Plant Based Life and Diet

I'm vegan now? I am and so is Cameron. Chibi is staying an omnivore. 

I know there's been a bit of radio silence around here for the past two weeks. Let me fill you in on this new change. I was vegetarian for years - mostly because I didn't like the taste or texture of most meats. My only previous experience eating vegan was for about a week in eighth grade. I was hoping to lose weight that I definitely did not have nor need to lose. This pretty much had the opposite effect as I just ate bread for the entire week. Thirteen year old me was not my most logical self. 

As an avid Paleo/AIP person and lover of meat, a vegan diet never even on the table. It never crossed my mind and I did not consider it something I would ever elect to do. 

But then I watched What the Health, a food documentary about the impact animal based diets have on our health. The film points to research stating that eating meat, dairy and eggs directly contribute to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. I've seen food documentaries and read books on the related subjects but this one was riveting. I'm not going to go into but just watch it. No matter what your eating habits are, it will get youl thinking seriously about what your own diet is doing for you.  

There have been many changes since I started living the plant based life. First, I've lost weight. Not a lot, more of a de-puffing, especially in my legs, stomach and hips. My skin is looking better. Both my energy and mood are great. I feel good. 

Still following my own version of AIP: no gluten, eggs, refined sugar, processed food, very little nightshades, only the occasional grain and now no meat and fish. For me, it wasn't too difficult or a switch since I usually only eat meat once a day, don't like eggs and already avoid dairy. I think the best way to start eating a plant based diet is to just do it. You can always try it for a month and see how you feel. We are trying it for the next indefinite long while and will see how it goes. Even though this is what feels right for me now, it may not be next year. Trying new things - even what makes us uncomfortable - and being open to new ideas is what helps us grow.

Strangely, it has not been difficult. I've learned I really like vegetables. A plate of crudités and guacamole or a big salad are my new favorite lunches. When I'm hungry and imagine a meal it's a big pile of veggies cooked however sounds good. Maybe a stir fry or grilled veg tacos.

After I eat, I feel energized and ready for whatever is next. This is the way I want food to make me feel. Fueled. You can roll your eyes at this one but my healthy plates of food are beautiful with their bright, vivid colors. I love opening up my lunch container and seeing these crazy pinks, oranges, greens and so on. Simple joys, you know? 

If you asked me a month ago about how switching to a vegan diet would go for me I would have told you I'd really miss meat. The strange this is that I don't. Sometimes I get a feeling for a slice of pizza or nachos (because don't we all) but I want a vegan version. Isn't pizza with only crust, tomato sauce and a pile of veggie toppings just as satisfying and delicious as one that has cheese? Cameron is silent when I asked him this question but I think I'm right. It's mentioned in What The Health that meat and dairy are addictive substances. Once you eat it, you just want more. I feel this is true. Since stopping, I don't want it which is truly, surprising as I'm very food minded.

We're still prepping our meals and batch cooking. Eat week, we shop for and prep:

Breakfast: Something like a fruit bowl, smoothie, gf avocado toast. I've also been on a homemade unsweetened coconut yogurt making kick and have been eating that with pomegranate seeds for breakfast all week.

Lunch: It's usually a salad for me and a grain bowl for Cameron. This week we made black bean and kale tacos with a cilantro pepita salsa. Recipe coming soon!

Dinner: Probably a soup. Sometimes a stir fry, curry or something fun like steamed artichokes and veggie fritters.

Yum! Who's getting hungry? 

Thinking about trying out a plant based diet? To get started do a kitchen clean out, start a vegan recipes Pinterest board, pick up a new cookbook or two and make yourself a long list of vegan things you might want to cook for yourself. This is what I did and it was very helpful. 

What does this mean for Meats and Sweets? Well, I'm keeping the name. And as far as recipes go, I'm looking forward to sharing new, healthy, gluten free, plant based recipes that are still Paleo and AIP friendly. 

In the meantime, here are some favorite vegan recipes: 

Mac + 'Cheese' 

Mac + 'Cheese' 

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup

Brownies

Brownies

Veggie Soup

Veggie Soup

Golden Cauliflower

Golden Cauliflower

Pesto Portobello Salad

Pesto Portobello Salad

3 days in Raleigh Durham - a City Guide

Cameron, Chibi and I took a little trip down to visit family in Raleigh, North Carolina a bit ago. We had a great time and I thought I'd share our itinerary.

We took a long weekend and had three glorious days of eating, drinking, exploring and relaxing. This trip is particularly focused on food. 

First, some tips:

1. Rent a car. Raleigh is spread out and doesn't have much of a public transportation service. There are busses but I can't imagine using them to get around. There is uber if you don't want to rent.

2. Be mindful of where you are. Durham especially has some unsafe neighborhoods so be aware of your surroundings when you're parking and waking around. (The areas in this guide are all very safe.) 

3. Be nice. People are very friendly and well mannered.  

4. Prepare for hot, humid weather if traveling in the late summer. In the late spring and fall, the weather is very sneaky. It can be a cool 60 but hike to 90 by 2pm but back to 60 by 9pm so pack some layers.

5. Sundays. As a non religious person, I forgot to consider what affect being in the Bible Belt can have on businesses and blue laws. In Raleigh/Durham, there is no booze on sundays before noon and many businesses are either closed completely or open after 12. Bars close at 2am. 

6. Events. Lots of events in Raleigh. Check websites for any parks, malls, breweries, anywhere you'll be going as there seem to be events (many free) all the time. 

7. Dog friendly. You love your dog and so does Raleigh. We saw many dogs with water bowls on outdoor cafes and many bars and breweries that welcome leashed dogs. We took Chibi with us and had no trouble bringing her into shops and beer gardens. 

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Day One

Get yourself downtown for a little lunch followed by exploring and shopping in Raleigh's Moore Square or Capitol Square neighborhoods. Start with lunch at Centro, pictured above, a fun mexican restaurant with beautiful folk art decor and a festive playlist. The signature margarita was strong and balanced with fresh lime juice and a reposado tequila. 

Caffeinate at Morning Times, the coffee bar adjacent to Raleigh Times - a neighborhood classic serving lunch, dinner and late night drinks in an old newspaper office.  

During our trip, Artsplosure was going of downtown. It's a live music and art fair. We got to meet many talented local artists. I picked up a beautiful etching from John Furches and am deeply regretting not taking home a mug from the very talented Gretchen Quinn. My mom bought a beautiful 14k gold love knot ring from a local jeweler.

One thing I noticed about Raleigh was how friendly its residents are. The artists at Artsplosure were so open and talkative. Everything we saw was so affordable, too. There's a huge importance placed on the local and handmade in Raleigh and it's very accessible.

Be sure to check out favorite local shops Moon by Moon Apothecary, The Holy Rose and Deco Raleigh while you're downtown. 

The Norh Carolina State Capital Building is open to the public and is free to tour. It's right across from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The museum is also free and has a living butterfly conservatory, indoor 2 story waterfall and dinosaur skeletons.

Walk over to Moore Square, an original park from the original 1790s city planning. It's small but beautiful. Admire the oak trees.

At the bottom of the Park, on Martin Street, is the beginning of Blake Street. Walk down Blake to Davies Street and find Artspace. It's an artists' studio that's open to the public. Wander in and take a look around. You can see artists working and chat with them about their processes.

For dinner, you want to go to Bida Manda. Make a reservation or enjoy drink at the bar while you wait for a table. Bida Manda is a Laoation restaurant and it's incredible. Everything was superb. Baskets of puffy white chips are served to each table. They are made from shrimp and tapioca flour and taste like a mild fish cake and rice cake. Loved these! Other favorites were to Manda Chicken Curry, Crispy Rice Lettuce Wraps, Pork Belly Noodle Soup and Cucumber Cooler.

After dinner, pop next door to the Brewery Bhavana whose beautiful, soft, airy space is a taproom, flower shop and dumpling restaurant in one.

If you're in the mood for live music instead, Pour House is also next door with shows generally starting at 9pm. 

Finish the night at Fox Liquor Lounge, an unmarked underground speakeasy bar with sophisticated cocktails and lively atmosphere.

Day Two

Get yourself down to Boulted Bread for the best baguette you will ever have. Boulted makes all their bread and pastries from local, organic grains. Grab a cold brew, a bag of counter culture beans, a baguette and a pastry. Sit outside on their side patio. Wander through the space next door, a shop I didn't catch the name of but that has many beautiful things from local craftsmen like leather goods, jewelry, ceramics and clothing.

Now that you're caffeinated. Head over to the State Farmers Market. Start on the garden side. Smell the teddy bear magnolias, find the Japanese maples and pick up some air plants to smuggle back home. Walk down the produce stalls and sample anything you can that's in season. We were lucky to arrive for peak strawberry and peach season. The tent on the end of the market has baked goods and flowers. If the pretzel people are there, get a cheese pretzel. I mean it. 

It's probably time to cool off with a beer and revitalize yourselves with a snack.  Do this at Raleigh Beer Garden. It holds the Guinness World Record for most beers on tap. Three separate bars hold all the different taps. Sit outside or on the roof. There's not a printed beer list but you can bring it up on your smart phone.

Head over to the warehouse district. Take a tour of Videri Chocolate Factory where you can learn about the chocolate making process from harvest to eating while sampling delicious locally made chocolate. If you go - please be sure to bring me a sea salt dark chocolate bar.

Across the street is Boxcar, an arcade bar. It's fun, loud and has everything from skeeball to duck hunt. There's an outdoor patio with a ring toss and giant connect four.

When you've worked up an appetite, head next door to The Pit where Ed Mitchell's whole hog BBQ waits to pull you into a lovely, deep food coma. The pulled pork and brisket entrees were the favorites of the table.

Roll yourself across the street to Crank Arm Brewery. If it's nice out, they'll have the doors open to the street so you can take in the warm Raleigh night air. Their Motivator stout tastes like a coffee filled Milky Way chocolate bar.

Day Three

Durham day! Start your day off right with the brunch buffet at Greer Street Garden. It's a surprisingly beautiful bar in an old auto service station with outdoor beer garden style seating out back. On Sundays they put out an incredible brunch buffet with coffee, bacon, sausage, grits, quiche, biscuits, fruit... everything you want a brunch buffet to have. Walk in and see the bartender to pay for your buffet and order a Bloody Mary. There's a self service Bloody Mary garnish bar with olives, bacon, pickles, celery...all the things you want a garnish bar to have. Then fill your plate and find a table.

Head down the block to Full Steam Brewery for a tour and tasting. When you're done, grab one of the many unique coffees to go from Cocoa Cinnamon across the street.

Sarah P. Duke Botanical Garden is a magical place. Stop in the visitor center for a map and a water bottle refill. Take your time strolling through the rose and asiatic gardens. We saw koi fish, turtles, herons, a hummingbird, chickens and doves. It's 55 acres so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Dogs are allowed before 10am and after 5pm.

