Southwestern Marinated Tri-Tip Salad

tri-tipby Karen Frazier

Looking for an easy grilled meal with big flavor payoff? This is what’s on the Frazier table tonight…it’s delicious, low-carb, paleo, healthy, and easy to make. It takes less than 30 minutes of active time.

For the steak:

  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch green onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed and roughly chopped
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 to 3 pounds tri tip steaks

For the salad:

  • 6 cups iceberg lettuce
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 1 avocado, peeled and pitted
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the steak:

  1. In a food processor, combine the garlic, green onions, jalapeño, lime juice, sea salt, cilantro, and olive oil. Process until it forms a paste. Set aside one tablespoon of the paste.
  2. Marinate the steaks in the cilantro mixture for two to four hours.
  3. Heat your grill to medium-high.
  4. Wipe away any excess marinade.
  5. Grill the steaks until medium-rare, five to seven minutes per side.
  6. Rest the steak for ten minutes. Then, slice it into slices against the grain. Toss the warm steak with the reserved marinade.

For the salad:

  1. In a large bowl, toss the lettuce, tomatoes, green onion.
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine the avocado, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, salt, jalapeño, and olive oil. Blend until smooth.
  3. Toss the dressing with the salad.
  4. Top with the sliced steak.

photo credit: Tri Tip Dinner via photopin (license)

Autoimmune Flares: Possible Triggers & Solutions

pain in the usby Karen Frazier

I’m certain I have mentioned it before, but I started eating low-carb paleo out of self-defense. I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and celiac disease, both which are autoimmune diseases. Changing the way I eat has been incredibly helpful in managing autoimmune symptoms, but occasionally I have flare-ups. For example, this week, I am experiencing an autoimmune flare, and I know I’ve done it to myself.

What Does a Flare Feel Like?

Autoimmune flares may feel different for different people, depending on the type of autoimmune disease they have. In my case, an autoimmune flare includes some, all, or a combination of the following symptoms of varying intensity (ranging from mild to debilitating) depending on the severity of the flare.

  • Consistent pain – both systemic (throughout my body) and in specific locations (particularly for me my hips)
  • Headaches
  • Exhaustion
  • Stuffy nose
  • Stomach pain
  • Decreased energy
  • Decreased physical stamina
  • Brain fog
  • Swollen glands
  • Fever and chills
  • Lightheadedness
  • Muscle aches, pains, or stiffness

What Causes a Flare?

In general, there is one major cause behind a flare-up of autoimmune symptoms: inflammation.  That’s why an anti-inflammatory paleo diet is so effective in calming symptoms of autoimmune disease – because they help your body naturally decrease inflammation by eliminating substances that trigger it.

Possible Dietary Triggers

I can tell you exactly why I’m experiencing a flare this week. It’s because I consumed some foods and substances that trigger inflammation in my body.

You’ve probably seen me mention the 90/10 principle, that as long as you eat cleanly 90 percent of the time, your body will tolerate the other 10 percent of the time when you slip in an inflammatory substance. For me, however, I notice that I can’t do that entire 10 percent in a single sitting (or over the course of a few days). I have to space it way out. The more triggers I consume, the more likely a flare is. For example, I might be able to slip in a little dairy or have an alcoholic beverage here and there, as long as those things occur in isolation. However, if I do as I did this past week, and I don’t get enough sleep so I have some caffeine (in a base with artificial sweetener), then have a few drinks at a wedding along with a few puffs of a friend’s cigar, spend a late night out dancing, come home and only sleep a few hours before getting up and moving again, try to continue my regular exercise routine, and have some dairy, chances are I’m going to be in trouble.

So what are the possible dietary triggers for autoimmune flares?

  • Dairy products
  • Caffeine
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Sugar alcohols
  • Grains
  • Industrial seed oils (canola, sunflower, safflower, etc.)
  • Conventionally raised meats
  • Non-organic vegetables
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Chemical additives like preservatives, colorings, etc.
  • Sugar
  • Nicotine
  • Gums and thickeners
  • Gluten
  • Too many omega-6 fatty acids

Other Potential Causes of Inflammation

Other things might cause inflammatory flare-ups, as well, including:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Overexertion/overexercising
  • Injury
  • Hormonal shifts

Solutions

Look, we all overindulge occasionally. What my body considers going on a debauched bender is very different than how it looks for other people, however. With my body’s tolerances, it’s a huge bender when I’ve had a few drinks, perhaps some artificial sweetener, and a touch of dairy while staying up past midnight one night. For me, that’s all it takes. It’s up to you to learn your body’s tolerances.

