Spicy Grilled Shrimp with Garlic Ginger Veggies

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This meal is super simple!

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In a large saute pan drizzle about 3 teaspoons of avocado oil and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Turn heat to medium/medium high and add 2 cups of cauliflower, 1 1/2 cups of broccoli, 1 package of cremini mushrooms sliced, 3 large minced cloves of garlic, 1 inch piece of peeled and grated ginger, a pinch of sea salt, and about 2 Tablespoons of coconut aminos. Saute until aldente.

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While the veggies are cooking, rinse the shrimp and remove the shells. Slide them onto skewers. In a small bowl, combine 2 teaspoons of coconut aminos, 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon of avocado oil, 1 Tablespoon of your favorite BBQ sauce, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of sriracha depending on how spicy you want it, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of dried cilantro, and 1/8 teaspoon of dried ginger. Whisk to combine and brush onto both sides of shrimp.

Preheat a grill on high.

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Grill the shrimp quickly, only a couple of minutes on each side.

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Plate the veggies, add the shrimp, and enjoy!

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Cherry Chocolate Chip Coconut Macaroons

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2016-06-09 10.42.03

Sometimes you just need a little something. Rather than eat my way through the pantry trying to satiate that “something” I’m craving, I just usually go ahead and make what I know will satisfy it.

These are bite size macaroons. This recipe makes 32 miniature servings. They don’t require any added sugar because the chocolate chips and cherries are just the right balance of sweet and tart.

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It all comes together very quickly so they’d be easy to make in a pinch if company showed up or if you felt like I do today…in need of a bit of something!

I’d say about 5 minutes to mix the dough, a few minutes to scoop them out, 18 to bake, a couple minutes to cool…that means you can have a delicious treat in under 30 minutes. A satisfying treat that ends up being lower in overall thigh growth potential than grazing through the pantry trying to satisfy the longing for what you really want.

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I love the crispy coconut mixed with the soft, tart cherries and the sweetness that comes from the chocolate. A perfect, satisfying, balance!

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Cherry Chocolate Chip Macaroons

2 Cups of Organic Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

1 Cup of Organic Unsweetened Flaked Coconut

1/2 Cup of Organic Dried Cherries, chopped

3/4 Cup of Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips

1/8 teaspoon of Sea Salt

1 teaspoon of Organic Pure Almond Extract

1 teaspoon of Organic Pure Vanilla Extract

4 Organic Egg Whites

4 Tablespoons of Arroy D 100% Coconut Milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.

Measure all ingredients into a medium bowl and mix well with a spoon or spatula until fully incorporated. Scoop dough out a Tablespoon at a time and bake for 18 minutes. Allow to cool before transferring from baking sheet.

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The Great Pizza Roll Experiment

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2016-06-03 08.06.44

I have a huge binder of recipe ideas for this blog full of all different types of sweets and savories. I love to look through it and be inspired, but I rarely actually use it! I guess food blogging feels more exciting to me when it’s somewhat spontaneous where I can experiment with random ideas and things that sound good right then and there.

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That’s where The Great Pizza Roll Experiment Comes onto the scene. I’m always looking for ways to create those comfort foods we all crave but don’t get to eat because they’re usually full of all the things we’re allergic or sensitive to.

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I wasn’t going to post this recipe until I made it twice so I could tweak it here and there and perfect it. But who needs perfect? I like rustic and beautiful comfort food that’s off the cuff that doesn’t look like it’s manufactured. Hand made, from the heart of the kitchen. That’s my kind of soul food.

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There are two things I want to try differently the next few times I make this. One, the portions were big and I think I would like a little less bread, so next time I’ll try them a bit smaller. Pat the dough out thinner, but stick with the same amount of filling.

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I was also thinking I’d like to try a pie version where I would pat half the dough into a rectangle, layer all the fillings, and then roll out and add the top dough, crimping the edges.

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Another idea I thought would be really pretty and great for guests, is to do it in two long rectangular braided loaves similarly constructed like my cherry braids. The only concern would be that my bread dough is very light and fluffy, so it needs a lot of extra arrowroot flour if I’m going to work with it with my hands like a cherry braid needs. That may change the texture, if so, I’ll let you know the next time I make it.

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Then of course, the filling options are endless. You could do sweet or savory. Mexican, Italian, German…OH YES…now see, I’m already having visions of kielbasa and sauteed onions with a fabulous sauce hanging out in those buns….

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Any way you choose to experiment with the recipe, you won’t be disappointed. Like I said, this was my first run on this recipe and it got the two thumbs up “WOW” factor from both my husband and I. Incredibly flavorful, definitely rustic comfort food, it looked fabulous plated…I’m looking forward to more experimenting.

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Grain Free Pizza Rolls

*This recipe makes 6 large servings

1 Batch of My Grain Free & Dairy Free Dinner Roll Dough

Extra Arrowroot Flour or Sweet Potato Flour for patting (arrowroot is less expensive to use on hands!) 

1 Batch of My Vegan Spinach & Basil Pesto

About 12 ounces of Goat Mozzarella,  cubed or sliced

About 24 Large Pepperoni Slices

1 Small Can of Tomato Paste

Dried Oregano for Sprinkling

Olive Oil, Oregano, Basil, Garlic Powder, and Rosemary to brush on the tops.

