Paleo dinners, lunches and desserts this month

Paleo dinners, lunches and desserts this month

One year ago, I radically changed my diet over night. But the transition of how to feed my family has taken much longer to figure out.

It’s one thing to change my own eating habits. It’s quite another to change someone else’s diet, especially when they are teenagers and might not want to make a switch. I’ve finally come to terms with the idea that most of our family dinners will be Paleo. In other words, I serve the whole family the same dinner I am making for myself about 80 percent of the time.

The kids can eat what they want for breakfast. (I still buy cereal and cow’s milk, but they have the option to use almond milk, rice milk or coconut milk and eat a grain free breakfast.) They often purchase hot lunch at school, or I will pack them a lunch that’s either Paleo or Standard American Diet (whichever they prefer).

They’ve come a long way in adjusting to eating dinners that are grain free, dairy free, soy free, legume free, sugar free and free of processed foods. But it’s still entertaining to watch their reactions when they come to the dinner table. The 8-year-old usually announces right away that she doesn’t like what’s being served. Our 13-year-old daughter often laughs while she’s scooping food onto her plate.

Our 15-year-old son is the most hilarious. He typically looks at the food and shakes his head with a look of “What happened to my life?!” I imagine him doing the Kramer surprise reaction on the inside. Ironically, he almost always goes back for a big plate of seconds. He’s a hungry boy.

Last week, however, our oldest son took one bite of dinner and exclaimed, “Wow! This is good! I could eat this everyday!”

He was eating a made-up recipe that I created after being inspired by the crustless pizza available at Lou Malnati’s.

I’m sorry about the photo that is to follow. I am discovering that food bloggers have a special process for making food photos look amazing.

Basically, I added some oregano, garlic powder, basil and salt to two pounds of ground pork. I pressed that into the bottom of a large dish and baked it at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. I topped it with pizza sauce, mushrooms, onions and sliced olives, and then baked the whole thing for another 15 minutes or so. The result was something that reminded us of pizza!

Here are a few of my other new favorite Paleo recipes that I tried in January:

DINNERS

(That’s a real food blogger photo!)

This Curried Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Mash was amazing. I would have never thought to put curry in a shepherd’s pie. (I only used 1 teaspoon, instead of 1 tablespoon.) I cooked my sweet potatoes in an electric pressure cooker and then mashed them for the topping. (I also left out the peas, since they are not Paleo.) So good.

OK, so I didn’t actually even attempt to feed this one to my kids. I knew the combination of Crispy Chicken with Artichokes, Beets, Lemons and Olives would be too much for them. But I LOVED it! I really enjoy combining a variety of unusual flavors and this one had them all!

If you haven’t made Kahlua Pig in the electric pressure cooker yet, give it a try! Just a head’s up that it does take a WHILE too cook. Give yourself at least two hours, since it takes 90 minutes just to cook the pork. My kids have discovered they love cooked cabbage! We never have enough. I served this with baked sweet potatoes, which I made in my second electric pressure cooker.

I actually made my kids a real gluteny, dairy filled lasagna to eat, while I ate this amazing Puerto Rican Plantain Lasagna. I don’t eat peppers, so I substituted mushrooms and olives in the filling.

When I find a recipe that I want to try I pin it on my “Meal Planning” board on Pinterest. You can follow this board for other ideas (including lots of recipes from before I went Paleo).

LUNCHES

My boys are always starving when they get home from high school at 2:30, so I like to have some filling, healthy snacks for them to grab when they get home. These also made some easy lunches for me to grab on my way to work on those days I don’t want to eat soup!

I substituted canned salmon for the tuna, and omitted the peppers in these (not so) Spicy Tuna Cakes.

My family thought these Curry Turkey Bites had too much of a kick, but I really enjoyed them, especially with the apricot ginger sauce.

My kids gobbled up the Egg Foo Youngish. (That’s a real food blogger photo!) They are kind of like a pancake, but really easy to grab and go on the way out the door.

 

DESSERTS

My husband’s birthday is in January, and I typically make him a cherry pie. He prefers not to eaten gluten these days, so I tried this recipe for Cherry Cobbler. For the filling, I simply used frozen cherries that you can buy in a bag at Costco. This was aMaZiNg and so easy to make!

Since our oldest son can’t have nuts and the cobbler uses almond flour, I also made a Paleo Pumpkin Pie. I  make this all of the time without the crust. You just bake the filling at 350 degrees for 65 minutes. It’s so simple, and we all love it! (Sorry again for the bad photo!)

