I get asked all the time for my chili recipe. It’s the bomb, but I was sworn to secrecy by the person who gave it to me. However, since switching to the Page Food Plan and moving into the GAPS diet I’ve had to make some slight adjustments to the recipe and therefore see no reason I can’t share the modified recipe. The new version is equally delicious and is totally ok with our diet. Feel free to mix it up for your own use. Be forewarned that this makes an enormous amount of chili, you can freeze half and still feed the whole neighborhood. (Not really, but close). I have tried to “cut it in half” but it doesn’t taste the same. I think a big batch is part of the magic. Prep time is therefore quite a while. I prep all my veggies before I start cooking anything.
Then I make my own chili powder
4 lbs of ground meat
1 lbs bell peppers, chopped – Usually 3-4 large peppers.
1 1/2 lbs onions, chopped – Usually 3-4 med-large onions.
2 heads garlic, finely minced
5 cups diced tomatoes, drained – Usually two 28oz cans of tomatoes.
8-10 carrots, diced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
2 tbsp salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
- Saute bell peppers, onion, garlic and parsley in 1 1/2 tbsp butter until soft and fragrant.
- Saute meats in 1/2 cup butter until browned. Do not drain.
- Add vegetables and remaining ingredients.
- