Dear Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Dear Hidradenitis Suppurativa,

You snatched away my privacy; but you taught me humility.

For a time, you took away my ability to walk; but you taught me to cherish the movements of my body.

You took away my ability to feed myself or brush my own teeth; but you taught me to rely on other people and ask for help.

You’ve given me miles and miles of scars; but you taught me that there is so much more to a person’s beauty than their skin.

You created a lifelong battle with my body; but you taught me to forgive her and engage her with compassion instead of anger and hatred.

You continually break the hearts of my family members; but you’ve strengthened our bond and shown us what we’re capable of weathering together.

You’ve isolated me, causing me to miss countless important moments in the lives of friends and family; but you gave me a community of warriors who make me feel seen and understood.

You’ve torn apart my body and broken her time and time again; but you’ve taught me about the incredible healing powers my body possesses, and what she can overcome.

You’ve made me wish I was dead, made me want to give up on fighting; but you taught me that when I’m too tired and weary to fight, that my family will fight for me and save me.

You made me want to hide my scarred body and soul from the world; but you taught me the strength in vulnerability, that my vulnerability could give others strength to fight.

You brought upon the most suffocating depression, anxiety, and PTSD I could ever have imagined experiencing; but you taught me to be patient with myself and give myself grace while I healed from incredible mental, physical, and emotional trauma.

You gave me so much pain that I often forgot that I was human; but you taught me that I am a fighter and that no pain is great enough to break my spirit.

You’ve taken so much away from me; but you’ve given me purpose.

So much of my life has been spent resenting you, when in reality I have you to thank for the parts of me that I treasure most.

I’ve resisted you, cursed you, hated you, protested you; but I’ve never thanked you.

Until today.

Thank you, Hidradenitis Suppurativa.

Thank you for all that you’ve given me.

Love,

Pooja

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Posted in Anecdotes, Hidradenitis Suppurativa, mental health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ranch Meatballs (AIP, Paleo, Whole30)

Meatballs that taste like ranch. But made with real ingredients. Need I say more?

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Ranch Meatballs

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

2 large shallots or 1 medium onion, minced
1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 TB fresh chives, finely chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp grass-fed gelatin (or 2 eggs)
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 lb ground turkey, beef, chicken, or pork
High heat cooking fat such as avocado oil or ghee (not AIP)
Water (about 1 cup)
Lemon wedges (to squeeze at the end)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Combine all ingredients except for cooking fat, water, and lemon in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands to combine.
  3. Form into approximately 28-30 meatballs.
  4. In an oven safe skillet (I used a cast iron skillet), heat 1 tbsp cooking fat on medium-high heat (if using pork or higher-fat beef, use less cooking fat since the meat will release its own fat). Sear the meatballs for 2 minutes per side (a total of approximately 4 sides to get a good sear across the entire meatball).
    • Notes:
      • Be sure not to overcrowd the pan. The caramelization that occurs during this process is key and adds so much flavor. Overcrowding the pan will prevent caramelization. I seared my meatballs in 3 batches (of 8-10 meatballs per batch) in a 12-inch cast iron skillet.
      • After you’ve finished a batch, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
      • Be sure to quickly wipe down or scrape the skillet between batches to prevent burning.
      • After each batch, add ~1 more tbsp cooking fat for the new batch.
  5. When all the meatballs have been seared, carefully transfer all meatballs back into the skillet in a single layer (they will crowd the skillet but that is OKAY for this part). Add 1 cup of water to the pan, then place into the oven for 15 minutes.
  6. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and discard the water.
  7. Serve the meatballs with a squeeze of fresh lemon for a burst of citrusy flavor, and devour!

Additional Notes:
-These will last for about 5-6 days in the refrigerator and 4-6 months in the freezer.
-Feel free to make these into patties, or form them into larger burger patties (OMG ranch burgers…I can’t). Follow your heart!

Posted in AIP, Food, gluten free, Healthy, Paleo, Recipes, Whole30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kid-Friendly Oven-Baked Black Bean Quesadillas

This is the next in my series of kid-friendly recipes!

As I had mentioned before, for my job I was creating easy recipes that kids would enjoy that featured sliiiightly better-for-you ingredients where I could squeeze them in.

