AIP · Learning from Mistakes · Life with Littles · Paleo · Trying Something New

How Crying Turned to Laughing, and the Story of an AIP Fail

Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.”

Luke 6:21 (NIV)

Dear Joey,

So I made a pie on Sunday.

In classic Rachel style, the thought of getting back into the comforting rhythm of cooking helped ease me out of the thick blanket of despair I wrapped around myself last week when the ER doctor threw his hands up and said, “You are a medical mystery.”

That’s what we all want to hear when we are being discharged from a 6 hour stint in the ER, isn’t it? My other phantom pain flared up last Wednesday, sharp in front and cutting through to the back, making each breath feel like razors were rattling inside. I went to the ER, a visit that left me more bewildered than I was before I went in. I spent the next few days shedding a lot of silent tears at night, trying to feel better. By Sunday I was out from under the blanket, but weak and fumbling and without much of an appetite. By Sunday, pie sounded soothing.

Ah, but–the AIP. And the Whole30(ish) thing you’re doing. Clearly, pie, or any other sort of comfort food was not the way to soothe away this particular heartache. And yet, I am not doing this crazy restrictive diet to lose weight or retrain my brain to eat only when I am really hungry, or even to retrain my palate to learn to love flavors as they naturally occur. I am doing it because I don’t have much other choice, at the moment. I have been sick, and I needed to heal.

IMG_2858

And so after I fought with myself over whether to make a pie or not, I chided myself for toying with the idea of not making it, and I headed into the kitchen to make the most miserable pie I ever made. And I learned (again) three things:

  1. Listen to my gut.
  2. Laughter soothes my heart just as well as a good slice of pie can.
  3. God doesn’t always work the way I think He will, but I can trust Him anyway.

So this pie: I admit I had my doubts about it from the get go. Although it was completely AIP compliant and looked normalish, something about the ingredients just sort of nagged at me, telling me “I’m not going to work the way you think I will.” 

But I ignored it, saying to myself What do I know? I’m still learning how to use all these ingredients the right way, and who am I to say whether there’s something wrong with the recipe? I whisked together the coconut flour and arrowroot starch, tossed in some sea salt and cut in the coconut oil. I pressed the dough-like-substance into the bottom of a pie pan, crimped the edges with a fork and poked holes in the bottom. I baked it until golden, the smell of the toasty warm crust working its way into my heart and lifting my spirits as it went.

As it baked, I stirred together frozen mixed berries and lemon juice, brought it to a boil, and then reduced the heat to let it simmer away by half. Then I tossed in another few cups of berries into the thick, juicy syrup, gave it a stir and waited to pour it into its cradle. Out popped the crust, in went the filling, and back into the oven the whole thing went for another few minutes, just long enough to fill the house with the enticing aroma that comes only from a freshly baked pie.

 

IMG_2859

This thing looked perfect. Unbelievable, really. On the oven top it sat, and you jokingly said you’d buy me a house with a kitchen that had a windowsill for me to cool pies on, and buy me pretty spin dresses and high heels, and a string of pearls and new tubes of lipstick, too. We laughed, because it was late in the afternoon and I was still in my pajamas, and holy moly if I needed a shower.

But the pie sat there like a promise: almost too good to be true.

Emery heard the oohs and ahhs, and clamored for a piece of pie after polishing off his dinner plate. “I want pie,” he said as he nodded his head, letting us know this was not a request, but a requirement.

So I got out a knife and a pie server and a plate, set up my cutting station and huffed under my breath, “I don’t know about this…

IMG_2876The crust wasn’t cooked through at all. In fact, it was a goopy mess of what can only be called Paleo slime. No one believed me that it was ruined–the thing looked too beautiful to be ruined, except the whole thing was soft and mushy–an utter mess–on the inside.

