Day 3 and some handy paleo food swaps

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I think most people who switch to a healing diet would be lying if they said there weren’t at least a few things they missed from their former way of eating. I also think for most people, sugar/carbs create one of the biggest holes – it’s classic comfort food, after all.

Today is day three of paleo for K, and I was super impressed to discover that she’s been drinking her coffee without sugar. Today’s email read:

You would actually be so proud of me and I have L [colleague] to corroborate the story. I was going to make coffee with sugar… I put the sugar in the mug (like half of half a spoon) and then sat down with L and R at the table. I decided against the sugar and surrendered my mug to L. SHE LAUGHED at how little sugar was in the mug. Then she went to add more.

I’m especially proud of K because tea and coffee, especially when sugary and milky, is ultimate comfort ‘food’ for me. Growing up, if I had a shock or a heart break, my mom would make me a cup of strong, sweet tea. For stomach bugs, the solution was the same, with Marmite toast added to soothe the belly. As an adult, five or six cups of sweet tea or coffee would get me through the work day, and would also assuage my sugar cravings.

When I started worrying about my weight, I switched from sugar to sweetener, which is super-duper sweet, and I could easily drink six cups of tea a day, each with three sachets of sweetener added. I also drank a ton of diet cooldrinks. At the back of my mind I suspected that the artificial sweeteners were wreaking havoc on my gut, and I was right! Cutting them out was the first, and one of the biggest, steps to healing.

But I’d be lying if I said it were easy. Now, I drink black coffee with no sugar (two cups a day max, and seldom on weekends), and I never drink regular tea because I can’t stand the taste of it without milk and sugar.

I deeply miss my comforting mugs of tea, and while there isn’t an ‘exact match’ replacement for them, there are ways to soften the blow. Here’s how I’ve replaced some of my best-loved, and most missed, foods and drinks.

  • Sweet/milky tea and coffee: organic flavoured teas with lemon, honey and ginger added.
  • Fizzy drinks: organic apple juice with no added sugar or preservatives (limited to a couple of glasses a week).
  • Alcohol: Should be avoided if you’re flaring and if you know you can’t tolerate it. Fill a glass with ice, lemon wedges, mint or frozen berries and top with sparking mineral water. It’s the easiest way to fool your brain (and everyone else), and you won’t feel like you’re missing out. If you can tolerate alcohol, stick to dry wines and grain-free spirits only, like tequila (if you can stomach it!).
  • Desserts/‘something sweet after supper’: Fruit with honey; banana ‘ice cream’ (frozen bananas blended up) with cinnamon; dairy-free yoghurt; nuts drizzled with honey (and a shake of salt! Try it; it’s delicious).
  • Rice/mash: cauliflower rice/mash.
  • Potato: sweet potato (paleo, not SCD). Season with rosemary, garlic and coarse salt.
  • Pasta/noodles: Sounds strange, but if I make a delicious pasta sauce or curry, I pour it over butternut or steamed cauliflower and it’s just as enjoyable.
  • Sugar: honey/maple syrup/leave it out (you become accustomed to eating less sweet-tasting food).
  • Cake: There is no replacement for cake. Nothing. Accept it, grieve, and move on. It’ll become like a phantom limb: the pain is always there, but you learn to live with it. Seriously though, you can find ‘legal’ replacements for most cake ingredients: almond flour or gluten-free flour instead of regular cake flour; baking soda instead of baking powder; honey/maple syrup instead of sugar; coconut butter/oil instead of butter; avo instead of butter; egg replacements/flax seed instead of egg, etc. The list goes on – you just have to be adventurous. But you also have to accept that cake, as you knew it, is off the table and a thing of the past (but also, remember how bloaty and ugh the past was!).

I also wrote this post about making your favourite foods paleo, which has got some useful food switches.

