Autumn without the treats

Just two years ago around this time, you would have found me in the kitchen using up all the flour & sugar making some deeeeelicious treats. Fall has always been my prime time for trying out special recipes and getting into a good grove with baking my favorites (I still have a fall baking magazine from 2012 that I just cannot bear to get rid of because there are so many goodies inside!). But for nearly the past two years, I’ve been eating paleo.

Last year, I pretty much relied on Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain books. They are so good. And it was fun to learn grain-free baking! But in recent months, my restrictions have increased (boooo!) and I am now grain-free, dairy-free, legume-free, egg-free, nut-free (almonds/cashews), garlic-free, and mostly sugar-free. This pretty much puts me in the AIP camp (autoimmune paleo).

I’m usually pretty good at eating as I should (and trying to make it interesting!), but man oh man! the fall goods! the pumpkin! It’s sometimes depressing walking into Trader Joe’s and shielding my eyes from what used to be some of my staples. I know that a more virtuous person than me would accept these limitations and not dwell on them. Me, however – I need to get creative and find ways to keep me satisfied without lusting after Kevin’s english muffin with pumpkin cream cheese (which I still do…).

Some of my saving recipes as of late that still give me that taste of fall (all paleo/AIP):

  • Crockpot Clam & Pumpkin Chowder from the Urban Poser – I haven’t made it with clam yet, but usually incorporate some sort of protein (turkey patties, prosciutto). It is delicious and we’ve had it once a week for the past several weeks.
  • Pumpkin, Bacon, and Chive Biscuits from the Urban Poser – THESE BISCUITS! They are fantastic and totally compliant. Well, they call for eggs, but I instead used flax-eggs with great success.
  • Squash Porridge from the Urban Poser – one week I had this four days in a row – any type of squash works. It’s that good. I did have to remove the chocolate chips (even the dairy/soy/nut free ones!) as well as the honey when my doctor and I decided I should avoid allllllll sugar. But with the strawberries and a bit of coconut manna, it’s still pretty dang wonderful. And what a breakfast to wake up to on a fall morning! I pop the squash in the oven immediately upon waking, do my morning things, and then enjoy this bad boy.

Other things that I’ve daringly incorporated into my diet for the sake of their incredible health benefits are sardines (actually pretty good as long as I do NOT mistakenly get the ones with skin & bones….gross), chicken liver (the first time I cooked these I had to mentally get over what I was eating, but have since enjoyed them!), and more collagen. So it’s been a new type of fall for me, but I’m surviving :). Let’s pray this is all temporary, though, and that full healing will come!

Whole 30ing all over again

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Last March/Lent was when I committed to my first Whole 30. I had always been someone who believed all diets/cleanses were fads (I thought gluten-free people were just being ridiculous) and were pointless. As long as you ate balanced and lived a healthy lifestyle, you should be fine. But I guess almost two years ago now is when I began really to think hard about the connection between food & health. There are obvious no-no’s when it comes to nutrition, but what if things like my cycle, my period, my skin, or my fatigue could all be improved by changing the way I eat? What if I didn’t have to get a prescription for every little symptom that arose? What if it was, in fact, all connected?

So by this time last year after a great deal of research, I had begun to limit my intake of dairy & grains, but would still eat both casually here and there. The thought of eliminating them entirely was overwhelming – my solutions for quick & cheap meals had consistently been homemade pizza, fruit & yogurt, a sandwich, or a dish with rice/quinoa.  As for the legumes, that’s what I had replaced most of our grains with – so that was kind of a big deal as well. And sugar? I didn’t realize how much sugar I consumed on a regular basis until it was entirely removed. That was difficult (mainly because of the sugar withdrawal headaches).The alcohol portion, not a huge deal as I’m not much of a drinker anyway.

While I didn’t complete the Whole 30 perfectly, I was still pretty dang faithful. And I felt good. But very soon after, I went back to occasional dairy (mainly goat products, but not exclusively), dry/soaked beans, and slowly sugar crept its way back into my life again. And I’ll be honest when I say as much as I avoid grains like the plague, if it “accidentally” shows up in something I’ve ordered out at a restaurant (like breadcrumbs) – I eat it. And then there are corn chips & potato chips…my greatest downfall of all time. With the one exception, perhaps, being those tasty (and expensive) Starbucks lattes.

As of late, I’ve also been indulging like mad in sweet treats – all grain-free and mostly dairy-free – but still sweetened with honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and dark chocolate. And while most ingredients may be “compliant” for overall health, temperance Katie! There’s nothing wrong with enjoying these kinds of goods here and there (I’m not the food police!), but I’ve let it become my norm, essentially. While the whole 30 is a challenge with a time frame, it’s also a lifestyle. We are meant to learn from our experience, and apply those guidelines going forward if what we’re seeking is to truly improve our health. There is a reason this diet bans “replacement foods” with compliant ingredients.

So here I am. Ready for another 30 days of no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no sugar, and no alcohol. And while we’re at it, probably no caffeine (which I’ve mostly adapted to recently anyway). Will it be difficult? Yes and no. But mostly no. Last year it was difficult. But one of the greatest fruits of a Whole 30 is changing our perspective on food. A lot of the habits that began last March have now become second nature to me. I try to check myself if I find it becoming an something of an obsession, but I think I really just enjoy the model the Whole 30 lays out, knowing and having confidence in what I put in my body, and the creativity that it urges me towards.

Now that we’ve entered ordinary time and the Christmas season is officially over (wahhh), let us begin. Day one, today!

Paleo Buffalo Chicken Soup

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I’m always trying to be creative with the meals I prepare for our family. For the past many months, it has felt like I haven’t really had a kitchen to work with, so our food consumption has been a bit off. But we’ve been getting back into the swing of things and are back to a more paleo diet (with some full-fat/organic dairy mixed in here and there). And with the beautiful season of fall upon us, I’ve been enjoying putting together various soups. I love soups because they are so simple, yet, when done right, can be delicious and satisfying.

I came across this recipe on Pinterest, and while I ended up making something very different, it served as lovely inspiration. This is a hearty soup, and can be as spicy as you choose.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup buffalo sauce
  • 1 15-oz can black beans
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 3 cups cauliflower
  • 2 large boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper to tase
  • 1 tsp dried parsley

Instructions:

  1. Boil water in a large pot, add chicken & cauliflower. Once chicken is fully cooked, remove from water (along with cauliflower), shred with fork, and set aside.
  2. Empty the pot of the water and add in the remaining ingredients and stir for a few minutes.
  3. Add in the chicken and cauliflower, mixing well. The cauliflower should be almost mashed, if not entirely, for added thickness.
  4. Your proportions may vary depending on how you like your soups. For greater thickness, add more coconut milk (or heavy cream and/or butter for less coconut flavor). For less thickness, add water. For spicier soup, add more buffalo sauce. 🙂

We enjoyed this soup with a little bit of sour cream on top (yes it’s dairy, but it’s sooo good). This made about 6 full servings for us and we kept it in the fridge for 3 days. I can’t wait to make it again!

Top Recipes // July

I’m a bit late – I wanted to post this for July since August will be the month of limited cooking as we’re in transition (I packed up pretty much everything kitchen related yesterday). But here it is! My favorite recipes for last month!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am looooving this grain-free sandwich/burger bread/bun. It really comes out like it does in that picture. It can be a bit dry, but I guess that also means it’ll last longer? We wouldn’t know. One batch makes 4 buns, I’ve doubled it to make 8.

This bread is also good – a delicious almond & flax seed mix. It’s a nice breakfast bread, and it’s essentially an excuse to get a good serving of Kerrygold butter.

This buffalo shrimp & cabbage salad was SO refreshing. Typically our lunches consist of kale, nuts, avocado (if we have any to spare), olive oil/balsamic vinegar, and some type of meat…sometimes. Needless to say, while I enjoy it, the repetition gets to be a bit much. So when we venture into new territory, it’s exciting. I’d had a head of cabbage in the fridge for…a while, but that’s why I love cabbage. It lasts long, it’s packed with nutrients, and it provides way more servings than you think it will. We also had frozen shrimp in the freezer and kinda improvised with a lot of other ingredients. But all in all, it had the essence of this recipe. It lasted several servings and was super tasty.

Paleo nachos. No explanation needed. This was the inspiration, but we’ve taken it every which way since. And I have not looked back. We always have sweet potatoes on hand, the rest of the ingredients vary. But it’s just.so.good.

Anything with eggs is always a free for all, but Kevin says my sweet potato quiche is the best quiche I’ve ever made – eggs, sweet potatoes (sautéed for a bit), arugula, bell peppers (sautéed with sweet potatoes). And topped with just a bit of sour cream.

