AIP Cilantro Lime Chicken Soup

I recently made dinner for a friend who is following the Auto-Immune Paleo diet. The AIP diet basically removes anything inflammatory so that your immune system has a chance to heal.  It’s very restrictive (depending on what you’re currently eating, of course), but great for people with auto-immune diseases or for anyone suffering from unexplained health issues and not seeing results from anything else. Since it avoids foods that are most often problematic, it can also help people understand what kind of food allergies they may have without taking the expensive tests.   Another thing about the AIP diet is that everything must be organic to avoid reactions to pesticides, additives, hormones, etc in non-organic foods – see why organic is always the better choice here.

One of my favorite anti-inflammatory, healing foods is bone broth.  It is super easy to make and I always have some on hand to drink or make soups with. So, when I was challenged to make a meal that was AIP-friendly, I knew I wanted to start there. Today, I’m sharing the delicious Cilantro Lime Chicken Soup I concocted by taking the tomatoes and peppers (nightshade veggies are a surprisingly common allergen) out of my Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe.  Even if you’re not following an AIP diet, I promise you’ll love this one!

Ingredients:Cilantro Lime Chicken Soup

  • 1 organic zucchini
  • 1/2 bunch organic celery
  • 3 organic carrots
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 organic chicken cooked and shredded (crock-pot chicken recipe)
  • 8 cups homemade bone broth (or organic chicken broth)
  • 1 tablespoon pink Himalayan salt
  • 1 tablespoon organic olive oil (my favorite brand is Kasandrinos)
  • 1/4 cup diced cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Preparation:

Prep time: about 5 minutes, Cooking time: 35 minutes

  1. Put all the veggies (first 5 ingredients above) into a food processor and blend until puréed.
  2. Add olive oil and puréed veggies to soup pot and sauté over medium heat for 3 minutes.
  3. Add broth and salt to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Add chicken, lime juice and cilantro to the pot and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  5. Serve with fresh avocado slices on top for added texture.

Hope you enjoy!

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What’s Your Dog Eating?

Raw Dog FoodWe all love our pups… they’re not only our best friends, they’re part of our families. We want them to live long, healthy lives as our companions; but, are we giving them the best chance at doing so?

Our family dog, a Wheaton terrier, had several health problems throughout her life.  It was heartbreaking and frustrating that we followed all the vet’s advice for raising a healthy dog and still watched her suffer. Ultimately, her life was cut short because of it all. When I got my schnoodle, Belle, I did a lot of research on everything I could do to raise her in better health.  The information I found lead me to make some dramatic changes, including what I feed her.  I focus so much on putting nutritious foods into my own body, why wouldn’t I do the same for her?

It’s a well-known fact that dogs share a very similar DNA with their canine relatives (like wolves), so, of course, we should feed them similar diets, right?  We see the pictures of meats and vegetables on the bags of dog food, but have you ever actually taken a look at the ingredient list?  You might be surprised by it.  Commercial dog foods today contain:

  • Questionable Meat – The type of meat that goes into dog food is typically the cheapest, poorest quality. And there’s usually not much of it to meet the high-protein needs of our canine friends. Many brands use “meal,” which is a highly processed form of meat.
  • Grains & Carbs – Many kibbles use corn or wheat as cheap fillers. Dogs cannot digest those foods well, leading to the big smelly poops you get in your yard, but also to a host of other problems… allergies (this is a BIG one!), yeast infections, poor dental health, diabetes, obesity and even cancer.
  • Preservatives – Filled with salt and other chemical preservatives to improve shelf-life, it leaves your dog thirsty and laden with behavioral and health problems caused by these toxins. Many of these additives aren’t deemed safe for humans.
  • Processed Ingredients – It’s funny how we are told to avoid processed foods for optimal health, yet we feed our dogs heavily processed food every single day, for their entire lives. No wonder they are begging for our kitchen table leftovers.

This all comes as probably a shock to you, as it was to me. Don’t these companies spend time and money on research to find what the best nutrition is for our pets? Their commercials certainly advertise that they do.  But check out the ingredients for yourself and you’ll find that even the “best” dry dog food raises some questions.

