Friday, August 17, 2012


 This Fourth of July, we took the boys to a firework show.  They loved it.
 I also took them swimming at the same beach I went to almost every day of the summer when I was their age.  It smells exactly the same.
 We ate meat on sticks.
 I said goodbye to the family that's lived next door to my parents for 18 years.  They are good people.
 We had Sibling Brunch, which is sometimes Sibling Dinner instead. 
 We met our friends' beautiful son.
 We went to a wedding.
And Matteas turned five, which is old enough to light your own candle.  I'm glad there is a little Summer left to fill with barbecues, cocktails, and fans in the windows.  I'm not ready for Fall.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Crazy-ass Diet, Challenge: Eggs

 Well, I made it: fourteen days without wheat, corn, dairy, eggs, caffeine, alcohol, yeast, soy, or citrus.  I didn't cheat; not once, not even a little.  Today when I woke up and realized that today is the day I get to do a food challenge, I immediately decided I wanted to make muffins. 

Making muffins without wheat can be tricky, and making muffins without wheat or eggs is damn near impossible.  Avoiding dairy is the easy part, as coconut oil can be used in baked goods instead of butter with a fair amount of reliability.  So this morning I made a batch of muffins with grated apples, lots of cinnamon and nutmeg, and some pretty stinking delicious honey coconut spread.  Maybe it's my deprived taste buds being easily stimulated by any amount of sugar, but to me these were the perfect breakfast muffin: not too sweet, hearty but not heavy.  The boys loved them.  If you leave out the brown sugar topping, these muffins are SCD compliant.

Almond and Apple Muffins with Honey Coconut 'Butter'

2 1/2 cups almond flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3 eggs
1/3 cup apple sauce
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 honey
2 apples, grated
Brown sugar for sprinkling(optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with muffin papers.

In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and whisk until well blended.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk the eggs well.  Add the apple sauce, vanilla, coconut oil, honey and grated apples.  Add egg mixture to almond flour mixture and mix until thoroughly blended.  Divide between twelve muffin papers.  If using, sprinkle a few pinches of brown sugar over the top of each muffin.

Bake for 20 minutes, until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let the muffins cool at least five minutes before serving.

Honey Coconut 'Butter'

1 TBS coconut oil, melted
2 tsp. honey
Pinch of sea salt

Blend all ingredients and season to taste.  I like it salty.  You can use it warm, but it takes on a buttery texture if you let it cool to room temperature.  Store any leftovers in the fridge in a sealed contained.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Crazy-ass Diet, Day 6

I'm super excited to be on day six of this experiment, because tomorrow that means I'm halfway through the hardest part!  I'm already planning carefully what recipes I want to use for my challenges, which can be kind of tricky because you have to isolate a single potential allergen.  For example, you can't use bread for a wheat challenge because it also contains yeast.  During an egg challenge, you can't cook scrambled eggs in butter because then you'd be introducing dairy as well.  Aaron mentioned looking forward to Caprese salad last night, and I find myself fantasizing about the texture of mozzarella.  So milky and smooth...

Aside from coffee, what I miss the most on this diet is variety of texture.  Nuts and raw vegetables have a different kind of crunch than the shattering kind of crunch you get from biting into a tortilla chip or a crouton; six days of meat and lettuce and you really start to notice. 

Yesterday my energy level was really feeling the lack of complex carbohydrates and I really wanted to work in the garden, so I made some roasted sweet potatoes to go with my lunch.  While I was at it I roasted a second chicken breast to save for later; I can't emphasize enough the importance of having ready-made protein on hand while doing this kind of diet.  It would be easy to fail simply out of desperation, so if you're trying something like this make sure you have plenty of food on hand that you can actually eat.

Oven Roasted Chicken and Sweet Potatoes
1 bone-in skin-on chicken breast
1 medium or two small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400. 

Toss the sweet potatoes with a good drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, and half the garlic and rosemary.  Arrange flat in a roasting pan large enough to accomodate all the potatoes and the chicken breast without crowding. 

