Cheaters Never Prosper

Let’s face it. Elimination diets are hard. Really hard. So let me recount what has happened on the days I’ve slipped up….

Cheat #1: Sushi. I knew gluten was something to avoid, sure, but I didn’t altogether believe the whole “grain-free” need. Until I ate sushi one night. My joints ached for three days.

Cheat #2: Donuts. I was trying to be so good. I went to Revolution Doughnuts (who, by the way, have delicious low-grain/low-gluten donuts, if you don’t have a nut allergy). Unfortunately, they were out of the “dough-nuts,” so on a whim I got a few of my favorites. Cake-style Vanilla Bean, yeast-style Cinnamon Sugar, and a Cinnamon Apple Fritter. In just a few hours I was exhausted and achy. It lasted for days.

Cheat #3: Choco-Pie. Not having eaten all morning, I couldn’t resist this Moon Pie-like treat a friend had brought in for class. I went home immediately afterward and slept for three hours in the middle of the afternoon.

I saw the rheumatologist last week, My RA is at a moderate level, so we’re having to up my dosage of Remicade to the highest possible amount and consider new treatments. I spoke with my doctor about the AIP (autoimmune protocol) diet I was trying, and she said it was a great idea.

I know what I need to do. I know what foods I need to avoid.

It’s difficult.

AIP Shepherd’s Pie – Going Paleo Deliciously

Besides now having an excuse to eat bacon every day, going AIP paleo has been a bit of a stretch for me. Thankfully, learning how to tweak recipes is a personal hobby of mine. In the past, I’ve cooked meals that were vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, gluten-free vegan, raw vegan, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free – you name it! The thing I haven’t done so much? Cooked meat. So I started researching a little over a month ago to be ready for the change.

Not only is eating AIP difficult at a restaurant, it can be pretty tricky at home, too. Especially for a graduate student who doesn’t have spare hours to slave away in the kitchen every day!

wpid-20150902_213912.jpgAutoimmune Protocol (AIP) Foods to Avoid – all grains, beans, legumes, dairy, soy, nuts, seeds, eggs, nightshades, processed sugar, and starchy vegetables!

However, you won’t believe the plethora of recipes available for every fashionable diet trend! Can’t eat soy? Type in soy free next to your keywords in the internet search bar. Can’t eat eggs? Type eggless. Have a gluten sensitivity? Type GF! I’m pretty sure some type of recipe for your favorite meal exists for every kind of food allergy (Internet Rule #38?)

Since I have chosen to embark on this journey into the bacon-lined world of AIP eating, I thought I might take you along with me. Every day, I’ll be trying out new, quick recipes. The ones I like, I’ll share here on SuddenSight.

Today’s treat is actually an original recipe by yours truly. I took the basic recipe for Shepherd’s Pie and made it AIP-friendly. Enjoy!

AIP Paleo Shepherd’s Pie
(for two – share with a friend or box up tomorrow’s lunch!)

wpid-img_20150902_215426.jpgIngredients for the top layer
2 sweet potatoes
1-2 TBL coconut oil
½ tsp salt
Pinch ground ginger
3 TBL coconut milk
Water for boiling potatoes

Ingredients for the bottom layer
1 TBL coconut oil
½ pound ground meat (I chose pork and turkey)*
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground oregano
½ tsp ground majoram
½ tsp dried sage, rubbed into pieces in your palm or with a mortar & pestle
1 tsp dried rosemary, rubbed into pieces in your palm
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (I used this Paleo Leap recipe, omitting the mustard, onion, and black pepper)
½ cup bone broth (I used this PaleoMom recipe, again omitting the onion)
1 TBL arrowroot powder
1 cup frozen or fresh early peas**
¼ cup thickly sliced carrots (optional)

*Note: I recommend using either ground beef or ground pork as your base. Otherwise, you risk the meat getting too dry.

**Note: Some people will categorize all peas as legumes. However, as early peas are still in the pod (like green beans), I consider their nutrient makeup to still be green vegetable. If you are also avoiding peas, you may omit them in this recipe or try another vegetable. I recommend using spinach or kale.