Kibble is nothing like the diets of dogs’ relatives and goes against everything considered “healthy” by humans.  So what’s the alternative? A raw food diet… exactly what a canine needs for proper nutrition.  What does that consist of?  Raw meaty bones, muscle meat and fish, organs, vegetables, eggs, and vitamins. Still not so sure? Here are a few of the questions and fears I had originally and the answers I’ve discovered:

  • How do I make sure my dog is getting the right amount of food and balanced nutrition?  The book Raw Dog Food: Make It Easy for You and Your Dog explains everything in detail and very simply. It explains proportions for each type of ingredient, gives sample “meal plans” with different meats and has a formula to determine the amount to feed based on your dog’s size and stage of life.
  • What will this do to my dog’s teeth?  Actually, it will help a lot!  Kibble is terrible for keeping your dog’s teeth and gums healthy… it creates lots of plaque leading to decay and bad breath. One of the most noticeable things about switching food for my dog Belle is that her teeth are getting whiter and her breath is much better.
  • Aren’t bones bad for dogs? Cooked bones are bad because they can splinter and be very harmful when swallowed.  Raw bones don’t splinter like this and dogs really enjoy chewing on them (which helps clean teeth even more!). If you are still really worried about it, the book above has some suggestions for softer bones to use or how to grind them up smaller.  Even small dogs like bones – my 10lb dog loves gnawing on chicken wings!
  • This sounds messy… is it?  Yes, unfortunately, it is messier than kibble. I now have to clean Belle’s face after meals, but she enjoys it SO much, it’s totally worth it!
  • How much time does all this take?  It depends. I’ve talked to people who say they prep their dog food when they do their own meal prep on Sundays, and it’s only an additional half hour a week or so.  But, I currently don’t do the food preparation myself right now. I’ve found an option that’s dehydrated raw food where I can just add hot water to rehydrate. It’s super quick and easy to make a bowl for her. Then I throw in a couple bones each week for her to chew on and an organ every once in awhile when I’m cooking a whole chicken.
  • Is it more expensive?  It depends on what you’re buying now, but it wasn’t for me.  A quick Amazon search shows that a 35lb bag of Purina Pro dog food cost $40.  When I was buying dry dog food, I purchased a GMO & preservative-free, high protein brand called Nulo for $55 for a 24lb bag. I now purchase I and Love and You Raw Dehydrated Dog Food; a 5.5lb bag makes 36 lbs of prepared food – on Amazon it’s $67, at Whole Foods it’s $60 and on Thrive Market it’s only $50. I’ve also purchased a similar option that uses free-range meat – The Honest Kitchen Free-Range Chicken Raw Dog Food – it’s a little pricier, but I buy if it’s on sale. If you go with preparing your own food, there’s many ways to save by buying meat & bones in bulk or getting unique cuts of meat no one else wants (dogs don’t care!) for a discount. I’ve asked the butcher for the bones they remove for their boneless chicken breasts & thighs and got them super cheap.
  • My dog is picky; will she like it? ABSOLUTELY!  Honestly, I was convinced by my research that this was certainly the healthier choice, but what sold me was how much she LOVES it. With her old dry dog food, I would put a bowl out in the morning and she would only pick at it a little throughout the day. And she’s always been picky with treats and sometimes even table scraps. Now, when I make her food, she scarfs it down. If we take too long to get out of bed in the morning, she will whimper and jump to remind us because she’s so excited to eat. Obviously, this food is the best for her. I’ll never make her go back to crumbly kibble.

When we started feeding Belle raw dog food and bones, I immediately noticed several improvements to her health.  To sum all this up, here are a few of the health benefits you can expect by switching your dog to a raw food diet:

  • Cleaner Teeth, Better Breath – gnawing on bones and meat helps remove plaque
  • Shinier, Smoother Hair – all the collagen in the bones and extra vitamins help
  • Less Allergies – I barely notice Belle chewing her feet anymore. Grains and toxic preservatives in dry dog food are the main cause for allergic reactions and inflammation.
  • Healthy Joints – I’m hopeful that Belle won’t have to struggle with painful arthritis in her old age like our Wheaton did. The bones & marrow contain glucosamine which is necessary for creating collagen and helps build and repair bones, joints, tendons and ligaments.
  • Easier Digestion – This is one of the biggest changes I’ve seen. Real talk… Belle’s poop is not nearly as hard as it used to be, which makes it come out much easier for her. I don’t have to express her anal glands anymore or risk them getting infected from becoming impacted. Her poo essentially dissolves in the yard in just a couple of days, which I think says a lot about what kind of ingredients she was eating before. It’s also less smelly.
  • Hydration – Raw dog food naturally contains lots of water unlike dry kibble.  I’ve noticed that Belle rarely goes for her water bowl anymore (only after a long walk or after barking at the neighbor dog on a hot day).
  • More Energy – you’ve removed ingredients that cause lethargy and replaced by those that give proper protein and nutrition for energy
  • Lean Muscle –  Belle didn’t struggle with being overweight like many dogs, but she’s definitely more muscular now.  If you’re dog does need to lose some pounds, this raw diet would be great to try.