 

I also can’t believe that I finally found a Paleo Banana Bread recipe that is so easy to make and tastes amazing. I have made this a few times now, without the chocolate chips. It’s SUCH a treat to eat something that tastes like bread.

**

So, what about you? Have you tried any awesome new recipes lately? Have you made any changes to your diet this year? How’s it going?

 

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Ten unexpected results of the Paleo diet

Ten unexpected results of the Paleo diet

I have a photo of myself on my phone that I have been looking at the past few days. I took the photo in early January when I was at a really low place.

My eyes look tired, and my face is red and puffy. I had been sick on and off most of the previous year. When I look at that photo, I can remember so clearly how bad I felt that day. I remember thinking that it had to be my rock bottom. I was determined to start feeling better, so I wanted a “before shot” as a reminder. (I hope that someday I will be brave enough to share it.)

I had been on a gluten free diet for six months at that point. But it was what I like to call the “gluten free junk food diet.” I was still experiencing all of the symptoms of autoimmune disease on a regular basis: digestive problems, severe heartburn, insomnia, skin issues, vertigo, headaches, foggy brain, trouble concentrating, joint pain, and the list goes on. For years, I also had been trying to exercise regularly to lose a few pounds, but nothing seemed to work.

Nine months later, I’m amazed at how much better I feel in so many ways. I’ve made it almost three months without a “flare” from gluten contamination, which is a small miracle by itself. But I really didn’t expect to experience so many other health improvements from my radical change in eating.

Just to review, I’ve been on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Diet since February. (I did a month of Whole 30 in January.) What that means is I don’t eat any inflammatory foods, which include gluten, grains, refined sugar, dairy, soy, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, coffee, chocolate, nightshade vegetables and spices, such as tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, Paprika, chili powder and red pepper.

Since about June, I have been slowly re-introducing foods so my diet is somewhere between Paleo and Paleo AIP. I now eat chocolate!! I also sometimes eat tomatoes, eggs, chili powder, almond butter and a few nuts. Once in a while, I eat corn tortillas or rice (which aren’t Paleo). However, for the majority of the time, I eat Paleo AIP because I feel my best when I stick more closely to that diet.

Since I’ve gone on this diet, I’ve seen an impressive drop in the antibodies in my system caused by autoimmune disease. So, you could say that the changes I’ve experienced are from a reduction in antibodies. That improvement goes back to my diet, so in a way, all of these changes started with the diet. Anyway, regardless of whether you want to look at the chicken or the egg, I’m just happy for the experience! 🙂

Ten unexpected results of the Paleo diet

Here are some of the changes I’ve noticed:

WEIGHT LOSS

I’ve lost 11 pounds since January. That might not sound like a lot, but on my small frame, it feels great! I’ve gone down one clothing size, and I’m at the weight that makes me feel my best. When you switch to a Paleo diet, you are pretty much guaranteed to lose weight (unless you go crazy eating a container of nuts and dried fruit everyday). I LOVE this lifestyle because I can eat as much  as I want, as long as I stick to the foods allowed on the program. I eat tons of veggies, protein and healthy fat.

CRAVINGS

In the past, I pretty much got through every day on a steady stream of caffeine and sugar. Now that I fuel my body with highly nutritious foods, I don’t have the extreme highs and lows or cravings for junk food. I still struggle with being hypoglycemic, so I try to eat every couple of hours to keep my blood sugar at a good level. But I’m not on a constant craving roller coaster anymore.

INFLAMMATION

Before I started this diet, I woke up every morning looking pretty awful. My face would be so puffy in the morning that I would try to get up an hour early if I had to be somewhere, just to give myself time to look somewhat “normal.” By eliminating inflammatory foods, I can finally get up in the morning and look like ME!

SINUS INFLAMMATION

A big part of this was the inflammation in my sinuses that I think a lot of people experience from eating dairy, gluten and sugar. Inflamed sinuses lead to sinus headaches, which in my case led to…

VERTIGO

I’ve had chronic vertigo for about seven years. Sometimes, I would experience at least mild dizziness for a month at a time. I’ve had a few very brief instances of vertigo this year, but it doesn’t even compare to what it was like before.

KNOTS IN MY NECK

Another thing that contributed to headaches and vertigo were all of the knots in my neck and back. I was a minefield of knotted-up muscles. I’m so thankful that this has changed significantly!

SLEEP

And without all of those issues, I can sleep like a baby. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. Unless I’m under a lot of stress, I don’t wake up until morning. In the past, it was common to be awake half the night with insomnia. Sleep is a beautiful thing!

