Fool-proof AIP meal: my “go-to” nutrient-dense lunch/dinner equation

So —- meal planning while eating on the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) diet is hard.  Especially for me.  Something you’ll learn about me is that I like to save money wherever I can, even while eating a super-healthy diet and steering clear of cheap, processed foods (it’s no accident that 1) these foods are cheap as dirt and 2) most of the coupons floating around out there are for these items)).

While our local GIANT Food Store offers an OK selection of organic meats, I refuse to buy an expensive cut of organic meat at full price, just because I’ve been having a hankering for a pork chop or a nice steak.  I ALWAYS buy 2-3 packs of whatever meat is on sale (more if it’s a REALLY good price to stash in my freezer) and plan my menu for the week around those items – a process which has led to some pretty intersting meal combinations (most pretty good, some definitely not!).  I’m a a big fan of having my meat mixed in with my veggies, rather than just a big hunk of it on my plate.  That being said, I’ve become pretty creative over the last year with my meals, and have created a general, rule-of-thumb equation, so to speak, for a fool-proof easy AIP meal, with any type of meat, vegetables, fats and seasonings you are currently craving!  It’s kind of a cross between a stir-fry and a salad.  You’re intrigued now…I know you are!

So here it goes…..:

FOOL-PROOF QUICK AIP DINNER EQUATION – ENDLESS MEAL COMBINATIONS AND NUTRIENTS AHEAD!

At least 1 lb. of organic, grass-fed meat (get organic, grass-fed meat whenever possible)

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1-2 tablespoons of AIP-friendly cooking oil (I’m partial to olive oil, but do use coconut oil sometimes)

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3-4 cups of sauteed veggies (any combo works – one of my favorites is cabbage, mushrooms and greens of some kind)

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1-2 tablespoons (combined) of your desired AIP-friendly spice/seasoning mix (I frequently use a mix of pink himalayan salt, garlic powder, parsley, and oregano)

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a medium-sized spaghetti squash – optional

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A couple big handfuls of fresh spinach or other salad greens (more for a group of 3+) – optional

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the perfect savory and filling AIP meal, every time!

Did I mention that these are 1-skillet meals??  Just icing on the cake, right??

Here is my latest meal creation using my Fool-Proof AIP Equation – Ground beef stir fry with cooked cabbage, mushrooms and spaghetti squash on top of fresh spinach!   It’s not the prettiest picture, but you get the idea – it was a lot prettier before I mixed it up and it was really savory and juicy.

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It’s so simple – but I’ll be glad to walk you through the process 🙂

  • PREP: I baked the spaghetti squash for 45 minutes at 400°F – you could bake it in the morning or even the night before to save yourself some dinner-prep time.  Cut the squash in half (hot-dog style) scrape out the seeds, rub/brush the insides with your oil of choice, sprinkle with salt and desired seasonings, and place in your oven on a baking sheet/pan lined with tinfoil.  Chop up whatever veggies you’re using – I used half a wedge of cabbage and a pack of mini-portabella mushrooms
  • While that’s baking, brown your ground beef in the skillet at low-med heat.  I did not strain the fat from my meat because it was organic.  In conventionally produced meat, toxins are stored in the fat, so if you aren’t using organic meat, strain it first.
  • Transfer the meat to your serving bowl when finished and top with lid to keep hot
  • In the same pan, add a tablespoon (or less) of desired cooking oil and toss in cut up veggies and desired seasonings – I cooked my cabbage for about 5-10 minutes on med heat to get a little brown, before adding the mushrooms.  Cook your veggies to your liking on low-med heat – I like mine tender and juicy but not soggy!
  •  Transfer veggies to serving bowl and mix in with the ground beef.  When the squash is finished cooking, let it sit for a few minutes to cool and then scrape out the insides with a fork and transfer to your serving bowl, or keep it hot in a separate container.
  • Divide your spinach on your dinner plates and pile the meat and veggies mixture on top – I added some of my homemade apple cider vinegar dressing, which gave it JUST a little bit of tang that went great with the spaghetti squash.

