Saturday, May 31, 2014

How To Handle People Who Don't "Get" Food Sensitivities

I remember reading an interview once in a literary magazine of a war veteran turned peace activist.  He had great success at actually being able to engage people on the street in meaningful conversations about war and peace, and in many cases was also able to change some minds.  He shared his secret to getting people to open up and talk about such a heated subject, one that many people approached on the street would not care to discuss with a stranger.

He would ask them what they believed and then listen to what they said.  He would ask them why they thought what they did, then listen to their answer without saying anything in opposition.  He would reflect back what they said, saying empathic things like, "yes, that must have been hard/uncomfortable/great", showing that person that he was listening to them, that he heard what they said.  Just taking the effort to really listen to what others had to say, without interrupting, making the conscious effort to understand another's point of view.  Only then could he state his case, tailored to the other person's beliefs, so that in turn that person could understand his point of view.

Imagine how powerful that is!  Imagine using this technique with your spouse, your teenager, your opinionated neighbor.  Perhaps some amazing conversations would take place, changing your relationships for the better.  But my goal today isn't to improve your marriage, though you can certainly try it out if you want.

If you or someone in your family suffers from food sensitivities, you have very likely already encountered a non-believer or three.  A person who scoffs at your predicament, constantly offers allergenic foods to you or your kid, and who says things like, "Oh, just one piece can't hurt!".  If you suffer from a life threatening allergy, one piece can certainly hurt or even end in tragedy.  It is therefore imperative that the severity of your allergy is understood and respected.  Those of us with non-life threatening food sensitivities would also appreciate the respect and understanding because we don't really care to have GI upset or migraines, we don't enjoy when our kids are bouncing off the walls or are clingy, whiny brats.  It isn't fun.

So let's try this technique next time we encounter someone who just doesn't "get" it.  Instead of citing several studies of why you don't eat certain foods, first ask this person what they believe about food sensitivities.  Maybe they will say it is just another fad diet, or that people have been eating wheat for hundreds of years with no problems, or just about anything else.  Then listen to what they say, because here is the important part: if you are listening, you can understand where they are coming from, and in turn understand them a bit better.  Maybe Grandma is just sad and upset that she can no longer give her beloved grand-kids her home made cookies with a tall glass of milk.  Perhaps your uncle is just a skeptic and has a low tolerance for anything new and different, especially when it comes to diets and food.  There are endless reasons that people will have for opposing pretty much any subject imaginable.

When it is your turn to speak, it is much more effective to cite personal experience, rather than scientific studies or similar evidence.  Most people don't care about that stuff; what really means something is another person's personal experience.  Personal anecdotes!  This is how I explain it to inquiring minds about Big Sis.  I describe some of her worst symptoms, then follow that with how those symptoms vanished after removing foods XYZ.  Most of the time they are amazed and curious; other times they don't believe me, say that it is just a coincidence.  To those people I say nothing more.  They are not in a place to hear any more on the topic.  Some people will never believe in food sensitivities, others will simply take a bit longer to believe it.

I encourage you to try this technique next time you are in conversation about your diet, or your kids' diet.  It has worked out well countless times for me, and I'm sure it will for you, too.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Make It From Scratch: Ranch Dressing

One of the things I just gave up without a thought back when Big Sis was first diagnosed with food sensitivities was mayonnaise.  I just stopped eating it.  I was of the mind that there was no use moaning and crying over all the different foods we could no longer eat.  Just move on!  Eat something else!  Cut if off at the limb!  (I guess it is all or nothing with me sometimes.  Not always a good thing!)

It is very hard, though to recreate some salads and sauces and dressings without mayo.  They are just not quite the same without that flavorful, rich binder.  Sigh.  We now make our tuna salad with a vinegar and olive oil based dressing, and it is very good.  I have since discovered a recipe for AIP mayo that is out of this world, too.  Find it in this cookbook, by this author.

