Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hearty Beef Vegetable Soup

I'm still on the soup train.

Soup and stew has become a weekly menu item at my house for multiple reasons: 1) it's easy to make, 2) it's hearty and healthy, and 3) it lasts for many meals!

Who doesn't like using a crockpot?  I used to associate "crockpot meals" as being unhealthy and artery clogging, but as I started to explore and use the crockpot more, I realized you can make so many healthy and nutritious recipes with the crockpot!  Besides making soups, you can cook meats and roasts, make breads, and so many other items!  Being a mama, the other great thing I love about using the crockpot is that I can dump all the ingredients in, turn it on, and walk away.  Simple, simple, simple.  Dream word in my life right now.

I have been making a lot of creamy soups lately but wanted to get on board with a hearty vegetable soup with some organic ground beef.  I find that making soups like this are just as filling as creamy soups and are such a simple way to load up on veggies!  With cooler weather around the corner, these warm meals are great to enjoy in preparation for fall, and my favorite for rainy days.

Another great thing about making vegetable soups is that you can really make it however you want.  I pretty much find whatever veggies are in my fridge and add them in!  This is also a great way to make use of vegetables that seemingly might be "bad" and not fresh enough for salads or by themselves.  You can easily salvage these veggies (super awesome way to save money when eating organic too!) and use for stews and soups.

Hope you enjoy this recipe...we love it!  Enjoy!

Hearty Beef Vegetable Soup (GF, DF, soy free, paleo, AIP, GAPS, Whole 30, Body Ecology)

7 to 8 cups chicken or beef stock/broth (depending on how hearty you want your soup!)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 medium beet, skin removed and chopped in 1 inch cubes
1 medium sweet potato, chopped into 1 inch cubes
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 small cauliflower or 1/2 large cauliflower head, small florets
1/2 cup organic peas
1/2 cup organic corn kernels
1 pound organic grassed beef (may use pound of other cut of beef or game)
seasonings to taste and based on your diet needs (optional)

Take out crockpot and turn on high. Pre-cook the beef in crockpot by placing in and spreading over bottom of pot and cooking for 2 hours, making sure it is well broken up.  Then add broth and all the veggies. Cook for 6 to 7 hours on low and then serve!  May keep in refrigerator for a week or free for future use.



Sunday, August 16, 2015

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

If you follow my blog, you know that I'm nuts about fall and all the food that goes with it.  Pumpkin is hands down my favorite ingredient, but squash is certainly close.  I love how versatile squash is and all the varieties there are to choose from!

Doing paleo, whole 30, autoimmune protocol, or whatever diet you are on can be very limiting for your meals.  However, squash is one of those ingredients that fits into every lifestyle and diet you need and is extremely nutritious.

Butternut squash is no exception.  One of the most common varieties of winter squash, it is loaded with fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E.  It also contains thiamin, niacin, Vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium and manganese.  All these vitamins and minerals help keep your skin and hair healthy, boost immune function, and decrease inflammation.

What can you use butternut squash for?  Besides this soup recipe, you can use it in a morning porridge, sauces, baking and pancakes, desserts, ravioli stuffing, and so much more! Pinterest people :o)

What's great about my butternut squash soup recipe is that it's a hearty and thick soup, keeping you full and warm.  You can add more veggies to it if you like or keep the recipe as is.  Again, you will need a crockpot and just a handful of ingredients.  You might also find that you would like to add a pork loin or chicken breast if you want to add a protein to compliment your soup.  Hope you enjoy this recipe :o)

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup (GF, DF, soy free, paleo, whole 30, AIP, GAPS, SCD)

2 medium cooked butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 cups organic chicken broth
1 container (or 2 cups) Arroy D full fat coconut milk
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 tspn cinnamon
1/4 tspn himalayan sea salt
1/2 tspn cloves
1/2 tspn ginger
1/2 tspn tumeric
1/2 tspn curry powder
1/2 tspn cumin

Preheat oven to 350. Split, peel, and remove seeds from your squash. Cut into 1 inch cubes and bake for 45 minutes.  Put half of butternut squash in crockpot and other half into blender or food processor to puree.  Add puree to crockpot.  Then add chicken broth, coconut milk, chopped veggies and seasonings crockpot. Stir thoroughly. Cook on low for 6 hours and then serve or refrigerate leftovers. Enjoy!



Saturday, August 15, 2015

Avocado Sandwich Bread

Avocado is one of the most versatile ingredients out joke.  This fruit (technically) has got to be one of my favorite ingredients in smoothies, baked goods, and to add to dishes due to its creamy taste and good-for-you fats.

Avocado bread?! Yes, it's possible.  And I've got a great new recipe for you :o)

We haven't bought sandwich bread since I don't know when in this house.  Not because they don't make gluten-free sandwich bread but because to be a gluten-free sandwich bread at the store, there are usually added ingredients to create shelf life.  If you are purchasing fresh bread from a gluten free bakery, its price is usually out the wazoo! And no one, me included, wants to spend up to $10 on sandwich bread!