Organic Garlic & Herb Marinara Sauce (for dipping)

Turn the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Using half the bread dough and floured hands, pat out 6 rounds of dough onto the parchment. Divide the can of tomato paste equally between the rounds and spread with a spoon. Squeeze a little pesto onto each one. (I freeze my pesto in ziplock baggies and then thaw when I’m ready to use. I snip the end and squeeze it out of the baggie.)

Place a couple of slices of mozzarella on top of the rounds and top with two slices of pepperoni. Sprinkle with oregano. Then top with a little more pesto, two more slices of cheese, two more slices of pepperoni, and sprinkle again with a little oregano. 

With floured hands, pat out the top dough on your palm and place it over the filling topped rounds. Press the edges down and lightly cup your hand over the dough and tuck the edges under all around.

Spray a piece of plastic wrap with non-stick spray and lightly lay over the top of the buns. Top with a kitchen towel and set on top of the stove to rise for 35 minutes.

While the bread is rising, warm the marinara sauce on medium low in a small pan. Then, in a small bowl, add about 1/8 Cup of olive oil and about 1 teaspoon each of oregano and basil, about 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary, about 2 teaspoons of powdered garlic, and about 1/2-1 teaspoon of sea salt. Whisk together with a fork and brush liberally over the buns right before they go into the oven.

After 35 minutes, remove the towel and plastic from the pizza rolls and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. 

2016-06-03 08.06.44

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake

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Yesterday was Memorial Day.

Evidently there’s a bit of controversy about it on the internet because some people get angry when people tell each other, “Happy Memorial Day!” I guess some people don’t feel it’s appropriate to express happiness for their freedom.

I for one AM happy to remember all of the brave people who fought for my freedom. It IS a happy day. Because without them, and their willingness to fight for what they believed in and for the freedom of people who can’t fight or don’t fight, our lives would look entirely different. I know people miss their loved ones who gave their lives, that’s understood. So while we mourn for those relationships lost, we can still celebrate their bravery and character.

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My mother’s father was killed in a motorcycle accident when my grandma was pregnant with her. Prior to that, he was a POW. He was missing for quite some time. Little did anyone know that he would come home only to be killed in a hit and run accident. Little did anyone know that her future second husband would be part of the first group into that POW camp to rescue him.

My mother and I didn’t have the opportunity to get to know her father of course, but the man who freed him ended up being a wonderful father to my mother and her brothers and the  best grandpa I could have ever hoped for. He loved me dearly. He taught me how to ride a bike and he let me dig around in his tools in the garage. He took care of me when he fed me too many tacos and I threw up all night long. I got to sit in a rocker on the porch with him and take sips of salted beer during long, hot, summers. He let me ask questions. He was patient with me and always happy to see me. Their house was my favorite place to be in the entire world. I took afternoon naps on the couch with him and Punkin, their weiner dog. I got up when it was still dark to eat smiley face chocolate chip pancakes and bacon with him before he left for work in the mornings.

The best part about my grandpa was his character. I’ve never met anyone who rivaled it. He wasn’t perfect, they swore like truckers in the garage when he and his friends worked on cars together, sometimes he was a little prejudice. He was born in a different time and a different world.  He was real and not afraid to show he cared or to show he was angry or to say he was sorry. He loved “his girls” and I never once doubted it even when he got so ill with leukemia and it tried even his nerves of steel and made him grumpy.

He taught me what love looks like. True, imperfect, love. He and my grandma were a wonderful team. They worked together like a well oiled machine. Smooth and humming along. All parts working together to keep it whole. He worshiped her. He willingly and lovingly raised her three children alongside her and believe me, it wasn’t an easy task.  He was the backbone of our family. This man who rescued my mother’s father from torture and certain death. Amazing! I wish everyone in the world could have the opportunity to have a man in their life like that. What a different world it would be.

Without the bravery of my grandpa, my mother’s father likely would not have made it out of that POW camp alive, he was in very bad shape. I remember my grandma saying that when he finally came home he could only stomach ice cream. No one was allowed to touch him to wake him or to startle him. He needed lots of healing.

Imagine if none of that had ever happened? My mother wouldn’t even exist and neither would I. That series of seemingly terrible yet brave events, created an entire life for us.

I love how God always  has all the details worked out.

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So when I say, “Happy Memorial Day!” I mean it in the best of ways. And I am consistently reminded when I take the time to pay attention, that everything happens for good reason whether we understand it or whether it hurts initially.

We spent the early morning washing windows and tending to a few chores. The afternoon was spent on the patio in the sunlight and fabulous weather enjoying a lovely lunch of assorted goat cheeses, hummus, a cucumber and tomato salad with avocado, and two varieties of gluten free crackers. We found a new flat bread cracker that was delicious!

When I think about the abundance of that, I’m reminded of the story my grandma told me about how my mother’s father had made friends with a guard in that POW camp. The guard would bring him bits of bread and food and tell him when they were doing inspections so he could hide whatever he needed to hide. My grandpa and his fellow soldiers were always working on a plan of escape. That guard was also the reason my grandma finally found out through the grapevine on the radio and through letters from people all over the country, that my grandpa was no longer missing in action.  That guard relayed notes to someone who spread the news…wouldn’t it be fantastic to figure out who that was?

They survived on bits of bread and tiny scraps….a sharp contrast to the abundance we have. We have that because of the people who fought for our freedom. Imagine if we weren’t happy about that? Celebrating it? Then what on earth was it all for?

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We finished the day with a steak dinner and delicious dessert. Because in my family, food and gathering together and celebrations, always went hand in hand. My grandpa would have wanted us to celebrate the bravery of others. To remember and be respectful but not mourn to the point that we can’t celebrate the opportunities and doors opened that their bravery provided us.