I imagine it's time for a sweet treat. Parlour serves locally made ice cream in delightful flavors like sea salt caramel, prickly pear or strawberry cheesecake.

As I mentioned, this is an eating and drinking trip so what's one more bakery? Since you're there, head over to Scratch bakery for a little bite of carb heaven. Their crackers are great.

Down the street to the Durham Hotel for a drink on their rooftop bar. Admire the view of Durham while enjoying sips of your hand crafted cocktail.

Take a little time to walk around the American Tobacco Campus, just a few blocks away.

Its probably around dinner time, isn't it? If you want to stay in Durham, there are a bunch of great restaurants and bars on or just off Main Street: 

Viceroy - english pub with indian cuisine

Mateo Bar de Tapas - southern inspired tapas

Pizzaria Toro - pizza! 

Dames Chicken & Waffles - comfort food

If you're up for a quick drive, no visit to Raleigh is complete without a meal at Beasleys. It's back near the site of your first meal at Centro in downtown Raleigh. Beasley's is a casual fried chicken place with clever cocktails, seasonal menu items and amazing comfort food. Highlights were to mac and cheese, spicy fried chicken sandwich and pork shoulder meatloaf.

Work off dinner with a few rounds of tabletop shuffleboard at Bare Bones

That's it!  There are is so much great food and fun things to do in Raleigh and Durham - I don't think we even scratched the surface. Looking forward to my next visit. Leave a comment if there's something I missed!

DIY Aged Terracotta Planters

We have a pretty good amount of plants in our apartment. It's so good to have plants around and plants seem to do better when there are other plants around so that's how we've gotten where we are. The fact that I've gotten better at not killing every green thing that comes into the apartment might also have something to do with it. Rosemary is the exception. I cut myself off after the third poor, poor helpless rosemary plant I killed. If someone knows the secret to talking those things down - please leave a comment! 

Several pf these plants are living in glasses of water or the original, flimsy plant pot they were born in. I decided that these little things need a proper home. I found a small stack of terra-cotta pots hiding in a cupboard and decided to try to dress them up a bit. 

I know if you really want to distress a terra cotta pot, you make a paste of garden lime and water, paint it on the pot, let it dry and spray it with a sealer. I don't have garden lime or sealer. I also really didn't want to go all the way down to the garden store and then be married to an eight pound bag of garden lime that I would probably end up moving with. 

Oh, white acrylic paint. It solves so many problems for me: strangely colored picture frames, end tables I've gotten rid of, Branch jewelry holder DIY, spice jar tops, actual paintings... In this case, a simple squeeze of paint in a splash of water. They look great - a nice refresh from their original look. 

You can see from the photos that I did not clean my pots out from the last time I tossed whatever rosemary plant probably died in it. I also didn't clean them before I started painting. It was fine - what's a little dirt? 

Supplies: 

terra-cotta plant pots

white acrylic paint

water

paint brush

a cup for mixing 

paper for your work surface

How to:

Mix about 1/2 a teaspoon and 1 tablespoon of water in a cup.  I like to soak my brush in the paint mixture and cover the pot with it, sometimes adding just water or more extra paint to the brush and using that here and there. You don't want it to look uniform. You can always wash some of it off with water or add more paint to areas that need it. Play around with it. After the first one, you'll get the hang of what works for you. 

Let the pots dry before cleaning up as they change a lot from wet to dry. Once dry, add your plants. 

Summer Cabbage + Vegetable Soup (Paleo, Vegan, GF, DF)

Generally, I don't eat nightshades because I have a sensitivity to them. I have, however, reintroduced potatoes and haven't had any issues with a bite of tomato something here and there. Also, it's summer and I'm dying for a beautiful summer vegetable soup with a tomato base.

If I'm being truly honest on why I made this soup (and the healthy meatballs posted previously) it's because I've been eating very poorly and not exercising. Which if you know me, is crazy because I love healthy a healthy meal and a good workout. I know exactly where things went wrong. I took a little trip to Raleigh, NC at the end of May and ate everything I could get my biscuit hoarding hands on. (Seriously, so many biscuits!) 

While it was a great trip, I returned to Brooklyn puffy as I like to call it. Somewhere around that time I lost the will to get myself to the gym. Honestly, I think I was bored with going to the same place every weekday. So I continued on with this lazy girl routine and things got a bit wider and squishier

This week is totally different. Poof! I'm excited to establish a new routine of running outside every morning, saying 'no thank you' to unhealthy foods and cooking delicious, nutritious food for Cameron and myself. It's a good feeling. 

Does this happen to anyone else? What do yo do to shake things up when your off your healthy game? 

Serves 8. 

Cabbage + Vegetable Soup

splash olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 carrots, peeled, chopped

3 celery ribs, chopped

1 14oz tin diced tomatoes

2 quarts vegetable stock

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

4 cups shredded cabbage

2 cups chopped green beans

1 summer squash, chopped

juice of one lemon

s + p, to taste

In a large pot, over medium heat, sauté onion and garlic in a splash of olive oil until soft and glossy, about 8 minutes. Add carrots, celery, tomatoes, stock, oregano and basil. Bring to a boil, add cabbage. Reduce to a simmer. Simmer until carrots are tender, about 10 - 15 minutes. Stir in green beans and squash, cook 5 minutes more. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. 

