Sunday, December 10, 2017

Grain-free apple cinnamon muffins with pecans {paleo, gluten free, dairy free}

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Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post and I didn't get anything for free. I paid for the product mentioned below with my own hard-earned money and am mentioning it because I really like it and love supporting my fellow food entrepreneurs.

I love to bake. Because I now follow a low-carb diet to control my type 2 diabetes, I mostly bake for other people. But my family has gotten so used to keto, sugar-free, low carb meals that they actually prefer baked goods made without grains and with much less sugar. These Paleo Apple Cinnamon Muffins are full of shredded apples and nuts and contain a little bit of coconut sugar, so they're perfect for those of us who prefer less sugar in our lives.

Recently I discovered Birch Benders Paleo Pancake & Waffle Mix, which I adore. The primary ingredients are cassava starch, coconut flour and almond flour. It's not completely low carb, but it's much lower than similar baking mixes made with wheat. This mix makes an excellent base for muffins. I've also used it for savory pancakes and savory waffles.

Because of my diabetes, these Paleo Apple Cinnamon Muffins are a "once in a while" treat in my own diet. But I'm happy to feed them to my family anytime!

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Paleo Apple Cinnamon Muffins
Healthy grain-free muffins that aren't too sweet. Paleo, gluten free, dairy free, low in sugar.
  • 1 large or 2 medium apples, peeled
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup avocado oil
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cups Birch Benders Paleo Pancake & Waffle Mix
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 12 whole pecans, for decoration
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick baking spray.Using a hand-held cheese grater, shred the apple into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the eggs, oil, coconut sugar, almond milk and cinnamon. Whisk together until well combined.Add the Birch Benders Paleo Pancake & Waffle mix and chopped pecans. With a large spoon, mix gently until all ingredients are combined. Let the batter stand about 5 minutes.Scoop the batter into the muffin tin, dividing evenly among the 12 muffin cups. Lay one whole pecan on top of each muffin.Bake 20 minutes, or until the edges are brown and the muffins are cooked through. Let cool in the muffin tin 3 minutes, then use an offset spatula or knife to remove the muffins to a rack for cooling. Eat and enjoy.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 muffins

Monday, December 4, 2017

Almond cheddar tea biscuits {keto, low carb}

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Disclosure: I received this particular block of cheese from Cabot as a gift, although I also buy quite a lot of it on my own dime.

I've been cutting back on grains lately, but that hasn't stopped me from craving cookies and crackers.

And then I made a miraculous discovery.

Replace the all-purpose flour in my Parmesan Smoked Paprika Crackers with almond flour or almond meal and you end up with low carb cheese crackers (or cheese "cookies," as I prefer to call them) that are even more delicious than the originals.

These Almond Cheddar Tea Biscuits are also keto, low carb, gluten-free, grain-free, and the perfect snack for people following a LCHF (low carbohydrate, high fat) way of eating.

Here's the basic recipe. I used Seriously Sharp Cheddar from Cabot Creamery, one of my favorites, but you can use any shredded hard cheese - Parmesan, Gouda, Jarlsberg, or any strong cheddar cheese. Feel free to add herbs or spices to suit your taste.

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Almond Cheddar Tea Biscuits {Keto, Low Carb}
Crisp, crumbly and extra cheesy, these easy cheese crackers contain three ingredients and bake for just 15 minutes. A perfect snack for those eating grain-free, gluten-free, low carb or keto.
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup almond flour or almond meal
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (substitute any shredded hard cheese)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Blend all ingredients together in a bowl with a wooden spoon or hand mixer, or use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix (aggressively if you're doing it  by hand) until a smooth dough forms.Roll 1-inch balls of dough between your palms and place on two lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each dough ball. Flatten the balls slightly with your fingers. Bake 15 minutes, or until the edges of the crackers start to brown. Cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove the crackers to a rack to finish cooling.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: about 24 crackers

Friday, November 24, 2017

Meyer lemon chicken with fresh cranberries

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There's nothing I love more than a simple roast chicken recipe that fits into my low carb ketogenic diet and is also drop-dead gorgeous.