This chocolate cake is AMAZING. Versatile for cupcakes, snack cakes, birthday cakes, trifles, or whatever you like. It’s incredible moist and delicate but holds together very well and is wonderfully flavorful without being overly sweet.

For The Strawberries:

Stem and slice 2 cups of fresh organic strawberries. Sprinkle with 2-3 generous Tablespoons of coconut sugar and set aside stirring occasionally for a few hours. You can also do it the night before and refrigerate them.

For The Coconut Whipped Cream

Pour 2 cups of chilled (overnight) 100% coconut milk  into a stand mixer and attach the whisk. Whisk on high (you may need to cover your mixer with a hand towel) until it thickens to medium peak. Add 2-3 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract and 3-4 Tablespoons of powdered sugar. (You can also use powdered coconut sugar…but your whipped cream will be a tan color. Or, you could add a couple teaspoons of cocoa powder and do chocolate whipped cream.) Continue whisking on high about 2-3 additional minutes until thickened and chill in the fridge until ready to use. Sometimes it will separate just a bit at the bottom after being refrigerated but it doesn’t ruin the consistency or taste of the whipped cream. Just pour it off!

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake

*This recipe is grain free and dairy free. It will make two 8×8 square pans or two 8 inch cake pans, or 24 cupcakes. For this recipe I did the 8×8 pans and stuck one in the freezer for later use. One 8×8 pan yields 9 servings.

*This recipe is adapted from Satisfying Eats

Preheat oven to 350° line two 8×8 inch square pans with parchment and spray with coconut oil. 

1 Cup of Organic Coconut Flour

3/4 Cup of Organic Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1 1/2 Cups of Coconut Sugar

2 teaspoons of Double Acting Baking Powder

2 teaspoons of Baking Soda

1/8 teaspoon of Sea Salt

8 Organic Eggs

1/2 Cup of Earth Balance Soy Free Dairy Free Butter

2 Tablespoons of Pure Vanilla Extract

1 Cup + 1/2 Cup of Organic Full Fat Coconut Milk (set 1/2 cup aside)

1 Tablespoon of Decaf Instant Coffee

1/4 Cup of Dairy Free Chocolate Chips or Chopped Dairy Free Dark Chocolate

Add the dry ingredients to a stand mixing bowl and whisk together. Add the coffee to the coconut milk and stir to dissolve. Add the eggs, butter, vanilla, and 1 Cup of the coconut coffee milk. Mix on medium to blend well, scraping down sides. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes. Add the 1/2 Cup of coconut milk  and mix on medium just until combined.

Bake for 25-27  minutes. Cool completely before serving.

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May Is Lyme Disease Awareness ~ Here’s My Story

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In 2007 I was awakened from a dead sleep with dizziness, nausea, extreme anxiety, and a strange buzzing or vibrating feeling all over my body. Within 12 hours I began throwing up and couldn’t find the energy to do much outside of my bed. I was running a low grade fever. My body could barely relax and I kept getting startled awake hundreds of times a night. It was like my nervous system was on fire, mixed with a severe case of the flu.

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Finally, someone suggested that I had vertigo and to go to the emergency room. They gave me a pain shot which made me feel worse. I have no idea why they treated me for pain. They ran lab work for what… I don’t know. Then proceeded to tell me that the nausea was “stress”. After about 2 hours, she finally checked my eyes and diagnosed me with vertigo and sent me on my way but not before telling me in a somewhat comical voice, that her best friend was on her 6th month of extreme vertigo. That irritated me and terrified me. How do you live your life with extreme vertigo?  It also worried me because I just knew in my gut that something else besides the vertigo was going on. The weeks went by and no one could figure out what was wrong with me besides the vertigo. Not the ER, not my MD, not my PA, my OBGYN, or my Naturopath. Test after test was inconclusive.

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The vertigo eventually subsided, but not 100% and it took 6 months before I felt anywhere near like myself. I had to stop volunteering several hours a day at my son’s school, something I had been doing for his entire life. I began to change my diet by eliminating dairy to see if that would help with the nausea. I also had my hormones checked and found out my progesterone was very low and started bio identical progesterone cream. I slowly started to feel somewhat “normal” again, but over the next two years began to deal with a lot of joint pain, severe neck issues, my feet were sore when I got out of bed in the morning, my hips hurt, I was still dealing with that nervous feeling, and I just never felt completely healed. Kind of like I was living on that cusp of just coming down with something.

I was run down, tired, and worried.

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In 2009 two years later, we were on a big family camping trip in Montana when I started to get the chills. Earlier that day, I had had a cupping session so we figured I was having a difficult time with detox. I was seeing a naturopath and we were having problems treating my liver. It seemed everything detox related we tried, made me very ill. By the next morning, I woke up in our trailer severely ill. My entire lower back was on fire, all of my joints hurt. I was in enough pain to cry and to have to be taken home. By the next morning, I knew immediately that I was having a relapse of whatever happened to me in 2007. Except this time I was worse. Way worse. I was bed or couch ridden the majority of the time for about 3 weeks in the beginning. I lost 25 pounds in a month and a half. I had all the same symptoms as I did in 2007 except the list was growing. Now, half of my face felt tingly and slightly numb. When I touched it, it caused my ear on that side to ring loudly. Both of my ears ringed horribly at night. I was sweating profusely all the time. We tested my adrenals and they were taxed as well. I had to quit my job. I began getting shingles. I had shingles every two months for a year and a half. In fact, I felt sick for an entire two years.