My special homemade granola! Reasons I love living by Trader Joe’s – super inexpensive nuts & seeds! Which makes for an awesome grain-free granola. Cashews, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes…smash it all up, add some maple syrup, coconut oil, and salt, and bake for 12 minutes at 350. It’s so good. The perfect snack for me.

And lastly – let’s not forget the buffalo popcorn. A simple & fun snack for hanging out with the husband and watching a movie or playing a board game. Literally, just make some popcorn (pre-bagged or on the stove), heat up some butter & buffalo sauce…mix. Boom.

I’d like to thank pinterest for expanding my horizons.

 

Grain-free & Dairy-free Shepherd’s Pie

I hope everyone had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day and remembered to honor the Saint who we celebrate! I didn’t have much time to do anything super special, but we woke up to Celtic music, had Irish Soda Bread, enjoyed shepherd’s pie (below) for lunch, and then Kevin was able to go the Cathedral for midday Mass and get our annual St. Patrick’s Day shamrock! I also listened to the Celtic Pandora station all day at work…so that was a little treat.

If you’re wondering why I was so determined to make Shepherd’s Pie while completing a Whole 30, please read here (where there is also a recipe for compliant Irish Soda Bread).

Bottom line: Shepherd’s Pie is delicious and comforting and, when using the right ingredients, moderately healthy and nutrient dense. So all the Irish and Irish-wannabes enjoy!

Shepherd's Pie

Grain-Free & Dairy-Free Irish Shepherd’s Pie

Filling

  • 1 lb. pastured, organic ground beef
  • 4 organic carrots (chopped 1/4 inch thin)
  • 2 organic celery stalks (chopped 1/4 inch thin)
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 3/4 C organic beef broth
  • 3 Tbsp. organic tomato paste
  • 4 tsp. arrowroot powder (or just thicken to your liking)
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt

Topping

  • 1 cauliflower head
  • 1/4 C coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1 Tbsp. Ghee
  • 1 Tbsp. Garlic Powder

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (F). For the filling, cook the ground beef in a large pan (very technical terms). Once the meat is cooked through and you’ve added your seasoning, add the chopped carrots, celery, and onions and sauté. Alternate adding the tomato paste, beef broth, and arrowroot powder until you get a nice and thick consistency. Put off to the side. Boil water and throw in the roughly chopped cauliflower (I did this part the night before so I didn’t have to worry about the topping). Once it is soft enough to mash, drain the cauliflower and mash it, mixing in the remaining ingredients. Pour the filling into a lovely 8X8ish dish, and then spread the cauliflower mixture on top. Bake for about 15 minutes and then if you’re feeling daring you can broil it for another 5 minutes to get a nice browned top.

This amount filled me and Kevin for three full meals (with a little side of cabbage and arugula). Super delicious and loaded with flavor, so I don’t feel like I’m missing the dairy that I love so much. So enjoy! And keep it on hand for a festive occasion!

Breastplate of St. Patrick

Grain-Free & Dairy-Free Irish Soda Bread

While there really is never an “ideal” time to do complete a Whole 30, I figured Lent would be the easiest, since it’s really not much of a time to indulge anyway. And I’d say it’s worked out well, thus far. My one hesitation, though, was the few great feasts during this solemn time – St. Patrick’s Day, the solemnity of St. Joseph, and the solemnity of the Annunciation! As a Catholic who strives to live the liturgical year in a very real way, I am all on board with fasting, but I am just as much on board with feasting – all in the right time.

St. Patrick’s day is a big feast in the Gearns household. One of the first things I learned about Kevin back in the day was that St. Patrick is his favorite Saint. There are numerous reasons for Kevin’s love of this great man, and I’ve come to know him and appreciate him so much more over the years. I think too often people just associate him with this secularized holiday with parades, Guinness, and pubs. And by all means celebrate, but do not forget the man whom we honor!

Anyway, we dream about fun ways to celebrate this feast with our family, and this year being our first, is more of an intro year since I am so busy with two jobs, we don’t have access to a bonfire (yes, that’s one of our goals), annnnnd I’m doing this ridiculous diet where I can’t eat anything fun. So out the window went my grand plans of Irish Potato candies (a long tradition in my family), Guinness chili, bangers and mash, and the like. But I was determined to still make some festive food, even if I could not use the typical ingredients.