I scooped some out anyway, believing you when you told me it probably tasted better than it looked. (You remember I told you it had absolutely no added sweetener to it, right? No sugar, no stevia, no honey or maple syrup? Nada!) I lovingly brought the plate to that expectant little boy of ours, who was beside himself happy for the only piece of pie he’s ever asked for. Pie isn’t something I make regularly.

IMG_2877

A look of glee and contentment spread across his face as he scooped up his first big bite, only to be replaced by revulsion in an instant.

IMG_2864

Laughter erupted around the table, of course, which egged you on to try to convince him to take another bite, which he did, the poor kid.

IMG_2865

He glared at you, unsure. Angry. Duped.

IMG_2866

Somehow, you convinced him to try again.

IMG_2868

To say he hated the pie it is an understatement.

IMG_2875

And yet, somehow, he managed to recognize our laughter in the middle of his own freak out. The boy clearly inherited your jocularity because once he noticed he was the center of attention, and he willingly took a few more yucky bites to get a few good laughs out of it.

IMG_2870

I was ready to toss the whole thing. You and my parents (and even Emery, to some small degree) convinced me not to, though, insisting that we had to at least try it because so what if it didn’t turn out perfect the first time? (Agreed. I don’t care about perfection: I care about palatability.)

I should have trusted myself. I had serious doubts about the merits of this recipe before I even attempted to make it. I wasn’t really surprised when the crust failed miserably. I’m not entirely sure what went wrong or where, but something did go wrong.

We still ate the pie (shockingly). It wasn’t sweet, but it wasn’t tart either. It just tasted like really good baked fruit (if that’s a thing?). And the oozy pie crust turned into something more akin to a topping than a crust, and the whole thing ended up giving us a satisfying (if unconventional) small bite of something sweet-ish after dinner that night. But I think the best thing about that pie was the laughter it elicited. Hearing belly laughs around the table was like medicine–it cleared my head and released my tension and helped me see beyond myself, and outward toward the people and things that bring me joy. And through it, God seemed to whisper to me, “I’m not going to work the way you think I will. But trust me anyway.”

Love,

Scratch

Breakfast · Love & Marriage · Paleo · Whole30(ish)

Solidarity, or Whole30(ish) and Joey’s Favorite Almond Butter Banana Shake

Dear Joey,

Yesterday was the fourth day in a row I sent you out the door with a shake so dreamy it might as well be dessert. When you got home from work after the first time I made it, you handed me your empty cup and said with a smirk, “That shake this morning was good, Rach. It tasted like peanut butter. I know it’s not peanut butter, but it was good like peanut butter. What was it, like almond butter or something?”

You know you make my heart swell ten times its normal size when you say things like that, don’t you? I dreamed up that shake on the fly over a month ago when I took myself off of all grains and dairy, before either of us took the plunge into the more restrictive versions of Paleo in which we currently find ourselves–the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) for me, and Whole30(ish) for you. I came up with it on a whim on a rushed Sunday morning when I had to leave for church 15 minutes ago and clearly didn’t have time to fry up some eggs or sit down to a bowl of grain-free granola. I needed something quicker than quick and satisfying enough to tide me over until well after church, and somehow coconut milk and frozen bananas joined forces with almond butter and honey to create a luscious meal-on-the-go that tasted more like dessert than breakfast.

IMG_1214

Over the course of the next month I pressed on with my grain free/dairy free diet, but it got complicated to feed us both, and I really wanted to go deeper and do a gut-healing diet that would yield longer lasting results. I knew you would be on board for whatever diet plan I chose to follow for my own process of healing, but getting you to join me me was another obstacle entirely. When you agreed to do your own, less restrictive version of Paleo while I did the ultra-restrictive AIP, I about keeled over with thankfulness. A day or two would pass, I would press you and ask, “Really? You don’t mind? You don’t have to do this, you know…” Bless your heart for saying over and over again, “Solidarity.”

