Clean Eats, Keto Recipes, Paleo Recipes, Recipes

Dairy Free Yogurt Thats Better Than Store-Bought!

I’ve been meaning to post this one for quite some time! I can’t tolerate cow’s milk yogurt, so about 6 years ago, I started a pursuit to find (or make) the perfect homemade dairy free yogurt! This was mostly due to the store-bought stuff costing WAY too much. And over the years, it has morphed into the recipe below. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Its a regular staple in our house!

The easiest way to make it is in an Instant Pot with a yogurt setting. However, if you dont have one, its still possible. Just mix up the ingredients in a large stock pot and then pour it into a container (or multiple small containers) that will fit in your crock pot. You can then add about a cup of water to the bottom of the crock pot, place the lid on and set it to the lowest setting (warm would be best) for 9-10 hrs.

One time saving trick I found was to take the Instant Pot stainless insert out and putting it directly on your stove burner to prepare the yogurt. You can also do this with the “sauté” setting on the InstaPot, but then it takes forever for your Instant Pot to cool to a temperature that will not kill those good bacteria you are trying to grow! But if its your only choice, it also works.

Ill walk you through the prep steps and tricks below, but a recipe summary can also be found at the bottom of this post.

First your going to want to soak your cashews (1 cup). I usually do this the day before or in the morning before work so I can make the yogurt overnight that evening. I have soaked them in hot water for only an hour, or 1- 2 days with cold water. Either works if you have a good blender. Be sure to use filtered water if at all possible as chlorine can inhibit the growth of the bacteria.

Strain the soaked cashews, rise them well, then place them in a blender (I’m a big Vitamix fan). The nice thing about cashews is that you don’t have to strain them with a nut milk bag, so it avoids a messy step! Add water to the blender until it reaches the 4 cup mark (with the nuts and water together). Blend on high for about 30 seconds. You can make this ahead and store in the fridge until you are ready to make the yogurt, or just have it at the ready when prepping the yogurt.

You can really use any nut, but you will have to strain the pulp out of the milk. I suppose you could use oat, rice, etc as well but I have not tried this. You might have to play around with the amount of gelatin and tapioca flour you use.

Put 3 cups of filtered water in the Instant Pot insert on your stove burner and heat to a near boil.

Sprinkle 1.5 Tbsp of a high-quality gelatin (from grass fed or pastured beef or pork) and whisk until dissolved. I love this brand Further Food (not sponsored at all, just a fan). Its women owned and the quality is top notch.

Once the gelatin is all whisked in and dissolved, pour in the homemade nut milk into the pot. Add 2 Tbsp of organic cane sugar and whisk to dissolve. You need the sugar as food for those bacteria you want to grow. You cannot make yogurt without it. During the fermentation process, it will get “eaten up” and very low levels of sugar will actually be left in the batch. Continue heating the mixture.

In a small bowl, add 1/4 cup tapioca flour and about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water and whisk until blended. You will need this prepared BEFORE the milk mixture starts bubbling!

Watch the mixture closely, as soon as it starts bubbling, add the tapioca slurry and quickly whisk into the pot. Whisk and allow to boil for about 15 seconds. No longer. Then turn off the heat and move to a cool burner.

Allow to cool to 110 degrees or less, whisking periodically as it cools if you are able (this is optional but can make for a smoother yogurt and speeds up the cooling). Then add your yogurt starter and whisk it through. I have found that this vegan starter from Cultures For Health to make the best tasting yogurt, but I have also used high quality probiotic capsules well (make sure they don’t contain any prebiotic fibers). In a pinch I have also used 1/2 cup of store-bought plain dairy free yogurt. If using probiotic capsules, you have to experiment a little with your formula. Try adding just one capsule to start and if its not very tangy, add more on the next batch or let it go longer.

A trick is that once you have made a batch, set aside 1 cup (in the fridge) that is off limits for eating, so you can use it to start your next batch! It works great!

Place the stainless insert containing your yogurt mixture into the Instant Pot, put on the lid (vent can remain open or closed), and push the “Yogurt” button and set for 9 hours.

You can open and taste the yogurt after 9 hours and if it isnt tangy enough, put in back on for another 2-3 hours and try again.

The yogurt will be runny coming out of the Instant Pot, but will set up nicely in the fridge. Whisk and then pour the mixture into large glass mason jars (wide mouth is best), seal and place in fridge. It sets up in about 2-3 hours.

I love making parfaits with grain free granola and berries, using it as a topping, or just eating it straight up! You can of course add cinnamon or vanilla to it to flavor it, but I would recommend doing this AFTER fermentation so you dont inhibit the growth of those good guys! However you eat it, I hope you enjoy this. It might sound intimidating, but its really quite simple once you do it a few times.


Cashew Milk:
* 1 cup soaked cashews
* 3 cups filtered water
Blend for 30 sec in high powered blender

Ingredients:
* 3 cups filtered water
* 1.5 Tbsp high quality gelatin
* 4 cups homemade cashew milk
* 2 Tbsp cane sugar
* 1/4 cup tapioca flour + 1/4 – 1/2 filtered water – whisked together
Whisk all dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

Directions:
1) Put 3 cups of filtered water in the InstaPot insert on your stove burner and heat to a near boil.
2) Sprinkle 1.5 Tbsp of a high quality gelatin (from grass fed or pastured beef or pork) and whisk until dissolved.
3) Once the genatin is dissolved, pour in the homemade nut milk into the pot.
4) Add 2 Tbsp of organic cane sugar and whisk all together.
5) In a small bowl, add 1/4 cup tapioca flour and about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water and whisk until blended. You will need this prepared BEFORE the milk mixutre starts bubbling!
6) Watch the mixture closely, as soon as it starts bubbling, add the tapioca slurry and quickly whisk into the pot. Whisk and allow to boil for about 15 seconds. No longer. Then turn off the heat and move to a cool burner.
7) Allow to cool to 110 degrees or less, whisking periodically as it cools if you are able (this is optional but can make for a smoother yogurt and speeds up the cooling process).
8) Add your yogurt starter (actual starter, 1 cup from a previous batch, or 1/2 – 1 cup of store-bought yogurt. Whisk through thoroughly.
9) Place the stainless insert with the yogurt mixture into the InstaPot, put on the lid (vent can remain open or closed), and push the “Yogurt” button and set for 9 hours.
10) The yogurt will be runny coming out of the InstaPot, but will set up nicely in the fridge. Whisk and then pour the mixture into large glass mason jars, seal and place in fridge.
11) The yogurt sets up in about 2-3 hours.

Optional Toppings:
* berries
* shredded coconut flakes
* cacao nibs
* nut butter
* granola

Resources

Still Struggling with your New Year’s Goals?

I promise I’m working on a new recipe post and its coming soon! But Im just taking a minute to promote my Nutritional Therapy Practicioner (NTP) services. 🙂 Last year I was certified through the Nutritional Therapy Association as an NTP and have slowly been taking on 1-on-1 clients. It is something I truly enjoy!

If you are feeling sluggish or less energetic than you used to…you get moody when you don’t eat every 2-3 hours, or you are you struggling to get through your workouts and/or recover from them…let’s talk! As a former semi-pro cyclist, and someone who has struggled as well, I feel your pain! But trust me when I say, its possible to feel optimal again!

female cyclists
Photo by Coen van de Broek on Unsplash

I use a whole-food based approach to wellness and work with clients to find the root cause of their struggles and find a bio-individualized solution. I spend hours (literally) digging into your health history, current symptoms, nutrition gaps, and supplement needs. I can make supplement recommendations and I always check counter-indications for any medications or health conditions. We deep dive and collaborate to identify short-term goals to slowly step you into your long-term goals. Here is what my process looks like for the “Performance Package” which I recommend for the best deep dive to set you up for long-term success!

