed/pastured/free-range/organic is amazing and I would love to buy it all that way, but I already spent $100 on just this, so you really have to pick and choose what is most important!

I buy low fat ground beef because the most toxins of conventional beef are found in the fat.  When I can, I get "slightly better" raised chicken breasts and thighs, and I always aim for the highest quality eggs, because those things aren't a huge price hike (think about it: if you buy 1-2 dozen eggs a week, would you rather pay $5 for battery caged chicken eggs or $10 for eggs from hopeful happy hens?). I usually get my eggs from a local farm, but the egg scare has her pretty out of stock lately.  Unfortunately, I just get regular pork because it's really all that's available around here and I refuse to give up pork entirely.

When it comes to produce, I consistently get my spinach, kale and carrots organic because they are still affordable and I don't trust my ability to properly wash greens, but I have been getting conventional everything else for now.  Baby steps, people.

I got home, stashed the goods, did some dishes and started what became 5 hours of cooking.  Oof.  You'll notice that lunch this week mentions rope vieja, which I actually made last week.  Well, I happened to have used a 3 pound chuck roast, so I have just a few leftovers... But that made this easier, because all I had to do was cook up some rice. 

While I had my rice going in the rice maker (such a handy gadget!), I roasted a spaghetti squash, prepped a meatloaf and chopped baby potatoes.  The loaf and potatoes went in around when the squash came out, then I prepped my frittata and threw that in.

Once the rice was done, I threw it in my cast iron pan with bacon grease, tomato paste and spices and cooked it up like the Cuban cauli rice in Juli Bauer's Crockpot Ropa Vieja recipe because we want more carbs for our lunches.  I steamed some green beans, shredded my spaghetti squash and grilled some chicken thighs, then finally made a batch of mayo and Sunshine Sauce.  It all sounds like it should have gone so much faster!







Still, doesn't look too shabby, does it?  My frittata ended up just being spinach and tomato, because the chorizo was in the freezer (oops).  Guest star is the bottle of local wine that fueled me through the cook-up. I didn't bother to portion out Phil's rope vieja and rice because, frankly, I was out of containers.  He eats lunch at home anyway, I think he can manage that much.

The spaghetti squash, chicken thighs and sunshine sauce are all going to be featured in Monday night's pad thai (courtesy of Mel Joulwan), which I'll pretty much just be able to throw together in a pan.  Looking forward to that!



After all that, I STILL made dinner!  Balsamic bacon brussels (from The Frugal Paleo cookbook) and grilled honey mustard SHARK steak, an interesting experience.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Motivational Hole and Meal Planning


I have a lot of passion for food.  Food is the main thing I am thinking about at all times.  Even when I am not hungry, I'm often daydreaming about what I will make and/or eat later when I am inevitably hungry again.  That passion, plus a love of cooking that developed when I began my whole foods lifestyle over two years ago, led me to begin this blog.
But unfortunately, I have discovered that the passion alone is not enough.  While I love to eat and often to cook, it is somewhat rare that I "create" or invent awesome new things to share.  So, once again, I've hit a long dry spell and abandoned this page. I really try not to look down on myself for my "failure" or for "giving up", but sometimes those feelings sneak in, that I will never be a real food blogger like some of the people I idolize and follow regularly, simply because I am too lazy and don't have enough willpower to put the work into creating.  
We all find ways to make ourselves feel small.  It's amazing the damage we can do to ourselves just by looking at our own lives versus another's.  But hey, its a work in progress.  I'm a work in progress. And that's ok.  You know what I'm gonna do?  Keep blogging.  
It feels awesome to think that someone is reading this and appreciating my words, and maybe even feeling inspired or enjoying the recipes I created.  But even if not one person glances at this, I need to write.  Even if I don't have a recipe to share, I still have words and experiences that could help someone.  And myself.  
So today, I'm going to tell you a little about what I HAVE been up to, rather than moping about what I HAVEN'T. The boy is in flight school for the army, which is why I am currently living in Alabama, and he started up classes again this week after a couple months' break.  During his break, I leaned on him a LOT for cooking and cleaning, because he had the time and I didn't have the energy or motivation (there's that word again).  His time has disintegrated to almost nothing as of today and I knew I needed to step up.  Last go around, I did ok, cooking dinners and trying to leave leftovers for lunches.  But, I felt disorganized and tired and, too often, there were either no leftovers, or Phil didn't want them, so he'd go for fast food and I'd scrounge for whatever.  So this was a slow death of a system.  
THIS TIME, I went in prepared.  I decided it was time to take on the time honored tradition of meal planning and prep. Dun dun dun.  I reached out to my awesome friends on TwoGrand (a social media food photo journaling app that is great for bonding with fellow health nuts and enjoying some good old food porn) for some suggestions on delicious prep food and went to work. This was my week one plan:

It went through a few modifications, but the idea was this: on Sunday, I'll prep a large, low carb, easy breakfast for me for the week (the boy doesn't eat breakfast and I've given up there), two lunches so we can alternate meals to reduce boredom and, each day, I'll cook dinner.  Everything is loosely or almost Whole30 friendly, because if I have good food ready to go, I'm less likely to cave to my cravings for naughty things, like the Urban Poser Dutch Baby I really wanted to make on Sunday (and frankly might make this weekend, if I'm still craving it).  Fridays are my cooking "day off" so the boy can get fast food for lunch and we'll probably go out for dinner.  Sundays will be a busy, big food prep day and then I only have to worry about making dinner, which makes life much less exhausting, when I'm not trying to make breakfast and lunch in the morning, plus dinner at night (BONUS: so much less dishes after dinner when there is nothing in the sink from the morning). 
So, yesterday was my first big food prep day.  I'm pretty damn proud of what I accomplished.  I made a batch of Mel Joulwan's Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup (which was ten times more amazing than I expected, I only wanted to use up old zucchini), and a large frittata made with a pound of homemade pork sausage (I like Gutsy By Nature's breakfast sausage), meatball marinara, 2 roasted spaghetti squash, mayo and lemonade.  Plus, I set Monday's tandoori chicken to marinating.  I didn't have to prep two lunches this time because we took a few things out of the freezer (it was too full, oops).  Still, busy day.



Suggestions to make everything easier:

Get soups and sauces that need to cook a while to bubbling ASAP, then ignore them.  

Find a baking temperature that works for all the things you are prepping.  My frittata and squash both baked at 375, so I threw them all in together.

Fridge Tetris
For marinara, it's much faster to start with a sauce you already like and add to it.  I used my favorite Classico tomato basil (DOES have sugar, so not ok for Whole30) and threw in plain tomato sauce and spices till it was doubled in quantity and extra delicious.

So what did I do?  First, I browned up my pork sausage, while sautéing the onions and chopping zucchini for soup.   Then I poured the sausage into the casserole pan to cool and started browning my meatballs (NOT very efficient, but I love pan cooked meatballs).  I got the zuke soup simmering and threw my sauce ingredients together to warm.  As I finished each batch of balls (three pounds of meatballs take a while), I threw them into the simmering sauce to finish cooking.  I topped my pork sausage with spinach and eggs and sent it into the fire, then split open and added the spaghetti squash to the oven also.  During any down time, I washed dishes.  SO MANY DISHES.
Once things finished, I started taking them out and trying to figure out how to tetris everything into my very full fridge.  This was the hardest part, but I think I did pretty darned good!

The last steps, when everything else was done, was mayo, lemonade and tandoori marinade, then I still had some serious evening chill time.  Not a bad day, huh?
Here's a tease of what I ate today:



"Tandoori" chicken with The Domestic Man's Aloo Gobi Matar

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cinnamon Carrot Soup (Paleo + AIP + Low-FODMAP + Whole30)


I eat a lot of carrots. It helps that I can get a 5lb organic bag at the store for 6 bucks. Plus, now that I am trying out being strict low-FODMAP AND low carb, my list of veggies has shrunk significantly. Carrots are a good compromise. They feel like a starchy vegetable, and are very versatile, as you may have noticed if you came to me from Instagram or TwoGrand and see carrots on my plate in some fashion many days. So, it makes sense that it was the ingredient I turned to when I was craving comfort food that met my current restrictions.

Don't forget your floor cleaner!
Browsing through some of my cookbooks, which I often do when needing inspiration (or gratuitous food porn), I saw a lot of soups made from starchy orange veggies. See where I'm going with this? 

Tada, carrot soup! I threw this together on a whim one night, knowing that cinnamon and carrots were a winning flavor combination.  Fortunately, with just a few, simple ingredients, it was easy to reproduce.  Cinnamon makes this soup extra warming and comforting, but so many flavors work with the sweetness of carrot. Try it with ginger or curry for something a little different. 




Cinnamon Carrot Soup (Paleo + AIP + Low-FODMAP + Whole30)

4 cups chopped carrots (or about 10 small-medium carrots... remember guys, I never deal in absolutes, so don't worry about this too much)
4 cups bone broth (I used beef, so if that works, anything will!)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or ghee
1tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt

Chop your carrots, don't worry about peeling them, especially if they are organic, and cover with the broth in a pot on the stove.

Bring to a boil, then walk away to watch tv and forget what you're doing until the carrots are almost mush (or, well, not really, just boil them until soft).

Using either an immersion blender if your carrots are really soft or a food processor, puree the carrots and broth until smooth.

Add olive oil, cinnamon and salt and blend well.

Adjust thickness by adding more broth if you wish a thinner soup and adjust seasonings to taste.  The cinnamon flavor will be light, but I like to leave it so and then garnish with extra cinnamon, so you still get the full flavor, without losing the vibrant orange color!

Serve hot or cold, with lots of cinnamon!