Meyer Lemon Chicken with Fresh Cranberries cooked in my cast iron skillet is just beautiful, isn't it? Golden chicken skin. Orange-yellow Meyer lemons from my backyard tree. Ruby-red cranberries. I love looking at it. Eating it is pretty heavenly, too.

I made this yesterday for our very small Thanksgiving lunch. We had a change of plans this year because my 15-year-old son got sick. We were supposed to travel to northern California to visit my in-laws, whom I adore. But we didn't want to bring them his germs, and he wasn't feeling up to making the trip. So my husband went to share the holiday with his parents, and the teen and I stayed home and spent the day in our pajamas. I made him hot honey lemonade and soup, and we both had roast chicken for lunch.

I bought a bag of fresh cranberries because they were so beautiful...but then, in my current mode of avoiding sugar, juice, and most natural and artificial sweeteners, I wasn't sure what to do with them. News flash: cranberries without sugar are like tiny red lemons. I love the tartness paired with savory chicken thighs and didn't miss the sugar at all.

Notes: Frozen cranberries would work fine, as would regular lemons instead of Meyer lemons. Don't skimp on the salt and pepper.

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Meyer Lemon Chicken with Fresh Cranberries
Roast chicken thighs with fragrant Meyer lemons and fresh cranberries for this drop-dead stunning skillet dinner. The cranberries are very tart, but that's what makes the dish work. Resist the urge to add sugar - you don't need it.
  • 4 large chicken thighs, skin on, bone-in
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Meyer lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
Heat the oven to 325 degrees F.Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken thighs liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.Lay the chicken skin side down into the hot skillet. Cook without moving for 5-7 minutes, until the skin is golden brown and crisp.Turn the chicken thighs over and turn off the heat. Lay one beautiful slice of Meyer lemon on top of each piece of chicken. Scatter the remaining lemon slices and the fresh cranberries around the skillet. Slide the skillet into the oven. Roast the chicken for 50 minutes, until it is cooked through and the lemon slices on top have begun to caramelize.Remove the skillet from the oven. Serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Keto mushroom quiche with zucchini blossoms {low carb}

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When I decided to switch to a ketogenic, low carb diet to control my type 2 diabetes, one of the things I thought I would never be able to eat again was quiche. "Crustless" didn't appeal to me as a genre. How to make a keto quiche without that traditional flaky crust? Could it be done?

After a year of experimenting, I'm here to tell you that low carb quiche made with this almond flour crust is really, really good.

The crust is so easy: You mix almond flour, grated parmesan cheese, an egg, salt and pepper, and some olive oil with a fork until it comes together. Then you press it into your pie pan or tart pan, fill it, and bake.

For quiche, I look for leftovers. Any chopped cooked vegetables will do. This quiche includes sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions and zucchini flowers. Delicate yellow zucchini blossoms are readily available at the farmers market during the summer; farmers pick the male flowers (the ones that don't turn into zucchini) to keep the plants productive.

Most restaurants serve zucchini blossoms stuffed, battered and deep-fried, but I like to chop them and use them in zucchini flower quesadillas, pasta or scrambled eggs. In the quiche they have a very faint zucchini flavor with a tiny peppery bite. And they're gorgeous!

