Author Archive for neolithichomesteading

Paleo/Keto Sausage Balls – Just like Grandma made!

Nothing says the holidays quite like a sausage ball, cheese straw, or piece of fudge or fruit cake! That’s what we grew up having here in the south at my grandmother’s house. I have taken on the other 3 treats in Christmases past, so I’m excited to share my recipe for these amazingly delicious keto/paleo sausage balls, which are also gluten-free!

The secret to the perfect taste of these paleo/keto sausage balls is the ground pork sausage that we get from our local farm, Reverence Farms in Saxapahaw. It is beautifully spiced, and tastes incredible because these pigs live their best life, foraging in the woods surrounding the Haw river, living as pigs should.

There are so many different takes on sausage balls, but I really wanted to keep mine simple to highlight the great pork taste. I love the coconut flour flavor with them, and the type of cheddar I used is also a favorite: Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar. I hope you enjoy making this simple, yummy snack for your family this holiday season.

Paleo/Keto Sausage Balls

  • 1 pound ground pork sausage (I used a pre-spiced mix from my farm. If yours is plain, you may want to add sage, fennel, red chili flakes, salt, and pepper to taste)
  • 6-7 oz of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons of plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup of coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 large egg

Directions

  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
  2. Brown sausage on stove top
  3. Combine browned sausage with other ingredients and mix together thoroughly
  4. Use hands to form mixture into 1-2 inch balls. You should have approximately 24!
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top

 

Paleo Holiday Cookies

It’s that time of year again! Last year, Matt and I made almond flour cut-out cookies in the shape of snowflakes and Christmas trees while we watched a Star Wars Marathon in preparation to see the new Star Wars movie on Friday, December 15th. We never did! I ended up going to the Hospital to have Alba that day…And Matt brought the dozens of uneaten, messily-iced cookies to our recovery room to share with the nurses 🙂

If you’re attending a cookie party or participating in a swap, I have some great recipes already on my website.

And now I have two more options for you! The first is a famous no-bake Fudgy Oat Drop Cookie that you can pull together in less than 10 minutes if you have an hour or so to let them set up in the fridge. Everyone loves this cookie and you can’t miss with it as a last minute option!

The second is a Paleo version of my favorite thumbprint cookie, Ginger Molasses Peppermint Bark cookies, that my roommate Lilli used to make. Instead of putting the white/red striped kisses in them, I use sugar-free/paleo peppermint bark. These cookies are a big hit with my in-laws and after having them on my first trial, they requested them for Christmas Day! They are not paleo or sugar-free, so that tells me that these will be a big hit with any cookie consumer!

Fudgy Oat Drop Cookies

Sugar/flour/dairy/egg free

Makes 12 cookies

  • 2 cups of Organic rolled Oats
  • 1/4 cup of maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup organic 100% cacao
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1 drop almond extract
  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl or food processor. Mix or pulse gently ( so as not to break up oats too much)
  2. Form into 2-3 inch cookies and place on a plate lined with parchment
  3. Chill until set

Ginger-Molasses Peppermint Bark Cookies

 

  • 3 cups almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses (treacle) or maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Extra 1/4 cup coconut sugar for rolling cookies
  1. Preheat Oven to 350
  2. Cream butter, sugar, and molasses/maple syrup
  3. Combine dry ingredients
  4. Add in vanilla, Egg and butter/sugar/maple mixture
  5. When mixture is combined, use two spoons to scoop out 1 inch cookies
  6. Roll Cookies in coconut sugar and place 2 inches apart on a parchment lined sheet pan
  7. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until brown, and when you take them out of the oven IMMEDIATELY place a peppermint Kiss or Paleo Peppermint bark on top of each cookie so it slightly melts!

 

 

Letting go of what doesn’t serve us: Inflammatory Foods

3 years ago this month, when I left the Department of Nutrition in UNC’s School of Public Health and School of Medicine, a brilliant new hire was bringing in millions of dollars for microbiome research.

7 years ago this month (December 2011), I began a transformative health journey to reverse candida overgrowth and strengthen my digestive and immune systems after years of battling food allergies, sickness, and IBS.

As the years have gone by, more friends and family members have come to me curious about healing their gut and replenishing the microbiome with the AIP and paleo diets for a variety of chronic issues, diseases, and syndromes. If you follow health and wellness writers and blogs, the same info is everywhere.  I think interest is increasing for a combination of reasons

1) My peer group is aging into more issues and syndromes like PCOS, Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos, fungal overgrowth, IBD/IBS, etc. and we have a higher standard for optimal health, both mental and physical

2) The  knowledge and understanding of the microbiome and the influence that our gut bacteria balance has over all of our body systems is starting to become more common knowledge and food therapy is also more common. Of course, you will still come across the occasional 70 year old OBGYN (like I did) who says verbatim, “There was one article written in the 1980’s about microbiome and asthma and it’s not substantiated.” (Really sir, when did you last use your downtime to read journals containing microbiome research- 35 years ago?) But overall, a quick look on PubMed will show you that attention to microbiome research and nutritional therapy is actually uncovering a lot of helpful solutions for all kinds of chronic and inflammatory diseases.

In fact, This article on Autoimmune and cardiovascular disease as they relate to microbiome was published just last week! Point being, if you are facing a syndrome, disease, or just general “unwellness” and your doctor doesn’t know anything about the microbiome research surrounding gut bacteria and its effects on inflammations and triggers on the immune system, you can either politely site what you’ve read on PubMed and ask that she read it too, or you can spend time to find someone who will help you dive into alternatives and support a journey that is more  fruitful to you than just treating your symptoms with pharmaceuticals.

A huge aspect of strengthening the microbiome is in probiotics and prebiotics. It’s common knowledge that a lifetime of frequent antibiotic use can do serious damage to the good bacteria we carry around in our guts from birth. This is why the SCD diet, which I began on, emphasizes homemade yogurt. Because I’m not a huge yogurt fan, I have include kombucha and pickled vegetables in my daily routine in order to keep probiotic consumption up. It is amazing how much better I feel with pre and probiotics, in addition to my doctor recommended VSL3 probiotic.

Some great prebiotics to feed your gut bacteria? cacao, apples, oats, chicory root, garlic, and dandelion greens.

Frankly said, the pre/probiotic routine is just not enough to combat putting certain foods into your body. I think everyone knows that fried foods and fake foods (highly processed/packaged foods with long lists of ingredients that aren’t based in real food) are corrosive to our gut health (and microbiome). For the most part, they make us feel not great, and so we don’t eat them often, and that feels like a “good enough” approach to nutrition. However, the most common nutritional healing and therapy advice you will come across when dealing with alternative healing, holistic doctors, functional medicine, and Chinese medicine is to GIVE UP SUGAR AND DAIRY, and often WHEAT. So in the rest of this post I’m going to be addressing:

  1. Why these 3 things are inflammatory to our systems and how that works
  2. What changes you can expect from elimination if you need to try it for health reasons
  3. Clarifying some incorrect notions of what eliminating these foods mean.
    – ie a gluten free diet is NOT necessarily an anti-inflammatory diet
    – most people can give up lactose and NOT dairy entirely, which means eating almost nil lactose containing foods like yogurt, butter, and aged cheese. This of course does not apply to the population of real dairy allergies.

1.

I mentioned on social media last week that my husband suffers from chronic kidney stones. He also has chronic eczema that he has been able to control  after giving up lactose. After visiting a biological medicine practitioner and acupuncturist, Matt was encouraged to give up the other two ghosts: wheat and sugar (in addition to receiving some herbs and treatment). So why is this specific nutritional therapy almost always the suggestion from professionals for everyone who is suffering from systemic syndromes and sickness?

The basic answer is simple: because all disease is linked to inflammation, from obesity and hormone disruption to cardiovascular and autoimmune disease. And food-based healing of inflammation leans heavily on giving up the hard-to-digest, short chain sugars (fructans, lactose) that appear in dairy, some grains and processed foods, and obviously in refined sugar, which is a favorite food of bacteria to feed on. Food-based healing is increasing in popularity since we have studied and determined the correlation between the Standard American Diet, inflammation, and increasing disease for 30 or more years now. Even if you don’t have an “allergy” or “intolerance” to any of these inflammatory foods, the truth is that ANY body must work harder in order to digest the short chain sugars, and if your body is fighting a syndrome, disease, imbalance, or inflammation (including obesity), then your body should not be feeding gut inflammation and working extra hard just to process these sugars.

