SIBO-Friendly Sous Vide Egg Bites

If you’ve walked into Starbucks at any point in 2017, you might have noticed that they’re now serving Sous Vide Egg Bites. They come in two varieties: Bacon Gruyère and Roasted Red Pepper. As a gluten-free girl, I was excited to see these, and when I actually tried them, I FLIPPED. I began to crave them every day and proclaimed to Loren that our next kitchen gadget would have to be a sous vide. Here’s a pic from my instagram where I celebrate the gloriousness of the Starbucks version. (I’ll admit that I’m not generally the biggest Starbucks fan. When I go in there, it’s usually because I’m in an airport, which is why it took me a while to learn about these egg bites — but I started going out of my way to go there once I found these!!)

sous vide egg bites

This year started out a bit hectic — I quit my full-time job at the hospital and stepped down from a leadership role at my start-up, resolving to completely dive into my self-employed endeavor. The whole first half of the year flew by so quickly, and then suddenly it was July, and I’d never followed through on my vow to buy a sous vide machine and replicate these little yummy bites! I’d even been talking with the talented Nicole Ruiz Hudson over at Nibbling Gypsy about all of her gorgeous sous vide recipes, but I just wasn’t pulling the trigger to get my own. Luckily, just in time for the beginning of ‘funemployment’ kitchen experimentation, Amazon had a flash sale that highlighted the Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker. It revitalized my egg bite-creating dreams, and I finally got my hands on one. 

Sous Vide

First things first: what does sous vide mean? Sous vide is a form of cooking that involves submerging a contained food item into a water bath and cooking it at a precise temperature for a set period of time. The ability to maintain a consistent SIBO-friendly Sous Vide Egg bitestemperature allows for even cooking and splendid results, especially for protein dishes. Eggs, in particular, are pretty finicky if you’re hoping for a very specific texture or level of ‘doneness’. The magic wand, of sorts, sits clamped to the edge of the bath (I used my big stock pot) and heats the water to the precise temperature you need.

What do I mean by ‘contained food’? I mean that you’re not dunking a steak directly into a water bath and boiling it to death — that would be gross. Rather, the food you’re cooking is contained in either jars (as we’ll demonstrate today with the sous vide egg bites), BPA-free cook safe plastic bags like these, or silicone bags like these. Today, it’s all about single-serving breakfast and replicating the silky consistency of the Starbucks creation — all within the guidelines of the SIBO diet.

SIBO-friendly

Next question: what makes these sous vide egg bites SIBO-friendly? SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) requires quite a few dietary restrictions, including very limited dairy. Specifically, only cheese that’s been aged for at least one month is permissible (along with only homemade, plain yogurt), and in limited quantities. (If you’re unfamiliar with my SIBO saga, check out this post, which explains what SIBO is, how I think I got it, and the signs and symptoms — which include a lot of overlap with IBS).

I did a little googling to see if I could find some recipes to serve as my jumping off point, and what I found was a whole lot of cream cheese, cottage cheese, and heavy cream. None of these could go into my version of sous vide egg bites, so I had to get creative. As I’ve done with other egg recipes like my Easy Veggie Frittata and my Paleo Bacon Veggie Muffins, I substituted full fat coconut milk for the heavy cream.

frittata

Kitchen Alchemy: Guesswork in ‘Substitution Land’

In considering what to exchange for the cottage cheese and cream cheese, I was kind of at a loss. No aged cheese has that same creamy consistency, so I was worried about how my bites would match up. I decided to try something weird: avocado oil mayonnaise. I say weird, because one of the two main ingredients in mayonnaise is egg, which kind of makes including it a little repetitive. I was unsure when I decided to try it, so I only included 2 tbs for the whole batch. I love how they turned out, but I’m honestly not sure if adding the mayo really had a substantial impact. In my next batch, I’m going to test it out — half the batch with mayo, half without, and I’ll report back my findings with an addendum to this post. 

Intuitive Cooking

I love recipes where there’s little to no measuring, and where creativity can take the dish in any direction. I like to call this kind of cooking intuitive cooking, because you’re trusting yourself in the kitchen, rather than chaining yourself to every tiny detail in a recipe that doesn’t require it. This is a perfect example of a recipe that allows for lots of variation. Include the bacon, or don’t. Add in cooked shrimp or shredded pork instead. Choose whatever cheese floats your boat. Or leave out the cheese entirely. Chop up some veggies for a quick sauté, and throw them in. Add fresh herbs, dried spices, salsa, or hot sauce to the egg mixture. Anything that suits your fancy!

Here are some regional flavor combinations to try out: 

  • Mexican: add cumin, cilantro, cotija cheese (use anejo if you’re sticking to SIBO rules), and a few tablespoons of salsa (only green onion if you’re sticking to SIBO rules). Grease the jars with avocado oil.
  • Italian: add fresh chopped parsley and oregano, parmesan and/or Romano, and few squeezes of tomato paste. Grease the jars with garlic-infused EVOO.
  • French: add bleu cheese, bacon, and green onion. Grease the jars with butter or ghee.
  • Persian: (borrowed from a fellow experimenter) add boiled shrimp, chopped dates, and turmeric. (skip the dates if you’re sticking to SIBO rules). 
  • ‘MERICA: add aged cheddar cheese, bacon, and breakfast sausage (use ground pork and spices if you’re sticking to SIBO rules).

The flavor experiments could continue forever! In my first go at this, I wanted to try to get as close to my original muse (the Gruyère bacon bites at Starbucks) as possible. But I couldn’t resist trying a couple of different cheeses, since I wasn’t sure how long Gruyère is aged, and I didn’t want to take the chance. I also greased half of the jars with bacon grease and the other half with garlic infused EVOO. Both were delicious, but I think I preferred the EVOO.

SIBO-friendly sous vide egg bites

Important Sous Vide Cooking Tips:

  1. Do not tighten the lids too much (do a “two-finger tighten”). Pressure builds as the eggs cook, and if the jars are too tightly sealed, you might have an exploded glass mess on your hands.
  2. Blend the egg mixture in a blender or food processor. Hand mixing won’t get you the silky, uniform consistency you want.
  3. Depending on the size of your jars and how much room you leave at the top, they might float in your water bath. If you find that your jars are floating, place a heavy plate or a big pot on top of them in the water to weigh them down. You can also try stacking them to keep them in place. Another option is to put something at the bottom of the pot (I saw a suggestion for inverted coffee mugs) and placing your jars atop them, so that they’re higher up in the bath and slightly breaching the surface.
  4. Grease the jars for your egg bites. It will make clean up much easier.

Supplies needed: 

  1. Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker
  2. 10-12 4 oz mason jars (you could also use bigger jars and only fill partially — that will definitely cause floating)
  3. A pot or tub large enough to fit the wand and all of the jars (I used a 2 gallon stock pot but only filled the liquid to the “min” line on my wand cooker)
  4. Food processor or blender
  5. Cheese grater (if using cheese)
SIBO-friendly Sous Vide Egg Bites
Serves 10
Set the sous vide to 172° F before beginning your prep. It takes longer for the machine to get to temperature than it does to get this recipe ready to go.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 pack cooked bacon (7-10 pieces)
  2. 12 pastured eggs
  3. 2/3 cup coconut milk
  4. 2 tbs avocado oil mayonnaise
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1/2 tsp pepper
  7. EITHER 1 cup grated parmesan or Romano
  8. OR 1/2 cup aged bleu cheese
Instructions
  1. Set the Anova to 172° F in the water bath
  2. Place the bacon on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and broil in the oven until crispy (usually 10 minutes, but keep an eye on it so you don't burn it)
  3. Add the eggs, coconut milk, salt, and pepper to a food processor or blender and mix on low until it's smooth and homogenous
  4. Grease 10-12 4 oz jars with either bacon grease or an oil of your choosing (I did half with garlic infused EVOO).
  5. Evenly distribute crumbled bacon in each jar
  6. Evenly distribute the cheese of your choosing in each jar
  7. If your blender or food processor doesn't have a pitcher spout, transfer the egg mixture to a spouted measuring cup and evenly distribute among all of the jars
  8. Screw on the lids (but not too tightly, see the cooking tips above this recipe for more detail)
  9. Once the water bath is up to the proper temperature, use tongs to carefully submerge your jars into the water bath
  10. Set the Anova timer for 50 minutes
  11. Remove using the tongs
  12. Use either a dish towel or oven mits to open if the jars are hot
  13. If not eating right away, allow the jars to cool before refrigerating
  14. Eat them right from the jar or slide a butter knife around the perimeter and turn over onto a plate to slide out your egg bite
Notes
  1. Cook the bacon to a pretty full crisp. On my first try, I cooked it exactly how I like to eat it on its own, and I found that it was too chewy in the recipe. On my second round, I cooked it longer and crumbled it into smaller pieces instead of using half pieces as Starbucks does. I liked it this way best.
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

To reheat your egg bites, either:

  • Microwave for 30-45 seconds
  • Get a 140° F bath going with your Anova wand and submerge for 15 minute
  • Toast in the oven broiler for 5 minutes (ovens vary, keep your eye on it for this method to avoid burning)

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Exploring Blissful Plant Sprays with Baume Des Anges

Nearly a year ago, at a friend’s 40th birthday party, I had the chance to sample some amazing herbal extracts by a company called Baume Des Anges. My friend Matt (who works with the company’s founder in France) carefully emptied the contents of a small black bag onto the breakfast table, sharing tiny glass bottles of aromatic liquid.Baume des Anges

They came in all sorts of flavors and could be sprayed directly onto food for added herbal essence. Basil, celery, cilantro, and lavender were the ones I liked best, so Matt gave me a bottle of the cilantro to use at home in my kitchen. I could immediately understand the appeal of these perpetually fresh-tasting culinary sprays. How convenient to always have the full flavor of fresh-picked cilantro or lavender just sitting on the shelf! They solve two common problems that home cooks tend to have:

  1. Half-used fresh herbs going bad in the refrigerator
  2. Flavorless dried herbs that are devoid of all nutritional value (and sometimes even moldy!) taking up space in the pantry

As a home gardener who has lots of fresh herbs in the yard, I find it really difficult to grow cilantro and basil. They both bolt so quickly that I can barely use them before they’re gone. And dried basil and cilantro might as well be sawdust, as far as my taste buds are concerned, so these little bottles were pretty impressive.

Baume Des Anges

A Chance Trip to France

When the opportunity arose for me to go to Paris in June, I decided to make the most of it by extending my trip through the rest of the week and visiting the French countryside. My friend Matt, who is still living there, offered to organize a visit to the Baume Des Anges farm, where I’d spend the day with the founder, Laurent Dreyfus-Schmidt. The plan was for me to tour his beautiful property, learn about the plants and the extraction process, and enjoy the spectacular views of Provence. After using the cilantro in my cooking and loving how easy and convenient it was, I realized what an exciting opportunity it would be to learn more about these products and the process of making them.