This was my lunch two days in a row and I was totally okay with that because it was really yummy and didn’t upset my stomach at all or my UC symptoms from what I could tell.

Speaking of UC symptoms, I’m doing well right now.  No blood for the past couple of days, which is very exciting. Other aspects could be better (passing some mucus, a bit of bloating and gas) but one step at a time, right?

There are so many combinations you could make using this equation, hot, cold or both!  I’ve mixed in shredded chicken, bacon and collard greens and that is probably one of our FAVORITE meals.  SUPER SAVORY, and bacon makes everything better 🙂

What are your fool-proof breakfast/lunch/dinner AIP recipes???  I want to hear them all, so please leave me comments and links below!  I’ve been obsessed for the past couple of days with gathering AIP recipes on Chowstalker – check it out if you have an hour or two to spare!

Yours truly,

-Erika

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My story and the first “3 Ways to Happy” Post

Hello, world!  Ah, it’s great to be here, to be writing again – and writing about a holistic lifestyle, health and happiness.  I’ll skip the blabbing for now and get right to the story – my story – and the digestive illness and health concerns that have inspired me to start “Holistically Happy”…(caution #1: parts of my tale are not for the “easily-made-queasy – caution #2: I use a lot of “potty humor” to stay positive about my journey, sorry if that’s not your thing!)

SO, here we go…..

During my senior year of high school, I started seeing blood in the toilet when I went #2, accompanied by diarrhea, an increased urgency to use the bathroom, cramping, awful gas and bloating, severe fatigue and swollen joints.  Even as an 18-year-old, I knew that seeing blood when going to the potty was never a good thing.  I was a really good student, played 3 sports, and was going through my first real “break-up” – I boiled my “issues” down to stress and figured it would stop.  Plus, it was an extremely embarrassing problem to have, especially as afemale teenger – I mean, I was just happy to have days now and then when they weren’t huge pimples on my face… So, I chose to play down my debilitating digestive symptoms and pushed through my senior year.

Fast-forward to 6 months later, and after a couple of misdiagnosed hemorrhoids (that took me 5 minutes to spell just now!), the impending doom of a probable blood transfusion (my hemoglobin was dangerously low from passing so much blood when going #2), and my first colonoscopy/endoscopy, I was finally diagnosed by my GI doc with Ulcerative Colitis.  My colonoscopy showed that 2/3 of my colon and rectum were inflamed with open, bleeding ulcers.  No wonder I’d felt so awful – I’d been like a zombie for half a year with awful mental fog and daily exhaustion, running to the bathroom every 15 minutes (sometimes not making it in time – you can do the math there), bloating like a whale, bleeding all the time, and sporting a greenish, sickly, translucent complexion.  It all made sense now – I was sick.  Apparaently, really sick…

senior year

That’s me in the front row with a bunch of my friends senior year right after I was diagnosed.  I look happy, and I probably was, but was still working hard every day to NOT show my peers how awful I felt inside.

So what DID a diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis (UC) mean for as an 18-year-old?  Well, to start, a lifetime full of a medication called “Asacol” (9 pills a day to be exact), no knowledge of ANY cure, cause or treatment for UC other than daily medication.  UC, a form of “Irritable Bowel Disease” is an “incurable” Autoimmune Disorder where my body attacks my own colon as a foreign object.  My doctors told me food played no role in my symptoms or the onset of my disease and that my only option was to pop lots of pills to control my “flare ups”, or periods of bleeding/inflammation/diarrhea/lots of time in the bathroom.