  • I send you a detailed Health History Questionnaire, Nutritional Assessment Questionnaire, and 7-day Food and Mood Journal to fill out.
  • We schedule a 1-on-1 virtual 90-minute meeting to review any questions I have on your paperwork. During this call we also collaborate on long- and short-term goal creation.
  • After the meeting I send a detailed recommendation form that lists the agreed upon steps to reach your short-term goals. I include resources for any products we discuss and/or recipes and food recommendations as well as any lifestyle recommendations.
  • If desired, I also make supplement recommendations.
  • I provide ongoing email/text support and accountability. I usually touch base once a week to make sure you have the tools to keep you on track.
  • Every 4 weeks we will meet for 45 mins to review how you are doing and add more/different short-term goals to keep you moving forward!

I am currently running a promotion of 50% off for the next 3 clients through the end of March 2021! See all of the details on my Work With Me page. But here is a quick summary of offerings. If you don’t see a package that is right for you, please reach out so we can find something that works better for your needs!

fatty acids in nuts
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Why Fat is so Crucial to Your Health and Recovery

Photo by Roberta Sorge on Unsplash

Let’s talk dietary fat, yep the fats we eat. For decades the media has demonized fat, telling us that too much fat would give us a heart attack and make us gain weight. Well, it turns out they based this on limited studies and inaccurate statistics. The truth is that processed carbs are the bigger player here! But this post is not addressing processed carbs (I’ll save that for a later post). In this post I’m going to explain why our body actually needs fat in order to properly recover from hard workouts, optimize our metabolism, hormones, and our overall health.

Fats play a number of roles in the body, but here are three key roles that I think are most applicable to active adults:

  • Fats provide a source of energy, especially for endurance type (low heart rate) exercise
  • Fats act as a building block for cell membranes and hormones which help to regulate inflammation
  • Fats aid in absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K – all which support immune function

There are three types of fatty acids – saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated – and we need all types, yes, even the saturated fats! In fact, saturated fats should be around 30% of total fat intake. Monounsaturated fats (Omega 9’s) should be the highest consumed at ~60%. And Polyunsaturated fats (Omega 3 & 6) should be around 10% of total intake. Saturated fats are those mostly found in animal fats as well as tropical oils. Monounsaturated fats are avocado and extra virgin olive oil as well as nuts like almonds, cashews, and pecans.

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

Despite (ideally) being the smallest percentage of our total fats, polyunsaturated fats deserve a little more attention. These fats are often identified as Omega-6 or Omega-3 fatty acids and the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 should ideally be consumed in a 2:1 ratio. Unfortunately, in today’s world of processed foods and inflammatory oils, we can see ratios as high as 20:1! Read those labels on your crackers, cookies, cereals, and even “healthy” products. So many are using canola, soy, or corn oils – and its actually quite hard to avoid them if not making a conscious effort. Corn oil has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 46:1!!! Remember, your average ratio should be 2:1! Read on to understand why this is so important…

Some Omega 6 & 3 fatty acids are actually good for you. Here are some examples of healthy Omega 3 and 6 oils:

  • Omega-6: sunflower oil, sesame oil, and safflower oil
  • Omega-3: fish oil, flaxseed oil, walnuts or oil, pumpkin seeds or oil

These oils should be produced from organic sources and cold pressed; not by using high-heat industrial processing which cause these oils to go rancid before they even hit the grocery store shelves.

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

A balance of all three fatty acids help to control inflammation throughout your body because they are all precursors to the production of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. There are two anti-inflammatory and one inflammatory prostaglandin, and you need all three to heal from various stress and injuries since they control inflammatory function.

Its worth noting that in order for fats to be properly converted into these important prostaglandins and to do their job, your digestion, liver, and enzymatic function all need to be working properly. This is why my last post was dedicated to proper digestion.