2.

First of all, elimination and “letting go of what does not serve us”  is freeing and empowering. It does NOT have to feel like deprivation in any way. Other people will try to make you feel that way, but controlling your own health is invigorating and delicious! You’re not missing out on anything, you’re gaining better health, which is why I continue to create fun recipes without the above listed ingredients. I eat MORE and better now than I ever did before giving up lactose, sugar, legumes, and wheat. I struggled to maintain my weight on very low food intake as a teen and college student, and now I NEVER measure calories or quantities.

If you’re thinking about food-therapy, don’t be scared of depravation! You will not feel deprived or miss these ingredients after 2 weeks. After 3 weeks, you will begin to feel better and notice differences in your health. After 4-6 weeks, you will not look back! A part of my success is replacing eliminated foods with alternatives that aren’t inflammatory, like almond and coconut flour in breads and cakes, and maple syrup and honey to sweeten appropriate foods. Anecdotally, I’ve seen and talked to people who have noticed less joint pain, fewer skin problems, more comfortable digestion, increased energy, and better hormone function after 3-4 weeks. Personally, I had markers for IBD and PCOS that I reversed in my follow up integrative medicine appointments after a couple of years on a paleo/ AIP/ SCD diet.

3.

I am not “gluten-free” and “gluten-free” diets are not necessarily anti-inflammatory. I mark my recipes as #glutenfree because by definition, they are, and people with Celiac’s can enjoy anything I make because I never, ever eat wheat, and I want to reach a wide audience, including some of Matt’s family who face Celiac’s. HOWEVER, many gluten-free foods and breads contain starches, gums, refined sugars, and other unnecessary, inflammatory ingredients. Eating a homemade, whole food, bread loaf containing gluten (if you do not have Celiac’s Disease or gluten sensitivity) would be much healthier than eating something packaged, processed, and labeled as “gluten-free.” You can think of it like a Venn Diagram. Paleo, AIP, keto, and SCD are always gluten-free and anti-inflammatory, but gluten-free is not always paleo or anti-inflammatory.

At the beginning of my journey, I eliminated all dairy. I recommend this to anyone who is facing inflammation manifested in digestive or skin issues. However, as indicated in elimination diets, I slowly added back in certain forms of dairy and found that my digestion only suffered when I ate dairy containing significant lactose. I found this to be consistent with many of the people within the the AIP community and paleo community. SCD, created by a doctor for IBD and AID, includes many cheeses.  Aged cheese like brie, cheddar, and gouda, organic butter, and yogurt, all have trace amounts of lactose (like 0.0001 %) and giving up lactose rather than entirely giving up dairy is much easier! High lactose foods are milk, cream, and fresh cheeses like mozzarella.

Finally, and possibly most importantly,  I just want to add that nothing is black and white, all or nothing, 0 or 100. Matt is anxious about giving up these foods, but I tell him, it’s not like he can never taste them again! I ate processed gluten-free stuff when I was pregnant, and yes, I have gluten-free pizza and cupcakes on rare (often celebratory) occasions. There is no guilt or issue in this. It doesn’t make me a hypocrite or nullify the work I do daily and the healing food i put into my body daily. You can also be thankful for the medical help you get from hospitals IN ADDITION TO the added benefits of functional and holistic medicine. It is all good. And all there to help you. And I regret that my friends in the medical field may feel that seeking alternative help for your health is a rejection of western medicine. It’s not.

People will ALWAYS take issue with your choices, whether we’re still talking about food and medicine or anything else!  People who have not done the research will not always be supportive if you choose to go on an alternative food-based health journey. I have found that food and diet is really personal to people, but your health is the most personal thing on earth to you, and you alone are responsible for cultivating it. No one understands your journey, and no one can possibly understand what you’ve been through or how much information you have synthesized to achieve optimal health nutritionally.

I have also found that it is sometimes the people who are closest to us, who have known us the longest, and who have witnessed our incredible health and body improvements first hand, who are the most negative and least supportive. That has to be their issue and not yours. If people see you thrive and choose not to celebrate it, they’re not your people. And maybe later in their life when they are facing a health issue that can’t 100% be solved by their doctor, they will come to you for help!

I hope to start work on my NTP (Nutritional Therapy Practitioner) certification next year, and let me tell you, I will be here for ANYONE with open arms! The greatest thing I have learned on this journey is that it is All. About. Community. I have learned so much from cooking with my friend Lesley who started cooking SCD around a decade ago! And every single week I look forward to the Balanced Bites Podcast with Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe, and updates from Danielle Walker’s kitchen.

Finally, we know there is a genetic component to this stuff: Celiac’s, IBD, Hashimoto’s, cardiovascular disease, etc. and because I write this blog and save all my recipes, if any of my children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren, etc. face any of the issues that Matt and I have faced, then they will have a spiritual and physical guide for nutritional healing. And that is the absolute best thing I could give to them. Part of who I am is that I love the pursuit of knowledge, and I can’t get enough of it. I hope to continue to seek degrees and certifications in the areas I love. But an even bigger part of who I am is sharing that knowledge. And If I help one person then it’s really all worth it!

 

Fall Apple Cake and Sticky Toffee Pudding

These recipes are both adaptations from non-paleo recipes that I enjoyed, and they have similar flavor profiles, perhaps because they are both drizzled in a decadent caramel sauce, which Matt says elevates them from delicious to out of this world! I get most of my inspiration from comfort foods that I have enjoyed over the years, and my goal is to make them evoke the same memories in a healthier way without refined sugar and flour, transfat oils, and also without cream or milk. I used a bundt cake pan for the apple cake, just because that’s always what my mom used. And a large pie dish for the Sticky Toffee Pudding (pictured).

Both of these cakes make me feel nostalgic. The Apple Cake makes me think of my Mom’s amazing baking skills, and how she loved having us in the kitchen with her, doing measurements, and licking spoons. The Sticky Toffee Pudding reminds me of cold, rainy days in Ireland and London, ducking into warm, dark pubs to sit by a fire with a pint and my favorite dessert! These are exactly the kinds of memories I want to relive during the holiday season!

I don’t want to take all the credit, because these recipes are adaptations from other recipes. For the apple cake, I was able to sub out Flours 1:1, sugars 1:1, and replace the cream with coconut milk and use coconut oil. The Sticky Toffee Pudding is based on an SCD recipe, but tweaked with maple syrup and coconut sugar instead of honey since Alba can’t have honey until she is 2. I say this often, but I also really prefer the flavor of maple syrup to honey because honey is often to sweet for me.

All of my friends and family really love how moist and flavorful these cakes are, and I know you will too. Whether you’re a wannabe Brit in need of a Sticky Toffee Pudding fix, or just looking for an alternative to Pumpkin Pie this season (gasp), I’ve got you covered!

Fall Apple Cake

  • 3 cups of chopped apples ( I used gala)
  • 2 cups Coconut sugar
  • 1 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 cups almond flour
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp each: nutmeg, clove, ginger, cardamom
  1. Preheat Oven to 325 degrees
  2. fold together apples, oil, and sugar
  3. Then add eggs, and dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly
  4. Pour into cake pan and bake for One hour

Caramel Icing

  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup of butter/ghee
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  1. Combine all ingredients except vanilla on stove top and bring to a boil
  2. let simmer and thicken for 20 minutes and add vanilla
  3. Pour on top of cooled cake

Sticky Toffee Pudding

  • 1/2 cup + 2 TBSP. Coconut Flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ginger, and clove
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup date paste****(made by blitzing 2 cups of dates with 1/2 cup of warm water. Let date and water mixture sit for 5-10 minutes before you blend or process )

    1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
    2. Blend together all ingredients, and pour into your cake pan.
    3. Bake for 30 minutes, until set, or brown on edges

Toffee Sauce

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • pinch of salt
  1. Bring all ingredients to a boil on stove top
  2. Pour over cooled cake

 

Super Fast and Healthy Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Happy Friendsgiving!