While it doesn’t seem fair that when people with autoimmune disease overindulge, they may experience a flare-up of pain and inflammation, the fact remains it happens. Therefore, your best bet is to take care to nature  your body to return to health as quickly as possible.

Return to Clean Eating

While you don’t have to return to a strict elimination diet, you will want to return to your way of clean eating, leaving out any small indulgences that may cause inflammation for the time-being. The time-frame you need to do this varies – for me it takes a week or two, although I start to feel better after a few days. If you haven’t done an elimination diet yet to determine what your food triggers are, I strongly recommend it.

Drink Plenty of Water

Water can help you flush out all of the stuff your body doesn’t like more quickly, so keep drinking lots of water as you work to decrease your body’s inflammatory response.

Sleep

When your body is inflamed, it needs rest. I get pretty tired when I experience a flare-up of inflammation, and I take the time to nurture my body’s needs by going to bed earlier and getting up later. I even indulge in a nap from time to time when this happens – I listen to my body’s sleep needs and do my very best to meet them.

Choose Gentle Physical Activity

Now is not the time to tell yourself pain is just weakness leaving the body. Your pain is telling you something, and it’s encouraging you to be gentle with yourself. Listen to your body as you exercise, and engage in gentle exercises like taking short walks or doing yoga. When you do exercise, pay attention to your body’s signals and adapt the exercise accordingly. During very severe flares, I have to skip exercise altogether for a few days. This week, I’ve been doing my regular Nia classes, but I’ve been adapting them to a less strenuous level. I’ve also skipped running altogether because my body just can’t tolerate it right now. Your body will tell you as you exercise whether it can handle more, or if you need to tone it down. Listen and respond accordingly.

Try Anti-Inflammatory Foods and Substances

There are foods and supplements that can help decrease inflammation and re-balance your body. These include the following:

  • Turmeric (I take supplements)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (found in seafood, fish, flaxseed, and chia seeds)
  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy greens
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Ginger
  • Cloves
  • Green tea
  • Fermented foods

Heal Your Gut

If your 10 percent crept back up to being a majority of the way you ate over a sustained period, you may also want to work on healing your gut and encouraging healthy bacterial formation. Licorice (I use DGL) or marshmallow (the root, not the candy) can help to soothe the gut while probiotics and fermented foods can help re-colonize it in a healthier way.

Bust Stress

Stress contributes to inflammatory responses, so soothing your stress is essential. Along with getting adequate rest and sleep, choose activities that can help relieve stress, such as deep breathing exercises, yoga or tai chi, mindfulness, and meditation.

The Road to Health

Autoimmune flares can be frustrating, especially when you’ve been doing well. In my case, I’m almost always the cause of my flare, typically because I get in the mindset that a little bit of something isn’t going to hurt me. Then I have a little of this and a little of that until BAM – inflammation.

Different people have different tolerances to activities and substances that cause inflammation – and it can vary from time to time depending on other health factors, as well. That’s why it’s so important when you have autoimmune disease to tune into your body and listen to the signals it gives you. Then, it’s important to react quickly to those signals to honor your body’s needs in order to remain as vital and healthy as you possibly can.

 

Clam Chowder (Paleo-Style)

clam chowderby Karen Frazier

Clam chowder….what can I say? It’s a family favorite, but with my Celiac disease and dairy allergy, I’ve had to make it over in a way that works for my diet. This version is made with anti-inflammatory ingredients, and it’s lowish in carbs and paleo, so it’s perfect for people with all sorts of inflammatory autoimmune conditions, like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

  • 6 slices pepper bacon, cut into pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 8 cups bone broth
  • 2 (6-ounce) cans clams, undrained
  • 1 celery root (celeriac), peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (or to taste – I like mine a bit on the spicy side)
  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
  1. In a large pot, cook the pepper bacon on medium-high until it is browned. Remove the bacon from the fat in the pot with a slotted spoon and set it aside.
  2. To the fat in the pan, add the fennel, celery, onion, and carrot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, five to seven minutes.
  3. Add the bone broth, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with the side of a spoon.
  4. Add the clams, celery root, thyme, tarragon, pepper, salt, and pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer. Reduce to medium-low and cook until the celery root is tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the arrowroot powder and water. Pour it into the soup in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Simmer, stirring, until the chowder thickens slightly, about three minutes more.
  6. Stir in the reserve bacon and the fennel fronds.

photo credit: Pike Place Chowder via photopin (license)

Peanut Butter Fudge Pie

pieby Karen Frazier

If you’re on a low-carb or gluten-free diet, you can still enjoy sweets from time to time. This peanut butter fudge pie is easy to make, low in carbs, and it has a chocolatey nut crust, so it’s gluten-free and dairy-free, as well. To make it paleo (but not low-carb), you can replace the sweetener in the crust and the filling with pure maple syrup or honey to taste. I don’t like things to be super sweet, so I recommend doing the add a little sweetener and taste until you get to your desired level of sweetness, or the pie might not be sweet enough for you as written.

  • 1  1/2 cups pecans
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated Truvia (in the green plastic jar) or Swerve sweetener
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 3 (14-ounce) cans coconut milk (full-fat), refrigerated overnight until the liquid separates from the cream (discard the liquid), or 2 cups coconut cream, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 15 to 20 drops of liquid stevia or liquid sucralose (or to taste – you may want more)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease a pie plate with coconut oil.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the pecans, cocoa powder, and Truvia or Swerve until well chopped, about 15 one-second pulses.
  4. Add the melted coconut oil and continue processing for 30 seconds.
  5. Press into the prepared pie plate. Bake the crust in the oven until browned and fragrant, 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
  6. In a small saucepan (or in the microwave), melt the chocolate and peanut butter, stirring to combine.
  7. In a large bowl, combine two of the cans of the coconut cream (just the thick part with the water poured off – about one and a half cups) with one teaspoon of the vanilla and the liquid stevia or sucralose.
  8. Add the melted chocolate and peanut butter. Beat until well combined.
  9. Pour into the cooled crust. Refrigerate until the filling hardens.
  10. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining one can of coconut cream (or a half cup of the cream without the liquid), the remaining teaspoon of vanilla, and stevia or sucralose drops to taste. Beat with an electric beater on high until fluffy, three to four minutes. Spread on the chilled pie. Return to the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

photo credit: “Squared” Coconut Pie via photopin (license)

Coconut Blueberry Pancakes with Orange-Maple-Ginger Syrup

pancakesby Karen Frazier

Pancakes are a sometimes treat for us. I don’t do a lot of low-carb and paleo baking because I don’t want to get in the habit of eating baked goods. I prefer to stay pretty basic. However, from time to time, I get bit by the baking bug. While pancakes aren’t quite baking, they have a lot of similarities. In fact, with a few modifications this recipe also makes tasty muffins.

Coconut Blueberry Pancakes

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil, plus more for cooking
  • A few drops liquid stevia
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Organic blueberries
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In another medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut oil, stevia, vanilla, and coconut milk.
  3. Carefully fold the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring until just combined.
  4. Heat a skillet on medium-high. Grease it with the coconut oil.
  5. Ladle the pancakes onto the skillet, dropping blueberries on each pancake.
  6. Cook until the pancakes bubble, about four minutes. Flip and cook a few more minutes on the other side. Serve with the syrup.

Orange-Maple-Ginger Syrup

  • 1 cup Truvia (not the baking blend, which has sugar – the stuff in the green jar), Swerve sweetener, or granulated erythritol
  • 1 cup hot water
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 3-4 slices ginger root
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
  1. In a small saucepan, bring all ingredients to a simmer on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer for five minutes.
  2. Turn off heat and allow the syrup to steep for one hour.
  3. Strain out solids.

