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


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. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Post Whole30

So day 30 sorta came and went and I awoke day 31 with many plans to just have one or two treats, and return to Whole30 strictness for the next few days to detox said treats... I did real good for most of the day. I was spending the day in NY with my family, and then the night with a friend. I woke up, had a good breakfast of herbal coffee and cauliflower crust quiche and headed out with the fam. Lunch came far later than I would have liked and I ended up shelling out far too much money for a salad, as tasty as it was (kale, spinach, chicken, olives, butternut and avocado... Mmm). So when I was faced with a self serve froyo place that happened to have dark chocolate sorbet, I could not say no. I kept the portion small and topped it with fresh pomegranate seeds and mango. But, aside from the fact that I knew it was dairy free, I do not know what was in it.  Soy? Some sort of unnecessary preservatives? I hope not... But I'd already opened the floodgates. The treats I was accounting for were already planned out. When I broke away from my family to meet up with my friend, a shot of whiskey was pressed into my hand (also unaccounted for, I had done research on grain free vodkas and had planned to drink only that all night). The night continued with amazing Korean BBQ, more whiskey and plenty of vodka sodas. 
Funnily enough, my alcohol tolerance seems to have increased. I drank a lot more than I planned and ended the night quite sober. The next morning though, my stomach definitely felt unhappy. So breakfast was an egg and bagel sandwich to soak up the acids... So yet more indulgences. Aaand so the week continued, with me grumpily going "why not?"  In the end, I am very glad I am already planning on a take 2 come January. We will just have to call this past month practice, because I clearly need more than 30 days to truly affect my self control. While I was in the program, I was completely ok with saying "no" to myself, but once I do not have that excuse, I go overboard. Maybe next time I need a Whole45, or at least a more strict reintroduction to hold myself to because I clearly have control issues. 
Poor reintro aside, my specs from before and after are interesting. I did not exercise regularly and honestly did not think I had any weight left to lose, but I managed to drop 6.5 pounds and 2 percent body fat. I also banished my chronic headaches and haven't suffered body/back pain at work in weeks. These are both amazing, though I had higher hopes. My acne has remained the same, if not gotten worse. Fortunately, I know, thanks to my amazing doctor, that my hormonal imbalance is the issue here. I've got a load of new vitamins and a lot of hope. And plans to meditate to reduce my stress levels...

Verdict: Whole30 = Awesome. But I need to give it more time and dedicate myself more thoroughly. I need to set up regular exercise and possibly continue to take my vitamins, even if they are non compliant.  I'm excited for January, how about you?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Rutabaga hash browns

Today was a rough day. I didn't sleep well last night and was headachy, grumpy and super distracted all day. With 5 days left to go, visions of chocolate and cookies have been dancing in my head. My brain is realizing that, pretty soon, I can let loose and eat "fun" things. I've thought through a list of junk and treats that I might POSSIBLY be interested in... and there's a surprising number I DON'T want. What I do very much, emphatically want, is something creamy and/or chewy and sweet and definitely chocolate. So I spent much of today thinking up exactly what treat I will be making for myself this time next week (I'm done in time for Saturday, but I already have plans involving alcohol, so I'll save the sugar for a few more days). In order to satisfy my creamy and chewy (the sweet and chocolate part is a given), I'm thinking a simple, quick paleo mug cake topped with cashew butter as frosting... Yeah, that's the ticket. I'm pumped. 
I've been eating lots of cashew butter alluvasudden. One to two spoonfuls a night, to be precise. I'm annoying myself with it, but I can't get the need for a "treat" food out of my head. I'm just ready for this to be over, particularly since I'm not currently feeling any of the benefits, only the downsides. 

On another note though I'm kinda obsessed with rutabaga latkes right now. They nicely fill that niche of crispy, tasty hash browns and are pretty simple to through together in the morning. And when cooking for one, a single rutabaga lasts a damn long time. 