I love this quick, easy recipe because you can quickly heat the black beans, mash ’em, slap the tortillas together, then throw them into the oven, leaving your hands free to do other things (like feeding your kid a snack because they can’t wait until dinner). No more waiting at the stove to carefully flip a quesadilla to brown both sides–what a luxury!!

If you missed the last recipe for Kid-Friendly Veggie Pasta Salad, you probably aren’t familiar with our very scientific data collection method for seeking feedback on whether or not the kids liked the food. If they liked it, we asked them to give us a thumbs up; if they loved it, they were to give two thumbs up; if they couldn’t get enough, they were to thrust their hands in the air and wiggle their fingers. I’m delighted to report that these quesadillas got wiggly fingers from all our very sophisticated taste testers!

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  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

1 can black beans (no salt added)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
8 6-inch corn tortillas
8oz cheddar cheese, shredded (or shredded cheese of choice)
1-2 TB melted butter or oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Drain and rinse black beans, then add black beans garlic powder, salt, cumin, and chili powder to a small pot on medium-low heat.
  3. Gently stir with a wooden spoon until warmed through and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and roughly mash black bean mixture with the wooden spoon.
  5. Brush tortillas with oil or butter on one side.
  6. Place 4 tortillas butter/oil-side down on a sheet tray.
  7. Add roughly 1/4 cup mashed black beans and spread onto tortilla, then sprinkle 1/4 cup shredded cheese on top.
  8. Top with another tortilla, oil/butter side up.
  9. Repeat this with all tortillas, until you have 4 assembled quesadillas.
  10. Bake at 375°F until cheese is melted and tortillas are beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.
  11. Carefully remove, slice with a pizza cutter, and serve!

Notes:
-Quesadillas will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days.
-They reheat well in the microwave or on a skillet.
-Feel free to use different tortillas, cheese, or beans, as you prefer.

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Instant Pot Savory Butternut Squash Soup (AIP, Paleo, Whole30, Vegan)

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Instant Pot Savory Butternut Squash Soup

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

1 cup chopped onions (about 1/2 medium onion)
1 cup chopped carrots
1 TB avocado oil or ghee (not AIP or vegan)
5 cups cubed butternut squash (1 medium butternut squash, cubed)
1/2 tsp salt (+ more to taste)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 TB fresh herbs
2 bay leaves
4 cups broth (bone, chicken, vegetable)

Directions:

  1. Press the sauté function on the Instant Pot. After a minute or so, add oil or ghee, then add onions and carrots. Sauté for 10-12 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
  3. Add herbs (I used half rosemary, half thyme) and sauté for 1 minute.
  4. Add broth, salt, and bay leaves. Stir to combine, and with a wooden spoon scrape the browned bits off the bottom.
  5. Press cancel, then close the lid, set to pressure cook on high for 25 minutes (manually increase the time to 25 minutes).
    1. Be sure to keep the vent sealed.
  6. After 25 minutes, carefully manually release pressure.
    • Tips:
      • You can put a kitchen towel over the vent before releasing pressure to catch the steam.
      • You can set it under your vent hood.
      • You can take it outside to release the steam (which is what I do)
      • BUT when you release the steam, do it from the side so you don’t get burned by the hot steam! Safety first.
  7. Either use an immersion blender to blend the soup, or carefully transfer it in batches into a high speed blender and blend up until smooth.
  8. Serve, and enjoy!

Notes:
-Keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.

Posted in AIP, Autoimmune Protocol, Food, gluten free, Healthy, Paleo, Recipes, vegan, Whole30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cilantro Chutney Chicken (AIP, Paleo, Whole30)

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Cilantro Chutney Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

2 lbs chicken (breast or thigh)
1 can coconut milk
1 cup cilantro
1/3 cup green onions (whites & greens)
2 TB lime juice, divided
4 cloves garlic
1 TB fresh ginger (or 1-inch knob ginger)
1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients (except chicken and 1 TB lime juice) in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Place chicken into large zip-top bag or glass container and cover with marinade, stirring to coat.
  3. Marinate for at least 1 hour, up to overnight.
  4. When ready to cook the chicken, preheat oven to 375°F. 
  5. Place chicken onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil (greased, if using foil), and spoon a tablespoon of marinade on top of each chicken breast or thigh.
  6. Bake until thickest part of chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
    • For boneless chicken breasts, this will be 25-30 minutes.
    • For boneless chicken thighs, this will be closer to 35-40 minutes.
  7. While chicken is baking, pour remaining marinade into a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and allow it to simmer until it thickens and easily coats the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes.
    • Keep an eye on it because when it thickens, the mixture will start to sputter and make a mess–that’s another sign that it’s done!
  8. When sauce is done, stir in the remaining 1 TB lime juice.
  9. When chicken is done baking, allow it to rest for 5 minutes.
  10. Top chicken with sauce and serve.
  11. Lick your plate clean.