The syrup won’t be thick like you’re used to, but it will add wonderful flavor to your pancakes.
photo credit: Blueberry & Ricotta Pancakes via photopin (license)

Cocktail Time: Experimenting with Low-Carb Cocktails

IMG_1582 (1)by Karen Frazier

In the wake of my visit to the Sandstone Distillery last weekend where I obtained some pretty spectacular spirits, last evening I gathered a few friends as a tasting panel and mixed up a few low-carb cocktails. I wanted to play with the flavors and see what I could come up with after really enjoying the flavor of my Orange-Bacon “New Fashioned” last weekend.

The Cocktails

Here, in the order of most successful to least successful (and trust me, they were all varying degrees of tasty) are our low-carb cocktails. Thanks to Andy Skinner, Kasci Lawrence, and my hubby Jim for acting as my guinea pigs! Each of the recipes below makes two to three cocktails unless otherwise indicated.

The Best! – Low-Carb Orange-Bacon Martini

Andy’s comment: “This is bleeping delicious.” Everyone agreed this the best of the night.

  • Juice of one orange
  • Juice of two limes
  • 2 shots Sandstone bacon whiskey (or you can try bacon-infused vodka here)
  • 1/2 to 1 shot of orange spice low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Ice

In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients. Shake to chill and strain into martini glasses. Garnish with orange slices.

In Second Place – but Still Tasty – Low-Carb Rasiltini

Raspberries, basil, anise…what’s not to like? This went down smoothly and had a wonderful flavor. Andy’s comment, “I love how the flavors keep coming long after I’m done sipping it.” He was right. It opened up on the palate endlessly, long after we’d savored our last sip.

  • 4 or 5 fresh raspberries
  • Juice of two limes
  • Juice of one orange
  • 2 shots Sandstone Distillery black gin (or try infusing gin or vodka with star anise)
  • 1/2 to 1 shot of raspberry, basil, fennel-infused low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the raspberries.
  2. Add the lime juice, orange juice, gin, syrup, and ice. Shake to chill. Strain into martini glasses. Garnish with additional raspberries.

Third Place but Yummy – Low-Carb Rosemary Lemon Drop

“Fresh and lemon-droppy,” Jim said, tipping back his glass for more. “Summery!” I noted. That’s what I was going for. “More rosemary,” Andy added, and I agree. I’ve added a touch more rosemary in this recipe than what we had last night to really infuse the flavor.

  • Juice of two lemons
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 shots Sandstone Distillery rosemary vodka (or infuse your own vodka with rosemary)
  • 1/2 to 1 shot rosemary lemon infused low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Ice

In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients. Shake to chill. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and rosemary sprig.

My Favorite – Low-Carb Jalapeño Lime Kamikaze

This was my favorite, although others felt it was a bit too spicy. To tone down the heat, I’ve adjusted the amount of jalapeños used from what I did last night. Feel free to add as much heat as you want. Leaving the seeds from the jalapeños out will adjust the heat levels.

  • Juice of two to three limes
  • Juice of half an orange
  • 2 shots vodka
  • 2 to 3 (or more depending on taste preferences) slices of fresh jalapeño
  • 1/2 to 1 shot jalapeño-infused low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Ice

In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients. Shake until chilled. Strain into old-fashioned glasses filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a twist of lime.

Worth Trying – Low-Carb Blackberry Thyme Martini

I think this one could still use a bit of work to perfect it, but it wasn’t without its charms. Everybody drank it all – there wasn’t any left. “It kind of tastes like bubble gum,” Kasci noted. I agree – it was a bit sweeter than I typically like a drink, but you know what? We were a few cocktails in by this time and may have missed the nuances. The size of my pours may have been off…And it was still really tasty, particularly if you’re a blackberry fan. Perhaps in the future I’d replace the black gin with vodka to have more of the blackberry and thyme flavors with less licorice.

  • 4 to 5 fresh blackberries
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Juice of one lime
  • Juice of one orange
  • 2 shots Sandstone Distillery black gin (or vodka or gin you’ve infused with star anise)
  • 1/2 to 1 shot blackberry thyme low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Ice
  1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the blackberries.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients. Shake until chilled. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with additional blackberries.

Also Worth Trying – Low-Carb Lime Jalapeño and Avocado Margarita

This one was surprising….it tasted good but was unexpected. It almost had a hint of banana flavor to it – weird given there were no bananas. We used the Sandstone Distillery White Whiskey (which tastes a lot like tequila), but you could substitute tequila here. “It tastes like a fresh garden smoothie,” Kasci said. It was our last cocktail of the evening, however, so who knows how discerning our palates were at that point.

