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.