This wasn’t meant to go up for a few more weeks, but it’s my birthday today and I realized it was probably time.
It’s been… years at this point, since I last did a dedicated post about my personal health battles. It’s never something I’ve been shy about discussing, but we’re way overdue for a dedicated chat.
Though I have always been open about my health – and struggles with managing said health, the thing that most interferes with my life didn’t have a name until this past year. Well I suppose it always had a name, but it took most of my life to find out what it was. I went pretty in-depth in a [much] earlier post about certain aspects of dealing with my invisible illnesses, but it is quite outdated at this point so be prepared for a little backstory. (I am not going to be discussing my medications in this post even though I have talked about them in the past and some have changed since then, it just wasn’t integral to the story I’m sharing here, but I will happily answer any questions).
I guess I’ve always had health issues. Thinking back, I remember pain as young as four, I remember signs of interstitial cystitis and irritable bowel at nine and 10. Of course I didn’t have the words then, and even if I did, I don’t think I understood that what was happening was very very wrong.
My parents love to tell this story about my difficulty grasping Russian and English languages simultaneously and telling them, at four years old, that my hand felt nauseous. Knowing everything we know now, that story is a lot less funny.
I remember driving with my family from Paris to Nice (about 12 hours) and begging to stop because I kept having to pee. I was a few weeks shy of turning 10 and remember asking my mom if her panty liners would be sufficient if I couldn’t hold it between stops. (Nevermind that I was also exhausted from repeated attempts to not urinate on myself at literal-hole-in-the-floor French rest stop toilets).
This is… this is not even fake pho. This is a supremely lazy/fast approach to a slightly-influenced-by-Vietnamese-Pho dinner, but one that always goes off without a hitch in my house and can pretty much be done with any veg and meat you have. So here it is, my ultra-faux pho.
Your ingredients list can really go any which way you like, but here are the basics for 2-3 servings:
1 quart chicken, beef, or mushroom broth (or half and half meat/veg)
1 lb meat (meatballs, sausage, shredded chicken, etc)
1 vegetable that you can make noodles out of (zucchini, sweet potato)
1-2 handfuls green leafy vegetables (baby bok choy, spinach, etc)
1-2 handfuls chopped mushrooms (optional)
4-6 eggs Togarashi, to taste
Using a spiralizer, julienne peeler, or just a regular vegetable peeler, turns your noodling vegetable into said noodles. You can also buy pre-noodled zucchini or sweet potato – they are increasingly available in grocery stores (Trader Joe’s sells sweet potato ribbons and they are fantastic).
In the realm of paleo, primal, keto, slow carb, and Whole30…what you choose to shovel into your face each day really comes down to personal preference. For most of the last 4.5 years, I have been following the slow carb diet as per Tim Ferriss’s book The 4-Hour Body. This summer, after a second round of Whole30 (which you can read about here), I’ve decided to make a small yet simultaneously substantial change. I’m going paleo. Strict paleo, not the “here I made paleo blueberry muffins” kind of nonsense. Basically Whole30 with select days to enjoy my food freedom.
I could probably spend a full day talking your ears eyes off about why I’m making the switch, and The Boyfriend is joining me too, but instead I’ve broken it down into a few main points.
Results: This round of Whole30 has been so wonderfully successful for me, for both physical health and mental health and yes, weight loss too. My weight is something I’ve struggled with quite a bit since my muscle disease started showing itself back in 2010. (Which reminds me, I haven’t done a chronic illness update in years at this point, coming right up!) I made more progress in weight loss and chronic pain relief on this Whole30 than in the last few years of slow carb combined. A paleo-leaning lifestyle just works better with my body and my life and really, that’s enough on its own to make me switch things up.
In a previous post I mentioned that The Boyfriend and I (and 11 of our friends and relatives that I annoyed into submission) would be doing a Whole30 challenge this month. This is my second time doing it, and I had great results in terms of health and how I felt after the first one we did in November 2015 (pro-tip: would not recommend doing it over a major holiday).
This past week, after all the holiday festivities, I Whole30-fied our entire fridge and pantry – ditched all the things that make us sick and we should avoid longterm (anything with soy, really) and hid all the other indulgent stuff that wasn’t going to expire for a while (mostly just the hot fudge and the balsamic glaze). With so many of our friends (and my mom!) doing Whole30 for the first time, I was reminded just how much work went into the “spices and condiments” category of finding approved foods. Even for the basics, like salad dressing, the compliant options available to us are often limited at best. Five years into the slow carb game and on the heels of my second Whole30 and a new paleo life, here are the spice blends, condiments, and other pantry staples I rely on to get meals done. Each item will be labeled for Paleo, Whole30, and/or Slow Carb.
Let me know in the comments if you guys like this “Essentials” series, I’ve got plenty more ideas!
Teeny Tiny Spice Company Tandoori Masala – paleo, whole30, slow carb – Sadly my beloved British Curry is not Whole30 compliant due to some added maple sugar (ok for paleo), but the brand’s Tandoori Masala is an excellent consolation prize. I love to use it in my Indian style chicken curries with onions, garlic, and broccoli. It also makes a great marinade mixed with coconut milk for slow cooked chicken, crispy chicken thighs*, and lamb too.