If you want to be everybody’s best friend this year, you have to make this dish! I used chickpea spiral and shell (conchiglie) pasta to make this super quick gluten-free, egg-free mac and cheese. This recipe is so much healthier than making a traditional roux, so I suggest you apply it to any mac and cheese, even if you prefer using regular noodles, because you will still benefit from the added nutritious squash and reduced cook time.

Some butternut squash mac and cheese dishes leave out dairy completely, but I still went for a mix of shredded gruyere and swiss to make this dish indulgent for the holidays. The key is the butternut squash, which adds an earthy lightness to this kid-friendly side that elevates it for adults as well. By using Trader Joe’s canned butternut squash, you create a major short cut for making a butter/egg/milk/flour based roux, and you reduce calories and increase nutrition in this dish. I can’t recommend this enough for your Thanksgiving table and loved ones!

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

You will need 45 minutes and…

  • 1 pound of pasta of your choice. I use Banza chickpea spirals and shells with one ingredient
  • 1 can of pureed butternut squash (pumpkin will work if you do not have access!)
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup veggie stock
  • 2.5 cups of shredded cheese ( I use a mixture of gruyere and swiss)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cook pasta so that it is quite al-dente
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  3. Drain pasta
  4. In a bowl, combine butternut squash puree, spices, salt and pepper to taste, stock, and half of the cooked pasta into butternut mixture and then pour into a baking dish
  5. Cover with remaining cheese and then cover dish with foil
  6. Bake for 30 minutes
  7. Remove foil and bake for 5 more minutes until edges are golden brown

 

My Birth Story (Alba)

How do we choose what we share with others, and what we keep to ourselves, or within a smaller circle? We’re all on a different sharing spectrum, and whether we keep things back out of a sense of privacy, shame, or possessiveness of our own experiences, each of us has secrets and curates her own truth. Social Media is a modern magnifier of that personalized curation of what we’re willing to share vs. what we struggle with quietly. I kept most things to myself when I was young, but as I’ve aged, I’ve witnessed the healing power of telling someone your story. My birth story isn’t super dramatic or surprising, but it’s mine, and I’ve held the truth of it close to me for long enough and for a variety of reasons, not least of which includes the judgment that is immediately placed on our choices as mothers before our babies have exited the womb. For as long as I can remember, my personal choices to stay quiet or keep to myself stem from my desire to block out the noise of other people who think it’s their right to comment, pass judgment, and give opinions. I don’t ask for much advice, consider, or judge how other people do things because I trust my own instincts deeply, and I honestly think that’s unnerving to some people. If I need added wisdom in an area, like breastfeeding, of course I ask, but I lived in a house with 35 girls in college and never once asked someone if they liked my outfit. I don’t share my stories and poems for editing or opinions before I submit them. I think my mom actually pauses to take a deep breath and acknowledge the moment if I ask her for advice, which I do more often these days — like the world has stopped spinning because I’m not so inwardly focused for a second. We all need a reminder of who we are sometimes, though. And the best advice I got during my pregnancy was on a card from my friend Veronica. It’s still on my fridge today: a picture of giant headphones under the words, “Let me listen to me and not to them.” As a Doula and friend, that is my best and only advice. Listen to your doctors for health and safety reasons, obviously, but beyond that, trust yourself more than anyone.

I hope that the act of sharing my story more openly via my blog encourages, lifts, and brings us closer. As a Doula, I thought I had to have a birth story that was blissful, heroic, and full of affirmation and confidence to make it worth sharing. As a woman and mother, I understand that birth is powerful because it can simultaneously be the most terrible and beautiful thing we’ve ever experienced; a sometimes hellish passage that connects us to the tiny people we love most in the world.

I’ve also learned that, regardless of what we personally idealize as the perfect birth scenario, many women do experience trauma in labor and delivery, and sharing that fear and pain doesn’t weaken your connection to your child or make you less of a woman. As a Doula, I want to prevent birth trauma where I can, but in times when it’s not preventable, we have to help other women to pinpoint, define, and heal birth-related fear and pain. We carry so much trauma in that sacral area of our bodies, and we owe it to ourselves to learn the physical and spiritual tools that release that pain and make us whole again. I felt total kinship and freedom when I finally heard two women I respect in the health/wellness/ babymaking field (Wolfe/Mundell) express serious lasting birth trauma that effected their desire for more children. It was in direct opposition to every other person I know telling me that I would soon forget any negative aspects of my birth story. I do want more children, but I have not forgotten, and I am already preparing with my OB and midwives to try to do things a lot differently next time.

My last caveat before I dive into the fun details of my personal experience is a big one. My baby was born beautiful and healthy. She was admitted to the nursery for low blood sugar on day 2, and was put on a bottle regiment until discharge, but I have not experienced the real trauma of my baby not being well. To anyone who has, my heart is with you always, and you may not want to read ahead. You have lived the unimaginable, and that is a completely different and deeper kind of birth trauma than my birth story here. <3

I was induced Friday, December 15th, 2017 for sustained high blood pressure and a below 20th percentile belly circumference. High Blood pressure is, rightfully, taken very seriously in pregnancy. I have always had extremely healthy, low blood pressure, and had a very healthy pregnancy that included daily exercise, so this BP stuff was unavoidable. It was 11 days before my calculated due date and 14 days before my OB “official” due date. Two amazing OBs debated my induction, and it wasn’t unanimous. Nevertheless, to be safe, I was admitted at 7 pm, 50% effaced and 1 cm dilated (could have been worse!) I began the drug cytotec around midnight to efface my cervix, and had a second round Saturday morning at 8 am. Thus began our long wait for Alba—who at this point may also have been Ciara (Irish sp. of Keira).

I utilized the Hypnobabies program, which is a wonderful meditation technique to ease labor pain through visualization and affirmation. It was something I had researched thoroughly and been practicing with Matt for months. We enjoyed it and had a lot of faith that it could work for our personality types and birth wishes. I listened to it almost constantly from the time I started Pitocin to induce labor on Saturday afternoon. My birth plan was to use Hypnobabies tracks and meditation/ breathing as pain abatement rather than an epidural. I also wanted to spend most of my laboring time in the tub. Having been privy as Doula to 4 Pitocin inductions at this point, I knew that Pitocin contractions can sometimes make it more difficult to go without an epidural since they can be rapid and strong. I also knew that the constant Pitocin drip and blood pressure monitoring ruled out tub time, so I was bummed, but excited to meet my baby and get labor rolling! I had seen Pitocin turned up to 10 with my 2nd and 3rd Doula births, both of which were 41 week gestations. I was 38 weeks gestation, and after 7 hours, around midnight, my Pitocin was turned up to 20, which is the highest dose my hospital gives. At 2:30 am on Sunday morning, I was dilated 3 cm. (Does anyone else hate cervical checks more than late stage labor?! Minimize your cervical checks to as few as safely possible!)

My OB broke my water just before 3 am. She was the OB who had admitted me before she left at 7 pm on Friday. She was back on Saturday morning at 7 am (after a 12 hour break) and was on for another 24 hour straight shift until 7 am Sunday morning, so we were pretty confident that she would catch for us, which was exciting because I had really bonded with her during the course of my pregnancy. From week 18, she had been the voice in my ear telling me to consider an epidural, which I was always open to, and after she broke my water and I instantly started to feel intense contractions, she came over to me, sat on the bed and said “Natural, unmedicated birth can be beautiful for some people. It can also be very, very traumatic. If you think you might want an epidural, I want you to call for it immediately because it might take a while to arrive.” Another presence I was thankful for was Hali Hemingway, my Doula! Unfortunately, we had such a long, boring 30 hour process of effacement and dilation that we decided to wait until I was 3 cm to call Hali since it was my first baby, and things tend to go slowly. You will see why that was a miscalculation momentarily!