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During that time I increased my vitamin D3 which seemed to help build my immune system slowly. Quitting my job and trying to eliminate as much stress as possible also helped. I not only had eliminated dairy, but I stopped eating gluten as well. When I was able to get rid of the dizziness, I got immediately out of bed. I couldn’t stand it. So I hiked. Even when I felt like death, I hiked. I wore headphones and sang along with my iPod as I hiked. Sometimes I cried all the way up to the cedar forest. When I couldn’t hike I used the treadmill and I often prayed non-stop the entire time I was on it. I’m a fighter. Even when I don’t know what I’m fighting. I just knew that I had to focus on anything and everything that made me feel even slightly better. Again, I never felt completely healed, but  I was able to live life in a way that I could live with as somewhat, “normal”.

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Fast forward to the summer of 2013. We had moved to New Hampshire and several months later were enjoying a summer evening on our neighbor’s porch. Although I used bug spray, I went home with at least 15 mosquito bites on each of my legs. Within 2 days they were oozing down my leg and I was throwing up. The bites had taxed my immune system. I figured I had the flu. The second week, I woke with vertigo. Again. I was terrified because I knew what was coming. I could feel it. And if you’ve ever been severely ill and had absolutely everyone test you and poke you and prod you and tell you, “I don’t know,it’s a mystery”…you know the dread and fear I was feeling. Plus, we were 3,000 miles away from home and anyone we knew. My husband’s job was very demanding and we only saw each other maybe 7 days a month.

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After calling two doctors who wouldn’t see me because I was a new patient and didn’t have all of my medical records, I finally got a hold of one who agreed to take me on that day. She treated me for vertigo and sent me on my way, but not before I explained to her that I had been sick since 2007 and something was very wrong. I told her I needed someone who would try to get to the bottom of it with me, and she was happy to do it. I cried floods of relief all the way home.

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By week 3, I was seeing a physical therapist for vertigo exercises, which made zero difference. My blood pressure was through the roof. My doctor wanted to try Xanax for my blood pressure to see if it was stress. That didn’t work either and after 3 days I stopped because the last thing I needed was a life spent on pharmaceuticals. I felt dehydrated regardless of what I drank, had ringing in my ears, severe morning nausea and diarrhea, major muscle fatigue, severe heart burn, heart palpitations, anxiousness, ongoing headache, numbness in toes, high pulse. She started me on blood pressure medication.

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By week 4, all my symptoms remained. I stopped the PT because it wasn’t working and the PT therapist kept telling me all I needed was to go walk by myself without my dogs. Enter a bunch of questioning trucker swear words here. I was infuriated. She was an idiot. She laughed at me twice and patted me on the arm when I told her my symptoms. I called my doctor and told her I couldn’t stand the PT and I was done. My knuckles were like big knots and my hands were incredibly weak. I began having severe migraines. Week 5, symptoms still remained except the BP meds were finally beginning to lower my blood pressure. I began having shingles outbreaks again. I had terrible deep chills and sweats that only a hot bath would stop temporarily. The anxiety started to subside a little. The doctor tried to diagnose me with Fibromyalgia or Rheumatoid Arthritis but I wouldn’t allow it. I knew something else was wrong.

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By Week 6, the dizziness subsided but I began having severe joint pain and bone pain. My shins felt like I had shards of metal sticking into them. They ached like the most severe growing pains I had ever felt. My whole body felt like it had severe period cramps. I could no longer hike or go on long walks. It took all my energy to walk up the long flight of stairs to our bedroom. I could only accomplish a few tasks a day, sometimes getting ready for the day was all I could handle. Then, I would turn on the fire and lay in front of it for most of the day and sleep because I was freezing and had a level of lethargy words cannot explain. Maybe it was a blessing that my husband had to travel so much. I simply would not have been able to keep up with everything had he been home all the time. I started getting blisters on the roof of my mouth. My toes on both feet were numb. My hands were tingling constantly. I had such severe neck pain I rotated between a heating pad and ice packs all night, every night.

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During this time I was in contact with my husband’s cousins wife. She was diagnosed and struggling with severe late stage Chronic Lyme Disease. At that point, she was in a wheelchair and doing intravenous antibiotics. We had an online pen pal relatioship and talked daily. When I listed my symptoms she said, “April, you have almost every single one of my symptoms. You need to call your doctor and get tested for Lyme Disease.” So I did. The doctor look startled. Like she was upset with herself for not considering it earlier. The test came back positive.

Hallelujah! I didn’t know whether to weep because I was so thankful that I wasn’t completely crazy and the world’s worst hypochondriac, or feel absolute dread because I knew how dangerous and even more debilitating Lyme Disease could end up being for me. Finally, an answer to what I had been battling for the last 6 years of my life.

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On week 8 the doctor started me on antibiotics and I believe my first wave was three weeks. By week 10 I felt a pretty significant difference in energy level and although all of my symptoms remained, they were reduced in intensity. Then I did another three weeks which eliminated many of my worst symptoms like major fatigue, chills, nausea, and migraines. Still wasn’t feeling back to normal, but at that point, those improvements felt like a miracle! During those several weeks I buried my head in my computer for endless hours researching everything I could get my hands on concerning Lyme Disease, Chronic Lyme, and chronic illness. It was a real eye opener. I joined several private Lyme groups which were also tremendously helpful with information and support.

