11 more ways to prepare for an Autoimmune Protocol


This is the goal: me & Matthew, old.

In addition to the 9 ways I prepped for an AIP before I started in December, here are 11 additional ways I’ve been getting even more AIP-ready while on the protocol:

  1. Bulk-ordered custom sausages (no nutmeg, no pepper) from Choux Choux Charcuterie;
  2. Began including seaweed in my diet daily;
  3. Upgraded my #3 kid’s list of chores (bathroom! windows!) & bought Cookin’ with Coolio  for my #2 kid, who is living in my basement suite, as they both (shockingly) declined to go AIP with me. I also tried to get my #1 kid to move back in to be my personal chef. To no avail;
  4. Got really clear about my priorities: my health, my kids & Matthew’s health;
  5. Preordered the Paleo Mom’s book The Paleo Approach (released today!);
  6. Bought lamb kidneys & tried some. Offal is still fairly disquieting for me & lamb kidney too advanced. But I ate a whole bite even though it was ~truth be told~ completely horrible. Matthew loved them;
  7. Went back to grad school, because I’m not really good with moderation;
  8. Fell in love with Yerba Mate. Though Matthew is going caffeine-free (& he was a coffee fiend), I’m keeping green tea. And yerba mate;
  9. Realized I can still have avocado! Until we decided to go with a low-FODMAP version of the AIP & now, no avocado! That’ll be almost as hard as giving up nuts. I love nuts. And avocado. I thought I loved eggs too, but it turns out I don’t really miss them;
  10. Mail ordered organic herbs & spices (in 1/2lb quantities!) & seaweed from the Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary;

What’s up next?

  1. Kombucha. No sauerkraut on a low-FODMAP variation, so I’m getting a kombucha baby from a friend this weekend!

Image: I’ve had this one on my computer for some time. I’d like to credit it but couldn’t find the source this morning.

25 fascinating days on an extreme (low-carb) version of the AIP

We started the AIP on December 23rd, but leveled up to our own extreme low-carb version of the AIP on January 1st, to experiment with starving out the harmful bacteria which lurk in the intestinal tract and contribute to gut permeability.

I called it the X-AIP, just for kicks.

We thought we’d try the X-AIP for 30 days, followed by a 30-day low-FODMAP version. But as Matthew’s system has gotten more pure over the last month he’s noticing how he reacts to different foods, including some high FODMAP foods, so we’re moving on to a low-FODMAP AIP a little sooner than planned.

carrot love

Image from http://fudi.st/

As of today we’re putting some plant parts back in (pumpkin, some root vegetables like parsnips & carrots, & some fruits like blueberries & plantains). We’re still figuring out what to include and what to exclude for this low-FODMAP variation because there is so much contradictory information to sift through, but the goal is to avoid high FODMAP foods in addition to the regular AIP food guidelines. What’s left? This post by Gutsy by Nature is the best I’ve found so far, as it addresses the ambiguities that seem to be part of the topography in FODMAP-land.

Even though I’ll have to give up avocados I’m still super intrigued to try this new AIP variation. I’m actually a little surprised by how fascinated I am by all of this.

For me, the past 25 days on the X-AIP has been a nutritional experiment with some interesting outcomes, particularly in the area of energy (way down) & mental health (way up). Previously I’ve always correlated energy & mental health so it has been thought-provoking to notice them move in opposite directions.

I am not a person with an autoimmune condition. I don’t know how many people without autoimmune conditions have done a strict AIP. I know Melissa Joulwan is one, but she pretty much hated it! Most of us don’t get this extreme until our health & our lives have completely fallen apart.

Some notes after 36 days on the AIP (9 days AIP + 25 days X-AIP):