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Keto low carb mushroom quiche with zucchini blossoms
In this ketogenic quiche, a low carb crust made with almond flour cradles a rich savory custard dotted with mushrooms, caramelized onions and zucchini blossoms. Serve for breakfast, lunch or a light supper.
  • 2 cups almond flour (fine)
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 7 eggs, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced or chopped
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 10 zucchini blossoms, stems removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Make the crust: Using a fork, mix together the almond flour, grated parmesan cheese, 1 egg, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 cup olive oil in a large bowl. When the mixture comes together, turn it into a large pie plate or square baking dish, making sure the dough covers the bottom of the baking dish evenly and goes up the sides at least an inch. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.Cook the vegetables: Put remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and onions and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have released all their liquid and both the mushrooms and onions are softened and starting to turn brown around the edges. Remove from the heat and let cool 5 minutes.Scatter the grated cheddar cheese over the bottom of the crust. Top with the cooked mushrooms and onions, then the chopped zucchini blossoms.In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 6 eggs, heavy cream, remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and mustard until smooth. Pour the cream mixture over the vegetables.Place the baking dish on top of a baking sheet lined with foil (just in case anything bubbles over). Slide the baking sheet into the oven. Bake about 45 minutes, until the center is just set - you'll be able to tell when you shake the pan and the center no longer wiggles - and the quiche is starting to brown around the edges.Remove the quiche from the oven and let cool. Do not cut into the quiche until it has reached room temperature - you want the custard to set fully.Serve at room temperature for best flavor.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8-10 servings

Monday, August 7, 2017

Chocolate zucchini muffins

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Muffins are always a hit in my house. My younger son prefers my banana chocolate chip muffins, and I have to say those are pretty good. But both boys like zucchini muffins, and I get a perverse thrill out of making sweets with vegetables. I normally make zucchini muffins with wheat germ, but sometimes I change it up and add the chocolate. No surprise - they prefer the chocolate version.

Two notes: I use coconut sugar for this recipe because it brings a dark, rich flavor you can't get from white sugar. And I prefer olive oil in this recipe. I think it works well with the chocolate. However, feel free to use canola, grapeseed or another more neutral vegetable oil if you think the olive overtones would bother you.

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Chocolate zucchini muffins
These chocolate zucchini muffins are easy to make and good for you - I put them in my kids' lunchboxes without guilt.
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (I prefer coconut sugar)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups zucchini, grated
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, olive oil, cocoa powder and vanilla until well blended. Add the zucchini and mix to incorporate.In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add all at once to the egg mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until the flour is mostly incorporated. Be careful not to mix too aggressively - this will make your muffins tough. Fold in the chocolate chips.Line a 24-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Using a spring-loaded ice cream disher, fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full. Bake about 25 minutes, until the muffins spring back when you touch them and a toothpick comes out clean (except for the melted chocolate chips, which you're bound to hit when testing). As soon as you can touch them, remove the muffins from the pan and cool on a wire rack.Note: I put one dozen in the freezer immediately so I have something left for the boys' lunchboxes. If I left the whole batch on the counter, they'd be gone in a day.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 24 muffins

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Pork belly fries with Not Ketchup {paleo, keto, low carb}

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Pork belly fries. Three of my favorite words in the English language in one sentence.

This meaty snack is as good as it gets, perfect for a Paleo, Whole30 or low carb diet. And it couldn't be easier. Pork belly fries start with uncured pork belly, which my local Costco now carries. You have never seen teenage boys celebrate like mine did on the day they learned pork belly was readily available at Costco.

Then, you cut the pork belly into thin strips and pan-fry them over a low-ish heat in a heavy skillet. When they're golden brown and crisp, you drain them on a plate lined with paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and enjoy.

Not Ketchup Paleo fruit "ketchups," sweetened with real fruit and made without any added sugar, are the perfect dip for these pork belly fries. Use your favorite flavor! I prefer these pork belly fries with Blueberry White Pepper Not Ketchup, but Cherry Chipotle and Spiced Fig were also a hit with my family.

A lot of fat will render out of the pork belly during the cooking process. You should absolutely, positively strain and save it; refrigerated, I've kept it as long as a few months. It's great for pan-frying onions, browning pork chops or even scrambling eggs. The flavor you get from cooking in pork fat is unbelievably delicious.