So this past Monday was the first of a long series of mornings in which I had a very crucial choice to make: send you to work on an empty stomach (trusting you would make compliant food choices on your own), or break Whole30 rules from the get-go and make you a shake for breakfast. Let’s be clear: I trust you. The problem is this: you lean on those morning meals and when you are hungry and confronted with temptation, you eat donuts. Shake, or donuts? Shake, or donuts? You see why I chose to break this rule?

IMG_2236

You play it cool but I am sure you panicked, wondering how I would hold up my promise to feed you well every day for the next month without all those already healthy foods you were so used to leaning on. Most specifically, maybe, you wondered about what would become of your morning shake, or to the rhythm of my footsteps padding toward the kitchen to make one while Emery sprints toward your lap for cover while the blender wakes the rest of the Goobies from their sleep. You seemed a little relieved when I asked you what flavor you would like that morning, but admittedly seemed a little confused by the ingredients that were strewn across the counter: cans of coconut milk, a jar of integral collagen and almond butter, bags of maca powder and frozen bananas, a jug of MCT Oil–the place looked like a veritable laboratory. But you didn’t utter a word of worry and graciously accepted the amalgamation that I handed you that morning (that did not include honey, mind you). Luckily, my prior discovery of that particular concoction saved the day and you’ve asked for it four mornings in a row.

Every time I handed it to you this week I feel like such a cheat. Technically, shakes aren’t really allowed on the Whole30 (which is why I tend to refer to what you are doing as Whole30(ish)), but it just didn’t seem feasible or sustainable for you to get up even earlier than you already do to sit down to a breakfast of eggs and fruit. Fruit and coconut milk whirled together for a quick breakfast on the go does not bother me, and our purpose in eating this way isn’t to change up your morning routine, so I made an executive decision to just make the shake for you anyway and turn myself into a miserable rule breaker.

IMG_2673

Everything else you’re eating is compliant–meaning, you are drinking your coffee black (or with unsweetened almond milk); you are avoiding alcohol, you have cut out all sweeteners (even stevia), and you are not eating grains, legumes, or dairy. In other words, you are eating what’s left: vegetables, fruits, proteins, nuts/seeds. Big picture: you’re rocking it. (And for the past three mornings, you have woken up saying, “Man, I slept well last night.” That’s new.) We are mature enough to make decisions about what we eat, are we not? If we work well within the limits of whole, real, fresh, organic, unsweetened, unprocessed, etc.–won’t we all win? If a shake in the morning helps us do it, I say break out the blender and put it to good use.

Today is Day 5 and I was happy to send you off into your day armed again with food that will make you feel good about life. A shake in one hand and a bag heavy with mixed greens with salmon and capers, unsweetened dried apricots, and raw almonds in the other, you left for work sipping that creamy concoction that forever will be dubbed, Joey’s Favorite. (I love that it’s your favorite.)

Joey’s Favorite Almond Butter and Banana Shake

IMG_2813

If it bothers anyone to call this a Whole30 shake, then don’t call it that: but it is a Paleo one (and vegan, to boot). If you’re doing the Whole30, skip the honey (you will find you don’t really need it anyway if your banana is super ripe).  This shake is not compliant with the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) that I’m doing at the moment, but I’m very much looking forward to adding it back into my own personal rotation of morning eats.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk (not coconut beverage) or 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 large frozen banana (broken into about four small pieces)
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened almond butter
  • 1 Tablespoon maca powder
  • 1 scoop integral collagen (or collagen peptides)
  • 1 teaspoon MCT oil (omit if using coconut milk)
  • 1-2 teaspoons honey (optional)
Method:

First get out your high speed blender, bonus if you have a single serving shake cup. Pour the milk into the cup (or pitcher of your blender), add all other ingredients, and process until smooth. The mixture will be thick. We prefer our shakes this way, but if it’s too thick for you just add a little more almond milk (if using), or some water and process again to combine.