  • Crushed ice
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • Juice of one orange
  • 1 avocado, peel and pit removed
  • 1 shot lime jalapeño low-carb simple syrup (recipe below)
  • 2 shots Sandstone Distillery white whiskey (or tequila)
  • Crushed ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Puree until blended.

We also changed up the recipe to the Orange Maple Bacon New Fashioned I made the other day, this time using a maple-ginger infused syrup (recipe below) in place of the pure maple syrup. This made the drink low-carb and added an interesting dimension to it that was equally tasty.

IMG_1581

Andy, enjoying a cocktail and not worrying for even a second about his lab rat status.

The Low-Carb Simple Syrups

I found using these was a great way to add flavor to the drinks. I used Truvia (not the baking blend, which has sugar – the granulated kind that comes in the little plastic jar-thingie and is a combination of erythritol and stevia) as my sweetener, but you could also use erythritol, Swerve sweetener, or, if you’re seeking a more paleo approach, organic raw honey (which isn’t low-carb). Syrups will keep in the freezer indefinitely – just thaw a bit to use them, or you can refrigerate them for up to six months.

Orange Spice Infused Low-Carb Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or another low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 one-inch strips orange zest (try not to get any of the white part, which can taste bitter)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 whole allspice
  • 1 whole nutmeg

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Raspberry-Basil-Fennel Infused Low-Carb Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or other low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 raspberries, crushed
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seed

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Rosemary-Lemon Infused Low-Carb Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or another low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 half-inch strips of lemon peel (avoid getting the white part, which can be bitter)
  • 1 sprig rosemary

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Lime-Jalapeno Infused Low-Carb Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or another low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 half-inch strips lime peel (avoid the white part, which can be bitter)
  • 1/2 jalapeno, thinly sliced (or more or less depending on your heat preference)

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Blackberry-Thyme Infused Simple Syrup

  • 6 blackberries, crushed to release juices
  • 1/2 cup Truvia (or another low-carb sweetener)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 whole black peppercorns

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Maple-Ginger Infused Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Truvia
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
  • 6 to 10 slices ginger root

In a small saucepan on medium-high, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring to dissolve the Truvia. Simmer for three to four minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean container.

Infusing Your Own Spirits

I realize it may be impossible to make it to my local area to get to the Sandstone Distillery, but don’t despair. You can approximate your own versions of the liquors using botanicals and dried spices. Just infuse the spirit of your choice with the flavoring of your choice (using fresh herbs – not dried; whole spices – not ground; and citrus peels without the bitter white pith) for two to three days, shaking it up every day. Then, strain the solids away and use a funnel to put it back in the original bottle – or keep it in a well-labeled mason jar.

Cocktail Time: Maple Orange Bacon “New Fashioned”

by Karen Frazier

IMG_1571This weekend, Jim and I headed out to the Sandstone Distillery outside of Tenino, WA. We were looking for something to do on a rainy Sunday when I thought, “Hey – let’s go tour a nearby distillery.” After a little Googling, I discovered Sandstone, which had this on its website: bacon-flavored whiskey. Bacon. Whiskey. How could I not go? How?

And so, off we went to the distillery, where we were treated to a lovely tour on one of the most delicious smelling places I’ve ever been! Next, they brought out their wonderful spirits and let us taste. Along with the bacon whiskey, we tasted vodka, rosemary vodka, gin, black gin, white whiskey, garlic and chive vodka, barrel aged whiskey, and 124 proof whiskey. All were outstanding and really delicious, and I got excited thinking of all the different cocktails I could come up with.

The bacon white whiskey is made from infusing their white whiskey with bacon from local pigs that actually are fed some of the byproducts of grain from the distillery’s whiskey making process. It is delicious with a smokey bacon flavor that’s not over the top.

