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When Life Gives You Peppers, Stuff ‘Em

Our CSA program is quite handy. Every week we get a box of fresh organic fruits and veggies delivered to our door.  It helps us eat seasonally and locally, and actually simplifies my meal planning. This winter, with my bounty of beef and salmon in the freezer, squash in the garage, and various preserved veggies in the pantry, all I have to do is check the upcoming bin contents for the week, skim a few cookbooks, pull out the meat to thaw, and my week is good to go.

I try to work with whatever the box brings, but occasionally I make use of the ability to submit substitution requests. Green peppers are a vegetable that almost never make it into the house.  They are not a favorite of Jer’s stomach or my tastebuds. But through some technical difficulties on the website, we have had two weeks since the beginning of the year that brought us green peppers to consume, so I had to decide what to make with them.

My grandma used to love making stuffed green peppers. I remember her baking whole trays of them and then keeping them individually wrapped in the fridge for her late-night snacks. Grandma and I used to compete for who would get home the latest-her coming from a prayer meeting or healing conference, and me coming from a Bible study or church party I was running. My mom would wait up for both us, and then we would all sit around and chat, eating our preferred snacks.  Mine varied, involving toast or cereal, or a couple slices of cheese, or sometimes just an entire head of steamed broccoli with butter.  Sadly, even though grandma offered, I never ate her green peppers.

Grandma isn’t here to give me her recipe, but I remembered the basics-seasoned ground beef, cooked rice, sauteed onions, all baked in the pepper with some parmesan cheese on top.  I used some leftover quinoa and added homemade salsa to the beef. It was pretty good. Then on the second green pepper delivery, Jer looked at our box and came up with a tastier version, which ended up being grain-free and full of good fats. He still had to take some digestive enzymes, and I didn’t finish my green pepper, but the filling was delicious. Next time you get some peppers, you should try it out.

Jer’s Stuffed Peppers

This can be adapted for as many people as you need-the proportions below are for each pepper.

One sweet pepper-green, or my favorite, yellow

olive oil

1/4 lb ground beef

1-2 Tbls finely diced onion

1 Tbls salsa

half an avocado, diced

1/4 c cheese , small dice (we like Tillamook from Oregon, because the cows spend some time on pasture, so the nutrient content is higher, but it is still economical)

Slice pepper in half and clean out stem and ribs. Brush lightly with oil and roast in oven for 20 mins at 400 degrees.  While it cooks, saute ground beef and onions. When beef is cooked through and onions are soft, add salsa, and any additional seasonings you would like-salt, pepper, garlic, hot sauce, etc.  When peppers are ready, remove from oven and turn on broiler. Mix cheese and avocado into the beef, then stuff filling into the peppers. Broil for 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted.  Serve with addtional salsa and cortido.

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Posted by on January 21, 2011 in Things Edible

 

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Grain-Free: Trial and Errors

It’s been a week since we officially ended our grain-free trial (by consuming a wonderful meal of sushi and tempura, oh yum) and I am just now starting to recover. The wave of detox and die-off symptoms that were instigated by our experiment have been frustrating to say the least, but I have definitely learned a lot that will inform our future ventures into GAPS territory. If you are thinking about trying GAPS, SCD, or any other detox program, here are a few things we’ve learned:

1. Just one change can make a huge impact

We weren’t doing full GAPS, just cutting out grains.  Not hard, I thought.  We still ate lots of nutrient dense foods, fairly limited amounts of sugar, and probiotic-rich foods. But just that one thing of eliminating grains was enough to cause a HUGE reaction, as it took away one of the primary food sources for toxic bacteria in the gut, causing a lot of die-off. And what happens when bad bacteria die? They leave behind their toxic corpses for the body to flush out, overwhelming the natural systems that would usually handle those toxins. And where do excess toxins show up? Why, in the skin and lymphatic tissues, as the body tries to get rid of them any which way it can. And that means excema, flu symptoms, and headaches. Fun times.

2. For goodness’ sake, GO SLOWLY

When the books and experts tell you to go slowly, believe them. You can’t eliminate grains and sugars and dose your body with a bunch of probiotics all at once.  Because I didn’t think I was going to cause such a change, I didn’t reduce my probiotic supplements or the amount of probiotics foods I was eating. All those things, while good, cause the war in your intestines to rage even fiercer, and accelerate the die-off, to the point where the healing is actually more damaging to you than the toxins. If you go on a detox, carefully evaluate the foods and supplements that you are taking and reduce the amount of probiotics until after you have tried the diet for a few days and you feel like you can handle the detox.

