Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pie for Dinner

It even looks cuddly.

This meal is comfort.  It's your favorite hoodie, your fuzziest socks, your most comfy quilt.  It's been a couple of weeks since I made this and just thinking about it I have the urge to snuggle down with a hot cup of tea and lots of blankets and books.

Well Fed by Melissa Joulwan is a great cookbook.  I love that she is all about buying and prepping food ahead, and that she thinks a lot like I do when it comes to food combining.  I squealed with excitement when I saw that there is a section in the book that's just ideas for combining veggies and protein!  I day dream about different combinations, and this book came at a time when I was ready for some new thoughts and inspiration.  She also loves Eastern European food.  In my opinion, that's the most comforting cuisine and is closest to how I define the food I grew up eating.  I heart cabbage.
And, she's a huge fan of Penzey's Spices.
I do believe Ms. Joulwan and I could be friends.  
Her book also has pretty pictures and places for you to take your own notes! And I love the paper it's printed on.  You should buy it.  I bought it when Amazon sucked me into their free shipping with $35 (although that used to be $25, didn't it?) and so I had to buy something else to get the free shipping.  Silly, but you've all done it too, right?

Shepard's Pie is a recipe from Well Fed.  She uses ground lamb, but I went with beef, making this Cottage Pie instead.  I followed her directions for the most part, adding more of this, less of that, making it work for us, but the base of this is not my recipe, however, it's so good that it needs to be shared in as many mediums as possible.

First of all, the mashed cauliflower is like... I really, I don't have words.  It's the mashed cauliflower recipe you only wished existed.  And it's forgiving.  I've made it a few times now, and I don't measure anything, and it always works.  You'll need one batch of this for the pie, so once it's made, just set it aside until needed.

1 large bag of frozen cauliflower
1 garlic clove, crushed (I use more)
1 1/2 TBSP coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
chives if you wish

Cook the cauliflower according to the package- I chose to steam/saute it with some chicken stock- until it's soft, but not overly cooked.  Drain any extra liquid and transfer to a food processor.  In a small pot, combine the oil, milk, garlic, salt and pepper, and heat it through a bit before adding it to the cauliflower and processing it all together until smooth.  Add in chives and give a bit of a pulse to combine, or just use them as a garnish. 

You can get the rest of the dish moving while your cauliflower is cooking.

1 heaping TBSP of coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced- I just used a handful of shredded carrots
2 cloves of garlic (I used more)
2 pounds of grass fed ground beef
1 TBSP tomato paste- I think I used just a little more
1 cup beef or chicken stock
1 tsp coconut aminos (I'd say I went 2 tsp, you could use Tamari or even soy sauce if you wish)
1 tsp dried rosemary (I definitely used more)
1/2 tsp dried thyme (I used a bit more)
3 egg whites
paprika to garnish- I omitted this as I'd already thrown in a bit of nightshade action with the tomato paste.

Oven will need to be preheated to 400 degrees.

Heat a large skillet and add the coconut oil.  Once it's melted, add the onion and carrot, salt and pepper, cover and allow to get soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the beef (or lamb if you choose) and break it up into small pieces and cook until thoroughly done and browned.
Melissa doesn't suggest doing this, and maybe with lamb it's not needed, but I found it necessary to drain off the excess grease.  I used 85% lean, so I had some fat needing drained.  I use the method my dad always used... you lean the pan and push the food to the upper side allowing the grease to fall, then spoon it out.
Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Add tomato paste, stock, coconut aminos, rosemary, and thyme to the pan.  Stir to combine and allow it some time to cook down until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Set the pan aside and allow to cool a little, around 10 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
Beat the 3 egg whites until frothy and stir into the meat mixture.


You'll need a large casserole.  Spread the meat mixture evenly, and then pour out the mashed cauliflower on top.  Carefully.  Then spread it with a very light hand evenly on top of the meat.  Then, gently drag the tongs of a fork across to make criss crosses so it looks all pretty.  Sprinkle with paprika if you like.  Bake for 30 minutes or so, and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.  Kale on the side was perfect. 

So, that's it.  The ultimate comfort food.  When you're feeling all nesting like, make this.  And even though it's really quite easy, it tastes complicated and special enough that I'd make it for guests too- as long as they don't mind if it's a yoga pants and fuzzy socks kind of get together.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

A week of food.