  • Energy: In December, after 4 days on the AIP I reported a “dramatic, disconcerting, almost obscene” increase in my energy. This ridiculous degree of vigour continued for the first 2 weeks on the X-AIP, but then started to decline. I wasn’t sure if this was due to a.) The super low carbohydrate diet; b.) A busy/stressful month; c.) Reduced exercise; or d.) That when I started the AIP I took out the powdered electrolyte hydrator I usually use in my water for hot yoga. I originally took the electrolyte powder out for AIP-purity, and was attempting to replenish electrolytes with Himalyan salt & seaweed in foods, but my lower energy was beginning to impact my ability to do my life, so I put the electrolyte powder back in on day 28 of my AIP & it helped a bit, but not enough.
  • Exercise: I scaled back my exercise during the X-AIP from 5-6 times a week to 3. I wanted to be realistic about how much time I would have, what with Matthew needing my support for various nasty medical procedures this month, going back to grad school, and being unsure how a super-low-carb diet would affect my energy. As it turned out 3 times a week was about perfect for my energy level. I still did my hot power flow yoga, but I took rest days in between. I prefer to exercise 5-6 days a week, but that felt unsustainable on the X-AIP. Which is good information! In an earlier post about carbs & muscle mass I suggested experimentation with carbs. This has been a great 25-day experiment & I better understand the benefit of the denser sources of paleo-friendly carbs for exercise. For me, anyway!
  • Elimination: On day 11 of the X-AIP I experienced an intestinal revolution that occurred (suddenly) while driving at 112km an hour on the highway. Suffice to say I have never been so happy to see a roadside outhouse. I’m guessing this alarming phenomenon was due to some kind of recalibration of my gut, which was the whole point of the X-AIP experiment. Better out than in.
  • Mental health: The only improvement I noticed during this time was in the area of my mental health. In an earlier post I listed the 9 health issues that resolved after I went paleo. One of them was depression, which lifted after I had been paleo for 6 months, and never came back. But what I am experiencing now is a whole new level of mental health. Even though my energy has taken a hit, the love of my life is suffering and getting holes poked in him all the time, I have 3 children that I worry about constantly (just ‘cause), my work is stressful, I’m spending an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen (which I do not love), & I’ve gone back to school, I’m just floating on this amazingly buoyant sense of well-being. It is a revelation, and I am now officially & completely convinced that gut health=mental health.
  • Cognitive capacity: In addition to being more tired, the lower carb diet also seemed make it harder to think clearly.

So, in summary, I’ve been kind of stupid & slothful, but euphoric!

I’m really looking forward to getting my energy back, though.

In the meantime, I’ll be trying to figure out this whole FODMAP thing, including AIP friendly low-FODMAP recipes.


Recovering Vegetarian

I love short ribs!

I love short ribs!

For the 1st year of paleo I ate only poultry & seafood. No mammals.

My first mammal was last April 14th. I know because it was Matthew’s 45th birthday dinner. We went out and I ordered the halibut. He ordered the best local grass-fed steak. And gave me a tiny bite.

I had to eat it. I knew that I was eating way too much poultry and, besides, it was his birthday wish.

I didn’t gag or explode into flames. And it didn’t taste like I thought it would. Like blood.

It was actually really good. And surprisingly not a big deal.

But my recovery from vegetarianism started before that. When I was pregnant the first time I had an irresistible yearning for salmon. The second time, roast chicken & turkey.

That should have been a clue! When I was pregnant I reverted to eating animals, but afterwards always returned to a pattern somewhere along the vegan-vegetarian continuum.

I would have told you that I was a skinny pregnant person but a fat breastfeeding person, without ever making the connection.

Of course, along the way, I did the whole early 21st century raw-vegan thing. Bought the Excalibur dehydrator & the Champion juicer. Dehydrated vast quantities of high omega-6 nuts & seeds making raw-vegan bread, crackers & cookies. Juiced cornucopias of sugar-iffic fruit.

Wondered why I still wasn’t losing weight. Or feeling any better…

When I went Paleo in 2012, I ate exclusively fish & poultry for the first year.

But I could tell that the volume of poultry was problematic & knew I needed to find a way to eat mammals.

After my first bite of steak, I advanced steadily.

First, I had 1/3 of a small steak. Of my own. It left a pool of liquid at the bottom of my plate that I tried not to associate with blood.

Then I tried bacon. I started out with the best quality charcuterie bacon and it did not take long to learn to love it.

  • Ground beef.
  • Ham.
  • At first I found lamb repellent, but I started mixing ground lamb with ground chicken and came to appreciate it.
  • Bison. Easy. I started to carry bison jerky in my purse all the time.
  • Elk. Bring it on!
  • Lamb Kidney. Not a fan. But I tried it.

Hard to believe. In 9 months. I’m a fully adapted meat-eater.

The thing that amazed me as a new carnivore was how easy it is to prepare most meat. Short ribs in the slow cooker. They’re divine. Ham in the oven. So simple.

But if someone had tried to tell me how uncomplicated it was over here, when I was grudgingly assembling all those intricate tofu lasagnas, I wouldn’t have listened.


Zucchini Canoes (AIP-friendly)

Zucchini canoes: the perfect side!

