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!

Advertisements

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?

Coconut Curry Chicken

Coconut curry chickenToday, I’m sharing another quick & easy recipe that’s full of healthy ingredients & perfect for a weeknight dinner: Coconut Curry Chicken.  This dish packs the flavor and two superfoods with some amazing health benefits:

Coconuts are full of antioxidants that helps your heart, skin, mouth, and immune system by fighting & preventing infection. The list of healing abilities goes on and on… read more here. I use coconut oil in place of all vegetable/canola oils (they have free radicals that are super harmful!), but I also often use coconut milk as a dairy-replacement.

Curry powder spice mix contains turmeric as the main ingredient.  Turmeric has been widely used in Indian medicine for centuries; one of its components – curcumin – is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Research has shown that curry powder can aid in the “prevention of cancer, protection against heart disease, reduce Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, ease pain and inflammation, boost bone health, protect the immune system from bacterial infections, and increase the liver’s ability to remove toxins from the body.” (Source)  I also take a curcumin supplement daily and it helps greatly with my back pain.

Ingredients:

  • ~1 lb organic, pasture-raised chicken breasts (boneless/skinless)
  • 1 can (14 oz) unsweetened organic coconut milk
  • 1 can (14 oz) stewed & diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons organic curry powder
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • salt & pepper
  • veggies (optional): yellow or red bell peppers, asparagus, mushrooms, snap peas are all great

Preparation:

  1. Cut chicken breasts into 1/2 inch chunks, season with salt & pepper.
  2. Crush garlic cloves & dice onion.
  3. Add above ingredients to a skillet with coconut oil and coat with curry powder
  4. Cook on medium heat until chicken pieces cooked through (usually less than 10 minutes)
  5. Add can of coconut milk and tomatoes and stir to combine.
  6. If you are going to add veggies, add those now.
  7. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 20-40 minutes, depending on the time you have… the longer the more flavorful.
  8. Serve in a bowl on its own or over rice.

The coconut milk cuts the spice of the curry, so it ends up mildly sweet and full of flavor. The leftovers are even better the next day, so you can savor every last bit. Enjoy!

P.S. While the smell of curry while you are cooking this will make your mouth water, I’m not the biggest fan of waking up to it in the morning… diffusing some lemon essential oil is always in order after I make this dish at my home.

A Whole Chicken for Your Nest Egg (Part 1)

Whole Cooked Chicken

Looking for a way to save a little money each week?  Did you know that you can buy a whole chicken at the grocery store for almost half the price per pound that you can buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts?  Since we eat chicken more than any other meat in our home, this is a great deal for our budget.  Plus, you can get WAY more nutrients & meals out of a whole chicken with the skin and bones still attached.  More for less?  I don’t see a downside here…

As I’ve mentioned before, slow-cooking meat on the bone is a tradition for a reason. You need only taste some delicious BBQ ribs that have been on the smoker for 10+ hours or the juicy Thanksgiving turkey that Grandma has been basting all day.  So, why is it that meat tastes better when cooked this way?  Nutrients take time and moisture to be released.  When you overcook meat, it becomes tough because the fat, protein and sugar within the meat get fused during the heating process and destroy the nutrients, causing reactions between them that form carcinogens. You can avoid this by making sure your meat stays moisturized during cooking (basting, slow cooking, stews, pressure cooking).  The water molecules tenderize the tough proteins and keep them from fusing together. They also work at the connective tissue in the cartilage, skin, bone and ligaments to release molecules that help our joints and minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, etc.  The great taste comes from the itty bitty peptides that are formed as water molecules chop the proteins small enough to fit our taste buds.  Need one more reason to keep the skin on? The fat sits right underneath the skin in birds – fat gives us energy, helps our cells rebuild and allows us to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. This natural, healthy fat is different than sugar in that it doesn’t cause an insulin release (hello weight gain). However, it’s important that you buy organic meat; because pesticides on the plants animals eat accumulate in their fat, you need to buy organic to avoid these chemicals (and much more).

Each week, I buy a whole, organic chicken (remove and save giblets).  I usually season with salt and pepper and some fresh herbs, but you can find recipes online for adding other ingredients for different flavors.

Seasoned raw chicken in crockpot

I put it in my crockpot on low for around 4 hours (it depends on your crockpot temp so basically until meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees).  After letting it cool a bit, I take the meat off the bones. You can find YouTube videos showing you how if you’ve never done it before – I promise it’s easy and not as gross as it seems. And just look at how much meat I have for the week:

Cooked Chicken

Now, I always have this ready to go for quick meals – add some fresh veggies, put it in a salad or add to a soup. The actual hands-on time is only 5 minutes to start and then 10 to take the meat off the bones. I save the bones and put them right back in the crockpot.  In part two, I’ll explain how the bones give us even more nutrients and help create a staple of culinary technique.

Note: If you typically don’t like dark meat (like my hubby), try using those pieces in soups or other dishes, instead of by themselves.  I’ll admit I always hated dark meat until I started using organic meat – it doesn’t seem to have the same type of fatty texture that’s always disgusted me in the past.  Try it and see what you think!

Source: I simplified the scientific process of hydrolytic cleavage, or hydrolysis.  You can learn more about it online or from Deep Nutrition.