Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sweet Potato Lefse (AIP)

Chances are, unless you grew up somewhere with a large Scandinavian population, you’ve possibly never heard of lefse. If that’s the case, it’s ok, I won’t hold it against you :) Lefse is a potato flatbread cooked on a griddle. Think of it like a scandinavian tortilla. It remains very flexible after cooking and is usually spread with butter (and sometimes sprinkled with white sugar) before it is rolled up into tubes and eaten.

I grew up eating lots of lefse, especially at Thanksgiving & christmas time, but never making it.  Every lefse recipe is a little bit different & many families are staunch traditionalists when it comes to “their” family recipe. Families will gather together sometime during the holiday season and spend an afternoon making loads and loads of lefse. Most versions include white potatoes, butter, dairy of some sort (cream, milk, etc), salt, sugar, and flour. My good friend Kelli & her family make lots of lefse each year & I’m very thankful she consulted on this recipe with me :)

To be honest, neither Kelli nor I were very confident that an AIP version of lefsewas possible. It was a tall order, since I needed to find AIP appropriate substitutions for every ingredient, minus the salt. The salt was fine, haha. But, the thought of having to go yet another year without lefse was a hard thing for me. In past years I’ve had to skip out on the lefse because it isn’t gluten free. This year, I felt like I should at least attempt a version, even if it didn’t taste or look exactly like traditional lefse.

The first order was to find a substitute for the white potatoes. Though I’ve been able to tolerate reintroductions of some things to my AIP diet, white potatoes, a member of the nightshade family, are not one of them... Instead, these days, I eat a lot of sweet potatoes, in different varieties.  Funny, prior to AIP, I had no idea there even were different varieties and colors of sweet potatoes. Hands down, my favorite kind is the white sweet potato, the Hannah variety, because it is a little less sweet & a little more starchy in texture.

I’m not sure if it was a good thing or not that I’ve never actually made homemade lefse before this adventure. From what I can tell, and I am most definitely not an expert, the rules for this AIP lefse are very different from it’s traditional counterpart. I’m not entirely sure how this AIP lefse works, but it just does :) And for that I am very thankful. Traditional lefse can be quite finicky and require an experienced touch. This lefse is more forgiving. I’ve made a couple batches, just to try to troubleshoot any challenges & to ensure that my first recipe success wasn’t just a fluke. The dough is more forgiving & doesn’t require as delicate a touch. Because it doesn’t contain gluten, you don’t need to worry about overworking it when mixing the dough & rolling it out.  It’s best mixed, rolled & cooked all in one day, but I find that it tastes more lefse-esque the day after it’s been made.

If you’re someone who is missing lefse because you’re following Paleo or AIP or are gluten free, I hope this recipe will be a great resource for you. Traditionally, I’ve really only eaten lefse during the holiday season, but given the reality that my “bread” choices are pretty non-existant, I forsee us making this recipe often & using the flatbread in a similar manner as tortillas.

Sweet Potato Lefse
yields approximately 16 small pieces 

14 oz White Sweet Potatoes (I used the “Hannah” variety)
Water, to cover

12 oz Riced White Sweet Potatoes
2 Tbl (22 g) coconut milk
28 g (2 Tbl) coconut oil
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp Maple Sugar
90 g Tapioca Starch, divided approximately in half
1 1/2 tsp Coconut Flour