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Pork belly fries with Not Ketchup {Paleo, keto, low carb}
Pan-fried nuggets of pork belly make a gloriously meaty, savory snack. Serve with Not Ketchup paleo BBQ sauce.
Slice the pork belly into thin batons, about 1 inch wide. Use a paper towel to blot them, making sure the pork belly pieces are dry.Put the pork belly pieces into a large, heavy skillet (do not preheat the skillet). Over a medium-low flame, cook the pork belly fries, turning frequently, until crisp and golden, about 15-20 minutes.Remove the pork belly fries to a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Serve hot with Not Ketchup for dipping.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sweet and sour unstuffed cabbage with Fruitchup {Paleo, keto, low carb}

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My Grandma Rose made the best stuffed cabbage, sweet-and-sour style with raisins and lemon slices. But she didn't make it often because it was a *bleeping* pain in the *bleep* to blanch the cabbage, separate the leaves, and roll up all those little suckers.

Right after I launched my new Fruitchup Paleo ketchup, which is sweetened with raisins and dates instead of added sugar or artificial sweeteners, I realized that it was the perfect ingredient for Sweet and Sour "Unstuffed" Cabbage, because it actually contains everything Grandma Rose would have put into her stuffed cabbage, except for the meat and the cabbage.

This Sweet and Sour Unstuffed Cabbage recipe is Paleo and Whole30 compliant, requires only four ingredients, takes only 10 minutes of actual work (plus a few hours to simmer on the stove), and will bring my Grandma Rose right into your kitchen. I gave some of my last batch to a friend and her whole family loved it, including a preschooler and a baby.

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Sweet and Sour Unstuffed Cabbage {Paleo, keto}
This delicious, hearty stew comes together in just a few minutes and uses only four ingredients, including Fruitchup Paleo ketchup. A variation on my Grandma Rose's classic stuffed cabbage recipe.
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 cups chopped green cabbage (about 1/2 large head of cabbage)
  • 1 bottle Fruitchup Paleo ketchup
  • Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks.Add the onion, cabbage, and Fruitchup Paleo ketchup. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.Turn down the heat, cover the pot, and simmer 1.5 to 2 hours, until the cabbage is wilted and the flavors are well combined.Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot. For those not following a Paleo or Whole30 way of eating, the Unstuffed Cabbage can be served over rice.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Paleo chicken croquettes with Fruitchup paleo ketchup

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Paleo chicken croquettes with Fruitchup paleo ketchup

What do you do with leftover roast chicken or rotisserie chicken? I'll often turn it into chicken salad, but yesterday I wanted something different...and I was really in the mood for something I could dip into Fruitchup, the brand-new paleo ketchup I launched this week.

So I put my leftover cooked chicken into the food processor with an egg, some onion and a little mayonnaise, rolled little logs of the mixture in coconut flour, and fried them in avocado oil, for some absolutely perfect paleo chicken croquettes. They were great warm, excellent at room temperature, and delicious cold in the morning. And they were PERFECT with the Fruitchup, a bold ketchup that's sweetened with fruit (raisins and dates) instead of sugar or corn syrup.

I realize it's ironic that after three-plus years running a company called Not Ketchup, I am now making...ketchup. But my new Fruitchup has a lot in common with my Not Ketchup sauces. They're all paleo, low-carb, vegan, gluten free, and diabetic-friendly. And they're all made without any added sugar, sweetened only with real fruit.

There's enough sugar in the world. We could all stand to eat less of it. Fruitchup has zero added sugar, zero corn syrup, and about half the sugar per serving of regular ketchup. It's not sugar-free, because fruit has natural sugar, of course. But it's way better for you than the regular red stuff, which is mostly corn syrup and white sugar.

Check out my new Fruitchup paleo ketchup on my website, or buy Fruitchup on Amazon. And make these paleo chicken croquettes - they are fantabulous (as my late father would have said).