Baumes Des Anges

Baume Des Anges Farm

Nestled in the countryside of Provence, overlooking the cave from which the company name is derived, the Baume Des Anges property is nothing short of breath-taking. The views at the edge of the property are spectacular, overlooking the Rhône and the many narrow bridges stretching across it. From the edge of the cliffs, farmland stretches as far as the eye can see, with patches of solid purple marking the iconic lavender farms for which the region is known.

Baumes Des AngesLaurent rebuilt his farm and lab at the base of an ancient water source, which trickles into his basement in the spring when the water is flowing from the mountains above. He’s set up a home lab where he blends his pure plant essences with organic sunflower oil and mineral water to make Blissful Plant Sprays. He is growing a number of culinary herbs, flowers, and trees on his farm, and gave me a tour of the property, which ended at a beautiful limestone cave hidden in a grove of oak trees. It was clear that this was a special spot for Laurent.

I even got to meet his adorable pup L, who’s trained to sniff out truffles on the property — pretty sweet dog trick!! (I don’t think Laurent was very impressed when I shared that Dexter’s best trick is putting her head on my shoulder on command.) 

Baumes Des Anges

The farm is irrigated using well water that Laurent collects in the freshwater pools on his property (one is shown above), contributing yet another natural, unadulterated ingredient into these amazingly pure and thoughtfully designed products. Laurent’s farm is one of just twelve farms (all organic or GLOBALG.A.P. certified) that provide the resources for the Baume Des Anges operation, including the farm that provides fresh-pressed organic sunflower oil for every batch of the Blissful Plant line for home cooks. I learned on my trip that the oil is pressed on-demand, leaving zero chance for rancidity or premature oxidation. 

The Better than Fresh Process

Baume Des Anges utilizes an extraction facility that Laurent designed and built himself, just off site from the farm. His proprietary, dry, cold extraction process transforms 2.5 cubic meters of fresh herbs per batch into tiny amounts of highly concentrated Baumes Des Angesessence, retaining the complex aromas and flavors of every plant that runs through the system.

Now, I have to admit, the first time I ever earned a grade lower than a B in school, it was in chemistry class my junior year. This fact, combined with Laurent’s thick French accent (I know zero French), made for a somewhat painstaking attempt on Laurent’s part to explain the process to me. The patience he displayed should probably qualify him for sainthood. But I’m pretty sure I got it all down correctly.

Here’s what I learned from my chemistry lesson:

In order to properly extract the essence from the herbs without damaging the plant, two things need to be precisely calibrated:

  • Pressure (needs to be low)
  • Temperature (needs to be 167° F)

Laurent has built vacuum pumps into his extraction system in order to accomplish this precision. Competing companies extract essences at temperatures at or above 212° F. 

You can read more about the process from seed to bottle here

Professional Grade vs. Home Chef

I was surprised to learn that the Blissful Plant line for home cooks (the cilantro I’d been using at home) is actually significantly diluted when compared to the liquid that comes out of the dry steam extractor. Laurent explained that he only sells the pure extracts to professionals. These pure essences draw the attention of world famous chefs like Thomas Keller of The French Laundry in the Napa Valley wine country and Per Se in NYC. These are just two among the 150 Michelin-starred restaurants using Laurent’s pure essences all over the world.

The Blissful line flavors are intense, but only 1% of what’s in the bottle is the pure extract. The rest is organic sunflower oil, pressed to order, and locally sourced mineral water. When you try the home chef line, you’ll understand why I was so surprised that they were diluted at all. The flavor is amazing with just a spray or two per person.

And it’s not just professional chefs who use these essences. Top of the line perfumers like Chanel, Guerlain, and Burberry source lavender essence from Laurent, which just goes to show you just how fancy this stuff really is!

Baume des Anges

I was lucky enough to walk away from this unique experience with a professional-grade bottle of Basil Essence, which Laurent recommended diluting by adding 7 drops to an entire liter of EVOO! Pretty powerful stuff! I have used it to infuse basil flavor into steak, homemade salad dressing, and roasted chicken, and I’ve loved the finished product every time. 

Because a 5mL bottle of pure extract can run above $500, I’m going to stick to sharing recipes using the Blissful Plant line. In the meantime, check out their full line of products (and recipes), and consider using them in salad dressings, marinades, and as finishing touches on both protein and veggie dishes.

Keep Your Cooking Oil Fresh with Infinity Jars [REVIEW]

Some cooking oils are more sensitive than others when it comes to light and heat exposure. Although most oils are shelf-stable, proper storage is still important, particular for mono- and poly-unsaturated oils, which are liquid at room temperature. This is not to say that saturated fats like ghee or coconut oil won’t eventually go rancid on your shelf (or lose some flavor and nutritional value over time), but the liquid oils (especially high-quality ones) are especially vulnerable to oxidation over time. 

Infinity Jars: Stellar Storage

I’m sharing this today, because a company called Infinity Jars reached out to me and asked me to review their products. I’ll be honest, at first I was reluctant. I took a look at the prices and thought, “I wouldn’t buy empty bottles at these prices, why would I tell my readers to buy them?” But then I saw that they offer freebies, even with small orders as low as $25, and new customers get a 10% discount. Orders over $100 get free shipping (plus more freebies), so my curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to have them send me a couple to test out. 

Today’s product review will be about the incredible difference I saw and tasted after storing fresh avocado oil in an Infinity Jar for a little over two months. 

Infinity Jars

Planning is for Suckers

Initially, I had big plans to make a really cool video that showed my experiment from start to finish. But, alas, life got in the way. I started this oil experiment before I quit my job, and in the hectic transition out of office life, I ended up forgetting about it until two months later. I’d originally intended to do a taste test every week for a month, and then report out the findings to you. But that absolutely did not happen. Instead, I poured the oils into two different jars and left them on my counter, exposed to partial sunlight from my kitchen window for just over 2 months.

Details: The Infinity Jar Experiment

I started by opening a fresh bottle of La Tourangelle avocado oil. This oil comes in an opaque, metal container with a loose-fitting rubbery plastic top. It’s really nice oil. I poured about a cup of it into an Infinity Jar oil bottle with a pour top spout and another cup into a glass bottle. This bottle is roughly the same light green/blue color that you’d find in a super market filled with an average, not-very-special olive oil or vegetable oil. I also purchased a bottle of Chosen Foods avocado oil, which comes in a nicer, darker green bottle, such as what you might find at a boutique olive oil dispensary in the wine country or a high-end market. Here are the three of them all lined up.

Two months later, I did a not-blind taste test with myself, along with a totally blind taste test with my husband. (He was also unaware I’d been conducting this experiment prominently on our kitchen counter for 2 months, and confused as to why I was asking him to drink oil out of a shot glass. I share that detail so that you know he had NO idea what a “right answer” should be.)

Results: Infinity Jars for the Win

The clear winner was not only obvious to our taste buds, it was also very clear in just looking at the oils in the shot glasses. (I asked Loren not to look as he tasted, so he didn’t see until afterwards.) 

Here are the oils after two months on the counter.

infinity jars product review

Top: clear green/blue bottle
Left: Chosen Foods green bottle
Right: Infinity Jar oil bottle

So there you have it folks: I was initially a skeptic, and now I’m a loyal user of Infinity Jars. If you peruse their website, you’ll see how they report to measure up against dark brown glass as well. I didn’t run that experiment, but as a dabbler in essential oil potions and homemade body care (which I have been storing in brown jars), I am certainly curious about how my homemade goods are holding up after running this experiment in my kitchen with plain oil.

Give it a look and let me know what you think! For more information on cooking oils and choosing the right one for the right temperature to avoid rancidity and toxicity, consult my FREE Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oils! 

Click Here to get your FREE Guide!

SIBO-Friendly Ratatouille [RECIPE]

One of the perks of getting to attend the Biocodex Foundation Kickoff event was experiencing the amazing food in Paris. On our second night, we were treated to a beautiful meal at Les Deux Magots, an iconic Parisian treat with an up close and personal view of the oldest cathedral in Paris. (When I told my friend who lives in Paris that we were going there for dinner, his response was, “Fancy pants.” I’ll take it!)Sibo-friendly ratatouilleMy last course of the evening — lamb saddle on a bed of house made ratatouille — is what inspired today’s recipe. I’ll go ahead and say up front that virtually nothing in this multi-course meal was “SIBO-friendly” — especially the dessert platter — but this dish was pretty close. I worked around the onions, but I know I ate a lot of garlic. That being said, I put my entire protocol on hiatus for the week that I was in France. I won’t say I went completely nuts — I did what I could to choose wisely — but there was no way that I was going to be there and not enjoy fresh baked goods or the amazing cultural delicacies this beautiful country has to offer. To be honest, I didn’t experience any digestive consequences until the very last full day. And I view that as a testament to how diligent I’d been before going. BUT, I digress…

Here’s the main course, paired with a perfect Rhone from Chateau La Borie:

Sibo-friendly ratatouille

Why is this a SIBO-Friendly Recipe?

This is a SIBO-friendly recipe because it features vegetables that are allowable in “unlimited” quantities: eggplant, peppers, yellow squash, tomatoes, capers, and olives. I also left out the major offenders: garlic and onions, which are traditionally included. I chose to use yellow squash instead of zucchini, because while zucchini is allowable in certain quantities, I wanted this to be a recipe that those dealing with SIBO could enjoy without measuring anything. And also because I just picked those glorious yellow delights from my backyard garden and wanted to use them! That being said, if you prefer zucchini, feel free to switch it out, bearing in mind that a serving is 3/4 cups.  Check out my SIBO Diet Short List for a list of other veggies you can eat “unlimited” on the SIBO Diet, along with some helpful cooking guidelines and a list of resources from experts in the field.

The trick with converting a garlic or onion-heavy dish to a SIBO-friendly version is to make smart substitutions. To do this, I employed lots of green onions (allowable without the white part) and then topped the dish off with garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil, which is SIBO-legal. And I added them both at the end of the cooking process to ensure that the they retained as much of their flavor as possible. 

SIBO-friendly Cheese

If you don’t have dairy allergies, hard cheeses that have been aged for at least one month are acceptable on the SIBO Diet. I was thrilled to find an adorable cheese shop in Bordeaux that vacuum-sealed customer purchases so that they would remain fresh and in-tact on a transatlantic flight. They were also kind enough to let me hang out and take some pictures of the goods. It was very very difficult to narrow down my purchases, but I did end up with a truffle-infused Pecorino that I grated on top of my SIBO-friendly Ratatouille to add double the umami. It was truly a divine addition.

Sibo-friendly ratatouille

Cooking on High Heat

I cooked my SIBO-friendly Ratatouille mostly on high heat, because I started the process a little later than I’d intended, and I wanted to get dinner on the table at a decent hour. It turned out great and ended up becoming a 30-minute meal, which works out for all of us, but it’s important that you use the right cooking oil if you plan to follow my lead. I used avocado oil, which is able to withstand high temperatures much better than EVOO.

