Paleo “Cheezits” (AIP)

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Remember Cheez-its? I do. Those little golden squares with the ever-so-satisfying crunch and slightly greasy, flaky exterior … and according to the box, made with “real cheddar”!

It’s been a long while since I’ve encountered a Cheez-it. But by accident, I made something that tastes just like them. My original intent was to make a sort of sea salt and vinegar chip with coconut flakes. Lo and behold, this simple combination – toasted in the oven for 10 minutes – makes a crunchy snack that tastes just like Cheez-its. Someone else try doing this and tell me if I’ve gone crazy!

Paleo “Cheezits”

1 cup coconut flakes/chips
1 Tbsp White Vinegar
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Toss coconut flakes and vinegar together in a bowl until flakes are coated. Add a coating of salt and stir to coat.

Spread the flakes out in a thin layer on the parchment-coated baking sheet. Pop in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once or twice.

Let cool for a few minutes before eating to ensure they’re extra crunchy!

 

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Egg-Free Salmon Cakes

I do all my cooking at night in a poorly lit apartment - thus my food photos are not ideal.

I do all my cooking at night in a poorly lit apartment – thus my food photos are not ideal.

Living egg-free can be a challenge. Not only is a morning protein standby off the table, but other types of cooking and baking becomes a challenge. Enter non-egg binders. In the Paleo Mom’s series on “The Science and Art of Paleofying Everything,” she has a great post on ideas for ways to adapt recipes that call for eggs.  A Clean Plate also has a helpful post about substitutions.

This recipe uses green plantain puree, with a little avocado for added moisture.

Ingredients:

18 oz. Canned Salmon (I use Trader Joe’s wild caught Alaskan)
½ avocado
1 green plantain
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
½ yellow onion, chopped
1 Tbsp Dill
squeeze of lemon juice
1 tsp salt, or more to taste (I have a very salty palate)
½ cup coconut oil

Peel and chop plantain into a few pieces. Add to food processor and process until it becomes a smooth puree. This may take a few minutes depending on the greenness of your plantain.

Add avocado and process until two are mixed together as a sticky paste.

In large bowl, mix all ingredients well – I do it with my hands to make sure the binder is well distributed.

 Carefully form into about 8 patties.

Heat coconut oil in frying pan on medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully add your patties. Cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side, or until fried golden brown and hot in the middle. Add more coconut oil if needed.

Note: A few pieces will likely fall off your perfectly-formed patties while transferring to the pan or flipping. Personally, I let the little pieces get golden and crispy and enjoy eating them just as much as the burgers themselves.

On Strength

Image Being physically strong has always been an important part of my identity. I take after my father in build – inherited his muscular frame rather than the petite stature of my mom. In elementary school, I was the best football player in the neighborhood, always picked first for the team. In middle school and even high school, I wasn’t afraid to challenge – and beat – the boys in my class at arm wrestling.

After college, I let my strength take me to the haggard North Shore of Lake Superior, where I worked on a Conservation Corps crew for a year. I spent entire days tearing up old stairs on hiking trails and lugging the waterlogged lumber up the side of a steep ridge. I hiked eight miles in one day, over a Minnesota-sized “mountain,” carrying a days worth of water, gasoline, and a bulky weed whip strapped to my body for trail maintenance. I shoveled gravel, wielded a chainsaw, put out hotspots to contain forest fires, broke ground with pulaskis and sledgehammers. I was at the pinnacle of my physical strength.

And then I woke up one morning with pinkies that clicked when I tried to open them and feet that burned as if there were tiny planets on fire between my toes. Rheumatoid arthritis—and the medicines used to manage it—came and leached away that strength so that some days I couldn’t even hook my bra behind my back or grab a door handle and twist. In the past few years, there have been times I felt physically strong despite RA –thanks to prednisone – and other times where I felt very sick. At the times I was my sickest, I would look in the mirror and be unable to find that strength I’d always defined myself by.

I’m learning that I need to work through, and heal, the parts of me that are psychologically wounded by RA as I work hard to heal myself physically. As part of my healing process, I’ve made space to think about and meditate on these things. To wonder, if the thing I always valued about myself was my strength, and I now have a disease that wants to take that from me … who am I?

Recently I spoke to a good friend about this faltering self-image and the struggle rethink the way I perceive myself. She told me that as she’s seen me undergo this transformation – particularly since I’ve made an effort to manage my disease as holistically as possible – she’s witnessed the unfolding of a remarkable inner strength. That as I invest in healing, my discipline and self-awareness set me apart and give me that unique strength I’d always sought even as a little girl.

Her words moved and encouraged me. As a result of this friend’s wisdom, I am consciously practicing seeing myself differently. Not as sick or weak, but as resilient and strong. Strong enough to face each day without knowing what the pain will be like. Strong enough to eschew aggressive medications, trusting that healing the source of the problem will be better in the long run than masking symptoms. Strong enough to live without knowing what my physical capabilities will be in a year, or five years, from now. I might not be arm wrestling any guys anytime soon, but I have a new capacity for strength that reaches well beyond the power in my biceps. I invite anyone else struggling with a chronic illness to take the words of my friend as your own and be encouraged by them.

To all of you suffering from chronic disease, to all who take this challenging, sometimes scary road to healing, know that you, too, are incredibly strong.