a lot additional Tapioca starch for dusting

  1. Wash & peel the sweet potatoes. Cut them into rough cubes & place into a stock pot. Add enough water to cover the potato pieces. 
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat & cook until fork tender, approximately 20 minutes. 
  3. Drain the potatoes into a colander. 
  4. Rice the potatoes back into the stock pot, using a potato ricer  Return to the burner over low heat & cook, stirring constantly, for 1.5 minutes, to help evaporate some of the residual water. 
  5. Remove from the heat & add the coconut milk, coconut oil, salt & maple sugar. Stir to combine. 
  6. Add half the tapioca starch & the coconut flour. Mix well. Add the remaining tapioca starch. 
  7. Divide the dough into 2 Tbl pieces. Roll into small balls. 
  8. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. 
  9. Liberally sprinkle the work surface with additional tapioca starch. Flatten a ball of dough & sprinkle with more tapioca. Roll out, trying to keep the shape as round as possible, until very thin--almost see-through, but making sure the bottom isn’t stuck. Use a small offset spatula to run underneath the rolled out dough. If the dough tears, don’t panic--gather the dough together into a ball again & re-roll it. 
  10. Very gently lift the dough & slide your hand underneath the dough. Transfer it to the preheated skillet. Cook until lightly browned on one side, flip, and continue cooking until that side is also lightly browned. Once flipped, the lefse may bubble--use a heat tempered spatula to gently press down on the big bubbles. On our electric stove set at roughly 4.5, mine took about 1 min 15 sec on the first side & an additional 1 min on the second side. 
  11. Transfer cooked pieces to a plate & repeat with the remaining dough. 
  12. Once the lefse cools completely, store in an airtight container. Keep at room temperature for one day maximum, then refrigerate or freeze for longevity.  I find the lefse tastes more like traditional lefse the day following when it was made.   


  • The recipe doubles very well, but the individual cooking process is more laborious. I cut my original batch in half because I got tired of running back and forth from rolling the lefse to cooking the lefse. 
  • I do not recommend making the dough ahead of time & refrigerating overnight--I found  the dough to be much more fragile the second day. 
  • If you have an actual lefse griddle, feel free to use it, though I do not personally have one & have not tried using any surface other than a non-stick pan. 
  • A lefse stick won’t work because the dough is too fragile. 
  • To serve, roll the lefse sheet into a tube. I usually like my lefse with butter and sugar on it, but this sweet potato version is naturally sweeter & I find it doesn’t need any additional butter or sugar. My husband, on the other hand, likes his spread with jam. 

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Starch-free Gravy (AIP) & Thanksgiving Recap

Well, we not only survived our first AIP/Paleo Thanksgiving, but completely thrived on it too. I know it is sort of weird to write about Thanksgiving recipes after the fact, but I’m going to do it anyway in the hopes that maybe it can be inspiration for upcoming Christmas & holiday meals (or for next year’s Thanksgiving).

So much of AIP involves making other healing lifestyle choices, other than just changing the food a person eats. Reducing stress, getting adequate rest/sleep, and gentle exercise are all also key components in promoting healing. The holiday season can be stressful & I didn’t want that potential stress (and lack of sleep/exercise) to derail all the hard work I’ve already done. We decided to celebrate at our own home knowing that cooking for ourselves would give us the greatest control over our food ingredients (and reduce the risk of cross contamination.

Since this Thanksgiving was my first on AIP, or paleo, I wanted to make it seem as “normal” as possible, including items similar to our traditional Thanksgiving favorites. But I also knew the importance of keeping things as simple as possible & not overdoing it.  We planned to eat a hearty, late-morning Thanksgiving brunch & then an early dinner. Having the main meal later in the day didn’t require us to get up at the crack of dawn to start cooking & gave us more time to prepare things. Here’s what our menu looked like. Note: I have reintroduced green beans, eggs in small quantities, as well as a few nut varieties, like pecans. Other than those reintroductions, everything else is AIP.

Brunch Menu
  • Squash Pancakes (Paleo, included whole eggs)
  • Bacon (AIP, check ingredients) 
  • Grapefruit (AIP) 