3. And speaking of supplements…

Know what is in them! I had stopped taking my probiotics but was still experiencing a lot of die-off symptoms, and was confused as to why they were not abating. Then this week I discovered that my multivitamin has a full dose of probiotics already built in! So I was still intensifying the die-off without even knowing it.  Stop as many supplements as you can and focus on eating good foods, then slowly add supplements back in, testing for reactions.

4. Rest

You can’t expect your body to go through this hard work of cleaning out toxins and expect to have a lot of energy. Getting a minimum of 8 hours of sleep and keeping your stress levels down is essential. Our modern fast-paced society already has a problem with adrenal fatigue, and we should all try to get more sleep and less caffeine, but it is even more crucial when your body is trying to heal. If you had the flu or a sinus infection, you would stay home and rest and drink lots of homemade chicken soup, right? Well, I hope so, because that’s what would help you get better, and that’s what will help you on GAPS, SCD, or any detoxing program. Not only did I not get any extra rest, but we had busy weekends and long workweeks that just made things worse.

5. Just because you eat healthy now, doesn’t mean you are healthy

Part of the reason I didn’t expect such a huge reaction is because we have changed our diet so much this year already. We’ve reduced our grain consumption overall and mostly eat sourdough or sprouted grains. We eat pastured eggs, grass-fed beef, and organic produce. I make most of our food from scratch and eat homemade fermented veggies to provide nutrients and probiotics. In general, my health had improved greatly. But a few months of good eating is not enough to undo decades of antibiotics, steroids, bad diets, and environmental toxins. Toxins are generally stored in your fat tissues, and when you lose seven pounds in two weeks, you flood your system with a lot of bad stuff that it has been hanging on to for years. You have to be prepared to deal with that.

All in all, despite the struggles, I feel that this was a good learning experience and will pave the way for future excursions into the GAPS diet which will ultimately lead to further healing in my life. Next time I’ll be smarter with it, starting with the Intro Diet and progressing very slowly. I’ll also be sure to have some calendula salve on hand to help the eczema!  One thing I do know, however, is that I don’t want to continue to walk around with all these toxins in my body.  It might take a long time, and be a hard road, but I want to be healthy.

There are a lot of resources out there to help with the process, and if you are considering GAPS, I highly recommend you check out the support groups on Yahoo (just go to yahoo groups and search for GAPS) as well as the bloggers that are going through GAPS themselves or have found good results from it. Here’s a few for you to check out:

GAPS Guide

Health, Home, and Happiness

Healthy Home Economist

Kelly the Kitchen Kop

Kat’s Food Blog

Kitchen Stewardship

Here’s to your health, and creating a legacy of health in your family.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2010 in Things Edible

 

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Whole Foods for the Holidays: Soup is So Simple

I’m excited for the Whole Foods for the Holidays Progressive Dinner being hosted by several real food bloggers over the next few weeks. Today it starts out with soup. I posted my summer zucchini soup a few weeks back but it is so versatile that I find it can be used in any season just by switching out the main vegetable-it’s more of a formula than a recipe. Last week I made it using leeks and cabbage with some kale, skipping the coconut milk. The week before I made it with fish stock and leftover salmon. It’s a wonderful, budget-friendly, nourishing soup that is great on a cold day.

 

Simple Garden Soup Formula

1 medium onion, diced or a large leek, sliced into half moons

2 carrots, sliced

2-3 Tbsp butter, lard, or coconut oil

3 small zucchini or a small head of cabbage, sliced

2 Tbsp fresh herbs-basil, thyme, oregano, and/or parsley, chopped or 1 Tbsp dried

juice of one lemon

1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced

3 cups bone broth

1 can coconut milk (Native Forest has BPA-free cans!)

salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion or leek and carrot in fat of choice (I used pork drippings from a roast). After 5 minutes, add zucchini or other vegetable and herbs, along with salt and pepper. If you wanted to add heat, you could put in a minced jalapeno or some cayenne pepper here. Then add in lemon juice and tomatoes. After a couple more minutes, add stock and bring to a low boil, 2-3 minutes for zucchini, 5-10 minutes for cabbage. Reduce heat and add coconut milk. Allow to simmer on low for a few minutes so flavors meld.

Seafood soup adaptation: use fish stock instead of bone broth and also add some shrimp or chopped white fish when adding the stock. It’s a great way to use up leftover fish.

What other vegetables would you use?

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2010 in Things Edible

 

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Detox is a…yeah.

I could tell you how I really feel about detox, but I try to keep my profanity to a minimum. While I had a good couple of days last weekend, this week has been a struggle, as I continue to work through some serious skin issues.  It’s manageable, but not fun.