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A few months later we decided to move back to our home town where it turned out that my doctor’s new physician’s assistant was from New England. That was a major blessing because she is more schooled on Lyme Disease than the average doctor in this state. We did more testing with a  very expensive lab that specializes in Lyme Disease testing and I received another positive test. With all of the controversy over the CDC providing inaccurate testing and test results, lying about the incidence and prominence of Lyme Disease, it was important to me to spend the extra money to make sure I knew what I was dealing with. We also tested for co-infections in which I tested negative. She said it’s unlikely that I don’t have some co-infections, but like the Lyme bacteria, they aren’t always easy to find.

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The Lyme Bacteria is a super bug. It forms a bio film or cyst to protect itself. This is why it’s difficult to test and difficult to treat long term. The best defense to lingering issues is to seek treatment immediately upon being bitten. If a doctor argues that the infection isn’t passed until after 48 hours or even 24, the doctor is wrong. They have now done studies that prove that once the tick is attached, it begins transferring.

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I sat with the new PA and discussed the research I had done. She was patient and truly listened. She said she would read anything I brought to her, including books. We discussed options and she is completely open to following my lead. My choice over the last two years has been to only treat with antibiotics when I have a flare. I wait until it’s at its peak, and then we pulse with antibiotic treatment for 3 weeks. I believe I’ve had to treat 2-3 times in the past two years. It works very well for me. I also added high quality fish oil, extra probiotics, curcumin, digestive enzymes, and took the majority of grains,nuts and seeds, white potatoes, and legumes out of my diet. I’m able to indulge now and then, but in the beginning I completely abstained from those things for more than a year. It made a tremendous difference in joint pain, headaches, and fatigue.

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There are many Lyme Disease treatment options and philosophies. They are different when dealing with a new infection or an old infection. While I had and have many common Lyme symptoms, each person’s experience and how their body deals with it can vary. I have been unable to find any concrete proof that people who weren’t treated immediately can be healed completely with antibiotics or any other treatment.

The agreed upon goal for most people who deal with Chronic Lyme is to get it to go into remission by boosting the immune system and battling the side effects daily.  After working in a Naturopathic clinic for many years, I know the importance of gut health and how it is the epicenter of our immune systems. I didn’t want to ruin it further by taking multiple types of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals for a minimum 3-5 years straight, which is a common late stage Lyme treatment. I know that there are tried and true natural options for healing the body and boosting the immune system and I am willing to experiment with that along with pulsing with antibiotics only when I feel it is absolutely necessary. At this point in time, I have no plans to do long term antibiotic treatment or intravenous antibiotic treatment and I also keep my supplements to a bare minimum. I have found that many of my health issues can be managed well with diet, exercise, and simple supplements.

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Fast forward to today…9 years after my first flare. Over the past 5 months my health has improved greatly. I have my wonky feeling days when my body raises red flags and says, “Slow down and rest!”  I’ve taught myself to understand my body and to listen to it carefully.

Over the past year I’ve placed a large concentration of my efforts into my immune system, lowering inflammation, and eliminating as much controllable stress as humanly possible. The rest, I leave up to God. I am a fighter, I work hard to keep a very positive attitude, and my goal is always to focus on the good while fighting the bad.  I’m taking each chapter as it comes. I no longer worry about the “what ifs” because no one can control that and it stops me from enjoying the now and living my life to the fullest. People often tell me they admire my attitude and my strength. It pleases me immensely that they can see that and that I can provide support and hope to others who struggle.

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I chose to share this story with you during this month of Lyme Disease Awareness because had my friend not shared her story with me, it’s very possible that I would be in a very bad  and deadly place with my health right now. People can end up paralyzed, unable to speak, in cardiac arrest, in wheelchairs, bedridden for years, and eventually die from complications of Lyme Disease and we rarely ever hear about it. Lyme Disease mimics 300 different diseases and it is usually the absolute last thing, if at all, that is considered when testing for illness.

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You can visit this page where I list many links I studied while researching about Lyme Disease, Chronic Lyme Disease, and treatment.

South Of The Border Chicken Burgers with Cilantro Lime Sauce & Crispy Sweet Potato Fries

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I sat down the other day and  got myself organized.

I don’t know how you feel about organization. For me, it’s imperative. When things get too out of hand, I don’t like it. I’m not one of those who thrives on chaos.

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An organized environment helps foster an organized and calm internal environment. For me anyway. I try to organize things here and there a couple times a week. I find it easier to keep up on as I go, instead of ending up dealing with a great big mess.

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This week I focused on putting some menus together and gathering up some blogging ideas.

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I had recipe ideas and menu ideas in piles, numerous note pages on my phone, ideas  scratched on pieces of scrap paper, notes on napkins, recipes torn out of magazines that I wanted to tweak gluten free and dairy free… Organized piles, but piles none the less.

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Then, when I would want to come up with something different to cook for dinner, it was too overwhelming to deal with all that and I began slipping right back into the same-o same-o meals. Even food bloggers get in a rut.

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 I put together 12 or so weeks of dinner menus to choose from, summer cocktails I’d like to try, dessert ideas, side dish ideas, and sweet and savory blog ideas all in a nice binder that I am now keeping in the pantry.

Handy, easy, and organized.

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Just that small act of organization which probably took roughly 2 hours because I had several piles, made me feel tremendously better and added a big dose of peace to my evening mealtime prep.

