Sunday, November 20, 2016

Cruising AIP: The Reality Check

Cruising AIP: The Reality Check
(Disclaimer: Please read this post from start to finish or not at all. I am not promoting "cheating" or eating whatever you want when following AIP. I think it's extremely important that each individual follow the elimination phase as best as possible before determining what is best for them specifically on an individual case-by-case basis and making their own personal adjustments where necessary.)

Hanging out in port in Cozumel, Mexico.
I just stepped off the cruise ship yesterday morning, and returned home last night. My coworker and I sailed a 5-day/6-night cruise in the Caribbean to Georgetown, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico for a Hairstylist Education Cruise. Genius, right?! Overall, let me assure you that this trip was a blast! My coworker and I are great friends, and we honestly made an amazing time of it, despite a lot of hiccups. But cruising for the first time since making the change to an AIP lifestyle meant there was a lot of fear and anxiety on my part from start to finish: booking the cruise, planning for the cruise, and cruising itself.

I'm a prepper. Anxiety 101 means that you prepare for the worst all the time; this has it pros and cons, but I think we can all agree that handling anxiety is a matter of figuring out balance (if you have this figured out, please share with the rest of us; we'd love to know too!). But anxious person that I am, I researched. Thank goodness for Google! I searched "eating paleo on a cruise" and "eating AIP on a cruise". I read reviews and recommendations on forums and message boards. I asked in Facebook groups and got opinions from others directly. I read the article about Cruising Paleo? It's possible! on the Paleo Mom's blog. I asked my travel agent before I booked the cruise about accommodating food allergies, and received positive feedback that my accommodations would be met. I printed out a food card listing all the OK foods and the NEVER foods. I was prepared, ready to go, and positive about the adventure.

The week or so before the cruise rolled around. I was working crazy hours trying to squeeze in clients and make extra money to prepare myself for the whole week of pay that I was about to miss while on vacation and to save up extra money so I'd be able to have an enjoyable time on the cruise itself. I have spent the last three or four years working my butt off to get established in my career, and I was ready for my first true vacation in a very long time. As I started to prepare for the last few weeks before we left, things started to get stressful. Planning meals was becoming overwhelming. I was tired from working so many hours. I was working out a lot and trying to stay active to handle a recent breakup. I had other stressors in my professional life. I was eating AIP, but I was most definitely not eating balanced nor was I eating enough food.

I made the decision to cut myself some slack. I went and bought the cleanest gluten-free bread with the least aggravating ingredients for my personal food intolerances. I bought lettuce, Primal Kitchen Mayo (thank you Publix for now carrying this on your shelves because I can't even get this at my local Whole Foods!!!), top-quality AIP-friendly deli meats, pastured bacon and eggs, and some grass-fed cheese. I ate a lot of sandwiches. Surprisingly, instead of feeling like crap, I started feeling so much better. I think letting go of the constant stress of worrying about what to eat and actually eating enough calories made a huge difference. I took Betaine HCl and digestive enzymes with each meal as an extra precaution. I survived my last week pre-cruise with good spirits and very few food issues. My friend and I packed the car and headed down to Tampa for our cruise.

On the way, I decided that with a few reintros under my belt and such a successful week of eating prior, that I was planning to eat paleo/primal to allow myself more flexibility. This meant eggs, butter, white rice, and occasional cheeses were going to an option for me. Despite all this, the food situation on the cruise was a MAJOR letdown. Not much went according to plan. I was told to discuss my food allergies with the maître d' as soon as I boarded. I approached the dining hall with my allergy list in hand, and was shown to the person directly under the maître d'. I was told to bring my list with me to dinner and talk to the Section Head Waiter. I felt like things were handled so I said ok and went off to start the cruise fun. When dinner time came around, I asked my server for the Section Head Waiter. When he arrived, he glanced at the food allergy list and told me to pick something off the menu and the server would help me make changes so that it was ordered correctly. I'm feeling a little shuffled around, but I shrug my shoulders and do what I'm told. The server glances at the food list and is just as clueless. They expect me to pick items off the menu and know what I can and can't eat. Veteran AIPers know it's just not that simple when you have no ideas what ingredients are in what.