Turkey Meatballs + Basil Pesto (AIP, Paleo, GF, DF)

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Meatballs! Since I don't eat tomatoes or pasta, I almost never make these little things anymore. What am I thinking, right? They're so tasty and delightful. My new solution: basil pesto and spaghetti squash. A nice healthy meal for those time when I'm missing spaghetti and meatballs. 

For Cameron and I, I picked a small spaghetti squash. To cook it: cut off the stem, stand the squash on its new flat end and halve from navel to stem end. Scoop out seeds. Lightly rub cut sides with olive oil. Roast cut sides down on a lined baking tray in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes (small squash) to an hour (larger squashes). Flip over and shred with a fork, Discard skins. 

To make this AIP, omit almond flour or substitute with coconut flour. 

Serves 6. 

Turkey Meatballs + Basil Pesto

for the meatballs

2 lbs ground turkey 

1/4 cup almond flour

1 yellow onion, grated

5 cloves garlic, peeled, grated

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

for the pesto

1 large bunch basil, leaves only

2 garlic cloves

juice of one lemon

1/2 cup olive oil (I like half olive oil, half avocado oil, personally)

salt, to taste

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking tray with a silpat or parchment paper. Set aside. 

In a medium sized bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs. Mix well. Form into tablespoon sized balls and arrange on prepared tray. Roast 15 minutes, flip and cook 15 minutes more. 

While meatballs are cooking, make the pesto by blending all pesto ingredients in a blender or food processor. Serve with meatballs. 

Pickled Red Onions

This is possibly the quickest, easiest way to transform your meal into something special. It's true - imagine a simple taco, now imagine said taco with pickled red onions on it. Let's think outside this taco for a minute and explore what else you could improve with these onions. Sandwiches, salads, grilled cheese, fried rice, quesadillas, hot dogs - there are many more but I'm starting to get too hungry thinking about it. 

I like to keep a jar of these in the fridge and put them on everything. Since I can't have hot sauce, (why are you a nightshade, chile pepper???) I use these instead. They're not spicy at all but fulfill the same need with their sharp, briny punch. 

Feel free to add more aromatics if you like -  bay leaf, chiles, other seeds. I leave everything free floating in the jar but you can wrap the aromatics up in a piece of cheesecloth to keep things tidy. 

Pickled Red Onion

1.5 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1/2 cup or so white vinegar

1 red onion, thinly sliced

Add kosher salt, sugar, peppercorns and vinegar to a 12-16oz jar. Shake or whisk to dissolve. Add onion slices to jar, pressing down to fit if needed. Top off with water so onions are covered in liquid, if needed. Leave them alone for one hour. After that, they are ready to eat. Store in fridge. 

Lemon Poppyseed Bread (Paleo, GF, DF)

I love that we can call this 'bread'. Bread sounds so much healthier than snacking cake, which is what this really is. I tried to keep things simple - no weird flours or anything. Just the usual paleo ingredients. 

There is no added sugar - just the sweetness of the banana. I like to use super ripe bananas that are soft and heavily spotted. They are nice and sweet. For me, it's a sensible amount of sugar but feel free to add 2 - 3 tablespoons of honey, agave or maple syrup if you're looking for that sweet fix. 

Makes one thin loaf. 

Paleo Lemon Poppyseed Bread

1 super ripe banana

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of two lemons

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup coconut flour

2 teaspoons arrowroot powder

2 teaspoons poppyseeds

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch salt

pinch nutmeg

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or paper a loaf pan. Set aside. 

In a medium sized bowl, very thoroughly mash the banana. Add eggs, vanilla, zest and oil. In a small bowl, whisk coconut flour, arrow root powder, poppy seeds, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Be sure flour is hydrated. Transfer to prepared loaf pan. Smooth top and bake 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan. 

Father's Day Gift Guide

It's Father's Day this Sunday. Are you ready to fire up the grill, enjoy some family time and raise a glass to Dad? I've rounded up a few gift ideas any pop would love. 

1. A fun summer shift. The crazier the better, in my opinion but I'll leave that up to you. I aim for something he will like but wouldn't necessarily pick out for himself. 

2. Meat. It's a little cliche, but seriously, who wouldn't be thrilled with a jerky of the month club membership? Or a small cooler filled with a selection of grass fed meats each sealed in vacuum packs? You can ask your butcher shop to cryovac everything individually. 

3. Grilling Tools. You can either go fancy with a monogramed, james bond style case of grill tools, practical with a portable mini charcoal grill or fun with campfire roasting sticks. 

4. A hammock for relaxing in outside. Napping, reading and star gazing are all better in a hammock. 

Hammock with Stand, Ikea, $110

Hammock with Stand, Ikea, $110

5. An unusual plant. Think bonsai, fruiting tree, cactus or something unique. 

I hope you enjoyed the list! Gifts are nice but the most important thing is just calling to say hi and send love or if I can, spending quality time with the lovely people who raised me. (Thanks Mom + Dad!! I think you're so great!)

Chicken Marsala (AIP, Paleo, GF, DF)

I've never made chicken marsala and was dying for it the other day. Kind of strange to crave something I've only had once but I went with it anyway. So pleased I did! This was a very satisfying, fast but impressive mid week dinner with one of my favorite spring vegetables, asparagus. 

If you can pick up actual marsala wine, do it. It's much better than the marsala cooking wine, although either are perfectly fine. 

I hope you enjoy my AIP version of the classic Italian American dish. 

Serves 4. 