The vodka is smooth and delicious. I liked it better than my standard go-to vodka, Tito’s. The rosemary vodka, especially when mixed with a little lemon, tastes like summer in a glass. The gin isn’t overpowering in its juniper flavor and is really lovely. The garlic and chive vodka, which isn’t yet for sale, was surprising and not overpowering. I think I could come up with a cocktail or two for it – or at least a few recipes where I could cook with it. The black gin has a lovely licorice finish because it is infused with star anise (hence the name black gin), and it’s very smooth. The barrel-aged whiskey tastes like a single-malt scotch, also smooth and tasty. And the white whiskey is smooth and a delicious sipper.

We came home with the bacon white whiskey (naturally), the vodka, rosemary vodka, and black gin. And now I start making cocktails. First up was the bacon white whiskey. I think it’s only available at the distillery, so if you’re not local, you may want to substitute bacon vodka or something similar. You could even infuse vodka or whiskey with a few slices of cooked bacon. If you’re a paleo dieter, the drink is sort of paleo if you include a little whiskey in your diet from time to time (raising hand – I do!).

Maple Orange Bacon “New Fashioned”

  • 1 shot Sandstone Distillery Bacon White Whiskey
  • Juice of half an orange
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
  • Soda water
  • Ice
  • Orange slice

In a Collins glass, combine the whiskey, orange juice, maple syrup, soda water, and ice. Garnish with the orange slice.

I’ll let you know what I come up with as I experiment with the other spirits we brought home.

 

Patty Melt Soup

caramelized onionsby Karen Frazier

I used to love patty melts. In fact, it was one of my favorite things to order when we went out to dinner at a greasy spoon. Celiac disease (and a low-carb paleo diet) put the patty melt out of reach for me, but I know I could find a way to get all the same flavors without it having to be a greasy burger.

Whenever I’m trying to recreate flavor profiles of a favorite dish I can no longer have, my first stop is soup. I figure you can recreate almost any flavor in a soup. In this case, it worked. Patty melt cravings satisfied in a delicious, low-carb, paleo way.

Patty Melt Soup

  • 4 slices bacon, cut into pieces
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway seed (use a spice grinder if you can’t find it ground)
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 8 cups beef bone broth
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
  1. In a large pot, brown the bacon on medium high. Remove the bacon from the fat with a slotted spoon and set it aside.
  2. In the same pot, cook the ground beef, crumbling it with a spoon, until it is browned, about five minutes. Remove it from the fat with a slotted spoon and set it aside.
  3. Reduce the heat to low. Add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browned and caramelized, 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the beef broth, caraway, and mustard powder, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with the side of a spoon. Return the ground beef and bacon to the pot. Turn the heat to medium.
  6. Bring the pot to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for ten minutes.
  7. If you’d like a little cheesy flavor with the  soup, stir in the nutritional yeast.

If you like more veggies in your soup, add some sliced carrots, zucchini, or any other vegetables you enjoy. Cabbage is also a tasty addition.

Confessions of a YoYo Dieter

YoYoby Karen Frazier

A few years ago, I submitted a piece to Chicken Soup for the Soul called “Being Fat Set Me Free.” It was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength, and I heard from many people who told me how much my words had inspired them.

The gist of the piece was this: I’d spent most of my life as a morbidly obese adult, and in gaining and living with all that extra weight, I’d learned to rely on something other than my appearance to develop self-worth. While the article was truthful, it never told the whole story about what it truly felt like to be fat – or what it felt like to gain and lose hundreds of pounds over the course of 25 years.

Currently, I’m about 150 pounds down from my highest weight, and I feel fabulous. I’m active, mostly pain-free, and energetic. At the same time, there’s a little voice in the back of my mind reminding me I’ve been here before. It’s not the first time I’ve dropped a significant amount of weight, although I hope it will be my last.

Being a YoYo dieter requires a lot of hope and optimism – and it also comes with crushing disappointment. In the past, it was always painful as I began the slow slide back into obesity once again.

So many people felt it was their place to comment about both my weight loss and my weight gain. When I was losing weight, I’d get praise. In fact, the weight loss would seemingly become the most praiseworthy thing about me, to the point people would talk about that before and to the exclusion of any and all other accomplishments. And then, as I’d begin the slide into obesity once again, I’d see glee in some people’s eyes and disappointment in others. Once again, for many people it was about my weight and little else.

When I was at the top of the YoYo, “I’m a person!” I’d want to yell. “See me? I’m ME! This weight thing? It’s not me. Look beyond it and see me – no matter what size I am.” But I knew I’d be yelling into a vacuum.