Fast-forward again to today – coming up on my 6-year anniversary of my UC diagnosis and a lot has changed, but not everything.  I still suffer from UC, along with some hormonal issues I’ve been battling since I was a pre-teen (I’ll go into all that later, but it’s mostly excess testosterone).  BUT, in the last year, I’ve made numerous decisions to fight for my health that have changed my life, including:

—-> Following a couple diets called the “Autoimmune Paleo Protocol”, and the general “Paleo” or “Caveman” diet – I’ll get into specifics later, but you can learn more about AIP here at one of my favorite blogs.  While following AIP, I do my absolute best to eat no gluten, grains (including corn), dairy, refined sugar, eggs, nuts, seeds and nightshades, and try to keep my natural sugar intake as low as possible.  Many of my posts will pertain to this subject, as every day is a new adventure and/or struggle with keeping this restrictive diet in check.  In fact, my hope is that this blog (and hopefully a handful of followers in the future) will force me to take even more accountability and responsibility for my health when it comes to my diet.  I’ve definitely been loosely follwoing AIP for the past coupls of month, and I’m ready to get more serious about ultimately healing my UC through this seemingly promising regimen.

—-> Practicing Yoga when I can (I should do it daily).  The wonderful, deep breathing I’ve discovered through Yoga is the only thing I’ve found that truly calms me down and clears my head.  I love following free videos on YouTube or http://www.doyogawithme.com/.  Stress very negatively affects my UC symptoms and flare-ups, so keeping my stress levels as low as possible will continue to be an important part of my healing.

—–> Visiting a couple Holistic Health Practitioners who introduced me to various digestive and hormonal support supplements that I have used to literally “supplement” my AIP diet.  My learning curve with supplements has made it even clearer to me that the secrets to my healing success lie somewhere within Mother Nature’s caring embrace.  I’ve tried a handful of different supplements and will comment on their effectiveness, price, etc. throughout my posts.

—->  Experimenting with DIY personal hygiene and home care products like toothpaste, makeup, remover and all-purpose cleaning spray, to eliminate as many toxins from my daily routine as possible (and to save a little money!) to protect my already compromised immune system.  This is time consuming, but so worth it for the peace of mind and money saving – and it’s kinda fun!

But, seriously – WOW do I feel better!  I’ve lost weight (about 20 pounds in the last year, without really trying), I have more energy and more mental clarity, reduced bleeding and “flare-up” severity, less bloating, less acid reflux, reduced joint swelling, clearer skin.  This is all great, and call me crazy for wanting my UC to be GONE – but I believe that with time, effort and perseverance I can ultimately reverse my condition, too.  I’d love to hear about your journey – email me at ezaborny@gmail.com so we can connect!

At this point,  I want to introduce my 1st “3 Ways to Happy” post, a weekly (hopefully daily in the future) feature where I will include 3 “projects” I’m currently working on to improve my health and happiness holistically.  A lot of my inspiration comes from Pinterest – people, if you aren’t “pinning” already, what have you been doing with your lives????  Please follow me on Pinterest HERE!

1)   Our garden plans are in the works!  My boyfriend, Seth, and I moved in together about 6 months ago and we are so excited about starting our first garden!  We picked out a handful of organic seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit company with a GREAT selection of hundreds of seeds.  I’ll definitely be keeping track of our garden’s progress on “Holistically Happy”!

Seeds ordered from Seed Savers Exchange!

2) My first experience with gut-healing chicken bone broth – this recipe could not have been simpler.  I simply put chicken bones, skin and cartillage left over from a whole organic chicken we used for soup in our crock pot with a couple cups of water (less if you want a stronger broth), a couple glugs from my Apple Cider Vinegar bottle and some himalayan salt, garlic powder and parsley.  Man, is a warm mug of this stuff comforting!  My goal for right now is to try to have one cup a day, and eventually increase to 2-3 cups daily.

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3) Bracelet Making – for a little extra income and as a hobby!  I’ve been making leather beaded wrap bracelets for the past 2 years that I sell at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, which is about 20 minutes from my house.  Not only do I make a little extra money from selling these bracelets, it’s also a great stress reliever for me – most days!  I create custom size/color/length/design bracelets, so if you’re ever interested in purchasing one of my handmade creations, email me at ezaborny@gmail.com!

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Whew – that was a novel of a first blog post – but, boy, that felt GOOD to just get it out.

What are 3 things you’ve done lately to take care of yourself in the name of being holistically happy and healthy?

Yours truly,

Erika