Chicken Marsala

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

s + p

1/2 cup coconut flour

splash olive oil

8oz mini portobello mushrooms, sliced

1 bunch asparagus, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup marsala wine

1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning

1 teaspoon arrowroot powder

Cut each chicken breast crosswise into two thin pieces. Or butterfly and pound flat. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge in coconut flour. Set aside. 

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add chicken. Cook until well browned on each side. When cooked through, remove and set aside. 

Add mushrooms, asparagus and garlic. Cook until mushrooms are soft, stirring frequently. Add wine and let bubble up a bit. Add stock and seasoning.  Make a slurry with the arrowroot powder and a little water or stock. Stir slurry into skillet along with the chicken and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce is thickened.  

Chicken + Broccoli Stirfry (AIP, Paleo, GF, DF)

As you know, I do a lot of batch cooking every Sunday, prepping all the healthy meals Cameron and I will eat through out the week. My menu planning usually follows the same pattern: a soup, a lunch entree and at least one quick mid week meal. The mid week meal is pretty much the only thing I cook start to finish during the work week so it has to be simple and fast. 

This is one of those recipes. AIP friendly, healthy, fast and delicious. You can even make the sauce and chop the veggies one night to speed things up. 

If you serve this with rice or noodles it can definitely serve 4 but since starting aip, I eat very large portions - which is fine because my meals are pretty much big bowls of veggies and protein. In the Vizenor household, this recipe is dinner for two with leftovers for one. 

Caramelized Chicken + Broccoli Stir Fry

4 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)

3 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons coconut aminos or tamari 

1 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1" ginger, grated

1 garlic clove, grated

1 tablespoon cooking oil

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin, bite sized pieces

2 stalks broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces 

Whisk together water, vinegar, fish sauce, coconut aminos, honey, pepper, ginger and garlic, 

Heat a wok over high heat. Add chicken and sauce. Let cook until chicken is cooked through and sauce has thickened, about 12 minutes. Add broccoli, stir to coat in sauce. Cover and let cook until broccoli is tender, about 2 minutes. Uncover, toss and serve. 

AIP Slow Cooker Beef Stew (AIP, Paleo, GF, DF)

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I swear I've posted this already but I can't find the post so here it is again. We make this all the time. I have the recipe memorized. It's usually a spur of the moment decision to make this. The ingredients are staples so we're usually almost all the way there with the ingredients, minus the beef.  

It's one of the easiest recipes, no searing or browning on the stove first - just easy chopping prep and into the slow cooker for a few hours. It's done when the beef is so tender it can be cut with a  spoon. This takes a surprisingly long time even on high - like 6-8 hours. Each time I make this, I cut the beef into smaller and smaller pieces and it's ready much faster. 

About 6-8 servings.

AIP Slow Cooker Beef Stew

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped

4 carrots, peeled, chopped

4 ribs celery, chopped

2 turnips, peeled, chopped

8 oz mushrooms, chopped

1.5 cups green beans

2 lbs lean stew meat, cut into 1" pieces

1 bay leaf

1 sprig rosemary

1 teaspoon dried thyme

water, as needed

salt + pepper

1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Place all the ingredients, except water, in slow cooker. Pour in just enough water to be level with ingredients. Cover, set on high and cook until meat is spoon tender, about 7 hours. Remove bay leaf and rosemary sprig. Season with salt, pepper and apple cider vinegar. 

Healthy Week 5 Grocery List + What I Cooked

This is week five of my batch cooking posts. The first one has a more in depth on tips and tricks - here's a link! Again, some of my tips for grocery shopping and batch cooking are: pick a menu,  inventory the fridge/pantry and write a shopping list that is organized by departments in the grocery store.

Recipes will be posted this week and linked.  I prepared the stew, soup and chicken marsala on Sunday and the chicken stir fry on a week night.  Cameron helped and we listened to This American Life. 

The Menu:

Chicken Marsala

Chicken + Broccoli Stir Fry

Lentil Soup

Beef + Veggie Stew

And my snacks: plantain chips, tigernuts, unsweetened dried fruit, green apples with cinnamon, baby carrots, grapes, veggie snacks, smoothies (Chocolate Cherry!), canned tuna, blanched broccoli, curry cauliflower, Anita's coconut yogurt, sliced deli meats, hummus, roasted peas and avocado with lime juice, s+p.  These things always get added to the list as needed and are not included in the main list below. 

The List:

2 Yellow Onion

1 head garlic

1" ginger

8 carrots

8 stalks celery

2 stalks broccoli

2 turnips

24 oz cremini mushrooms

1 bunch asparagus

1.5 cup chopped green beans

1 bunch collard greens

1 lemon

1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)

2 lbs lean stew beef

4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast

2 quarts + 1 cup chicken stock

1.5 cup french lentils

1/2 cup marsala wine

Pantry staples you will also need for these 3 recipes: coarse kosher salt, ground black pepper, tamari soy sauce, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, apple cider vinegar, coconut flour, olive oil, italian seasoning, arrow root powder, fish sauce, honey, garam masala spice blend, sesame oil

How to Sleep Better

Are you a troubled sleeper? I've always had trouble sleeping until I recently changed my work schedule - switching from late night bartending to a 9 to 5 type of thing. I've also take sleep very seriously in regards to my health. I make sure I go to bed early and thoughtfully schedule my wake up times 8 hours from when I go to bed. I also stopped snoozing. Alarm goes off and I get right up, go to the kitchen and drink a small glass of water.