Place the chicken breast, skin side up, in the pan with the potatoes and season with olive oil, salt and pepper, and the rest of the garlic and rosemary. 

Roast everything together for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken breast registers 160 degrees on an instant-read theremometer.  If the potatoes need longer, remove the chicken to a plate and cover gently with foil.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Crazy-ass Diet, Day 2

 I thought the hardest part of this diet would be giving up coffee, and I was right.  I've never been a morning person, but now they just seem downright pointless; something to get through in order to get to something better, like lunch.  It's been super tricky trying to come up with things that both Jack and I can eat so that I'm not making two separate dishes for every single meal, and although coconut aminos aren't SCD legal I'm cutting corners a tiny bit so I don't go crazy.  I served this chicken to the boys with cucumbers and clementines on the side, and put it into a salad for me.  It was so good, I ate it for lunch two days in a row and will probably have it again today.  It tastes like a really light spring roll.

Honey Teriyaki Chicken

Four boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into 1" thick strips
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp. coconut aminos
1 tsp. honey
1 clove garlic, minced
Oil for pan

Drizzle a large non-stick frying pan with a little oil over medium-high heat.  Use a pan large enough that the chicken won't crowd, or it will steam and not brown nicely.

When the chicken is brown on one side, turn the strips over, add the grated ginger and cook until chicken is almost cooked through. 

Add the coconut aminos and honey and stir to coat the chicken, then let it cook without moving it around for a few minutes so the honey caramelizes a little. 

When the chicken is cooked through, add the garlic and cook for 30-40 seconds, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn't burn.

Serve over mixed greens with sliced cucumber, carrots, chopped cilantro and green onion or chives, and toss with rice wine vinaigrette.  If you're not on a crazy-ass elimination diet, squeeze a wedge of lime over the top.  Bean sprouts would also be delicious.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Here We Go

We are now fully embarked on our search for food allergies/the source of Jack's abdominal discomfort.  For Jack, I decided to put him on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet because he's had stomach upset and digestive problems(read: diarrhea) for the past four weeks.  You can read more about his diet here if you're interested, but the short of it is that it eliminates all sugar and starch except for honey and fruit.  No grains, potatoes, corn, or milk(aged cheese and clarified butter are okay).  It's challenging to feed a growing boy this way, but we're learning and after only a few days we're seeing an improvement in his digestion(read: less diarrhea). 

I'm doing a more severe version of the diet, as I suspect that I might be allergic to eggs and dairy. Today was meant to be my first day without coffee, but Aaron and I went out for cocktails last night and I'm such a light weight when it comes to alcohol that after two drinks I need a little help waking up this morning. Avoiding caffeine had better do wonders for my PMS, because I have serious concerns about my coping abilities sans caffeine and dairy. I have a plan, which I'm calling Alternative Pleasures. Coffee is what gets me out of bed in the morning, and not much happens in our day until I'm well into my second cup of piping hot legal drugs laced with half and half. I've been through enough dietary changes to know that I'm going to need a way to replace not just the foods I used to eat, but the pleasure I derived from them. Coffee was my way of front-loading my day with pleasure, and starting tomorrow that will be gone. I imagine I'll get up tomorrow morning and sit on the couch, holding an empty mug that is slowly being filled my tears. I don't handle deprivation well.

That's where Alternative Pleasures comes in. I'm going to start planning bribes for myself, like buying myself a novel(fiction even!) or new art supplies, something that will inspire me to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other. Really, nothing motivates me quite like coffee, so I'm not sure how this is going to go. Also, I might not have any extra cash for things like books and paints because I'm currently giving all of my money to Whole Foods. I'm also not very good at the whole wait-and-see approach to healing, mostly because it's hard not to be able to offer my son instant relief but also because I don't want all this effort and expense to be for nothing(read: ongoing diarrhea).

So just what are we eating? The short answer is meat, fruit and vegetables with the occasional almond meal confection. I had thought that I would come up with all kinds of crazy recipes during this experiment, but it feels kind of fraudulent to call something a recipe that is really just "eating these foods at the same time."