Inflammation is something that I think most physically active folks understand well. Anyone ever feel sore after a hard workout?! That’s the body inflaming an overworked area to shuttle more blood flow there to allow for healing to happen faster. After the initial inflammation, the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins come in to help calm the system. This is the cycle of healing.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

So you are probably wondering where to start? If you are like many who think the low-fat diet is the answer to health, but you are still struggling to lose weight and feel your best, its time to try something old. Yes, I said old, because this is going back to a more ancestral approach to eating which utilizes a mix of fats in the diet!

Here are a few easy ways to incorporate some healthy fats into your meals without following recipes or meal plans:

  • If you typically steam veggies, rub them with extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or melted tallow and sprinkle with salt – roast them in the oven at 375F until lightly browned and tender
  • Opt for chicken thighs over chicken breasts (skin-on is even better)
  • Make your own salad dressings or mayo using avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • Fry your eggs in grass-fed butter or ghee
  • Snack on nuts and seeds

Try eating this way and see if you feel any different. Do you feel satisfied for longer after a meal? Do you feel like you recover faster after big workouts? How is your mood and digestion?

Speaking of digestion, be sure to start slow. If you eat a very low-fat diet right now, your body will need some time to adjust, so take baby steps. But I think you will find yourself reaching for those frequent snacks less often and will feel more balanced!

Need more support in your efforts to improve digestion and get more fat? Let’s work together!

low carb pancakes
Clean Eats, Keto Recipes, Paleo Recipes, Recipes

Low Carb & Grain Free Pancakes – keto, paleo, dairy free

I think I’m on a continuous pursuit for the perfect low carb pancakes! There aren’t many boxed pancake mixes that I like or that I’m willing to drop $8/box on, especially when its SO easy to mix up pancakes! Therefore, I’m constantly tweaking and trying new ratios of various ingredients…and I think I nailed this one!

This recipe uses a few different flours to give them “fluff”. I find straight almond flour to be a bit heavy, but the tapioca and coconut flour mixed in to this recipe helps a great deal. In regard to flavor profile – I add both vanilla and cinnamon, but if you want a more savory pancake, just leave those out.

As far as toppings go, if you want to keep it super low carb stick to berries, nut butters, coconut flakes, or even whipped cream (milk or non-dairy varieties w/ no added sugars). If you’re going savory, top with avocado and sausage, or make an egg and cheese pancake ‘sandwich’. As all pancake lovers are well aware, the possibilities are endless when it comes to pancake toppings!

Wet Ingredients:
* 1 Tbsp melted coconut oil
* 1 egg (pastured is best)
* 6 Tbsp almond milk (can sub any milk or even water)
Whisk all dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.


Dry Ingredients:
* 1 Tbsp coconut flour
* 2 Tbsp tapioca flour
* 1/2 cup almond flour (fine ground)
* 1 pinch sea salt
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1/4 tsp cinnamon
* 1/8 tsp vanilla powder or 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Whisk all dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

Directions:
Combine the mixed wet ingredients into the dry and mix until fully incorporated. If too thick, add another 1 Tbsp of milk until you find a nice consistency.

Drop about 1/4 cup of batter onto a medium-hot griddle and cook approx. 2-3 mins per side (time will depend greatly on temperature of griddle). Makes about 6 medium pancakes.

Optional Toppings:
* berries
* shredded coconut flakes
* cacao nibs
* nut butter
* dairy free plain yogurt
* whipped cream (unsweetened dairy or non-dairy)
* ghee/butter
* real maple syrup (just a drizzle)

Serve up with eggs, bacon or sausage and ENJOY!

blood sugar regulation
Resources

Why is Blood Sugar Regulation so Important to My Health?

Photo by Evan Hein on Unsplash

This is part 2 of a series of educational nutrition topics that I’m putting together. This time, we are talking blood sugar regulation. In my opinion, this is the biggest reason people have losing weight and keeping it off!