Analyzing my sleep behaviors and developing a sleep routine that works for me has changed so much. I get sick so much less often and my overall mood and patience has improved. Also, I have more energy.

I wanted to share some of the tips that worked for me: 

1. Blackout drapes or a sleepy eye mask

I have the blue one above - it has little hidden pillows on the underside that block out light. I use the mask when I travel or when Cam wants to read with a light on before sleeping. Otherwise, it's no mask and we just close the blackout drape on the window near the bed, which leaves the room quite dark at night but light enough in the morning that I can wake up. 

2. White noise machine

White Noise App, App Store, Free

White Noise App, App Store, Free

I read somewhere relevant that white and pink noise helps the brain quiet down. Most of the time, when I can't sleep it's my brain's fault. It just won't shut up and let me zen out so the subtle sounds from a noise machine, app, fan, air purifier or ac unit is a welcome sleep inducing distraction. 

3. Pillow mist!

Aromatherapy is real, people! I keep on little bottle of this sleepy smelling stuff on my nightstand and give a little spritz when I get into bed. It's nice when things smell nice. Think lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang.. 

4. Consider a Natural Supplement

Cameron swears by the Mercola Melatonin spray. I like the brand and used to use the B12 spray. It tastes good and gets you nice and sleepy. Another natural sleep aid I've used is Bach's Rescue Sleep Liquid Melts. They also make a spray.  They are little spherical capsules that melt under your tongue. Super calming. 

5. Deep breathing

Breath is one of the most powerful tools we have in our control. Breathing gets me through tough workouts, calms me down, lowers occasional Still's fevers or peps me up all depending on the style of breathing, The 4-7-8 method is very popular and I use it anytime I'm feeling like I need to slow down. It's easy. To do it,  take a deep breath in through your nose of 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat 3 times or more. Dr Weil, how developed the method,  has a video describing the method

6. Sleep Schedule

If at all possible, try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Try to make the wake up time 8 hours after your bed time. Your iPhone is happy to help you out with this. The clock utility has a bedtime function and will also send you reminders to go to bed. 

7. Exercise

I mostly use exercise to regulate my energy levels. I work out in the morning. Very early in the morning actually since realizing that working up a sweat before I start my day makes me happier and gives me more energy throughout the day. I set out my exercise clothes and make coffee the night before. Then all I have to do is get dressed and reheat the coffee. 

8. Get in Bed and Try

Just try it. It could work, right? Even if I'm not tired but it's time, brush my teeth, hide the electronics, put on pjs and get into bed. I'll read, snuggle chibi or just turn off the lights and try to sleep. Maybe it's like going to the gym and getting there is half the battle?  Probably not but at least I'll be conveniently in bed when sleep takes over. 

9. Write It Down

Is your mind racing? Take some time to write down what's on your mind. Make a list of what it is and what you're going to do about it. Done. Set it aside and try to sleep now that you know you have a plan. Keep a pen and notebook near your bed for when you need it. Let the notebook be exclusively for this purpose. 

10. Lower the Lights

As it gets closer to bed time, we start turning off or lowering different lights around the house. We will start our chill out sofa time with string lights, a paper lantern and table lamp on. As it gets later, we turn one of and another one a bit later. This really tricks my brain into thinking it wants sleep. 

What else?  Got any tips or tried any of these? Leave a comment - I'd love to hear!

Hera Ceramics - Etsy Shop

My Etsy shop, Hera Ceramics, was way over due for some love and attention. I had posted smudging bowls a few months ago and after those sold I really neglected updating with new pieces. 

So, I took advantage of the long weekend to use Sunday to be productive. If you care to take a look, I've updated the shop with a small collection. 

https://www.etsy.com/shop/HeraCeramics

xo. 

Chicken + Dumplings (AIP, Paleo, GF, DF)

I love comfort food. I especially love chicken and dumplings. Chicken, vegetables and dumplings simmered in a thickened stock. I tested several combinations to get the dumplings just right. The first batch were made with cassava flour and while the flavor was great, the texture was that of gummy mochi. Not good. 

It was really important to me to keep this recipe AIP friendly since there are so many comfort foods we miss out on on the AIP. I'm happy to say this is a great AIP version of the classic dish that I would feed anyone whether on the protocol or not. There is an extra step of baking the biscuits first and adding them to the finished stew but it's worth the effort.

Makes about 6 servings. 

AIP Chicken +Dumplings

for the dumplings

2/3 cup arrowroot powder

1/3 cup coconut powder

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried herbs (I used 1/2 thyme and dill)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup warm water 

for the rest of it

dash olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

4 carrots, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried parsley

2 quarts chicken stock

1.5 # boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small pieces

6 oz sliced mushrooms

6 oz green beans, chopped

3 tablespoons arrowroot powder

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a small baking tray with a silpat or parchment paper. 

In a bowl, whisk arrowroot powder, coconut flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, pepper and dried herbs together. Stir in olive oil and water. Add more water as necessary. The dough should resemble playdough and hold together, Form into ping pong sized spheres, arrange on prepared baking tray and bake 20 minutes. Dumplings will be a lovely golden brown. Set aside. 

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, garlic, bay, thyme and parsley. Cook about 5 minutes until soft and glossy. Add stock and mushrooms. Bring to a boil. Add chicken. Reduce to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes.

Make a slurry with arrowroot powder and a bit of water. Stir into pot. Add green beans. Continue cooking until green beans are soft, about 5 minutes, covered. 

 To serve, place a couple biscuits into a bowl and ladle over stew. 

