Albondigas!

You know how on December 26th or so you start thinking that you never want to eat food or drink alcohol again, like ever?

I exercised a little more control than usual this year. It helped a lot that much of my family has adopted a paleo-ish style of eating. For example, for my sister’s college graduation dinner, which we also celebrated over the holidays, we had: lamb shanks braised in beef broth with fennel, carrots, and onions; julienned radishes cooked in butter; parsnip mash topped with the reduced braising juices and veggies; and kale with bacon, blackberry ginger balsamic vinegar, and pecans.

It was a delicious and special meal that still felt good to eat. But then we followed it with tiramisu and White Russians and, well, you get the idea.

On top of the holiday indulgences, I started getting infusions of a new treatment this week. I read that I should expect to feel very tired for a couple of days. I feel pretty good so far, but I already stocked the fridge with food for meals that Chris could prepare in case I couldn’t. First up was one of our all-time favorite meals, a super-flavorful, veggie-packed albondigas (meatball) soup.

This soup is very adaptable to different dietary restrictions. For example, if nightshades are a problem for you, simply omit the tomatoes. You can also substitute plain ground meat for the chorizo, if chorizo is too spicy or if you can’t find one with acceptable ingredients, or switch out the summer squash for a winter squash or sweet potatoes. We’ve made this soup dozens of times–usually without a recipe and with whatever we have on hand. But the recipe I’m sharing here is our fave.

Chris did the cooking, but I prepped for him. I got out all the pantry ingredients…

ingredients

And chopped up all the veggies. In the back left, I have the sliced squash. In the ugly orange bowl, I prepared all the veggies that will go into the meatballs. In the front left, you can see the mirepoix that will be cooked first. And in the last bowl, cilantro. You can do this ahead of time, too, to make dinner a breeze.

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Here is the final product. Buen provecho!

yum

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Albondigas Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground meat (I used white meat turkey, but any ground meat will do)
  • 1 pound bulk chorizo (beef or pork is fine; just read the list of ingredients to make sure it is legal)
  • 26-28 ounces strained tomatoes (I use the Pomi cartons because they are BPA-free)
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and divided
  • 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 summer squash, halved and sliced
  • 8 cups chicken or turkey broth (homemade is best, but this is a great substitute)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped and divided
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 limes
  • Coconut oil
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hot sauce, optional

Albondigas Method

  • Thinly slice 2 and 1/2 of the carrots and 2/3 of the onion. Set the rest of the carrot and onion aside for the meatballs.
  • Heat 1 spoonful coconut oil over medium-high heat in a heavy stockpot. Add carrots, celery, and onion and saute for 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle generously with cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper, and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Add broth and tomatoes to stockpot and bring to a boil.
  • Meanwhile, make meatballs. Grate the leftover carrot and onion and combine in a bowl with half the finely chopped cilantro. Mix the vegetables with the ground meat and chorizo. Season lightly with salt and pepper (go very easy if you are using chorizo, since it is already seasoned). Roll into small meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter.
  • When the broth boils, carefully drop in the meatballs and gently stir so they don’t stick together.
  • Turn down the heat so it’s just barely boiling. Then let simmer for 20 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked.
  • Add sliced squash to the soup and cook about 8 more minutes, until the squash are soft. Taste and adjust seasoning of broth.
  • Serve in bowls topped with lime juice, diced avocado, fresh cilantro, and hot sauce to taste.
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Christmas Treats and an Update

My husband is a web developing genius, so he moved my site here. He also suggested maybe it’s time to give an update on how I’m doing.

I’ve had kind of a rough six weeks or so. I mentioned in a previous post that back in August or September my GI doc had been very impressed overall with my progress, but wanted me back on antibiotics briefly before removing my final drain. When I went to my follow-up appointment (when my last drain was supposed to be removed) and reported that I still felt some swelling and occasional fever, he ordered an MRI. The results were a little disappointing. No new abscesses or fistula tracts were found (which is the good news), but the bad news was that the main fistula tract was still pretty giant. So, I had another surgery (#6!) and this time my surgeon opened the fistula all the way so that it could drain and hopefully close up with healthy tissue.

When I went into this last surgery, I thought it would be like my previous ones–three or four days down and then a slow return to normal. But the incision was much bigger than any of my previous ones. Poor Chris (who might as well be a nurse in addition to a web developer by now) had to pack the incision with clean gauze several times a day for a few weeks. It was not fun for either of us. After two weeks I was still very uncomfortable and unable to move around too much. Now it’s been almost three weeks and I’m finally starting to feel well enough (and painkiller free enough!) to get out of the house a little.

I’m going to start a new medication to see if it gives me better results and gets that last bit of healing under way. I also started some new supplements–a probiotic, vitamin D, and folic acid–at the suggestion of another doctor after she ran some blood tests and found that I was extremely deficient in some vitamins, in spite of all that I do to eat a really nutrient-dense diet that should provide plenty of these and other vitamins. Needless to say, all this news was not what I had been hoping for. But, my surgeon and GI doc both said that we are still moving in the right direction, just maybe not as quickly as we might hope. So I’m doing my best to focus on that.