These days, if I want an olive oil flavor, I usually cook with something else (like water, avocado oil, or ghee) and then add in some EVOO as a topper once I turn off the fire. This way, I get the flavor and nutrients without risking burning the oil and turning it from healthful to carcinogenic. Consider practicing that in your next few meals and see how it goes. It might take a little bit of an adjustment, but it will be worth the health benefits. And if you have a really good olive oil, you’ll likely notice that you taste more of the olive oil flavor while using less of it in your food.

More Food Pics!

I thought about using this post to share more exciting food pics from my trip to France, but then I realized that since most of them aren’t SIBO-friendly, that would kind of be cruel. SO, if you’d like to check out some of the glorious treats that I enjoyed (or at least enjoyed photographing), head over to my Instagram and flip your way through. There are some real works of art from Bordeaux in particular that you should check out.Sibo-friendly ratatouille

SIBO Friendly Ratatouille
Serves 4
This recipe is a mix of all SIBO Diet-approved veggies and spices, while still remaining delicious and satisfying. It also includes gut-supportive bone broth and nutrient-dense fresh herbs.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 tbs avocado oil [Buy avocado oil]
  2. 1 large eggplant
  3. 1 large yellow squash or zucchini (the one I used was so big I had to core it -- if yours are smaller, consider adding 2 or 3)
  4. 1 bell pepper (I used orange)
  5. 1/2 cup bone broth (Mine was homemade and pre-salted. You can adjust your salt based on how salty your own broth is)
  6. 2 cups POMI strained or chopped tomatoes [Buy POMI]
  7. 2 tbs capers
  8. 8-10 black olives
  9. 1 full bunch scallions (green part only)
  10. 1 cup loose fresh chopped herbs (I used fresh oregano, sage, and parsley from the CWB garden)
  11. 1-2 tsp Real Salt or pink salt
  12. 2 tbs garlic-infused EVOO [Buy garlic-infused EVOO]
Instructions
  1. Cube all the veggies
  2. Chop scallions and fresh herbs (and set aside)
  3. Heat a very large frypan before adding avocado oil on medium heat
  4. Add cubed eggplant, squash, and pepper
  5. Stir to ensure that all veggies are exposed to the heated oil and turn up the heat to high
  6. Stir in bone broth and cover for 5 minutes
  7. Uncover and stir in tomatoes
  8. Cook on high, stirring regularly for another 15 minutes (reducing things down)
  9. Coarsely chop the olives while everything is cooking
  10. Add in capers and olives
  11. Once all veggies are softened, turn off the heat and add in the freshly chopped scallions and herbs)
  12. Finish with 2 tbs garlic-infused EVOO (or drizzle on individual servings)
Notes
  1. This dish is amazing served warm as a side dish or as a base for 1/2 a cup of white rice or quinoa and a delicious cut of meat. You can also eat it cold as a Sicilian-style caponata with SIBO-approved rice crackers once you reach that phase of your protocol.
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

How I Arrived at a SIBO Diagnosis (and what I’m doing about it)

About a month ago, I was diagnosed with SIBO. That’s right, the blogger who loves to talk about gut health has a gut problem. SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) is actually exactly what it sounds like — bacteria are living in your small intestine that shouldn’t be there. Whether it’s the “good” kind that propagate to aid in digestion and immune function in your large bowel, or the “bad” kind that can make you sick, bacteria do not tend to colonize a healthy small intestine.
how-i-arrived-at-a-sibo-diagnosis-1

So what happened? How did I get SIBO?

Because there’s no test for tracing this problem backwards, I can only guess how those little bugs crept their way into the wrong place. I’ll be hypothesizing, but my ideas are based on my Naturopath’s input, the research I’ve done on the topic, conversations with my father-in-law who’s a Gastroenterologist, and my experience of the onset of symptoms. 

Factor 1: I went off of hormonal birth control (HBC) for the first time in 11 years, which affected my sleep, my ability to cope, and very likely disrupted my microbiome. It definitely did a number on my weight (I gained about 10 pounds, and shedding even one ounce felt impossible), and it reintroduced PCOS symptoms that I hadn’t dealt with in years (like unwanted hair growth, back-ne, and the weight) — very disheartening. 

Factor 2: 2016 was quite possibly the most stressful year of my life. I worked two jobs, one of which was a relatively high-demand early stage start-up, and in allowing work to take over my life, I de-prioritized my health. Stress in and of itself is a risk factor for SIBO, as it disrupts the production of gastric juices and has been shown to impair motility (the movement of the bolus, or digesting ball of food, from the small to the large intestine). These two factors end up creating two potential problems:how-i-arrived-at-a-sibo-diagnosis-1

  1. Poorly digested food stays in the small intestine for too long, resulting in putrefaction (gross), which causes bacterial growth in the small bowel.
  2. Bacteria migrates upward from the large intestine, due to a loose or imperfectly sealed ileocecal valve (the valve that separates the small and large intestine) and results in overgrowth in the small bowel.

 

Factor 3: Being overly stressed negatively affected my food choices and my ability to maintain my normal self-care routine. Although I was taking Dexter for regular morning walks, I all but stopped lifting weights and couldn’t keep a consistent climbing schedule for months on end.

Factor 4: I wasn’t getting enough sleep (or sleeping well). I was having trouble turning my brain off at night, I’d wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, or I’d wake up feeling exhausted. 

If you’ve read my gut health series, Why Gut Health Matters, you already know how stress, food choices, exercise, and sleep can impact the gut. So those are my best guesses as to what allowed SIBO to take hold for me. 

What changed?

I started seeing a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) over a year ago in an attempt to mitigate the potential hormonal hiccups that could arise from going off of HBC. I had started taking HBC back in college to control my PCOS symptoms, and since I’d had such great success clearing my acne with bone broth, I was pretty confident that it was safe to stop taking it.  
 
I was wrong.
 
In the first six months after stopping HBC, my back started breaking out, I experienced random, intense headaches, I gained those 10 lbs, and I was feeling constantly fatigued, yet having trouble falling asleep. AND all the hair that I’d paid thousands of dollars to get laser-removed came back (in places where women aren’t supposed to have hair: neck, jaw line, chest, belly, and extending down my leg from the bikini line. No bueno.)how-i-arrived-at-a-sibo-diagnosis
 
My goal with my ND was to keep my skin and hair issues at bay through nutritional supplements, herbs, and a healthy diet and lifestyle. But after a year of trying just about everything (and spending hundreds of dollars on supplements), nothing changed. I was still 10 lbs heavier and much hairier than I wanted to be, with no signs of improvement on the horizon.
 
My ND, who specializes in women’s fertility issues, was befuddled by my lack of response to the interventions she was employing. The interventions we were trying were effective with nearly all of her PCOS clients, and she was concerned that I was having an absorption problem. This prompted the conversation that something gut-related was at play.

What are the symptoms of SIBO?

I was experiencing near-constant gas and bloating, feeling puffy, occasional intestinal cramping, and frequent trips to the bathroom.

Other symptoms include:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Malnutrition (malabsorption, as I was experiencing)
  • Weight loss
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Rashes
  • Acne
  • Eczema
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Rosacea
(I pulled that list from Dr. Axe’s website https://draxe.com/sibo-symptoms/)

Testing for SIBO

The best way to test for SIBO is to do a breath test. It’s kind of an involved process, because you have to alter your diet 24 hours in advance to ensure that the test is accurate, but it’s worth it if you suspect you might have SIBO. There are a few options out there, but I did the Aerodiagnostics Breath Test. My results came back positive for both types of bacteria, but were far higher for the type that produces hydrogen gas. Bacteria that produce hydrogen gas can cause diarrhea, while those that produce methane can cause constipation. (That’s why both symptoms are cause for concern.)

It all boils down to INFLAMMATION

The underlying problem that causes this array of symptoms is the inflammation that SIBO creates in the gut. When bacteria is living where it doesn’t belong in the intestinal tract, it irritates the lining, causing leaky gut and the host of issues that follow. (You might remember this infographic from my gut series.)
Why Gut Health Matters

–click to view larger–

How to Treat SIBO

Treating SIBO requires more than a simple diet change. Nearly all professionals agree that an intervention that actively kills the offending organisms (such as an antibiotic or herbal protocol) is necessary to fully address the problem at its root. The most commonly researched antibiotic is called Rifaxamin, but it’s extremely expensive, and not all insurance carriers will agree to pay for it. (Mine rejected it twice, so I went with the herbal intervention, prescribed by my ND.)
 
While many conventional GI doctors don’t necessitate drastic dietary changes, most holistic practitioners (including my ND and many Functional Medicine doctors) recommend a restrictive dietary protocol that starves out (and therefore begins to kill off) the bugs in the small intestine. This diet is intended to quell symptoms, reduce inflammation, and improve the chances of success during the first pass of antibiotic treatment. It combines a Low FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) diet, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), and the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet (Gaps Diet), which amounts to a list of foods that will inspire some creativity* in the kitchen.
 
*That was my nice way of expressing my frustration when I first embarked on this journey. But there’s a silver lining to everything — I’ll be sharing some of the awesome recipes I’ve come up with to accommodate the restrictions of this diet. (You can check out my Chocolate Almond Butter Cups recipe here and my Icelandic Pesto here!)

The SIBO Diet Short List

I’ve created my own abbreviated chart as a quick reference for you. It doesn’t go through every single food option out there, but I do share which fruits, veggies, and dairy options you can eat in unlimited quantities, and which starches are allowed on the diet. Since these are the main food groups that are restricted on this diet, I focused there, but I’ve also outlined protein and fat guidelines as well. My guide also includes info on the main web resources I’ve been using as I’ve made my way through this experience. You can download the PDF by clicking the image below.

SIBO can become a chronic issue that’s not easily eradicated on the first try, working through the phases of this diet can dramatically increase the chances of a successful treatment the first time through.

My Treatment Progress

Excepting my week-long hiatus in France — in which I literally ate whatever I wanted for a solid 7 days — I’ve been following the SIBO diet protocol (at about 85-90% fidelity) for almost two months now. The insurance rejection process and the Euro Trip pushed my treatment schedule back a couple of weeks, which is why I’ve gone so long on the restricted diet before taking an antibiotic (this was not ideal, but was unavoidable in my case). Most people start either herbal or conventional antibiotics much earlier than I was able to — after two weeks on the diet.

how-i-arrived-at-a-sibo-diagnosis

 
 
I can honestly report that I’ve felt amazing since removing the offending foods. I’ve lost 9 pounds, my “back-ne” cleared up almost entirely, I haven’t had a single headache, and I feel like a million bucks in the climbing gym — stronger with lots more energy. I’ve also been far less gassy. I can tell when I look in the mirror and by the way I feel in my clothes that I’m less inflamed and no longer bloated or puffy all the time.
 