We have, however, stumbled upon some easy combinations that both boys love which are precious to me because we're doing this diet as a family.  Food is about so much more than just eating, and I don't want Jack to feel isolated in his deprivation.  So we all eat our cheeseburgers with a knife and fork instead of a bun, any bread in the house has been banished to the freezer, and I make one Specific Carbohydrate compliant dinner for everyone to share. 

So far, the biggest challenge has been breakfast.  Jack wakes up hungry, and doesn't like eggs first thing in the morning.  His breakfasts now alternate between a banana with peanut butter, and homemade Lara Bars. 
These are just equal parts nuts(almonds, cashews, pecans, or any combination) and dates, sometimes with other flavors(cinnamon, ginger) added.  So far, Jack's favorite is almond and peanut butter.  The resulting paste needs to be refrigerated in order to make cutting it into a bar shape, so I usually resort to rolling them into balls.  In either ball or bar form, there is no way around the final product looking like poop.  Embrace your inner toddler.

Homemade Lara Bars

1 cup toasted almonds
1 cup pitted dates
1/4-1/3 cup peanut butter(optional)
Pinch of salt

After the nuts have cooled, pulse them briefly in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment.  You don't want to turn them into nut butter, so pulse in small bursts until you get a consistency you like.  Remove the chopped nuts to a mixing bowl.

Blend the dates, salt and peanut butter in the food processor until a chunky paste forms.  Add the date paste to the chopped nuts, mix with your hands, and form into balls.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Preview

We are on the verge of some changes around here, changes which I anticipate will be challenging but will hopefully result in the improved health and well-being of our whole family. 
 It is becoming more and more evident to me that my family doesn't digest grains well, and I find this both limiting and challenging my cooking skills.  I feel a lot of gratitude for the timeline of events which has led to the gradual eradication of grains from my pantry, because too much change all at once is overwhelming.  I'm also grateful that we met success early on, completely healing first Jack's skin and now his chronic migraines by removing wheat from his diet.  I know this stuff works.  I believe that what we put in our bodies matters, that it is not magically and invisibly transformed into our skin, our hair, our blood pressure, our energy levels.  I have experienced first-hand that changing your food can change your life, and so it is with a lot of optimism and a healthy dose of determination that we embark on the next phase of what my friend Josh calls a 'crazy hippie diet.'
Josh was my best friend growing up.  We were both eleven years old when his family moved into the house next door, and we saw each other almost every day.  He would come home from school and play basketball in his backyard, and as soon as I heard the familiar thud-and-swish of his playing I would drape myself over the back fence and we'd talk.  One of our fantasies was to become millionaires by inventing something genius, something that would revolutionize the way an ordinary task was done because then everyone would want it.  Our plan was to get rich and then move to Polynesia, where we imagined we could be free of the stresses of school and parents and adolescence.

In high school, Josh was diagnosed with Crohn's disease.  At first, his doctors tried to manage his disease through medication and for a number of years it kind of worked, but more recently Josh and his wife have changed the way they eat in order to heal Josh's body from the inside.  As fate would have it, Josh's style of eating overlaps with a lot of the changes I've already begun implementing.  Through the blogging world I was introduced to Roost, and was affirmed in my belief that healthy, healing eating doesn't have to feel like restricted eating. 

Now I'm going to take things a bit further, as Jack and I are about to embark on an elimination diet.  Jack suffers from periodic tummy trouble, and I've recently begun to suspect that he has Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome.  I feel kind of devastated by this possibility, as we've only recently experienced what life can be like without five migraines a week; however, I also feel quietly determined.  The last time my first-born suffered debilitating symptoms, the remedy was in my kitchen.  I feel hopeful about trying again, making more changes, finding some answers. 