Catching glimpses of myself in the mirror, I’d stop, surprised, and think, “Who are you? That’s not how I feel on the inside.”

This is what it was like for me to be morbidly obese. I was still the same person inside I was when I was small. I felt, experienced, and recognized that every day. Fat was just one thing about me. I was a person. I lived a life of joy and contentment. I had trusting and loving relationships. I engaged in creative activities. I was professionally successful. I worked hard. I was an engaged parent, a volunteer, a busy member of my community, a loving wife, a spiritual being, a loyal and supportive friend.

At the top of the YoYo, I was terrified to go to the doctor, because no matter what was wrong with me, every conversation was about my weight. Went in for a broken arm? “Lose weight, fatty – that arm wouldn’t be broken if you were thin.”  And so, I put off going to the doctor for those times when I couldn’t hold out any longer. And then I sat in the waiting room, dreading the scale. In the exam room, I’d flush with shame when the inevitable conversation came up. And it always did.

I had some “friends” who felt it was okay to discuss my weight freely under the guise of concern. “I am so worried about you,” they’d say. “I want you to be healthy, you know.” These are the same “friends” who, as I lost weight, seemed to drift away or develop resentment when they could no longer make themselves feel better by pointing out to me that I was fat. As if I didn’t already know that.

At the top of the YoYo, I often felt invisible, and I liked that. At other times, I felt conspicuous as people surreptitiously stared and judged. One day, I was walking through Macy’s behind two women. As we passed through the plus size department, one pointed out the clothing on the racks to her friend and started laughing.

“Look how gigantic it is,” she said to her friend, stopping to touch a large sweater on display.

Then, she caught sight of me as I continued past her. She looked at me and smirked. As I passed, she said loudly to her friend, “Fat ass.”

I wanted to stop and look her in the eye and tell her that at least I was a kind and compassionate person who would never make a remark like that. Instead, I put my head down, burned with shame, and continued walking with my heart pounding in my ears and my face hot.

Once, when the YoYo was just starting to rise, I was lying in the sun by the pool at my apartment building. There were two young adult females splashing in the water nearby. One kept ducking under the water, gathering water in her mouth, spitting it at me, and saying, “Look, I’m a whale.” That was my first taste of how some people treated overweight individuals.

When the YoYo was rising, I was shopping for a wedding dress. I was probably a size 12 to 14 at the time, significantly heavier than my size 3 frame had once been. In the bridal shop, I went to the size 12-14 rack and started looking at dresses. I saw a salesperson eyeing me from across the room. She approached with a frown and asked how she could help, one eyebrow cocked high.

“I don’t think you’re in the right section,” she told me. And then she pulled a size 20 dress from the rack. The style was ugly and the fabric worse – it looked like a potato sack, and I told her it was too big and really wasn’t my style.

“You just need to learn what’s available to you and stop trying to be something you’re not,” she told me, sniffing and walking away. I realized in that moment she’d decided if I wouldn’t fit within her definition of what I should be, then she felt I wasn’t worth helping. It was at that moment I decided instead of a having a wedding, I’d get married in a chapel somewhere with no one else in attendance.

Those were the early days when I was still learning to navigate the waters of being fat. Those were the days when I earnestly tried everything I could to lose weight, such as very low-calorie diets and lots of exercise. Those were the days when I was hungry, exhausted, irritable, sore, bewildered, sad, humiliated, confused, hopeful, and optimistic. Those were the days when seeing myself in the mirror was a shock, because I didn’t feel any different inside.

When I was at the bottom of the YoYo, I always received positive reinforcement from others. But I still felt the same inside. The only difference was that the size of my ass was smaller. It was bewildering people considered that an accomplishment but barely noticed any of the other, truly amazing things I had going in my life. At the same time, I would feel euphoria associated with chiseling down my size and squeezing into smaller jeans. I’d also feel apprehension, because I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for the YoYo to rise once again.

When I was at the bottom of the YoYo, I stopped being invisible. I both reveled in it and missed it at the same time. People were kinder, more engaging. People provided positive reinforcement.