Thanksgiving Dinner
  • Dry Brined, Butterflied Turkey with herbs (AIP)
  • Starch-free Gravy (AIP) 
  • Mashed White Sweet potatoes (could be topped either with gravy, or with a few chopped honey-candied pecans to mimic Paleo sweet potato casserole)
  • Roasted Green Beans with fried shallots (AIP Reintroduction)
  • Braised Collards (AIP)
  • Cranberry Sauce (AIP) 
  • Carrots & Pickles (AIP, check ingredients in pickles) 
  • Pumpkin Pot de Creme with coconut whipped cream (Paleo, contained egg yolks)
  • Pumpkin Pie (for Husband, not paleo or AIP, served on paper plates to reduce risk of gluten cross contamination) 
On Tuesday, I made the cranberry sauce, roasted the green beans, and roasted & mashed the sweet potatoes. All those items went into the fridge & could be reheated, where necessary, right before eating. Husband also butterflied the turkey on Tuesday, saving the turkey backbone, neck & giblets for homemade stock making. I then rubbed the butterflied with kosher salt and a mixture of thyme, rosemary & sage. We let the bird dry brine in the fridge until Thanksgiving. On Wednesday night, I started cooking the turkey stock & made husband’s pumpkin pie.

On Thursday, after brunch, we candied pecans for the mock sweet potato casserole, assembled & baked the pumpkin pot de cremes, fried the shallots for the green beans, roasted the turkey (which took only two hours for our 20lb + bird, because it was butterflied) with a basting liquid of bacon drippings/homemade turkey stock/white wine(the alcohol completely cooks off in the oven), braised the collards, reheated the beans & mashed sweet potatoes, whipped coconut cream, and made gravy. Yes, we still worked a good amount on actual Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t frantic work & we weren’t exhausted by the time we actually ate.

Having so much leftover food has been one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving! We’ve eaten either reheated actual leftovers or repurposed leftovers for many meals since Thursday! And I still have a few ideas for the leftover Turkey that has been frozen too. I’m starting to think of preparing Thanksgiving as the ultimate batch cooking session :) Knowing that we would be eating Thanksgiving leftovers for future meals helped us to restrain our portions on actual Thanksgiving & keep us from doing the traditional overeating. Though, everything was SO tasty that it was hard to keep from getting extra portions :)

The one dish I was very concerned about missing from our AIP/Paleo feast was mashed potatoes, which are usually my favorite side dish of any holiday meal. Once we topped our mashed sweet potatoes with the starch-free turkey gravy, they tasted SO good that I didn’t even miss the regular mashed potatoes. I do highly recommend mashing white sweet potatoes instead of the orange or purple ones because the white ones tend to be a little less sweet & a little more like regular potatoes. The gravy topping was also key. I’ve thickened gravy & fruit sauces with arrow root starch, but I had also never made gravy without any starch. Cooking onions & shallots with turkey drippings, homemade stock, a little white wine (don’t worry, the alcohol boils away), and herbs, then pureeing the whole mixture made for the most fantastic gravy.

I often find myself wishing that Thanksgiving didn’t come only once a year, not just for the food, though it is some of my very favorites, but also for the spirit of gratitude and thankfulness that permeates the season. I am thankful for the Autoimmune Protocol & Paleo. I am so very thankful for better health this year, especially when I compare it to how awful I felt at this time last year. I am thankful for a husband & family & friends who support me on this healing journey. And yes, I do want to repeat this exact menu for Christmas Eve dinner too :)

Starch Free Turkey Gravy

4 Tbl (80 g) Turkey Drippings (we basted our dry brined turkey with 2 oz bacon grease, plus 1 cup Sauvignon Blanc & 1 c homemade Turkey Stock)
1 large shallot, minced (approximately 1/2 c or 55 g)
1 small onion, minced (approximately 1 1/2 c or 195 g)
1/2 c Sauvignon Blanc
1 c Homemade Turkey Stock, unsalted
1 tsp fresh Thyme leaves
1/2 tsp Sage, minced
Sea salt, as needed

  1. Saute the shallot & onion in the turkey drippings over medium heat until translucent.
  2. Add the wine & turkey stock. Bring to a boil & cook until the liquid reduces by half.
  3. Puree the liquid with an immersion blender (or in a high speed blender). Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, adding additional sea salt if necessary.
  4. Serve immediately or store cooled leftovers in the refrigerator.