FOGGY BRAIN

It’s remarkable how much clearer my brain is. I had struggled with my memory, concentration and focus when I was at my worst. When I stick to my diet, my brain feels so much clearer. I feel (halfway) intelligent again! 🙂

HEARTBURN

At my worst, I had extreme heartburn that even turned into an ulcer in my stomach. This is the symptom that has taken the longest to get under control. In the last few months, I have had a nice break from constant heartburn.

DIGESTIVE ISSUES

And, of course, it goes without saying, that my digestive system is a million times better. This was the reason I decided to try the diet to begin with. The reality is that it took about six months even on a very strict diet to get my digestive system to a “normal” place. My digestive system took a beating from the destruction of Celiac Disease, so it doesn’t take much to knock me down. I know if I stray too far, with even common foods like tomatoes, spices or eggs that I won’t feel great for a few days. It doesn’t take much to mess up my digestive system, but at least now I can easily identify the trigger and get things back on track much more quickly.

 

Today, when I pulled up that photo on my phone, it made me feel so thankful for how far I’ve come. I know that a lot of people have been praying for me and God has done an amazing work in getting me to this place. I’m also a huge believer in this way of eating, so I just wanted to share my experience in case it might help someone else who struggles with similar issues.

If you want to know more about my journey, you can read about it here or listen to me talk about it on this podcast.

**

So, what about you? Have you ever made a radical change to your diet that has made a big difference?

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My journey: From “impressive” to “beyond awesome”

My journey: From “impressive” to “beyond awesome”

I always feel a little weird writing about my health situation on my blog. But now that I’ve put it all out there, and so many people have been asking me for an update, I feel like I need to share some of the significant things that have happened lately.

A few weeks ago, I went to see a functional medicine doctor for the first time. I had been on a waiting list for four months to get into this doctor who specializes in patients with autoimmune disease.

I handed her a thick folder full of my medical journey from the past year. As she flipped through each page, she kept repeating the same reaction: “Impressive.”

After a few minutes, I had to interrupt. “Why do you keep saying ‘impressive’? I get the feeling you don’t mean, ‘Wow! This is awesome!’ ”

Well… she explained. First, you are the first patient I’ve seen whose antibodies were so high on every test that was taken. (In other words, my overachiever immune system has been working super hard to destroy my own body.)

It’s also impressive to see your level of malabsorption. (I knew I had been struggling to absorb the nutrition that I need from my food, but she was actually impressed by just how bad I actually was! Go, me!!)

Finally, she said, “You have had really amazing medical care. It’s impressive.”

My journey with autoimmune disease: From "Impressive" to "beyond awesome"

Happiness in a cup: My bullet dandelion tea

I thought about all I’ve been through in the last year. It’s true. I’ve been to four different doctors in the past year, including three specialists. I’ve also seen a dietician, who has been an “impressive” part of my journey. I’ve had a colonoscopy, two endoscopies and an MRI to understand what’s going on inside my body. And I’ve had a crazy amount of blood work done. It really has been impressive.

She sent me away with an order to have 10 more vials of blood drawn before I came back to see her in two weeks. I had that appointment on Thursday.

When I walked in, she immediately started asking me what I thought about an immune modulating drug she had recommended at my last appointment.

“Have you seen my lab results?” I asked. “I really think we should look at those first before we discuss treatment.”

She pulled up my 20 or so test results on her computer, and this time I had moved beyond, “Impressive.”

“This is awesome,” she said. “You are beyond awesome.”

Here are a few of the amazing things that she saw in that report:

All of my Celiac antibodies are now negative! This is a huge answer to prayer and it shows how well my body is responding to my diet, especially compared to a few months ago when my other doctor was so concerned that I wasn’t responding to a gluten free diet.

“You are healing, and you are beating Celiac disease,” she said.

I’ve also quintupled my Ferritin level, which indicates my body’s ability to store iron. This has been a major problem for me during the past year. A year ago, my Ferritin was a 3 on a scale of 11-291. Now, I’m at 15, which means, I’m actually IN the normal range! I’m finally not anemic, which has made a huge improvement in my health the past few months. I’m still in the low range of normal, so I am going to try a new iron supplement to help with that. But, hey. I’m so much better!

All of my other vitamins and minerals also were in the range of normal. I’m going to add some new supplements to help with things like vitamin B, D, magnesium and a few others, but I am getting there.

My doctor still had quite a few concerns from my blood tests.