I tried my best and ordered fish with asparagus. I repeated over and over that I was gluten-free and no seasonings besides salt. The fish came to the table covered in some type of coating. I didn't eat the fish. Frustrated and now nervous about the remainder of the cruise, I went and asked for the maître d'. He treated me the same as everyone else I had already spoken to. This was the last straw. I was tired of being nice and patient. I had to demand to see someone who prepared the food several times to get my point across and the Sous Chef was finally brought out to speak with me. He discussed the issue, and I showed him my food allergy list. He said to pick what I wanted off the menu, and tell the server to bring the request to him, and he would make sure all the meals for the rest of the cruise were taken care of personally.

For future reference, this was the wrong way to go about it. I highly suggest if you plan on cruising that you speak with the cruise company specifically BEFORE you book your cruise. Then when you get on board, I would insist on speaking to the Sous Chef or someone else who handles the food directly PRIOR to dinnertime. Ask for an appointment if you must. Insist, insist, insist, but do it before you are hungry and stressed and upset in the middle of a busy dining room where the energy and pressure is also high for the staff. Make sure all meals are planned and clarified for the week. Ask what's available at other dining venues that will meet your needs. when the formal dining hall is open. I went hungry several times during the cruise because the venues where I could find options were closed when I was available to eat there.

Even with all this, several meals arrived to my table incorrectly. One dish came out covered in tomatoes. I gave up halfway through the cruise and started eating in the buffet dining hall, which is where I was originally warned not to eat because of possible cross-contamination. I had more success asking their cook staff for the ingredients in the dishes because they actually prepared the foods. I was able to ask for real eggs cooked in butter, and at the stir fry table, I was able to assemble my own choice of veggies and meat and then ask them to skip the teriyaki sauce and use strictly sesame seed oil instead. The only downfall was that the selection of food in the buffet venue was extremely limited. I ate a lot of the same foods over and over again for every meal, but for me personally, the small risk of cross-contamination was much safer than the other dining hall full of clueless staff. I was super disappointed in the quality of the food itself. At first I thought my expectations were too high because I was so used to eating high-quality, fresh ingredients on a daily basis. But I soon learned from other cruisers that it was a very common complaint. I overheard several complaints from other cruises to the staff about how subpar the food was. We just got a bad luck of the draw with this ship and cruiseline: poor selection, poor quality, they ran out of lots of items and had broken equipment on board.

I'm not sharing this necessarily to complain, but it's important to hear so you can imagine my mindset. I finally caved in Mexico, and ate food I hadn't eaten in three and a half years. Hungry, tired from snorkeling, completely fed-up of repetitious, bland food only 3 days into the cruise, my friend and I ordered chips and guacamole. The staff at the restaurant were thrilled to share all the ingredients they used to make theirs and had no issues making a fresh batch without jalapeños so I could eat it. I dug into the corn chips and guacamole with gusto, deciding at this point that stomach discomfort from eating corn wouldn't matter at this point.

I'm happy to report that I didn't die, I didn't get sick, I didn't feel miserable. And this was when I realized that while you should always strive to eat as healthy as possible and that no, AIP isn't 80/20, but that it's not the end of the world when you make a mistake, when you have to make adjustments because things just aren't going well, that you will not undo every little single step of progress just because you took a bite of something that's not on the OK list. Does this mean I think I should eat corn whenever I want to? No. Does this mean I need to give myself an excuse to slip just because things aren't going perfectly? Not necessarily. What I'm trying to show you is in times of difficulty and poor options, sometimes you have to let go of the mental taboo and stress of not being perfect. Overstressing and over-dieting will ultimately be much worse than a few accidents along the way.

Fresh yuca fries in Georgetown, Grand Cayman.

