Sweet & Tangy Pulled Pork

 

 

 

Pulled Pork cooked in cranberries for a tangy, sweet, unique Instant Pot main that will be on the table in a little over an hour!

 

 

I’ve been hitting a funky wall with recipe development lately. All of my creativity is being driven towards work right now… and finding creative ways to not go insane via lack of sleep.

 

Confession: I totally did some super cool Tae Bo moves in a closed bathroom stall the other day to wake me up. Don’t ask me why I didn’t stick with a standard wall sit or push-up, but my body just wanted a good ol’ Billy Blanks full body workout.

 

I remember doing his VHS workout tapes in middle school and wondering why the women’s abs looked like paper folded into an accordion during their flamboyant high knees. It’s because they had somewhere between 3.5 and 4% body fat. Clearly they needed more pork in their life at the time.

 

I shared on IG this Sunday a picture of my Instant Pot full of broth and rice. Every Sunday night, I pressure cook a large bone-in pork roast with 1-2 cups of water, fresh garlic, dried oregano, and sea salt for about 80 minutes using the same technique as this recipe calls for.

 

Then I remove the pork, shred it as much as I can, return it to the Pot with 1 T apple cider vinegar for another 10-20 minutes of pressure cooking, and it absorbs all the brothy goodness that has been created via the pork bones. The shredded pork is always extra juicy and flavorful this way, and I’ll toss in a variety of dried spices like cinnamon or cloves, fresh garlic, lime juice, or coconut aminos.

 

The bones don’t get discarded. I eat the most crumbly pieces (and share with my dog Rafael) and then I save the rest of the bones for next week’s batch to add extra flavor.

 

I use the leftover broth to cook a large pot of rice for my husband for the week, of which I have been sneaking small bowls in light of my recent reintroduction. I forgot how much I enjoy a few spoons of rice, and it finally doesn’t mess with my digestion anymore!

 

I realize we’ve exited cranberry season by now, so feel free to use frozen cranberries in this recipe OR change it up and use another kind of fruit. Cherries? Blueberries? Plums? They would all be fantastic here!

 

 

Pressure Cooker Sweet & Tangy Pulled Pork

Prep Time :10 Cook Time 1:10 Serves 6


Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless pork roast
  • 1 tablespoon fat of choice
  • 12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 10 oz bone broth of choice
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs of choice
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

  1. Set your Instant Pot to the sauté function. Pour fat of choice into the bottom of the pot and spread it around with a spatula. Salt pork generously on all sides and place in hot oil. Sear on each side, uncovered, for 2 minutes until lightly browned.
  2. Set the Instant Pot to the manual pressure cooker setting for 70 minutes. Add cranberries and broth to the bottom of pot, being sure not to "wash away" the salt off the pork. Sprinkle chopped herbs, apple cider vinegar and honey on top and close the lid. Cook undisturbed for full 70 minutes.
  3. Release the pressure using the release valve, remove the pork to a cutting board and use two fork to shred the pork. Place back in the Instant Pot, sprinkle with a pinch more sea salt, and set the manual option for another 10 minutes. This allows the shredded pork to absorb the broth, increasing it's moisture and flavor.
  4. Remove pork and cranberries from the liquid and place in a large serving dish. Toss with the cinnamon, garlic, and cloves and serve warm.

For Tacos: Serve in steamed kale, collard, or chard leaves with crispy sliced lettuce, avocado, cilantro, parsley, diced cucumber, jicama or beet matchsticks, coconut cream, and lime juice.

For Bowls: Serve with all the taco accoutrements over a bowl of cauliflower rice with guacamole & roasted zucchini.


by

Recipe Notes

 

 

 

Looking for more Instant Pot pulled meat recipes? Check out my Instant Pot Pineapple Chicken & Maple Bacon Balsamic Pulled Pork!

AIP Ginger Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Cream (Paleo)


Oh these made me one happy little gal. My recipe development method is a little obscure, but usually an idea pops in my head so late at night that it wouldn’t be logically sound to begin testing it at 10 pm. So then I bound out of bed and get busy in the kitchen as quickly as possible. I have this silly Type A thing where I want to nail something on the first try, and I often don’t have the food budget to be testing and re-testing recipes over and over again. Sometimes my first-try is spot-on, and I feel 100% comfortable sharing a recipe right away!

 

I used to make a similar cookie for my family every Christmas except they were more flat and round and the lemon creme was less fluffy and more tangy. These beat the socks off those flour & sugar filled cookies though! Can Christmas hurry up and get here so I can make these again!?

 

If you haven’t tried sweet potato flour yet, please do! It is by far my favorite AIP baking flour. It’s naturally sweet of course so lessens the need for added honey or maple, and it tastes a little caramel-y. No, it’s not cheap, but it’s for special occasions and because you’re wroth it. Maybelline. I have a couple other recipes using it for my Mini Blackberry Tarts and Tartelette au Sucre (both are really, really delicious!) I know, I know, this is another recipe using my all-time favorite ingredient Japanese yam. I can’t help it. It’s PERFECT for binding AIP recipes, adding creaminess and subtle sweetness, and very affordable. Sue me. Or just eat with me. Whatever sounds more pleasant and humane.

 

Ginger Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Cream [AIP]

Makes 8 sandwich cookies | Ready in

1 cup Zocalo brand sweet potato flour

1/3 cup arrowroot starch

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp sea salt

1 T grass fed gelatin (the kind that gels up)

1 ½ tsp ground ginger

¼ cup honey*

¼ c + 1 T coconut oil, melted

2 T palm shortening

*If using a raw honey, melt it first then measure ¼ cup liquid. I have not tried this recipe using maple syrup.

