Friday, 6 March 2015

Knowing When To Stop For a Bit

Lovely readers. 

I can't tell you how happy and healthy the paleo and autoimmune protocol diet and lifestyle has made me. It cleared my psoriasis (one patch left and counting!), it made me a healthy weight for my height for the first time EVER and gave me lots of confidence and energy. But, although I was buzzing with energy, I think, along the way, I got a bit complacent. 

Christmas was an especially hectic time for me: we had visitors staying, and my paid work doesn't stop - in fact, often it will get busier at that time of year and continue all the way through, no breaks. So I decided to do double the work the week before and double the work after, so I could have Christmas with my family (and not end up sitting at the laptop while the sprouts were cooking on Christmas Day). 

Leading up to Christmas, I had school plays, concerts, music lessons, kids' parties and then the everyday things to sort out and arrange for the children. I stayed up late, trying to make some progress on the book I'm working on, keeping up with social media (I love you all) and, of course, blogging, as well as my normal work. 

One morning in mid-January, I woke up at 6am with a stiffness in my neck and a heavy, dull ache at the base of my skull. Thinking I must have slept funny, I flicked on the light, and I could see double of everything. I got out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom. My balance had gone, slightly, but this was still worrying. I found my phone and called the out of hours doctor. As I tried to speak, I found my speech was very slurred and I had to think very hard to answer simple questions. The doctor on the phone told me to take a painkiller and see if it went away. I managed to get the children to school that morning (I don't know how) but it didn't go away. It got worse. I phoned them again, at just after 9am. I was told to get to the emergency hospital. By now, I had a tingling in my arm and my confusion and slurred speech was much, much worse. I looked in the mirror. I was an attractive shade of grey.

This was really scary. My husband made his way home from work and took me to the hospital. After 9 hours in the hospital with a CT scan, heart trace, lights being shone in my eyes, MANY other tests and being bashed about the knees with a hammer (for checking reflexes) it was decided that I had had a very severe migraine. The neurologist told me to go home and REST. 

Yeah, RIGHT. 

For two weeks, my brain was foggy and I felt like I had a massive hangover. It took two days for my speech to return completely to normal, but my brain was fuzzy for a long time. But I didn't really stop. My husband needed to go back to work so I was back to housework, washing, taking the girls to school, clubs and other things and I was basically back to normal. My work was great, they offered me all the help they could. But I wasn't helping myself. 

Over the past few days, I've found the dull ache returns and with some yoga and sleep, it'll usually go away. But I haven't been feeling completely 100% for a little while. I LOVE blogging and talking to all of you on social media (I really do) but my body (and brain) is telling me I really need to take a rest. I'm exhausted, sometimes tearful and get anxious over tiny things (I burst into tears the other day because I couldn't think how I'd find time to go to the shops and buy my daughter a birthday card for her friend on Saturday. Exactly). I get headaches every couple of days, and a foggy brain most days. My one remaining psoriasis patch has started to turn white and dry so yep - it's coming back.

I'm telling you all this, because this episode has taught me three things: 

1. AIP can help clear chronic symptoms and make you feel amazing. But it doesn't make you invincible. 

2. From what I've known and written about the AIP and paleo lifestyle, I've always said that when you're tired you need to make time for yourself and stop. Well now I need to practice what I preach. 

3. When a top neurologist tells you you need to rest, you really DO need to go home and REST PROPERLY. 

So I'll be back soon, readers. I will still be posting up articles I think you might find useful and the odd meal on Instagram and Facebook, there just won't be any blog posts here for a little bit. I love you all, and I'll be back soon xxxx

Monday, 23 February 2015

Creamy Paleo Tomato and Pork Curry

If you're like me, and you like a curry that's aromatic, not too spicy and with different levels of flavours, then THIS is the one for you. 

It's creamy and mild, low on heat - but don't think that it's low on flavour, because it isn't. 

First of all, when you bite into a spoonful of this curry, you get tender, soft pork - and a sweet, creamy sauce. THEN flavours start to tingle all over your tongue. There's a definite warmth from the black peppercorns, green cardamom pods and cloves. There's the crispy fried red onions that are scattered over the top, and a citrus-boost from the fresh, bright coriander leaves. The tomatoes and the paprika add richness. THIS is a tasty curry. 

I was sent the pork to make this lovely bowl of goodness from Farmer's Choice, an online butcher that specialises in free-range meats. And it's fine for weeknights - taking just over half an hour to make from scratch. 

