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.

Apple Spice Probiotic Smoothie

I haven’t blogged in a while primarily because I recently got both of Danielle Walker’s fabulous cookbooks and I’ve been cooking everything in them. I’ve been eating lots of good food, but none of it has really been original. If you are paleo or SCD, I can’t recommend her cookbooks enough. Her recipes have never failed us!

However, all of our feasting came to an abrupt halt when my GI doctor put me on a round of hefty antibiotics because he was worried I was forming a new abscess. While he was encouraged by my progress over all, ramping up medication always feels like a bit of a failure on my part. It’s easy for me to start thinking, “did this happen because I let myself get too stressed,” or, “if I hadn’t eaten out that one time a couple weeks ago, would I be feeling better today?” I’ve been learning about meditation and mindfulness, because it is one of the things that people with chronic illness report as being most helpful to them, and I’ve been reading about just how self-destructive these kinds of thoughts are. It is better to react to setbacks with self-compassion and equanimity since we can never know for sure if there was anything we could have done to alter the outcome, and allowing negative and stressful thoughts to control us only further exacerbates both physical symptoms and mental suffering. So I’ve been working on that during this round of treatment.

Anyway, the antibiotics make me so nauseous I can’t even stand to look at most food–much less cook it and eat it. Plus, my GI doc stressed the importance of probiotics while I was on the antibiotics, so I started drinking most of my meals instead. I’ve been making all kinds of smoothies, often times with some hidden veggies or a raw pasteurized egg blended in so it makes a better meal replacement, but the following recipe is my absolute favorite–light and easy on the tummy, and it even helps those of us who are still dealing with summer weather get into the fall spirit. It tastes way better than a pumpkin spice latte when the AC is still running!

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Apple Spice Probiotic Smoothie Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup SCD legal yogurt
  • 1/2 cup unfiltered apple juice
  • about 8 ice cubes
  • 1 cup frozen banana chunks
  • 1 tablespoon plain almond butter (optional; it makes the smoothie richer and adds some good fats and a little protein)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Apple Spice Probiotic Smoothie Ingredients

  • Place all ingredients in a blender and blend! If it’s too thin, add a few more chunks of banana or ice cubes. If it’s too thick, add apple juice until it blends easily. This makes one large meal-sized serving, or two generous snack-sized portions.

 

Nut Butter Coconut Chocolate Cups

Ok, here’s the thing. Technically chocolate, even raw cacao, is not SCD legal. BUT I can’t find a very good reason for this. One potential reason is that it is potentially addictive (duh, but so is coffee–much more so, actually–and it is allowed with caveats) and another is that cacao is a chemically complex food that might contain trace amounts of illegal carbohydrates (sucrose, to be specific), as well as compounds that aid in the reproduction of viruses and suppress the immune system.

On the other hand, there is tons of solid information coming out about how nutritious cacao can be. One ounce of cocoa contains nearly a quarter of the recommended daily value of iron, 35 % RDV of magnesium, and over 50% RDV of copper and manganese. It’s a good source of protein, fiber, and numerous essential minerals–many of which are chronically deficient in IBD sufferers. Additionally, cocoa is very high in antioxidants, which protect against aging, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even inflammation. Consumption of cacao is allowed–and even encouraged–in some other gut restorative diets such as GAPS and paleo. So, I’m sorry, Elaine, but you’ll have to provide me with a better argument to get me to give up cocoa.

Not all chocolate is created equal, however. Fermenting and processing can significantly reduce the antioxidants available in chocolate, and other ingredients usually used to make chocolate–such as sugars, milk, and certain preservatives–are (convincingly) problematic for people with IBD. If you are going to indulge in chocolate, it’s so much better for you to make your own so that you can control your ingredients. It can take a little hunting to track down the ingredients you need, but once you acquire them they should last for a good amount of time. I use this cacao powder, which is raw and only partially fermented to preserve as many antioxidants as possible. This is my source of cocoa butter. I hear you can buy it at Whole Foods, but I don’t go to Whole Foods regularly, and anyway the wafer form is super easy to measure.

I got the basic chocolate recipe from this site, but my husband is addicted to these delicious coconut-covered almond chocolates from Sprouts and I was inspired by them, along with a glut of raw hazelnuts, to come up with a new filling. If you don’t want to make your own nut butter filling, you can also use a prepared one from the store (just check the ingredients). I have also made these with a layer of almond butter and a layer of coconut butter, and they are quite tasty.