Lemon-Ginger Cream

1/3 cup mashed white sweet potato* (Japanese yam or California white sweet potato)

2/3 cup palm shortening

1 T honey

1 T lemon juice

1 tsp arrowroot starch

¼ tsp ground ginger

Small pinch sea salt

*I use this type of sweet potato in many of my recipes because of how versatile it is. It binds well, adds a nice sweetness without using natural sweeteners, and makes for a creamy end product. I realize it can be difficult to find, but you may have luck at your local Asian grocer, health food store, or co-op. Using regular sweet potato here will alter the flavor and texture.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients (first 7 ingredients listed) together in a medium size mixing bowl. Add wet ingredients and use a spoon and your hands to mix well. The dough will be moist but crumbly.
  2. Using firm pressure, scoop tablespoon-size balls into a measuring spoon and gently place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. You should be able to make 16 cookies. Flatten each cookie lightly with your palm. They will be about 2 inches in diameter.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 8-9 minutes until the edges begin to lightly brown. Remove and let cool completely. Make the cream in the meantime.
  4. For Lemon-Ginger Cream:  Place all ingredients in a high powered blender or food processor and process on low until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides a few times in between blending.
  5. Assemble Cookie Sandwiches: Spoon approx. 1 T of Lemon-Ginger Cream on the bottom of half the cookies. Top with remaining cookies to make mini sandwiches. You may have leftover cream, which can be served with berries for an additional treat idea. Serve at room temperature.
  6. To Store: Store in a sealed container at room temperature up to 3 days or in a sealed container in the freezer up to 3 weeks.

AIP Balance Week | Day 4: Exercise


As a foreward, this photo was taken in September 2013 prior to the start of AIP while I was on a Paleo diet and at the height of my exercise  craze (I am very competitive with myself and quickly learning that is not the best trait for someone with AI!) I was transitioning between a career in advertising (which I ran away from as fast as I could thank goodness) and going back to school for a master’s in occupational therapy (a career I am very passionate about – woohoo!) I felt a little lost without my 9-5, and frankly I was bored attending school part-time and working part-time. I filled this void with a big fat helping of high intensity cardio and long distance running. I now weigh 20 lbs more than I did in this photo, and I can still do just as many box jumps and pushups as I could back then but I exercise much less and focus on a high-nutrient diet, relaxation, hobbies, and self-love. I don’t regret my past choices, but I have certainly learned how exercise at the wrong intensity and frequency can negatively affect any female, especially those with autoimmunity and leaky gut. If you don’t believe me, please read The Paleo Mom’s article  “Why Exercising Too Much Hurts Your Gut”

My enjoyment of physical activity can be attributed to a few factors. I think my constitution plays the biggest role: I am fiery, anxious, high energy, and a competitor at heart. I grew up playing soccer and enjoyed the slide tackles (not even legal) just as much as scoring a goal. Once I took my first boot-camp style class, I was hooked and loved (love) being the chick who can run the fastest, do the most burpees, or be the last to pass out in the grass after some heavy tire flips. Exercise is a HUGE part of my identity, and I intend for it to always stay that way, but while on AIP I have learned that it must be in balance with other areas of my life. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. I also had to learn this the hard way about roasted marshmallows. 

I mentioned in my post earlier this week on infertility that exercise restriction played an important role in the restoration of my fertility. This allowed my body to gain the weight and fat I needed to menstruate again. It also helped me refocus my energy on eating nutrient and calorically dense AIP foods instead of thinking of food as fuel for my workouts. The past several months have been the first time since I was 14 years old that I went a day (or days and days) without exercise. I used to wake up at 5 am to get an hour workout in, no matter how fatigued I was from last night’s gym session or happy hour. I would work out when I had a head cold. I would spend vacations exercising in the morning instead of getting rest. I convinced myself that at least an hour a day of high intensity activity was necessary for me to maintain my “ideal” body composition. And you know what – it WAS necessary. I would not have been able to look as lean and toned as I used to without all of that dedication in the gym. Great. And what did I get out of it? 1) Envy of females who also have distorted views of beauty 2) Male disinterest – I looked like a little girl, let’s be real here. 3) Worsened leaky gut 4) Amenorrhea 5) Anxiety if I couldn’t exercise.  Any of that sound healthy to you? Since focusing on more important things in life, namely my health, marriage, personal growth, and friendships, I have also spent a good amount of time reflecting on why I felt the need to overindulge in exercise. For one, I have an anxious personality and used exercise as a way to manage stress, but then I spent a percentage of my day worrying about whether or not I would have time to work out. Great, that makes a lot of sense. Next, I’m a sucker for dopamine rushes. I am known for giggle attacks, hyperactivity, crossing boundaries and spontaneity. Really, if there is a boundary, I am on the other side. If I make a goal for myself, I have to surpass it and in half the time I aimed for it to take. I have difficulty just being and this manifests in a lack of stillness. My brain saw the runner’s high as positive reinforcement and there’s only one way to break a behavioral response: take away the stimulus. Lastly, I’m habitual and use these habits to unconsciously manage my anxiousness. When I was little I would suck my thumb, bite my nails, and pick my scabs until they bled. So cute. As an adult, I dust on Thursdays, do my laundry on Fridays, and freak out if I don’t have a credit card in my pocket at all times (“What if I get thirsty!!!”). Clearly not easy-going by nature, physical activity has always been a way for me to get my “beans out”, as my Mom used to say about me. Man I was a hyperactive child – I don’t think I ever stopped moving. I’m still that way, which I personally find endearing because it reminds me of my beloved grandmother, but my husband finds annoying. 

Well, I’ll be flat out honest with you and myself. My perfectly toned little beach body was one of the reasons my body halted (in my opinion) the purpose of life (please take industrialism, feminism, and gender inequality out of the equation for the sake of this discussion) in the most basic way: to produce offspring that can carry on the responsibilities of modern human beings. Now that was an incredibly simplified explanation of how much value I place on reproduction, and I can think of dozens of women I know who would be aghast at my opinion of “the purpose of life” as stated above. My argument which is shared by a woman I greatly respect, Liz Wolfe, is that the female body is not in a state of balance or wellness if menstruation does not exist during our fertile years. And isn’t whole body (mind included) wellness our goal?

In the Paleo and vegan community, exercise addiction and orthorexia are real problems, which makes me really sad. I’m lucky enough to catch myself before I fell down a rabbit hole of true addiction, dependence, and withdrawal, but I fear that many people won’t reach that level of self-reflection on their own. Community leaders must address this growing concern especially since a large portion of the Paleo population are in the age risk zone for poor body image and disordered eating/exercise. The medical literature already supports the diagnosis of the “Female Athlete Triad” but it is usually only addressed in your PCP’s office without the help of a counselor which is necessary since there’s a huge cognitive component to it. 