Anyway, this has given me a good excuse to watch Every. Single. Christmas. Movie. Ever. I’ve also gotten to spend lots of time admiring our tree and cuddling our greyhound. And finally this weekend I felt well enough to do a little Christmas baking! This way I can bring my own desserts to share to Christmas festivities and that might help me keep my paws out of all the goodies I shouldn’t be eating right now. I thought I would share a couple of recipes so that you can treat yourself or a loved one with dietary restrictions as well.

The orange ginger spice cookies are fragrant, soft, and chewy, even after they cool down. The peanut butter cups are rich–just as they should be. Also pictured are the thumbprint cookies from Danielle Walker’s ebook Joyful, which you can get as a Kindle version for only $1.99. I made them just as instructed and they are both pretty and tasty! The ginger cookies and thumbprint cookies are both paleo and SCD legal. The peanut butter cups are all around a little illegal. But all three are grain-free (and by default gluten-free) as well as free of refined sugars. The peanut butter cups are egg free and dairy free. Both the peanut butter cups and the ginger cookies can be made nut-free if you substitute sunflower seed butter for the nut butters.

Here is the process for assembling the peanut butter cups: a little chocolate, a little peanut butter, a little more chocolate!

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Here is the finished product. Yummmm.

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Santa could appreciate this plate, even if he has IBD or has gone paleo since last year!

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Orange Ginger Spice Cookies Ingredients (yield 1.5 dozen)

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup plain, smooth almond butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange zest

Orange Ginger Spice Cookies Method

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Combine butter, almond butter, honey, egg, vanilla extract, and orange zest in a large bowl. Use a hand or stand mixer and mix until smooth.
  • Add all remaining ingredients and mix well.
  • Drop batter by spoonfuls onto parchment paper. Bake 12-14 minutes. Cool on cooling rack.

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups Ingredients* (yield 10-12 cups, depending on chocolate to pb ratio)

  • 4 ounces 100% cacao chocolate (unsweetened; the only ingredient listed should be cacao)
  • 1/3 cup organic, smooth peanut butter (the only ingredient listed should be peanuts)
  • 1/8 cup coconut flour
  • 6 tablespoons honey, divided
  • 3 teaspoons palm or coconut oil
  • 3/4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus a dash more

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups Method

  • First make the peanut butter filling. Combine the peanut butter, 2 tablespoons honey, coconut flour, and sea salt. Use a hand mixer to stir until well combined. Divide into 10-12 balls by rolling between your palms, and then flatten a little into discs.
  • To make the chocolate, combine chocolate and oil in a heatproof bowl. Set on top of a saucepan with about 1 inch of simmering water in it. Stir until melted.
  • Remove from heat and add in remaining 4 tablespoons honey and vanilla. Stir until smooth.
  • Spoon a little chocolate in the bottom of a silicone cupcake liner and swirl to coat the bottom and up the sides just a bit. Then drop in one disc of peanut butter. Top with more chocolate to cover and a pinch of sea salt.
  • Refrigerate several hours, until set. Gently peel off the silicone liner. Store in the fridge.

*The cocoa makes these not 100% SCD legal but in my estimation these are still much better than most standard treats. To make them paleo compliant, just switch out the peanut butter with sunflower seed butter or your favorite nut butter.

Homemade Ginger Ale

You know how on airplanes, everyone around you orders ginger ale to drink? I know that people aren’t drinking that much ginger ale in their day-to-day life on the ground. But ginger ale is such a popular airplane drink because ginger is famous for settling upset tummies, and between the stress of getting to the airport on time, the greasy airport food, and the actual bumps in the air, flying can leave many people feeling a little off.

Ginger ale has always been one of my favorites–usually a treat reserved for traveling and the kid’s table at family holidays. As I mentioned previously, though, my husband recently got me a juicer and I decided to experiment with a homemade version. It’s really simple to make and it tastes like a spicier, more refreshing version of the real thing. Plus it’s full of real ginger–so much of it, that I can literally feel my tummy tingling (in a good way!) when I drink it sometimes. Try the recipe as is the first time, and then you can adjust to your taste. Use more ginger for more spice, more lime for a tarter drink, or more honey if you like it sweeter.

For reference, this is the piece of ginger I used.

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You’ll end up with a super-concentrated syrup that looks like this.

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And this is the final product. So refreshing!

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Homemade Ginger Ale Ingredients

  • 1 big piece of ginger. No need to be exact here; just choose the largest, freshest piece of ginger root you can find in your grocery store. That’s probably the right one for this project.
  • 1 large lime
  • 1 apple
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • sparkling water

Homemade Ginger Ale Method

  • Wash and roughly chop the lime, ginger, and apple so it will fit in the feeder tube of your juicer
  • Juice the lime, ginger, and apple according to manufacturer’s instructions
  • Pour the fresh juice into a small saucepan and add honey. Bring to a roiling boil and let boil for 2-3 minutes. Pour into a jar.
  • Stir syrup into sparkling water. Start with about 4 teaspoons of syrup per cup of sparkling water; add more until it is the right strength for your taste. Save the remaining syrup in the refrigerator and enjoy within a few days.