Once when I was at the bottom of the YoYo, I had been doing some intense volunteer work – spending about 50 hours a week volunteering in addition to doing my regular job and raising my kiddo. Someone I respected came up to me and said, “I am so proud of what you are doing.” I thought that person was talking about the volunteer work, and I started to discuss it. “No,” that person said. “I mean the weight loss.”

Why is that more worthy of comment than helping others, I wondered. And so it went.

At the top of the YoYo, I often felt I was betraying myself. At the bottom, I often felt I was betraying my community, because instead of accepting myself as a fat person, I was behaving as a “good fatty” in the eyes of society and doing what it took to lose weight. Losing weight, I heard, meant I didn’t truly have self-acceptance, and I was also telling other fat people they shouldn’t accept themselves as overweight either.

One day on the bottom of the YoYo, I walked out the side door of my office building and saw an overweight woman sitting in her car eating. Our eyes met through her windshield. I smiled at her, but I saw the shame flash in her eyes. In that moment, I recognized her as me. She was eating alone in her car, feeling shame for the simple act of providing her body with fuel. I have been her possibly hundreds of times – eating alone somewhere and praying nobody saw me and judged me harshly for the simple act eating.

I can’t tell you how many times I ate a meal with thinner “friends” who had plates piled high with processed junk foods while lecturing me because I was eating a single chicken leg. Or felt it was okay to comment on my weight as they shoveled junk foods into their mouths. Or offered what they surely felt was well-meaning advice about exercising while they sat at home watching television and eating popcorn.

And I allowed it. Somewhere, I’d gotten the idea my body was fair game for others to discuss, and that because I was fat, the state of my body was open for commentary.

On the bottom end of the YoYo, it appears my body was open for commentary, as well. Men have often felt free to sexualize my body. I’ve heard how amazing my rack is. I’ve been told my ass is juicy and squeezable. I’ve been catcalled on the streets, propositioned by strangers in bars (or even walking down the street), and grabbed without my consent. I’ve had women call me a skinny bitch or assume I am sexually promiscuous because of my figure. I’ve been slut-shamed because of the way I looked. These interactions feel just as icky as the fat shaming.

I’ve had “friends” who have dismissed me on both ends of the YoYo. I’ve had other “friends” who have just shifted the content of their negative commentary depending on whether I was fat, skinny, or in-between.

The noise surrounding weight is loud, and it is often difficult to filter. If you listen to it, it just might make you a little crazy. On the one side, you have people telling you to be a bold, proud, fat person. On the other, you have people shaming you for being fat, stereotyping you, treating you as if you aren’t a person at all. The media is loaded with messages about weight. Being too fat or too thin is treated as a moral failing. People have no compunction about commenting on your appearance, no matter how you look. And no matter how self-assured you are, that noise is nearly impossible to completely filter.

Right now, I am on the down side of the YoYo. Not at the bottom, but in a place where I feel well, energetic, and vibrant. In the back of my mind is that little voice always there at the bottom of the YoYo – the one that warns me my weight may rise again. It feels different this time – like this is a permanent change, but I’ve felt that way before. I’d like to believe I’ve got it dialed in – that because this time I’ve made changes for my health that happened to affect my weight instead of making changes for the sole purpose of losing weight, the YoYo won’t start to rise again.

But here’s what I know to be true. Regardless of where the YoYo is, it isn’t a determinant of my self-worth. Certainly being fat has provided me with amazing benefits. It has taught me to focus on health instead of weight. It has moved me away from being appearance- focused, helped me find self-acceptance and self-worth in a world that values appearance above all else, made me compassionate towards myself and others, and many other amazing things. It’s taught me not to judge and showed me I can’t possibly understand who someone is by looking at their appearance. Size doesn’t determine worth, and regardless of whether anyone’s YoYo stays down or zips back up to the top again, what matters is that I treat myself and others with kindness and compassion, listen to my body’s signals for good health, live a life of purpose, respect others’ journeys, and find joy in each moment.

So while my body has often been on a YoYo, the rest of me is not. I have reached a place of equilibrium where I am settled in myself, the noise around me has quieted, and I can meet my own eyes in the mirror knowing I am trying my hardest every day to be the best person I possibly can.

photo credit: Tom Kuhn SB-2 splash yoyo via photopin (license)