I’ve been so very good with avoiding grains and hoped that I would improve this week, but I seemed to have run through an entire new set of symptoms. Sore throat, stomach upset, and migrating eczema have all plagued me, and I’m getting pretty tired of it, I must say.  But I’m not giving up. I know that this reaction means I have a very toxic system and I want to get it cleaned out, once and for all!

I’ve done a lot of reading about detoxification, eczema, gut dysbiosis, and retracing this week. It’s amazing some of the stories out there. I’m so grateful for the collective body of knowledge and the encouraging stories from those who have seen their eczema vanish permanently. For some it took days and for other weeks and months, but it does work. And while there is a temptation to go back to the status quo, to just slap on a bunch of steroid creams and look better, I know that it only delays the inevitable.

This experience has convinced me that at some point in the near future I need to do the full GAPS program, starting with the intro diet, so I can really truly heal. It may not be very fun, but it will get me to where I want to go. I’ve really appreciated the GAPS Guide blog during all this-a great resource for tips, encouragement, and recipes. I also found this article (thanks to Cheeseslave for the link) which really gives a great explanation of the detox process that has encouraged my resolve:

The following was given to patients at the Gerson Cancer Clinic in 1982: “As a person continues on an improved diet and supplement program and gradually raises his or her food quality, interesting symptoms begin to appear. The body begins a process called retracing.
The cellular intelligence reasons something like this: `Oh, look at all these fine materials coming in. How wonderful — now we have a chance to get rid of this old garbage and build a beautiful new house. Let’s get started immediately.
“First the body begins to clean house — everywhere (this is when you are likely to have a healing reaction, sometimes called a healing crisis or a cleansing reaction). During this period, the body “removes the ashes from the furnace preparatory to getting a better fire…”

“Let’s return to the symptoms, which occur when a person begins a superior nutritional program. People who have had tendencies in the past to recurring skin rashes or eruptions will frequently tend to eliminate poisons and harmful drugs through the skin with new rashes or eruptions. If they go to a doctor now, who is not familiar with the aspect of nutrition, he or she will diagnose it as an allergy.
The patient asks, “Why do I have a rash? I’m eating better now and than I ever did before and taking the best supplements in the world, and instead of getting better, I’m getting worse! They don’t understand that the body is “retracing.” The body is getting more alive and active. It is throwing out poisons more rapidly now that the body has more power.
“With some, colds, which haven’t appeared for a long time, may occur or even fevers. This is nature’s way of house cleaning. Understand that these actions are constructive, even though unpleasant at the moment. Don’t — but don’t try to stop these symptoms by the use of drugs. These are not deficiency conditions or allergic manifestations — not if you are eating properly and taking your supplements…

Don’t expect to go on an ascending scale of quality of life — expecting that improving your diet will make you feel better and better each day until you reach perfection. The body is cyclical in nature, and health comes in a series of gradually diminishing flare-up cycles.
For example, you start a better diet and for a while you feel much better. After some time a symptom occurs, you may feel nauseous for a day and have diarrhea with a foul-smelling stool. After a day, you feel even better than before and all goes well for awhile.
Then you suddenly develop a cold; feel chills and lose your appetite. After about 2 or 3 days (assuming you don’t take drugs nor do anything else about it), you suddenly recover and feel better than you did for years.
Let us say this well being continues for two months, when you suddenly develop a rash. You still don’t take anything special for it. This rash flares up, gets worse and continues for ten days, then suddenly subsides.
Immediately after this, you find that your [ whatever you were manifesting while undernourished] is gone and your energy has increased more than ever before. The rash became an outlet for the poisons in the liver, which produced the [whatever was manifesting].
This is how recovery occurs, like the cycles in the Dow-Jones Average at the beginning of a bull market recovery. You feel better, a reaction occurs, and you don’t feel as well for a short while.
You recover and go higher for a while. Then another reaction occurs, milder than the last. You recover and go even higher.
And so it goes, each reaction milder than the last, as the body becomes purer, each becoming shorter in duration and being followed by a longer and longer period of feeling better than ever before, until you reach a level plateau of vibrant health.”

 Vibrant health! That’s what I am looking for, and I think in time I will find it.