From 1-3 cm, I felt mild cramps while meditating, reading, walking, and hanging out. As soon as my OB broke my waters, I felt totally different, which of course I was expecting, but it hit me like a freight train. Matt called Hali and I went to the bathroom immediately and totally emptied my body in every way possible. Mind you, I’m dragging along my Pitocin fluids, and I had the worst IV placement, bleeding everywhere. After my nightmare bathroom trip broke the ice, my wonderful nurse helped me to undress and change over to a water-proof Pitocin set-up so I could get in the shower and I was SO EXCITED to have that substitution for the tub — I love warm water therapy! By 3:15ish I was in the shower, but continuing to throw up. Matt was helping me to stand and get through my contractions. By this time, my contractions were coming in rapid waves, sometimes a minute long and closer than a minute apart- about every 45 seconds. Contractions or “birthing waves” came regularly after my water was broken, and then they were absolutely on top of each other with little to no space in between. So just as I learned what a real contraction felt like, and how to move my mind and body through it as a first time birther, another would come so quickly that I didn’t have time to catch my breath between them, ask questions, or prepare for the next. Things had progressed SO QUICKLY that my brain just couldn’t catch up with what was happening. The pain and frequency had come on so abruptly and was so unearthly intense that my mind had no space to comprehend what was happening, and I just felt really confused. Many women describe the feeling of full contractions from 7-10 cm as a drowning sensation because you can’t catch your breath or “reach the surface.” This is also how Matt describes his kidney stones, as “totally unrelenting.” All I remember being able to get out between breaths is “why are my contractions coming so fast?” No one answered me because I don’t think Matt or my nurse knew. My nurse said it was just normal labor. I couldn’t process the possibility that my vomiting and spaceless contractions were a sign of transition, which is obvious in retrospect, so I told myself that I was weak, that it had only been a few minutes so I couldn’t POSSIBLY be more than 4-5 centimeters dilated. If I couldn’t cope with this, how would I make it through transition? How would I push and birth my baby if it felt so hard, just minutes into my labor? And when I looked at Matt and my nurse, I saw disappointment in their faces, rather than the deep concern they actually felt.

I will never understand why our first inclination is to doubt ourselves- how does that serve evolution? The memory of what turned out to be my transition while standing in the shower is one of the saddest and hardest memories from my birth. I coach and train women to trust and honor themselves through the sacred birth journey, and I hated myself in my deepest and most heroic moments of birthing. I couldn’t have been in the shower for more than 30 minutes because Hali, my Doula angel, was standing in my room as I got out and dried off, and I know she got there quickly. I was doubled over, grasping the end of the bed, no strength left to stand after being hit again, and again, and again with these birthing waves. The next day I couldn’t lift my arms or hold Alba without support because my arms were stiff and useless from squeezing the bar in the shower and the end of the bed with my full power. Hali’s presence made me feel instantly more relaxed, and I confided in her that I wanted to order the epidural because it had only been 45 minutes and I felt like my body was about to give out, so I needed to conserve energy for pushing. It must have been close to 3:45 am when the anesthesiologist walked in (ie not long at all) and he was immediately put off by the intensity and frequency of my contractions. The nurse told him I was 3 cm at my last measurement and had only been laboring for about 45 minutes. He said it looked more like 10 cm and instead of interpreting this as his concern for placing an epidural, I interpreted it as failure on my part—God, I made labor look harder than it was! I wondered how I could have overestimated myself to such a degree. As I sat on the side of the hospital bed, and Matt held my hands down between my legs in order to arch my back and keep me from moving for the epidural placement, my contractions were back to back, and I was blacking out. I apparently signed an epidural release, talked to Matt, but remember none of it. All I remember from this time is the most insane, primal urge to slip off the side of the bed, squat, and PUSH. I felt like Alba was just going to slip out of me and I was flexing my thigh muscles to hold her in. After some fierce animal-like mouth breathing through clenched teeth (that I think scared Matt a little) I could finally find the breath to articulate that I HAD. TO. PUSH. My mind, again, dealing with all that pain, couldn’t comprehend the possibility that I was actually 10 cm and ready to have my baby after just 45 minutes of labor, so I panicked, wondering why I felt the pressure. Luckily, Matt was calm and stepped in, telling the STILL reluctant (and equally confused) nurse to check my dilation. She did, and Alba was crowning with a head full of dark hair!

Matt called Hali in, the anesthesiologist grabbed nurses from across the hall to make the table for my birth, and I got to push which was THE. BEST. FEELING. after what I had been going through from 3-4 am. The nurses did an overview of optimal pushing techniques for me and adrenaline kicked in– pushing was my thing! I thought. I liked being able to feel the pressure and relief, which were great for guiding me on how to bare down and maneuver her out. I did feel her favoring the left side as she came out, but overall, pushing was a heavenly experience after birthing waves. Alba was in a perfect anterior position, but that slight angle at which she descended, my quick dilation, and my first-timer anatomy did cause quite the exit wound from my little bullet baby! I pushed for about 20 minutes, holding Hali’s hand. Matt was holding an oxygen mask to my face, and the new nurses who didn’t get the memo about my “quiet birthing vibe” were cheering me on and encouraging me to push as hard and fast as I wanted. Their noisy cheering was rubbing off on Matt, and I remember just focusing on Hali, who seemed to be giving off a nimbus of light, and being so relieved when my OB arrived after being awakened (also surprised I progressed so quickly). She looked into my eyes, just like she did when she broke my water, and told me to listen to my body, and focus on her and me, and no one else. Alba was out and on my chest, pink and squealing at 4:21 am. I tell everyone this, but the first thing I thought was how insanely beautiful she was. I did also notice my doctor really focused on my placenta birth followed by my stitches for close to an hour, which is a really long time! I asked about what had happened several times, wondering to what degree I tore, etc. I was pretty much ignored and told to focus on baby. In retrospect, that was not really the way to handle it. Their response to my very normal, contained concern made me feel like I was over-worrying about nothing, and that I didn’t need to know. The OBs who looked in on me after birth didn’t even check me or acknowledge my borderline 3rd degree front to back tear. It upset me at the time and still does now, because I didn’t heal for the first 14 weeks postpartum, I’m still not fully healed 11 months later, and I may never be.

The hospital was busy and we weren’t moved to mother baby recovery until about 12 hours after Alba’s birth. Unfortunately, no one from the hospital Lactation group visited us in Labor and Deliver. As a first time breastfeeder, and mother to a small “early term” baby, lactation help was a huge priority for me and I was disappointed. The very busy L&D nurses did their absolute best to help me nurse Alba in between babies being born down the hall, and some of their advice really helped. However, I didn’t have a lot of colostrum, Alba’s mouth was especially tiny, even for a 6 pounder, and her blood sugar wobbled, so she was pricked for her levels every hour. I finally saw Lactation for the first time at noon, 32 hours after Alba was born. They were not able to help latch her, but did remove the little colostrum I had made with a syringe and I fed her. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough after Alba’s luge ride through the birth canal, and her blood sugar continued to dip. We started giving Alba supplemental bottles with our lovely baby nurse on Monday, but by nighttime, after many more attempts at breastfeeding, she started to tremble in her swaddles, and was whisked off to the nursery. I was told she may need to be given an IV and the thought of needles in her tiny, delicate body tore my very hormonal heart out. Matt was at home walking our dogs when all of this happened, of course, and when he returned, I promptly fell to pieces and pumped as much as they would let me. I actually ended up only ever making 2 oz of colostrum total. My milk came in with a fever and hard breast lumps on Day 3 (probably from the insane amount of pumping I did), but I continued to fight hard for supply with Alba’s latching issues throughout the months ahead. Alba ended up only needing to be bottlefed by nurses, and not needing an IV. Her blood sugar stabilized quickly since she was otherwise healthy, and we were able to go home on Tuesday, December 19th!

