Ordinary Times and Travels: What we eat in Seattle, post 9

After the hammer…

“This is the first time in my 35 years that I have heard that peanuts are not nuts.” he said.

Esther’s friend made dinner for us tonight and we were standing around in the kitchen talking about “the diet project”, the AIP.  He had been interested enough to read up about it and had chosen a couple recipes from our cookbook to make, giving us the night off.  He did a bang up job and we appreciated it, a lot!

We have been following the AutoImmune Protocol for almost two weeks now, and although I think it is going fairly well, we are starting to have serious cravings for things on the “no” list, things we used to love to eat, things high on fun, satiety and comfort, but low (possibly devoid of…) nutrients.  It’s a little early to know if we feel healthier, but how could we be otherwise? That’s what I’m asking myself.

For certain, more food has come through the door of this house in the last two weeks than in similar time periods. We seem to be shopping all the time. Yet, it’s a struggle to figure out what to eat when mealtimes come around. Sometimes what we have is not the mental picture of a meal that we have been used to, so it doesn’t seem like a meal.  Thankfully, mental pictures can be changed – in fact, that is what it’s all about when you decide to take on a new way of eating. Can we stick with it until we’ve had time to change our ideas of satisfying eating? Good question.




Breakfast is a difficult meal because traditionally, it’s all about grains, dairy and eggs of some sort, none of which are on our diet. We have avocado, sweet potato, turkey bacon. We need to work on our smoothie repertoire a little more.

The lovely, nontraditional breakfast

We knew we were going to have to use more coconut in various ways so Esther ordered two young coconuts in our Amazon Fresh order.  I googled instructions on how to get into them because, frankly, looking at them doesn’t give a clue. The steps seemed simple, just hack away the outer white layer until you see a light colored “spot” where you can press your knife and make a hole. I made quite a mess doing all that cutting and got to a rock-hard layer where no more cutting was possible. But, someone forgot to put a “spot” on my coconut and I had to drill a hole with the tip of my knife.  So I had a hole, but nothing was coming out of it – until I made a second hole for air to come in. See, when you learn stuff like that in Physics class they don’t tell you that you’ll need it when you encounter coconuts.

There was at least 10 ounces of coconut water inside this coconut so Esther and I both had a good drink. However, there had to be more to eat than just the water. I knew it would take more than tiny holes to get the insides out so I took it out on the sidewalk and smashed a big hole with a  hammer. The inside of a young coconut is soft, shiny, semi-translucent and white (pretty really). I like it. Esther… not so much.

Esther’s fake bacon substitute.

Esther has discovered which meats she is able to tolerate most easily, and I have to hand it to her. For a vegetarian, she is doing great. She has had some kind of meat protein almost twice every day. As a vegetarian, she would eat burgers made of soy or black beans, and she would eat fake bacon, also a soy product. As an AIP girl she is bothered least by fake soyburgers (read real beef burgers) and fake soy bacon (real meat bacon) because they look similar to what she has grown accustomed to eating. See, it’s all in your mind.  She eats tuna. I don’t know what it is about chicken though. For her, it begins with the smell and only gets worse with the sight and taste. I’m afraid I will be eating the roast chicken all by myself. Getting to like chicken will take some work.


I love meat and have no problem with cooking it, but I wish it were less messy. What to do with all the fat and how to get it off the dishes and counters is a battle.  I’ve made three batches of bone broth but so far, no one has gotten into drinking it straight.  It is kind of piling up in the fridge.  I froze some of it in our ice cube trays, causing a near unhappy moment when Esther went to get ice cubes.

What else hasn’t worked… yes, the coconut Greek yogurt. I’m not sure you can make yogurt out of anything other than real milk, but there was a recipe, so Esther tried it. The black probiotic culture she added to it looked strange but we were able to think of it as specks of vanilla bean (also not on the diet). After culturing overnight in a warm place it was still coconut cream liquid. But it tastes great poured over bananas or the apple/cranberry compote we made. Fake yogurt, this also will take some work.

I don’t mean to say that we haven’t discovered some really good, simple recipes that I am happy to add to my regular cooking line up. I wrote about the Nomato Sauce in a previous post. Tonight we had a cauliflower dish that easily takes the place of fried rice, and some steak flavored with coconut aminos that was so flavorful.  One good thing we have both noticed is that we do not feel distressed after eating, no uncomfortable fullness, and of course, we are not gaining weight.  I am happy to see Esther able to tolerate meals without pain, and she is eating more good, nutritious food than I have ever noticed before.

Ordinary Times and Travels: The Project, post 5

Youngest daughter and I are tackling a big project. We are learning about and transitioning to the Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP).  There are many autoimmune conditions these days, growing in number all the time. There are so many things in our food and our environment that cause inflammation in different parts of our bodies. We have increased stress in our lives. These things get our immune systems ramped up and so sensitized that they turn against us – they think our own bodies are the enemies and start attacking.  Have you noticed the numbers of people who are gluten intolerant? How about psoriasis and eczema? Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, irritable bowel syndrome, GERD, digestive issues, allergies, asthma, frequent infections… all of these can be conditions of autoimmunity.