 

 

 

Back to School · Changing Seasons · main dishes · Motherhood · Paleo · Wrestling with Reality

Death (or Saying Goodbye) and Life (or Saying Hello), and Chorizo Spiced Pork Roast

 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17

Dear Joey,

It is fitting that school starts in the Fall: the classic symbol of change that is both beautiful and terrifying. Fall is death put on glorious display, isn’t it?

Ok so fine—a new school term doesn’t bring death, exactly. Forgive me for being dramatic. Most folks probably think of it as a fresh start, a reset button that puts things back to normal in an instant. But it does put an end to the carefree days of summer, and there is mourning for the loss of the freedom summer represents, isn’t there?

IMG_2716

The words of Paul are ringing in my ears this week: the old has gone and the new is here indeed. Death and life and renewal and starting over—all these things are vying for my attention these days, and all of them from a whole host of places, not the least of which is watching Mia put the final dividing line between herself and her babyhood while Addie insists on losing more teeth and inching her way to my own height. This day has been a long time coming, and last fall brought with it a sense that life as we loved it was dying a slow death, and I wasn’t ready to face it. But life changed anyway, didn’t it? And here we are back at the start of another school year, saying hello to a new chapter in the life of our family. I feel more prepared for it this time because I know this fall season really is a fresh start.

IMG_2696

The girls seemed to feel the same way. Waving goodbye to us on the first day didn’t pose a problem for either of them. We walked them to the playground and helped them line up and followed them to their classrooms because we were sure they needed us. Mia tromped off with the rest of her Kindergarten class without so much as a backward glance at us. Addie saw tears glaze my eyes and bent down to hug me, saying “Don’t worry Mama, I’ll come home after school. I promise.” Saying goodbye to each other on the second day of school was harder. The girls’ pained eyes poked holes in my heart as I eased my fingers from their grip and urged them forward into the unfamiliar, terrifying reality of change. The idea of going to a new school this year seemed exciting right up until the moment they actually had to let go of my hands and walk themselves to the playground without us. In a flurry of tears and tentative hearts, they walked away from me, seemingly unsure of themselves. I waved goodbye to them as bravely as I could, wishing I could nestle myself in a corner somewhere, watching and waiting, ready to intervene on their behalf the moment trouble comes.

img_6026.jpg

I couldn’t help feeling this way, of course. I am a normal mother with a natural need to protect, nurture, and sustain her children. They couldn’t help feeling insecure any more than I could help wishing I could make everything better in an instant. Of course they felt timid and unsure: everything was new. The people, the buildings, the rules, the uniforms—even their backpacks and lunch boxes and shoes were new. Why would I ever expect them to feel completely confident to take all the newness on themselves? In that moment of goodbye, I couldn’t do much else but smile through my tears and hope it helped them understand that new isn’t necessarily bad, and is often, in fact, actually good.

IMG_7061

We forget that new isn’t always bad, don’t we? I sure do, especially because it seems that when something is new, it renders something else old. Old things pass away, and death is difficult, so managing our feelings about losing the things we love gets tricky. We learn this lesson every year when summer ends and the leaves turn color and quietly settle into their final resting place. Soon fall slips into a quiet winter, a time of mourning that does eventually melt away, waking to the brilliant bloom of Spring. The point? The promise of new life hinges on old things passing away, but saying goodbye isn’t the end. New life lingers just around the corner. Don’t you think we ought to say hello?

IMG_7057

This is happening in other places in my life this season, too. It is in the reality of living in this new place, of course, and the reality of how it feels to know that part of our story has ended. It’s showing up in friendships and projects and plans and food and any semblance of normalcy that I had before my health issues took an uncomfortable turn over the summer. Admittedly, it felt like this season held the end of life as I knew it. Control over my health slipped even further from my grip, I spent the summer sequestered at home managing my symptoms and squeezing in appointments and going in for blood draws and scopes and ultrasounds—and came out the other end with a few more questions to answer, as well as the relief that comes with a doctor who confirms my suspicions: that colitis is casting its sickly spell on my insides. It came as no surprise that I have a disease that needs my attention, and walking away from his office this summer, prescription in hand, left me wondering how to manage it in the long term. Clearly, gluten is a known problem. But it’s not the only problem these days, and the best way I know how to deal with the unpleasant reality is to say goodbye to simple gluten freedom. Embracing a new way of living isn’t easy or fun, exactly–but I’m encouraged, because the promise of renewal lingers just around the corner, sad as I may be about the reality I face.