So occasionally I make my own when I have the time, ingredients, and when I'm in a baking mood!  I wanted to try to make a loaf with avocado because we have a couple fresh ones from my mom's avocado tree, they were already getting pretty ripe so I wanted to put them to good use.  Unfortunately, my sweet baby boy has a sensitivity to the avocado I eat through my breastmilk, so I have had to avoid it since I discovered this about two months ago.  But I still love using the ingredient in recipes for my husband, and I will eventually be able to have it again too!

You probably already know that avocado is good for you.  They are a naturally nutrient-dense food containing nearly 20 vitamins and minerals.  In addition, they are healthy for the heart, great for vision, help with osteoporosis prevention, are a cancer fighter via their high amount of folate, improve digestion, and can aid in detoxification of the body.  Avocados are higher in fat, but its fat in the form of omega 3s, helping keep your brain strong and your appetite satiated.

You will love this advocate bread recipe.  It's easy to make, sugar-free, and steps in as a great sandwich bread recipe substitute.  Give it a try and enjoy!

Avocado Sandwich Bread (GF, DF, soy-free, sugar-free, whole 30, paleo)

6 organic eggs (medium is fine)
1 cup avocado puree (will take 2 large avocados
1/2 cup flaxseed
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour or arrowroot powder
1 tspn baking powder
dash of himilayan sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine eggs and avocado puree until well mixed in medium bowl.  In another medium bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Then add dry ingredients, using mixer to thoroughly combine into egg and avocado puree.  Place batter into well greased loaf pan.  Bake at 40 to 45 minutes until edges start to become golden brown.



Sunday, August 9, 2015

Pumpkin-Carrot-Chicken Coconut Curry Soup


That's exactly what this soup is and that's not exaggerating.  People who know me know that I love the Fall.  And summer in Florida can't go by quick enough to get there!

Besides the fact that its not hotter than Hades anymore here (usually!), I love the flavors and festivities of Fall.  What does it symbolize to me? Good food, football, and time with family and friends.

This soup has got to be one of my favorite new recipes to date.  In fact I think it is right up there with my Better Than Panera's Broccoli Cheese Soup!  It's pretty simple to make.  You just need a crockpot to get things going!

I'm a big proponent that pumpkin shouldn't just be saved for the fall.  And I'm not just talking about that pumpkin flavoring in your Starbucks drink!  When pumpkins are in season, they are that much better, but even out of season, they are delicious and nutritious for you.  I also find that pumpkin puree is a great sweet treat if you are avoiding sugar like I am currently.  While a decadent starch, it is fortunately low glycemic, so your body doesn't react to it quite the same way as other starches and fruits.  

Here's a reminder of why pumpkin is so awesome as taken from my Paleo Pumpkin Bread recipe post:

1) Pumpkin is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food- so it helps joint health, organ health, and soft tissue injuries. 

2) It is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C, so it protects the eyes and immune health.  A 1 cup serving of pumpkin contains more than 7 times the daily value of Vitamin A!!

3) Pumpkin is rich in fiber, which helps wash out toxins and improve digestion.

4) The pulp and seeds are rich in magnesium for bone and tooth health.

5) It can help you meet your iron needs! This helps make hemoglobin which helps transport oxygen throughout the body.

6) Pumpkin is high in zinc, providing almost half the daily recommended intake of zinc!  Zinc helps support female reproductive health and fertility, as well as helps to prevent cancer and boost immune health.

7) Forget bananas! Pumpkin is one of the highest sources among fruits and vegetables in potassium! This helps with cardiovascular health and aids in muscle and electrolyte recovery.

I KNOW you will enjoy this soup.  With just a little bit of kick, it makes an easy and tasty curry.  This is also a great way to use your chicken broth/stock.  Can't wait to hear what everybody thinks!

Pumpkin-Carrot-Chicken Coconut Curry Soup (GF, DF, soy-free, AIP, whole 30, GAPS, body ecology)

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (make sure this is pumpkin and not pumpkin pie puree)
1 cup pureed carrots
1 cup spinach (cooked and drained)
2 containers Arroy D full fat coconut milk (this equates to about 3 3/4 cups)
2 cups chicken stock bone broth
3 cups of sweet potatoes cut in 1 inch cubes
1 pound chicken breasts or thighs cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tbsp curry powder
1 tspn bay leaves
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1/2 tspn himilayan sea salt
1/4 tspn tumeric
1/4 tspn ginger
1/4 tspn cumin
1/4 tspn cloves
1/4 tspn ground black pepper

Add to 4 quart crockpot or large slow cooker coconut milk, pumpkin puree, carrot puree, chicken stock, curry powder, turmeric powder, bay leaves, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, cloves, and pepper.  Whisk together to make sure it is combined well and spices are evenly distributed.  Then add the garlic, onion, sweet potatoes, chicken breasts.  Stir to coat and incorporate into soup.  Cook on low for 6 hours, then serve.  May be refrigerated for leftovers or placed in freezer for leftovers past a week's time.  Enjoy!