Update: We’re going to take a little break just to let my system recover from the extreme eczema I’ve been dealing with this past week, as it is dangerous to have skin this compromised (it can lead to very bad infections requiring antibiotics that will just damage my gut health further) but we will continue to implement GAPS principles and possibly try the intro again after the holidays.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Turning the Corner

I won’t lie: the first week of grain-free had its rough times. Despite our very tasty menu, which got mad props from the supportive husband, we missed our sourdough bread and our tortilla chips and our coconut curry rice. When a commercial featuring a grilled cheese sandwich came on television I thought Jer would explode. Still, we haven’t wavered, and except for some later-discovered wheat in condiments (why do they need wheat in hot sauce?) we have stuck to the regimen.

The more difficult challenge has been the eczema flare-up. I knew that there might be some die-off symptoms, as it is explained with every cleanse or detox book or article that symptoms will get worse before they get better. Compounding my troubles was a big project last weekend involving cleaning off shelves, dusting, moving furniture, vacuuming, and other activities generally known for instigating a major allergic response in my skin. Dust has always been one of my worst allergens, and I should have known better than to be down in the basement clearing off dusty shelves right when I was starting a cleanse.

So, this past week I have been covered in eczema. Itch and redness and broken skin. Not as bad as last year, mind you, but certainly worse than it has been all year. It’s actually been doing pretty well with all the good changes we’ve made in our diet and the beauty products I use, and so to have it get worse right when we are trying something that is supposed to help is somewhat discouraging, especially for Jer. I’ve been through the ups and downs of eczema for twenty something years now-he’s only a year into it. I kept at it though, trusting that this was part of the process.

And lo and behold, this morning I am feeling awesome. My skin is looking better, and while I still have a couple days of healing, the itch factor has disappeared and the inflammation has gone down, telling me that whatever has been trying to get out through my skin has indeed left the building. I woke up feeling energized and clear-headed, and after 8 days I have lost five pounds and feel very light and healthy. Because we’ve been eating very well, with nutrient dense foods like wild salmon, grass-fed beef, pastured eggs and a ton of organic produce, I haven’t felt hungry or weak, and my blood sugar has been very stable.

We’re continuing to stay grain-free until Friday, when our two weeks is up. Next weekend we are headed to Leavenworth with the fabulous in-laws, so it’s unlikely we will pass up on all the yummy beer and apple cake being served during the last weekend of Oktoberfest. But with the positive results both of us are feeling that a little less grain in our lives is a good long-term plan. And it certainly makes us more confident that doing a full GAPS lifestyle for a few months to start off next year will be both achievable and beneficial. More than anything, turning the corner today convinces me that we will never go back to eating the standard American diet again. I just feel way to good to give this up.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2010 in Things Edible

 

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Menu Plan Monday: Grain Free Week One

We’re a few days in to our grain-free trial, and despite having an allergy setback due to a lot of dust we kicked up in a house project, I think we are doing pretty well. I’ll be interested to see how I recover, if cutting grains helps me get over allergic reactions quicker.

I’m trying out a lot of new recipes this week as I want to keep the menu varied and not eat just bone broth and butternut squash for two weeks straight. We love both of those things, but after awhile everyone needs variety!

Below are my dinner plans. I made a big pot of stew this weekend that we are eating for lunches the first half of the week, and leftovers will fill in towards the end of the week. I’m also trying out some grain-free baked goods like these delicious almond pumpkin bars for our breakfasts.

Monday: Flash-roasted salmon and Braised cabbage—We picked up a bulk order of wild Alaskan sockeye and I am anxious to use it! I’ve also been wanting to try the cabbage recipe, but I’m altering it to be more savor-removing the raisins and adding in red peppers and carrots.

Tuesday: Taco salad with cauliflower rice. No chips, tortillas, or beans, so the focus will be on the spicy meat and rice, and the lacto-fermented veggies like cortido and escabeche.

Wednesday: I’m out to dinner with a friend (a good test to see if you can eat out on GAPS) but I will start some chili on Tuesday night for Jer to have, and to use for lunches later in the week. No beans, so again, focus on the meat and veggies

Thursday: Breaking out the fish stock for a Thai soup with zucchini, leftover fish, and coconut milk.

Friday: Chicken. Haven’t decided yet if I am just going to roast the whole bird I have in my freezer or cut it up like I did last time. Need to practice my butchering skills!

Saturday: Chicken soup with leeks and carrots. Katie at Kitchen Stewardship has some great ideas on taking existing recipes and removing the grains, playing up the veggies. Good thing I like carrots, and have a five pound bag of them in my fridge!

I don’t feel deprived with this kind of menu. I will admit to being sorely tempted when we went into Frost Doughnuts for coffee this weekend. The smell is intoxicating! But we stayed strong and have been faithful. And I think it will be worth it.

This post is part of Menu Plan Monday

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2010 in Things Edible

 

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