Getting Started on Wahls Paleo Plus

If you’re following the Wahls Protocol for overall health or to heal from an auto-immune disorder, “Tracking the Wahls Paleo Plus” by Petra8Paleo provides a plan for tracking your daily diet. I highly recommend grabbing a cup of tea and settling in for a rewarding hour or so to browse the other information in this very helpful blog.

I’ve  re-created Petra8Paleo’s tracking sheet using PowerPoint, because I find it easier to manipulate, and I am thinking I might want to modify it over time to better meet my needs. Here’s a pic of my tracking sheet:

Wahls Paleo Plus Tracking

Kombucha: ancient remedy for modern tummies

I have never been in love with pickled foods. Well, other than beets. I do adore pickled beets. But for years I tormented my digestive system with the sterile processed foods that were so quick to eat – and, as I discovered, so painful to digest without a nice dose of living, friendly pro-biotic along for the ride. Fermented foods, it turns out, are a declining component of the average diet – yet there are many great reasons for seeking them out!

Enter Kombucha Tea – a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. I had been wanting to try this friendly ferment for quite awhile when I learned that a friend had a baby Kombucha (a SCOBY – Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) to give away. I took that sweet little SCOBY into my home, and I’ve never looked back! She is now mother to a number of offspring who have gone on to raise their own babies in various kitchens around Phoenix.

I was nervous, at first. What if my SCOBY developed “bad bacteria”? I was scrupulous – perhaps a bit obsessive compulsive – in my super-sterile approach to caring for my Kombucha tea. Since then, I have relaxed quite a bit. Kombucha creates its own very powerful probiotic blend, and is very effective at defeating the not-so-friendly bacteria that it encounters. I’m still a stickler for cleanliness, but I’ve relaxed quite a bit about my brew.

If you have an opportunity to adopt a SCOBY, and are interested in improving your digestive health with very little time and effort, I highly recommend that you take that SCOBY home and begin! There are a number of excellent online resources for getting started. The best, for newbies, is culturesforhealth.com. Their videos are easy to follow, and tell you most of what you need to know.  I highly recommend that you watch their starter video before you begin your Kombucha journey. Once you have the basics under your belt, you might like a quick 1-2-3 to remind yourself of the steps to follow. Below is my shorthand version of my own process – taken from CulturesforHealth and blended with a number of other great online resources:

  1. Boil 2 cups of water (filtered is good, but boiling will remove the chlorine, so you can use boiled tap water in a pinch)
  2. Stir in 1 cup white sugar (organic preferred) and 4-5 teaspoons loose leaf tea (black will have a “darker” flavor – I prefer white or green tea)
  3. Steep the tea for 4-5 minutes – then filter out the tea leaves and add another 4 cups of cool filtered (or pre-boiled) water
  4. When water is room temperature, add your SCOBY plus at least 1 cup of Kombucha tea from a prior batch (this is your “starter”). You can substitute organic, raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar.
  5. Cover with an unbleached coffee filter or cotton cloth (I cut an old white t-shirt into 8-inch squares). Secure with a tight rubber band, and place somewhere away from direct sunlight or heat. An open shelf or the top of the fridge are good places – the culture needs some light to do its work. Keep away from cleaning chemicals.
  6. Wait about a week, and taste-test the tea. If it is too sweet for you, leave it awhile longer, and the SCOBY will continue to consume the sugar in the water. I have left my Kombucha tea for up to 5 weeks – it gets increasingly acidic, and tastes a bit like apple cider vinegar. (It can be substituted for vinegar for a nice pro-biotic boost in recipes as well).
  7. Distill the tea into glass jars, and throw in some candied ginger and strawberries, or another sweet fruit for a secondary ferment,* and ENJOY!

* Some Websites don’t warn you against ferments that get a bit too lively. If your house is at all warm, I highly recommend unscrewing the lid, daily, during your secondary fermentation phase. This lets off a bit of the pressure. I experienced a kitchen explosion one day when my fermenting Kombucha got a little too bubbly!

Affordable organic eating…

Eating healthy, clean food (organic and non-processed) does not have to cost a lot. Check out “100 Days of Real Food” for some great tips on eating healthy foods on a budget.

In our household, one of the main ways we save is by eating in. No more restaurants except on rare occasions – maybe once or twice a month. I prepare all our lunches, so we avoid those “undocumented” fast food runs at work. And now that I feel somewhat seasoned in the kitchen, throwing food together into a tasty meal is much easier than it used to be.

We no longer have those 5:30 pm moments of desperation – running out for burgers or Thai food because I’m too tired to cook anything.

grass fed

This goes a significant distance in helping us afford organic produce, grass-fed beef and free-range chickens – all of which cost more than their non-organic counterparts, which my family refers to simply as “factory farmed.”