Pho-most Soup (Paleo, GF, DF)

I have no idea what to call this soup. When I was putting it together in my head, I wanted a super flavorful beef broth base like pho but I didn't exactly want pho. This soup is built on a rich broth infused with charred onion, browned ginger and toasted spices like cinnamon, anise and coriander seed. It's the best part of the soup. 

I just added carrots, sugar snap peas, collard greens and tofu knots - for protein. If you're aip or paleo, substitute any cooked meat. Toppings are a must. They really elevate the soup to a much better place. Shredded mint, cilantro, diced white onion and lime wedges. 

A word on tofu knots - They are delicious. I've used both fresh and frozen. Fresh are about 100 times better but they're hard to find. They also come dry but I haven't tried those yet. I've only seen each in asian grocery stores or markets. 

Makes 4 servings. 

A Pho Like Soup

3 star anise pods

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 yellow onion, peeled, halved

2" ginger, halved

4 cloves garlic, peeled

2 quarts beef stock

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon coconut aminos or tamari soy sauce

10 oz sugar snap peas, trimmed

3 carrots, peeled, chopped

8oz tofu skin knots

2 cups chopped collard greens

juice of one lime

salt, to taste

lime wedges

chopped mint

chopped cilantro

In a small cast iron skillet, toast spices. Set aside. Use the same pan to char onion, garlic and ginger. Add spices, charred onion, garlic, ginger and beef stock to a large pot and simmer for 1 hour. Strain out and discard solids. Return liquid to pot and add fish sauce, snap peas, carrots and tofu knots. Simmer until carrots are soft, about 7 minutes. Stir in collard greens and season with salt. 

Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped mint, chopped cilantro and lime wedges. 

Thai Chicken Collard Wraps (Paleo, GF, DF)

I'm obsessed with these collard wraps. In the past two weeks I've made chicken burrito collard wraps, curry samosa wraps and now these Thai wraps. I have other types on my mind - I'll keep you posted. 

These have chicken, cucumber, cabbage, carrots, mint, cilantro and peanut sauce wrapped up in a blanched collard green leaf. They're healthy and crunchy. I assemble them all a take them for lunch throughout the week. I like to two or three as a serving so each one, I add only about 1/4 cup of chicken and fill it up with veggies. I got 15 wraps out of the recipe but it will depend on the size of the veggies and how much you put in each. I would guess 12-17 to be the amount of wraps to expect. 

Makes about 15 wraps. 

Thai Collard Wraps

for the wraps

1/5 # skinless, boneless chicken breast

1 english cucumber, cut in matchsticks

2 carrots, cut into matchsticks

1/2 small red cabbage, shredded

handful mint, chopped

handful cilantro, chopped

about 15 Collard Leaves

for the sauce

1/3 cup tamari soy sauce

3/4 cup peanut butter

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon maple syrup

juice of one lime

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Cook chicken as you like: grilled, baked, boiled or my favorite way - season with salt and pepper and cook in a slow cooker on high for 2 hours or so and shred. 

Chop and shred veggies while chicken cooks. A mandolin fitted with a juliene attachment is great for this. 

To prep the collard greens, slice off the chunky part of the stem by cutting straight across the base of the leaf. Use a peeler to shave down the thick stem. This will make it easier to roll up and eat. 

Bring a 10-12 inch skillet with an inch or two of water to a boil. Dip collard leaves into the boiling water, one at a time, for about 10 seconds. Transfer to towel until ready to use.

Make the sauce by whisking tamari, peanut butter, fish sauce, maple syrup, lime juice and apple cider vinegar together until smooth. 

Assemble wraps by laying out a collard leaf, smearing on a bit of sauce and piling on the chicken, cucumber, carrots, cabbage and herbs. Roll up tightly, tucking in sides as you go. I wrap them all in one sitting and store in the fridge. They last and make packing lunch quick and easy. 

 

Paleo Week 4 Grocery List + What I Cooked (Paleo, GF, DF)

I wanted some serious comfort food and that's exactly what I made. Paleo friendly, of course. 

This is week four of my batch cooking posts. The first one has a more in depth on tips and tricks - here's a link! Again, some of my tips for grocery shopping and batch cooking are: pick a menu,  inventory the fridge/pantry and write a shopping list that is organized by departments in the grocery store.

Recipes will be posted this week and linked.  I prepared everything on Sunday evening.  Cameron helped and we listened to S Town podcast and music. 

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The Menu:

Paleo Thai Chicken Collard Wraps

AIP Chicken + Dumplings

AIP Vegetable Pho-lmost

And my snacks: plantain chips, tigernuts, unsweetened dried fruit, green apples with cinnamon, baby carrots, grapes, veggie snacks, smoothies (Chocolate Cherry!), canned tuna, blanched broccoli, curry cauliflower, Anita's coconut yogurt, sliced deli meats, hummus, roasted peas and avocado with lime juice, s+p.  These things always get added to the list as needed and are not included in the main list below. 

The List:

3 limes

1 english cucumber

2" ginger

1 head garlic

1 yellow onion

4 stalks celery

9 carrots

6 oz sliced mushrooms

6 oz green beans

1/2 head small red cabbage

10oz sugar snaps peas

1 bunch mint

1 bunch cilantro

about 2 bunches collard green leaves (around 18 leaves total)

3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast

2 quarts beef stock

2 quarts chicken stock

peanut butter

8 oz tofu skin knots

Pantry staples you will also need for these 3 recipes: coarse kosher salt, ground black pepper, tamarind soy sauce or coconut aminos, fish sauce, maple syrup, 3 anise pods, 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, teaspoon coriander seeds, coconut flour, arrowroot flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, dried thyme, bay leaf, dried parsley, olive oil

DIY Rosewater Lotion Bars

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Pssst! Mother's day is this Sunday and what could be a better gift than something you made for her? Or even made with her? This is a great quick, easy and customizable DIY. 