The Female Athlete Triad is a group of three signs commonly found in female athletes and over-exercisers that negatively affect overall health: amenorrhea, osteoporosis, and disordered eating. Literature suggests that up to 60% of female athletes experience at least 1 of the symptoms of the Triad. Of great concern is the rapid acceleration of bone density loss in women who do not menstruate, which becomes even more of an issue during menopause. You want to enter your menopausal years with the strongest bones and muscles that you can because osteopenia and sarcopenia are inevitable to some degree. Women with Female Athlete Triad syndrome who are not menstruating (i.e. low concentrations of progesterone and estrogen) lose about 2% bone mass per year, which puts you at an increased risk for developing stress fractures of the long bones, vertebrae, and hips, which are difficult to heal. Disordered eating represents an interesting mental component to the syndrome, and I beg to differ that a family practitioner can effectively address a solution with the patient without recognizing the cognitive role here. While I was never diagnosed with the Triad, my amenorrhea would put me at risk for low bone density which is especially concerning to me as a student of occupational therapy. Fractures are serious medical ailments and the risk of brittle bones was enough to scare me into taking control of my affinity for high intensity exercise.

The purpose of my posts for AIP Balance Week is to bring awareness to a variety of topics that affect women with autoimmune disease that may not be acknowledged much by our community. I knew for years that my over-exercising wasn’t helping my leaky gut or hormonal dysregulation, but I talked myself into daily workouts because “exercise is healthy” and “the more toned you are, the healthier you are”. As Sarah Ballantyne and Stacy Toth so bluntly put it to a group of us, “Health is not measured by weight.” AMEN. Again, I will never be a sedentary sloth… I love to move my body and appreciate what it can do, but I can say that I have achieved balance between exercise and my other hobbies and relationships, and I urge anyone with a similar struggle to do the same. This required weeks and months of changing my habits, forcing myself to skip my workouts and to not feel guilty about less active days. Now, I still do the majority of my work standing and I never sit on the couch to watch TV, but I find these are principles of a healthy active lifestyle and are the true keys to a life of physical wellbeing. I maintain a regular gym schedule (4 days a week versus 7 in the past), but I found that long distance running is my trigger for addictive tendencies, so I allow myself one 3 mile run per week versus my previous 15 miles a week. The cool breeze and feel of the grass under my feet are now relaxing to me and I no longer get that “runner’s high” and rush of dopamine (the addiction neurotransmitter). Mostly, I have enjoyed all the extra time and mental space I have to dedicate to cuddling with my dog, making recipes for G&E, calling friends and family, and freakin’ sleeping in! It has been the loveliest time of my life to date. 

If my experiences remind you of your own, try to slow it down. Give it your best shot for a few months and let yourself have a break. Here are some ideas of activities that are restorative and relaxing. I find them to be the perfect solution for my Type-A, anxious and driven personality, which is a common characteristic among exercisers and competitive athletes. Don’t I sound charming? Yeesh.

  • Yoga: Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, who cares? Finding yourself in a restricted physical space on your yoga mat without distractions allows your mind to focus and unwind. If you need that sweat of high intensity work outs, find a yoga studio that has hot yoga classes.
  • Walking: Nothing beats walking – it’s free, you can do it in almost any climate, it’s a social or solo-reflective activity, and it’s easy on your body. I find long 60 or 90 minute walks still give my legs the worn-out feeling I would enjoy from a good run. I recently read that for every 5 minutes of running you do, 15 minutes of walking provides the same heart and lung benefits. Replace your 30 minute run with a 90 minute walk, bring your dog, your iPod, or your best friend and enjoy taking it slow. My all-time favorite activity!
  • Meditation: Okay, fine, sitting as still as you can doesn’t burn much in the way of calories, but that’s the exact reason why you are doing this. Take your mind off calories, performance, or waist circumference. Reflect on what you REALLY care about – likely your friends, family, career ambitions, and health. Or don’t think about anything at all. My go-to meditation chant is “Just Be.” I say it over and over to myself and soon find my head buzzing in this lovely, empty way. My sympathetic nervous system always thanks me for giving it this 5-20 minute break.
  • Gentle Swimming: There’s freedom in letting yourself be engulfed by the weightlessness of water. Splash around in a pool, go for slow strokes in a lake, or do some focused laps at your gym. Swimming is easy on your body like walking and can be quite therapeutic for people with arthritic joints, muscle inflammation, or emotional stress. 

Oh boy, that was a tough post to write. But how else do you become a better, stronger person if you don’t look at yourself in the mirror and tell it like it is. I saved the best post for last tomorrow: Body Image and Disordered Eating. I don’t know a female who hasn’t experienced this… and it makes me want to blow up every magazine and celerity TV show out there. 

AIP Balance Week | Day 1: My Story


AIP Balance Week brought to you by your AIP community …

We have dedicated this week to acknowledging and addressing the emotional effects autoimmune disease has on each of us. AIP-ers tend to focus heavily on physically healing our bodies, going to great lengths to source the highest quality food we can find and afford. We spend countless hours in the kitchen which can take us away from hobbies and social activities that used to provide joy. Eating out at restaurants is stressful at best, and I cannot imagine having to also cook for a family or raise children when on AIP. Packing compliant lunches for work and planning ahead for vacations and holidays requires focus, willpower, and dedication. I have a ton of respect for the AIP community and admire everyone’s self-determination to heal and prosper. We should all be very proud of ourselves and each other.

Most of us came to AIP after successive failures with conventional medicine, vegan diets, steroids, ignorant doctors, and/or ignoring our symptoms until they really interrupted our quality of life. We managed to open our minds to organ meats, intensive food preparation, increased grocery budgets, and a bit of social isolation (more on this later in the week). And we’ve had little wins. Some in the form of successful reintroductions… others in the physical lessening of painful inflammation. I often reflect on my health prior to beginning AIP. Day after day of fatigue, muscle pain, headaches, vomiting, mood swings, unexplained rashes, facial swelling, mouth sores, hair loss, amenorrhea, severe constipation and diarrhea, bloating, reflux, and drastic weight loss. My intestines felt raw, my body felt abused, and my mind confused. I rarely experience any of those symptoms anymore since going on the AIP. The ones I blamed for stealing my quality of life, my perkiness, my freedom, my hope for the future. Food used to flat out scare me because I didn’t understand how or why it was hurting my body. I was angry at my doctors, especially in 2012 when I re-read my blood work from 2008 that showed gluten antibodies. No one told me at the time (“It wasn’t important to my Hashimoto’s diagnosis” my doctor later said), and I continued a grain-based diet until January 2012 when my GI doctor gave me a prescription for low-dose naltrexone, a diagnosis of IBS,  possible Crohn’s and 3 types of gastritis, and a mandatory Paleo diet (he wrote “Google Paleo Diet” on the back of my lab work).