Easy Rutabaga Latkes/Hash Browns

2 cups rutabaga, peeled and grated
1/2 small onion, grated
2 eggs
2 tsp coconut flour
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp coconut oil

First, peel and grate your rutabaga, either using a grater or the grate attachment on your food processor (my mini food processor has no grating attachment, so I did this by hand... It wasn't too bad). Approximately half of a large rutabaga makes the 2 cups. 
Grate or finely chop onion. 
In a bowl, mix the rutabaga shreds, onion, eggs, flour and salt and pepper to taste thoroughly. 
Heat a skillet to medium heat and melt your coconut oil. 
Scoop a large spoonful of the rutabaga mixture into your hand and shape it into a thick disc before adding it to your hot pan. You should see the edges sizzling in the oil. Add more rutabaga discs and cook approximately 4-5 minutes before flipping and cooking another 4-5 until crispy (mine were kinda blackened, and I was totally ok with that). 
Should make about 6 latkes. Serve with whatever tasties you can think of.  Mine were great with guacamole, cranberry sauce and eggs (not all at the same time... But that's not a bad idea). 

Picture to follow, once I remember to take one after breakfast. Doh. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dairy and Grain Free Green Bean Casserole

Happy post thanksgiving, friends! I hope you had much delicious food. I certainly did, and all of it Whole30 friendly. I mean, I definitely over-ate, which is not really in the spirit of the program, and was uncomfortable after, but after I'd digested everything, I felt just as good as I always do lately. No bloating, cravings or food coma the next morning. Not to mention, TONS OF DELICIOUS LEFTOVERS 
(yes, the caps were necessary there, don't judge me). Seriously, I love leftovers. I love them almost more than the original meal. What's most exciting about thanksgiving leftovers, is that you don't have to just eat the same meal again, you can recreate them into a new delicious combination. 
For example, breakfast this morning was a sorta thanksgiving eggs Benedict. 

This triumph was achieved by mixing an egg into some leftover cinnamon butternut squash mash and frying it like a burger, then topping the thing with cranberry sauce and a fried egg. Magic! 
Dinner tonight is a turkey shepherd's pie... Or pot pie... Or just casserole, I'm not too sure what to call it. It's leftover green bean casserole mixed with turkey and gravy, then topped with a layer of the same squash mash (I had a LOT leftover) and baked till delicious. 

I was always a huge fan of the next day (or next three days) turkey sandwich, and don't get me wrong... I still think those are delicious... But who needs the bread? Lunch today was turkey and raw kale topped with homemade mayo. I am thankful. Thankful for leftovers. 

I contributed five items to my family's thanksgiving. Partly as an effort to minimize their work, and partly to ensure there'd be plenty I could eat. I shouldn't have worried, my mom cooked too much as usual (and I convinced her to try roasting her Brussels sprouts instead of boiling, success!), but I am glad for all the extra food. Most contributions were basic: cinnamon mash butternut, gravy, garlic mashed cauliflower and Melissa Joulwan's fantastic Whole30 friendly cranberry sauce, but I also wanted to recreate a favorite of mine from years past: green bean casserole. 

Green bean casserole is usually my contribution to thanksgiving, and I've always made it the "traditional" way, with cream of mushroom soup and French's fried onions. This year, that was off the menu, and I replaced it with this:

Dairy and Grain-Free Green Bean Casserole

2 lbs fresh green beans
1/2 medium cauliflower 
2 cups chicken bone broth
1 medium sweet onion
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper
Optional: milk alternative to taste
Also optional: mushrooms

First, chop your green beans into 1-2 inch pieces and boil with one cup of chicken broth for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside. 
Preheat oven to 350. 

Cream of cauliflower:
While beans are boiling, chop cauliflower into small florets, smash garlic cloves and boil both with second cup of broth until cauliflower is fork tender. 
Add cauliflower to food processor or blender with a 1/4 cup of the broth from the pot and oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth, add milk to increase creaminess if desired.  
If using mushrooms (I skipped them because my sister dislikes them), roughly chop and sauté in a tbsp of oil over medium heat and add to cream sauce. 

Crispy onions:
Chop onion into long thin strips. I cut rings and then sliced them in half. Heat oil in a pot over medium low heat. Add a layer of onions to the oil and let sit for 4-5 minutes until crisp, stirring once. 
Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel covered plate to drain and add another layer. Repeat until all onions are cooked. 

In a casserole dish, mix green beans, cream sauce and half the cooked onions. Top with remaining onions. 
Baked in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. 

Envision it with MORE onions on top, I definitely did not use enough with only 1/2 an onion. Also, envision a better picture, I'm a terrible photographer. 

Anyway, I was pretty proud of this, the flavor is light and oniony and the texture creamy. Not to mention totally dairy and grain free and optionally vegan. I can certainly see myself making this again... This time properly with mushrooms and not inviting my picky sister to try it... Yeah.