Once you’ve roasted the nuts, turn them out into a clean kitchen towel and wrap them up to steam for a few minutes.p1000654

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Peel them as well as you can but don’t worry about some skins sticking around.p1000657

Here is what the butter should look like once well combined and processed.p1000658

Use a double boiler to melt your chocolate and honey. Or, you know, just a bowl on top of a pot. Whatever.p1000659

Allmmooooost melted.p1000661

Stir into the cacao and vanilla and keep stirring until very smooth. I like to do this in a measuring cup so it’s easy to pour.p1000662

Pour in a bit of chocolate.p1000664

Then your filling.p1000665

Then more chocolate. Don’t worry about perfection. You can remove extra chocolate once the candies are set.p1000666

Cover and refrigerate until set.p1000667

Then just pop them out of the mold and enjoy!p1000669p1000670

Nut Butter Coconut Chocolate Cups Ingredients (Makes about 15 candies, plus a few tablespoons left over; see note at bottom for dealing with leftovers)

  • 3/4 cups raw hazelnuts, or other raw nuts of choice
  • 2-3 tablespoons coconut butter
  • generous pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup cocoa butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Roast raw hazelnuts in a baking pan for 15-20 minutes, until fragrant and browned but not burned. Pour into a clean kitchen towel and let steam for a few minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub together in the towel or between your hands to remove most of the peels. Don’t worry if you can’t get all of them off.
  • Place hazelnuts, coconut butter, and salt in food processor and process until smooth. If the nut butter is not smooth enough for your taste, keep adding coconut butter or coconut oil until you achieve the desired consistency. I keep mine quite thick so that it holds together better. Taste and add more salt if desired. I like mine a bit salty to contrast with the sweet chocolate.
  • Heat about 1 inch of water in the bottom part of a double boiler over medium-low heat. Add in the honey and cocoa butter and stir until melted.
  • Combine honey and cocoa butter with cacao powder and vanilla extract. Be very careful not to get any water in the mixture at this point or else it can make your chocolate grainy. Taste and adjust to your liking by adding more honey or more cacao.
  • Pour a thin layer of chocolate into the bottom of a silicone chocolate mold (like this one)*. Spoon in a layer of the nut butter. Then top off again with another layer of chocolate. Cover the mold with parchment paper and refrigerate until set.
  • Pop out of the molds and store in refrigerator. Consume within 7 days for best taste and texture (but I bet they won’t last that long!).

*Note: if you don’t have a chocolate mold and don’t want to buy one, just linea glass dish or rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and pour half the chocolate on top. Then, top with the hazelnut butter, and then the other half of the chocolate. Swirl with a knife. Once it has hardened a bit in the refrigerator, cut into pieces and peel off parchment paper. I usually have a bit of chocolate and hazelnut butter left over, anyway, and this is how I avoid waste!

Dairy Free Peachy Mint Ice Cream

Ok, you guys, I know what I’m eating for the rest of the summer.

In the rest of the northern hemisphere, it might be a season called “spring” right now. But in the desert, we have moved right on to summer. I already feel like just skipping meals altogether and only consuming cold beverages and smoothies until October. But my biggest illegal craving has been ice cream, frozen yogurt, gelato…I’m dying for it, but I know how much I will regret indulging afterwards. So, I’ve come up with a sweet and refreshing frozen treat that is based mostly off of actual frozen fruit. I mean, I’m not going to lie; it’s not my old favorite Karamel Sutra (sigh) but it also doesn’t leave me feeling like I’m going to die every time I eat it.

First blend up the cream with the mint and honey. Once you add the fruit you really don’t want to over-process because the food processor motor will heat up and melt it.cam00059_2

Add peaches.cam00060_2

Done! Seriously, how easy was that!?cam00062_2

Dairy Free Peachy Mint Ice Cream (Serves 2, or 1 on a bad day…)

  • 1/2 cup cold coconut cream
  • 1 cup frozen peaches (technically, any frozen fruit will do, and I can imagine strawberries or mango being realllly good for example, but this Texas girl has a thing for peach ice cream)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon honey, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method

  • Combine coconut cream, mint, honey, and vanilla in food processor and process until the mint is well incorporated.
  • Add the frozen peaches and process until smooth.
  • Eat immediately; or, if you want it a little more solid, pop it into the freezer for about 30 minutes. If you freeze it much longer than that, you might need to let it thaw slightly and then re-blend it a little to make it creamy rather than icy. Garnish with extra mint if desired

Whole Roasted Chicken with Braised Vegetables and Bone Broth

Recently I have gotten into the habit of roasting a whole chicken and making homemade bone broth every week. This process requires a bit of up-front work, but then it makes meal preparations so easy for the rest of the week. One chicken easily feeds my husband and me for 4 meals, and I use the bone broth in the place of water in pretty much every savory recipe I make. Bone broth also makes a really good snack or very light meal, especially during a flare. It is very easy to digest and is full of nutrients that fight inflammation, reduce joint pain, boost immunity, keep bones strong, and strengthen hair and nails. This article among many others provides some good information on the health benefits of bone broth. Interestingly enough, I have found that both traditional and alternative sources strongly recommend broth consumption to IBD sufferers.