Note: if you did not baste your turkey with bacon/wine/stock as I did, and your drippings are not as flavorful, you may wish to add some bacon grease and/or a little additional wine/herbs to the liquid before reducing the liquid.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pumpkin Panna Cotta Tart with Gingersnap Macaroon Crust (AIP)

Pumpkin pie, specifically my great grandma’s recipe, is the most quintessential Thanksgiving food in my opinion. But creating an AIP version of her pumpkin pie has been a bigger challenge than I anticipated (and has involved multiple failed attempts). Once I combined Great Grandma’s pumpkin pie flavor profile with her gingersnap cookie flavor profile, I finally came close to something that tasted like the “normal” holidays.

This holiday season is my first time navigating major holidays while following the Autoimmune Protocol.  I’m very much into tradition, especially when it comes to holidays & holiday foods. Coming to terms with the realization that not every dish I try to recreate AIP-style will taste (or look) exactly like it’s original can be really a challenge.

Also, can I just say that grain free, dairy free, refined sugar free, egg free, nut free baking is really hard? I’m still very much learning how new-to-me ingredients act during the scientific processes involved in baking. My multiple attempts at a traditional pie crust  turned AIP were unsuccessful, but repurposing my AIP Coconut Macaroon recipe into a crust worked really well. And to make it taste a bit more holiday-esque, I substituted a bit of the honey for molasses & added some ground ginger. Trying to create a custard-like pudding without the aid of eggs steered me towards the panna cotta side of things. Both the crust and the filling could be made & enjoyed separately, but I really enjoy them together. It might not taste exactly like “normal” pumpkin pie, but it’s still a flavorful treat that won’t derail healing processes.

Speaking of the holiday season, a group of AIP bloggers have put together a free holiday guide full of AIP-friendly holiday recipes. And Phoenix Helix has a great podcast about surviving the holiday season. If you need some inspiration, check those out. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Panna Cotta Tart with Gingersnap Macaroon Crust
Yields 8 servings

Gingersnap Macaroon Crust 
120 g (1 1/2 c) Shredded, Unsweetened Coconut
7 g (1 Tbl) Coconut Flour
1 tsp Ground Ginger
Pinch of Sea Salt
26 g (2 Tbl) Coconut Oil, melted
65 g (3 Tbl) Honey (local or organic is best)
21 g (1 Tbl) Unsulphured Molasses
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Pulse the shredded coconut, coconut flour, ground ginger and sea salt in a food processor until combined.
  3. Add the oil, honey and molasses & pulse until well mixed.
  4. Press the mixture into a 4" x 14" Rectangular Tart Pan
  5. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Rotate the pan & bake for 10 additional minutes, or until the tart crust has turned a bit more golden, but is not scorched. 
  6. Cool completely. Remove the tart pan & place the crust onto a baking sheet. Proceed with the panna cotta filling.

Pumpkin Panna Cotta Filling 
4 g (approximately 1 tsp) Grassfed Gelatin
123 g (1/2 c) Organic Pumpkin
20 g (3 Tbl) Grade B Maple Syrup
2 tsp Vanilla Extract (optional for AIP)
Coconut Whipped Cream, for serving 
  1. Place the coconut milk into a small sauce pan. Sprinkle the gelatin over the coconut milk & mix gently--I usually use my fingers & break up any clumps that I can.  Set aside & allow the gelatin to bloom for 10 minutes. 
  2. Add the remaining ingredients. Heat over medium heat for five minutes, whisking constantly. 
  3. Pour into the prepared crust (note, you may not need all the filling; place any leftovers into a small ramekin-type vessel). Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving. The tart may be made a day in advance.
  4. Cut the tart into diagonal slices. Serve with coconut whipped cream

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Traveling Essentials (Paleo & AIP)

I spent a good chunk of October & the beginning of November away from home. For the October portion, I was in Atlanta working on a cookbook photoshoot with some pretty amazing people, like photographer Greg Dupree, food stylist Tami Hardeman Boutte, prop stylist Ginny Branch, and photo assistant JR Ward. While I’m not yet allowed to give many details about the book, I can tell you it was all about baking, and that my role as baker/assistant food stylist involved me physically making & baking all the items to be photographed. The days were long, but so rewarding. This book is going to be absolutely beautiful!