Zucchini canoes: the perfect side!

In summer, when zucchinis of all sizes are $1.50 at the farmer’s market (or your neighbour is giving them away) use 1 monster zuke in this recipe. In the winter, by necessity, I use the organic baby zucchinis from Mexico. These are fabulous reheated!

  • 6-7 baby zucchinis
  • 1/4 cup bacon fat or coconut oil
  • 1 onion, chopped (optional)
  • 6-8 sliced mushrooms
  • 2 lbs ground meat (pastured beef, bison, lamb, elk, chicken or turkey; use a combination)
  • 1 thumb fresh ginger, peeled & minced
  • 1 finger fresh turmeric, peeled & minced (if you can’t find fresh, use ground)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Himalayan salt (or similar)

Preheat oven to 350.Zucchinni canoes

Fry onion, if using, in 1 Tbsp fat until golden brown. Add remaining ingredients to the pan, stirring occasionally until meat is just cooked.

Meanwhile, remove the stem end & cut the zucchinis lengthwise. With a sharp paring knife slice out the seeds to make a concavity in each ‘canoe’. Lay zucchini halves close together, cut side up on a baking tray. Melt remaining fat & brush onto each canoe.zucchinni boats

Fill each canoe with the meat mixture, heaping it up on top & between the canoes as necessary.

Bake 40 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Zucchinni canoes again 2


If some or all of the canoes are destined for reheating, remove them after 30 minutes.

Make packages of 2 (or more) canoes with tinfoil & refrigerate. Pop a package into the oven the moment you get home from work or whenever you need a snack.

Add a sliced avocado (& maybe some sauerkraut) & call  it breakfast!

The AIP is a Practice

The Autoimmune Protocol is a practice.

It’s a discipline.

As such, it’s a noun & a verb.

I woke up this morning thinking about this. That the AIP could be a spiritual practice, even.  And I remembered that years ago I developed this model for work, as a tool to assist with self-evaluation for the development of practice. And I wondered if it is relevant to the practice of AIP.

So I AIP-modified it.

Here’s the original model. Below I’ve adapted the text for AIP.


A model of AIP-practice

Practice develops over time and with experience.

This model depicts some stages in the evolution of practice. The goal is to achieve the generative stage, while continuing to make use of the strengths of each of the other stages.

AIP-Reactive: I respond to emergency situations (I’m hungry & I have to work late!) as they arise; I volunteer for activities that do not necessarily support my AIP goals; my AIP is often crisis-driven (like doing food prep when ravenously hungry).  If I get stuck here it may be because I am not yet fully invested in AIP, I am accustomed to living in crisis, or my environment is out of balance.

AIP-Calculative: I have systems in place to manage my AIP. If I get stuck it may be because I lack confidence, feel safe when others (doctors, etc.) take responsibility, or live in a social system that discourages independence and creativity.

AIP-Proactive: I actively work to identify ways that I can improve my AIP practice on an ongoing basis. I seek feedback from others who are on the AIP path.  If I get stuck, I can identify why.

AIP-Generative: My AIP philosophy & the development of my AIP-practice are embedded in almost everything I do. I learn every day. I anticipate, create, and build meaningful connections to support my AIP. If I get stuck, I take responsibility for change.

P.S. No one starts at the generative stage!

Paleo survival strategy: early morning food prep

Everyone wants a piece of you, I know:

  • The zen individuals want you to get up 20 minutes early to mediate;
  • The get-the-classical-education-you-never-had people want you to get up before that to read Beowulf;
  • The fitness freaks want you to hit the gym at 5am;
  • The de-clutter nuts want 30 minutes of your mornings before anyone else is up to swizzle the bathroom and sparkle the sink;

And now I’m saying Hey! Wouldn’t you like to get up even earlier so you can prep a pot roast and make a cauli-pilaf before you greet the pandemonium that is your day?

And you are saying Um, no.

But wait, I have edge.

The edge is this: Paleo/AIP will give you the energy you need to accomplish all the meditating, Beowulf-reading, weight-lifting and toilet-swizzling you want to do in a day, in addition to your day-job and family life.

At least, it has in mine.

So start with the food prep. Even if it means skipping the gym & leaving the toilet to marinate for now. Seriously! I highly recommend getting the extra sleep and just starting with a cauliflower.

Just you & a cauliflower in the early light of dawn…

As your energy increases, you can whip through The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, prep your food, meditate, swizzle your toilet and get in a bike ride before work.