IMG_2030

So this season, I’m doing my best to lift my eyes above my circumstance and say, “What’s next?” with the sort of grace that only comes from acknowledging loss and greeting a new reality with hope. What other choice do I have? Modeling this for the girls helps me believe things will get better: I leave them with a kiss and a smile as they skip off into a new school day without the support system to whom they are accustomed, but I assure them they’re going to be alright. This is new, but this is good, I say as I give them one last squeeze. And when I wave goodbye to those smiling little darlings as they head off to their day, it reminds me that we can’t bask in the beauty of anywhere new if we dig our feet in and refuse to leave familiarity behind. So by the grace of God, and with His help, we walk, together, waving goodbye to the old and hello to the new in one hope-filled gesture.

Love,

Scratch

Chorizo Spiced Pork Roast

IMG_2611

This is one of my go-to meals, meaning this: when I run out of creative steam to keep dinner new and exciting, I give myself a break, pull out my crock pot, and get a batch of this pork going. It’s fast, easy, and versatile (and inexpensive, to boot!). Plus (and this could be the most compelling reason why I love it so much) everyone around my kitchen table cheers for it. I make it for friends more often than they appreciate, I’m sure, but no one ever seems to mind. (In fact, most of them end up asking for the recipe, so if that is you? Here you go.) I’m especially fond of it now because as I transition to a Paleo lifestyle, I am thankful to have so many well-loved recipes that work within that framework. Shred it and fold it into corn tortillas (if you aren’t Paleo), lay it atop a baked sweet potato, or pile it high on top of a bed of cauliflower rice. Drizzle with some hot sauce and sprinkle on some cilantro and you’re golden. (Add more spice blend if you want a little bit more heat, but as written, this recipe does not wallop your tongue with a punch of heat.) The picture above shows a double recipe, which is just as easy as a single recipe (which is written below). Just double the ingredients–the cook time remains the same. And don’t skip the red wine vinegar! It makes the other flavors come alive.

Ingredients:
  • One 2 pound pork loin roast
  • 2 Tablespoons Chorizo Spice Blend (recipe below)
  • 1 medium onion–any color you choose, but I tend to use yellow
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
Method:

Spray Crock Pot with non-stick cooking spray (such as Trader Joe’s Coconut Oil Spray). Slice the onion and lay it on the bottom of the crock pot. Then, wash the pork roast, pat it dry, and lay it on top of the bed of onions. Sprinkle a thick layer of the Chorizo Spice Blend on top of the roast, then pat it to cover as much of the roast as you can. Carefully pour 1/4 cup of water into the bottom of the crock pot, around the perimeter of the roast. Do the same for the red wine vinegar, then put the lid on.

Cook on high for 4 hours; then turn to low and cook for an additional 2 hours (alternatively, cook it for 8 hours on low). Once the meat is fall-apart-tender, shred and toss it with its own juices and the onions and serve.

Chorizo Spice Blend

img_2931.jpg

This recipe is based on Diane Sanfilippo’s recipe in Practical Paleo, 1st Edition, which is super informative and helps make taking the plunge into Paleo not quite so daunting (Thank you Diane! You’re a life saver, kinda in the literal sense.) I keep a jar of this spice mix in the pantry at all times because I love it so very much. I’m sure you will too.

Ingredients:
  • 4 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
Method:

Measure all spices into a jar with a lid and shake until evenly distributed.