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There are days when I’ve used up all my energy throughout the day and when dinner hits, I’m not in the mood to come up with something innovative and fabulous. Having things figured out somewhat ahead of time, helps.

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Now at the end of each week I’ll grab the binder, choose a few menus and jot down my shopping list. When the new week hits I have all the groceries available for those menus, I can choose which one I want to cook depending on my energy level each night, and there’s barely any hassle at all that goes into it. It gives us the opportunity to try new things and makes dinner exciting again.

When I get close to running out of menus, I’ll sit down and replenish with new menu ideas. I’m often writing them down and tearing ideas out of magazines, so replenishing will never be an issue. Also, I can set aside the menus we really liked and make a “favorites” tab in the binder for future use.

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Ahhh…organization.

Feels great!

We used my grain free, dairy free, dinner rolls for buns –  you can find the recipe HERE. Other good options would be a lettuce wrap as a bun, or an Udi’s gluten free hamburger bun. They hold together pretty well. You could also sandwich the chicken burger with two grilled portobellos or stack it with avocado slices. Lots of options!

South Of The Border Chicken Burgers with Cilantro Lime Sauce

Makes 8 burgers

*Preheat oven to 425 degrees

About 1.7 lbs of Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs

1  teaspoons of Cumin Powder

1 teaspoon of Dried Oregano

1 teaspoon of Sea Salt

2 oz (about 1/2 can) of Mild Green Chilies

3 Sun Dried Tomatoes (the ones packed in oil)

2 Tablespoons of Fresh Cilantro Leaves

1 Large Clove of Garlic

1 Egg

1 1/2 teaspoons of Avocado Oil

In a food processor (you can also use ground chicken and just chop and mix ingredients in), add all the ingredients and pulse several times. Then turn on low until all ingredients are incorporated (see picture above). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon 8 mounds of chicken onto the parchment and lightly form into a patty. Set aside.

Crispy Sweet Potato Fries 

I have found that one large sweet potato works well for 2 of us. Adjust accordingly.

1 Large Sweet Potato, cut into 1/8 to 1/4 inch sticks

1 1/2 Tablespoons of Sweet Potato Flour

Sea Salt

Garlic Powder

About 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Avocado Oil

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato sticks with sea salt and garlic powder, be generous. Then toss with the sweet potato flour until all the sticks are lightly coated. Drizzle with the avocado oil and season and toss again until coated. Line them on the parchment covered baking sheet leaving a bit of room between them to allow for crisping.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove from oven and flip. Place them back into the oven along with the chicken burgers. Bake the chicken burgers for 15-17 minutes. Keep an eye on the sweet potato fries, if you feel they are becoming too dark, remove them and continue cooking the burgers.

*I cut up red onion, tomato, and lettuce as toppings. Also, the last couple minutes of baking, I topped a couple of the burgers with Daiya Jalapeno “Cheese”.

While the burgers and fries are cooking, make the sauces:

Cilantro Lime Sauce 

3/4 Cup Mayo

1 Tablespoon of Fresh Cilantro

1 Small Clove of Garlic

1 teaspoon of Oregano

Juice of 1 Lime

2 teaspoons of Coconut Sugar

Pinch of Chili Powder

Pinch of Sea Salt

I used a Nutribullet to mix mine together but a blender would work fine too. Just add all the ingredients and mix.

Spicy Sweet Potato Red Sauce

This is the easiest sauce to make! We love it on sweet potato fries and beef burgers too. I haven’t ever measured, I just eyeball it and fit it to our spice preference which is very spicy.

Mayo

Ketchup

Sriracha Sauce

If I had to guess I’d say 1/2 C of mayo, 1/4 C of ketchup, and a couple Tablespoons of the Sriracha sauce. SO tasty!

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An Unforgettable Experience & Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

1 Comment

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A few weeks ago I went on the most amazing learning adventure! I belong to a kind of support group, a “tribe” of people who want to make healthy changes in their lives and help others do the same. The group was created by a licensed marriage and family therapist, but he is not your typical therapist and likes to approach things in new and innovative ways. About twenty of us did a 30 day video challenge. Others in the group who didn’t do the video challenge were also able to participate by watching, sharing their own experiences in relation to ours, and giving feedback. Therapists and life coaches were also involved and some of them participated in the video portion as well.

We were asked to do a 3-5 minute daily video and simply come to the table being completely authentic and genuine with whatever was going on that day or in our lives at that time. Happy, sad, mad, crying, excited, bored, sleepy, whatever was going on, the goal was to be completely authentic about it. Not as easy as it sounds. But…

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It. Was. Amazing. Very scary at first. Unsettling. Emotional. Cathartic. Life altering. Empathy, sympathy, and compassion inducing. Ground breaking. Healing. Unbelievably rewarding. Eye opening. People were raw and funny and loving and depressed and happy and in incredible pain and lonely and hurting and best of all, real.

It has changed my own life and the way I view life, forever. We all started off a little nervous and guarded. All of us at one point or another had to struggle with, “Why am I putting myself through this?!” It didn’t take long though before we could all see that it was turning into something inspiring and amazing that I don’t think any of us expected. My goal was to get something positive out of it and to learn about myself and others. It was a bird’s eye view of people’s lives and how we all deal with our choices and life circumstances. In order to open myself up to learning and understanding, I had to step out of my comfort zone and allow myself to be raw and vulnerable. Something most people avoid like a swarm of killer bees.