The benefit of these replacements, especially when it comes to the hot drinks, is that my teeth are probably in much better nick than they were! Tea and coffee can leave some really tenacious stains. Cutting out fizzy drinks has drastically reduced my bloating, and no chocolate/dairy means no more frequent trips to the loo, and much less gas/bloating.

It’s hard not to lament the losses, which is why it’s so important to make healthy, sustainable switches. And bear in mind that while drinking only water is depressing (I’ve tried it), it’s still important to get your 2-litre fix each day, in between the other drinks.

If you have any useful food switches, please do share!

Shepherd’s pie with cauliflower mash – paleo, SCD & autoimmune paleo

It’s the middle of winter in South Africa and it’s c-c-c-c-cold! Yesterday a gorgeous pink and orange sunrise warned us that there was foul weather afoot, and indeed, tonight the skies opened up and it’s been bucketing down for hours here in Cape Town.

I wanted something hearty and filling for this chilly weather, and I also wanted to use what I had at home since pay day is only tomorrow 🙂

I combined various recipes that I found for paleo shepherd’s pie, tweaking them based on the ingredients I had, and the result was deeeelicious! K wasn’t crazy about the cauliflower topping but that just meant more for me!

Oh, and apologies for the photo. We were so eager to tuck in that I only remembered to photograph it later… when this was all that was left!

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Shepherd’s pie with cauliflower mash – paleo, SCD & AIP

Paleo/SCD/AIP shepherd’s pie with cauliflower mash

Ingredients

  • Coconut oil
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 2 medium or 3 thin sticks of celery, chopped
  • 400g mince (I used ostrich but you could use beef or any other)
  • 2/3 cup red wine or beef stock/broth
  • 1 heaped tsp tamarind paste (or 50g tomato paste if you’re not AIP)
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped finely
  • 250g button mushrooms, sliced thickly
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Salt & black pepper

Method

1. Place the cauliflower into a pot and boil until very soft, about 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, add onions, celery and carrots to a large pot with a knob of coconut oil. Fry on med-high heat, stirring often, until veg has softened – about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Add mince and break up with a spoon. Add wine/stock and stir until evaporated/absorbed. Add tamarind paste/tomato paste and stir to incorporate.

3. Add rosemary, thyme, black pepper, salt and a good shake of cinnamon.

4. Add mushrooms and peas (from frozen is fine) and allow to simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Add a dash of water if the mixture becomes too dry or catches on the bottom of the pot.

5. While the meat simmers, add salt, pepper and a knob of coconut oil to the cauliflower, and mash until soft.

6.  Transfer the meat to an oven proof dish and top with the cauliflower mash. Bake at 180C for 10 minutes and then grill until the mash browns on top, about 5 minutes. Tuck in!

The great thing about this recipe is that you can tweak it based on what you have at home and it’s still bound to be delicious. You can also use sweet potatoes for the mash instead of cauliflower. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

Flu-fighting power smoothie

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K started with the sniffles last week… which meant that two days later, I had them too – the day we were leaving for our much-anticipated weekend away 😦

Did you know that having an autoimmune disease makes you more susceptible to infections and illnesses in general? It explains why I’ve had more colds than usual over the past year or two – usually, I never, ever get sick. Aside from the colitis, of course, but I don’t consider myself ‘sick’ because of it – at least, not ‘sick’ in the way that I am when my nose is stuffed up and my eyes are streaming!

Anyway, I wasn’t going to let a cold ruin my weekend, so I got to work whipping up this vitamin-packed, protein-boosted smoothie. It ended up being way too much for a single serving and I only had half of it. Also, the protein powder – the first time I’d used it in a smoothie – made the drink really grainy. Should one dissolve it in something before adding it to a drink? Let me know.

Flu-fighting fruit smoothie

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 oranges (vitamic C and polyphenols protect against viruses)
  • a handful of ripe strawberries (vitamin C, fibre, calcium and iron, and they help to reduce inflammation)
  • a handful of frozen blueberries (vitamin B complex, C, E and A, copper, zinc and iron – blueberries are loaded with antioxidants)
  • 1 ripe banana (vitamins B6 and C, potassium, protein and fibre)
  • +- 1 cup of yoghurt  (I use home-made SCD/paleo coconut yoghurt coconut is a healthy fat that aids in reducing inflammation)
  • 1 serving pea protein powder (optional)

Method

Add all the ingredients to your blender and blend until smooth.

Pour into two glasses, wrap up warm and enjoy its flu-fighting power!

Flu-fighting fruit smoothie

Flu-fighting fruit smoothie

Easy homemade coconut yoghurt – SCD/paleo

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**Update: If you find that your yoghurt separates after refrigerating, give it another whizz with the stick blender to re-incorporate the coconut cream (which will have risen to the top in a thick, hard layer) with the gelatine. Return to the fridge for a few more hours to firm up.

 

I LOVE my SCD coconut and cashew yogurt (recipe here), which I eat most nights after dinner, drizzled with honey. However, when my nutritionalist instructed me to start following the autoimmune paleo protocol, she said that nuts were out (sob!).

I knew this was going to be a tough transition and I especially didn’t want to give up my yoghurt. However, she did recommend that I try to eat coconut milk every day. Very quickly I decided to try to make the yoghurt without the cashews, and after a failed attempt or two, I think I’ve finally perfected it.

It has the right yogurt consistency as well as the sour tang that indicates that the probiotics are active. For some this is an acquired taste, but for me, it is reminiscent of one of my long-lost loves, cheese cake 😉

Remember to factor in 24 hours for incubating and refrigerating.

Homemade SCD/paleo coconut yogurt

Equipment

  • Blender
  • Nut milk bag, cheesecloth/muslin or a clean, unused stocking
  • Mesh sieve
  • Yoghurt maker

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • Boiling water
  • 1 x 10g sachet of gelatine powder + 1/4 cup room temperature water
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • 5 probiotic capsules/ 1/8tsp live yoghurt cultures (lactose free if need be)

Method

Place the coconut into your blender and fill with boiling water (you should aim to use about 1 litre of water).

Blend for several minutes, pulsing at first to break up the mixture (it gets quite lumpy).

Place the sieve ‘into’ the nut milk bag (so that the sieve is covered), place over a large clean pot, and pour the blended mixture through. The aim is to capture all the milk and none of the pulp.

Allow to drip until cool enough to handle, and then with clean hands, squeeze the remainder of the milk from the pulp. It will look a little like you’re milking a cow.

Mix the gelatin with 1/4 cup of room-temperature water. Allow to sponge for five or ten minutes, until firm.

Add the vanilla extract, honey, probiotics (open the capsules and pour the powder out) and gelatine to the milk, and blend very well with a stick blender.

Pour into the sterilised bowl/container of your your yoghurt maker, place it into the yoghurt maker, and allow to incubate for 12 hours.

After 12 hours, give the yoghurt a good stir as the gelatin tends to clump up. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours to set.**

Serve with grain free cereal, add to curries, soups or smoothies, or simply enjoy on its own, drizzled with honey.

** If you find that your yoghurt separates after refrigerating, give it another whizz with the stick blender to re-incorporate the coconut cream (which will have risen to the top in a thick, hard layer) with the gelatine. Return to the fridge for a few more hours to firm up.

SCD coconut yogurt

SCD coconut yogurt

Autoimmune paleo recipe: Butternut and sweet potato soup with carrot, coconut and ginger

It’s been freeeeezing in Cape Town, the perfect weather for soup. But I’m not one to slave over a pot for hours on end – not after SCD anyway! I’m all for quick, easy soups that taste like they’ve been bubbling away for hours…

My sister served us a delicious cauliflower soup yesterday, when she and her husband had the family over for Father’s Day. Feeling inspired, I decided to see what kind of soup I could come up with using ingredients I already had at home, and this was the result.

AIP butternut & sweet potato soup with carrot, coconut and ginger

AIP butternut & sweet potato soup with carrot, coconut and ginger

It’s tasty, filling, easy to make and totally budget friendly 🙂 Plus, K said that it tasted like ‘restaurant quality’, which is high praise considering that a) she hates butternut soups and b) we have amazing restaurants in Cape Town!

This recipe can easily be made SCD-friendly by omitting the sweet potato. Simply add extra butternut.

Butternut and sweet potato soup with coconut and ginger

Yields 3 to 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 500-600g butternut, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 200g sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks (omit for SCD)
  • 1 medium-large onion, quartered
  • 1 medium-large carrot, sliced into rings
  • 6 or 7 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Dried rosemary
  • Dried mixed herbs
  • Garlic salt
  • Knob of ginger, grated
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Salt & a good crack of black pepper
  • 250ml coconut milk or coconut yoghurt

Method

Preheat oven to 200C/390F.

Place all the vegetables (except the ginger) on a roasting tray, drizzle with coconut oil and season with cinnamon, dried rosemary, mixed herbs and garlic salt. Roast for 30 minutes or until soft and lightly browned.

A trick I learnt recently: If you want to know whether your vegetables will taste good after roasting, run your finger along the bottom of the roasting tray after seasoning, and give it a lick. If it tastes good, so will the veg!

A trick I learnt recently: Run your finger along the bottom of the roasting tray after seasoning the veg, and then give your finger a lick. If it tastes good, so will the veg!

Just before the vegetables are ready, place the ginger into a large pot and saute in a little water for 2 or 3 minutes. Add two cups of boiling water, plus the salt, pepper and bay leaves. Add the roast veg along with any juices/seasoning. Bring to a boil.

Allow the vegetables to simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, take out the bay leaves and add the coconut milk/yoghurt. Blend using a stick blender. Add a little extra boiling water if it’s too chunky to blend – I found that I needed another cup or so.

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Add a little extra water if it’s too chunky to blend

Return to the heat for a minute or two before serving.

Slurrrrrrrp! Enjoy 🙂

 

Nightshades: A trick for replacing tomatoes in recipes

I’ve become one of those people that no one wants to cook for. When I first went dairy and gluten free, it was okay because I could eat everything else, and my family happily cooked chicken and sweet potatoes for me. Then I went SCD, and I took my own food everywhere and my family happily boiled eggs for me.

Now, on the autoimmune paleo diet, my family and my girlfriend have basically thrown their hands in the air. They could deal with no dairy. They could deal with no grains. They could even deal with no sugar. But no nightshades?! NO TOMATO?! *hands fly up into the air. What do we feed you?!

I concede that a diet void of tomatoes is… devastating. It’s not only difficult to cook for, but also difficult to live with. The AIP diet calls for the elimination of all nightshade vegetables – the edible members of the solanaceae family – which include potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, chili, paprika, eggplant and various others. See a full list of nightshades as well as an explanation of why they’re problematic for people with autoimmune disease here.

Saying goodbye to nightshades

For the most part, for most people, nightshades aren’t all that hard to give up – except for the tomatoes. Many of us already limit or restrict our intake of potatoes. Lots of people don’t like peppers and they’re pretty easy to avoid too. The same can be said for eggplant. Chilies and paprika is admittedly harder to kick – especially if you like your food to have a bit of kick itself – and also, paprika is found in many pre-made spice mixes.

But here’s the real catch: tomatoes. Just for a moment think of how many tomato-based or tomato-enhanced dishes you eat. Salads, soups, stews, sauces, curries, casseroles, bakes, bolognaises and so much more. Tomatoes are used for colour, flavour, thickness and tang, and they’re used because they’re delicious.

It’s been less than a week but I’ve already found myself up against some pretty tenacious tomatoes. There are some still loitering in my fridge; there were some gorgeous baby ones in my restaurant salad last night, and I had to deftly avoid slurping up some of their seeds with my lunch today (close call!).