Instagram images from the shoot. 

To be honest, before starting all my treatments & making the switch to AIP, I never would have had the strength nor stamina to participate in a project such as this one.... Though I did also learn that even while following AIP, I still have limits.... One of the most humbling experiences was having to call in a replacement for me one day when I hit a proverbial wall... Having that breakdown was my body reminding me that I needed to be more vigilant about my water intake (I hadn’t had enough the day before), and that even if my prep schedule was busy, I still needed to take time to eat whether I was hungry or not. It’s funny how working around food all day will curb your appetite--this use to happen to me all the time when I was working as a pastry chef instructor.

I wanted to share some of my traveling essentials, in hopes that perhaps my experiences may help fellow AIP people. Traveling while following AIP isn’t always easy, especially since I had recently been accidentally glutened and was still very leery of restaurants. Also, I traveled to Atlanta via airplane and all my food items either had to be TSA compliant to go in my carry-on, or they needed to be put into my checked suitcases.

Here are some of the staple, not-as-perishable staple items I brought along in either my carry-on or checked luggage. I have had successful reintroductions of a few things, so there are a few non-AIP items, which I will note.  Also, many of these links are affiliate links, so if you purchase any of the items through the links I provide, I receive a small commission. Thanks for supporting Sweet Treats.

Just to be safe, I did put the packets I brought along in my checked luggage. I love these because they make for an easy, nutrient dense protein option. They are completely shelf-stable until opened & don’t require a can opener. I dressed them with olive oil & a little vinegar or lemon juice + salt & pepper. 

Proscuitto (AIP--check ingredients) 
Proscuitto is one of my main go-to snacks these days. I was a big fan of cured meats in my pre AIP days (especially after going gluten-free), but since I’ve discovered that nightshades & nightshade-derived spices don’t agree with me (paprika, I’m looking at you!), I stick mostly with proscuitto. To transport several packs of proscuitto for this trip, I previously froze the packages solid, then put them into a thermal container with a couple of frozen solid ice packs (if they’ve melted at all, chances are TSA won’t let them through security).

Chicken Breakfast Sausages (AIP--check ingredients; not pictured)
Chicken Breakfast Sausages are my favorite breakfast protein. I still have a hard time eating savory things for breakfast, but I have trained myself to eat these. I brought multiple packages of sausages in my cary-on, also by freezing them solid prior to the trip & packing them in a thermal container with frozen solid ice packs. Then, throughout the food shoot, I would defrost a package of sausages overnight in the fridge & cook them in the morning (saving any leftovers for future days). Especially on such a rigorous work schedule, getting adequate protein first thing in the morning was key for me.

Plantain Chips (AIP)
I’m not a person who does well on an extremely low carb diet. These plantain chips help with my carb intake and are a great snack option, either on their own or dipped in something (like simple guacamole). They taste a bit like potato sticks (those tiny french-fry things) & I just love them! We buy them buy the case these days, if that gives you an idea how high of a volume I consume. Ironically, these eating these chips while flying helps keep me from getting as motion sick? I’m not sure the science behind that fact, but it works for me :)

Apples (AIP)
Apples are one of my easiest snacks. They don’t require any utensils nor refrigeration nor special equipment to make them portable. And they’re easy to eat on the go. In addition to snacking on them, I also could turn them into a quick stovetop applesauce “dessert” option for me. To make the applesauce, just core, slice, & cook the apples with a little water until soft, then sweeten with a little honey to taste.

Clementines (AIP)
Last year, I had to adhere to a low acid diet & thus couldn’t eat citrus. This year, after experiencing so much improvement following treatments at my doctors office & by following AIP, I am able to eat citrus again! And I’m eating enough clementines to make up for not eating any last year. Clementines were not originally among my packed food, but I blame Ginny Branch for bringing a bag of them to the set & getting me re-hooked on them.