I started the herbal antibiotic this week and will be on that regimen and in phase two of the SIBO diet (slightly less restricted) for the next four weeks. And then I’ll retest with that same breath test to see if there are any bugs left in my small intestine. I’m crossing my fingers that this will work on the first try!

Long-Term Plans for SIBO Patients

The SIBO diet isn’t meant to be the solution — killing the bugs is the solution — but following the diet temporarily the fastest way to get the inflammation down and begin to feel like yourself again. FODMAPs feed the good bacteria in your large intestine that keep your digestive system, your immune system, and your overall health in good working order, and long-term elimination of these foods is not by any means ideal. 
 
Pay attention to your body, and listen to what it’s telling you. If you find that gas returns, that some of those old familiar feelings of fatigue, exhaustion, sugar cravings, or perhaps depression return, consider retesting for SIBO. You might need another round of treatment. Maintenance through a healthy, whole foods diet, adequate exercise, and most importantly, stress management is the best way to prevent SIBO relapse. 

Biocodex is Setting a High Bar for Microbiome Research

Through an unlikely series of events, I recently found myself in Paris at the Biocodex International Headquarters. I was there to learn about their latest endeavors in the world of microbiota research. (Gut flora — my favorite topic!)

Crazy right? I just quit my job, and then suddenly I’m in Paris for my first paid writing gig. Without going into the long backstory as to how this happened (which is not the point of today’s post), it all started when a friend shared a sample of Florastor with me. Florastor is Biocodex’s signature product, a probiotic featuring a unique strain of beneficial yeast called Saccharomycese boulardii lyo CNCM I-745. biocodex microbiota

I know, I’d never seen all those letters and numbers after a probiotic before either. It’s basically a super-specific strain of yeast that my friend’s company (Biocodex) discovered and began testing with great success in clinical trials for maintaining a healthy intestinal microbiome.

Interestingly, this product is used in hospitals all over the world and has been the subject of hundreds of clinical trials, testing its efficacy on positively impacting the gut microbiome. Being the gut health geek that I am, I swiped up those samples and encouraged my friend to check out my series Why Gut Health Matters right here on CWB. 

One week later, after reading through my series, he and his team invited me to join them on the Paris trip, where I would learn about their new foundation and research institute. I couldn’t believe my ears — a trip to Paris? Yes please! Where do I sign?

I spent the next few weeks learning what I could about Biocodex so that I would be prepared for the big event. And what I learned, both before and during this serendipitous experience has been nothing short of amazing. This company has been conducting research of its own since its inception as a GI company back in 1953. But they’ve now launched an expansion project that includes not only funding outside research endeavors (Foundation), but also providing information — in layman’s terms — for those of us who want to learn more about how we can take better care of our health (Institute). They also have a special section on the institute website geared toward empowering doctors with the latest research outcomes to better serve their patients.

The overarching goal for both the Foundation and Institute is to spread the wealth of knowledge, all while digging for greater and deeper understanding of the relationship between microbiota and human health.

biocodex microbiota

Biocodex Microbiota Foundation

The mission of this undertaking and the important projects Biocodex is in the process of launching are incredibly impressive. The Biocodex Microbiota Foundation will support scientific research on microbiota, leveraging an international committee of independent scientists to determine an annual research topic and grant funding to the most exciting and innovative proposals.

The Foundation is completely independent from Biocodex the company, with an ethic of trust in the scientific community and respect for researchers. To that end, the company has deliberately removed any concern about profitability, regardless of the outcome of the research. This is truly a quest for knowledge and understanding — full stop — as the President of Biocodex, Jean-Marie Lefevre, emphasized more than once during the kick-off meeting. Biocodex has committed to 6 years of funding with a firm, dedicated budget, which will be subdivided annually across multiple countries to the most innovative researchers in the world.

Biocodex Microbiota Institute

The Biocodex Microbiota Institute will be the first international platform for scientific expertise on microbiota, with the goal of educating both the general public and health care professionals on the latest findings in the field. The Institute has already published a book, entitled, Gut Microbiota – A Full Fledged Organ, which will soon be available directly through the website.

I was deeply honored to be among the first to hear about what Biocodex is planning for the betterment of the human race. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but I truly believe that the research they’ll be funding and publishing, along with the information they’ll be sharing with the general public, will ultimately enable us to better understand our own ecology and how changes to it can dramatically influence our health.

That’s a lot to take in, right? Let’s break it down, because I want you to bookmark the Institute Website and use it as a reference going forward (much like I hope you use CWB!). There’s a TON to learn there, so I’ll just start with the basics.

The Human Microbiome

The statistics on how many non-human cells are living on and in our bodies at any given time is staggering. Microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and viruses) outnumber human cells more than 10 to 1 in and on our bodies, with dense concentration in the large intestine. When all is harmonious between us and them, we function well and our health flourishes. But when dysbiosis occurs (an imbalance of organisms, including an excess of pathogens), our health suffers, and diseases are able to take hold.

Thirty years of research have resulted in a greater understanding of the relationship between gut dysbiosis and certain pathologies, but there’s a lot of work left to do. Precious little is known about the microbiota living in other areas of the body and how they interact with bugs in the gut to impact our health. Interestingly, it’s still unknown whether dysbiosis causes disease, or if the reverse is true. The current hypothesis is that both are possible, creating a “vicious circle” that leads to poor health outcomes and chronic illness. 

Biocodex Microbiota

What causes dysbiosis?

Dysbiosis can occur after a round of antibiotics kills most, if not all, of the living bacteria in the body (especially the gut bacteria that help us assimilate nutrients and digest certain fibers). It can also be the result of a viral, bacterial, or parasitic infection.

Another major cause of dysbiosis is stress. If you’ve read my gut health series, you know that I have dedicated a lot of time and energy to explaining the connection between gut health and stress. You might be surprised at how profoundly stress affects our health. Not only does it create obstacles to efficient digestion and metabolism, it can impact our sleep, and all three of these functions can have an effect on the microbiome. In fact, stress can play a role in causing a type of dysbiosis of particular personal interest to me lately, due to a recent diagnosis of my own: SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). Research seems to point to a causal relationship between stress and impaired motility — the movement of food from the small to the large intestine — which is a contributing factor in SIBO. Stress is a powerful thing and should be taken seriously!

Impacts on the Microbiome

I pulled this image from the Biocodex event, because it perfectly illustrates the myriad factors that impact the microbiome. 

biocodex microbiota

We all know that we should eat our veggies and avoid smoking, but did you know that the inevitable fact of aging can have an impact on the gut biome? I didn’t. So as we get older, it’s that much more important to stay on top of our health, including regular exercise, adequate sleep, a nutrient-rich diet, live foods, and possibly supplementing with a probiotic. And don’t forget the spirit part of the mind-body-spirit equation. That’s where healthy relationships, supportive community, time spent outside, and possibly a meditation or religious practice come into play. 

A Company on a Mission

Since the inception of the company in 1953, Biocodex has been embarking on research connecting intestinal dysbiosis to digestive health conditions. Now that mission is expanding, drawing dotted lines to certain cancers, allergies, neurological disorders, diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and many other pathologies that hadn’t previously been linked to gut dysbiosis. 

This year, the Foundation is calling for innovative research exploring the interaction between the liver and gut microbiota. They have a long-term commitment to uncovering solutions to some of the most pressing diseases we face as a society today. And through the Institute, they’ll disseminate the information they glean so that we can take the measures necessary to protect and improve our health. 

Each of us is truly an ecosystem of our own, in the same way that the soil in which we plant our food is an ecosystem, and the forests we hike through to get some exercise and stress relief are their own ecosystems. There are so many moving parts that lend a hand in helping us thrive, and we’re learning that the microbiome is at the foundation of it all. 

I hope you’ll bookmark the Biocodex Institute website and refer to it when you have a health concern or question. After taking part in their kickoff meeting and talking with the president and medical leaders in the company, I’ve learned that these projects are fueled by a passionate quest for knowledge aimed at expanding the possibilities of truly helping patients heal. I’m just thrilled to have been included in this event, an I’ll certainly keep you informed as I learn more about this amazing undertaking. 


FTC DISCLOSURE: This is a sponsored post, which means I have received monetary compensation for sharing the above information. All opinions are my own.

Flashback: Icelandic Pesto is the Best Thing Ever

Last August, Loren and I drove the Ring Road exploring the wonders of Iceland for 9 days. We enjoyed amazing food (mostly food we cooked on a single burner camping stove at campgrounds and stops along the way) and gazed upon some of the most spectacular features of planet earth. 

The food part was particularly memorable, because I had zero issues eating the baked goods we found at an amazing bakery called Brauð & Co in Reykjavik. Zero stomach cramps or digestive issues, zero discomfort. I’m guessing it has something to do with the strain of wheat they use or a nice, slow leavening … all I know is that we couldn’t get enough of this place for the short two days we spent in Reykjavik before hitting the road. And I certainly enjoyed my consequence-free glutinous vacation.

Icelandic Pesto

Brauð & Co: Baked Goods and Pesto from Heaven 

This bakery was truly a thing to behold: a tiny room that could hold no more than 7 or 8 customers, with 4 bakers and two cashiers behind the counter — and a line down the block. You could smell this place from a block away, following your nose to the long line of Icelanders patiently awaiting baked goods from heaven. 

Icelandic Pesto

They had staggeringly delicious, warm loaves of sourdough bread and the most incredible house-made pesto I’d ever tasted. I have never experienced pesto like this anywhere else, and I LOVED it. On our way to pick up our camper van and hit the Ring Road, we stopped and grabbed a fresh loaf of bread and a container of pesto, so we wouldn’t be without on our road trip. We made some pretty amazing sandwiches using those two ingredients. 

Icelandic Pesto Mission: The Translation

As I slowly grew more and more obsessed with this unfamiliar pesto, I decided that I needed to have the option of eating it forever. To do that, I’d have to find out what was in it. I took a picture of the label (all in Icelandic PestoIcelandic) and made plans to sit with Google Translate once I was stateside and figure out exactly how to replicate it at home. Then I had the chance to ask a couple of Icelandic natives to translate it for me. I wrote down their translations and deleted the picture.

Then I lost the piece of paper. That’s right. TRAGEDY. 

That being said, I do remember a few key ingredients from the translation, so I used those as my jumping of point and combined them with the circumstances of my refrigerator and cupboard to bring you today’s recipe.

The ingredients that I know overlap between my version and theirs are: arugula (which they called rocket), sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, and sunflower seeds. Everything else is a guess. And I’d say I made a pretty darn good approximation of what this stuff was all about. I’d love to have a side-by-side comparison, so if anyone is planning a trip to Iceland soon, please stop by Brauð and get yourself some pesto. I’d love to know how mine measures up. And also get a loaf of bread and a cinnamon roll. And then mail them to me. Thanks.

