The Autoimmune Protocol

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For most of us the school year has begun.  Our kids are back to the grind and we are happily whipping up Paleo lunches for them to carry off each morning.  Right?   Wrong.  By far one of my biggest challenges getting my family into the Paleo lifestyle has been school lunch.  Can we all agree that what we are serving in our schools (at least in the US) barely passes for food?  Obviously it comes nowhere near Paleo ideals, but packing up a Paleo lunch for our kids to take instead is no easy task.

First, the food itself is a challenge.  Second, getting our kids to eat the food, especially when they walk into a school cafeteria that is a virtual sea of temptation, is another challenge.  Finally, there's finding the time to put together delicious AND nutritious lunches.  I have not perfected this process myself, but with one school year behind me I did learn some tips and tricks.  I want to share them with you today and also talk about lunches/food compromises for the older kids.  There is lots of advice out there about packing up food for the little guys and gals, but the bigger kids gotta' eat too.   (*If your kids are AIP, follow these same basics, just adapting to AIP standards.*)

Tip #1
Feed them breakfast.  I know, I know.  The morning is such an insane rush.  Seriously though, slogging through the first part of their day will go much better and they will actually retain some of that valuable instruction they are receiving if their bellies are full.

Make some meat and egg meals on Sunday and store them in the fridge for the week.  Also be sure to have easy fruit available.  All that needs to be done is some reheating.  Recruit your older kids into heating and serving breakfast, while you get the younger ones ready.  

And . . . (gasp!) consider some compromise with the older kids.  My daughter is about to turn 13 and, after a year without it, she desperately wanted cereal in the morning again.  We agreed with the following compromise:  cereal must be a gluten-free, Mom-approved brand, milk must be grass-fed, organic, preferably raw (we haven't sourced any yet) or a Mom-approved almond or coconut milk, and she must also have a big serving of protein.  I don't advocate this same compromise with the younger set.  I think they are likely to fill up on just the cereal and if you continue to slowly work with them they will probably adapt more readily to strict Paleo.  I would say with kids 10 and older, some very carefully regulated compromise may be a more appropriate way to acknowledge their developmental need for some decision-making independence and still win the majority of the nutritious food battles.

Ideas:
-Egg Cupcakes
-Prosciutto-Wrapped Mini Frittata Muffins
-Paleo sausage links or patties (I buy ground pastured pork & make patties ahead of time)
-Bacon Burger Mega Meatballs (my own recipe, see below)
-Bananas
-Berries
-Melon Balls

Tip #2
Plan lunch with the kids.  We use a process much like The Paleo Mom uses with her daughter.  Sit down all together and give each child a piece of paper.  Have them list their favorite meat, veg, fruit, and Paleo treat.  Each week let them pick one thing from each category and prepare a very simplified lunch from their choices.  For example, this week my daughter wanted roast beef slices, cherry tomatoes, peaches, and Paleo chocolate chip cookies.  She also takes a water bottle.

If they list foods that need to be kept warm or cold, make a special effort to find containers that will keep everything at the right temp.  If they don't like plain water, try adding fruit or ginger slices or get fun shaped ice trays and freeze berries in the ice.  Consider iced, non-caffeinated herbal teas.  And make sure the lunch box is both functional AND cool.  Dress up the lunch event and your kids will get into it more.

I think it is important to keep your sanity in this process.  If sourcing Paleo versions of some of the foods your kids choose is difficult or not in your budget at this time, do the best you can.  For instance, we found sliced roast beef that had no gluten, no msg, no nitrates, and no sugar, but was not grass-fed and did have some added sodium.  We felt it hit most of our ideals and it was worth the compromise to allow our daughter to have the protein she wanted to eat this week.  Look for ways to save time too.  I make a double batch of whatever Paleo treat my daughter has chosen each week.  It takes no extra time in the kitchen and then I have extras frozen for later or I can skip making treats the following week.  Finally, as much as possible, pack lunch in the evening with the whole family involved.  Make this an after dinner routine, so you cut down on time stress in the morning.