Happy eats!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Chocolate Covered Orange (Paleo + Low-FODMAP)

I'm alive, I swear!  I've been sort of subsistence living lately, due to lack of energy, motivation and passion.  I've cooked either basic/boring food, cooked recipes by other people or just plain made the fiancé cook for me while I adjusted to a new work schedule and dealt with the fact that my body was not cooperating with me.

But, I've embarked on a new journey and with it came new passion and energy!  AIP was a great stepping off point in my healing journey, but through it all, I realized that there were other things wrong with me that AIP wasn't fixing.  I've been having indigestion issues and my acne breakouts have travelled up towards my forehead (my chin and jawline are practically clear though, which means my hormones are in a MUCH better place than they've been the last few years!), and my depression has worsened, despite the fact that I spent my winter somewhere relatively warm with lots of sun.  I decided to take on a low-FODMAP plan a couple weeks ago, and then I finally matched up my symptoms, thanks to some help, to potentially simply low stomach acid.  So now I am working on reducing my carbs, increasing my acid intake, plus I will soon start supplementing with HCL.

Sounds fun, right?  Well, it gets better.  I've taken on strict low-FOPMAP paleo, plus no eggs or dairy and NOW I'm dropping my carbs.  So I have to get really creative with comfort food.  Because, I assure you, I need comfort food.

So, this was a really fun discovery.  It is NOT extremely low carb (I said working on, not perfect, ok?), but it is free from added sugars, low-FODMAP and extremely easy and delicious!  I wanted chocolate.  Badly.  But without maple syrup, honey, or any sort of sugar, how could that be?  Well, it turns out that bitter chocolate encasing something sweet taste like sweet, delicious chocolate!
Magic

Chocolate Covered Orange (Paleo + Low-FODMAP, small batch)

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 navel orange, peeled and broken into segments


Simply melt your coconut oil and mix thoroughly with the cocoa powder.  It will be thick but pourable and only mildly coconutty.  More cocoa powder will make it less coconut flavored, but thicker.  Dealer's choice!

Peel your orange and pull into segments (try not to butcher the peeling and be "forced" to eat most of the orange because it's now to ugly to show off).

Two choices here:  either add the orange segments to a bowl or plate and drizzle the chocolate over, or dip the segments in chocolate and place on a wax paper lined dish to harden.
If you store your orange in the fridge like I often do, the chocolate will harden almost immediately. If not, and you want hardened chocolate, pop it in the fridge for a few minutes to solidify.

Yes, I did butcher my orange and only got 5 pieces.  Don't judge me.  
Store in the fridge for hard chocolate (if you don't eat it all right away).

Change it up!  This would work with any tasty, sweeter fruit like bananas or strawberries.  Try it with carob powder to make it AIP!




Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cavemanwich Sloppy Joes (Paleo + Whole30)

I don't know about you guys, but I grew up eating Sloppy Joes made with ground beef (or ground soy "meat" once my parents went vegetarian, eiw) mixed with a can o' Manwich on white sandwich buns and loving every messy bite.  It's funny how, even after you clean up your diet and eliminate all those artificial ingredients, you can still crave that exact comforting taste.

Turns out, you can still have those delicious, childhood flavors without all the high fructose corn syrup and fillers.  What?  Real food can be just as delicious as artificially flavored, engineered-to-be-addictive, laboratory food?  Yes.  I'll prove it.

I've added back nightshades in the last few weeks and, boy, did I miss them.  There are just some things that I cannot replicate... YET.  I plan to try. Believe me.  So, for now, I present you all the comforting flavors of your childhood in all their nightshade-y glory.  Though please, cross your fingers and toes that I'll have a follow up in a week or two of these same flavors WITHOUT all their nightshade-y glory.  Yes, I want AIP Manwich.  Cus I can... I hope.

Oh, and it's Whole30 friendly.  You're welcome.


Cavemanwich

1/2 tbsp cooking fat (I used bacon grease, but anything will work)
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 lb ground beef
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2-1 cup water
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp coconut aminos
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
more salt + pepper to taste
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (ACV) - optional

Melt your cooking fat in a sauté pan over medium high heat.
Once hot/melted, add your chopped onions and cook until translucent, approximately 3 minutes.
Add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, another minute or until fragrant (mmm, garlicky goodness).
Crumble in your ground beef and cook until browned.
Add all remaining ingredients (starting with 1/2 cup water) and reduce heat to medium low and simmer until desired thickness is reached (15-30 minutes), stirring regularly.
Add more salt and any pepper to taste.
Serve over baked sweet potato, plantains, greens or even bread if you're feeling frisky.

Note: if your mix has reduced, but the flavor is still tomatoey, add additional water and continue to simmer.
Note 2: I leave the ACV as optional because, though it makes a more authentic taste, we actually like it best without.  Try it both ways or start without, taste after its cooked down for a bit, then add it and simmer some more if you feel it needs it.  Taste is so individual, isn't it?

I particularly liked it served over a baked sweet potato with a side of lemony baby kale.  Like childhood, but better.