In addition, there are a number of items we no longer purchase. These used to fluff up the grocery bill quite substantially:

  • Cheese
  • Fruit juice (only rarely)
  • Juice boxes and bottled waters
  • Soda
  • Milk
  • Lunch meats
  • Crackers
  • Salad dressing

The first four items on this list used to be staples in our diet, so we bought a LOT. We have replaced these with… nothing. Cheese (I’m covering my head in case someone throws a ripe one at me) is basically an unnecessary food. Yes, I used to enjoy it too – but surprisingly, it was the easiest food to give up.

The juices and sodas can simply be replaced with water. We do sometimes splurge on organic apple cider or something equally clean and heavenly, but for the most part we avoid drinking our calories.

milkMilk we have replaced with rice milk and almond milk, and this has been pretty much a 1 to 1 swap. I use these alternatives in everything: coffee, recipes, you name it.

Lunch meat is another item I don’t really miss. While I sometimes buy organic lunch meats (like Applegate brand) without added nitrates, I generally don’t buy lunch meat anymore. When we have sandwiches, I use chicken or ham or another meat we had for dinner within the past day or two.

Crackers are easy to replace with raw veggies and fruits, which cost a whole lot less.

835854_dinner_saladSalad dressing was one of the last items to go. I used to spend ridiculous amounts of time standing in front of the organic dressings at the store, searching for a blend that didn’t have any of my “no” ingredients. I have no idea why I waited so long to begin making it myself. It’s quite easy, as long as you have things on hand like mustard, honey, olive oil, lemon juice, and a few fresh herbs – throw a good mix of ingredients into the blender and pulse a few times, and the flavor can’t be beat by any pricey dressing off the shelf – and there are no added chemicals and preservatives. Great stuff!

So whatever your reason for making the shift toward healthier food, don’t lose sleep over the cost. Over time, the expenses from your “past eating life” will begin to fall away, as they are replaced by purchases that may be pricier, but bring lasting value and health to you and your family.

A word about allergy-friendly mixes…

In the first year of my gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free, soy-free, egg-free journey, I spent many months avoiding all processed foods: anything pre-mixed in a bag or a box I assumed to be contaminated with additives.

My assumption was based on the number of boxes and bags I had to throw in the trash because of the high fructose corn syrup, the cornstarch, the casein and other processed milk proteins, the sulfites, and even the “natural” flavors in many of these foods. (Please note: there is frequently nothing natural about “natural flavors.” This is where your chemicals and additives creep in.) I plan to create my own “how to cleanse your kitchen” post, but until then, here is a great set of kitchen detox guidelines.

So it took me awhile, and several hours of browsing the organic section of my local grocery store (more about stores and my discovery of Whole Foods Market in another post), before I discovered that there are CLEAN mixes – and they save time!

This may be a good opportunity to mention that I work full time, spend 1.5 hours per weekday commuting, have a school-aged kid, and that we are busy with various classes most evenings of the work week.

Add to this: I prepare all of our food, mostly from scratch. I bake our bread and any treats, and I cook our meals all week long. We’re a family that doesn’t “do” leftovers very well. I can get two days out of a meal, but we all get cranky when we have to eat something three days in a row.

And I’m lazy. By that, I mean that I will always choose the quickest and easiest path, assuming it doesn’t create MORE work (illness, stomach cramps, headaches) down the road. I have learned to really enjoy cooking – but there are other things I love to do too, and I’m not going to spend every waking hour preparing food.

So – yes – I have discovered healthy mixes. They make me happy. You will see references to these mixes in many of my posts here. Please note that I don’t get any kickbacks for mentioning products. These are products I use and enjoy, and I want to get the word out. The better these companies do, the more products they will create. My kickback is their success!

Awesome pancakes – gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, corn-free

My son and I love to have pancakes for breakfast from time to time. I have tried various gluten-free mixes, but none really satisfied… or they were good, but they contained dairy.  Then I came across Allie’s Awesome Buckwheat Pancake Mix that we could both tolerate, and voilá! Yes, my “Aha!” is the discovery of another mix. You can learn more about why I use so many mixes if you’re wondering…

FYI – I am relatively new to gluten intolerance, so I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that I used to think buckwheat was – well – WHEAT! But it is not. Read more about buckwheat – it is a nice grain to add into your diet.

We add all kinds of mix-ins: a handful of frozen blueberries, some sliced bananas or strawberries… whatever we’re in the mood for!