I remember leaving that doctor’s appointment and heading straight to my pantry. I grabbed all my boxes of vegan-friendly seed crackers, soba noodles, and organic cereal and threw them straight in the trash – my first mini victory. I already had a fridge full of kale, cucumbers and sweet potatoes, so transitioning to a Paleo diet was not difficult for me in the least. I embraced the Paleo diet in full force. This was around the time my husband used to massage my back and stomach every night (I would call them “kidney massages” or “liver rubs”). My intestines were so inflamed after a day of gluten and soy-based vegan food, they were pushing on my organs and causing incredibly sharp pain. I look back now on all those nights hovering over my toilet, shivering with goose bumps and incredible nausea, spent thinking “this is going to be my reality every day for the rest of my life… there is no cure for autoimmune disease”. I can painfully recall the thousands of days in a row that I felt my body was rejecting life. The facial swelling and weight fluctuations particularly affected my self-esteem, and it became something I fixated on as a marker of my wellness. I lost 25 lbs within a year on my petite 4’ 11’’ frame. My friends and family worried; they accused me of having an eating disorder and I became scared to even tell them about my vomiting spells because I didn’t want them to think I was doing it on purpose. It was a lonely and scary time in my life, and my now husband was the only support I had through all of it. I mention these personal moments because these memories have contributed significantly to my emotional health these last few years. Along with the endless doctor’s appointments, thousands of hours of online research, expensive tests and procedures, and lack of social support, I only have recently found acceptance of my autoimmune disease and peace with my body (thanks to AIP of course).  All of those moments of frustration built onto one another to the point where I couldn’t visit the doctor without breaking out into tears at least once in my 7-minute appointment. Have I made it clear how angry, sad, and resentful I used to be about my health? AIP has helped me make tremendous strides in my mental wellbeing, and I can’t thank Sarah Ballantyne and the other AIP lady bloggers enough for their knowledge and support the last 10 months.

Emotional health deserves more than just one blog post though, and I feel very strongly about supporting the community through my story, so I will be posting a series of articles on the topic this week that have affected me and women I know in the past several years, and that I have a hunch may be on the minds of at least a few of my thousands of readers who come to my site for support during their great AIP Journey.

  • Infertility & Autoimmunity
  • Social Isolation on AIP
  • The Harms of Over-exercising
  • Body image & Disordered Eating

AIP Balance Week | Day 2: Infertility & Autoimmunity


A major part of my healing journey has focused on the restoration of my fertility, which was the first thing to go after my acute Hashimoto’s attack in 2008 and the last thing to be restored after following the AIP in 2014. At 20 years old, I didn’t mind skipping the hassle of a period. After all, mine had always been fairly painful and disruptive. Ten pounds of water retention, cramps that required loads of Tylenol, headaches, and constipation used to be my reality for 7 days out of the month (uh that’s 25% of the year!!)  I saw my lack of period as a blessing and spent 3 years not being too concerned about it. During this time, my body fat percentage became lower and lower each year, dropping to 14% (that is NOT to be admired, ladies) and my weight to a measly 87 pounds. This was greatly in part from my severe leaky gut; I wasn’t absorbing the nutrients or energy from my food, and I remember that my body would shed 8 lbs in just a few days during a really bad flare. Again, back then this didn’t bother me. I was in my early 20’s and enjoying this new found size 0 and XXS wardrobe. Another factor was my lifelong dedication to exercise, which I will be speaking about in another post this week. I had discovered high intensity interval training around this time, increased my running distance, and became fairly obsessive about controlling my weight and composition via exercise. My poor system was getting it from all angles – I became severely anemic and vitamin-deficient. Half my hair fell out, my skin was dry, and I had no breasts or booty anymore, which is not my  inherent body type. I am Lebanese and generally quite curvy in that mini Kim Kardashian way a lot of us Middle Eastern women are… and that’s something to be proud of dang it! The things you learn as you age and cancel your cable subscription. 

                So why does body image fit into this picture? My vanity, interest in fitness, and media exposure to “beautiful women” superseded my determination to fix my hormonal health when I was a single, shall I say dumb, college girl. Post-college, my gut was literally telling me “You are not skinny because you are healthy. You are skinny because you are NOT healthy.” I knew this was true and deep down I knew it needed to be fixed but I really was in a deep hole of over-exercising and getting way too much positive reinforcement from other females with my leaky gut induced weight loss. After dozens of doctor’s appointments, it was clear that my reproductive system wasn’t inherently broken like I thought. I didn’t have PCOS, I wasn’t in early menopause, and I didn’t have ovarian failure – all of these things frightened the crap out of me but explained my symptoms so I started to go through the grieving process of a life without children at age 21. Now I know that simply my body didn’t have the nutrients or energy stores to withstand bearing a child. My autoimmunity and leaky gut were wreaking absolute havoc on my intestines and immune system, which was really the oxygen to the fire. I never starved myself into thinness (I LOVE food if you haven’t noticed and my nickname growing up was Alaena “Hungry” Haber), my disease and exercise habits took me there, but I didn’t do anything about it until my body started aching for the possibility of children.

                Once I met my now husband, I became embarrassed of my amenorrhea. He is 11 years older than me and althoug not the most mature 37 year old, I knew he would be ready for children sooner than men my age. I didn’t feel at all womanly, and although he was still very attracted to me, I always had an inkling that he wished I had my period. I had lost my “It” that I felt I had prior to Hashimoto’s – the sexual attractiveness that you can practically smell on an ovulating woman. I think you all know what I’m talking about. Once we got married, friends and family members who didn’t know about my infertility would ask, “Now, do you want children?” I didn’t know how to answer that. “Yes, if I can have them” would have been terribly awkward and inappropriate. Usually I would cover up my defensiveness and hurt feelings with a, “We have so much more we want to do before we even think about children.” Which is true, but a sinking feeling in my stomach started to develop whenever I would see kids playing at the park or mothers walking their babies in strollers. I started to feel very guilty about my lack of menstruation and felt bad that my husband married into a life without the joy of children. He would of course be outraged by these thoughts of mine, and he was always very supportive saying that all he needed was me. But his words weren’t enough and I quickly went into a daily cycle of anxiety and depression over it. My body was healing in so many ways on AIP – the pain and fatigue had completely subsided, I began gaining weight, my digestion normalized, and I could successfully reintroduce a lot of non-AIP foods back into my diet! I was incredibly grateful for the healing I had achieved all on my own, but I woke in the morning and went to bed at night wishing for my period to come back. In order for this to happen, I decided I had to accept the weight gain, cellulite, and increase in body fat percentage that was needed for this to occur in my body. I had to accept my genetics and get the hell over being a size 0. This was fairly easy to do because how could I ever argue anything feels greater than being able to facilitate life of another human? I have a feeling that for me nothing will be as satisfying on a primal level as motherhood. 