* this recipe calls for both the British Curry and Tandoori Masala blends, you can definitely just use the Tandoori Masala! I would probably add some turmeric for good measure.
If you checked out my most recent recipe or follow me on Instagram, you may have picked up on some recent little grumblings about Whole30. It’s often referred to as the Whole30 challenge, but it’s essentially a 30 day elimination diet that sounds a lot like paleo on steroids… or I guess, paleo on definitely no steroids whatsoever. The Boyfriend and I completed a round of Whole30 in November of 2015 and despite the struggle of sticking to the rules through Thanksgiving and managing the lack of local/seasonal produce in the winter, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience. We learned so much about our bodies – well, my body mostly – like that I am super sensitive to soy, and for the sake of my skin as well as any living creature in my general vicinity, I should probably not consume dairy, even on slow carb’s allotted cheat days.
We’re coming up on two years since our first Whole30 and I have been itching for another one. If we could make it through a round in November, then summer – with farmers’ markets and damn near everything in bloom – should be a piece of cake (except actually not cake at all because it’s definitely not Whole30 approved).
I don’t know what it is about Thai food, but I crave it constantly. Much to my dismay, rice noodles do not fit anywhere into our slow carb or Whole30 lives, so I’ve had to learn to cook some of the good stuff all on my own. This Thai Red Curry chicken is so easy and quick, this might be a new weekly event in our house!
I get our Thai Red Curry paste from a local brand called Thai & True, but any brand is fine as long as it is slow carb/paleo/Whole30 compliant (whichever one you need it to be). I also use a wok-style oil that’s infused with lemongrass and ginger, but this is just something I have on hand and like to use, any cooking fat will do just fine for this recipe! In general, I highly recommend avocado oil and beef tallow for most cooking needs (though beef tallow may not be the best choice for this particular recipe).
Large non-stick pan
Spatula or stirring utensil
I have to admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of chicken thighs – or any dark meat really, but The Boyfriend loves it so I’ve spent…many years trying to find a way to love it. This accidental concoction (in that, I didn’t know just how good it would actually be) has been the answer to all our dark vs light meat problems and it is so quick to put together! You can even prep the night before if needed, for all you meal plan lovers like me.
Large ziplock bag
Cast iron skillet
4 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
1 can coconut milk
2 tbsp British curry powder
1 tbsp Tandoori Masala
2 tsp turmeric (optional)
High-temp cooking oil (avocado oil, tallow/lard)
Salt, to taste
This recipe can definitely be prepped the night before, but as long as you’ve got at least four hours, it’ll be just as good.
Place chicken thighs in a large ziplock bag. Gently add all spices/seasonings and a pinch of salt to the bag – I like to be a little strategic about this and try to pour the dried spices down the sides of the bag rather than directly onto the chicken. This will make it a little easier to distribute.
It has finally happened! A sugar-free, completely slow carb and paleo barbecue sauce! I’m sure anything remotely authentic will put it to shame, but hey, you can have this one any night of the week.
This sauce is super quick to put together and goes great with any protein, but we’ve particularly enjoyed it with boneless pork ribs and chicken thighs so far.
You will need:
A small pot
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp grass-fed butter
1 can tomato paste
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce*
1 tsp yellow mustard
1 tbsp liquid smoke
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cayenne
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently until the mixture becomes a uniform sauce. Taste and adjust flavors accordingly. If it tastes too sweet or has too much tomato flavor, add a splash of Worcestershire sauce and/or 1 tsp apple cider vinegar. Stir to combine, adjust as needed.
Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use. Consume within two days.
* Please note, while Worcestershire sauce does have some sugar, it is ~ 1g per serving and is not a material amount for this recipe.
Wings are such a quick, easy, and often very cheap way to make everyone happy. They’re frequently labeled at the butcher counter as “party wings” and are already split up into the flat wing and the drumette, which is perfect for me because The Boyfriend prefers the drums and I want *all* the flats. For a little while I was preparing a new recipe each time we wanted wings, until I finally figured out my “go to” or The Default. If you love wings, but you and your meal buddy want different flavors, this is the recipe for you. The Default delivers perfectly crispy wings with a delicious dry rub every time, ready to be eaten as is or drenched in your sauce of choice.
Large glass pan
1-2 lbs “party wings”
2 tbsp cooking oil or animal fat of choice
1-2 tbsp granulated garlic
2-3 tsp Diamond Crystal salt
Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease one or two glass pans with your fat of choice, using a silicone brush or other preferred utensil to coat the whole bottom of the pan and up the sides. (You may need two pans if you are making more than one pound of wings, if they are too close together, it can overcrowd the pan and they won’t cook as well or as evenly).
I really love shellfish, almost all of them, and especially when they are cooked with Asian and Indonesian flavors like sambal oelek (chili paste), soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Recipes like this pop up a lot when the sun is out and the grill is hot, but in the meantime, it makes a nice dish for a chilly night in too.
1 large nonstick pan
1 large microwave-safe bowl