When we need some extra protein, I cook up some Applegate breakfast sausages. FYI, Applegate’s products are delicious, about as healthy as meats CAN be, and almost all Gluten-Free. They offer an FAQ on which ones are not gluten-free.

Bon appétit!

Five gluten-free living blogs

There are fantastic blogs out there, many by women who have been living and cooking gluten-free long before it became “cool.”

I have enjoyed the following blogs very much. I invite you to add others by commenting below. I hope to return to this list frequently to update and add more great resources:

  1. Elana’s Pantry – Elana’s blog is by far one of the best online resources for GF resources and recipes, as well as recipes addressing a number of other food sensitivities. Elana’s style is elegant and wise, expanding to a number of other topics having to do with healthy living.
  2. Gluten-Free Goddess – Karina Allrich has earned a well-deserved reputation in the world of Gluten-free recipes. Her blog also features Vegan and vegetarian recipes. Well worth a visit!
  3. Gluten-Free on a Shoestring – Nicole Hunn has an amazing sense of humor and I love her recipes. They are easy to follow and I have tried many with good success.
  4. Simply Gluten-Free – Carol Kicinski is one of my more recent finds. I enjoy her style, and I particularly love the sections of her blog that feature recipes for folks with other food sensitivities. Check out her peanut satay recipe, for example: GF, DF, and (drum roll)… nut free!
  5. Ginger Lemon Girl – This is a new discovery for me, and I’m looking forward to exploring her recipes. Carrie Forbes is the Ginger Lemon Girl, and she has some creative approaches to GF recipes.

Gluten-free bread that tastes good

Nearly two years ago I discovered that my body was not tolerating wheat protein, dairy and egg – among other things. While I could imagine (barely) living without most of the other foods, I was devastated about losing BREAD! Sandwiches have always been my easy go-to food when I “didn’t have time” to cook.

So the first month or two of eating wheat-free was exceedingly difficult. I purchased gluten-free breads at the store that tasted marginally better than styrofoam. My apologies to the companies that make these breads – it is awesome that they are getting edible gluten-free products into the mainstream grocery stores – but they really don’t taste very good!

After several failed attempts to bake my own bread completely from scratch, I settled on using a mix, as you will see below. This is because gluten-free bread is an art AND a science. Bread is glutinous. Glutens react to yeast and heat in an extraordinarily beautiful way. In order to create something resembling bread but without the gluten, we almost have to fight the natural properties of the materials we’re working with. I found that the fewer elements in the equation – the fewer items that could go incrementally awry, the more consistently EXCELLENT my result. So I use a mix. For those of you who are artists/scientists, check out the fantastic GF blogs that help bakers excel. These are worth checking out for the variety of other non-bread recipes, as well as tips, moral support, and frequent humor.

Before reading my tips, please consider these three main reasons not to be afraid of baking your own GF bread:

  1. It is rather like baking muffins – no kneading!
  2. It freezes quite well, so you can bake half as often.
  3. You can’t buy ANYthing in the store that comes close to the taste and consistency of home-baked GF bread!

With the WHY out of the way, here are my top four tips for HOW to bake your own GF bread:

  1. Use a mix – After more than a dozen hit-or-miss attempts to bake GF bread from scratch (my cupboards are stuffed with a wide variety of bean, rice, and tapioca flours now…) I discovered that using a prepared mix is far easier for me. Pamela’s and Uncle Bob’s are my personal favorite bread mixes. Be sure you are using their BREAD mix – they both have many other GF mixes and flour blends.
  2. Use the microwave to help it rise – This tip came from another blogger, and I can no longer find its origin, but it is brilliant. GF dough needs help rising, and falls very easily. It rises best in a damp, warm environment. Here is how you do it:
    • Heat a wet kitchen towel in the microwave for one minute.
    • Place the bread pan in the microwave, positioning the towel around 2-3 sides of the base of the pan.
    • Set kitchen timer for 20 minutes.
    • After 20 minutes, repeat this process – twice. After 60 minutes in the moist microwave, your loaf should have a nice rise. GENTLY move the risen bread to the pre-heated oven for baking.
  3. biscuitsTry biscuits – This GF drop biscuit recipe is one of the staples on my Pinterest “treats” board. It uses Pamela’s Baking and Pancake mix. You won’t BELIEVE how quick and easy they are: 15 minutes and they’re out of the oven! The downside: they’re not an option if you are dairy intolerant. However, if you can handle the dairy, go for it!
  4. Toast it – GF bread is absolutely delicious straight out of the oven – hard to tell the difference from regular bread. Cold, however, it can be a little stiff and flavorless. For best results, toast your GF bread before eating it, and it will be just like fresh-baked.