Those first two weeks at home learning to breastfeed and trying to physically recover were a hormonal blur. My Doulas encapsulated my placenta, and I’m so glad I took all 130 pills because I really struggled with waves of self-scrutiny, -hatred, -doubt, as my hormones evened out. Alba gained weight, but very slowly, and that is hard on any mother. We were referred to an IBCLC, and only left the house for those appointments since walking, lifting, and normal activities were tough on my healing body. The weeks after giving birth were possibly a harder “labor” than we had at the hospital, as we learned and struggled and never slept when my Mom was away, driven in determination by sheer force of LOVE for this beautiful girl and our world that she had totally turned upside down. Matt took weeks off of work, learned how to do everything but breastfeed perfectly, and was my Beacon when I felt adrift at sea at times. We literally shared shifts so that one of us was always awake with Alba (even when she was sleeping) for the first 2 months! We just had to be staring at her at all times. Guessing we won’t do that with #2. My experience has made me extremely passionate about postpartum doula work, and the emphasis that society places on getting mothers through pregnancy and delivery, rather than the initial days and weeks at home. I’m planning on getting licensed for placenta encapsulation, and I’m compiling some special postpartum recipes for my future doula clients. Looking back, I have achieved a lot of peace after my birth experience, but that is largely because of working through it, talking through it, and sharing my story. I hope I can bring peace to others through my Doula work. Most of all, I hope I can share this story with Alba one day, so she knows that her Mama is tough and fought hard to get her here, fought hard to breastfeed her, and will always, always fight hard for her. The only thing more transformative than my birthing experience is the daily bliss of being your Mama, Alba!

“Beautiful Girl, look at the amazing things you can do!”
(Quote from the bracelet I wore during Alba’s birth)

Try something NEW: 10 Alternative Thanksgiving sides and accompaniments EVERYONE will love

Thanksgiving is 2 weeks away! Does anyone else’s family eat totally differently, with an array of allergies and preferences? One Vegetarian (or vegan), me, the token paleo, someone is always part-time gluten-free or Keto, various people have serious or subtle allergies to nuts (me and my cousins), or new restrictions like broccoli (also ME. I AM the problem). There is a lot to keep track of, and it’s hard to please everyone all the time. I hope that I’m bringing a solution to you in the following whole food, easy-to-make options for Thanksgiving. Whether you’re hosting, contributing to a potluck, or pulling together a “Friendsgiving” celebration, these dishes can help you to both please a crowd and branch out at the same time. It’s easy to dazzle tastebuds with loads of sugar coating or generous amounts of butter and cream, but you can also dazzle in a healthy way this holiday season. All my recipes are inspired by comfort foods and big flavors, so you can give the gift of a healthy side-dish that doesn’t “taste healthy” as my husband puts it!turmeric cocktail

For a spectacular and dazzling appetizer pair, try my Fall Turmeric Cocktail with Bacon-Wrapped Dates or shooters of Lori’s Butternut, Fennel & Leek Soup with a fennel garnish on top! For a different, but classically delicious Italian spin on traditional squash, try Acorn Squash Agrodocle, an uniquely delicious side that I recently posted.

Butternut Sage Quinoa

For a protein-packed vegetarian side (Vegan if you replace the butter with oil), try my very popular dish that everyone at Friendsgiving wanted the recipe for, Butternut Squash and Sage Quinoa with Macadamia nuts

For your sometimes gluten-free, one-time vegetarian, newly keto cousin, who you never know what the hell they might eat, try my spin on my Granny’s classic Tart Cranberry Relish.

Tart Cranberry Relish

Thanksgiving can also be stressful. Whether you’re hosting, spending time with the in-laws, or navigating your own colorful family, this holiday can be tricky. It can also get monotonous with everyone clinging to their favorite tradition. This is going to make me sound like a grinch, but it’s hard for me to endorse even the most sentimental traditions when they’re often made up of non-foods: canned cranberry sauce, marshmallow/sugary toppings, evaporated/condensed milk, instant puddings, the list goes on… Tradition is important, sure. It’s also important to have a balance, which is why I like to introduce new WHOLE food recipes that are totally homemade, but easy and with no artificial ingredients. THESE are the traditions that I want the children in my family to remember and adopt so that they can have sentimental favorites that also benefit their health.

In my mind, the most important Thanksgiving tradition is the Pumpkin Pie, and thus, I think it is my most important recipe for you to try. I encourage you to whip up some full-fat coconut milk, sweetened with a bit of vanilla extract and honey or maple syrup to top it! This recipe is dairy free, vegetarian, gluten free, and paleo.

If Pumpkin pie is not your thing, I encourage you to try my newest recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding (coming 11/11) or my crowd-pleasing and nut-free Sunflower Sesame Seed Cookies

And finally, you will need some nourishment in the morning as you prepare the day’s Thanksgiving meal and watch the Parade! My Pumpkin Coffee Cake is my best recipe to date! It is melt-in-your-mouth perfection and would be an EXCELLENT way to say “Thank you” to your Thanksgiving host or “Good Morning!” to your house guests!

If this was helpful to you AT ALL, please drop a comment and let me know. It would make my holiday to know that one of the recipes I’ve created has made it to another family’s precious dinner table!

paleo pumpkin coffee cake

BBQ Jackfruit Nachos {Vegan/Paleo}

This recipe is not only healthy for a comfort food like Nachos, it is also super cheap, at under $12 for the ingredients. I got everything from Trader Joe’s. I love their plantain chips, but they also have some great multigrain/ Quinoa tortilla chips. Jackfruit doesn’t really taste like chicken, but it has a similar texture and the flavor is neutral and covered completely by the BBQ sauce, so it is a great “imposter.” I fed these nachos to Matt and his friend, Jake, and they had no idea it wasn’t chicken until I told them. Those BBQ flavors are strong and that is what your palate focuses on, along with yummy fats like cheese and guacamole.

Eating meatless meals is often cheaper, and a good balance to my paleo diet. I love experimenting with vegan foods because, like paleo, it is such an anti-inflammatory diet, if you do it right! I know I suggest going without cheese for the Vegan version, and some people probably think that’s crazy for nachos. HOWEVER, I have been on a strict AIP paleo regiment and had nachos with sweet potato fries or plantain chips that are served just with veggies, pulled chicken, and tons of flavorful guacamole and THEY. ARE. DELICIOUS. If you opt out on the cheese, for either a strict paleo or vegan meal, I strongly suggest you double the guacamole and you will be absolutely satisfied on every front! Fat, protein, and carb!

You can find sugar-free BBQ sauces in stores, but if you prefer to make one at home, I combine:

  • 1 can tomato puree
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp coconut aminos or Tamari
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon
  • 1 Pinch each of: all spice, salt, pepper, hungarian paprika, chili powder, cayenne, garlic

Jackfruit Nachos

  • Tortilla or plantain chips (paleo) (1.99)
  • 2 cups of shredded cheese (I use cheddar and pepper jack) (3.99)
  • 1 can of jackfruit, marinated in *paleo barbecue sauce (0.99)
  • 1 cup of black beans (0.89)
  • 1/2 of a thinly sliced red onion ( a few cents for all veggies)
  • 1 thinly chopped celery stalk
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 2-3 avocados, mashed, liberally salted, and topped with juice of one lime for a basic guac! (2.99)
  1. Preheat oven to 350. The only purpose here is to melt cheese and warm through jackfruit
  2. Spread chips out on a parchment lined baking sheet so that they are touching, but do not cover one another up
  3. Sprinkle on half of cheese first (this will help other ingredients stick)
  4. sprinkle black beans,onion and celery on
  5. evenly spread BBQ marinated jackfruit over chips, feel free to dump extra marinade on
  6. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cheese is melted and “BBQ” is warmed through
  8. If you used parchment, you can easily pick up nachos and transfer to a platter
  9. THEN top with your cherry tomatoes and avocado, so you don’t lose any to the sheet pan!
  10. I also top with some bonus PICKLED red onions, because I love them!

For Paleo Version

Sub out tortilla chips for Plantain Chips

For Vegan Version

No Cheese or sub with vegan cheese

More Guac Please!

Acorn Squash “Agrodolce”

Agrodolce is Italian for sweet and sour. This dish is just that, with a bit of spice at the end to round out the gorgeous flavor. It’s also super easy and completely paleo, accomplishing all those flavor bombs without sugar or starchy thickeners. This is on my list for Halloween and potlucks this fall. Its something that has familiar ingredients, so it won’t scare people away, but the taste is absolutely new and different. My friends and family get so excited about this simple dish! What do you think of the way I spooked it up with the black rice underneath? Happy Halloween Week!