I didn't have the best trip as far as food accommodations were concerned. My best success was yuca fries in Grand Cayman (hooray for another super helpful and friendly restaurant owner), and I was fortunate the corn chips and guacamole went well in Mexico. But I will share that I had an amazing time with my friend with lots of laughs. I created some fantastic memories swimming with sting rays in the Caymans and snorkeling in Cozumel where I got to touch a seahorse and see tons of beautiful fish. I networked and connected with very motivated and creative people in the hair industry. I was able to let go of a lot of the daily stressors and live on a relaxed schedule. I was able to reevaluate where I am at with my hair career and decide how I want to focus my professional energies on making decisions that are more in line with how I see success for myself in the next few years. I have left with the reality check that I'm never going to be perfect at eating consistently every day and following a "perfect" AIP template. Some things are better left to go with the flow and enjoyed, than stressed and perfected.

Kissing a sting ray means 7 years good luck according to folk lore in the Caymans.

Like Maya Angelou said,

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Healing Kitchen Cookbook Review (& Recipe)

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that when you purchase an item your price stays the same, but I make a small commission to help run my blog. See more information here.*

The Healing Kitchen Cookbook Review
Short version: This cookbook is perfect for newbie or veteran to AIP. Go buy it!!

Long version: If the amazing photo of the spread on the front cover of the cookbook isn't enough to make you want to pick it up and check it out, then let me tell you more! At first glance, you've got eye-tantalizing and drool-worthy photos, easy to follow graphics, and a great guide at the front of the book to get you started.

When you start looking closer, you've got tons of well-developed meal plans utilizing the recipes in the cookbook complete with links to videos! The cookbook has tons of information and is definitely designed for the newbie in mind—whether you're new to the Autoimmune Protocol, ancestral health, paleo, cooking, etc, it doesn't matter because you're covered. There's even a basics section that provides you with simple recipes to replace some fridge and pantry essentials like worcestershire sauce, salad dressings, and herb blends. Missing ingredients here and there? There's an awesome substitution chart to help you out! They've also included budget advice and how to navigate the grocery and finding new ingredient items that you might not be familiar with.

But if you're not a newbie and you've been doing paleo or AIP for a while now, you're still really going to enjoy the cookbook. The recipes range from comfort classics to ethnic cuisines and some newer recipes to tempt the AIP palate. If you've been stuck in a cooking rut lately, this is the book to grab to help you freshen up the menu. Below you'll find a list of the recipes I sampled (click the link to see the Instagram photos). Not only did I really like the flavors and textures, but several recipes received approval from non-paleo friends, too! I even included a sample recipe from the book. The Spicy African Kale is different and super tasty.

The Food

No-Bake Lemon Macaroons

Congrats to Alaena Haber from Grazed & Enthused and Sarah Ballantyne from The Paleo Mom on a job well done and for bringing another much-needed cookbook to the Autoimmune Protocol Community.

Here's your chance to win a copy!
If you'd like a chance to win a copy, follow me on Instagram @theprimordialtable. Flash Giveaway starts this weekend (February 26, 2016)! Don't miss it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Nightshade-free Ratatouille (AIP)

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that when you purchase an item your price stays the same, but I make a small commission to help run my blog. See more information here.*

Fun fact: I always loved seeing the Disney version of the ratatouille dish. Not just because the mouse is cute (he is!), but because it always looked so pretty and colorful. Truthfully, I've never had an authentic ratatouille. I'm extremely disappointed, but as I don't see myself reintroducing nightshades any time soon, I will have to settle for how I think it would taste. Luckily, there aren't too many crazy different ingredients, so I imagine it tastes much like a fancier version of the canned zucchini in tomatoes with Italian seasoning. I don't think we can argue with the fact that it looks much fancier too!

This is a nice and savory dish perfect for colder weather. The time in the oven turns the beet-based marinara into a bold, brilliant red that adds a lovely pop of color as a side dish to grace your holiday tables too.

I also shared this with some non-AIP and non-paleo friends, and most of them approved. 