For a really long time now, Sundays have been my cooking day.  Until recently, I would just make something to eat on Sunday that could become leftovers later in the week.  I might prep some veggies for the week, or perhaps bake some chicken.  It stopped there.

Shit has gotten serious now, though.  I am trying to make sure we have dinners, breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for the week.  I don't want to depend on Lara ALT bars or some of the other filler snacks, like popcorn or hummus that are not autoimmune friendly. 

This is what I did last Sunday: 

Cooked a pound of chicken breasts for salads and post-gym snacks
Cooked a pound of bacon (Whole Foods thick cut dry rubbed) for the soup I was making, salads for the week, and for the bacon fat. 
Steamed a head of cauliflower and tons of broccoli (and used most for making a soup and put aside the rest for salads and snacks)
Roasted a butternut squash (to be put together with other friends to create a meal)
Steamed 2 heads of kale (soon to become besties w/ the butternut squash)
Chopped an onion, parsnips, and Japanese sweet potatoes... Seared 2 large bone in pork chops and baked them with the veggies.  (This will be 2 dinners for us and a lunch for one of us)

Let's Break it Down.

I buy chicken (both breasts and thighs) at Whole Foods, in their 3+ pound family packages.  When I get home, I break it down into 3 portions.  I cut each breast in half and butterfly them, then freeze.  Once thawed, I saute the chicken in coconut oil and spices.  It goes into a container and into the fridge until it's needed.  When I use the chicken for salads, I cut it into bite size pieces and saute the pieces in coconut oil until they get a little brown on all the edges.  Just adds a little more flavor for the salads.  As a snack, I just wrap a piece in foil and eat cold as is. 

For the bacon.  I put the oven on 425 and cover a cookie sheet with foil.  I lay out each slice and put it right in the oven for about 25 minutes until it's crispy.  I lay it out on paper towel and reserve the grease in a ramekin and reserve for later recipes.   I am sure to cover the ramekin with foil since Henry got up on the counter overnight one time when I didn't and well... that was the ONLY time in recent memory that he didn't whine for food all. day. long.  I've started giving him a few drops on his food when I have it around.  He's 12.  It makes him happy.  Once the bacon is cooled, I chop it into little pieces for the soup and for salads and a tiny piece or two for Simcoe's kong. 

High quality bacon is a must.  No nitrates.  Buy the best you can get your hands on.  Worth it. 
Once I roasted the butternut squash (I use coconut oil to roast) and steamed the kale, I chopped up some leftover chicken sausage and added it all to a large saute pan along with some chopped garlic and a little chopped bacon.  Once it came together, it went into a pyrex and into the fridge. 

Oh, and I added some bacon to this too.  When I commit to making a pound of bacon, it goes in almost everything.  How can you argue with that logic? 
The above meal is what I'm really about for breakfast/lunch.  1 starchy veg, 1 green veg, 1 protein, fat and flavor.  Each week I base this on what is on sale, what I have in the fridge/freezer, or I just start with something I am hungry for and go from there.  

The next 2 recipes come from/are inspired by Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo.
If you are considering cleaning up your diet, this book is pretty awesome.  I don't like going around saying I am Paleo because I'm really not.  I am certainly moving in that direction for my autoimmunity and for performance and for my overall feeling awesome, but I'm not comfortable with the label.  (For some reason, I see a bunch of people at a Cross Fit gym sitting around drinking bone broth and degrading others for eating an occasional cracker?? Not a fair assessment, I'm sure... but that's the internet for you.) Not only does she provide an entire education on digestion and such, she has sections for whatever your health issues/goals may be and directs you in eating appropriately.  Her recipes are also fantastic.  Like with most recipes, I alter them a bit to make them my own and to make them work for me, but she has killer ideas. 

The soup. 

Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup
Honestly, this could not be easier and it is crazy delicious and filling for how little it is.  I steamed the broccoli and cauliflower together with salt and pepper in a large soup pot with some chicken stock on the bottom.  When it was soft, I blended it in batches with chicken stock until it had the consistency I wanted.  Oh- I did roast some garlic (several cloves, EVOO, wrapped in foil, baked for about 20 minutes on 400 or so) to one of the batches.  When it was all smooth I allowed it time in the soup pot to come together and to add in some additional salt and pepper.  Into a pyrex and into the fridge.  I will garnish all servings with some bacon crumbles.  