Acorn Squash Agrodolce

Serves 2-4 Takes 30 minutes and…

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 pinches of crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. sage
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Microwave your acorn squash for 3-4 minutes to make slicing easier!
  3. Cut Squash in half, remove all seeds and pulp and slice halves into 1/2 inch half moon slices
  4. Place squash slices on a lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake for 25-30 minutes until fork tender
  5. While squash bakes, make your Agrodolce: combine maple syrup, red wine vinegar, butter/oil, red pepper, nutmeg, and sage in a saucepan, on med-high and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and continue to reduce Agrodolce until syrupy and think
  7. Add currants
  8. Remove acorn squash from the oven, plate it, and then pour agrodolce syrup over it!

Additionally, you could add chopped nuts as a topper. I plated my squash over black rice for a very Halloweeny look! What do you think? Spooky, spicy, sweet?

Turkey-Stuffed Acorn Squash Bowls

I love this recipe! And it’s super easy. Do I say that all the time? Ground turkey is so versatile and because it’s cheap and organic, we eat it a lot. There is also something I love about gamey meats in the fall. See these recipes using Bison and Bison/Elk, for this spaghetti sauce. Speaking of forest-dwelling animals, I have learned that good mushrooms enhance the woodsy flavor of such meats, and I love throwing them into my turkey for extra-earthy flavor and texture, so don’t skip that step!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. Like my Acorn Squash Chili Bowl, it is such a crowd pleaser (but much easier) and would wow for a dinner party or Halloween gathering. I am also thinking about using this recipe with our turkey or stuffing leftovers from Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t THAT be amazing? This recipe would serve 4 people with a salad OR it could be big dinner for 2 hungry people with some leftovers!

Lastly, I have to say that I LOVE edible fall decorations. Why spend money on a plastic gourd or inedible pinecones when you can dress up your house with acorn squash and then eat them all up in these delicious recipes before you get your Christmas decorations out!? They are $1.69 each at Trader Joe’s, so find a BIG one if you go because most grocery stores weigh them!

And if you’d like to make the pairing cocktail that is pictured with the bowl above, check out My Fall Turmeric Cocktail

Turkey-Stuffed Acorn Squash Bowls

Serves 4. You will need 45 minutes and…

  • 2 acorn squash
  • 1 pound of ground turkey
  • 1 pack/ 8 oz of Baby Bella (or other flavorful) mushrooms (so not white)
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 cup shredded aged or sharp white cheddar
  • 1/4 cup water or stock
  • 1 TBSP sherry vinegar (or any vinegar for acidity)
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic
  • salt, pepper and red chili flakes to taste (have I mentioned we put red chili flakes on everything?) Yay capsicum!
  1. Add a small amount of water to a microwavable bowl and place whole squash inside. Microwave on High for 3-4 minutes and then turn squash over and microwave for 3 more minutes. Let cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.
  3. In a large pan, use cooking oil (I use coconut) to brown turkey for 7-8 minutes until cooked through. While turkey is cooking, chop your onion and mushrooms into bite size. 
  4. Remove turkey and let drain.
  5. Add more cooking oil and cook onion until translucent.
  6. Add mushrooms, all spices, your water/stock, and sherry vinegar.
  7. Simmer this mixture for 5 minutes.
  8. While mixture is simmering, cut your squash in half, and use a spoon to remove all seeds and pulp. Remove 1-2 spoonfuls of flesh per acorn squash half and add that to your simmering mixture (so 4-8 spoonfuls total, depending on size of your squash)                                                 * If flesh is not removed easily, you can microwave for 3 more minutes.                                         ** Be careful not to remove too much of the flesh. You still want the squash to have a 1/2 inch of flesh to serve as a bowl.
  9. Use a baking dish or brownie pan to line your acorn squash halves up. To make them stay upright, you simply shave off a tiny bit of the round underside so it’s flatter.
  10. Add turkey back into the simmering skillet, stirring it in slowly, and turn the heat down.
  11. Once incorporated well, spoon turkey mixture into your acorn squash bowl, filling above the rim as pictured.
  12. Sprinkle on cheese!
  13. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly!

Can’t get enough of this one! One more!

Fall Turmeric Cocktail

I fall into that category of people who love being healthy, but are not willing to give up alcohol all together. I will admit that I drink a lot less now that we have a baby, and I feel a LOT better,and that’s no coincidence, BUT this post is about a delicious fall cocktail I want to share with you! And I totally believe in moderation in all things!

I love fall spices. I believe in grating fresh nutmeg into everything. I also love cinnamon, ginger, and ground clove to a fault. I put it on our apple sauce in the morning! This cocktail gives you the warmth and spice of all of those flavors, with a dash of acidity to lighten it, and all the health benefits of the root, turmeric.

I try to throw turmeric in whenever I can because it helps so much with inflammation, which we all battle, and digestion, which is great for me. It’s easy to add turmeric because it doesn’t have an overwhelming flavor and it adds that gorgeous goldenrod color!

If you don’t drink alcohol, but you want to enjoy these spices, it would be easy to leave it out and replace it with more juice or seltzer. As far as swap outs for the rest, I think having a fresh orange is important, and to me, the bitters really round out that “Fall” cocktail feel. I think tequila or gin would work just as well as vodka, and triple sec is optional. Oh, and I think citrus or cinnamon vodka would be amazing!

Recipe is below! Let me know what you think if you try it!

Fall Turmeric Cocktail

To a cocktail shaker add:

  • Juice of one Orange (fresh is best!)
  • 1 tsp Orange zest
  • 1 splash lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp each: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp each: ginger and turmeric
  • 3 oz (2 shots) vodka (flavored would be great if you have it!)
  • 1.5 oz (1 shot) triple sec, cointreau, or citrus liqueur
  • Bitters to taste (most people like 5 drops or so, I like a LOT because I love bitter)
  • ice
  1. Shake until ice is broken up
  2. Pour into glass and add seltzer water as desired and a sprig of rosemary or orange peel to garnish
  3. ENJOY! Kick your feet up by the fire, and relax! You deserve it 🙂

 

The REAL Deal Cookies & Breast Cancer Awareness

halloween real deal chocolate chip cookiesI’m so excited that I’ll be attending Danielle Walker’s tour for the Eat What You Love cookbook, the 4th of her Paleo cookbook series. It’s her first time in Raleigh, NC! If you’re going, send me a message or comment below. I would love to meet up at the event or beforehand!

Though I take a simpler approach to my recipes, and I have enjoyed following MANY other paleo and primal influencers over these years, Danielle’s Against All Grain cookbook was my earliest inspiration and my ultimate savior for gut and autoimmune health. I am forever grateful to her for taking this journey and inspiring so many others along the way — she truly has the reigning aesthetic in primal lifestyle! I Love Danielle, her precious family, and I can’t wait to meet her! She is, without a doubt, the real deal.

To celebrate my ticket purchase (but really to keep myself away from the tempting Halloween candy we have), I made Danielle’s Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies— the nut/grain/gluten/sugar/dairy free version! I added the sugar-free chocolate Halloween sprinkles…Matt and I both love sprinkles 🙂

Find the recipe here.  Buy tickets to join me in January here.

With the month coming to a close, and All Souls’ Day approaching next week, I’d like to take a moment to remind everyone that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and this disease is still robbing us of women and mothers in their prime. One of my college roommates fought cancer and introduced me to earlier.org which encourages early screenings, and is a great place to get (re)involved with this worthy cause. Personally, breast cancer has stolen two of the women I admired most in my life in the last year. Both of these women were incredibly supportive of my journey to better health through nutrition and natural healing, and I have them to thank for getting me started on this road 4 years ago.

Maria taught me so much about being a Doula. She shared literature, stories, and experiences that, in just 3 meetings for tea/coffee, transformed me forever as a Doula and human being. We had so many common interests, and talked for hours. She was the most spiritually connected person I have ever met. And when she found out I was pregnant, she messaged me about all the things she could pass on to me as I entered motherhood, both physical gifts and spiritual ones. She left behind a son and small daughter 2 weeks after Alba was born.

My Mom’s best friend Janice encouraged me, attended my essential oils seminars, and even held one at her house in support of me. She was brilliant and vibrant, the type of person who lit the room. She gave me the cheese dome in this picture and I keep it out always (and try to keep it filled!) so that I get to remember her every day. Specifically, I want to embody her joie de vivre, and her unwillingness to deny any of the delicious and beautiful things that life has to share with us. We have to be willing to take it in like she was. We only get one chance. Take the trip, buy the art, eat the fucking cookies.