For years as a teen, my daughter experienced stomach pain in conjunction with meals, fatigue, and mild depression. We went to doctors looking for answers but it is difficult to diagnose a problem that presents itself differently depending on the person, their particular genetic predisposition, their stage of life, their lifestyle, and many other varying factors. She’s had other symptoms since, and many more doctors, but no real solutions.

Putting the pieces together has taken years for Esther, but maybe she is getting closer, understanding more. We are trying the AIP because it is an elimination diet – it will help us identify the foods that are causingher symptoms of inflammation.  Initially, all foods known to cause inflammation are excluded, giving the body time to heal.  Then some of those foods are carefully re-introduced in order to identify the culprits.

Yes, it’s a modified Paleo diet.

We have several good books to teach us and provide meal plans and recipes – that makes it a bit easier – but it is still a hard transition. Enter bone broth, one of the “good” foods allowed on this diet.

I have heard for years that chicken soup is good for us when we are sick. Turns out, properly made meat broths are healing for us for quite a few reasons. I decided to get right into it and make some bone broth for us. I’ve never had to hunt grocery stores for bones before, but I found some. I think bone broth is  becoming a trend and the ingredients are more widely available. I found beef short ribs and beef marrow bones, brought them home and put them in the pot to cook for 24 hours, along with some vegetables for flavor. I’m not giving specifics here because you can google the recipe if you desire.

Youngest daughter is not used to eating this way at all (neither was I) and that is why it was suggested that we investigate the diet, together, while I was visiting this December. It involves cooking your own food at home, which is hard for Esther with her work schedule. It involves not eating any processed foods. And it involves eating meat, which is a real problem because she has been a vegetarian for many years. I think the way she describes it is being “existentially opposed” to eating animals, so it is rather daunting for her to look at, buy, touch, smell, or eat any meat. I made her stay away from the broth makings.

I stored the broth in quart jars and refrigerated it. Most of the fat from the meat had been skimmed off but the part remaining came to the top of the jars and solidified. I opened a jar this morning and saw this.

Honest, I did not do this. It just happened.

Although I do not believe in omens, this pretty much symbolizes Esther’s view of a diet with a preponderance of animal products . But for the sake of feeling better at long last, she eats what I make for her. I’m just sayin’, this is going to be a project, for sure.

Experiencing Beyond Diet #2

Eating plan: Day 5

So, how’s it going Ms. “Not on a Diet”?

It’s a mixed bag of good and dietary evil. The things I miss are breads and cereals because there are none in this first week. The longing hits me in the morning when there’s nothing to have with my waking cup of coffee. (Ooops, coffee is not on the menu… but you already know I’m being flexible, right?)

Yep, I just turned a one ounce serving into six ounces. (And I had to have a few more just taking this pic…)

The other thing, the evil of which I speak, is that my weakness for nuts is hijacking my adherence to the plan. Yesterday, the snack of macadamia nuts and something else which I don’t even remember, turned out to be an hour long spree of eating until the container was half empty (a lot of nuts). I was concentrating on some hard computer work and the angst was mitigated by the action of eating and chewing. That and the fact that I just can’t quit when it’s something I like that much. I have packages of walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts sitting on the counter beckoning to me every time I look in their direction. I feel fatter than I did on Day 1.

One thing I am finding interesting is my daughter’s digital scale. Maybe in other countries they weigh their ingredients all the time but I have never sized portions that way.

This is a half cup (or it would be if I mashed out all the air spaces)

I know what a half cup of something looks like, but how much is an ounce of nuts? Well, this handy little scale tells me just how much, and sometimes it’s surprising. Is 4 ounces of meat one chicken thigh or two? How much does a slice of deli turkey weigh? It’s all right there, and I’m gradually getting a sense of how to estimate those quantities. Good thing.


Love this digital scale (read thinking of confiscating it…)

Yesterday, I almost stopped in for a Wendy’s Frosty. I was so tempted, but the memory of the macadamia nut binge was still there, thankfully. I resisted.

Isn’t it funny how we habitually think of meals as having certain elements? I had chicken and sautéed spinach for breakfast and although it tasted good, it just wasn’t right somehow…  Would make a great dinner though. I will probably get used to having dinner three times a day, eventually, maybe, I hope.

On with the eating plan, week two shopping trip coming up. I’m wondering what to do with things left over from week one so there will be room in the refrigerator. Perfectly good food should probably be eaten, right?  Just sayin’…

#atozchallenge: Very Late Z

I’ve been sick, really.