Last is dinner.

Spiced Pork Chops with Root Vegetables 

3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 large onion, quartered, then halved will do
3 Japanese sweet potatoes, cut into pieces- can be a bit larger than parsnips- the parsnips are the slowest cookers in this party.
** Japanese sweet potatoes are pretty small, like a tiny regular variety sweet potato. You can easily omit them (Original recipe doesn't include them at all) or you could use 1 large regular variety sweet potato.  I actually decided I wanted to add Brussels sprouts to this recipe, but it was the weekend after Thanksgiving and there were none to be found at Whole Foods or Kroger.  But, I found the pretty blue sweet potatoes instead.**
1 orange, peeled and cut into segments
Bacon fat or coconut oil

2 large bone in pork chops (Original recipe calls for a loin)
Dry Rub made from:
1 TBSP cumin
1 TBSP corriander
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 tsp salt
Bacon fat or coconut oil

Oven to 375- or to 400 if you have mine.  Put your chopped veggies and orange into large bowl and warm up a little bacon fat or coconut oil.  Pour enough fat over the veg and mix well so they get all glisteny and happy and evenly coated.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour into a large roasting pan and get those into the oven for a 20 minute head start.

Once the vegetables are going for about 15 minutes, dry off your pork chops with a paper towel and coat with the dry rub.  Heat up a little more bacon fat in a saute pan over medium heat and when it's hot, place the chops down for about 2 minutes- don't touch!  Give them a check- do you have you have a nice golden sear?  You should.  If not, go another minute, and then do the same thing on the other side.

Nicely seared.
After searing, pull out the vegetables and place the pork chops on top- and back into the oven.  You want to go until the pork reaches a temp of 145.  Don't have a meat thermometer?  Me either.  Mine died.  I've asked Mr. Nourishment Unadulterated if he could remedy this at Christmas.  I'm feeling hopeful. 
Instead, I went 30 minutes and gave them a check.  They were good to go.  You want them juicy and if it's a tiny bit pink, it's ok.  If you're not cool with that, cook them a little longer.  When you pull them out, they need to rest before you cut into them, so transfer them to a plate, and put your veg back in for about 5-10 minutes if they could use more time.  It's always the damn parsnips.  If all is well, let everything sit while you pour a glass of wine or pull up Real Housewives on the DVR.   Go ahead, you know you want to.  No judgement here since I'm likely watching too. 

The chops I got were quite large, so we shared one for dinner that night and saved the other one.  The next time we had it for dinner, I took all the meat off, cut it into bite size pieces and heated it up, along with the veg, in a non-stick with a little chicken stock.  It ended up being enough for Mr. NU to take for lunch one day.  5 meals out of this.  Nice. 
In a Day...

Here's how a typical day went for me after that huge Sunday prep...

I am at the gym by 5:20am or so.  Although I get up about 4:00am, I don't eat before I work out.  I discovered the power of this about a year ago.  For me- and that is FOR ME- I'm not saying this is the right thing for everyone- my workouts are better on an empty stomach.  I have more energy and push in me.  I do have my coffee, and a change I have made is using coconut milk instead of dairy half and half.  Baby steps. 

I usually don't eat until I get to school- I heat up breakfast around 7:45am before the students walk in.  This week, most days I had the butternut squash/kale/chicken sausage combo.  5th graders smelling garlic first thing in the morning is funny- most of them are intrigued by the food I eat- asking questions, sharing their culinary adventures... I'm hopeful for the next generation and find it so awesome that my kids are open to foods outside of McDonalds and Poptarts.  We talk about food and fitness a lot in Room 20.  Sometimes we do pushups too. 

Snack time in Room 20 is around 9:30-10:00.  We usually have a working snack, so it depends what we've got going on.  This week I was about some celery and olives.  Have you had this combination?  It is super good.  I'd also have about 2-3 ounces of chicken breast cold.  

We eat at 12:41pm.  Yes, 12:41.  I do my best to judge the between recess and lunch read aloud chapters appropriately.  That was easy with our last two read alouds- Wonder by RJ Palacio (one of the best books you will ever read) and Granny Torelli Makes Soup by the most amazing author ever, Sharon Creech.  It's harder to judge the time now, though. We're reading Tangerine by Edward Bloor and those chapters are crazy long.  Those 15 minutes of read aloud each day might be my favorite, and I think my kids would agree. 
For my lunches this week, I went for the soup.  It's always freezing in my room by mid-day, and usually in the teacher's lounge as well, so soup is nice.  I'd follow with an apple or any of my celery or olives leftover from snack.  On harder work out days, I'd also have a packet of tuna packed in olive oil. 

We did have the leftover pork, but we also did salads with the chicken a couple times this week.  Just like the ones in my Autoimmune Blows post.  No egg this week, but bacon sprinkles instead.  And chicken breast instead of thighs.  Salads are a twice a week dinner in our house.  It ensures we get some raw veg and it also makes planning fairly simple.  I've also discovered that even when we think we're not in the mood for salads, as soon as they are made and we have a bite, we realize we are. 

And now it's Sunday again... stay tuned for my next post, I got some good stuff cooking up today! 


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

I started Thanksgiving at 3:30am when the alarm went off.  Scott was heading to Atlanta, I was not.  He was on the road by 4:00 am and I was walking through the doors of American Family Fitness at 4:30 am ready for a 20 minute Abs class and an hour of cycling with my favorite instructor, Joe.  Tabata.  Pyramids. Thankfully, he plays awesome videos and they take away a little of the pain.  A great start to the day.  What is there to be more thankful for than the ability to work out?  It was also nice to visit with all of my gym friends who also live for early morning workouts... No one had to hurry off to work, and it was great to just chill in one of my favorite spaces without feeling rushed whatsoever.

And now the yummy part... A day of indulgence... Autoimmune who?!

I came home and made a Thanksgiving brunch for one.  A slice of toasted Udi's with cream cheese, chicken and apple sausage, and an egg cooked over medium.  For dessert, I pulled out a pumpkin scone from the freezer that I'd baked last month with a strong cup of coffee on the side.  It is Thanksgiving after all.  I get all my baking recipes from The Gluten Free Goddess and you can get that amazing recipe here.

Next came a rest and some reading time before delving into cooking up my signature Thanksgiving dishes.  Sadly, I wasn't spending this Thanksgiving with my man, but I am grateful to have been invited to the home of very sweet friends.

First up are my potatoes.  They are sweet and savory and perfectly creamy.  Everything you want beside a slice of perfectly cooked turkey.  This recipe has its roots so deep I can't even begin.  It goes way back to Amber and me and has had various versions... This is where I'm at with it at the moment...

Sweet and Savory Mashers. 


3-4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 TBSP coconut oil, melted in the microwave for 15 seconds
3 TBSP butter, split
2 TBSP half and half
2 TBSP fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 cup sliced shallots
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425.  Toss the cubed sweet potatoes with the coconut oil and season well with salt.  Place them in an even layer on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Every oven is different, and I end up putting mine up to 450 for the last 10 minutes or so.  You want them to be well done, very soft, falling apart, with some brown bits here and there.  While the potatoes are roasting,  place 1 TBSP of the butter in a small saute pan over medium heat.  When it's bubbly, add the sliced shallots with some salt and pepper.  Cook low and slow until well caramelized.  Don't be afraid to add a few splashes of chicken stock if deglazing is needed.   Set aside when done.
After you pull the sweet potatoes out of the oven, put them in a pot along with the butter, cream, rosemary, and shallots.  Give them a good mix and keep them on low stirring occasionally until you are ready to serve.  Freaking Amazeballs.  Add more salt and pepper if needed.  Or more cream and butter.  Today, it's okay. 

Caramelized Onion Stuffing.

Are you ready for this?  The first time I put this together I thought I might die.  I've been making it every year since.  It's heaven.  HEAVEN.  I really should make it more than just Thanksgiving.  It would be an amazing side dish to any protein.

At the point I was making this, I was running around my kitchen like a mad women to get everything ready and over to my friend's on time, so I have no pictures.  Honestly, it looks like stuffing.  You are intelligent and I think you can get by without a picture on this one. 

Preheat the oven to 375.

First, you need to get the onions going.  In the end, you want about a cup of caramelized onions, so go with about 3 large yellow onions, sliced.  Add 1 TBSP of butter and a TBSP of EVOO to a large saute pan.  When it's hot, add the onions.  Turn down the heat.  Go low and slow for about 40 minutes to an hour.  If deglazing is needed, pour in a little chicken stock.  See my post on onions here for more details and pictures of making caramelized onions.  Set them aside when they are done.  They should look like this:

While the onions are doing their thing and getting all perfect and sweet and lovely...
1/2 stick butter
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
Salt and pepper 
1 TBSP fresh thyme
1 TBSP fresh sage, chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock

2 eggs, beaten
2 TBSP parsley, chopped

1 loaf of Udi's White Bread, left out for a few hours, then cubed

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Aforementioned 1 cup caramelized onions

Melt the butter in a large saute pan.  Add the celery and onion, salt and pepper, and cook until soft.  Add the sage and thyme and give them a few more minutes, then add the broth.  Bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes.  Turn the burner off and allow to cool while you do the following:

Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl and add the parsley and bread.  Stir to combine.  When the broth veggie mixture is not simmering hot, add to the bread along with the caramelized onions and Parmesan cheese and mix well.

Butter a 8 x 11 baking dish.  Pour the stuffing mixture into the dish and top with a bit more Parmesan.  Bake for 30 minutes, covered, then uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

Lovelies, your days of Stove Top are so very over.

My last endeavor was an Apple Crisp, once again, all credit goes to Karina at Gluten Free Goddess.  You can find that recipe here.  It was phenomenal.  Even my non-dessert friend finished his full portion.  That was an enormous complement!  I served it with vanilla ice cream and it was apple pie perfection.  That's definitely happening again. 

Xandy and Roger were wonderful hosts and Simcoe and I had a wonderful time.  I loved that Xandy had a Tree of Thanks on the table and we all filled out what we were thankful for.  Here are mine:

Scott... to be married to my best friend.
The ability to lift, run, and cycle.
Our furry babies, Simcoe and Henry.
Great Friends.

See the little tags of thanks?  How cute, right? And the food... Everything was so freaking good. 

My night is ending with a glass of Cabernet and a little red furry on my lap.  I am hoping I can pull it together at midnight to score a couple good deals on, but at the moment, I am not feeling super confident.  I am confident, however, that my tail will be at the gym tomorrow working that enormous plate of food off my behind.  I'm okay with that. 

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Autoimmune Blows

My constant evolution with the food I use to fuel my body and my workouts continues.  I need to write it out, document the changes I feel, and hopefully figure some things out along the way.  I'm hoping for the experiences of others as well, because who can do this alone? 

Somewhere along the journey of losing 100 pounds, I realized I was never going to exist on chee-tos, Totino pizza rolls, and ginger ale ever again.  Along the way, a little at a time, my diet become more and more clean, more real, more whole.  It has left the inner parts of the grocery store and made it to mainly to the perimeter.  For some time now, I've made food.  From real, mainly organic, ingredients.  For about 6 years I was vegetarian.  Next, the whole joint super inflamed thing started becoming an issue a couple of years ago, and I gave up gluten.

Umm.... We won't talk about when I'm on vacation.  Or a couple months ago when I basically had a short hiatus that may or may not have included an entire Fried Talapia Reuben at Tarrant's Cafe.  I just read this post from when I first became gluten free and if my Then Self read this Now Self's current post she would be very disappointed.

I had actually started eating seafood occasionally when I gave up gluten, but without the gluten to help source my protein, I began eating meat again.  Eating meat feels good to my body.  Surprisingly so.  Physically at least.  Ethically I still fight it a bit. 

Not having gluten in my life is ok.  Overall, I don't miss it that much when cooking.  The gluten I use in cooking has been easy to replace.  (The oh so versatile Rice Chex...)  Eating out is more difficult, but I make it work.  Overall, it's just not that bad, but I'm not celiac.  If I have gluten in a sauce or give into temptation and have a bite of something I will not be running to the toilet.  I am fairy certain the inside of my body would not agree with that statement, but I don't fall to terrible immediate symptoms like some.  Admittedly, I sometimes don't want to ask 500 questions of a server.  Sometimes I don't want to appear rude to a host.  And I guess sometimes I am just weak and want a Reuben.  I feel for those who don't have that freedom. 