One of those foods I gave up on was creamy salad dressings and dairy based dips.  You know the ones!  Clam dip, onion dip, blue cheese dressing and ranch.  Oh, the ranch!  I guess I do miss blue cheese more, but there is absolutely no substitute for a stinky blue cheese.  Oh, well.

Maybe you have kids who will only eat vegetables if they are dipped in ranch dressing.  Maybe you have kids like mine who were so little when they had to give up eggs and dairy that they do not even understand the awesome-ness of ranch dressing, so refuse to even taste your lovingly recreated allergen friendly version.  Maybe someday.  I try not to take that sort of thing personally...

That just means we don't have to share our dip.  More dip for us!  Full of win!

The trick to make your homemade ranch nice and creamy and thick is to use a nice fatty coconut milk, and emulsify it with additional melted coconut oil.  What this extra coconut oil does is become solid when it is chilled, so your dressing thickens up and is perfect for dipping or drizzling all over your salad.  Creamy goodness, people!

 Ranch Dressing
Dairy free, egg free, AIP friendly

1 can full fat coconut milk, or about 2 cups
2 teaspoons granulated onion
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted


Pour your coconut milk into a medium bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients except the coconut oil.  Whisk well. 

Slowly pour the melted coconut oil into the dressing while whisking at the same time.  You are trying to emulsify the two together, like a vinaigrette or making mayo or hollandaise.  Once it is all incorporated, pour your dressing into a suitable storage container, cover it, and place it in the fridge to chill and thicken up.

The coconut oil will harden as it chills, giving your dressing a nice creamy consistency.  It's like magic!

Everything but the coconut oil whisked together

Slowly adding the coconut oil

 You may have mixed results if your coconut oil is thin, or very thick already.  Maybe when you mix all the ingredients together, your dressing will already be thick enough for your tastes and you won't need to add any coconut oil at all.  If your coconut milk is on the thin side, you may find you need to add more coconut oil and chill it again.  If you find your dressing is too thick, you can thin it with more coconut milk or some water.  Add one tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you like.

Dairy and egg free AIP friendly ranch dressing!

Now we can snack with dip!
Dippy time!

Cooking isn't really a science, and it is more forgiving, quite unlike baking.  You may need to adjust things here and there to get the results and flavor you want.  I think that is the most important thing I learned in culinary school; taste your food, and if it doesn't taste right, change it!  Add more this or that, maybe it needs some acid like vinegar or lemon, etc.  This is the part of cooking that takes practice and as you practice you get more confident and the next thing you know you are creating your own recipes and really enjoying cooking more.  So get in there and give it a go!  You will be glad you did. 

And check out an AIP recipe roundtable by clicking the link below!

Phoenix Helix Recipe Roundtable

Friday, May 9, 2014

DIY Pintuck Duvet Cover

I saw this great tutorial for a pintuck duvet cover a few months ago and I knew I had to make it.  I have always loved how they look, all fluffy and girly but not too girly, and not too "busy", like a print would be.  I don't care for prints very much in large doses.  I love color and decorating with color, but I love my bed to be white, with color as accents.  So a DIY white pintuck duvet was just perfect!  And in my price range, the most important part of all!

Here is where I found the tutorial, and I followed it exactly, more or less.  From the only home decorating blog I really follow, because her writing is so hilarious!

Here is how mine turned out:

Love it!

A sea of pintucks

Crisp white bed=happiness

I ordered two king size flat sheets from Amazon, basically the only ones I could find that weren't a million bucks.  IKEA doesn't carry them anymore, or I would have gotten them there.  In hindsight this worked out better since the sheets I got were better quality and so the duvet is just plain nicer.  I got plastic snaps from the craft/fabric store, and spreading the work out over many weeks kept this monotonous project manageable.  I sometimes have trouble finishing large projects that take more than a day or two to finish; if you are a crafter or love to sew, I know you have about 20 projects "in progress", too.  I may even have some that are over 10 years "in progress".......