  • One of my worst ongoing symptoms is acid reflux. The only test result that had gotten worse was one that looked at my esophagus. This is a bit of a mystery.
  • I tested positive for Crohn’s disease for the second time. I’ve already had a colonoscopy and MRI to rule out Crohn’s disease, but for some reason my body is still producing antibodies that would indicate I have it. Again, another mystery.
  • My thyroid antibodies also are higher than normal. She is doing some additional testing for that. It is super common for people with Celiac disease to have another autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid (Hashimoto’s), so I’m glad she is looking at that.
  • I’m also hypoglycemic. Again, I wasn’t surprised at all by this. I’ve suspected I have some insulin issues because of my need to eat every two hours.

So, lots of fun stuff… but overall, I still see that I am moving forward and making good progress. I’m going to start on a new drug that is supposed to help moderate my immune system, and I’m adding some supplements to help with my nutrition level.

I’m also working on reintroducing new foods into my diet. This is easier said than done. I’ve really grown accustomed to my diet, and it’s hard for me to step out into the unknown by adding new foods. I’ve had some negative reactions to some of the foods I’ve tried, which knock me down again, so it’s scary each time I try something new.

Thank you so much to everyone who has prayed for me and all of the continued support. Feel free to leave me a comment!

**

If you are just catching up, you can read the rest of my story here:

Part One: A new view of food

Part Two: The start of my journey

Part Three: Malnourished in America

Part Four: Solving the gluten free puzzle

Part Five: The Isolation of autoimmune disease

Part Six: From Whole 30 to Paleo AIP

Part Seven: What do we eat?

Part Eight: A year later

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When giving up is a good thing

When giving up is a good thing

Until a few years ago, I had not ever participated in the practice of giving up something for Lent. I heard my friends talk about what they were eliminating during the 40 days leading up to Easter, but I couldn’t get up the motivation to do something that would purposely make my life more difficult. I loved the spiritual reasoning behind it, but I didn’t feel it was necessary. And, come on. Isn’t life challenging enough the way it is?

During the past year, however, the act of giving something up has become a recurring theme. Whether it’s been for spiritual reasons, health reasons or just to make my life better, this practice of self denial has been an awakening for me. In fact, part of my journey in 2017 is to give up one thing for a month, each month of the year.

As I enter the third month of 2017, this is my third time giving up something this year that I enjoy. Strangely, as a new month approaches, I’ve grown to look forward to getting rid of the excess in my life. Instead of feeling dread and fear of the pain that will inevitably come with self denial, I’ve started feeling a sense of excitement to crack down on a new area of my life that has gotten out of control.

In fact, in several cases, I’ve found my life to be so much more pleasant without the habit or practice that I once loved, that I’m not anxious to go back to my old ways.

  • For example, last year, I gave up watching TV for Lent. I have loved learning new things, having time to practice my hobbies and being free from the distraction of television shows. More than a year later, I haven’t reintroduced TV into my life.
  • Last June, I was forced to give up gluten when I found out I had Celiac Disease. Having something taken from you is quite different mentally and emotionally than giving something up. Obviously, I haven’t even considered going back to gluten because of the devastating effect it has on my health. However, I’ve taken it two steps farther. In January, I removed sugar, grains, soy, dairy, legumes and artificial ingredients from my diet. Just when I thought there was no way I could add to that list, it became clear to me in February that I also needed to give up all inflammatory foods, including eggs, nuts, seeds, coffee, cocoa powder and nightshades. As I’ve been carefully monitoring the improvement in my health with this radical change to my diet, I don’t have plans to start eating those foods again anytime soon.
  • I also gave up social media in February. The best word I can think of to describe my life without it is “lighter.” I’m not as anxious. It freed me from carrying the weight of so many issues that are posted on social media. (I did cheat once, but other than that, this post will be my reintroduction, I suppose!)

What I’ve found to be so interesting about this practice of giving up is that it seems to be a discipline that is becoming easier for me to practice. It’s almost like I’ve been exercising my self control muscle, and it is growing stronger, making it less painful for me to use in new areas of my life.

This month’s elimination will be different. Giving something up for Lent isn’t just an act of self control. It is something we do out of spiritual conviction. This self denial is a way to help me focus on the sacrifice Christ made for each one of us on the cross. It’s tempting to give up the easiest thing. To chose the thing that will cause the least inconvenience, disruption or pain. But denying yourself something difficult can serve as such a great reminder of what this season is about — that He made the ultimate sacrifice for mankind.