Paleo Chicken Croquettes

30 minutes | Makes about 12 2-inch croquettes


  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup pickles, capers, or sauerkraut (trust me on this)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • Oil, for frying
  • Fruitchup paleo ketchup, for serving


  • Place the chicken, egg, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and pickles (or whatever you're using) into a food processor. Process until relatively smooth. If the mixture seems too loose to form into small logs, refrigerate for 30 minutes to let it firm up.
  • Put the coconut flour in a shallow bowl. Roll small logs or patties of the chicken mixture with your hands, then coat them in the coconut flour. You should end up with about a dozen 2-inch logs.
  • Heat the oil in a shallow frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the croquettes until golden brown on both sides. Drain briefly on a plate lined with paper towel.
  • Serve immediately with Fruitchup paleo ketchup or your favorite dipping sauce.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

I cut out sugar and carbs to treat my type 2 diabetes, and here's what happened

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(Are you trying to cut down on sugar too? You might like this free ebook I put together with some of the sugar-busting tricks I've collected - click here to get it.)

In August 2015, more than a year and a half ago, I got the doctor's call I'd been dreading: diabetes.

After an hour of full-on weeping and feeling sorry for myself, I dried my tears and decided to do something about it.

Luckily, one of the first videos I found was the one above from Dr. Sarah Hallberg, an M.D. who runs a diabetes clinic in the Midwest. Her argument is amazingly sensible:

To lower your blood sugar, stop eating the foods that raise your blood sugar the most (carbohydrates) and add more of the foods that don't raise your blood sugar at all (fats). 

So that's what I did. That very day, I decided to say goodbye to sugar and carbohydrates, including grains, starchy vegetables, legumes, and most fruits. I started eating a low carb high fat (LCHF) diet. I eat protein, fat, and non-starchy vegetables. And that's just about it. (Click here for more details on what I eat.)

Here's what happened when I cut out sugar and carbs - the good and the bad. Brutal honesty ahead.

With my older son Emery on an early morning hike

The good things are very, very good.

Elevator door selfie
  • My blood sugar went down and has stayed down. Within three months it was normal. Now, after more than 18 months of eating this way, it's lower than it's been since I was in my 20s.
  • I lost weight - more than 40 pounds - although that was not my goal. Not having diabetes was my goal.
  • I no longer have to take medications for diabetes and acid reflux, and I was able to reduce other meds as well.
  • I have much more energy, and it's steady throughout the day. I don't get the after-lunch nap craving anymore.
  • I sleep better.
  • My breath is better.
  • I have had to replace my entire wardrobe, including my underwear, because it got too big. Twice.
  • I am rarely hungry and it doesn't take a lot to fill me up.
  • My feet don't hurt anymore.
  • My digestion is much more regular. I know a lot of people get constipated on a low carb high fat diet, but I have not had that problem.
  • My dentist and dental hygienist tell me that my teeth and gums are much healthier than they were a few years ago. Fewer cavities, less plaque, less gum recession.
  • I feel good about my body. Some things are still annoying (triple chin that will probably never go away, relatively big belly, stretch marks, thin hair) but they bother me much less. When I look in the mirror, my first thought is "I look healthy."
  • I rarely crave sugar or carbs. When I tell you that the white-flour foods used to make up 90 percent of my diet, I am not exaggerating. I never imagined that I would not only be able to live without them, but would not mind living without them. Truly, I do not mind.
  • I feel proud that I've taken control of my health. This spills over into other areas, too. I'm proud of myself in general.
  • Overall, I'm in a much better mood.

The bad things have required some adjustment but aren't too bad.