Ideas:
-sliced meats
-lettuce wraps
-cold chicken
-finger-food veggies (cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber slices, etc.)
-easy fruit (banana, berries, sliced peaches, etc.)
-nut butter "dips"
-Real-Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies  
-Banana Brownie Cupcakes  
-Mexican Chocolate Macaroons 

Tip #3
Have food ready for after school.  That ravenous time right after school needs to be planned for, it doesn't take much extra effort, and it will definitely ease the evening crunch (remember, steady blood sugar levels!!).  If your kids go to daycare or an after school program, put a little something extra in their lunch boxes.  Maybe just more of the same lunch they chose.  If they come home, you can be a bit more flexible.  For instance, our daughter loves Grass Fed Girl's One-Pot Paleo Chili.  I encouraged her to learn how to make it last year and she's got it perfected.  Cook up one batch of a favorite food on Sundays and have it available for them to snack on all week.  In her current growth spurt, my daughter can eat a full meal after school and still be hungry for dinner a few hours later.

Bacon Burger Mega Meatballs
These can be served for any meal, even breakfast.  My daughter ate them every morning this week.

-1 lb. ground beef (grass-fed is best)
-3-4 slices bacon, chopped & fried
-onion & mushroom, chopped (optional)
-salt & pepper, to taste

Fry bacon (& onion & mushroom, if using) and set aside to cool.  Preheat oven to 350.  Mix bacon and salt & pepper into burger by hand.  Roll up into large meatballs.  Pop each meatball into the cup of a muffin tin.  Place in the oven & bake for 30 mins.  Done & yum!

I hope this guide helps all of you.  Whatever you do, take it one step at time, doing the best you can to feed your kids great-quality foods.  Low stress is also important in a Paleo lifestyle.  Don't make school lunch part of the daily freak out.

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This is the final blog in my AIP vacationing series.  I hope all of you found the kinds of information you needed about how to vacation while still adhering to this very restrictive template.  It was a big experiment for me and it turned out easier than I had expected.  There were some moments though . . . did I cheat?  That's the big question, right?We did attempt to eat out once.  There is a restaurant near the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) called Zero 8.  They do not feature ANY of the eight common allergens on their menu (get it . . . Zero 8).  No seafood, no peanuts or other nuts, no sesame seeds, no dairy, no soy, no eggs, and importantly for me, no gluten.  A restaurant like this is getting pretty darn close to the AIP ideal, so we decided to hop on the metro and head out for dinner.  Two things about heading out for a dinner reservation:  1)  The metro in Montreal is completely awesome.  Very easy, very accessible, and connected to an entire Underground City, which is very cool and sorta' creepy.  2)  The only stressful day turned out to be the day we had to make it to a dinner reservation.  Just as I suspected, the time limit on making a reservation ended up putting a pressure on us that we haven't had to deal with in a long time and that was really not worth it.

I looked over the menu ahead of time and decided there was one dish I thought was worth a try.  I had a grilled hanger steak with duck fat french fries and sauteed shallots.  The only thing not AIP were the white potatoes.  It was the first time I had eaten them in over a year.  The steak was good, but not incredible.  The shallots were nothing to write home about.  I loved the fries, but I think that was mainly because I hadn't had white potato in so long and they were fried in delicious duck fat.

I have eaten out only a very few times in the past year.  I did not enjoy any of those experiences.  It was too stressful, because I was intensely worried about being glutened.  I wasn't worried about a glutening at Zero 8, but ironically it didn't translate into a comfortable experience.  The wait staff was terrible.  They weren't interested in making customers feel welcomed, which I thought was especially important since most of their patrons are probably there because they have health issues like mine and Zero 8 is the ONLY place they risk eating out.  In addition, they barely noticed us . . . we had to practically beg for the bill in the end.  In fact, we witnessed other people be seated and then ignored for so long they got up and left.  One father of young kids who waited forever actually confronted the staff about it on his way out . . . it did nothing to change their attitude to their customers.  I also thought the menu was, in comparison to what I can do myself, very boring.  It was ridiculously expensive too and by later that night, I paid the price for the potato cheat.  I had joint pain, especially in my right hip.  It was gone by the next morning, but still not fun.  The overall experience . . . not worth it.