That all said, it's time for the next step of taking control over this wonderful autoimmune body of mine.  I swear I practically cry every time I read all the foods those with autoimmune issues should avoid.  Y'all ready?  Imagine Paleo but a million times more restrictive.  Here goes:  Grains (as in ALL of them- rice, corn, wheat, the lot.), beans, legumes, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, sugar, every vegetable oil outside of coconut and olive, chocolate, caffeine, coffee, alcohol (um, have you met me?!), nightshade vegetables, and possibly FODMAPs. (They include onions.  If you have read my very first post, or know me at all... no.  Can't be, will not be me.)

Effing REALLY?!

I started reading about it in much more depth only about a month ago.  I feel so behind.  At that time, I was miserable.  Yes, there was my gluten downfall- and I should say it was just a few meals, not like I was eating it daily, but I was feeling so bad, even though it'd been a month or so since my escapade.  EVERYTHING in my body was aching and hurting beyond recent memory.  And it was not because I like to lift heavy things at the gym.  I felt like I was on fire.  Sitting at Barnes and Noble (latte in hand, obviously) with hips so sore it hurt to sit and the middle of my back burning through my skin, I realized I felt just like I did 100 pounds ago.  Lost and confused and not knowing where to start.  So, I decided to start where I started 100 pounds ago.  With one thing at a time.  One change at a time.

I thought a lot about what foods I'd been eating that had been different.  Obviously, the few cheats with gluten, but I'd done that before and not felt THIS bad.  So, what was different?  Tomatoes.  It was the cusp of fall and I had been absolutely about some meatballs and sauce.  And tomato based soups, chili, and things like enchilada casserole.  I'd been cooking with tomatoes every weekend and eating those leftovers all week long consistently for about a month.  I don't dislike fresh tomatoes, but I don't seek them out, so I don't take in nearly as much of them in the summer months.  I figured it seemed most logical to start by cutting out nightshades.

Nightshades include tomatoes, white potatoes (not sweet thank you sweet Jesus), eggplant, and... so sadly, peppers.  All peppers.  EVERY single one of them.  That's where it hurts.  (At least peppercorns are safe.)  A quick Google will give you loads of info on how these veggies contain alkaloids, which are basically poison to folks with sensitivities.  The alkaloids in nightshades has been connected to chronic joint pain and inflammation. 

In my reading, I have noted that tomatoes seem to be the biggest offenders of those with nightshade issues, just like gluten is to those with grain allergies.  I've also read that some people can tolerate very small doses of nightshades, while others can tolerate none.  I felt like I should be hopeful for the membership into the first group. With this thought in mind, I have had the following small amounts of nightshades in the past month:  I used a jalapeno in some guacamole, prepared Curry (cayenne) in the recipe I'm posting today, taken a few bites of hash browns when we went out for breakfast, enjoyed an olive tapenade a friend brought over that had a bit of tomato in it, and indulged in the paprika that was sprinkled on the NOT roasted red pepper hummus I purchased. 

It's not been so bad.  And the best part?  I feel freaking awesome.  Like the best I have felt in a very long time.  Not only am I not feeling like a hot little inflamed mess, even the chronic black circles under my eyes (due to my cockroach poop allergies, according to the Doc) are lightening a bit, mentally I feel more clear- fewer anxious and depressed feelings, my knee joints aren't popping constantly, and my workouts have been fierce.  Oh, and the best part may be not having to put a hot wash cloth on my lower back to loosen it enough so I can bend down to brush my teeth in the mornings.  I think I'm onto something.
The idea is to eliminate all nightshades for 4-6 weeks, then go on a nightshade binge for a day to see what happens in the following 2-3 days.  This would then prove your sensitivity.  I can see it now.  Gluten free pizza for breakfast piled high w/ caramelized green peppers, spicy meatballs in a rich tomato sauce for lunch, and a crock pot full of chili topped with jalapenos for dinner.  I don't think I would plan a day out like that for real- although quite fun to imagine- but I am sure I will eventually give in to going to dinner at Maya, or will just absolutely not be able to take another minute without a a cheesy gooey tomatoey pasta casserole... and then we'll see what happens.  At the moment, I am feeling really good, so I'm just going to try to go with that. 