So project one: Grain-free Irish Soda Bread! I’ll admit, I was skeptical (as I always am when I start eliminating standard things like FLOUR), but this recipe held it’s own! Inspiration started here to help me get started with flour ratios (the world of non-grain flours is still a complex one to me). For me, less is more. I just get overwhelmed if I see an ingredient list of 15+ items. I abstained from any sugar or sweetener, and it still tastes great. So the following is what I settled on:

  • 1-1/4 C Almond Flour
  • 2 Tbsp. Coconut Flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. Coconut Milk (full fat)
  • 1/2 C. Raisons

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Whisk all the dry ingredients, and then add in the vinegar, eggs, and coconut milk (almond milk works well too). I used my kitchenaid stand mixer on low (don’t beat it too, too much!) and then mix in the raisons. Lightly oil a cookie sheet, and place the dough in a ball shape on the sheet. And for the final touch, add that simple cross with a knife. Place in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes!

When it is done, thoroughly enjoy with some Kerrygold Butter (that’s compliant, right?). I promise you’ll like it. 🙂

A feast to start the month off right!

A feast for one of our favorite Saints and for the beginning of our favorite month! On me and Kevin’s first date, we spoke of our favorite Saints and why they were so important to us. It was well-known from the beginning that I had a special place for St. Therese (along with most of the Catholic world!) and Kevin felt very close with St. Patrick.

It was actually under an image of St. Therese that we met! At a young adult gathering at a friend’s apartment, Kevin was inquiring to some ladies about their love for St. Therese (pointing to the painting) – I forced my way in there, did my thing, etc.

After dating for a few months, dear Mother Olga suggested each of us pray to the other’s favorite Saint each day in a special way for the other. So Kevin bought for me a medal of St. Patrick and a medal of St. Therese for himself, which we both wore from that day forward.

Engagement!

Our engagement also took place at the feet of a St. Therese statue at my home parish in PA. It was a beautiful full circle (and she was there on our wedding day!). Soooo…Kevin and I are quite fond of her and super grateful for her intercession in our lives and, more specifically, our relationship.

I had the joy of visiting the National Shrine of St. Therese outside Detroit this past Easter when I visited my close friend, Elise. It was super beautiful and peaceful, and I just cannot talk her up enough. She is true to her promises, that little one. She does so much for us up in heaven, and I’m grateful to have such a powerful intercessor by my side!

So for our celebration of this beautiful day entering such a glorious month, Kevin and I enjoyed a little feast of our own. A nice autumnal meal if you will. Cider-Dijon glazed pork chops, hot spiced apple cider, and homemade pumpkin ice cream (dairy-free!). A delicious evening indeed! Happy feast day!

My Long Awaited Mojito

For a few months now, I’ve had this random fantasy building inside my head. It all started when my friend Sarah and I decided we were going to become expert gardeners…

We obviously went right to Home Depot, bought all the seeds we wanted, got some pots, purchased some soil, and planted away. We both planted some tomatoes, basil, a few other things, and it was my personal dream to grow mint. Why? So I could make mojitos, obviously. My head ran away from me as I thought about the summer: I’d be newly married, living just a short distance away from Sarah, we’d have our Saturday’s together on my balcony or her porch just lounging and drinking mojitos. And apparently this was all contingent upon the successful growth of my mint.

I tried. I tried I tried I tried. I did as every pinterest post on this herb told me to do. I covered it as directed, watered it as needed, gave it sun when the time came, and NOTHING. So a couple months later, I planted it again…the same.thing.happened. After multiple frustrations with this plant that (according to everyone else in the world) is just supposed to grow like crazy and cannot even be contained , I felt like a failure.

So one Friday night after work, I was headed to Sarah’s place and decided to go to a produce stand and pickup some gathered mint and limes (knowing the Melendez household is always stashed with good rum). Her husband, Javi, indulged us and made us our mojitos. And they were delicious. But for SOME reason (me – I am the reason), it wasn’t satisfying enough because it wasn’t my mint. It felt like I had cheated.

So last weekend after mass, I took Kevin to the farmer’s market and purchased a beautiful already grown pot of mint…

Mint

Immediately after my impulse buy, we went to the grocery store and picked up a bottle of rum, some tonic water, and limes. And shortly following that excursion, Sarah and I hung out…and we enjoyed our mojitos.

Sarah the mixologist

Cheers!