I don’t remember if I did this when I was a child or if others did it to me, but, the memory is there of orange peel being squeezed in my face and of feeling the light, stinging spray of citric acid -my first introduction to citrus zest.

Zest is a great word meaning to enjoy something keenly, with relish, and also a pleasant flavor or exciting quality – that is why it is applied to the outer peel of citrus fruits.  The white part beneath, called the pith, is often bitter but the outer peel or flavedo is full of flavor and is used in many ways.

You might find it in orange marmalade, lemon flavored baked goods. I like to keep a lemon in my freezer for recipes calling for lemon zest.  A fine grater or special zesting tool can be used to cut the peel. It is often used as a garnish too because of its bright color and full flavor.

Another use, and one of my favorites, is in citrus essential oils. Here is your trivia for the day; when cold pressed, it requires 3,000 lemons to produce a kilo of lemon essential oil.  The chemical constituents in this oil, the list is too long to include, have anticancer, antidepressant, antiseptic, antifungal, antioxidant, antiviral, astringent, invigorating, refreshing and tonic properties.  All of which might make you think that we should be eating the peeling, not just the lemon. It works for me to put a few drops of the oil in my glass of water.

The next time a server in a restaurant asks you if you would like a slice of lemon in your water or other drink, you might have a good reason to say “yes, please”. Just sayin’…


#atozchallenge: Late Y

My food choice for Y is yogurt. I have been eating a lot of it lately since doing a round of antibiotic.  It is made with a lot of active bacterial cultures (good ones) that are naturally found in our intestines and which are a vital part of a healthy immune system and digestive system. Because it is more economical I have developed my own way of making yogurt at home. Here is how I do it.

I start with a gallon of 2% milk.  Any milk will do but the fat content will make a difference in your finished product.

On the stovetop I heat the milk to 190-200 degrees F.. I have a thermometer which clips to the side of the pan and I watch it closely. The milk needs to be stirred so it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan. I don’t let the milk boil.

Heat it slowly, watch and stir (in other words, don’t leave the kitchen or you will have a real mess…)

As soon as the temperature is reached I put the pan in the sink with ice water to cool it down quickly. The thermometer is still on the side of the pan and when it reaches 90-100 degrees F. it is cool enough.

Those are ice cubes, not little fish. The cooling is fast.

Add 3 tablespoons or more of yogurt that you have bought as your starter. It can be any brand that states it has live, active cultures present.  Choose a starter that you like because your yogurt will be similar. Stir the starter into your gallon of prepared milk.

I like to transfer the milk to a heavy bowl (I use the removable bowl from my crock pot) that will hold heat well. Cover it and place in a consistently warm place for 7-8 hours.  Suggestions for the place: your oven if it has a light that you can turn on. The light bulb will produce enough heat if you keep the oven door closed. OR if you have a water heater in a closet put a towel on it and set the pot on the towel OR put a heating pad set on low on your counter and the pot on top of that with a towel over the whole thing to keep the heat in.

Do not turn on the oven! Just the light.

After 8 hours, the yogurt should have curdled. I like to separate the curd from the whey (which makes Greek yogurt) by taking a large colander which I line with cheesecloth and setting in a container to catch the whey. Pour the yogurt into the colander, wrap the cheese cloth corners over the top, place a plate over it and put something heavy on it to press out the whey and put it in the fridg. Let it set for several hours. The longer you let it drain, the thicker it will be. You can always stir some of the whey back in if it gets thicker wanted.

Enjoy your homemade, unsweetened yogurt with fruit, cereal, or as a spread like cream cheese.  It has a milky, soft flavor with just a little tang.


#atozchallenge: Late X

The challenge is over today.  My last three posts didn’t make it up in April. Visiting with daughter Julie who is an equine vet, makes life very busy. I am learning that it is a blessing to be able to focus on one thing at a time and really be present in the moment. Unfortunately X, Y and Z were not part of the moment.  So here they are now…

X is for xylitol.  Xylitol is a chemical called a sugar alcohol (the “ol” suffix gives that away).  It is a substance found naturally in many plants. It has lately become a popular choice of sweetener because it does not affect blood sugar the way other sugars do, and it has some anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties that are beneficial in cases of ear infections and tooth decay.

Xylitol is extracted from plants through a process which results in a hydrogenated sugar.  The plants most often used are corn cobs.  The process involves a heavy metal as a catalyst, which is removed later. It is a highly processed substance and there isn’t a lot of information yet on what happens to those who make it a regular part of their diet.  It is known that tolerances differ but that at some level people will experience intestinal discomfort – gas, bloating, diarrhea.