I hope to pass on a piece of each of these women to our daughter.

mary oliver quote

 

 

 

Homemade Paleo Granola Bars

I’m going to be straight up with you. I wish I was a person who could grab a protein bar or granola bar off the shelf. It would make life a whole lot easier. Unfortunately, they make me feel bad because they’re often loaded with fillers or gluten and ALWAYS loaded with sugar. I am allergic to some nuts, so Rx Bars are a “No-Go,” and there is truly a limit to how many Lara Bars I can consume. In fact, I’ve sort of broken up with dates lately because I really can’t take that many! Unlike Maple Syrup, the date flavor gets old for me.

Thus were born my own granola bars. These can be made vegan by leaving out the egg as a binder, but without the egg binding them, they would likely turn out more like granola (so add nut milk or yogurt and grab a spoon!)

I know making your own granola bars sounds a little “extra,” but you literally just have to stir all ingredients together in one bowl and then level them off and bake in a 9X9 pan. If you are unsatisfied with store bought granola bars for any reason, give these a shot!

It’s also the giving season, and these would be a great, impressive, and HEALTHY addition to any homemade gift basket or Fall potluck. These can also be made safe and nut free by using sunflower butter 🙂

Homemade Paleo Granola Bars

You will need 30 minutes and….

  • 1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds/ pepitas
  • 1/4 cup currants or raisins
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (Enjoy Life dairy free!)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup nut butter or sunflower butter
  • 1 TBSP cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 TBSP/ 1 Packet plain gelatin (make sure to sprinkle this evenly so it does not clump!)
  • 1 egg

Direction

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, being careful to sprinkle gelatin evenly
  3. line a 9 x 9 baking dish with parchment paper and pack in mixture evenly and tightly
  4. Bake for 30 minutes
  5. Let cool for 15 inutes before cutting into squares
  6. Go for a hike!

VEGAN Sunflower & Sesame Seed (SSS) Cookies

vegan cookies

I am so excited when I get to share vegan recipes that are nut, grain, and sugar free! This recipe ticks every common allergen box, so I can deliver to the widest range of consumers out there, which is my goal. Speaking of goals, I’m really trying to consume fewer animal products, so creating vegan treats is a priority for me lately.

Because they have virtually NO allergens, these cookies are a great option for kids’ party potlucks or schools that allow homemade treats. Personally, I really wanted to find a cookie we could enjoy at home without worrying about Alba being exposed to nuts or honey, which are not recommended for kids under 2.

This is a chewy cookie, and would be great for ice cream sandwiches or packing lunch or a picnic because they are not crumbly or over-soft.

Now, let’s get to this Vegan recipe so you can cooking! If you are not a vegan, or do not have an egg allergy, please feel free to use 1 large egg white in place of the flax egg!

Sunflower & Sesame Seed (SSS) Vegan Cookies

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup Tahini
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/3 cup arrowroot starch/powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of chocolate covered sunflower seeds
  • The last one is variable! I have used:
    • 1. A vegan egg replacer from Bob’s red mill that contains potato starch, psyllium husk, and tapioca
    • 2. One LARGE egg WHITE only
    • 3. One Flax egg (1 tbsp ground flaxseed + 2 tbsp water)
Directions
  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine Coconut sugar, maple syrup, and egg white (or replacement) with electric mixer (you need a good mix on these!)
  3. Add all remaining ingredients except chocolate covered sunflower seeds and mix until smooooooth
  4. Stir in chocolate covered sunflower seed with a spoon
  5. Spoon mixture onto parchment covered cookie sheet. THESE COOKIES SPREAD A LOT so you will need 2 cookie sheets. You can make 12 medium sized cookies or about 16 small cookies.
  6. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until golden. I think I have a hot stove, so my bake times are always on the low side!

My hope is that you get to enjoy these delicious vegan, nut free, gluten free, grain free, dairy free, sugar free….Phew! (ha ha ha) cookies with ALL of the people you love! They are delightfully colorful and would make a great addition to your upcoming Halloween or Friendsgiving celebrations!

Thanks for visiting the blog!

 

 

Autumn Favorites!

autumn favorites paleo

We had a rainy fall weekend here in NC, which is one of my favorite types of weather! We went on two long runs with our dogs and I finally got to whip up one of my favorite fall recipes: Bison & Acorn squash Chili. My recipe was featured on Mind Body Green this year, so go on over and check it out on my favorite health blog.2

We were supposed to go apple picking this weekend, but our outing and my paleo apple bread got rained out. Instead, I whipped up some Paleo Pumpkin bread. I went a little crazy with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, but this definitely tastes like fall, so I recommend to all! This is my own recipe, and if you haven’t noticed, I like to keep it simple with the measurements and ingredients.

paleo pumpkin coffee cake

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups Almond Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • Lots of ground pumpkin pie spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, cardamom and ginger ( i do 1-2 teaspoons each)
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup organic pureed pumpkin

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Mix your first 4 ingredients in a bowl (dry ones)
  3. Mix your wet ingredients  in a separate bowl until smooth
  4. Combine all ingredients into one bowl and mix until all is incorporated evenly
  5. Pour into bread pan and bake for 45-55 minutes.
    Disclaimer: Know thy Oven!! And know thyself: I like REALLY moist bread that falls apart.

Fall Spiced Paleo Caramel Apple Butter

I had so much fun making these sweet favors for my baby shower last weekend! All of our guests were gifted my Paleo Caramel Apple Butter and my Paleo Pumpkin Spice Latte mix in the adorable mini mason jars below! My family also made some incredible appetizers that I could enjoy too, which was so nice! We had a pumpkin and apple quinoa salad, prosciutto wrapped asparagus, and bleu cheese stuffed dates before a beautiful cake from Edible Art. I promised I would post the Caramel Apple Butter Recipe, and it’s taken a full week, but here it is!

This apple butter is not overly sweet like some store bought brands. It contains ZERO sugar or thickeners, so it’s all natural and flavored with pumpkin pie spices. I love this as a new fall staple in our house because it’s basically just a mixture of all my favorite fall flavors, and it’s easy to make! Store this in a mason jar in the fridge for the season and enjoy it on GF toast, biscuits, ice cream, pancakes, or on a cheese plate (I love it with cheddar on a rice cracker). I have also been stirring it into my oatmeal and yogurt lately! Let me know how you like to eat your apple butter in the comments!

Paleo Caramel Apple Butter

Makes several jars full! Keep one (or two) for yourself and give the remaining as gifts!

  • 6-8 cored, chopped fuji apples
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water or apple juice
  • 4 Tbsp Lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground clove
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cardamom

For the Caramel

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. In a large pot on the stove, combine chopped apples and all remaining ingredients (except for the caramel ingredients!)
  2. Preheat oven to 250 degrees
  3. Stir mixture until apples are covered in liquid and allow the mixture to come to a simmer on the stovetop.
  4. Move your apple mixture to an oven safe baking dish and into the oven for 2-3 hours, until apples are browned and easily mashed. Mine took about 2 and a half hours.
  5. While your apples bake, you can make your caramel! Simply combine your coconut milk and coconut sugar in a pot on the stove. Stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil.
  6. Once your caramel is boiling, turn the stove down to “medium-low” so that your caramel is at a low simmer, and add in your vanilla and pinch of salt.
  7. Continue to stir until well-incorporated, this whole process should take less than 15 minutes.
  8. Remove your apple mixture from the oven and use an emersion blender to puree it (if you do not have an emersion blender, you can move the contents to a blender or food processor to puree)
  9. Stir in your caramel, and voila! Your Paleo Caramel Apple Butter is ready to jar and enjoy!
  • Fun fact: If you’d like to enjoy some stewed apples, simply omit caramel, take your apples out of the oven a little bit earlier (after only 30-45 minutes),  and do not puree them. This is a delicious fall side dish to serve with pork, chicken, or your breakfast oatmeal! Yum! I often do not get to make much apple butter around here because we stop the process early to eat the delicious/nutritious stewed apples!

paleo caramel apple butter

Paleo Pumpkin Pie

I can’t believe I haven’t written up this Paleo Pumpkin Pie recipe yet! Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite desserts, and this one mixes up in 5 minutes, then bakes for about 50. It is super easy, especially if you have a pre-made paleo or gluten-free pie crust readily available!