Icelandic Adventures

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say more about our amazing trip in this flashback post — after all, flashing back is all about reliving the glory of a wonderful experience.

icelandic pesto

Highlights (in no particular order):

  • We experienced some of the most majestic natural hot springs on earth, including a hot river. Almost the entire country is geothermally active, and there are areas where water and steam just pour out of the earth. It’s magical.
    Icelandic Pesto
  • I had my first experience using cramp-ons when we hiked the Svínafellsjökull glacier.Icelandic Pesto
  • We saw enough waterfalls and rainbows to satisfy the imagination of every child with magic in her heart.
    Icelandic pesto
  • We did a spontaneous beach clean up while waiting for a cave tour in Snaefellsbaer.Icelandic pesto
  • We got a unique view of Kirkjufell by hopping a fence and taking an unofficial waterfall tour into the mountains at Snæfellsnes.icelandic pestoicelandic pesto
  • We picked wild blueberries with the aid of two locals stocking up for winter (literally filling three giant buckets) at the beginning and end of a beautiful hike that required no trail to find our way.Icelandic pestoicelandic pesto
  • I learned how to drive a stick shift (but not really in a city, and definitely not to parallel park).
  • A tour guide in Reykjavik told us that we were too late to see the puffins, but in fact, we arrived at Black Beach just in time to see pretty much every puffin on earth preparing to leave for the winter. (They were too high up for a good photo without a better camera.) 

You Should Go to Iceland!

All of this, and we barely made it halfway around the country before having to turn back. Iceland is absolutely magnificent (and very tourist-friendly), and there are a lot of ways to stop through if you’re planning a trip with a European destination. We will definitely go back there in the not too distant future. It was just stunningly beautiful — so much so that it was difficult to take it all in. 

So with that, here’s the Icelandic pesto recipe — I recommend using it however you’d use regular pesto, including scrambling into eggs, dipping bread or crackers, stirring into veggies, pasta, or veggie pasta, and even cooking with shrimp or chicken. 

Icelandic Pesto
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups raw baby arugula
  2. 1/4 cup blanched carrot tops
  3. 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  4. 1/4 cup cashew pieces
  5. 1/4 cup pine nuts
  6. 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
  7. zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
  8. 1/2 cup garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil (split into 1/4 cups) OR 1 clove garlic + EVOO
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients (except 1/4 cup EVOO) in food processor and process until a choppy but incorporated mix is achieved. You can decide how chunky you want it to be.
  2. Once ingredients are mixed to your liking, stir in remaining 1/4 cup of EVOO.
  3. And you're ready to serve!
Adapted from Inspired by Brauð & Co Bakery in Reykjavik, Iceland
Adapted from Inspired by Brauð & Co Bakery in Reykjavik, Iceland
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

Homemade Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

I’m officially well into my new life of “funemployment,” and the first recipe I’m going to share is nothing short of a celebration. That’s right folks, it’s chocolate time. You may have noticed an increase in references to #sibo on the old IG account lately, but in case you haven’t, I’ve had a recent, unfortunate diagnosis of SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), which has rendered my food choices quite limited as of late. (I could use this space to rant about the medical insurance racket and how insanely long it’s taking me to get the antibiotic I need, but I’ll spare you the details.) One of the interesting things about the SIBO diet is that you can have raw honey and certain fruits, but no other sugar whatsoever. I’ll get more into SIBO in a separate post, but I just couldn’t wait to share this recipe.

Because I am absolutely addicted to chocolate, and because most store-bought chocolates are not sweetened with honey, I’ve taken matters into my own hands. Join me for the next few minutes on my chocolate making adventure, and then venture out on your own chocolate journey and let me know how it goes!

I’ve tried a few different things so far, but the one I’m most excited to share is the Almond Butter Cups. Like most things on CWB, this is simply a chocolate roadmap with one example of how it could end. You have the power to make your chocolate dreams come true — I’m just here to help. 🙂 

chocolate almond butter cups

Recipe Lab: Refrigerator Chocolate

You might recall that I experimented with some freezer chocolate back at Christmastime. (Side note, I just realized this was TWO Christmases ago — 2016 was the fastest year of my life, by FAR. Anyone else feel me on this?) Anyway, in the spirit of homemade holiday gifts and attempting to include some healthy sweets in our holiday celebrations, I made Paleo-ish Peppermint Bark. The main ingredients were coconut oil, raw cacao powder, and maple syrup. It turned out great, but it absolutely HAD to stay in the freezer or it would become a big melty mess. And since I can’t include my favorite sweetener for the time being (maple syrup), I’m moving forward from here with raw honey. 

To avoid the melty mess this time, I decided to experiment with raw cacao butter to achieve a more stable finished product. And guess what … it was the right choice. I have successfully upgraded my chocolate-making skills from freezer chocolate to refrigerator chocolate!

Is this chocolate raw?

The ingredients in my refrigerator chocolate are raw, but I did melt everything on the stove. I read a bit about raw chocolate and learned that the hottest temps allowable for raw chocolate to remain raw are between 118 and 120F. I didn’t use a double boiler or check the temperature, but I’d imagine that if you did those things and kept the temps in range, you could make exactly what I made and be able to call it raw chocolate.

The Chocolate Journey

Since my main chocolate-making experience was in making the peppermint bark for the holidays, I decided to stick to that in round one of my chocolatey adventure. More bark. But instead of going for the peppermint variety, I kept it simple, sprinkling raw cacao nibs and pumpkin seeds on top and calling it a day. It turned out pretty great actually.

homemade chocolate barkRound 2: Almond Butter Cups

In round 2, I decided to get more creative. I’d bought a few silicone molds a while back, and most of them had just been collecting dust in my cabinet. The only ones I’d used were these adorable little hearts when I experimented with homemade lotion bars (I think it was also that crafty Christmas back in 2015). So I pulled out the mold that looked like peanut butter cups and went to work on my version of almond butter cups. This was a delicious decision and turned out to be the inspiration for today’s post.

chocolate almond butter cups

The Almond Butter Cup Filling

The filling consists of equal parts raw almond butter to raw honey, stirred aggressively with a fork. Very simple and delicious. In my first attempt at almond butter cups, I used about a dime-sized ball of filling, which made for a high chocolate-to-filling ratio. They were delicious, but I knew I wanted more almond butter in every bite. I went to work again, this time using these really cute flower molds that were much deeper (so they could fit more filling). 

chocolate almond butter cups

chocolate almond butter cups

I love how these turned out, but as you might see from the pictures, some of the filling snuck out of the sides, so they aren’t quite perfect to look at. Considering that they taste amazing, and that I’m a novice at this whole chocolate-making endeavor, I’m still giving myself an A for effort and believe that I’ve earned bragging rights as a wannabe chocolatier. (I’m sure real chocolatiers are rolling their eyes at this simpleton, but I do what I want.)

What will I come up with next?

Also featured in one of these pictures are my first attempts at a “peppermint patty.” I didn’t love how they turned out, so I’m going to go back to the drawing board before I share that recipe with you. I already have an idea of how I’ll improve these for the next round. I’m also going to try my hand at an “Almond Joy”-style bite-size morsel. So stay tuned for both of those. And if you decide that you want to beat me to the punch in figuring those two out, please be my guest and let me know about it! I’d be happy to share your version with everyone!

Chocolate Almond Butter Cups (Sweetened with Honey)
Chocolate prepared with all raw ingredients, sweetened with raw honey for those with food restrictions (especially those related to SIBO)
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup coconut oil
  2. 1/3 cup raw cacao butter (or 5 cubes of the Big Tree Farms brand)
  3. 3/4 cup raw raw cacao powder
  4. 2 tbs raw honey
  5. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  6. pinch of salt
  7. OPTIONAL: raw maca powder
  8. OPTIONAL: raw cacao nibs and coarse sea salt for topping
  9. FOR THE FILLING: If using shallow, buttercup-like molds, 2 tbs raw honey + 2 tbs raw almond butter. If using deeper molds, 3 tbs raw honey + 3 tbs raw almond butter (I used creamy)
Instructions
  1. in a small saucepan, melt the raw cacao butter on very low heat (optional to use a double boiler to avoid scorching)
  2. once it starts to become liquid, add in the coconut oil
  3. turn off the fire when both oils are fully liquified
  4. whisk in raw cacao powder, raw honey, vanilla, salt, and maca until the chocolate liquid is completely uniform
  5. place your mold onto a rigid surface (like a cutting board or cookie sheet) for easy transport
  6. pour a thin layer of chocolate into the bottom of each mold
  7. freeze for 10 minutes
  8. immediately thoroughly mix the honey and almond butter in a small mixing bowl and freeze for the remaining few minutes until it's time to take out the chocolate
  9. remove the molds and filling from the freezer
  10. using a small spoon and clean fingers, form a ball of filling to place inside each mold (for shallower molds, you want a dime-size ball. For the deeper molds, about a silver dollar-size ball.)
  11. once you've distributed the filling, give the remaining chocolate a good stir with the whisk before spooning out the rest of it to fill the molds
  12. If your filling is visible, use a spoon to gently press it down and hide it under the chocolate
  13. (Optional to sprinkle the nib and sea salt toppings at this time)
  14. freeze for another 20 minutes (or overnight)
  15. pop your chocolates out of their molds and store in a non-porous covered container in the refrigerator
Notes
  1. You can use this same chocolate recipe without the filling to make chocolate bark, chocolate bars, or even dipping chocolate.
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Sweet Potato Leek Soup [RECIPE]

I have no idea what came over me when I made the decision to make soup on what was likely the hottest day so far in 2017 (last week). But for some reason, I felt inspired to invent a new version of potato leek soup using the sweet potatoes sitting on my counter. I knew I needed to use them, but I just couldn’t bring myself to turn on the oven in my un-air conditioned kitchen. And since I’d just pulled three beautiful leeks from the front yard garden, the idea came to me in a stroke of genius. Loren came home and informed me that soup on a hot day was less genius than I’d originally thought, but I was pretty much finished making it, so we went with it!

Sweet potato leek soup, paleo soup

Sweet Potato Leek Soup Recipe

This recipe was an experiment, and while there’s one thing* I’d do differently the next time I make it (I explain it in the recipe), I’d say it turned out pretty darn delicious. Loren and I brought our soup outside that night to eat at our back yard dining table —  it was much cooler out there than inside our little sweat box of a house, so all in all it was a beautiful evening. We enjoyed the dusk and some candle light, and Dexter hung out on the gravel until we were ready to go back in. That’s success in my book!

*What’s the one thing I’d do differently? The next time I make this soup, I’m going to pull out half the sweet potato chunks from the pot before fully puréeing the rest into a thick, creamy base. Then I’ll add the pieces back in for texture. What I did this time was just do a half-way blend, leaving some larger and smaller chunks, but not achieving a thick base. It was perfectly fine to eat the way I did it, but I think it would be a prettier soup to do it the other way the next time. And the texture would be better.