I also cheated with wine and coffee.  I had a glass of wine each evening, with no problems.  If I have much more than a glass though, I definitely notice it . . . usually it leads to waking in the middle of the night with low blood sugar symptoms.  I also try to limit my wine to "unoaked" whites.  These are wines that are made in steel barrels, rather than oak barrels which are sealed with a wheat paste.  Do I think this means I can let the good times roll now and start swilling booze regularly?  No.  Definitely not.  Vacation was an exception, not a rule.  On three mornings I had about half a cup of a light roast coffee with maple syrup for sweetener.  It was delicious, but I had to pump the brakes and not down a "Venti" worth in five minutes.  I am pretty caffeine sensitive, so too much, too fast and I will be Shaky Suzy the rest of the day.  Miserable.  I did feel the wine and coffee cheats were worth it.  It was nice to enjoy just a little of my old favorites.

I think carefully considered cheats, in moderation, are the right thing to do on vacation.  Obviously, don't pick a cheat that you know is out for life (like Celiacs, don't eat gluten, it is never okay in any amount) and don't try to tempt the food sensitivity gods (like, "Wow!  Half an almond flour cookie went fine, I'll now devour 10 of them with a hazelnut butter side and some roasted peanuts.").  The point of a cheat is to add enjoyment, not lead to certain vacation ruin.

After a total let down eating out experience, I thought we needed our last dinner in Montreal to be fantastic.  All we had left was ground beef though.  I decided there had to be a way to combine ground beef and the superstar of Canadian condiments, maple syrup.  (BTW, ordering your maple syrup straight from top-of-the-line Canadian producers from now on is not silly  I had no idea maple syrup could be so incredible and refined.)  I scanned the Web and found a recipe that I could tweak and settled on a Maple Meatloaf.  SCORE!  It was the best meal of the entire vacation.  My husband ate it in about 30 seconds and then gobbled up seconds.  I'm getting really good at putting together stellar meals on the fly with limited ingredients.  High-five me!  See the recipe below and let me know if you loved it too.

Maple Meatloaf, Duck Fat & Caper Roasted Cauli, & Roasted Artichoke Hearts w/ Wine

Maple Meatloaf
1 lb. ground beef
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put onion, carrot, and garlic through food processor and then mix all ingredients by hand and form into loaf, place in roasting pan.  Bake for 45 minutes.  While baking, make glaze.  (Who says meatloaf needs eggs or bread crumbs?!)

Maple Glaze
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup unsweetened fruit juice (I used white grape)
1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, to taste

Mix all ingredients.  At 45 minute pour over loaf and continue baking for 30 minutes.  The glaze in the pan will bubble up and thicken.  Spoon this over loaf slices before serving.  Delicious!

I hope you all loved the vacation series!  It was alot of fun to write.

Our vacation was so rejuvenating for the whole family.  There are lots of reasons for that, but I think a major one was that we took a technology break.  It was really important to me that we unplug while we were in Montreal and the results were well worth every minute away.I'm not a tech hater.  Very honestly, I heart the Web about as much as I heart Paleo.  I was captivated as a child by encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, and other reference books.  For me, the arrival of the internet was like having this endless, deep source of all the fascinating info I had craved as a kid.  (When I try to explain this to my daughter, she acts like I am a total weirdo . . . she's never existed in a world without the internet, so I guess it makes sense.)  I also don't hate the social media aspect of tech.  I think it is an extremely powerful tool of connection.  I would have never found the answers I needed to heal from Celiac and I would have never been able to use my journey to help others find those answers without it.  I like the ease of cell phones and even TV.  (Gasp!  She likes TV!)  There's lots of great stuff on TV.

Anyway, all of the above was to emphasize that I am not a tech hater.  I am sensible though.  I know that all that constant information flow, in all its varied forms, sometimes needs to be stopped.  If we aren't careful it can make us stressed, distracted, and actually weaken, rather than strengthen, our bonds to each other.  I'm sure you've noticed this phenomena.  A person can become, ironically, better emotionally connected to "friends" hundreds or thousands of miles away than to the members of his or her own household.  I wanted to make sure we slowed down internally and nourished our family connection.