Set your oven to 400° and pull out a 9×5-inch baking dish.

Step One: Peel your sweet potatoes and cut into chunks. Place in medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil over high heat and allow to continue boiling.

wpid-img_20150902_215703.jpgStep Two: Heat up the 1TBL coconut oil in your skillet over low-medium heat (I prefer cast iron). Mix together your ground meat, salt, and herbs. Crumble the meat mixture into the skillet and cook until browned, stirring occasionally. This should take 5-8 minutes.

Step Three: Combine Worcestershire sauce, broth, and arrowroot powder. Once the meat is cooked through, add the sauce. Let this simmer until the sauces thickens into a thin roux, stirring frequently. This should take 2-3 minutes.

Step Four: While the meat layer is cooking, check on your boiling sweet potatoes. They should be soft enough to mash. Once soft, drain the potatoes and mash them with a fork. Add your desired amount of coconut oil, salt, ginger, and coconut milk. (Because I am not using Paleo for weight-loss, I prefer to use additional oil to increase my caloric intake.) Mash together until smooth.

wpid-img_20150902_215918.jpgStep Five: Add the peas and carrots to your meat mixture. Cook another 2-3 minutes. (If you are using a leafy green vegetable in place of the peas, wait until the last minute to add them.)

Step Six: Pour your meat layer into the baking dish. Top with sweet potato mixture, and bake 15-18 minutes. Enjoy!

Pressing the Reset Button

handNow and again, there comes a time when we just need to take a breather and hit the reset button on life. Frustrations mount, stresses build, and complications twist everything into a knotted, tangled mess. You can’t always walk away from your stressors – usually you can’t – but you can take a step back. You can take a moment to yourself and reenter the situation with a fresh perspective.

This month, that’s exactly what I’m doing: Resetting.

Resetting My Body – Starting AIP

For those who have been following the blog for awhile, you know that I’ve had trouble with chronic fatigue for about a year and a half now. For months at a time, I would need 10 to 14 hours of sleep every day. Even awake, I wandered through life in a fog, exhausted and unmotivated. Two things entirely contrary to the life of a grad student!

carbsWhen my doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong, I decided to take my health into my own hands. I started researching my symptoms and found the autoimmune protocol paleo diet. No grains, no legumes, no dairy, no nightshades, and no starches. Yikes! As someone who has spent most of the past 10 years as vegan or vegetarian, it was pretty scary to think about eating animal flesh at every meal. However, all of my symptoms kept pointing to the AIP as a way to reset my digestive system and stop the extreme autoimmune reactions causing my fatigue and inflaming my joints.

This past weekend, I celebrated my birthday with all my favorite foods! Ice cream, cupcakes, pasta, chocolate… 28 never tasted so good. September first marked day one of my 30-day AIP reset. I’ll be updating SuddenSight with my posts about the experience, so keep checking back for updates!

Resetting My Mind – Taking a Step Back

The fatigue, as well as numerous setbacks with my eyesight since January, made finishing my master’s degree this summer, well, difficult. I did manage to turn in everything and have my paper accepted (hooray!) Still, moving forward I decided I needed to recognize my physical limitations.

Even on my good eye days I read at half the speed that others in my program read. When I’m sleeping 10 hours a night, it becomes virtually impossible to keep up with the 60 to 70 hour work week required to keep up with three graduate classes and teach a class. So I took a step back and slowed things down for a bit to let my body catch up.

I’m only taking two classes this fall, and I’m pushing myself to make more time for yoga classes and cooking – my favorite relaxing hobbies.

Resetting My Blog!

ice creamTaking all of this into account, I’ve also decided to shift the focus of this blog a bit. I don’t want to spoil too much, but this fall SuddenSight will be relaunching with an all-new look! Get ready for more health and lifestyle posts, a recipe section, and guest bloggers featured each month.

Stay tuned for more news!