Sorry for the super long post, but I hope this information helps you make a more informed decision about your dog’s nutrition. I’m so glad we’ve made this change for our sweet pup… the transition has been so easy and was definitely worth it!

What do you think? Is this something you’d be willing to try for your dog?

Christmas Chili

Chili with TamaleIt’s a Texas tradition to enjoy fresh tamales and chili during the holiday season, and I can’t wait to make this for a cozy dinner with family on Christmas Eve.  Today, I’m sharing my super easy, go-to chili recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of grass-fed, organic ground beef
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 16 oz can organic tomato sauce
  • 1 can organic diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can organic kidney beans, drained
  • 15 oz can organic pinto beans, drained
  • 1/3 cup organic, non-GMO cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup bone broth (or beer or water)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon himalayan salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Toppings: shredded raw cheddar cheese, chopped red or green onion, tortilla chips (my favorite are Jackson’s Honest brand – the only kind made with coconut oil AND organic, non-GMO corn!)

Preparation:

  1. Put the ground beef and garlic into a large pot and cook on medium heat until the meat is browned.
  2. Drain the excess fat from pot.
  3. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and all spices. Stir together, then reduce to low heat.
  4. Simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. If the mixture starts to look a little dry, I usually add some bone broth (or beer or water) a 1/4 cup at a time.
  5. In separate bowl, mix the cornmeal and 1/2 cup bone broth together.  Then dump into the chili. This will be your thickening agent and add that corn flavor. (Beer works really well here too!)
  6. After this, see what the consistency is and add more liquid based on your preference. Typically, I add about 3/4-1 cup of liquid in.
  7. Add both cans of beans and simmer for 10 minutes.
  8. Now it’s ready to serve with all the yummy toppings!

Wishing you a healthy and hopeful holiday!

Butternut Squash Soup

Autumn brings some of my very favorite seasonal fruits and vegetables.  Eating produce that’s in season has all kinds of benefits:

  • Full of flavor because it’s being grown naturally and locally
  • Packed with micronutrients – aka the vitamins and minerals that give your body nourishment and protect you from disease.
  • Much cheaper. If you’re trying to eat all organic, changing your meal planning seasonally will help your budget as it tends to be less expensive.

Some of the best flavors of fall are in season right now: pumpkin, apples, cranberries, sweet potatoes, beets, pears, kale, brussels sprouts, and squash. Butternut squash, for example, is full of vitamin A (helps protect your eyes from degeneration), vitamins C & E (antioxidants that boost your immune system), potassium (good for blood pressure), magnesium (good for your muscles) and fiber (helps aid digestion).  Today, I’m sharing a super easy three-step recipe for Butternut Squash Soup.

Butternut Squash SoupIngredients:

  • Medium sized butternut squash (pick one that feels heavy for its size and with thick, hard skin)
  • 2-3 cups bone broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp sage

Preparation:

  1. Cut butternut squash in half and scoop out seeds.
  2. Place halves cut-side up on a pan covered in aluminum foil and put in 425 degree oven – roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until tender enough to stick a fork through.
  3. Scoop the roasted squash out of its skin and put in a bowl with all other ingredients. (If broth is cold, warm in a pot over the stove and you can just mix the soup there.) Use an immersion blender to mix everything together and it’s ready. You can also put all ingredients in a regular blender.

Feel free to garnish with bits of bacon, manchego cheese, or roasted pumpkin seeds.  Enjoy!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Tortilla SoupLast Sunday, we finally got some beautiful cool Fall weather here in Austin, so, of course, I had to make one of my favorite super simple soup recipes: Chicken Tortilla Soup.

This recipe is filled with protein, is Paleo compliant and the broth is amazing for supporting your bones, ligaments, joints and skin, as well as providing lots of valuable vitamins and minerals. It’s a perfect quick & healthy meal that your family will love!

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups of bone broth – find my homemade crock-pot bone broth recipe here
  • Meat from whole chicken (shredded) – find my easy crock-pot chicken recipe here
  • 1 can organic diced tomatoes (Mexican style)
  • 1 can organic tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup diced fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil (or grass-fed butter)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1-2 teaspoon(s) cayenne pepper, depending on spiciness preference
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Optional: You can also add some chopped veggies – carrots & kale are my favorites in this soup

Preparation:

  1. Dice onion and garlic and put in large soup pot with coconut oil.
  2. Saute garlic & onion on medium heat until onion is soft.
  3. Add all other ingredients and simmer for at least 30 minutes (or cook in crock-pot on low all day for even better flavor!)