Dried Plums (AIP--check ingredients) 
Dried plums, er prunes, serve a couple different purposes in my diet. As a dried fruit, they have a bit more concentrated sweetness & can really help when I’m experiencing a dessert craving (or everyone else is having dessert at the end of a meal & I don’t want to feel as left out). They also help keep my digestion going (sorry if that’s TMI). And I find them delicious! Just make sure to find ones that don’t contain added sugar, nor any vegetable oils. (p.s. they are a little more expensive on amazon than I usually find in stores…)

Smoked Sea Salt, or other finishing salt (AIP)
One of the biggest bummer things about AIP is the number of spices that are off limits. I have to be vigilant in reading labels on foods & also in grilling restaurant servers about the spices used in dishes. Most often, I have to find things that are as plain as possible, just to be safe. Nightshade spices (i.e. paprika, red pepper, etc....) and I really are not friends. So, to take certain foods from a little boring to more exciting, I’ve started carrying my own salt with me in a little container. My current favorite is smoked salt, which is delicious sprinkled on most everything, but especially meats. 

Tea: Earl Grey, Raspberry Leaf Tea , Throat Coat (AIP--check ingredients)
While I have been able to successfully reintroduce coffee, that reintroduction does not mean that I can drink copious amounts of coffee. Coffee does come from a bean/seed & so there are times (especially during stress) that my body still does not tolerate it well. So, for most of the shoot, I drank tea instead of coffee--Earl Grey with coconut milk was my daily go-to.  I also have had very good success with raspberry leaf tea making my monthly “shark week” (as I affectionately refer to it, ha!) much more manageable. Drinking a couple cups of it a day during that time really lessens my horrendous cramps. Sorry if that’s more TMI ;) Lastly, I brought along Throat Coat tea, just in case any sickness or colds arose. But I am pleased to say that I didn’t need to use it! Note: if you suffer from an autoimmune condition, do be careful around the Throat Coat + Echinacea variation, as echinacea can cause flares of autoimmunity! I use the variation without the echinacea.

Fruit & Nut Bars: Berry Almond Kit's Organic Bars & select Larabars (Paleo, not AIP)
I’ve also successfully reintroduced certain nuts, like almonds, walnuts, pecans & hazelnuts, which opened up the world of fruit and nut bars. However, my attempted reintroduction of cashews did NOT go well (hello increased widespread body pain), so the varieties of fruit & nut bars that I can safely consume is slightly limited. Like the coffee, I do try to monitor the amount of nuts, even “safe” ones, that I consume in a day. If given the option, I prefer the Kit’s Organic berry almond bars (I’ve only seen them at Whole Foods & on Amazon), just because they’re a little less sweet & feel a bit more substantial. As far as Larabars go, my favorite flavors are Pecan Pie, Apple Pie & Carrot Cake. Any of these also make a pretty good dessert, if you’re feeling left out of the dessert loop.

Justin's Almond Butter Squeeze Packets (Paleo, not AIP) 
Since I can tolerate some almonds, these almond butter packets work well as an on-the-go snack item (though, I do limit myself to one packet a day, especially if I've also had a fruit & nut bar that day too). I even carried a few packets in my quart sized bag as I went through security at the airport. Sometimes I eat the almond butter by itself, but often my preference is to have it with an apple. Buying the larger containers of Justin’s Almond Butter is more cost effective than the packets are, but I like the convenience factor of the packets (and my checked luggage was dangerously close to being overweight).

A Good Glass Water bottle (mine came from here
A water bottle isn’t exactly a food item, but I think having one is just as important as having good food. I’m preferring glass to plastic more and more these days, but I also worried about breaking a glass water bottle. So far, so good with this one! The silicone cover helps make it extra resilient (and pretty). A lot of my supplements these days need to be mixed in water & consumed over time throughout the day--this bottle is perfect for that! And staying hydrated is very important. My body can tell me very quickly if I have not consumed adequate amounts of water.

These are a few of my favorite traveling essentials. If you’re interested, Grazed & Enthused (another AIP blog) has also just posted a list of 10 AIP travel snacks.