When we reached the Canadian border, we turned off our cell phones (it helped that the rates suddenly shot through the roof to "international" charges).  We agreed that we could access the internet for information about things we wanted to do in Montreal and quick searches for recipes I wanted to try.  Our daughter was in the middle of an Instagram challenge, so she was allowed to post one photo a day.  All other uses, ESPECIALLY Facebook, were off limits.  (No denying it, without proper self-control, FB is the devil.  We all know it.)  We watched a very small amount of TV . . . in French . . . about the Canadian news and weather.  That was more like a cultural experience.  And on a few evenings my husband and daughter watched "The Walking Dead" on a laptop together.  Hardly an educational program, but it's their thing.  This is where being sensible comes in, right?  I could see that it was strengthening their bond to snuggle up and watch a scary show together, instead of making them zone out and disconnect . . . so it was allowed.

The results of the tech break were immediately obvious.  We were all very calm.  We were laughing.  ALOT.  TOGETHER.  We paid more attention to little details of our surroundings.  On our last day we left the city and drove out to a beach on a nearby lake.  It was quiet except for bird sounds and the mixed English and French voices of the few other families visiting the same spot.  We lounged in the sun.  My daughter read her book and then waded in the lake and studied tiny fish.  She and my husband dared each other to swim into the icy waters.  We took a short walk and ate a picnic lunch.  On that day, in particular, I felt the stresses completely melt away.  I could literally feel our family connection being reinforced while our hearts recharged.

The tech break did something else for me.  It inspired me.  I thought the whole time of projects I want to do and all the writing I was suddenly more energized to do.  And I was full of meal ideas and newly motivated to do all sorts of cooking.  Below is another recipe for a delicious meal I came up with and we thoroughly enjoyed.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

One other thing . . . did I CHEAT on vacation?  Check in on Friday to find out!

Cheating: The AIP Vacationing Series
Baked Salmon Stuffed Zucchini w/ Asparagus

Baked Salmon Stuffed Zucchini
2 large zucchini
1 can salmon (look for good quality)
1 c. cauli rice
1 tbsp. lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. duck fat

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash zucchini, cut in half the long way and scoop out seeds (making a little hollow "boat").  Mix remaining ingredients in food processor until it forms a patty mixture.  Scoop into zucchini and bake in oven for 45 minutes.  I turned the broiler on for the last few minutes to make the tops a little browned and crispy.  YUM!

You know what made me really love the U.S.A.?  Moving to another country.  True story.  There's this quote I love by Samuel Johnson, "All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it."  I love it, because it is true.  The West African countries I lived in are special in their own right, but much of what remains undeveloped in those places showed me what an enormous undertaking it was for the U.S. to become the place it is.  Growing into an exceptional land of opportunities and extraordinary freedoms is not mere happy accident for this country.  It took forward-thinking, creative, and uniquely brave people.  It took revolutionaries.  (You know how I adore revolutionaries.)

I hope you'll all enjoy this menu.  It is meant as a Fourth of July afternoon barbecue.  My daughter is away, so my husband and I will be getting up early to go hiking (and take in some of the distinct beauty of our country) and then coming home to grill and maybe catch some fireworks.  Enjoy & let me know if you liked any of these recipes.

Appetizer:
Spinach & Crab Guacamole w/ Cucumber "Chips"

I am going to make my all-time favorite Guac recipe and add chilled crab to it.  I seriously can not wait to eat it.

Main Course:
Grilled Chicken w/ Figgy Barbecue Sauce 

Sweet Potato Salad

Blueberry Strawberry Jicama Salsa

To make the BBQ sauce AIP, skip the tomato paste and replace the safflower oil.  I think it will still be incredible.  To make the Sweet Potato Salad AIP, skip the cumin and paprika, replacing with thyme, and skip the nuts.  (Ever since vacation in Canada, I am really inspired to cook with maple syrup, which is what caught my eye in this recipe.)  To make the salsa AIP, skip the jalapeno and obviously the tortilla chips.  I plan to serve the salsa like a side dish.

Dessert:

Red, White, & Blue Kabobs

This could not be more simple or cute.  And it is naturally AIP.