Don't let the focus on the beets deter you. The acid of the lemon and the punch from the herbs helps to counterbalance the usual strong earthiness that the beets tend to have.

Nightshade-free Ratatouille
½ tbsp EVOO
½ onion, chopped
4 oz mushrooms, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz canned beets
1 tbsp EVOO
3 tsp lemon juice, or to taste
½ tsp sea salt, or to taste
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried parsley
¼ tsp dried rosemary
¼ tsp dried basil
1 large yellow squash, sliced into rounds
1 large zucchini squash, sliced into rounds
2 large beets, sliced into rounds
Fresh basil, EVOO, & sea salt, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375°F. 

In a deep skillet or small saucepan, heat the oil over medium to medium low heat. Saute the onions and mushrooms until they start to turn translucent and soften. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 

Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor, and add canned beets, remaining olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, and dried herbs. Blend thoroughly. 

Taste the marinara and adjust accordingly. Sometimes more lemon is needed to balance the sweetness of the beets and sometimes more salt is need. If more herbs are needed, add oregano and basil.

Pour the sauce into the bottom of a glass dish (either one 9x13 or two 8 in rounds) to fill about half an inch high. Arrange the yellow squash, zucchini and fresh beets in an alternating pattern to fill the pan. You can get as creative as you like (see example below).

Drizzle the tops with a little bit of olive oil and top with a few dashes of sea salt and some chopped fresh basil. Cook on the middle rack in the oven for 35-35 min or until top is lightly brown and slices are fork-tender.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Sweet 'n Salty Acorn Squash (AIP)

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that when you purchase an item your price stays the same, but I make a small commission to help run my blog. See more information here.*

When the Paleo Mom posted her recent article about the benefits of blackstrap molasses in Blackstrap Molasses: The Sugar You Can Love!, I realized that I don't cook with it enough. I enjoy the taste of it in the right foods. I often add molasses to my Sweet Potato Cookies recipe and skip the raisins for more of a snickerdoodle-type cookie. Reading about all the nutritious benefits of it compared to other sweeteners was pretty exciting. Most of the other sweeteners aren't really applauded very often, so it's nice to see one that gets a little praise and makes us feel a little less guilty for indulging.

As I've said before, I'm not very big on sweets. Occasionally, I do go on short sprees where I crave it, or I desire the comfort food that contains it, but for the most part, my blog isn't very heavily laden with desserts. Molasses is a different kind of sweet, almost tangy, and so I think it has a place.

This recipe was also inspired from a few pictures on A Squirrel in the Kitchen's Instagram: @Squirrel_Kitchen. When I saw her slicing and roasting the squash with the seeds intact, I was intrigued.

Combine some squash and molasses, and we now have an easy but delicious side dish, a lovely breakfast item, or a simple dessert.

Sweet 'n Salty Winter Squash
1 winter squash (acorn, pumpkin, delicata or butternut)
2-3 tbsp coconut oil or preferred fat (should be liquid)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger (reduce the ginger by half if you like less of a "kick")
¼ tsp ground mace
¼ tsp ground cloves

Place the oven rack approximately 6 inches from the broiler. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Holding the stem, slice the squash into ¼-⅓ inch rounds. If you are Elimination Phase AIP, then you will want to remove all the seeds and compost or discard. If you have reintroduced seeds, leave the seeds intact. Arrange the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush the slices generously with coconut oil (or desired fat).

Combine the spices (excluding the sea salt) and sprinkle evenly over the squash. Sprinkle a couple dashes of sea salt per slice to taste (think "Salted Caramel"; you just want a hint of the salt).

Roast the squash approximately 20-25 minutes until lightly browned, the squash is soft, and the skin is crisp. (The seeds should also be well toasted if you kept them intact.)

Remove pan from oven and turn on broiler. Drizzle the squash with molasses. Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes (do not move the rack). Keep a close eye to prevent burning. Remove when crispy and molasses is sticky and bubbling.