When it comes down to it, there’s nothing that easily replaces tomato. It’s not like switching shallots for onions or replacing sweet potato with butternut. NOTHING is like a tomato, which means that one must get creative and think laterally!

The tomato paste bait-and-switch

A few nights ago I decided to make my SCD burgers – one of my absolute favourite meals. But – panic! – I knew that omitting the tomato paste would completely dull the taste of the patties: due to its tartness, tomato paste adds a unique depth of flavour that is very difficult to mimic with anything else.

tamarind-paste

After plenty of Googling, I finally came across the answer: substituting tamarind paste for tomato paste. Who’d have thought?!

And even luckier: I bought a large packet of tamarind paste while I was in Malaysia recently. I’d used it during my cooking course in Kuala Lampur and I was eager to bring it home and try it in my own cooking.

What is tamarind paste – and is it paleo?

Tamarind is a very sticky, tart brown pulp that comes from the pods of the tamarind tree. Often, the seeds – roughly the size of a cherry pit – are left in the paste and you need to remove them before using the paste.

It's suuuuper sticky and sometimes it still has the seeds inside

It’s suuuuper sticky and sometimes it still has the seeds inside

To make the substitution, use roughly half the amount of tamarind paste as you would tomato paste. It’s very tangy with a touch of sweet, just like tomato paste but more intense. Put a little on your finger and give it a taste.

Where to get tamarind paste and what to use instead of it

You’re most likely to find tamarind paste at Asian, Chinese or Indian food suppliers. Or, you can do what I do and Google it, as this will help you to find a supplier in your area or perhaps an online retailer that sells it.

Tamarind paste comes in jars or blocks wrapped in cellophane

Tamarind paste comes in jars or blocks wrapped in cellophane

If you can’t find it, some people use pomegranate molasses instead. Accordingly to Nigella Lawson’s site, you can also mix equal parts of lime juice, white wine or rice vinegar with sugar. I haven’t tried this myself, but it is apparently only effective if just a small quantity is required, as tamarind has a very unique flavour (in the same way, this is why it works well as a substitute for tomato paste, because the latter is usually only used in small amounts).

Recipes using tamarind paste

Tamarind paste is mostly used in Indian and Asian dishes. Here’s an awesome recipe for paleo pad Thai using tamarind paste, taken from Against All Grain – an amazing site if you haven’t checked it out yet. Or you can give it a bash my paleo/SCD burger recipe 🙂

Give it a try and see what you think!

How to make, use & store different nut milks

Cashew milk - very smooth and creamy

Home-made cashew nut milk

It’s so easy to make your own nut milk and you’ll also save a ton of cash doing it. Here’s my guide to making three of the tastiest and most versatile varieties: almond milk, cashew milk and coconut milk.

What you need

  • Nuts/coconut
  • Mineral/filtered water
  • Nut milk bag/cheesecloth/muslin/unused, clean nylon stocking

Tip: Be on the look-out for wholesale shops, or buy bags of broken nuts – they’re usually much cheaper than whole nuts, and if you’re using them to make milk, flour or butter, it doesn’t matter if they’re all crushed up.

Almond milk

So much cheaper than buying it ready-made, and you can store batches in the freezer. It has a deep nutty flavour.

What to use it for: Use in tea or coffee; pour over cereal; use in baking or cooking; add to smoothies or raw desserts; use it to make dairy-free yoghurt, or simply enjoy on its own.

How to store it: In sterilised containers in the fridge for 2 to 4 days, or completely cooled and then frozen in batches.

Benefits of almond milk: Low in calories, loaded with vitamins such as A and D, rich in calcium and phosphorus, free of saturated fats and cholesterol and full of healthy fats.

Reasons to make your own: Much cheaper than store-bought; fresher.