There's a lot of meat in my life these days
  • Our family meals have become somewhat repetitive. Protein, vegetable, salad. Protein, vegetable, salad. Feeding people is one of my favorite things in life (that's why I started Not Ketchup, my condiment business - feeding people on a large scale!), so serving boring family meals makes me cringe. My husband and kids haven't complained much, but I fear they're just being polite.
  • I have missed out on social opportunities with my family. We used to spend a lot of our family time on food-centered outings, exploring the various ethnic cuisines of Los Angeles. My husband and sons still go from time to time. I choose not to participate in most of those now, not because I'm afraid I'll be tempted, but because they just don't interest me as much.
  • I am less motivated to blog about food. I've been writing In Erika's Kitchen since 2008 and have gotten great pleasure over the years in creating recipes and photographing delicious food. But because food is no longer as big a part of my life, I'm not as interested in writing about it. This makes me sad. 
  • My skin looks worse (to me). After years of being heavier, the skin on my face and certain parts of my body is looser now that I've lost weight. Although I am not into the idea of plastic surgery for myself, I see why it appeals to some people.
  • It is actually harder now for me to buy clothes, not easier. When I was bigger, plus sizes fit fairly reliably. Now I am oddly shaped, still carrying more weight in my middle than in other places. Things that fit me in the middle are way too big on top and in the seat and legs. Only certain styles flatter my body. Alterations are expensive.
  • I'm irritated with myself that it took me so long to make these positive changes. I try to focus forward - glad I finally saw the light! - but in dark moments I think about all the years when I could have been feeding my body differently and thus perhaps avoided some of the damage I'm now trying to undo.
  • I am no longer an easy dinner guest. Or house guest. Or travel companion. 
  • My eyesight has gotten worse. Of course, I'm 50, so that was bound to happen at some point. Might be coincidence.
  • Our food bills have gone up. Without cheap fillers like rice, beans, and bread, our family meals are more expensive. On the other hand, my health costs, both present and future, have gone down, so I try not to worry too much about this.
  • I eat more meat than I'd prefer. In a perfect world I probably wouldn't be vegetarian, but I always enjoyed non-meat proteins like beans. Now they raise my blood sugar too much. I try to work in more fish, but it's not my favorite. 
  • "On the go" food is more challenging. I can't assume I can pick up a snack wherever I am. I have to bring my own. I keep emergency low carb protein bars in my purse and car.
  • I've gotten a little preachy, especially with my kids, about what I believe to be the dangers of excess sugar and carbohydrate intake. I don't want to be the Food Police, but given their genetics (sorry, guys) I feel compelled to try to influence their eating habits. 
Overall, of course, I'm glad I made the lifestyle changes I did. Because good health > diabetes. Period.

Have you ever tried giving up or cutting back on sugar and carbs? What changes did you notice? I'd love to hear about your journey.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Food as medicine: The Migraine Relief Plan by Stephanie Weaver

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Food as medicine: That's what my life has been about for the past year and a half, since my diabetes diagnosis. Changing the way I eat has helped me kick diabetes to the curb and start my second half-century in the best health of my adult life. Food, indeed, has been my medicine.

When I heard about Stephanie Weaver's new book The Migraine Relief Plan, I was excited to read it. Because migraines have been part of my life for nearly three decades.

I started getting migraines after I finished college, when I was living in New York City and working in magazine publishing. I'm not talking about little, annoying headaches. I'm talking about crippling, blinding pain that came on suddenly and lasted for hours, sometimes days. The headaches were always in the same place, above my right eye, near my hairline. Pounding. Pulsing. I had several migraines a week for years.

I was young and otherwise healthy, so I pushed through them. Biofeedback therapy helped; I practiced guided relaxation and learned how to raise the temperature of my fingertips five degrees in five minutes using just my brain. (That was pretty cool and, as a side benefit, helped a lot during labor and childbirth.) I experimented with folk remedies and over-the-counter painkillers and finally came up with a method that worked for me, involving ibuprofen, caffeine (which I don't normally have at all), and strategically placed ice packs. Eventually, because of age, hormonal changes, and who knows what else, the headaches came more rarely. Now I get a few a year, if that.

But I suffered for years. And other than avoiding red wine, which I didn't drink much anyway and didn't seem to trigger my headaches, no one ever suggested to me that I might be able to control or lessen the frequency of my migraines by changing what I ate.