Over the next few weeks, Jack and I will be eliminating all grains, dairy, eggs, yeast, citrus, corn, soy, caffeine, and alcohol(more me than Jack) from what we eat.  After two weeks of eliminating those foods, we will then re-introduce one food at a time in large doses(three servings a day for three days in a row) in the hopes that there will be some kind of reaction.  I say that I'm hopeful for a reaction because that would give me a way to control Jack's discomfort through food, which is my favorite way to fix everything.  More importantly, it would give me a way to control Jack's discomfort, period.  The last time I tried working with doctors about his migraines, the discussion involved putting Jack on anti-depressants.  Not satisfied with that 'solution,' I turned to food and chiropractic care with great success.

While healing my own child is incentive enough, I couldn't help but remember my thirteen year-old ambitions to come up with a genius invention that would make me and Josh rich and famous.  My ambitions are a little different now, fame and fortune having been replaced by the desire to feed the ones I love well.  I bought a blank recipe book and will be taking careful notes about everything Jack and I eat, and my hope is that this little experiment will evolve into something that might benefit people beyond my own kitchen table.  I know how daunting it feels to consider making radical changes in the way we eat, and I remember feeling that for all of my experience, suddenly I no longer knew how to cook.  I know now that there is a way through that, and that there are two ways to see this: I can see it as something being taken away from me, or I can see it as an opportunity to get to know food in ways I have not yet imagined.  I know there will be times when it will feel like both.

Jack and I are both in the thick of nasty colds, so we won't be starting just yet.  I'm thinking the first of May seems like an appropriate day, and in the meantime I'm collecting ideas and testing new ingredients.  Those waffles up there?  Grain-free.  They do, however, contain eggs and there is quite obviously whipped cream on top, but I'm already coming up with ways around that.  I've been sneaking more honey and less sugar into the boys' meals to acclimate their taste buds, and so far it's going well.  Poor Jack is motivated to try anything if it will give him some relief.  I'll write more on the science behind the changes we're making, but right now my head is so full of congested nastiness that a discussion on monosaccharides vs. polysaccharides seems totally incomprehensible.  I just wanted to write an introduction of sorts by way of a preview of things to come, and also to get back into the habit of blogging which I hope will provide both accountability and community. 

Stay tuned.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I can't really explain the three-month leave of absence I gave myself from blogging.  I have no triumphant announcements to share upon my return, no secret pregnancies or freshly-finished manuscripts, just a quiet 'hello.'  Shortly after Christmas I felt the need to simplify.  Anything I didn't have the energy for fell by the wayside, and I didn't have much to say here.  Looking back over my blog I realize that a lot of my posts are about product evangelization or the evils of the industrial food system, and somehow in the last three months I've let go of the desire to convince other people that what I think is right.  I have  a lot more energy now. 

Life has been good and ordinary.  I've learned a lot about sustainable change, notably in the way I eat.  I started to suspect a while ago that I don't tolerate wheat very well, so I cut it out of my diet.  That led to cutting out most other grains as well and focusing on vegetables, meat, fruit and some dairy.  That led to smaller pants and fewer bouts of random stomach cramps.  I've also cut back on caffeine, which I didn't think was something I could ever do.  Since having kids I feel like my experience of PMS went from being a little emotional and weepy to being totally crazy with arbitrary rage.  I talked to my ob/gyn about this and asked her if there was anything I could do about it.  She said her number one recommendation is to reduce my caffeine intake.  "Do you know how grumpy I get without caffeine?" I asked.  But I tried it, and I think it helps.  I bought some ridiculously good quality decaf, and every morning when I make my French press I use two scoops of decaf coffee and one of regular.  Bam: my caffeine intake was reduced by two-thirds.  One morning I was out of decaf so I drank a cup of full-strength coffee and it made my heart and thoughts race.  I was like a three year-old on a sugar high.  It wasn't pleasant. 

I feel like I'm living my regular life, I'm just more present to it.  Without the influence of fluctuating blood sugar and caffeine-fueled adrenaline, I notice more.  Not always in a way that is pleasurable, but I believe in a way that is more real.  I have no idea if the desire to blog will resurrect itself.  Especially with Spring on the horizon there are so many places my hands would rather be than at the keyboard, but I think blogging might be something I can make room for again.