How to make it:

(see my step-by-step guide with images here).

Soak 2 cups of raw, blanched almonds in water overnight. Drain, rinse and add to a blender with 4 cups of water. Pulse a few times to break up the nuts, then blend on high speed for ten minutes. Optional: Add honey or maple syrup if you desire a sweeter milk.

Strain through a sieve lined with a nut milk bag and squeeze all the milk out – see below:

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Don’t discard the almond pulp! Instead, spread it out on a baking tray and bake it at low temperature for about 3 hours, until dry. You now have almond meal to use in baking, smoothies or for a protein boost, or you can throw it into your food processor (when it’s cool) and process until you have almond flour.

Cashew milk

One of the creamiest of all the nut milks, and also one of the easiest to make because you don’t need to strain it.

What to use it for: Thanks to its creamy flavour and refreshing taste, many people enjoy drinking it on its own. It can also be used in cereal, hot drinks and smoothies, or to make yoghurt or ice cream. See my coconut and cashew yoghurt recipe here.

How to store it: In sterilised containers in the fridge for 2 or 3 days, or cooled completely and then frozen in batches.

Benefits of cashew milk: You get a big nutrient bang for your buck – iron, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and zinc – plus loads of protein and fibre.

Reasons to make your own: Can be hard to find in the shops; much cheaper to make your own; always fresh.

How to make it:

Soak one cup of raw, preferably organic cashews in water overnight. Strain, rinse and then place in a blender with 3 to 4 cups of water (depending on how creamy you want it). Pulse a few times to break up the nuts, and then blend on high for a few minutes. Give it a stir to make sure all the nuts have been broken down – if not, process for a few more minutes.

Allow to stand for 15 minutes, then scoop the foamy layer off the top. Drink immediately, use in a recipe or store.

The Blender Girl offers this helpful tip for choosing cashews:

Always purchase from a supplier where there is a high turnover to ensure freshness and quality. Look for plump cashews that are uniform in colour. Avoid the limp and shrivelled ones. Cashews should smell nutty and sweet. If they have a sharp or bitter smell they have gone rancid. To preserve the precious oils, store cashews in a sealed glass jar in the fridge for up to six months. Always soak cashews before using to remove the enzyme inhibitors and make them more digestible.

Coconut milk

This is one of the cheapest nut milks to make and also extremely versatile. I love whipping up a fresh batch whenever I’m preparing the rest of my ingredients for a curry.

What to use it for: In curries (especially Indian, Thai and Asian curries); in desserts – both raw and baked; in smoothies, soups and cocktails; over cereal, in stews and even in breakfast foods. Use it to add an exotic sweet tang to almost anything you like, or use it to make a delicious, dairy-free yoghurt (see recipe above).

How to store it: Fresh coconut is best consumed right away or stored overnight in the fridge. Otherwise, as with other nut milks, allow to cool completely and then freeze in sterilised containers. If you are fortunate enough to have access to fresh coconuts, here’s a great step-by-step guide to making fresh coconut milk.

Benefits of coconut milk: High in vitamins including vitamins C, E and B3, B5 and B6, and contains fibre, iron, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. It should however be consumed in moderation, especially if you’re watching your waistline. Lower the KJ count by making it ‘lite’ – simply dilute it more.

Reasons to make your own: Much cheaper than store-bought, always fresh, no dodgy additives, preservatives or other unhealthy ingredients; can be lower in kilojoules.

How to make it:

Add 1 cup of fresh grated coconut or dry/dessicated coconut to a blender with 1.5 – 2 cups of warm (not boiling) water. The less water you use, the thicker and creamier it will be. Pulse a few times, then blend on high for about 5 minutes. Pour the milk through a sieve lined with a nut milk bag and strain, squeezing out as much of the milk as you can. Discard the pulp.

Please feel free to share any other nut milk recipes you have, as well as any ideas for using, storing and enjoying your nut milk. Cheers! 😉