Creamy Not-ella Carob Butter from The Migraine Relief Plan

I am truly sorry that Stephanie had to suffer with her migraines as much as she did (her full story is at the beginning of the book). But I'm grateful for the result, and I think other migraine sufferers will be as well. The Migraine Relief Plan offers a sensible eight-week transition plan to help migraine sufferers ease into a diet that is sugar-free, gluten-free and low in sodium. As it happens, I've already made most of these changes myself to tackle my diabetes. They may sound drastic, but when your health is at stake, it's worth it.

And even with these restrictions, it's possible to eat delicious food every single day. The book includes more than 75 recipes that look delicious and follow the guidelines above to help migraine sufferers avoid attacks. In addition to being a certified health and wellness coach, Stephanie is a food blogger and professional recipe developer (that's how we met). I can't wait to try Stephanie's Creamy Not-ella Carob Butter, Seedy Carrot Crackers, Firehouse Turkey Chili, Maple Sesame Glazed Chicken, Peachy Pulled Pork, and Pear Upside-Down Cake.

If you're plagued with migraines, I am so sorry. But there's hope. I strongly suggest taking a look at The Migraine Relief Plan to see if Stephanie's dietary and lifestyle suggestions can help you.

BONUS: Stephanie is hosting a pre-order giveaway if you order The Migraine Relief Plan by February 13, 2017. Click here to enter the giveaway.

*Recipe photography copyright 2016 by Laura Bashar

Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I get a few cents if you click them and buy Stephanie's book. We both thank you in advance.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Conquering diabetes: A gift to my family

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These three men: That's why I need to deal with my diabetes

Someone asked me recently why I have been so motivated to get my diabetes under control when so many people fail to take it seriously.

See the three guys in the photo above? They are the reason.

And it's not some kind of fluffy "I need to be here for my family." I mean, YES, of course I want to continue to live, and I want to live a healthy life, and I want to see my grandchildren someday and all that.

But there's a much more concrete reason I need to take responsibility for my health, keep my blood sugar under control and try to avoid the long-term damage diabetes can cause in my body.

I do not want to be a burden on my family.

No one does. No one wants their spouse or children to have to take care of them.

And sometimes it happens, and we get sick, and it's beyond our control. If we're lucky it doesn't happen until we're very old and we've lived a long, meaningful life.

But diabetes, if uncontrolled, can quickly lead to all kinds of awful and debilitating problems. Heart disease. Kidney disease. Infections that require toes to be amputated. Blindness.

And diabetes is something I can control, at least for now.

So if I choose not to control it...

...if I ignore it, eat candy (and other stuff), fail to exercise, and let my blood sugar run wild...

...isn't that me telling my husband and kids that I don't care about them?

Isn't that me putting a pretty big burden on them that I can choose to avoid?

Taking control of my health is my responsibility as a parent and a wife.

Celebrating our 20th anniversary

Over the past few months I watched one of my friends take care of her husband. Complications of his diabetes led to kidney disease, heart problems, and I think a stroke. He died recently.

I was and am extremely sad for my friend and her kids. Their loss is huge.

But watching the toll it took on my friend - who went from working mother and wife to working mother and wife and full-time caregiver in an instant, who saw her entire life turned upside-down - made me even more determined that I was not going to do that to my husband.

When I get on the elliptical every morning, I'm doing it for me. But I'm also doing it for Michael. If I keep my diabetes under control, maybe he'll never have to spend his afternoons driving me to dialysis.

When I avoid sugar, bread and pasta, I'm doing it for my kids. If I keep my blood sugar under control, maybe they'll never have to push me around in a wheelchair because I had to have my toes amputated.

To be clear, I know that some health problems are beyond all control. If I were to get cancer or some other serious, unavoidable illness (God forbid), I know my family would take care of me.

But diabetes is not beyond my control. There are things I can do, and am doing, to keep it at bay.

It's the least I can do for my family.