Allow to cool a minute or so before serving as the molasses is VERY hot.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bottoms Up! Bone Broth Recipe Round Up

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that when you purchase an item your price stays the same, but I make a small commission to help run my blog. See more information here.*

Bottoms Up! Bone Broth Recipe Round Up
I am frequently asked if I have a bone broth recipe on my blog. It's not a crazy question. Bone broth is probably one of the most basic foundations of eating on the Autoimmune Protocol and for very good reason. There are tons of benefits to daily bone broth consumption and gelatin and collagen supplementation. But there are also lots and lots of great articles and recipes within the AIP community and beyond. So instead of beating a dead horse to the ground, I'm supplying you with a pretty thorough round up of recipes and sources of more information.

For me personally, I don't really follow a strict recipe. Some people prefer making their broths with roasted bones, and some prefer making it with raw bones. Some people prefer using veggies, and others say nay. Some argue for the use of an acid like vinegar in the broth, while some say it doesn't matter. Honestly, I don't think there is a right or wrong way to make broth. You have the basic formulation: bones and water. Then tweak everything from there and figure out what works for you! That's why there are SO MANY different ways to make it.

I can tell you all about my personal preferences. But that's all they are. I like my broths with bones unroasted with a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar for chicken or poultry OR red wine vinegar for beef. I also prefer to skip the veggies AND the salt to make a "stock". The stock has barely any flavor which means I can use it in recipes savory AND sweet for the most flexibility.

I will also say that sometimes it's just hard to get your broth in. That's why I'm also personally a big fan of gelatin and collagen supplementation whether I'm using bone broth daily or not. They are great with helping with controlling inflammation. I prefer to use the following brand.

You can read why I prefer Vital Proteins over other brands in my Pumpkin Pie Smoothie post.

And now for the list of recipes and articles, in no particular order...

Bone Broth Recipe Roundup

Benefits of Gelatin/Collagen

Friday, August 14, 2015

Getting Up in the Morning is Success

Getting Up in the Morning is Success
Warning: Shit's about to get real up on this blog, so if you're not into hearing about real life, then it's time to move on before things get serious. I figure it's my blog, so I can say that and no hard feelings. I think what I think, and I write what I write, and you gotta take the good with the bad. And I'm about to strip my soul bare, and get real ugly.

I got stood up tonight. It's the first time I've ever been stood up at 27 so I figure I could call that pretty lucky, but it's the final straw in a long series of terrible dates, and the coup de grâce in the spiral whirlwind that's been my life for the last year. If you have seen the tv series Selfie, I almost feel like I'm Eliza Dooley in the tenth episode where she binge drinks in a crazy, blurred, partying, karaoke montage--spiraling slowly and blindly out of control (alcoholism not included here personally).

Don't get me wrong. I love my life more than I ever have before, but it's also never been so hard. I am lost, overwhelmed, and frozen. I haven't blogged consistently in months and months. I have written tons of recipes and several drafts of blog posts. I've got several cookbooks stacked up for reviewing (they're all excellent, by the way, because I know the bloggers are food geniuses). I have plans for the blog, and yet I see the list a mile long, and I quit. I feel pulled a million different directions with no clear focus of which path I want to follow. Work, blog, food prep, social life, love life, on and on and on. I've gone through a couple hard breakups that hurt to let go of, and bitter friendships that burned even as much as I knew I needed to kick the negativity and toxicity out of my life. I'm on a super tight budget, living paycheck to paycheck, trying to pay all my bills and hope I run out of month before I run out of money, and doing it all by myself with barely any support to fall back on. My family is stretched out across the states, and I'm still completely alone in a city that doesn't feel like home. I have some great friends, but I've never felt more lonely in my life. I'm a hairstylist. I touch people hundreds of times a day, every day, and yet I can't tell you the last time someone touched me for more than 30 seconds. Days? Weeks? Months?