Notes:
-Feel free to cook the chicken however you’d like. I grilled mine and it was divine.
-Not sensitive to nightshades? Throw in some crushed red pepper or cayenne for a kick!
-If using bone-in chicken, just be sure to cook it until it reaches 165°F.
-Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Posted in AIP, Autoimmune Protocol, Food, gluten free, Healthy, Paleo, Recipes, Whole30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grain-free “Oatmeal” (AIP, Paleo, Vegan)

Sometimes, when it’s freezing and pouring outside, and you have a cold, you just want a comforting bowl of oats. You want that warm, creamy, cinnamon-y bowl that soothes your soul and fills you up.

But what to do when grains aren’t your friend?

I threw this together on my stovetop and couldn’t believe how much it tasted like the real thing. My brain was so confused, but my heart and stomach were pleased.

Enjoy this simple recipe for grain-free “oatmeal.”

I won’t tell if you lick the bowl clean.

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  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

1 cup riced cauliflower
1 banana
1 tsp coconut oil or ghee (not AIP)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 TB maple syrup
Pinch salt
Optional: 1 scoop collagen or other protein powder

Directions:

  1. Heat coconut oil or ghee on medium heat. When it’s melted, add riced cauliflower and sauté until it starts to soften, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add banana and use a wooden spoon to mash and combine it with cauliflower rice (about 1-2 minutes)
  3. When banana and cauli rice are well-incorporated, add coconut milk and bring to a simmer (about 2 minutes).
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well to combine.
  5. Allow to thicken for 1-2 minutes then turn off the heat.
  6. Transfer to a bowl or mug, add additional toppings if desired, and enjoy!

Notes:
-I used frozen riced cauliflower, but you can use fresh.
-Easily multiply this recipe as needed to feed more than one person.
-Feel free to sub maple syrup for honey, but I prefer maple syrup because the warm flavor makes it feel more like oats to me.
-Get creative with toppings! Sauté a chopped apple for apple cinnamon oats, add berries or other fruit, or add nut butters (not AIP).

Posted in AIP, Autoimmune Protocol, Food, Healthy, Paleo, Recipes, vegan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kid-Friendly Veggie Pasta Salad

For my new job, I am building a lunch program for a progressive private school, with classes ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade. I’m trying to create a lunch menu filled with familiar items and foods the students will love, but doing my best to use minimally processed ingredients while remaining within our budget.

This recipe was taste tested by 19 children, and somehow only one of them picked out the tomatoes. I was shocked when I saw how many happily chowed down on their pasta salad samples and asked for more! I kept this recipe simple so the flavors are mild and the freshness shines.

We told the children to give a thumbs up if they liked it, two thumbs up if they loved it, and to wiggle their fingers in the air if they couldn’t get enough of it. Wiggly fingers all around!

Feel free to use different flavor/veggie combinations.

Want a Greek pasta salad? Use Greek dressing and feta cheese instead of Italian dressing and Parmesan.

Want to add a spicy kick? Throw in some red pepper flakes!

Want to keep it vegan? Leave out the cheese and add some sunflower seeds for healthy fats and a yummy crunch.

Play around with it, using what you have or are craving. You won’t be disappointed.

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Veggie Pasta Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

2 cups cooked + cooled pasta (see notes)
1 cup diced zucchini (raw)
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 TB Italian dressing
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Combine pasta, zucchini, and tomatoes in a medium-sized bowl, and mix to evenly distribute veggies throughout pasta.
  2. Drizzle on dressing, and sprinkle on salt, pepper, and cheese. Mix well to combine and evenly coat veggies + pasta.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for flavors to blend, up to overnight.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

Notes:
-I recommend using macaroni or penne, and feel free to use gluten free pasta here! If you use gluten free pasta, after the pasta has been cooked, drained, and rinsed with cold water, toss with 1/2 tsp olive oil so that it does not stick together.
-This will last up to 5 days in the fridge. I do not recommend freezing.

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