Whether you want to give something up for Lent, for other spiritual reasons, to improve your health or even just as a challenge, here are a few things I’ve learned this past year about giving up:

  1. I’ve found it helpful to learn that some people are abstainers and others are moderators. I wrote about that here. It’s easier for abstainers to go cold turkey, while moderators often prefer an approach that involves “tapering off” or “setting boundaries.”
  2. Taking a before shot can be a powerful motivator. This could be a literal photo or it could take another form, such as a written statement of what life is like and how you want it to change. This act of marking your starting point is like a commitment you are making to yourself that things are going to change. With every “before” shot, comes an “after.” You are committing that things will look different in the “after”. I wrote more about that here.
  3. Change your perspective. Instead of seeing your denial as something negative, reframe it as something good you are doing for yourself. Click here to read about how I’ve been reframing my food choices as a gift I’m giving myself.
  4. I’m a believer that giving something up for Lent should be a personal decision that comes from a spiritual conviction. But for your everyday acts of giving up, it’s always nice to have a support system. Giving something up with a friend or at least sharing your goal with someone can turn it into an exciting journey!

What about you? Did you decide to give something up for Lent? Is this a practice that you think can make a positive impact on your life? 

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What I discovered during a month without social media

What I discovered during a month without social media

I’m wrapping up my month without social media, so I thought I would check in and give an update. I thought this would be a difficult month, fighting the urge to check in on friends on Facebook or get my fix of visual happiness on Instagram.

Instead, this has been quite a transformative month for me, and it really didn’t have much to do with the goals I set for myself this month. The biggest change that occurred for me this month is that without the constant lure of social media, I freed up a ton of prime retail space in my brain to pursue other things.

I also relieved a lot of stress and anxiety that comes with keeping up with social media. My brain on social media is kind of like having a radio playing all day long. It’s background noise that occupies my thoughts and inhibits my ability to focus. Flipping it off for a while has been so refreshing. It’s been a relief to separate myself from the political conversations, not to mention the constant barrage of food related posts, DIY ideas and product marketing.

Here are a few other things that have happened as a result:

  1. Speaking of “product marketing,” without the ability to promote my blog on Facebook, my readership has dropped by about 98 percent. That was discouraging at first. It was hard to publish a blog post and look at my stats to see I only had three readers. “Hi, you guys!!” But I get it. I know that most people don’t really incorporate blog reading into their daily schedule, and if they do, they are going to jump onto a blog with relevant content that’s right in front of them. It reminded me of why I write, and how therapeutic it is for me!
  2. I’ve really enjoyed the daily devotional that I’ve been doing this month. It’s called, “I Am,” by Michele Cushatt. Each day helps replace negative self talk and comparison with the truth of who I am as a child of God. I have fallen behind on my reading a few times, but for the most part, I’ve been keeping on track. Each day’s passage is short and engaging, and it’s been great to start my day with this encouragement.
  3. The biggest change that has occurred for me in February is once again with my diet. (Just when you thought I was done talking about this!) When I finished Whole 30 in January, I was feeling great overall. But I couldn’t figure out why some of my autoimmune symptoms were actually far worse than they were when I started. Through my research, I found something called the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. I’ve been diving in with both feet, gathering information, listening to podcasts and incorporating this way of eating into my lifestyle. I’m planning to write about this in much greater depth in the next few weeks, so if you are one of my three remaining readers, I hope you will come back!
  4. If you thought Whole 30 was an intense diet adjustment, that’s because you haven’t heard of Paleo AIP (autoimmune protocol). It focuses on removing all inflammatory foods from your diet, so your body can start to heal from autoimmune disease. Back in June when I went gluten free, I thought it was hard. Now I’m also grain free, sweetener free, soy free, legume free, dairy free, nut free, egg free, seed free and free of nightshades, which include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, chili powder, paprika, red pepper and all other spices made from nightshades. The diet also eliminates all processed food, food additives, refined oils, refined sugars and alcohol. Needless to say, I have spent a ton of time researching recipes and figuring out what I can eat. I go to the grocery store at least once a day because I consume so much produce!

I seriously can’t wait to write more about all of this. It’s really making a big impact on my life, and I’m excited to start chronicling my journey.

I will be reintroducing social media in the month of March, and I’m working on a plan to do that gradually so it’s not like flipping on hard rock music at full blast.

Until then, let me know you stopped by! I would love it if you would say “Hi!” in the comments and let me know one thing that’s new with you in the month of February! 

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