My 2014 Thanksgiving Menu (AIP, GAPS, Paleo-friendly)

For those new to my blog: I began my real food journey after becoming very ill in May 2012 with what I now know to be Mast Cell Activation Disease (MCAD). Even before I understood the scope of the problem, my intention was to heal through nutrition. From the outset, it was very important to me to eat well in spite of the changes. I love food. 

I’ve tried a lot of nutritional programs over the past couple of years. GAPS didn’t work out for me. Not enough variation. Not enough starches. Too much histamine. (Histamine is a major nemesis for those with MCAD.) Paleo wasn’t quite right. Low sulfur didn’t do it for me. Vegetarianism was a short lived experiment. Everything I tried seemed to backfire.

To further complicate matters, my trigger foods continually change. I’ve had to stay on my toes.
Until March of this year, I was kind of at a loss. Enter Jennifer Nervo of 20 Something Allergies and her fabulous nutritional therapy program.  

With her help, I learned how to manage and maintain a low-histamine, autoimmune paleo diet on a four day rotation. Eating this way has vastly improved my health. Thankful doesn’t begin to describe my feelings for this woman. Thanks to all she taught me, this year’s Thanksgiving menu was scrumptious without the unpleasant side-effect of making me ill. 

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the gathering and gratitude and food without the pressures which accompany the Christmas season.

This year, I had much to be grateful for.  Just one year ago, I did not know the name of my disease or how to properly manage it.

I’m not certain I would have obtained any level of stability health-wise without Jennifer’s help, and here I am actually better though I have been diagnosed with a progressive disease. I was even able to attend a family gathering after eating a quick bite at home! Praise the Lord! 

So what did I eat that was free of grains, dairy, nuts, legumes, eggs, nightshades, seeds, squashes, dried herbs and spices, high histamine foods, and latex cross-reactive foods?

The Menu

I began by considering my protein. I chose pork because I rarely eat it. It’s a treat, which keeps it from becoming a threat. (Except for bacon. Bacon makes me pay every. single. time.) If I’m going to roast pork, I might as well add some vegetables to the pan because YUM! So I came up with this recipe for Cider Glazed Ham Steaks with Roasted Vegetables. 

Cider Glazed Ham Steaks with Roasted Vegetables:
Serves 4-6

2 pastured ham steaks, 1-2 lbs. each
1 T. coconut oil (ghee, lard or tallow would work well, too)
1 leek, sliced into 2-3 inch strips
2 medium-sized parsnips, sliced into 2-3 inch spears
1 large carrot, sliced into 2-3 inch spears
Sea salt to taste

¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 T. honey
sea salt to taste

Place ham steaks in salt water for 1 to 24 hours. I brined mine for a little over an hour. I wish now I had let them sit overnight. If you go the overnight route, be sure to keep them in the fridge and take them out an hour before cooking so they won’t be cold going into the pan.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Warm coconut oil in an oven-safe pan over medium high heat. Remove ham steaks from brine and pat dry. Salt the steaks generously. When the pan is hot, place the steaks in, and sear on both sides (5-10 minutes per side). While the steaks are searing, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, honey, and sea salt in a small bowl. Remove the steaks from the pan, and turn down the heat to medium-low.  Add sliced veggies, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula until the vegetables are lightly browned and covered with the juices. The salt left in the pan should be enough to season the veggies. Add the steaks back into the pan, brushing the entire surface of the steaks with the cider glaze. Cover pan and place in oven for about an hour or until the steaks reach an internal temp of 165 degrees. 

Like I said, I wish I would have brined my ham steaks for much longer, but those vegetables were amazing. 

Cranberry Sauce:
Serves 4-6

For me, cranberry sauce is a must on Thanksgiving. I went with this recipe by Nourished and Nurtured, subbing 2 drops of Young Living's orange essential oil for orange extract.

Sweet Potato Casserole:
Serves 4-6

I’m a Louisiana girl. Casseroles are our thing. Sweet potato casserole has been a favorite of my people for years. Most traditional recipes call for milk, eggs, wheat flour, and nuts, none of which are safe for me. So I came up with my own version. 

3 cups yams, boiled and mashed (5-6 medium sized yams)
¼ cup honey
1 t. sea salt
1 t. vanilla extract
½ c. coconut oil (ghee or butter would work well if not on AIP)

½ c. shredded coconut, unsweetened
¼ c. coconut flour
¼ c. arrowroot flour
2/3 c. coconut sugar
1/4-1/2 t. sea salt
¼ coconut oil (ghee or butter)
2 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel, cube and boil potatoes until fork tender in a 2-3 quart saucepan. Drain. Add honey, coconut oil, salt, and vanilla to pot. Puree with an immersion blender. (A food processor would work just as well, but you will need it for the topping.) Place potato puree in a greased casserole dish. In a food processor, blend shredded coconut, coconut flour, arrowroot flour, coconut sugar, and salt until well combined. Add coconut oil and vanilla extract. Blend until you have a moist, crumbly consistency. Crumble evenly over the top of the potato puree. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

This recipe did not disappoint. It would have served perfectly as dessert, but in the south, sweet potato casserole is just a side. 

Ginger Apple Crisp:
Serves 6-8

Because pumpkin, pecans, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice are all triggers for me, finding a satisfying fall dessert was not easy. In the end, I decided to go with a cinnamon-less apple dessert because apples were already in the cranberry sauce, and I needed to save a few foods for the next three days of the rotation.