I did the blending with an immersion blender like this. It’s a great tool to have on hand, but if you don’t have one, just use a blender. It makes for a little more  clean up but works just as well. 

Sweet Potato and Leek Soup
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Ingredients
  1. 2 medium sweet potatoes, cleaned, peeled, and cubed
  2. 3 leeks
  3. 3 sprigs fresh rosemary (discard stems and mince leaves as desired)
  4. 6 cups chicken broth/bone broth/vegetable stock
  5. 3 tbs avocado oil
  6. 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  7. 1 tsp salt
  8. OPTIONAL: 1/2 to 1 cup coconut milk
Instructions
  1. Make sure you've cleaned the leeks really well (dirt can hide between the leaves) before separating the green part from the white part
  2. Chop both the white part and the green part into 1/4 inch pieces, keeping them separate for different parts of the process
  3. Melt 2 tbs avocado oil in a medium stock pot and add in white part of leeks
  4. Saute until translucent (about 5 minutes)
  5. Add in the cubed sweet potatoes and rosemary, and cook for another 5-7 minutes
  6. Add in the broth/stock, vinegar, and salt, and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes
  7. Once the sweet potatoes are soft, turn the stove down to low, use a slotted spoon to remove about half from the pot and set aside
  8. Use an immersion blender to blend the contents of the stock pot until smooth and uniform
  9. (At this point, turn off the fire and taste to see if you'd like to add in your coconut milk. If so, stir it in)
  10. Stir the sweet potato cubes back into the mix and cover the pot
  11. In a separate sauce pan, heat the last tbs of avocado oil on medium heat
  12. Toss in the chopped leek greens and saute until softened
  13. Add these to the top of the salad or use as the base of a stir fry (see notes for more details)
  14. Serve soup piping hot
Notes
  1. I love the green parts of leeks and always think it's a shame to see recipes that direct you to discard the greens. They're actually really delicious and contain most of the nutrients you find in leeks, so I encourage you to use them either as a topping for your soup, or as a stir fry ingredient (as pictured here). Simply warm up some ghee or your favorite cooking oil and saute them in a frying pan before adding in a protein, or just on their own. They're also wonderful in the oven -- I just spread the entire chopped leek (both white and green parts) on a cookie sheet, drizzle with oil and a touch of salt, and roast them as I would any other veggie. They're pictured here sauteed with kale and shrimp.
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

How to Eat More Veggies: Green Smoothies

how to eat more veggies

We could all use a few tips from time to time on how to eat more veggies every day. Conventional wisdom tells us that we need to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, but I’d like to shake it up a tiny bit. I think we should tweak this advice to emphasize the veggies more than the fruit. I’d rather say “eat your veggies and fruit” and recommend aiming for minimum of 4 servings of colorful veggies every day and 1-2 servings of fruit. And going over this minimum is absolutely awesome if you can swing it. 

Much like everything in the health world, there’s conflicting advice on this topic — just to illustrate my point, here are two articles published back to back from the same publication that completely conflict:

Interestingly, the first one is posted in the science section while the second is posted in the health section. I’m not really sure what to make of that, but I thought it was an interesting sidebar to include in our discussion.

What’s undisputed though, is that swapping out fried, starchy, processed foods for nutrient-dense, plant-based foods is an immense win for your health. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today. 

Eat More Veggies

A detail that isn’t emphasized enough (in my not-so-humble opinion) is that variety is a critical component of a healthy diet. And I don’t mean a variety of fast-food chains.

Whether we learned it in health class, from a nutritionist, from a fad diet, or on an infomercial, we’ve all been trained to strive for that iconic image of “the healthy meal.” You know what I’m talking about: a poached chicken breast, a pile of steamed broccoli, and a nice rice pilaf on the side. Swap out the chicken breast for a piece of salmon, and now it’s “heart healthy.” I’m here to tell you that if you aspire to enjoy that boring plate of food day after day, you will never, ever stick to a healthy diet OR get adequate nutrition from the food you’re eating.

It’s BORING. It’s totally unrealistic. It’s BLAND. But most importantly, its INADEQUATE. 

eat more veggies

Veggie Variety

If you eat steamed broccoli every single night, you’re getting plenty of vitamins K and C, a good dose of vitamin A, and a modest array of minerals. As healthy as broccoli is, no single plant can provide everything you need, nor can a single source of meat or a single type of starch. I know I’m being extreme to think that someone would want to eat the same thing every single day, but stop and think for a second about your grocery shopping list every week (or your restaurant habits). Do you find that you’re buying/ordering the same few things over and over? Making the same few dishes over and over? Packing the same few lunches? 

To put veggie variety into perspective, some health experts recommend eating at least 20 different types of veggies and fruits every week! Raise your hand if you’re already doing this …

I’m typing so I can’t use my hands (that’s my excuse!)

To bolster the “more variety is better” claim, here’s one more post from The Guardian supporting the 10-servings-a-day idea. I really like that one, so give it a quick look after you’re done reading here.

Veggies over Fruit

In my experience with coaching clients and talking with friends and family, most people find it much more challenging to up the veggie count than the fruit count. Nearly every person I’ve worked with, when given the choice, has opted to eat more fruit rather than more veggies.

Personally, I prefer veggies to fruit, but I must admit that even I have trouble hitting my veggie goals from time to time, so I hope that this info is helpful even to the veggiest of veggie eaters. 

When I ask clients why they prefer to start with fruit rather than veggies, I get similar answers over and over. Here are a few examples:

  • I don’t have time to cook veggies, and I can just grab a piece of fruit whenever I want
  • I don’t like to cook, so fruit is easier to start with because there’s no prep
  • I don’t like raw vegetables, and I hate cooking
  • When I cook veggies, I never like the way they taste
  • I don’t cook, and the restaurants I go to don’t serve a lot of veggies
  • When I buy veggies, they just go bad because I never eat them in time

Do you see a theme here? Do any of these statements resonate with you? If I had to summarize my findings in just a few words, I’d say most people don’t know how to make delicious veggies quicklySo the problem is two-fold:

  1. a lack of time 
  2. a lack of skill 

Another issue I’ve noticed when looking at client food logs is that most folks don’t think about veggies until dinner time. They’ll have eggs or oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and then a sad iceberg lettuce salad for with whatever they’re having for dinner (if they even do that!). Starting the day with veggies is a small change that can yield big results, so that’s what we’ll focus on today.

Next week, I’m going to dive into some simple kitchen hacks for making veggies delicious quickly at home, and also give you a few pointers for making sure you get enough veggies when you’re out to dinner too. Here’s a hint from a previous post, in case you’re the type that likes to skip ahead. For now, it’s smoothie time. 

eat more veggies green smoothie

Building Skills to Eat More Veggies: Green Smoothies

Sometimes, even for adults, the easiest way to ensure that we’re eating enough veggies is to hide them, and hiding them in a smoothie is a great way to start. Granted, I’m talking about green smoothies, which really doesn’t visually hide anything, but cramming some veggies into a blender first thing in the morning can kick-start your day like you wouldn’t believe — and if you do it right, it can be delicious too. 

And by the way, a healthy smoothie doesn’t have to be green. We’ve talked about eating the rainbow here at CWB quite a bit, so you know that consuming a variety of veggies and fruits is the best way to ensure that you’re getting a diverse set of micronutrients in your daily diet. Veggies of all colors, shapes, and sizes can be included in a delicious healthy smoothie. Getting creative is part of the fun! I’m just using the term “green smoothie” to differentiate these smoothies from the fruity sugar bombs they serve at certain chain smoothie establishments that shall remain nameless.

Veggies for Beginners:

If you’re new to blended veggies, I wouldn’t recommend throwing a head of broccoli into your blender. Start with mild greens that don’t alter the flavor of your smoothie too much. eat more veggies green smoothieIn my experience of making smoothies for diverse audiences, I’ve found that beginners enjoy:

  • baby spinach
  • mixed greens/spring mix
  • baby super greens (usually a mix of baby kale, chard, and spinach)
  • romaine lettuce (comes in red/purple and green. Try them both!)
  • other non-iceberg varieties of mild lettuce
  • cucumber
  • canned plain pumpkin

Advanced Veggie Smoothies:

More experienced smoothie drinkers who’ve acclimated their palates to drinking something less sweet and more “earthy” can venture down the veggie path a bit further:

  • spinach (adult greens are often a bit stronger and more fibrous than baby kale, which is why all the baby greens are in the beginner section) 
  • kale (use the leaves and take the ribs out unless you have a really great blender)
  • collard greens (same advice on ribs)
  • beets (steamed — raw are very hard to blend. You can find them pre-steamed in most produce sections these days)
  • cabbage (red/purple is sweeter than green)
  • bell peppers (red/orange/yellow are sweeter than green)
  • summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash)
  • broccoli 

Choosing Fruit for Your Green Smoothie

Don’t get me wrong when I ask you to de-emphasize fruits in favor of veggies. There’s a lot to be gained from adding fruit into your diet, especially if you’re not eating much produce to begin with. I’d go as far as to say that most Americans likely don’t eat enough fruit. But eating fruit ad lib can introduce an unexpected amount of sugar into your life, which we want to avoid. 

You might be surprised at how much sugar you’re consuming if you’re filling a blender with fruit exclusively. Granted, it’s not as much of a health hazard as drinking fruit juice regularly, but it’s certainly not ideal to have that much sugar all at once.

Brightly colored fruits rich in phytonutrients and high in fiber are really the way to go when you’re concocting a blended meal. This way, you get the most bang for your buck in terms of fiber and micronutrient count per gulp. Everything listed below can be fresh or frozen. 

Here are my favorites:

  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • blackberries (without a really great blender like this one, raspberries and blackberries can leave seeds in your drink, so if you’re not into that, get a better blender!)
  • grapefruit (same deal with the blender)
  • cherries
  • stone fruit 
  • pomegranate seeds
  • acai berry

Tropical Fruits are great too, but you want to use them in smaller quantities because of the high sugar content. This includes banana (use 1/3 to 1/2 at a time, especially if you’re using other fruits with it), mango, pineapple, and papaya.

I also use pears from time to time, but find that they’re kind of boring (just my opinion).  

Note on organic produce: Using organic for certain veggies and fruit is super important. Some plants absorb pesticides and toxins at greater concentrations than others, so if you want to save by skipping organic, be an informed consumer. Find out which produce items in your cart should always be organic by consulting the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists.