Sunday, August 2, 2015

Birth Control: the good, the bad and the SUPER ugly!

Birth control.  Pretty hot topic right.

Disclaimer:  This article is meant to inform, not offend.

I was on birth control for many years.  Most women I know are on or were on it for many years.  The common result?  Disrupted hormones.

Follow me a little bit here.

No one can deny the fact that birth control makes an excellent contraceptive.  By mimicking your hormones, it can prevent pregnancy from occurring while the female is ovulating.  Pills that contain high amounts of estrogen convince your pituitary gland that you are pregnant and don't need to ovulate.  Birth control can help amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea symptoms, thus regulating the periods and menstrual flow.  It can help with a teenage nightmare: Acne!  But what is in birth control and what is it doing in your body?

I was on birth control for many years.  I was started on it when I was 16 years old, primarily because I hadn't yet gotten my period, and I was already experiencing bone density loss due to my eating disorder.  I didn't have enough body fat to get nor sustain a period, and the low estrogen was affecting my bones.  Being placed on birth control was a quick and easy solution, minus the fact that I was disgusted by the concept of having a period.  I didn't realize then what I figured out years later, which is how important your menstrual cycle is to your overall health and why it needs to be as regular and normal as possible to support your own health.

I continued to take birth control for several years...till I was 24.  I was more of an on and off user in the beginning, mostly dictated by what mood I was in and if I felt like getting my period.  Later, when I hit college, I was a more consistent user, all the way up to marriage.  That's when I was placed on a new birth control, and I felt my mood and hormones were more wacky then ever before!

Interestingly, I find this to be the testimony of most of my friends who have taken birth control.  They either have dealt with crazy hormonal imbalance, infertility or early perimenopausal symptoms.  These are girls in their 20s and 30s.  What gives?

What's disappointing is birth control is not designed to be a long term solution.  Yet, because many women start on it in their teens, many are on it for up to twenty years or more, with few to no intermissions.  Here are some of the "bad and the ugly" that birth control can do to the body:

1) Disrupt the gut flora
2) Disrupt the hormones
3) Imbalance and depletion of vitamins and trace minerals
4) Loss of libido and sexual impairment

Think about it.  You are ingesting synthetic hormones to interrupt your natural cycle.  Here are some mild side effects that can be caused by birth control:

1) Migraines (interesting article regarding OCP and migraines)
2) Higher blood pressure
3) Decreased bone density (read this article)
4) Yeast overgrowth and infection (not good for anybody but especially those with or predisposed to autoimmune disease; see this post)
5) Increased risk of cervical and breast cancers (check out this article)
6) Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
7) Increased risk of clotting (check out this article)
8) Increased mood swings (check out this study)

What's super bad for mamas? Birth control can mess with your milk production.  The article "Birth Control Side Effects: What You Need to Know About Contraceptives," shares that if you are breastfeeding, it is best to steer clear of pills that contain estrogen, as they can decrease breast milk production by up to 5%.  As any breastfeeding mama knows, 5% is no small number!  Progestin-only pills don't interfere with lactation, but have to be taken at the same time every day because they are slightly less effective than combination pills.

The thing people must realize who use birth control for acnes, amenorrhea and hormonal imbalance is that birth control is a bandaid, and it does not get to the root of the problem.  Your body is trying to tell you something!  You might need to cleanse your liver, decrease the stress in your life, or address thyroid and/or adrenal imbalance.  Birth control may improve your symptoms for a short time, but your body is likely at overall greater risk in the long run.

So what are other effective, healthier types of birth control? Your best bets are "barrier" methods, such as diaphragms and condoms.  Combining two of the following natural methods can also work:

1) Cervical mucus: this method has a 98% success rate; your vaginal discharge changes with your changing estrogen levels and when it resembles raw egg white, ovulation is near.  There might not be any following menstruation, and intercourse should be avoided until four days following its disappearance or when it becomes cloudy and sticky.

2) Temperature: Take your basal temperature when you wake.  Normal is 97.2 to 97.7 degrees before ovulation, and hormonal changes boost it by 0.5 to 1.6 degrees.  Avoid intercourse until your temperature returns to normal.

3) Calendar Method: Avoid sex the week you are ovulating.  However, to track this accurately you should really track your periods for a year.  You should subtract 18 from the number of days of your shortest cycle; this is when you are likely fertile and should avoid intercourse.

I don't recommend the withdrawal method, as it is only 60 to 80% effective.  The great thing about these natural methods too is they are free! Who doesn't like to save a few extra dollars- or up to 1000 dollars a year with the cost of some birth controls.  More information about natural birth control can be found on Mind Body Green's web site or on this article by Medicinenet.

I truly hope this post can guide you and inform you in choosing what the best form of birth control is for your body...for right now and in the future.  It is a huge responsibility and one not to be taken lightly.  If you are birth control for medical reasons, at the very least I hope this information can help you be more aware of potential side effects and can guide you to seek optimal gut health to keep your body healthy and strong! Please feel free to add a comment, ask me questions or offer feedback!