As the challenge warmed up, many of us began to notice patterns in our own lives. Things we thought we might like to focus on. Watching other’s videos and the feedback and support we all gave to each other was monumental to the change we all experienced. It was healthy, thought provoking, challenging in positive ways, it involved tools, love, support, and the utmost of kindness and genuineness. We all had the same goal, to learn to understand what it really means to be truly authentic and genuine with who we are and to place less worry and focus on what other people think.

When we worry too much about what others think of us or fear their reactions when we are genuine, we stifle who we really are, what we really want, and it changes the outcome of situations that we’re in, relationships we have, and most of all, it doesn’t allow us to live life fully. Because everyone in the group shared the common goal of authenticity, there was zero drama or nasty judgement of any kind. In fact, there never is in this group, it’s really quite something. We agreed not to share anyone else’s stories outside of our group. This created what the founder of the group calls, a “safe container”.  It allowed for vulnerability and honesty. It was incredible and I have made life long friendships.

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Here’s just a few of the learning opportunities I came away with:

1. Many of us look to others and how they treat us as a barometer of our own self worth.

2. We worry about our value based on what we can or cannot do to help others.

3. We put others before our own self-care, which depletes us of energy and in the long run causes us to feel resentment.

4. If we aren’t used to self-care, the concept of it can be very uncomfortable, but it is imperative to our own health and the health of our relationships.

5. By not caring for ourselves and setting healthy boundaries, we become a doormat to others and invite narcissistic, overly needy, unhealthy, and manipulative people into our lives.

6. Feelings of guilt and not putting our emotional well-being first, stops us from feeling true joy and fulfillment when we do things for others.

7. Our self-worth is NOT defined by others. I read a quote by someone somewhere once that said, “Worthiness has no prerequisites.”

8. You can say “no” without guilt. It takes a lot of practice.

9. We can take time for ourselves and do things for ourselves on a regular basis without feeling guilty or selfish because in the long run, we are then healthier and ready to help others.

10. We need to realize without proper self-care and a “healthy container”, we are unable to give of ourselves fully, and unable to receive fully.

11. We have the power to form new and healthier habits, and break negative patterns. It can be done in a healthy way with the right tools.

12. We should strive to be aware of our wants and needs, to understand them and stick to firm boundaries for ourselves, and to care for ourselves so we can fully love others.

13. We are of value, just as we are. We all have gifts, talents, and qualities that add to our life and experience with others, but those gifts or the lack thereof, are not the barometer by which people should be loving us or the barometer by which we should be loving ourselves.What the world teaches is the complete opposite of that statement. Ignore it.

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For a lot of us, doing things for others is relatively easy. The difficult part for those of us who are big “feelers” and “givers” is that twist of guilt every time loving ourselves comes into play. Isn’t it selfish? Shouldn’t I always put others first? Isn’t this where the treasure is? In self sacrifice for the greater good? There’s nothing wrong with loving people and taking care of others, but we need to make sure that the cost isn’t so high, that it ends up being an unhealthy type of love and care.

The ins and outs of life tend to get in the way of how we love ourselves and how we love others. Relationships can be confusing and painful. They can start off great and then all the sudden something raises your red flags. How you deal with those red flags, makes all the difference. Our tendency is often to ignore and overlook our feelings on a regular basis. We don’t like to face uncomfortable truths about ourselves or others. Issues grow like weeds and over time if they aren’t dealt with properly, they choke out anything good. Your gut instinct is important. The action you take can make a life changing difference in your happiness.

Issues over the years that aren’t worked out properly, family dynamics and dysfunction, trauma, making unhealthy choices for ourselves, and pairing ourselves in friendships, family relationships, and romantic relationships with people who don’t know how to love or can’t love in a healthy way, cause our own life containers to be cracked. So does not taking the time to care for ourselves and not setting healthy boundaries.

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Life with a cracked container doesn’t work because no matter how much or how often we try to fill our container with peace and joy and people and stuff…it all just leaks right out eventually. So what then? Find perfect people to surround ourselves with? Protect ourselves by not having relationships at all? Always strive to do the “right thing”? Strive to be perfect? Strive to pretend that we are infallible? Pretend we aren’t in pain when we are?

Do we think that is the key to loving others and ourselves? Pretending? Living an inauthentic life? Not being genuine in our feelings, words, and actions? Or maybe the key is being a doormat? If I’m a doormat, surely people will see how loving I am and how much I sacrifice…surely they will love me for that sacrifice. Right?

Wrong.

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We all have cracks in our containers. It’s a fact. The key is to take some time to get to know ourselves enough to want to fix those cracks so that we can love others properly, receive love properly, and embrace life fully. What if we could stop wondering why we are surrounded with dysfunctional people and circumstances, and start figuring out what functional looks like and how we can get more of it? Choosing functional over dysfunctional means we work to be fully aware of our choices and patterns and how significantly they alter and change our overall happiness. We must be willing to ask ourselves all the really tough questions and then do the hard work to map out a plan to break the unhealthy patterns in our lives.

Why have I been complacent? Maybe I’m just now more aware? Sometimes things in life stir this awareness. Is it fear? Is it anger? Am I being lazy in my relationships and sticking my head in the sand? What makes me truly happy? Why am I willing to live with the status quo? What are my healthy life tools? Am I being genuine with myself? Am I being genuine with others? Who is in my “tribe” and are they adding or only taking away? Am I afraid people won’t like or love me if I’m genuine? Am I afraid of disappointing people? What does loving myself look like? What does loving others look like to me and is it a healthy picture?