But you need the energy first.

Here’s what I did before work this morning:

Morning food prep

My early morning food prep

  • Baked some sockeye salmon;
  • Prepped a beef stew for the slow cooker (I browned lightly-salted stewing beef in batches, added 2 whole portobellos, sliced celery, cinnamon, & bone broth to the slow cooker, put it on low & left it all day);
  • Made a batch of coconut milk lattes for breakfast;
  • Made a batch of avocado pesto;
  • Roasted some cabbage;
  • Cut up celery, cucumber & broccoli for crudités;

I got all my food prep done before I had to roust my vegetarian teenager.


Chicken with pesto & lattes for breakfast!

Then I ate my breakfast, drank 3 green tea lattes, read my evaluation textbook, did the dishes & got work-ready.

We were both out the door by 7:40am.

Why an early morning cook-up instead of a late-night food prep?

3 reasons:

  1. Procrastination is a serious hazard for me in the evening
  2. I resent the food-prep less if I don’t have to spend my day anticipating it
  3. I prefer to have my evenings free to do whatever I want

Here’s my foodstuffs for the workday that followed:

  • Breakfast: Leftover roast chicken topped with avocado pesto, several gorgeous green tea coconut milk lattes;

    Workaday lunch

    Workaday lunch

  • Snack: Celery, cucumber & broccoli crudités with purple botija olives;
  • Lunch (at my desk, after hot-hot power flow yoga): Baked sockeye salmon mashed with avocado pesto in nori handrolls & a side of roast cabbage;
  • Supper: Beef stew with portobellos, sautéed zucchini with avocado pesto;

I am not affronted by avocado pesto three times a day!

I was wrong about vegetarianism; I was wrong about paleo

When I met Matthew I was a single mum living in a basement suite.

An overweight vegetarian single mum who lived near downtown, rode her bike everywhere, went to yoga almost every day, and worked at a non-profit.

Matthew was a magnificent meat-eating single dad with spendy habits and a sporty car who lived in the suburbs and was a manager at an aerospace manufacturer.

So obviously, we met online.

Over the years we’ve been together I’ve been wrong about (at least) 2 things:

1.   I was wrong about vegetarianism

take what you need

All of the above

When we met, I was so empowered by my vegetarian ideology that I convinced Matthew, too. Or at least he was agreeable enough to let me have my way. Most of the time. He’d still periodically eat red meat, and would be almost apologetic about it. I can even remember saying that he seemed highly evolved in many ways, except that he was really quite regressive about meat. I was wrong.

2.   I was wrong about paleo

Then I went paleo and experienced the alleviation of all of my health issues. I became convinced that paleo would also cure Matthew’s psoriatic arthritis, which by that time had become severe. If he would only commit. He tried paleo, and thought that it actually made him worse. I secretly thought he was being stubborn and lazy. Until I read the Paleo Mom’s post about psoriasis. Which said that paleo can make some autoimmune conditions like psoriasis (& psoriatic arthritis is directly linked to psoriasis) worse. I was wrong again.

So now we are both now doing the Autoimmune Protocol. We’re on day 23.

And I’m really hoping I’m right this time!

Avocado Pesto on Zucchini Pasta + Cilantro Lime Salad Dressing (AIP-friendly)

Avocado pesto

Traditional pesto uses parmesan & pine nuts, but this AIP-friendly version is gorgeous without. A cilantro variation is perfect for winter. Or combine fresh dill & cilantro, especially for salmon.  In summer, use basil. Of course.

  • 2 bunches cilantro, including the stems
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic (optional)
  • 1 large or sufficient small zucchini

Whirl all the ingredients except zucchini in a food processor.

Noodles Deconstructed

Deconstruct pasta

Reconstruct pasta with a vegetable peeler, mandolin slicers or a julienne peeler to make the desired quantity of spaghetti or linguini out of your zucchini. Steam zucchini pasta for a few minutes until cooked.

Or deconstruct pasta by just slicing & sautéing the zucchini…

Top with pesto.

Cilantro Lime Salad dressing

While you’re at it…

Don’t scrape out the food processor bowl when you make the avocado pesto. Add:

  • ½ cup lime juice
  • A few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 or more cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp your favorite salt

Whirl & store in the fridge.