After reading about xylitol, the pros and cons, I am concluding that anytime we try to process something and mass produce it we are stepping into potentially dangerous waters.  Why can’t we just eat food that grows, in the form that is simplest or with cooking that anyone can do at home without a lot of additives? Food is designed to be good for us.  Don’t mess with it.  Just sayin’…

#atozchallenge: Turmeric

I know we take Sunday off each week in our atozchallenge, but yesterday when I was due to write about T, I was instead taking the opportunity for a long horseback ride through the woods of Pumpkin Hill Preserve (click to see).. What a great Florida park! The schedule gets to forgive me.

The T word is turmeric, a plant which has come to the attention of the health world in the west because of its anti-inflammatory properties.  It is raised commercially in India and other Southeast Asia countries.  The specific chemical in turmeric which helps reduce inflammation and pain is curcumin and if you take it as a supplement for pain, that is the name you should look for.

Turmeric, the spice, is made by taking the rhizome of the plant and drying it, then making a powder from it.  What you have at that point is the spice that you find in many Indian and Asian dishes, yellow in color and having some warm, spicy tones.  Because of its color it’s also used as a dye, something I noticed when traveling in Cambodia and seeing the Buddhist monks in their bright yellow-orange robes.  The spice has long been a part of religious rites in the countries where it is raised too.

Back to curcumin, it comprises only about 3% of turmeric which is not really enough for effective pain relief.  That is why curcumin is concentrated as a supplement.  It is also not utilized easily by the body but when combined with piperine, one of the constituents of black pepper, it’s uptake and utilization is increased by 2000%! Supposedly eating two or three black peppercorns with your curcumin supplement is all it takes.  I have not verified this but it doesn’t sound dangerous to try.  This is a very interesting supplement with other properties as well as the one I’ve mentioned.  Check it out if you are looking for something with anti-oxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.

My daily dose of curcumin (from turmeric). Nice color, isn’t it?

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#atozchallenge: Starfruit

20160107_093601.jpgStarfruit or Carambola – you might not have heard of this one if you live in a northern climate. Florida is one of the states where it is grown in the U.S. and it is interesting that one man was responsible for the particular cultivar that is grown commercially and bears his name, Adkin.  He was a backyard horticulturist and his work produced this really, tasty and lovely fruit.

Although this fruit is still relatively rare in many parts of the U.S., I read that it is common in other countries (the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Guam, Phillipines, China, Taiwan) and has been for hundreds of years.  It has many names.  The Starfruit name is descriptive of the sliced fruit, as you can see.

delicious, juicy little stars are very decorative

Starfruit is a little like grapefruit, in that is has substances, caramboxin and oxalic acid, that greatly affect the utilisation of certain medications. Caramboxin is actually a neurotoxin and should not be consumed by people who have kidney disease.  For everyone else the low levels of caramboxin are not dangerous and the health benefits are considerable.  Starfruit is rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and potassium. It is low in sugar, sodium and acid and has significant antimicrobial activity.

this one might be a bit tart since the ridges still have some green

They are ripe when all traces of green have gone and the ridges have turned slightly brown. Further ripening tends to make the fruit soggy and bland.  The taste and texture have been described as having elements of grape, pear, citrus and apple.  They are very juicy and somewhat tart, and even kind of crunchy. I know, it’s hard to imagine all that if you’ve never had them.  My brother has some trees in south Florida and brought us a whole bag of starfruit last winter.  I like them a lot. If you happen across them in your grocery, give them a try.

#atozchallenge: Raspberries, the passion and pleasure

Here they are, today’s star

I come from northern Wisconsin, and a particular part of it that is extremely cold for a good long time in the winter.  We have three months of growing weather in a good year. It can freeze yet in May and probably will in September so gardens go in quickly and get down to business. We can’t really do apples, or cherries or plums but berries…  We do them pretty well.
My first berry experiences were with wild berries. We were always on the lookout for bushes on the roadside or in the woods. Recently cleared fields and brush piles were likely berry patches. When we started seeing the right color on the berries it was time to get the pails and gear up.
There were all kinds of perils. There were bears, of course, and poison ivy, wicked thorns everywhere, a constant halo of deer flies and my most dreaded one, hornets. Long pants, long sleeves, big hat and a bucket on your belt in July meant we were hot and slow moving.
Thankfully, by the time I was married and living in Wisconsin again we had learned about cultivated berries and had a large patch in the yard. Much easier, but there were still chores every year – cleaning out the old canes and pruning. There was also the new problem of the guilt when you just couldn’t pick and eat that many raspberries. They are still my absolute favorite berry for eating fresh.
I don’t know how they do it these days since they are soft and perishable, but  my store has fresh berries almost all year long. Does anyone go out in the woods anymore? I don’t know. Your reasons to eat raspberries, in addition to their wonderful flavor, are a low calorie, high fiber, high antioxidant source with lots of vitamin C and B complex vitamins and a number of important minerals.  Interestingly, they are a source of xylitol which I will mention again when we get to letter X.  And they’re pretty.  And red.

Happy Letter R, my friends.