I feel like roasting a chicken should be a fairly simple operation, but we are so far removed from the natural state of our food that I feel like most people my age seem scared to buy and prepare a whole bird. I am going to walk you through the process step-by-step, and I promise that you can do it and even your grandma will be impressed with the result!

We normally eat the chicken and vegetables plain for a few meals, and then I use leftovers in recipes throughout the week. This week we used leftovers to make PaleOMG’s AH-MAY-ZING chicken pesto pasta. Since the chicken was already cooked, it was a total snap to throw this delicious dinner together!

Begin with roasting your bird and braising some veggies. Here are the veggies we are going to be using today:Image

 

Leeks have a tendency to collect a lot of dirt as they grow. To clean them, cut off the dark green leaves and the white end. Slice into the vegetable about halfway up the stalk and separate the layers so you can wash between them.Image

Chop off the tops and ends of carrots; then peel and chop in half. Throw the waste from the leeks and carrots into your crockpot for later.Image

Arrange the cut, prepared vegetables and one third of your fresh herbs in the bottom of a casserole dish and add white wine. Drizzle olive oil on top of the veggies and sprinkle a little sea salt and black pepper on them.Image

Prepare your spice rub by processing one third of fresh herbs and all dried spices and herbs in a food processor. Then combine with 3 tablespoons olive oil.Image

Now it’s time to give your chicken a spa treatment. Reach inside and pull out the gizzards. Set aside. Rinse your chicken inside and out with water and then set in your prepared roasting pan. Massage it inside and out with the oil/spice mixture.Image

Stuff the remaining aromatics inside the chicken.P1000463

Go ahead and put the chicken in the oven.Image

Once your chicken is done cooking, carve. If you’re not sure how to carve a whole chicken, this video is pretty helpful.

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Serve with braised veggies.P1000472

Finally we get to the part where you make chicken bone broth! Throw all the bones from the carved  chicken into your slow cooker, along with your veggie trimmings. Also….let’s deal with the gizzards now. I like to add the neck and heart to my broth, but not the liver (some people are quite averse to the taste of liver in broth). The first picture is the neck and heart, which I throw in.P1000464

Did I mention that I used to be a vegetarian?!?  The next picture is the liver, which I throw out. P1000466

Add celery and any other aromatics you want, along with the apple cider vinegar and gizzards. Fill the slow cooker with filtered water up to the fill line. P1000471

Cook on high for 2 hours, then on low for at least 6 hours, or up to 22 hours.  Then strain through a colander lined with a piece of cheesecloth into a large bowl. P1000479And there you have it. Beautiful, golden, nutritious bone broth! If you have any solid fat on the surface once it cools, scoop it off with a spoon and discard or use in the place of cooking oil.P1000481

Roasted Chicken Ingredients (serves 4-5, with leftover meat)

  • 1 whole chicken (organic and pastured is ideal)
  • 7-10 carrots, peeled and cut in half
  • 4-5 small leeks, cleaned with green leaves and bottoms removed
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • several sprigs fresh herbs, divided three ways (tarragon, marjoram, rosemary, and sage are all good choices)
  • 1/4 cup very dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 2 teaspoons herbes de provence
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Method

  • Preheat oven to 330 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Pour white wine into large glass casserole dish. Arrange carrots, leeks, and 1/3 of the fresh herbs in the dish, with the leeks and carrots to the side and the herbs in the middle. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Remove gizzards from chicken and set aside. Rinse chicken inside and out and place in middle of casserole dish.
  • Combine all dry herbs and spices and another third of the fresh herbs in a food processor. Process until they are a fine powder. Mix with remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil (the consistency should be like a thin paste).
  • Rub the chicken inside and out with spice mixture. Stuff the remaining fresh herbs, lemon, and garlic inside the chicken. If desired, tie legs together with kitchen twine (I never do, but it makes for a pretty presentation).
  • Bake for 3 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Rotate veggies and baste chicken with juices about once every hour. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.

Chicken Bone Broth Ingredients

  • Raw chicken heart and neck (optional)
  • Bones with a bit of meat still on them from roasted chicken (smaller ones snapped, if possible. Yes, I am a monster.)
  • Vegetables (for this batch I used trimmings from 7 carrots, plus 2 more carrots cut in half, trimmings from 4 small leeks, and 3 celery stalks cut in half; at a minimum you should use leeks/onions, carrots, and celery, although other vegetables can be added and the ratios adjusted to taste)
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cold filtered water (enough to fill slow cooker to fill line)

Method

  • Add all ingredients except for parsley, salt, and pepper to slow cooker.
  • Cook on high for 2 hours.
  • Cook on low for 6-22 hours.
  • Turn off heat and add parsley; allow to sit for about 10 minutes.
  • Strain through cheesecloth and colander.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to five days, or in the freezer for several months.