How I have treated this month with nightshades is close to how I am treating my overall approach to the autoimmune diet.  80% good... 20% still adapting. 

My thought about how I will approach my posts, for awhile anyway, is to take the full day around a recipe I want to post and use it as a snapshot of my progress- or lack there of, perhaps.

This is what I ate Thursday...  please excuse not only the poor photo quality, but also the somewhat cheesy, yet terribly convenient, photo collage.  I aim to do better.  But I still might keep the collages.  They are crazy fun to make. 

Breakfast:  Banana- because wow.  Look at that pathetic little guy.  Needed eaten.  I also had sauerkraut, and hash (I know it looks like ass, but I promise it's swoon worthy... please give the recipe below a chance...)
Snack:  Green tea (switching to decaf...), and an almond and coconut energy bite
Lunch:  Chicken thigh, sweet mashed potato, broccoli simply seasoned with only salt and pepper
Snack:  Hash
Pre-dinner:  Thursday evening cocktail:  Vodka, soda water, lime juice, splash of cranberry
Dinner:  Salad w/ Romaine, spinach, avocado, onion, carrots, cucumber, slivered almonds, broccoli, cauliflower, chicken thigh, homemade balsamic dressing, and a drizzle of Simply Dressed Feta dressing.  And a sweet potato and bacon autoimmune diet friendly biscuit.

Lots of stuff here that has me on the right track... the 80%...  The 20%... Almonds... agave in the energy bite... Vodka and cranberry... Feta dressing drizzle... And I absolutely had coffee w/ half and half that morning, but you all know what a cup of coffee looks like.  I will pat myself on the back for the fact that I am cutting back.  My coffee cup as I type is half full and cold.  And I will do everything in my power to not stop at Starbucks later or grab a coffee at Whole Foods while I shop.  We'll see how it goes.  I just can't completely promise.  Overall, this day is probably a bit better than 80%.  I'm sure I'll make up for that on the weekend.

Promise me you'll try this hash even if it's not pretty.  It's super good and comes together in a second once you have the squash roasted.  I made it on a Sunday to fuel us through the week for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, but it's fast enough that it would actually be great for a weeknight dinner.   Especially easy if the squash was roasted over the weekend prior, and I do love a good weekend food prep for the week ahead!  

Beef and Butternut Squash Hash

Preheat oven to 400.  

Coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Handful of shredded carrots
1 pound grass fed ground beef
1 medium butternut squash
Your favorite Curry- I used Penzey's Vindaloo

Cut the ends from the squash and peel.  Slice the squash in half and dig out all of the seeds.  Cut in cubes and put the cubes in a bowl.  Take about a TBSP of coconut oil and give it a quick melt in the microwave.  Pour a tiny bit at a time over the squash and toss until all the cubes are glistening and happy.  Pour them out onto a cookie sheet and bake them for about 30 minutes or so.  Give them a stir once in awhile if your oven is like mine and the back right corner- even though it's convection- holds a hot spot.  You want the squash to be soft and easy to eat.  Maybe some little brown bits here and there.

In a saute pan over medium heat, use any remaining coconut oil from before and add a bit more to get a shy TBSP.  Add chopped onion and carrot and let them have some time to cook down with some salt and pepper.  At this point, I add about 1 TBSP of curry and allow it make the house smell super good.  Once the spices have a few moments, add the beef and garlic.  Cook until the beef is browned, then add the butternut squash and another TBSP (or to taste) of your curry.  Combine well and give the hash a little time to come together and get well acquainted on a low heat. 

That's it.  Eat from it all week.

If you haven't cooked with coconut oil before, please note that your leftovers will have bits of white- that's the coconut oil.  It just hardens again from your fridge.  It's all good.  It will melt when you warm it up.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading... if you are battling any of this same mess, please leave me a comment or contact me.  I could really use some of your thoughts, advice, and support.  And your autoimmune friendly recipes are always welcome!