Green Smoothie Guidelines 

Fruits and veggies aren’t the only ingredients that comprise a delicious green smoothie. There’s the liquid you choose, deciding whether or not you want to add in healthy fats, proteins, additional fiber, or superfood supplements like green powders, maca, cacao, or any number of others. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but for anyone to stick with it (including me!), it does have to be delicious. Lucky for you, I have a free eBook of smoothie recipes to get you started, and I have a few other ideas cooking (or blending, as it were), which I’m hoping to unveil in the next month or so. For now, here’s the eBook to get you going:

 

Paleo Tropical Coconut Chicken – Bringing Home Aloha

paleo tropical coconut chicken

It’s been about two weeks since I returned home from 10 days in Hawaii, and I’m happy to report that I’ve managed to completely avoid the usual “post-vacation blues” that I sometimes get after a long break. This trip was absolute perfection, and I’ve brought the aloha back with me in the form of a renewed (although never completely abandoned) coconut obsession. I’ll share a super quick and easy Tropical Coconut Chicken recipe today that features shredded coconut that I brought home with me from Oahu. And stay tuned for more coconut-themed awesomeness inspired by the trip in the next few posts!

Quick Coconut Story

Loren and I did not randomly select Oahu as a destination.paleo tropical coconut chicken One of our good friends (and one of my favorite people) moved there a few years ago, and we’ve been meaning to make a trip out ever since. We finally made it happen, and we had the pleasure of experiencing full immersion into the lives of two local dudes making a living climbing up into coconut trees and removing the nuts for folks all over the island — and making awesome stuff with their spoils. I’m actually planning on dedicating a full post to the two of them and their business (Roots and Branches if you want a sneak peek), but suffice it to say that Al Smith and Hans Heinz — R & B founders — know their coconuts. 

One of the projects Hans was working on during our visit was to supply shredded coconut to a local brewery for a coconut porter, and I got to sit in on initial sample production — and take home the winnings! In my carry-on luggage, I brought home a zip-lock bag full of fresh Hawaiian shredded coconut, which will be featured in today’s recipe! 

I have so much more to share about all things coconut I learned from Hans, but for now, this recipe will have to suffice. It’s super easy and pretty quick too. And as always, it’s just the baseline for your own intuitive cooking. I encourage you to switch up the herbs and spices or to add in some heat if you want (my body doesn’t love spicy lately, but this recipe lends itself really well to spice). Whatever flavors suit your fancy will work with this simple starting point.

paleo tropical coconut chicken

You better believe I drank that coconut creme right up too! Some went in my coffee, some went into smoothies, and some went right in my belly on its own.

Quick Chicken Story

If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you know that chickens wander freely the way pigeons do on the mainland. I wouldn’t say they’re present in enormous flocks, but there are LOTS of chickens EVERYWHERE. paleo tropical coconut chickenDespite having been to Kauai back in the late 90’s, I hadn’t known about the chicken situation, so seeing them roam freely on roadways, in parking lots, on the hillsides, along the beach, and even passing through our outdoor seating at a restaurant was pretty amusing to me.

We had a whole family of come through as we enjoyed our signature margaritas at Cholo’s Homestyle Mexican after our Sunday beach cleanup with Hawaii Ocean Ambassadors. The babies were so cute that Loren couldn’t resist picking one up mid-meal. I was a little nervous that he might be bringing chicken germs a little too close to our meal, but the little chicky was so cute that it didn’t matter.

Seeing these little guys and gals running around everywhere gave new meaning to the classic joke about chickens crossing roads — which wasn’t lost on one of my travel buddies who is obsessed with puns and dad jokes. So going forward, chickens will make me think of Hawaii. That’s why I chose to make this coconut recipe with chicken. 

Paleo Tropical Coconut Chicken
Serves 2
super easy recipe, adaptable to every palate by switching up the spices and/or adding some heat to it with cayenne or habanero.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 oz chicken tenders (about 8 tenders)
  2. 1.5 cups shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1/2 cup coconut oil
  5. Seasonings - I used Simply Organic Lemon Pepper and Real Season Salt
Instructions
  1. Crack eggs into a shallow bowl and beat until completely uniform
  2. Spread shredded coconut out on a large flat plate
  3. Heat coconut oil in a shallow cast iron skillet at medium-high heat
  4. When oil is hot (test by dropping a piece of coconut in and seeing if it sizzles)
  5. dip chicken tenders into egg on both sides then into shredded coconut on both sides until coated
  6. Place coated chicken into pan and cook on both sides until done in the middle (a few minutes each -- the coconut should brown a little)
  7. Cover a large flat plate with 3-4 paper towels and place cooked chicken on paper towels to absorb some of the oil
  8. Season immediately on both sides (make sure at least one of the seasonings you choose has some salt in it, otherwise they'll be a bit bland)
  9. Repeat until all chicken is done
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

No Time to Make Bone Broth? No Problem!

I’ll start off by saying that this post is about bone broth, but I feel like I need to acknowledge some things about my post from last Tuesday first. 

So last week I took a big risk by sharing that things over in CWB land haven’t been going so great. As a self-proclaimed bone broth aficionado and healthy living blogger, it can feel self-sabotaging to admit that things aren’t always going perfectly well in my kitchen and in my body. There’s the fear of losing face, and maybe even losing credibility to you guys, but I felt like being honest about what I’ve been dealing with might bring to light that even professionals who have a body of knowledge and experience to tap into struggle from time to time. We’re all human, even those of us in the blogosphere who put on the rosy cheeks and share our fancy soups and potions every day. 🙂 

I’ve already started the process of turning my health (and sense of wellbeing) around, but it IS a process, and, like everything else in life, I’m taking it one day at a time. Thanks for some of the sweet notes I’ve already received in support of the struggle I shared on Tuesday — you guys are all so great, and I can’t express enough how much I appreciate the CWB community. 

Bone Broth Routine

One of the things that used to be part of my regular routine was making gigantic batches of bone broth and freezing them in jars so that I can use it every day. I let that go for a while, and (likely due to a number of other not-so-great food choices I was making) my skin started to erupt. I also mentioned a while back that I decided to go off of hormonal birth control, and as someone with PCOS, I’ve experienced a whole other set of annoying issues that I’m working on with an ND. You can imagine what physical symptoms like unwanted body hair, acne, and “backne” do to a woman’s self-esteem, so I haven’t been feeling so hot when I look in the mirror lately either.

But I can honestly say that I’m already feeling things shifting in the right direction, and part of what’s helped me jump back into the bone broth habit is getting some of the pre-made stuff to save me from the labor of making my own until I was able to make it a priority again (which I have — the freezer is again filled with jars).

That stopgap of pre-made broth is what I want to talk to you about today. 

free kettle and fire bone broth

Kettle and Fire Bone Broth

I’ve shared this company with you before, but when I did, it was called Bone Broth Co. They’ve since upgraded the name, the website, and the product line to include not only grass-fed beef bone broth, but organic chicken bone broth as well.

I’m in love with this product for a number of reasons, but one is that it’s the only high-quality broth you’ll find in a tetra pak. What does that mean to you? For starters, it means it’s a shelf-stable product, so it can go in your pantry until you’re ready to open it up for immediate use (no thawing required). AND it means that shipping is cheaper and requires less packaging because there’s no need for temperature control like there is with frozen broth competitors. 

So you might be asking yourself what the difference is between Kettle and Fire and the brands you see in boxes on your grocery store shelves. And I can’t emphasize enough the difference in quality between those products (even the ones that are calling themselves bone broth) and what Kettle and Fire delivers. 

Here are a few differences:

  • Kettle and Fire uses only organic or grass-fed animals to produce their broth.
  • Kettle and Fire uses only organic produce to flavor the broth, giving it complexity, not only in flavor but in nutrient profile.
  • Kettle and Fire cooks their broth for 24 hours, ensuring that every ounce of goodness from the bones lands itself into the broth you’ll be sipping.
  • Kettle and Fire is the ONLY shelf-stable broth on the market that actually gels in the refrigerator (believe me, I’ve done a few tests on this myself). 
  • There’s not a single shelf-stable broth on the market that can make ALL of these claims. 

Why does my bone broth need to gel?

A good, nutrient-dense bone broth will gel (like jello) in the refrigerator and need to be scooped out with a spoon into your coffee mug or sauce pan for warming (unless you’re into eating meat jello, in which case you’re my hero, and maybe a little weird). The gel indicates that the joint and skin-supporting nutrient collagen has made its way from the boiled bones into the broth. It’s also a good indicator that everything else you were looking for in your healing potion is in there, namely a substantial amount of protein and amino acids.

Amino acids

FAQ bone broth acne cureGlutamine is a big one for gut health and is prevalent in a well-prepared (gelled) broth. Its anti-inflammatory and healing properties support gut health, muscle development, immune strength, and internal healing — especially from illness or injury due to strong prescription drugs. If you’re showing signs of a leaky gut, glutamine-rich bone broth should be on your list of healing foods to start consuming right away.

Glycine offers a powerhouse of benefits, including joint and skin support, muscle-building and protection against wasting, the
building up of a healthy gut lining, immune support (even protection from certain cancers), and digestive support. It also helps stabilize blood sugar, which is key for those at risk of diabetes or insulin resistance. 

Arginine is another inflammation-fighting amino acid that’s been associated with lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, protection against mental deterioration, performance enhancement, and improved immune function.

Proline another amino acid essential in collagen formation, so it’s helpful in tissue repair and joint and skin support. It also supports cardiovascular function, contributing to the prevention of arteriosclerosis (or hardening of the arteries). 

All of these nutrients are what make up the healing elixir that is bone broth — the same liquid gold that helped me cure my lifelong acne.

Without the gel, there’s no way for you to know how long the broth was cooked, what the ratio of bones to water was, or how much of the good stuff you’re actually getting in each serving. The gel is the simplest and most obvious indicator to look for in order to know that what you’re getting is concentrated and top quality. 

FREE Kettle and Fire Bone Broth

If you’ve been curious about the healing powers of bone broth, it’s probably because you’ve been experiencing some form of gut problem. Whether it’s bloating or indigestion, IBS or IBD, food allergies or sensitivities, skin issues or hormonal imbalance, bone broth is one of the tools you need to help you get back to vibrant health. 

You could spend the next 4 or 5 weeks headed down the rabbit hole on the web in an attempt to learn about how to heal your gut. Combing through the fluff to get to truly useful health information can be a real challenge, especially if it’s not your area of expertise. Lucky for you, starting today, you have access to the Gut Health Super Bundle, which not only gets you the best resources for gut health on the web, it also gets you two FREE boxes of Kettle and Fire Bone Broth! Get into it!

free kettle and fire bone brothGut Health Super Bundle

This amazing selection of resources includes 5 e-Courses, 16 eBooks, 44 videos, and 846 recipes to get you well on your way down the path to gut health. You’ll begin your journey with the Getting Started Guide, which features the first four resources you need if this is all new to you.free kettle and fire bone broth

A great first eBook to flip through is Zero Effort Gut Health: 10 Shockingly Easy Changes Anyone Can Make For Better Gut Health! by Dena Norton. As a wellness coach, I like Norton’s approach of taking small, simple steps to affect long-term changes in overall health and wellbeing. I recommend picking just one of her steps as a starting point and mastering it before adding the next one in. Once you get this bundle, you’ll have plenty of time to make your way through all the resources for maximum benefit — and this year just happens to be the year that the folks at Ultimate Bundle have made massive improvements with how you can access the bundle online. You’ll have a special access page with your own unique login where all of the elements of the bundle are organized in a way that helps you find exactly what you’re looking for exactly when you want it. 