Is my life balanced properly? Am I relying on others to fix and fill my container? What ARE the cracks in my container and what can I do to repair those cracks and fill my container with  fantastic life experiences, love, and peace, and joy? Why do I think I can give in a healthy way to the people I love if my own container is leaking? Do I have unhealthy relationships/experiences that I am still relying on to fill my container?

Do I have a solid vision of what my healthy, filled, container looks like?

Pretending that we are happy with certain situations, relationships, friendships, and circumstances, when we really aren’t, only creates more cracks. Healing comes with authenticity. With looking at ourselves and our environment clearly. Pretending may feel comfortable initially because inviting change can be unsettling and difficult.

Unfortunately over time, pretending steals our joy.

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Some people cling to their cracked container. Maybe it’s because it’s what they’re used to and they’ve become comfortable, maybe it brings them the attention they crave, maybe it gives them a good excuse not to work on their own life stuff. Sometimes it seems the more damaged their container, the better they like it. The same negative life choices are made over and over again. They cling to it like it’s a trophy. An unhealthy, personal memento of past pains and grievances. I deserve these cracks! People have hurt me! Experiences have hurt me! I OWN these cracks! They make me who I am!

We are not our cracks. Our cracks hold us back. They steal our peace and our happiness. Our cracks are not who we are but are an indication of what needs to change so we can live happily, peacefully, and healthfully. Authentically us. The way we were created to be as unique individuals. Practicing self awareness is achieved by looking at the negative and positive patterns in our own lives. We aren’t stuck with a cracked container. It CAN be fixed and filled with the most amazing tools, experiences, and healthy forms of love.

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A good place to start? Stop trying to fix other people’s cracked containers. We need this tattooed in our subconscious. We can only do the work to fix our own container. Stop focusing on what everyone else is doing wrong. Oh believe me, there’s plenty of people doing wrong…but it won’t do you any good to focus on them. They have their own unhealthy patterns that only they can work out. If  you have someone willing to work with you, then great. If not, don’t let that stop you from working on your cracks!

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Once our cracked containers are able to hold great things without leaking, amazing change begins to happen. Our perspective changes. Do you really know what that feels like? To really and truly have your perspective change? To have the realization that nothing has changed except YOU and in that process your entire outlook on everything changed in a positive way even though…everything and everyone else stayed the same?

It will rock your world.

Just by changing yourself, working on you and I don’t mean “self help” crap, I mean truly getting down to the nitty gritty of patterns (relationships, choices, issues) and directing them in a different way …just by changing the pattern,  you and your environment will change. You may think, “Well, that’s easier said than done!” And you would be right.

Changing our environment whether it be ourselves, the relationships we’re in, our health, our jobs, our social circle…is not an easy task. But it can be done and it is worth the hard work.

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A healthy, fulfilling, life takes awareness and elbow grease and here’s a newsflash:

Nothing. About. Life. Is. Simple. The actual act of changing  your perspective and letting go of the past, your mistakes, other people’s mistakes, and patterns that hold you back… takes work and insight, and a lot of uncomfortable self evaluation.

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When true perspective change hits you, it’s all at once an unsettling, wonderful, peaceful, mind boggling, awareness, that will change how you look at yourself and others forever in the very best of ways.

A changed perspective brings new experiences instead of the old scratched record playing over and over again. A repaired container allows us to fill up with healthy, soul fulfilling, experiences and relationships and enables us to receive and give love and support to ourselves and others, properly.

What does your container look like? How will you begin mending the cracks?

We repeat what we don’t repair.

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The vision behind the “tribe” mentality is that we were not meant to do life alone without other humans. That we can repair and heal with the help of others in a non-traditional “therapeutic” environment. A tribe is a group of people who you can relate to. No one has the exact same story, but a tribe is there to support and everyone learns from each other’s experiences and tools. People are heard without judgement and when there is no judgement, and people are given support, tools, and healthy, logical, feedback, people feel free to share and it deepens connection and builds strength. This is possible because there is the understanding and acceptance that everyone struggles with life’s ups and downs. With a firm focus on being authentic and transparent, it opens up a new and refreshing level of support.

John Kim, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and life coach. He will have a book available in the beginning of 2017. It’s called “Transparency”. I’ve read the short version. It will open your eyes to the relationships around you and the choices you make. Keep your eye out, it will be well worth the read. 

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Homemade Dairy Free Strawberry Ice Cream

*This recipe is best when the cream mixture is made a day ahead and allowed to chill over the night in the refrigerator before churning.

1 Pound of Ripe Organic Strawberries, sliced

1/4 Cup of Organic Coconut Sugar

3 1/2 Cups (27oz) of Full Fat Coconut Milk

8 Organic Egg Yolks 

2/3 Cup Organic Coconut Sugar

Scrapings From 2 Vanilla Beans

Place the sliced strawberries and the 1/4 cup sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat until sugar is melted and simmer for 20-3o minutes until strawberries are soft and sauce has thickened a bit. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large saucepan, add the coconut milk, egg yolks, 2/3 cup of sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Turn the burner on medium-medium low and stir constantly until it begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon. Do not overcook or cook on too high of heat or the eggs will scramble and the ice cream batter will be clumpy and taste “off”. 

Add the strawberry mixture to the cream mixture and pour into a container and refrigerate over night.

Pour into ice cream maker of choice. I use the ice cream attachment for the KitchenAid mixer. Churn according to directions and freeze to set.