Tortilla ChipsGarnish with a squeeze of lime, freshly grated raw cheddar cheese and some salty tortilla chip crumbles.  When it comes to tortilla chips, there is only one brand that I can recommend… I am beyond excited about Jackson’s Honest NEW tortilla chips cooked in coconut oil.  They are the only brand that makes tortilla chips with coconut oil; all the others use super toxic vegetable oils.  Plus, they are organic, made with non-GMO corn and gluten-free. I found them at my local Whole Foods – you must pick up a bag!

Enjoy!!

Easiest Egg Drop Soup

Egg Drop SoupWith all this rain lately, I’m all about eating soup like it’s cold outside. I recently discovered (out of necessity- aka no groceries) a super easy recipe for those days you don’t feel like cooking or just need a quick immune boost.

This version of egg drop soup is quite healthier than the sodium-filled version you’ll find at your local take-out spot, but still packs all the flavor and lots of protein. The base is bone broth – one of the four pillars of authentic world cuisine; here’s quick summary of why it is so healthy:

Animal bones contain a protein molecule called glucosamine.  Glucosamine, the main ingredient in arthritis meds and joint supplements, helps build and repair joints and also triggers the growth of new collagen. Collagen provides structural support for our bones, tendons and ligaments, and gives our skin shape, texture and youthfulness. By simmering the nutrients out of the bones, joints and cartilage slowly, you are able to safely extract the minerals and vitamins (magnesium, vitamin D & calcium) and make a bone broth filled with glucosamine & collagen – these not only help prevent issues, but also rebuild and repair your skin, hair, bones & arteries.

You’ll also notice that this recipe is completely soy-free.  I went soy-free a couple of years ago to avoid the effects that the toxic processing & GMOs were wreaking on my hormones.  Read more here.

Ingredients:

Simply put a bowlful of bone broth in a pot and bring to a boil.  While you’re waiting, crack open your eggs and whisk them in a separate bowl. Once the broth is boiling, add the salt and coconut aminos.  Then, turn off the heat (if using an electric stove top, also remove from the burner).  Next, put the whisk in the broth and start swirling the liquid as you slowly pour the eggs into the center of your cyclone. You’ll see that the eggs cook immediately, but not too much that they’re scrambled. Ta-da – you’re done.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

Tips for Staying Fit During Thanksgiving

With a holiday so centered around a tempting buffet of food, lazy days watching football and pies galore, it can be hard to not feeling like the stuffed turkey after Thanksgiving. Here are a few tips on how to stay fit and healthy during your Thanksgiving holiday:

Eat Breakfast: We tend to save up our appetite for a big meal, but you’ll end up overeating if you do.

Chew Slowly: Focus on your loved ones and enjoy the dinner table conversation. Give your body time to process how much you’re eating so you don’t eat too much.

Drink Water: Our bodies often misinterpret being thirsty as being hungry; staying hydrated will help you eat appropriately-sized portions.  And, remember, that all those liquid calories in alcohol can really sneak up on you too.

Exercise: Take your family to the Turkey Trot for a fun fitness outing, shop til you drop during Black Friday sales, or, if you’re traveling, try these easy exercises you can do in the car or an airplane.

TurkeyTrot

Buy the Best: Turkey can be an incredibly healthy part of the Thanksgiving spread.  Make sure to choose pasture-raised, organic turkey to feed to your family so that you can avoid the contamination risks and toxicity that are in conventional meat.

Choose Wisely: Remember, Fats Don’t Make You Fat, Carbs Do!  Load up your plate with turkey and veggies and check out these delicious options for healthy side dishes:

Don’t Skip Dessert: It’s okay to splurge a little.  If you’re like me, trying to stop eating any dessert is likely to make me abandon my diet altogether. Limit yourself to one piece of pie and try this yummy, healthy version of whipped cream instead.

Transform Your Leftovers: The benefits of bone broth are astounding, so make a hearty turkey and vegetable soup that will last all weekend.

Remember the Primary Ingredient: Gratitude! If your Fall has been anything like mine, it is likely that stress has taken its toll on your body; and if not already, the upcoming holidays sure might.  Gratitude has been proven to have great health benefits so cherish the time with your family and friends, relax, and remember all that you have to be thankful for this holiday season.  As I look forward to Thanksgiving next week, I am reminded of all that I have to be thankful for, especially for my health.  I am so grateful for all that I have learned and for the incredible healing, especially with the chronic pain I used to suffer from, that I have experienced this year.

What are you thankful for this year?