                I credit my naturopath and Dr. Sarah Ballantyne to giving me the tools to make this happen. My naturopath wrote me this prescription for exercise: “No running. Do things you enjoy each day that are gentle on your body like walking and yoga.” My 11-year running habit went Kaput! That in itself was difficult to cope with… I had used running as an anxiety reducer and as a measure of my health since I was 15 years old. I instead went for long walks when I had time and many days I simply didn’t do anything but walk to the train station or the grocery store for activity. I began biking everywhere – school, social events, the beach. Walking and biking made me feel like I was still getting the health benefits of exercise without compromising my attmpt to gain weight. This restored my confidence in a lot of ways and helped me not be THE obstacle to my own goals. I consulted with family members that were doctors, with Sarah and a couple other leaders of the AIP community that I trusted. They all told me to give it time, to keep eating a high nutrient diet, and to give myself a break damn it. My mindset began to change… instead of feeling like I should just accept a future without children and be done with trying to “fix”  myself, I began imagining myself and my husband chasing after our little boy and girl. I imagined teaching my daughter how to cook, how I would make their baby food from scratch, and what their personalities would be like. I started letting myself have AIP treats like these chocolate chip cookies, and enjoyed big bowls of meaty soup, seafood, and veggies and stopped thinking about calories and food composition being the end-all-be-all of my  health. I doubled my daily carbohydrates and allowed myself the freedom to enjoy my food with no emotions attached to it except pleasure and pride. My overall healthy but light on calories salads, juices, lean ground beef, chicken thighs and steamed vegetables took a back seat for several months, and I really have enjoyed sitting down to 2 large meals each day whereas a big meal used to be a source of anxiety and guilt. What freedom I now have from the sickness that is disordered eating (I may be being too loose with that term as I have always been very dedicated to high quality foods, but I have historically put too much emphasis on sticking to a certain caloric range). Again, thanks to the AIP. Pattern?

                Prior to these changes in my diet & exercise, the emotional strain of my infertility hit a high point (or a very, very low point, depending on how you look at it) about 3 months after my wedding, and I vowed to stop letting it bother me so much. I allowed myself to let go of the guilt, worry, and fear that I experienced the majority of each day. And the envy I had for young mothers I saw out and about. I focused on how incredibly healthy my digestion had become, how blessed I was to be able to tolerate bone broth, avocados, and chocolate again, foods I used to be intolerant). How lucky I am that I found a group of fellow AIP gals who truly get one another… I finally had the social support I needed to be successful. I continued to gain weight fairly rapidly and part of me was scared. The louder and smarter part of me began having flutters of excitement because I knew that my gut was finally healed enough to absorb all those beautiful foods I was putting in it! What an odd dichotomy of emotions I have been through the past year… but boy has it made a stronger, more empathetic, and confident woman.

                I am incredibly proud and overjoyed to announce to the community that we plan on having children in the next couple years, and that it is now a possibility instead of an unattainable dream! I recognize that this is a VERY personal story to tell on the Internet and that it will forever be permanent in Google history. I am okay with that for several reasons. 1) I am not ashamed of my body, my autoimmunity, or the rollercoaster of emotions I went through for the past 6 years and neither should you, 2) I started G & E to share my story and provide support through food and laughter to women all over the world who have been through the loneliness and fear that accompanies an autoimmune diagnosis, and I am going to stay true to that mission and 3) I consider myself an AIP success story, and I want anyone who is thinking about doing the AIP or who is currently on it to KNOW that success is a viable possibility and that quitting should not be an option you give yourself. Good things take time, and getting over my “fat fears” (both dietary and body) was likely the numero uno reason I have found success. 

                Infertility is a terrifying effect of autoimmune disease in many women, and it is very rarely talked about. I think this is because females feel ashamed or embarrassed of their infertility and  there’s a lack of evidence-based research on the subject, but this anxiety-fueled idea that we must be the perfect woman and wife must go. I wrote an article for Autoimmune-Paleo a while back about AI and fertility that you can read. My sadness but steadfastness comes through in my words, and this blog post today is such a joyous turn of events in my personal life. I had many women e-mail me after reading that article for support, and I want you each to know that you can do the same. It was important for me to update readers on the status of my fertility given that when I wrote that blog post, I still was struggling with hormonal balance and my gut had not healed enough yet to gain the weight I needed to restore my period. I wish that I had heard other women’s stories and struggles with infertility during the past few years, so I wouldn’t have felt so alone in my solo seeking of a solution. Again, please email me if you need advice or just someone to vent your frustrations to… alaena@grazedandenthused.com, and I will respond to you shortly. 

Tomorrow’s AIP Balance Week post will be on Social Isolation on AIP

AIP Balance Week | Day 3: Social Isolation


Growing up, I was always the kid who wanted to be the center of attention. I like to make people laugh, to get them to open up, and to be the maker of memories for a group of friends. I thrived around people, was certainly an extrovert, and spent the majority of high school and college involved in social activities every night. Once I graduated from school and moved away from my best friends, these social encounters became fewer and farther in between but I still made sure to attend social events at least twice a week. I began dating my husband at age 22 and a lot of my free time was spent with other couples instead of fostering relationships with girlfriends. This didn’t start bothering me until I moved to Chicago, away from our large group of friends and family, and had to start completely from scratch. Thankfully, I did meet several girls I connected with and one in particular provided not just an ear or a shoulder but a whole lotta heart. Everyone needs a friend like her, and I don’t think I would have fared nearly as well the last 18 months in a foreign city away from my loved ones without her.