I’m not usually a big fan of apple desserts, particularly because cinnamon isn’t involved, but Brandon likes them. I almost did not eat any, but the chef has to taste her own food, right? I was not expecting it to be so delicious! My review? Delighted giggles. That’s right—giggles. My apple-dessert loving husband was impressed, too. He didn’t even add cinnamon!

2 large apples of choice, cored and sliced thin (about 1 quart)
½ lemon, juiced
zest of ½ lemon
½ inch grated ginger root
¼ c. coconut sugar
1 T. arrowroot flour
2 T. coconut oil, solid

Topping (same as the Sweet Potato Casserole topping):
½ c. shredded coconut, unsweetened
¼ c. coconut flour
¼ c. arrowroot flour
2/3 c. coconut sugar
1/2 t. sea salt
¼ coconut oil (ghee or butter)
2 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, combine apples, lemon juice, lemon zest, grated ginger root, coconut sugar, and arrowroot flour. Stir until the apples are well coated. Pour apples into a greased baking dish, and evenly distribute the slices. Disperse small pieces of the solid coconut oil over the apples. In a food processor, blend shredded coconut, coconut flour, arrowroot flour, coconut sugar, and salt until well combined. Add coconut oil and vanilla extract. Blend until you have a moist, crumbly consistency. Crumble evening over the top of the apples with your fingers. Bake 30-35 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the topping.  Serve warm.

Now that was a thanks-worthy meal!

For those on restricted diets this holiday season, I hope you won’t lament over stuffing, rolls, and pies (which, in many cases, be modified into a safe version). If I can enjoy a holiday meal without having to choose between feeling deprived and getting sick, you probably can, too. I hope my menu offers you some ideas. If not, I would be happy to help you meal plan! I enjoy a good challenge!

Allergies, Sensitivities, and Auto-Immune Diseases, Oh My! Part Two

I've recently had a few scary, accidental run-ins with wheat and nuts. I'm finding more and more that eating out or at social gatherings is hazardous. Thus, I'm finding myself more and more in the kitchen. I am really not that great of a cook, but I can proudly say that I have graduated from the George Foreman burgers, grilled chicken strips, frozen dinners and cinnamon toast stage, where I began almost 6 years ago after marrying Brandon.

All that to say, I have some new recipes I'd like to post. These are extremely user friendly as I think "normal" people could enjoy them, too. They are also healthy, balanced and inexpensive to make.

Red Lentil Soup (the soup for which Esau is said to have sold his birthright)

1 bag red lentils (green will work, but the soup will look more like . . . poop)
1 small onion
2 T. butter
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups+ water
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions in butter. Add tomato paste, lentils and water. Simmer 20-30 minutes. Add water as needed.
Season to taste. Blend and serve.

Pizza Soup

2 t. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chicken broth (i make my own)
1/2 t. salt
3 (14.5oz) cans diced tomatoes
fresh or dried basil, or italian seasoning

Heat oil and add garlic. Cook 30 seconds. Add broth, salt and tomatoes, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Blend.

While soup simmers, saute 1/4 onion in butter. Add frozen or fresh (I use frozen b/c you get more bang for your buck) spinach. Cook until thawed and wilted. Add shredded cheese (I use goat cheese, and I shred it myself).

Serve spinach on top of soup alone or with pepperoni.

Spinach quiche

1 T. olive oil
1 frozen package of spinach, thawed and drained
6 eggs
2 cups shredded mont. jack cheese (if I'm making it for Micah or myself, I use goat cheese)
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Spray 9 in. pie pan with Pam. Cook onion in large skillet. When soft, stir in spinach and continue to cook until excess moisture has evaporated. In large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach mixture and mix well. Scoop into pie pan. Bake about 30 minutes or until eggs have set. Cool 10 minutes and serve.

Glazed Butternut Squash

Peel and dice squash (or buy frozen). Place foil over cookie sheet and spray foil with Pam. Lay out squash evenly. Mix 1/4 c. melted butter and 2 T. brown sugar. Pour over squash. Sprinkle pepper over squash. Put in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Also, I've learned how to sneak broccoli into Micah's diet. It requires an extra couple of steps, but it's worth it.

Chicken Casserole:

I begin by making my homemade gluten-free cream of mushroom soup, found here.

Then, I chop up a bag of frozen broccoli, thawed. (True, I could buy it pre-chopped, but I can't find it organic, and I'm into that kind of thing.) I throw the broccoli into the soup and let it warm.

I then spray a casserole dish with Pam, and place 1 c. of brown rice and 2 c. water into the dish. I stir in the soup. I take chicken breast strips and season them however I wish, and place them on top. I put the casserole into a 350 degree oven for about an hour.

I've also been enjoying lettuce burgers and homemade fries.

I divide ground meat into fist sized balls, and press flat. I season them with Montreal steak seasoning alone. They can been popped into a skillet on medium heat with butter or on a grill if you want something more figure friendly.

I now make my own french fries, too. I (and by I, I really mean Brandon) cuts potatoes up into small, very thin slices. He also cuts an onion up into strips. He throws the potatoes and the onions a little at a time into a fryer full of hot oil until the potatoes become a golden color. He pulls them out, places them on paper towels to drain, and we season them with Tony's.

I eat my burger wrapped in lettuce. He eats his on a bun. We're both happy. And so is Micah who really enjoys meat and potatoes (along with some veggie or fruit I force upon him).

I hope my gluten-free friends find this helpful!