I haven't been able to stick to AIP for more than a couple days at a time. Dairy here, alcohol there, soy here, etc, etc, etc. Minor triggers in small amounts, and yet it all adds up. I haven't posted about it much, or talked about it much, because as my blog gets viewed/shared more and more, I feel pressured to maintain an image more than ever. But that's not fair--to me or to you. To anyone. I'm not a icon; I don't want to be put on a pedestal. I'm real and down to earth, and I'm not different than anyone of you. I live in a small apartment with two cats. I have multiple autoimmune diseases. I go to work 5 days a week. I like the beach, and I like going out with friends. I'm not special. I just chose to write about it.

AIP is more than just food, it's more than just a diet. You've seen it a hundred times, and here it is again, because it's so true. I don't have all the answers. I'm still working on the patch of psoriasis at the base of my scalp. I'm still working on the joint pain that triggers with minor inflammation. I'm still working on the anxiety that continues to interfere with my relationships. And some days, I have no fricking clue what I'm even doing or if plugging away constantly is making any more progress than just a hamster on a wheel.

And guess what? I don't think anybody else really truly knows either. We're all trying to figure out the same things. We're just all going about it in different ways. And truly? Plugging away at it constantly without giving up is progress. Because I went after what I wanted.

And I didn't quit.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Zesty Roasted Asparagus (AIP)

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that when you purchase an item your price stays the same, but I make a small commission to help run my blog. See more information here.*

I'm back with a recipe for you; it's a delicious side that is pretty easy to make and has got a whole lot of zip! You've probably noticed my extended absence. I've been doing a lot of soul-searching and trying to figure out what I wanted from my blog and where I wanted to go with it. The problem is that the more you throw yourself into something, the deeper you get entrenched and sometimes you get derailed from what you originally started without even realizing it. So I took some space to figure out what my goals really were.

And luckily a lot of my readers came to my rescue. I really was strongly considering moving on and letting the blog go. I felt overwhelmed and that I couldn't bring it together enough to be what it needed to be. And I was comparing myself to a lot of other bloggers. Except that I forgot two very important things:

  1. I have a large group of readers and supporters that follow me because they like MY recipes and like MY story and they like what I have to share. And that's exactly what each and every one of them that emailed or messaged me was sharing and reminding me. And it touched me to realized that I really had made a difference for them, because...
  2. I started my blog to help people. I didn't do this to make money or become famous. I started my blog so I could share recipes and information that would help people the way eating healthier and cleaner has helped me and continues to help me every day.
And that I can't give up. So, yes, my posting might be spotty here and there. After all, I'm working a full time job, cooking AIP recipes for a single lady all by my selfie on the daily, and living with multiple autoimmune diseases. But the best part is that I have seen such significant strides in my conditions and in my physical and mental health. So even though there are occasional bad days and yes, even sometimes the rare bad week, I'm still so far beyond where I imagined I could ever be when I started AIP almost two years ago. The girl that stared in the mirror horrified at a clump of hair and bald spot? I have a small itchy patch at the base of my scalp that mostly only drives me crazy when I'm stressed. And now I've learned when people start stressing me out that I just need to work on #AIPbalance. And I just use the words of one of my clients as I'm walking away: "You're making my head itch!"

Zesty Roasted Asparagus
1 lb asparagus
2 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
1½ tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried summer savory
½ scant tsp garlic powder
½-1 tsp sea salt, more or less to taste

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut the white ends off the asparagus and place the spears on a baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over the asparagus. Then sprinkle the herbs and salt over the asparagus. Toss to coat as evenly as possible.

For crispy spears: Place the cookie sheet in the lower bottom of the oven. Turn or toss the spears every 10-15 minutes depending on how thick the spears are. Thicker spears should go 15 minutes at a time. The spears will shrink and get crispy about 35-45 minutes in. If making crispy spears, I recommend doubling the recipe due to shrinkage.

For tender spears: Place the cookie sheet in the middle of the oven. Turn every 10 minutes. Spears should be roasted and lightly browned on the edges in 25-30 minutes.

Remove from oven and serve.