In the past few years, as low carb diets have gained in popularity, blood sugar regulation has gotten more attention. I think this is in part because more of the general population have realized just what a big deal it is to our overall health and weight loss goals. It seems crazy that people can drop hundreds of pounds and heal their bodies in numerous ways all through better blood sugar regulation! It just goes to show how powerful this particular function is in bringing our bodies back to hemostasis (balance).

Have you ever wondered what parts of the body make this magic happen the way it should? If so, read on because its about to get a little nerdy! First, the brain and central nervous regulate our blood sugar using some key organ systems that can be remembered using the acronym “PAALS”. This stands for pancreas, adrenal glands, adipose tissue, liver, and skeletal muscle. The part of the brain that starts the communication chain related to blood sugar is the hypothalamus which is the control center for our autonomic nervous system (unconscious body functions) . The hypothalamus communicates with another part of the brain called the pituitary. The pituitary is often referred to as the “master gland” (medicinenet.com) since it produces hormones and sends messages to other glands in the body as well as the PAALS. The graphic below does a great job of summarizing the various functions of the PAALS and giving you a visual as I talk through the rest of the organs.

NTA (2020)

The pituitary communicates with the pancreas in regulating the creation of two key blood sugar hormones: insulin and glucagon. When blood sugar levels are too high, the pancreas releases insulin which lets glucose and fat into our cells to store the excess energy. When blood sugar is too low, it releases glucagon which lets glucose and fat out of our cells to release stored energy for the body to use. As a side note, on top of this critical function, the pancreas also performs functions to aid in digestion (secreting pancreatic juice and digestive enzymes).

On to the 1st “A” of the PAALS – the adrenal glands. These little glands are responsible for producing a number of hormones. Most notably are epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, as well as a few others like our sex hormones. In relation to blood sugar regulation, cortisol is a key player. When blood sugar gets too low (or if stress is high) the adrenals release cortisol, a steroid hormone. Cortisol acts in much the same way as epinephrine but with a slower response time. Epinephrine is that flight or fight hormone that triggers when you are under acute stress – folks like to use the ‘chased by a tiger’ analogy because it’s a good one. When epinephrine is released it stimulates glycogenolysis, lipolysis, and gluconeogenesis in the liver. These are all big words to say that your body pulls out stored glucose from your cells, and creates glucose from non-carbohydrate sources into energy in order to prepare your body to run FAST!  Well, its crazy to think, but when your blood sugar drops, your body sees this as a similar type of stress and therefore it triggers the same processes.  As blood sugar rises back up, signals are sent back to the hypothalamus and pituitary to regulate and back off the release of these hormones.

The adipose tissue plays a part in blood sugar regulation as well by secreting a number of hormones, along with a key hunger signaling hormone – leptin. Leptin hinders hunger signals (higher leptin means less cravings). If you want higher leptin levels and fewer cravings, blood sugar regulation is key!

Finally, the skeletal muscles help regulate blood sugar a few key ways. When the body receives excess glucose (you eat too much sugar or carbohydrates than you are burning), in order to prevent high blood sugar, the body converts the glucose into glycogen and then stores it in either the liver or your muscles. On the flip side, when you blood sugar is low, your body can pull the stored glycogen from the muscles and convert it back to glucose to be used for energy. This is why you can tolerate more glucose when exercising, because your body is utilizing it right away. If you eat a bunch of sugar and then sit at your desk, its going to get stored. If this is a chronic scenario, it can lead to a host of health issues.

As you can see, the PAALS are a symphony of organs and glands which all work in harmony to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day. By balancing your intake of all of the macronutrients, you can keep your blood sugar more even so if you graphed it, it would look more like rolling foothills and not the peaks and valleys of a mountain pass! Every time your body sees those high peaks (spikes) in blood sugar, it sees it as a stressor and your hormones react accordingly. Over time this stresses your HPA axis and can cause dysregulation. This is why finding a macro balance that feels good to your body is key to long term health.

If you want to learn more, Im currently taking clients and I’d love to help you with your nutrition goals! See my Work With Me Page for more information!