When I was just “plain” Paleo for 2 years, my diet did not affect my social participation. In fact, my friends loved all my fresh foods, frittatas, muffins, and yummy dinner parties. I still drank alcohol at least 1-2 times a week which is a huge facilitator of social engagement when you’re in your twenties, of course! Once I transitioned to AIP, things changed drastically. I made a commitment to focus on my sleep, my food, my inflammation, and my energy levels. I started turning down invitations for happy hours and late nights out, and soon those invitations just stopped coming altogether. When I found out friends would gather without me, my feelings would be really hurt, but I knew they weren’t trying to be exclusive. I had put up a barrier between me and them. We weren’t the same anymore in their eyes, although I still enjoyed doing girly things like shopping, pedicures, and yoga classes. For some reason, my lack of alcohol drinking really put a wedge in a lot of my relationships, which is so sad and frankly ridiculous. But I don’t expect everyone to understand the connection between lifestyle and autoimmunity especially if they haven’t felt the insecurity of autoimmune disease personally.

I have experienced a lot of success on AIP but I also felt a new emotion: loneliness. I missed going out to dinners and trivia nights at the bar. I longed for late night snacks and opening up that leftover bottle of wine at 2 a.m. when really we should just go to bed. I missed hangover brunches with girlfriends that were full of giggles and happy hormones. I even missed just cracking a gluten free beer with my husband for the hell of it and going for a walk with my marginally illegal open container. I’m not the only one, I know this, and I have heard from many of you who feel paralyzed by this lifestyle and lack of connection in relationships. This is NORMAL. I can promise you that every person who has ever been on AIP has felt this way at some point. How could you not? Food and eating with others hit on some major human needs: belonging, love, and nourishment. Social inclusion has been linked to mental wellness in many research studies for good reason. We need to be surrounded by others who are like us.  I suggest we all recognize it, accept it, and find a solution for it. Below are a few of my tips for managing social isolation while adhering to AIP.

YES

  • Talk to your friends and family about your autoimmune disease and why you’re doing AIP. Explain to them that social support is necessary for your success and that you need to continue to spend time with them even if you can’t eat or drink the same things right now. Don’t be shy or embarrassed of this but remember to be patient if they don’t seem to understand or respect your decision to do the AIP. Ignorance can be obliterated through education.
  • Meet new likeminded friends. Go to meetup.com or thepaleomomcommunity.com to find local members of the Paleo and AIP community … you can NEVER have enough friends! I only stopped feeling alone in my autoimmunity once I joined and actively participated in these support groups and began emailing back and forth with women who not only understood me but could offer valuable and empathic advice. Recently I got to meet Paleo Cajun Lady and The Bacon Mum at a book signing, and I felt instantly connected to these ladies through our AI experiences.  I had dinner with Sarah & Stacy after that same book signing, and I cannot tell you how relieving it was too not be the only person at the table with food restrictions! Every black sheep wants to be part of the herd at some point. 
  • Join online support groups such as The Paleo Approach Community and AIP Support groups on Facebook such as this oneor this one . You don’t have to meet people face-to-face to feel like you know them these days. I can think of two handfuls of women who I can count on for help or advice at the drop of a hat that I’ve never met in person.
  • Do “normal” things. Go to happy hours with friends and bring a bottle of kombucha that you can pour over ice at the bar. Go dancing with your girls and let yourself sleep off the late night on Sunday. Join a yoga studio or group fitness gym and get to know the members so you feel like you’re socializing by default an hour each day! I’ve made several friends at my gym and although we don’t gather outside of class, we still spend time laughing and catching up with each other every day.
  • Sarah Ballantyne asked the AIP blogging community help develop The Paleo Approach Dinner Club e-book for good reason! We all know how difficult it is to participate in food and alcohol-related social events while on AIP (and isn’t that like 95% of the stuff we do with our friends in the first place??) An AIP dinner club is a group of individuals dedicated to gathering for a potluck each week to enjoy nourishing food together and to laugh and tell stories like normal people (hey, we need fun too!) If you feel lost and lonely on AIP, a dinner club is going to change your perspective and revitalize your social energy.

NO

  • Don’t put a wedge between you and your friends. Make an effort not to turn down their offers for social outings or they will start thinking you don’t want to or can’t hang out with them while on AIP which is NOT true. If you are too tired to go out, ask them if they’ll stay in with you and watch a movie. Explain why. If they never take you up on your offer, you’re not missing out on much anyways. I was really bad about this for awhile, partly because I inherently didn’t like the dive bars they go to and partly because I felt like “what’s in it for me?” – uh freakin’ friendships, that’s what!
  • Don’t keep your autoimmune disease to yourself. I spent the first 6 years of my diagnosis prior to starting this blog very rarely talking about Hashimoto’s, leaky gut, or histamine intolerance, even with my family. I went to every scary doctor’s appointment by myself and got stuck with dozens of needles without ever having someone there to distract me or hold my hand. I became a little resentful of my friends who never asked or seemed to wonder about my less than admirable health. This started a cycle with my friendships and I became the one who stopped calling… they didn’t seem to care about what I was going through because they didn’t KNOW what I was going through. How could they support me if I didn’t let them in? Educate your friends on your symptoms and how they can make leading your old “normal” life difficult. Call them when you’re not feeling well and let them bring over AIP-compliant food or help you walk your dog. A lot of people with autoimmunity are Type A personalities (“we can do everything ourselves!!!!”), but don’t let those pesonality traits get in the way of feeling social inclusion and belongingness on your AIP journey… after all it is just as important as food, sunshine, and exercise!
     

Check back for the last post for AIP Balance Week on Exercise & AIP tomorrow!

AIP Jellied Cranberry Sauce


I remember the first year I saw cranberry jelly on our Thanksgiving table. I think we had guests in town and my mom was trying to be welcoming and inclusive. She bought that Ocean Spray brand stuff, opened it using the can opener, and let me run a spoon around the edges of it. It plopped out on the serving plate in a perfect cylinder with those tell-tale ridges. I remember thinking it looked pretty cool, like roller skating rink candy or my Jelly shoes (90’s kid for ya). I was so excited to try it with Lebanese Roast Chicken (my AIP version of that recipe will be up soon!) and stuffing but was SO disappointed in this taste. The bright red color and Jello-y texture was enough to keep me happy though, so I asked my mom to buy it again the next year. No one touched the stuff. Years passed before we had Cranberry Relish on our table, and this time it was the real deal: fresh cranberries, simmered with fresh orange juice, orange zest, and honey. It had a granular texture though, and I really did prefer the gelatin texture of the canned variety but liked the taste of fresh fruit MUCH more. 