I am super happy I finally finished it because my current duvet cover has been ripped so many times it was time to retire it.  The only tricky part of this project was sewing the two sheets together.  The pintucked top and the flat sheet of the bottom were not the same size after all the tucks were put in, so I had to cut the bottom sheet down to size.  I also had to make more tucks on the side as I sewed the two pieces together, so the finished cover would not be a weird amoeba shape.

All in all I am very very happy with the result.  I never thought I would have such a gorgeous duvet cover that I made myself!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Make It From Scratch: Roasted Peppers


Who hasn't bought a jar of roasted peppers before, to put in a new recipe you were trying out, or to just slap on a burger or a sandwich.  Maybe you were going to make some roasted pepper and tomato soup, or a summery salad.  Have you ever made a hummus with some roasted peppers thrown in?  So good!

Making your own roasted peppers has several benefits, one being cost.  If you can get those peppers cheaply, it is much cheaper to make your own.  Here in Seattle, I only buy fresh peppers when they are about 1.25 or 2.00 per pepper.  Then I buy the heaviest ones I can find to give me the most pepper for my money.  Maybe where you live that is expensive for a pepper and you are lucky because now you have no excuse not to make your own roasted peppers.

Another benefit of making your own is that you know what the ingredients are.  Just peppers!  Some jarred peppers may contain oils you don't want to consume. In our case, you never know where soybean oil may be lurking (Big Sis has a soy sensitivity).

Also, they just taste amazing roasted fresh!

Not really a recipe here, but a method to follow.  Roast as many or as few as you like at once.  I always figure I may as well do a bunch and then I can have roasted pepper on everything that week.  Yum!

So here are two ways to roast a pepper.  First, on a gas stove, and second, under your broiler.

To roast your peppers on a gas stove, turn the heat to medium and place your washed peppers directly on the burners.  We are pretty much just charring the skin all over the pepper, and as it is being charred, it is lightly cooking the pepper itself.

Place your peppers directly on the stove

mmm, char.....

The time it takes for each side to char will vary, so check your blackening peppers every 5 minutes or so to see how they are doing.  You can see below that I am using long tongs to turn and flip my peppers to get the skin evenly blackened.  Mine took about 25 minutes to char all over.

turn that pepper
looking nice and charred

Once your peppers are pretty well blackened all over, place them into a large bowl.  They do not need to be completely black, but about 90% is great.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap or a lid, and let them cool enough to handle.  I usually give them 30 minutes or longer, due to having small demanding children keeping me from getting back to the kitchen...

wrap the bowl tightly in plastic

After your peppers have cooled they are ready to peel and seed.  The reason we cover them in a bowl is to use the steam from the hot peppers to loosen the skin so it comes right off.

let's skin it!
 First use a small paring knife to cut around the stem, then pull it out.  Cut the pepper into 3 or 4 pieces, and scrape out the seeds.  I had to put a paper towel down to absorb all the liquid that had been inside the pepper.

pop the top

pepper time!

Now you can lay the pieces out and just rub the skin right off!  It should come off very easily.  If it doesn't, you didn't blacken your pepper enough.

the skin comes right off!
pile of roasted peppers!
And it is as easy as that!  I also tried another method to roast peppers, for our readers who do not have a gas range.

To roast peppers under the broiler, you stem and seed them first, lay them out on a tray, and place them under your preheated broiler.

broil it
It is important to check your peppers frequently, because broilers are very hot and cook food quickly.  My peppers were nice and charred after about 12 minutes.  If you have an electric broiler, it will probably take longer.

nice and charred
As with peppers roasted over an open flame, place your broiled peppers in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Leave them to cool, about 20-30 minutes.


Now all you have to do is pull the charred skin off and you have roasted peppers!

the skin comes right off!

a freshly peeled pepper


jar of summery yum!

After trying out both methods I was surprised to find that I preferred broiling my peppers.  It was less messy to peel them, and actually took half the cooking time.  Kind of a no-brainer, if you will.  But it is still fun to burn food on purpose!