Lotion bars are so convenient. It's lotion in a hardened form made with beeswax, coconut oil and shea butter and an essential oil of your choice. I used a mild rose water which is great for skin and I like the subtle, floral scent. If you prefer a stronger scent - use 15 drops of any essential oil. 

These will melt with heat so don't leave them in a hot car or anywhere too warm. To use, either smoosh (yes, a real word) a bit onto your hands, rubbing together to melt or pick the bar up and smooth over skin. My legs always seem to be a bit scaly and dry but a few swipes from one of these and they're much better. Let the moisturizing begin!

Measure all of your ingredients except rosewater and oils by weight for accuracy. Use organic ingredients. For sourcing: I found organic shea butter and organic cosmetic grade beeswax pellets on amazon; organic unrefined coconut oil at trader joes and rose water at whole foods. 

Makes 4 bars. 

DIY Rosewater Lotion Bars

2 oz coconut oil

2 oz shea butter

2.15 oz beeswax

2 teaspoons rosewater

Add coconut oil, shea butter and beeswax in a clean glass jar. Place in a sauce pan filled with water. Water line and ingredients lines should be roughly the same. Bring to a soft boil.

While everything is working on melting, prep your molds. I placed 4 muffin liners in a muffin pan but you can use a silicone mold or pour directly into a cosmetic compact or tiny jar. 

Melt all ingredients to a liquid state. Stir. Remove from heat and stir in rosewater or essential oils. Pour into prepared molds and let cool completely. Speed up the cooling process by placing them in the fridge. Once completely cool, they can be popped out of the molds and are ready for use. 

Reusable Replacements

While I love a good feng shui purge but I really hate throwing things out. Not that I mind parting with things - I just don't like to create waste. It's guilt. I feel guilty and enviornmentally irresponsible. 

To avoid this feeling, I'm going to start with looking for replacements of disposable, single use items. Specifically, non recyclable plastic items. I really don't like using plastic. Especially single use plastic items like zippy or produce bags that go straight into the trash. It's too wasteful for something with such a short lifespan. I've found a few great replacements in my search and wanted to share. 

1. No more zip lock bags. I carry veggie snacks to work everyday and wanted something that once empty, would be flat. These reusable, silicon versions seem like a good fit. They can be rinsed in the dishwasher. 

2. I've always found cotton balls to be wasteful. Instead, cut up an old cotton t-shirt into squares and store in a pretty jar in the medicine cabinet. When I'm done removing my makeup or swiping on toner, they just go into the laundry hamper. I'm going to cut little rectangles, fold then in half and sew them. The double layer will make them more absorbent. 

3. Replace produce bags with thin muslin bags like the ones below. They are easily found on online or would be a quick way sewing project. Just don't make them too heavy if you're going to be weighing you produce in them!

4. Plastic water bottles. I say just don't buy them. Don't support these companies. For many reasons. Don't support these companies, the plastic bottles, the privatization and commoditization of water or the chemicals used in the process. Use the tap and a refillable bottle. 

Of course, all the ones I like a pretty expensive but I only need one so I might as well love it, right? 

5. Carry a hanky instead of a pack of tissues for your coughing, sneezing and nose blowing. Did I lose you on this one? People seem to find this one very off putting but I don't see the problem,. The hanky is prettier than a tissue. I wash it. I carry a clean one. It does not pollute the environment with more trash. Get over it and use a hanky!

6. Replace paper coffee filters with reusable cloth or metal ones. These are probably not the worse things on the list but it's still something I throw out everyday. I don't like sooty coffee like the last bit out of the french press or coffee made with a metal filter so I was happy to find cloth filters for my Chemex. These are cheap and work just like the paper filters. 

Chemex coffee filters (2) by CoffeeSock, $12.99

Chemex coffee filters (2) by CoffeeSock, $12.99

7. Skip the bagged tea for loose leaf teas made with a tea infuser or teapot. I've been drinking a lot of tea lately and it's another thing I throw out everyday. I don't know what these little bags are made of. I always assumed natural fibers but these heat sealed baggies must be something synthetic. Also, who hates teapots? I love them and their little tea infuser relatives. 

8. Never buy another box of dryer sheets because I have these cute little felted wool dryer balls instead. I've been using these for a while now and love them. I use six for a normal load of laundry. I add a couple drops of essential oil to each, put them in the dryer with the wet laundry and dry as usual. They laundry smells nice, is soft and takes less time to dry. They are chemical free and will last for years. 

9. I've said this one before in my kitchen detox post but here it is again: Swap cloth towels for paper towels. We have a big stack of 20 and use them for everything. You can even buy different color kitchen towels and use them for different tasks: blue for cleaning, green for food, pink for dining. 

10. I've said this one before too but it's important! No more plastic bags. They're terrible in every single way. I've put thin, rolled up canvas totes in all of my purses and car so I always have one with me. It's also a lot easier to carry a couple totes packed with groceries than the 6 tiny double bagged bags every grocery store in Brooklyn loves to send people on their way with. 

Thanks for reading!

xo Mea