This year, my first Thanksgiving on AIP, calls for a combination of the two. Fresh cranberries cooked with BONE BROTH instead of water, plus honey to sweeten it lightly. Grass-fed Great Lakes gelatin helped it gel perfectly. I served it with my AIP Lebanese Roast Chicken & Stuffing this week and it brought me right back to my Mom’s Thanksgiving table. Enjoy just in time for the holidays!

AIP Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Serves 6 | Prep Time 5 min| Cook Time 30 min | Fridge Time 2 hours

12 oz fresh organic cranberries

1 ½ cups bone broth, divided

3 T honey, divided

2 T grass-fed gelatin

Pinch sea salt

2 mandarin oranges, peeled

  1. Place cranberries, 1 cup bone broth, and 2 T honey in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a high-powered blender.
  2. Warm the remaining ½ cup bone broth in either the saucepan or the microwave until hot but not boiling. Stir in gelatin, remaining 1 T honey, and sea salt. Pour this mixture into the blender with the cranberries and blend until completely smooth.
  3. Pour into a serving dish. Lay mandarin slices on top of the cranberry mixture and place in fridge to solidify, 1-2 hours. Can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in the fridge for a more developed flavor (my favorite way!)

Roast Chicken with Lebanese Stuffing (Paleo, AIP, Whole30)

I was crossing my fingers that I would nail this recipe on the first attempt and I did. I think because I have such an emotional connection to this meal from childhood, my limbic system was able to guide my cooking intuition. I explained on Instagram recently that my family didn’t do traditional Thanksgiving turkey & stuffing growing up, but a simple Lebanese roasted chicken stuffed with a spiced mixture of beef, rice, onion, pine nuts, cinnamon and allspice. I was hell-bent on making an AIP version of all my favorite “Lebanese Feast” (that’s what my twin sister and I call it) dishes so I can enjoy them this year too. Last year, I couldn’t eat ANY of the Christmas dinner, and I threw a temper tantrum full of tears and “Why can’t  you guys realize that it sucks to have allergies, and that I deserve to eat this food too!!!!” So attractive. I still throw tantrums in my head, but I try not to execute them in front of other humans. That’s how you do AIP responsibly.

 

It was really only after that outburst that my family recognized my need to have that emotional connection to food that they all still get to enjoy. Nobody was going to forgo the rice stuffing or tahini and chickpea hummus just for me though, so I said F it, I’m going to make my own AIP versions and they’re going to be even better, starting with this dish! The parsnips add such a nice earthy taste, and you won’t believe how awesome ground beef stuffing with a perfectly roasted chicken tastes! The skin will be crispy and the meat very juicy by using my method below. With a squeeze of roasted lemon on top and a heaping scoop of stuffing, you’re going to shoot right out of any bland food rut you may have found yourself in lately (it happens to the best of us!)

 

So for Lebanese Christmas Feast this year, I’ll be making both the traditional and AIP versions of these dishes

– Lebanese Chicken & Stuffing (recipe  below)

AIP Hummus by Me

AIP Pita by He Won’t Know Its Paleo

– Whole Carrot Taboulleh from The Paleo Approach Cookbook

– AIP Kibbeh (recipe to be developed) <– this usually has gluten, pine nuts, and seed-based spices

– AIP Mammoul Balls (recipe to be developed) <– these are traditionally made of walnuts

 

 

 

Lebanese Roast Chicken & Stuffing

Serves 4-5 | Ready in

Beef & Parsnip Rice Stuffing

1 lb lean grass-fed ground beef

1 small onion, peeled and diced

6 large parsnips, cut into chunks

1 tsp cinnamon, divided

1/16 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup bone broth, divided

1 T lard

2 T dried mint

¼ tsp granulated garlic

2 tsp lemon juice

Optional: 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (if tolerated – not AIP)

  1. Process parsnips in food processor using the ricing disc, or alternatively pulse in a high powered blender until the parnsip is broken into rice-sized pieces.
  2. Cook ground beef in a large, deep skillet until almost cooked through. Break up with a spoon into small pieces as it cooks. Turn heat off and stir in just ½ tsp cinnamon, cloves, and ¼ tsp sea salt. Set aside in a bowl.
  3. Heat lard over medium heat in the same skillet. Add onions first and then the parsnips, cover, and let cook for 3 minutes until the bottom layer of onions begins to caramelize. Remove lid and stir well. Add just ½ cup bone broth to skillet. Cover with lid again and let steam cook for 3 more minutes until parsnips are cooked through but still tender. Remove pan from heat, stir in mint, remaining ½ tsp cinnamon, remaining ½ cup bone broth, remaining ¼ tsp sea salt, garlic, lemon juice,  the cooked ground beef, and pine nuts (if using). The broth should be absorbed in the meat and vegetables as you stir.

Lebanese Roast Chicken

1 whole pasture-raised chicken (about 3 lbs)

1 T lard

½ lemon

4 sprigs fresh oregano

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

½ tsp sea salt

  1. Remove chicken from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to seasoning.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set a small roasting rack on top of a large baking sheet. This allows the chicken to crisp up on the bottom too. No one likes soggy chicken skin.
  3. Prepare the chicken for roasting: Dry the chicken well by patting with paper towels both on the outside and inside the cavity (very important!!). Rub lard on the chicken, coating evenly. Sprinkle the sea salt evenly over the whole chicken. Stuff the lemon and fresh herbs in the cavity and tie the legs together with kitchen string. You can also bring the wings closer to the breast and secure them tightly with another piece of string.
  4. Cook the chicken: Roast on prepared rack and baking sheet for 55 minutes. Increasing cooking time by 15 minutes per lb (if chicken weighs more than 3 lbs) until breast internal temperature reads 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn the oven off and let the chicken rest in the oven for 10 minutes with the door closed. Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest on the countertop, covered, for 10 more minutes before slicing. After slicing, squeeze lemon all over chicken and sprinkle with more sea salt. Serve with warm Beef & Parsnip Stuffing and AIP Hummus!