Most of my recipes are paleo remixes on traditional recipes. Converting pumpkin pie to paleo is a pretty basic swap, so I strongly recommend trying it during this fall season. It’s just overall much healthier for everyone! The first major health swap out is coconut milk for evaporated/condensed milk. And the most impressive swap is that I used LESS THAN 1/4 cup of maple syrup to sweeten my entire pie, which means that there is less than half a tablespoon of maple syrup in each piece of pie and that is the only sweetener. That’s likely less of a glucose spike than you get from morning coffee or a piece of gum! The key to getting that great fall taste is in using quality organic pumpkin puree, which is naturally sweet, and a generous mixture of warm spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, vanilla, and cardamom. You can make this crustless, and eat it like soufflé or you can sweeten it up by serving it with a dollop of maple syrup sweetened cream.

Pregnancy has me craving ALL the sweet things, BUT my glucose tolerance test is coming up so I’ve been trying to limit carbs. Of course,  I already know I have a low glucose tolerance! Insulin resistance was a part of my lab work up that led my doctors to check me for PCOS (which I fortunately did not end up having). A big part of the reason paleo recipes work so well for me is because they eliminate the sugar and carb content of the standard american diet. I actually read in my Natural Mamas Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth that women on a whole foods or paleo regime can often trigger the gestational diabetes tests because our blood sugar, kept stable by whole foods, is so sensitive to the high sugar content in the Glucola beverage. For THAT reason, I’m cutting back on the sweets and carbs, but not removing them totally because that would make me even more sensitive to the drink! Pregnancy is confusing, y’all. Enter my perfectly sweet Paleo Pumpkin Pie!

This pie is better after it cools completely or sets up in the fridge, even though I had a hot slice right out of the oven because I couldn’t resist 🙂 Try it out this year and see if anyone notices that you didn’t use processed milk and sugar!

Paleo Pumpkin Pie

You will need an hour and….

  • 1 15 oz. can or box of organic pumpkin puree. I use this one from Thrive
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (not can!) of full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp each of: ground clove, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger
  • 1 pie crust- I use this recipe from Elana’s pantry, but there are also some great frozen options at health food stores! Before I was SCD/Paleo, I made pie crusts from scratch A LOT with just cold butter, water and flour, which I learned from an actual pastry chef!  It was such a beautiful, meditative process that I miss sometimes! If your body can process organic wheat flour, then I absolutely recommend making your own pie crust! You can follow Martha Stewart’s directions here, but no need to add the teaspoon of sugar she adds!
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Combine eggs and pumpkin puree
  3. Add in remaining ingredients and mix by hand until well incorporated
  4. Pour mixture into pie dish
  5. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes until solid (it will still jiggle some, this is not quite as solid as a regular pumpkin pie)
  6. Let it completely cool before eating and store in fridge for best consistency/ quality

paleo pumpkin pie

Paleo Blueberry Muffins

Paleo Blueberry Muffins are my favorite snack to bring my Doula clients! I’ve been experimenting with recipes lately because my plan is to stock my freezer for late pregnancy and early newborn days. This is a great time of year to freeze blueberry muffins so you can take advantage of summer’s delicious in-season blueberries! I’m getting a list of healthy, hearty, filling, easy-to-reheat recipes together for a week of cooking and baking at Thanksgiving before my baby gets here, so look for more freezer friendly food on the blog then!

Paleo Blueberry Muffins are at the top of my freezer list because blueberries are a “galactagogue,” meaning they promote milk production. I’ll also be sharing a paleo lactation cookie recipe soon!

Please comment below if there was something you really enjoyed having on hand during late pregnancy and early breastfeeding days! Matt and I are also thinking about doing a meal service plan like Blue Apron or Sunbasket so we are not dependent on take out or processed foods, and can really control what is going into our bodies and into my breastmilk.

By the way, these muffins aren’t just for lactating Moms! They are great for kids & husbands too, and my co-workers REALLY enjoyed the batch I made them this week! It’s so fun to surprise people with tasty treats by introducing them to delicious sugar-free, dairy-free, grain-free options (but always give them the nut warning for almond flour!)

And Mondays always need a little more cheer 🙂

Paleo Blueberry Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

You will need 30 minutes and

  • 1 cup of almond flour
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 2-3 tbsp honey or maple syrup for sweetness
  • 1/2 cup of coconut or almond milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Line tin with muffin cups
  3. Mix almond flour, salt, and baking soda together
  4. Mix wet ingredients separately
  5. Combine wet and dry ingredients and fold in blueberries
  6. Bake for 20+ minutes until a dry toothpick can be removed
  7. Set to cool on a wire rack!! If you are freezing, i would double or even triple this recipe, which is easy to do and still works!

silicone muffin wrapper

Paleo Pumpkin Coffee Cake

This is my new favorite recipe! This paleo cake is so moist and melt-in-your-mouth perfect! It is impossible to resist cutting a hot piece when you take it out of the oven (you can see the steam rising off my piece in the below photo). This coffee cake can be made in a 9 in. pie dish (like mine) or a 9 X 9 pan. The only caveat is to be patient while it cooks. It is a super moist cake, like I said, so it goes from barely looking “set” to perfect fluffy consistency very quickly. I checked at 45 minutes and it was not done, but was perfect by 53. And always use parchment paper!

You will want to hoard this cake all for yourself,  BUT it would really impress folks at a potluck party or as a gift. In fact, make 2! One for yourself, and one for some else. Spread the pumpkin love 🙂

In honor of Fall being just 2 weeks away, I’m delighted to bring you this recipe, Enjoy!

Paleo Pumpkin Coffee Cake

You will need 1 hour and…

  • 1 cup of organic canned pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: Nutmeg, clove, ginger, and cardamom  (optional)

For the Optional Crumble on Top

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line your dish in parchment paper
  2. Mix all ingredients for the crumb topping in a bowl and set aside
  3. Combine all wet ingredients of your coffee cake: pumpkin, maple syrup, coconut oil, and eggs, mixing by hand until incorporated.
  4. Add Dry ingredients the wet mixture: almond flour, baking soda, salt, spices and thoroughly mix
  5. Pour Coffee Cake Mixture into your baking dish
  6. Crumble topping slowly & evenly over the top of your cake mixture
  7. Bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with minimal batter on it

 

paleo pumpkin coffee cake

Fall Salad with Port-Mulled Cherries and Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Traditionally, I would eat a Fall Salad on a bed of spinach, but spinach has not been my best friend through pregnancy!

Instead, I built on a bed of spring greens, and used pork loin as my protein. I cook with a lot of fish, veggies and chicken in summer, supplemented by the occasional burger (red meat), so Fall is when I bring in some more gamey proteins like bison, elk, turkey, and some beautiful free range pork. Free-ranging pigs do incredible things for the soil, and their happiness with human interaction could only be compared dogs!

I’m obsessed with the honey mustard/pork combo, so my dressing is a honey mustard vinaigrette, which is honestly just a great salad dressing to have around all the time. {recipe below}.
Caramelized red onions round out the salad in this photo. HOWEVER, I made a very important last minute addition to this salad– which is kind of the highlight of this meal — port-mulled cherries!

I recommend serving this salad with the components warm (not hot) which increases the feeling of heartiness and seasonality in the dish! These nuances help us to keep salads a year-round meal at our house. I’d love to see the different, creative ways YOU build a fall salad! Feel free to tag me on instagram if you make on yourself!

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

In a mason jar (or used and rinsed store-bought salad dressing jar, which is what I do!!!) COMBINE:

-1/4 cup olive oil

– 1/4 cup dijon

–  1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette

– 2 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup

– 2 raw garlic cloves (do not eat, just for mixing)

– pinch salt and pepper

Port-Mulled Cherries

(Perfect as a low glycemic way to sweeten your morning Oatmeal!)

In a large mason jar or air tight container, COMBINE:

-1/4 cup purified water

– 1/4 cup port wine

– 1/4 cup maple syrup

– 1 cinnamon stick

-1 star anise

– several cloves

– 1/2 inch orange peel

– 2 cups of pitted, organic, dark sweet cherries

port-mulled cherries