You could serve this with some paleo flatbreads, a pile of steamed cauliflower rice or as I do - just on its own, in a bowl, spooned out while the rain's pattering on the windows outside. 

Creamy Paleo Tomato and Pork Curry
Serves 4-6
3 fresh tomatoes (not tinned), quartered
1 piece of fresh ginger, about the size of your thumb, peeled and roughly chopped
3 chunky garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped into chunks
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground paprika
2 tsp coconut oil
4 green cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
7 whole black peppercorns
2 medium-sized red onions, both peeled and then cut in half and sliced thinly
700g diced pork
1 x 400ml can coconut milk (full-fat)
a good pinch - about half a teaspoon - of salt

Drop the tomatoes, the chopped ginger and the chopped garlic in a large mixing bowl or the jug of a blender. Blend using the blender or a stick blender until smooth. Stir in the ground coriander and the paprika and put to one side. 

Get out a medium-sized saucepan and heat up 1 tsp of the coconut oil. Add the cardamom pods, cloves and peppercorns and stir-fry in the hot oil for about a minute, until they're sizzling and aromatic. Throw in one of the sliced onions and fry until dark red and glossy. Next, pour in the tomato mixture and fold it into the onions, stir-frying for about 3-4 minutes. 

Once you can see that some of the liquid has evaporated from the tomato mixture, add the pork and then the coconut milk. Season with salt, and leave to simmer gently, with the lid off, for 30 minutes, or until the pork is tender and cooked all the way through. 

Once the pork is cooked through, and the sauce has darkened slightly, keep it on a low heat and fry the remaining onion slices in a little coconut oil, until crisp and golden. Serve the curry with the onion slices scattered over, with some freshly torn coriander leaves on top. 

I received a contribution for the ingredients to make the recipe, from Farmer's Choice, who also supplied the pork. Go and check them out on their website - their meat is free-range and really good. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

AIP Paleo Chicken Cacciatore - Hunter's Chicken

My husband's grandmother was from Spain and every time I'd cook chicken in tomato sauce he would say it reminded him of the smell coming from her kitchen when he was little. 

Well, I rarely cook with tomatoes now but wondered if a no-mato sauce could help me recreate the classic Italian Chicken Cacciatore - or Hunter's Chicken - dish that we used to love so much, and that brought back so many lovely childhood memories for him. So I had a go. And yes. Yes it could. 

Chicken Cacciatore is chicken, or more traditionally rabbit - first pan-fried and then cooked in the oven in a tomato sauce with herbs, garlic, onions and peppers. This dish is nightshade-free, so it doesn't have any peppers or tomatoes, but it's really big on flavour. There are lots of veggies in this sauce, and it's actually quite hard to believe that you're not eating a rich tomato sauce. 

So this version of Hunter's Chicken is nightshade, seed, refined sugar, gluten and dairy-free. It's suitable for the autoimmune protocol and paleo diets. It's fantastic served with a fluffy pile of cauliflower and white sweet potato mash and some cooked cabbage alongside. 

You can use chicken thighs or the breast meat here. While I know that thighs have more flavour and are more suited to slower cooking, I actually prefer to make this with chicken breasts. They don't take as long to cook, and there are no fiddly bones to worry about when you're tucking into this stew. But, as always, it's up to you. I hope you like it.

AIP (autoimmune protocol compliant) Chicken Cacciatore
Serves 4
1 tsp coconut oil
pinch of salt
4-6 chicken breasts or thighs (skin on)
half quantity of this no-mato sauce (the richer your beef broth, the better)
1 tbsp capers (or use some pitted olives, black or green - if you have them handy)
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

First, set your oven to gas mark 6/200ºC/400ºF. Melt the coconut oil in a large frying pan and fry the chicken, skin side down, in batches, so that the skin turns golden and begins to crisp. Turn over and fry the other side for a minute or two to seal the meat and then place on a plate. 

Pour the no-mato sauce into the bottom of a square roasting dish - the kind you'd bake a lasagne in - and place the chicken pieces on top, skin side up. Sprinkle with the salt and the rosemary and dot the capers or olives (or both if you have them) between the pieces of chicken in the sauce. Slide into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the chicken is golden and fully cooked through. Serve with the sauce, and some of your favourite veggie mash and greens. 


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