Paleo Chocolate Lava Cakes (Egg-Free, Nut-Free, AIP Adaptable)

 

So this is my official announcement that I have reintroduced chocolate back into my life. Our break-up was a harsh one. There was lots of name-calling, plate-throwing, and feelings of mistrust. In fact, my heart used to feel like it had dropped into my stomach every time chocolate and I had a misfortunate date. Along with  cramps and embarrassing trips to the bathroom. I feel like the poster child for AIP reintroductions with this one because I NEVER thought I would be able to eat it again. My reactions were so bad just 3 months ago that I would violently vomit all night if I tried to reintroduce it. I’ve been having a little every day and no issues! I do have to be careful though because of the caffeine levels. I do NOT handle caffeine well, never have, and I doubt I ever will. It’s just not in my DNA.

 


Hi pretty little cake! I’m going to make you disappear faster than you can say Ghiradelli 10 times in a row. So chocolate is a Stage 2 Reintroduction on The Paleo Approach. In Stage 1, I reintroduced fresh legumes and fruit-based spices (like the vanilla bean in this recipe) with no problemo. (although I still only eat them occasionally). Eggs, seed-based spices, and ghee weren’t tolerated, and I found out I still have an egg and dairy allergy, so that makes sense.

 

In Stage 2, I have reintroduced nuts/seeds  (except sesame seeds – those did not fair well) and cocoa. When reintroducing a food that is part of a recipe, you must know that you do not have an intolerance or allergy to any of the other ingredients in that recipe! That way you can tell if a negative reaction is the new food or another AIP-compliant ingredient that you may indeed be intolerant to (i.e. arrowrroot and coconut sugar are “AIP” foods in moderation, but some people still react to them). I am fine with both of these foods in moderate amounts, so this recipe would be a good choice for me. You must also have already introduced vanilla bean powder for this recipe. I chose not to use vanilla extract because it will not be fully cooked out, and I cannot tolerate alcohol, (a stage 2 reintro) even in small amounts.

 

PLEASE read The Reintroduction Guide for more information in reintroducing foods on AIP! It is very important to do it “right” or risk inappropriately including or excluding a food from your diet. You can purchase your copy HERE. It tells you how much you should eat per day and how/when to track for reactions.

 

Paleo Chocolate Lava Cakes [Egg-free/Nut-Free]

Makes 4 single-serve cakes | Ready in 35 minutes

½ cup high quality cocoa powder* (For AIP: Use carob powder)

½ cup arrowroot flour

1 T coconut flour

1/3 c coconut sugar

¾ tsp baking soda

2 tsp vanilla bean powder (For AIP: use pure vanilla powder)

2 T grass-fed gelatin

¼ c boiling water

¼ cup lard

2 T coconut oil

Pinch fine sea salt

Lard for greasing

Raspberries for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 4 small ramekins with lard.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa, arrowroot, coconut flour, baking soda, vanilla bean powder, and sea salt.
  3. In a large coffee mug, whisk together coconut sugar and 2 T boiling water until dissolved. Now stir in the gelatin and remaining 2 T boiling water until the gelatin is also dissolved. Let sit for 2 minutes. Stir in the lard until melted.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the gelatin-lard mixture and stir until incorporated. Now add in the coconut oil and stir to combine well.
  5. Divide cake batter (it will be dense and moist, not liquidy at all) equally among ramekins. Press down lightly. Fill a glass baking dish halfway with tap water. Place ramekins in this “water bath” so the water comes about ¾ of the way up exterior of the ramekin. This adds extra moisture to the cake. Cool trick, huh?
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 17 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in glass dish for 2 minutes. While cooling, make chocolate lava below.
  7. Pour chocolate lava on top of each cake. Serve topped with fresh raspberries and whipped coconut cream (not pictured).

For chocolate lava

3 T Coconut butter, melted

2 T Cocoa powder (For AIP: Use carob powder)

1 T coconut oil, melted

1 T honey

½ tsp vanilla bean powder (For AIP: Use pure vanilla powder)

Pinch fine sea salt

  • Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth! Use in Step 7 above.

Sweet & Crunchy Kale Granola (Paleo, AIP, Vegan)

 

 

Yay for AIP snack food that you can actually travel with, enjoy the taste, and is nutritious to boot. I got the idea for Kale Granola after visiting Hu Kitchen in NYC last weekend. Their version was much sweeter and had nuts/seeds in it, so I was bent on developing an AIP version I could make for vacations or school snacks when I definitely want to stay 100% within AIP. You will love it! Promise! Even if you’re not a fan of kale chips.

 

I didn’t celebrate Halloween this year – it’s really a hit or miss holiday for me. I particularly do not like dressing up nor spending money on a costume that I will only wear once and likely be embarrassed of within 5 years. We instead saw Million Dollar Quarter with my mom who was visiting for 4 days. On the train ride home, the costumes provided a good chuckle. A group of Guy Fieri impersonators wearing flame-decorated shirt and bandanas. Ted the giant teddy bear, who stared at me the whole time with intent of making me as uncomfortable as possible. And a large white boy dressed as a ditzy white girl… Uggs, stretch pants, Victoria’s secret bag in hand, blonde wig saying things like “Omg guys we lost Stacy. We lost Stacy!!” and “Can we take a selfie? SELFIE TIME! Omg, wait, can we do it again? I wasn’t on my good side.”

 

Maybe you had to be there. Or maybe you need to just got turn on Bravo for 3 minutes and then you’ll understand why Generation Y is the way they are. Including myself – I do have VIP status at Sephora after all.

 

Sweet & Crunchy Kale Granola [AIP Friendly]

Serves 4 | Prep time 15 minutes | Cook time 35 minutes

  • 1 large bunch curly kale, stems removed, torn into 1-inch pieces*
  •  6-8 pitted dates (I used 8 Deglet Noir dates, but I recommend 6 if using Medjool which are larger)
  •  2 T coconut oil, melted
  • 1 T blackstrap molasses
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (I used Let’s Do Organics brand)

*Make sure the kale is very dry. I did this by sending it through my salad spinner after tearing it.

1.     Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2.     Soak the dates in very hot water for 10 minutes until softened. Drain the dates and place in a shallow bowl. Using a potato masher or the back of a fork, mash dates with coconut oil into a paste. Stir in cinnamon, ginger and sea salt and mix well.

3.     Place kale in a large mixing well. Pour the date mixture into the bowl and mix well to coat the kale. Now stir in the blackstrap molasses until well coated. Add the raisins and coconut flakes and ensure they are coated as well.

4.     Spread kale onto a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, stir, and bake for another 18-20 minutes until all kale leaves are crispy and the coconut is a toasty brown.