Here’s the thing though. The Gut Health Super Bundle is only available for a limited time. The wonderful experts and bloggers who’ve contributed their books to the bundle can’t afford to slash their prices for long, so you have until March 27th at 11:59pm EST to get your bundle and your FREE Kettle and Fire bone broth. 

More Free Stuff!

And there’s another bonus I almost forgot to mention. Get Kombucha is adding a $20 gift card to every bundle purchase. You’re probably aware of the importance of consuming probiotic foods to help support gut health. If not, you’ll learn everything you need to know with the Lacto-fermentation eCourse in the bundle. And then you’ll be able to go spend $20 at Get Kombucha to get yourself started on the living food journey. 

Don’t forget, this is a limited time offer, so don’t miss it. Get your bundle now. 


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Gut Check: Confessions of a Burnt-out Blogger

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t been holding up my end of the wellbeing bargain. For the last year and a half or so, things in my corner of the world have been BANANAS, and I’ve let all the frenzy and urgency inch out some of what’s most important to me.

Simply put, I haven’t been taking care of myself in the ways I know I should — in the ways I want YOU to take care of YOURSELF. And I can feel it. I can feel it in my energy levels and in my digestion. I can see it on my face and in my midsection. I can feel it in my tight shoulders and clenched jaw. And it was all confirmed when I went to get a routine teeth cleaning and my dentist discovered my first cavity in like 15 years. I was shocked.

So today, I’m delving back into my long-lost love here at Cultivated Wellbeing — gut health. This first long post in quite a while will be part confessional, part educational, and part excitement to share what’s helped me get out of my rut. 

Consider it a life lesson in listening to your gut — or a gut check, in the literal and figurative sense. 

gut check ultimate gut health super bundle

Confessions

Because I know myself and my body pretty well, I’ve known for a good 6 months or so that something needed to change. But for some reason, until these last few weeks, I just couldn’t get myself to make even the smallest adjustments to get back on track.

Whether it was the winter blues, this election cycle, the full-on burnout I was feeling from work, or all the rain we’ve been getting, I just couldn’t motivate. And every day I’d wake up and tell myself that today would be the day I’d turn it all around — and then it wouldn’t happen.

Here are some of the things I’d been battling:

  • Craving sweets after every. single. meal. and giving in to the cravings 90% of the time
  • Skipping work outs regularly
  • Hitting snooze 4 and 5 times every morning before rolling out of bed exhausted
  • Getting to work late every day and still managing to work way too much
  • Finding myself constantly distracted and on edge
  • Making frequent concessions to food rules I’d had firmly in place for myself for years — too much dairy, too many fried foods, too many white, processed carbohydrates, meals with no vegetables (or not enough), and lots of dessert

And on top of all of that, I hadn’t been keeping up with the things I love to do. I hadn’t been blogging. I hadn’t been making kombucha or bone broth consistently. I hadn’t been feeling inventive in the kitchen or cooking as often. I wasn’t writing much of anything. I was down to climbing only a few times a month, whereas before I was going a few times a week. And even my succulent obsession was on hold — something I almost never stop doing, regardless of how busy I get. (I’ll blame that at least partially on the incessant rain, but it was all adding up to misery.)

This doesn’t sound like me, does it? Something had to give.

Gut Check: Literally

Because some of what I’ve been feeling has danced on the edge of actual depression, I’ve taken two steps to ease myself back into the groove of self-care:

  1. I made an appointment to talk to a therapist (more on that in another post)
  2. I decided to relaunch my crusade to spread the word about gut health (and include myself in the audience — I need to revisit all this info too!)

If you follow me on social media, you’ve already seen some of the second step in action. I shared the multi-part series I created on gut health. My “Why Gut Health Matters” series draws connections between gut health and other systems and functions of our bodies and offer suggestions for how you can take charge of your health by sealing your gut and fortifying it with healthy bacteria. 

The key to addressing the whole mashup of symptoms — from IBS to acne, from depression to auto-immune diseases — is in finding and stopping chronic inflammation. If you followed along in that series the first time, you might remember this infographic:

Why Gut Health Matters

Chronic inflammation manifests in so many bodily and emotionally felt symptoms, as you can see from the illustration. And cooling it down can feel impossible if you’re stuck in a rut (as I’ve been). I revisited this series because I needed to jump-start the healing process for myself after going on a “health hiatus.” But I also found another comprehensive resource that I’m pumped to share with you right now.

The Gut Health Super Bundle

If you’d like to ensure that The little note in my inbox from the folks at Ultimate Bundle sharing this amazing collection of eBooks, classes, tutorials, guides, and freebies couldn’t have come at a better time. It was actually exactly what I needed to see. It offered a gentle reminder of what I’d been neglecting and provided the tools I needed to get myself back on track.

I’ve had the opportunity to comb through everything in this bundle already, and it’s definitely safe to say that there’s something for everyone, no matter where you are on your health journey. And I really mean that. I say that because sometimes you see these types of bundled products online, and they’re either so basic that a simple google search could get you there for free, or they’re so esoteric that they’re not useful unless you have a PhD in the topic. This bundle hits that “Goldilocks” sweet spot — it’s just right.

What’s Inside?

If you’re a gut health newbie (or you want a refresher), you can start with the Foundations of Gut Health and Getting Started sections, where you’ll have access to 4 eCourses and 2 eBooks.

If you have (or suspect you have) a gut-related health condition, such as hormonal imbalance (like me), IBS, candida problems, or gluten sensitivity (also like me), you can learn about how to address your concerns with the help of 6 eBooks and 3 eCourses. 

If you’re already on-board and ready to dive in and start making changes in your life and yummies in your kitchen, the Gut-Healing Foods and More Recipes sections of this bundle are right up your alley. There you’ll find 8 eBooks and 2 eCourses to help you get started making bone broth, fermenting your veggies, making kombucha, learning about cooking for special diets, and much, much more.

And then there are the bonuses, which I’ll be telling you about next week! I hope you’re on the edge of your seat, because the bonuses happen to be my favorite part of the whole bundle!

The bundle isn’t quite for sale YET, but it will be really, REALLY soon. I can’t tell you enough how much these resources have helped me dig myself out of the rut I’ve been in. I know they’ll help you too. 

Set a reminder for yourself now by clicking the button below so that you’ll get a little note when it’s time to buy. And stay tuned, because I’ll be telling you all about those bonuses really soon. 

Note: This offer is no longer available. If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss out on the next offer like this, join my newsletter here.


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Amazing Salad Dressing: Coconut Lemon Vinaigrette with Bitter Greens

Every once in a while I have a stroke of inspiration in the form of an amazing salad — and an amazing salad dressing to go right along with it. It might sound weird that I find inspiration in a bowl of lettuce, but my passion for creating great salad truly runs deep. (Almost as deep as my passion for creating a great soup, but not quite — maybe in the warmer months the salad wins … )

As a great friend of mine once said, “a good salad is the gateway to healthy eating.” Once you master something simple like a truly scrumptious salad, there’s no limit to the vegetables you can consume!

Really, you can  put pretty-much anything into a salad if you’re thoughtful about how the ingredients will talk to each other — including warm ingredients, which happen to be one of my favorite things to use to make a salad interesting. I sautéed some shrimp in coconut oil to toss into this salad, but roasted chicken or grilled lamb could also work with these flavors — or skip the meat and use this salad as a side dish for a larger spread. 

amazing salad dressing

Requirement: Homemade Salad Dressing

The most important ingredient in any salad is the dressing. You can ruin perfectly beautiful produce with crappy dressing, so don’t skimp on quality — make your own. I have a pretty strong opinion about store-bought salad dressing,  and also some really simple tips on how to make your own at home, so don’t get overwhelmed. I promise, it’s not hard, and you’ll thank me when you taste the difference.

In fact, the jewel of today’s recipe is actually the dressing. The whole salad is delicious, but rest assured, this dressing takes the ingredients from good to great. I served this salad at a dinner with friends, and the next morning I got a text asking for the amazing salad dressing recipe. It’s that good!

Amazing Salad Inspiration: the Mighty Kumquat

I found my starting point at the fancy natural foods market by my house. They had a basket full of beautiful kumquats right in the middle of the produce section, and I just knew I had to find a way to use them.amazing salad dressing

Unlike just about every other citrus fruit, the meat of the kumquat is sour, while the rind is relatively sweet.  Tiny enough to pop right into your mouth, the kumquat is meant to be eaten in its entirety, skin, seeds and all. And honestly, so much of what’s healthful about citrus fruit goes into the compost bucket — the rind and seeds take kumquats to new nutritional heights!

High concentrations of vitamins A and C, tons of fiber, riboflavin (part of the B complex), and antioxidants like beta carotene make kumquats a pretty fantastic source of goodness for your body.  I can’t get enough of them when they’re in season.

Palate Balance

Once I had my kumquats, I needed to offset the tart with some bitter, sweet, and umami. I went with frisée and red radicchio for the leafy bits (bitter). Then I remembered that I had leftover beets at home from a killer smoothie I made for work (sweet). Hint: You can get the pre-boiled beets at most grocery stores to make this step simpler.

I topped the salad with fresh-grated Pecorino Romano, an ingredient that’s good on just about everything (umami). 

And now the long-awaited amazing salad dressing … 

Coconut Lemon Vinaigrette
I promised easy for homemade dressing, but this particular one I'd say is one step up from beginner, only because it requires a special tool: an immersion blender. BUT, because we're going for a thinner consistency than homemade mayonnaise (the main reason to use the tool), I think it would work just fine to use a food processor or blender instead. It's only three steps, still pretty easy!
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Prep Time
3 min
Prep Time
3 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 egg (needs to be high-quality, because you'll be consuming it raw)
  2. the juice of 3 Meyer lemons and the zest of 1 of them
  3. 1/2 cup(ish) extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1/2 cup(ish) avocado oil (this is my favorite)
  5. splash of apple cider vinegar (I use this one )
  6. 1/2 tbs coconut milk (best coconut milk ever)
Instructions
  1. In a jar large enough to fit the immersion blender inside, add 1 raw egg , the juice of 3 lemons, and all of the oil
  2. Blend these ingredients in the jar to make a thinned out mayo
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients in and give another quick pulse of the blender
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/
That’s it, you’re done. Toss this creamy goodness into your salad, and you’ll be off to the races. Give it a try and let me know what you think!


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.