If you aren't sure what to do with your freshly roasted peppers, here are some ideas:

burger or sandwich topping
make soup or hummus with them
slice up to go with an antipasto platter for a party
slice up for a pizza topping
chop up to put into a salad
great as a crostini topping with a cheese and prosciutto

There are endless ways to use these peppers, and I'm sure you will love them. 

I still have many ideas for this series, but if you have an idea or a request please let me know and I will see if I can make it happen.  Anything that you currently buy that you want to see if you can make from scratch with healthier and cheaper results is what we are looking for.

So what recipe do you want me to do next?  Popsicles, ranch dressing, or your own spice blends?  Let me know in the comments!

Friday, May 2, 2014

On Being Grateful For Your Spouse

It may be awful to say, but I am so thankful for my husband every time I hear about something terrible a friend's spouse did/said/didn't do.  Is it bad that other people's hardships in marriage/partnership make me so very happy to have a normal and functional marriage?  Not that our marriage is without fault or that we don't have problems; we all do.  But I am talking about those issues your friends tell you about that you just. cannot. believe that one person would do or say to the person they love most in the world.  So and so lied about what they were doing, said this horrible thing, was chatting with other people on a dating site, really really screwed up the relationship with brother-in-law.  Whatever it may be, I just cannot imagine my husband EVER doing anything horrible to me or anyone else. 

I may not have this marriage thing totally figured out, but I do know how we make it work for us.  It is a work in progress, like all relationships are.  That is actually something that many young couples don't realize; you have to work on your marriage, EVERY day, if not every moment of every day.  Throughout the day, you have your sweetheart in your mind, and in all you do think about how what you choose to do will benefit them and help them.  That sounds harder than it is!  Aren't you thinking of them off and on anyway?

I believe that you will be much happier in your marriage/partnership if you realize your partner is the way they are whether you like it or not, and they will never change because you want/ask them to.  Instead, support them with their unique traits in mind.

If your spouse is forgetful, remind them gently about commitments periodically, or if they have a phone with a calender, ask them to schedule events and appointments they need to attend, or times you need them home for whatever reason.  If your spouse has a tendency to get angry quickly, think of ways you can either avoid that happening or healthy ways to cope with it yourself (go for a walk to give them time to cool off, take a bath/shower, go engage in some retail therapy, etc.).  I'm not saying it is your fault if someone gets angry, but you do get to choose how you react in any situation.

In the over 10 years I have been with The Hubby, the last 4 have been the best for us, as far as understanding each other and working with that knowledge to help each other with everything.  I know that he needs time to unwind, and I can just tell when the unwinding needs to happen.  He can tell when I am about to lose my mind with the kids or life in general, and will take over a task or just pitch in.

I'm not sure how we got to this point exactly, but things can happen to you that make you grateful for what you have, or just push you into a downward spiral of despair and self-pity.  Since we decided to have me stay home and raise the kids after our second was born, and live on one income, I have found so many opportunities to be thankful and grateful for what we have.  Not a day goes by when I do not think about how lucky we are and that we are able to make this situation work.  It might change in the future, but for the last 3 1/2 years it has worked, and we have relied on each other for encouragement and to help keep our eyes on the prize.  (The prize being we raise our kids, and not pay someone else to do it.  I'm not hating or judging if you do that, just stating that that is what we have chosen to do in our family.)

We often say to each other how much we appreciate what the other does for us and for our family, how much we love each other, how grateful we are for each other, our kids, our house, our everything!  I love that quote that goes something like, "There are no happy people, just grateful ones.".  I'm sure I have that wrong and I cannot find it anywhere to check if I have it right.  But I love it, because it is the truth!

I guess what I am really trying to say is, be grateful.  Don't take anyone or anything for granted.  You never know when things might change and who wants to have regrets in life?  Life your life without regrets, and say thank you for everything.