10 tips for (AIP) workday survival

  1. vegBring a vast container of crudités (with olives) for desk-side snacking;
  2. Drink herbal tea throughout the day. It’s hydrating, reassuring & (once you get into it) fun;
  3. Do food prep on the weekend;
  4. Invest in food storage containers;
  5. Wash your containers at work (I let mine air dry in a cloth grocery bag by my desk). Dirty food containers at the end of an exhausting day (or even worse, at the beginning of one) can completely throw you off your groove;
  6. Plan leftovers for workday lunches;AIP food kit
  7. Have an emergency supply of food. My paleo standbys were nuts or jerky. Neither of those are AIP-legal, so now I have the ingredients for salmon nori wraps in my desk drawer. Just in case I have to work late or I’m remiss about packing or planning. I’ve been starting with a greenish avocado, which I eat & replace every few days. Ripe avocados don’t travel well anyway & this way I get to eat perfectly ripe avos at work a couple times a week;
  8. If you are making salad for supper, it’s easy to make one for work at the same time. Or prep 2 salads, for lunch & supper, in the morning. Home-salad needs dressing, but work-salad is different. I find it doesn’t mind just a cut lemon squeezed on top;Pulled pork & mushrooms & zucchinni
  9. Use a slow cooker to ensure your food is waiting for you, before work & after. My favorite slow cooker recipe currently is Nom Nom Paleo’s Kalua Pig. Because it takes 2 minutes to prep, it’s divine, & even cold from the fridge it feels intentional. Not like leftovers at all. If you put it on at 3pm on Sunday afternoon you can have a glorious hot breakfast like this one on Monday morning, & bring delicious pulled pork for lunch on Tuesday;
  10. Remind yourself you are worth it. Worth the consideration & devotion;

An AIP food prep weekend

I spent the entire weekend in the kitchen. Prepping food for our extreme version of the Autoimmune Protocol.

A handblown glass compost receptacle (only slightly chipped: $3 at a thrift store) lends elegance to any food prep session...

A handblown glass compost receptacle (only slightly chipped: $3 at a thrift store) lends elegance to any food prep session…

I got cases of organic cucumbers, zucchini, cauliflower, purple cabbage & mushrooms on Friday, so I focused on those vegetables.

Luckily my #2 kid, who just moved into my basement suite, had only beer & sausages in his fridge, so I was able to fill it up with my overstock vegetation. No doubt his friends were awe-struck by his apparent commitment to vegetables.

I do most of the cooking & all of the meal planning around here. Not because I like it. I actually don’t like cooking at all. But because Matthew’s health is really bad and he can’t.

So I do.

I may not like it, but it feels really honest. Taking unadulterated plants & animal parts & turning them into delicious & (hopefully) healing foods.

I found myself wondering about my great-grandmothers for the first time in my life this weekend. What their lives were like. Pretty much like my weekend, maybe. Except on repeat forever with wood-fired cookstoves, no birth control & no vote.

It’s like a form of time travel to spend long days in the kitchen. At least for me.

My #1 kid is a sous chef in San Francisco & voluntarily spends all her days in the kitchens of the happening-est restaurants in the Bay Area.

But to me, as a person who would have no regrets if I never had to cook again (as long as the quality of my food didn’t suffer) working with unmodified food intensively for 2 days felt as though our 100-year obsession with convenience food-products had been put aside.

It’s like I am continuing from where we left off before all that convenience-madness happened. But with a few perks like electricity & the internet.

Here’s what happened in my kitchen this weekend:

Zucchini canoes

Zucchini canoes

  • Zucchini canoes with ground lamb & chicken;
  • Cauli-rice;
  • Tabbouleh;
  • Marinated Cauliflower;
  • Collard Greens & mushrooms;
  • Zucchini pasta with avocado pesto;
  • A triple batch Martha Stewart’s Cauliflower & watercress soup (AIP-modified);
  • A vast batch of Everyday Maven’s Roasted cabbage;
  • Green salad;
  • Beef Bone broth (Simmered for 36 hours!);
  • Slow-cooker brisket (actually, Matthew did the brisket);
  • Kalua Pig (it was a 2 slow-cooker weekend);
  • Baked Halibut;
  • Steak & lamb kidney (hey hey, Matthew did that, too);
  • Beef portobello burgers;
  • Two rounds of Coconut rooibos lattes. They are actually incredibly soothing. And when the love of my life is this unwell & I have to spend the weekend doing something I don’t like, warm soothing drinks are good;
  • And I blanched & froze a bunch of zucchini;

Here’s what my fridge looked like on Sunday night:


Ready for an AIP workweek!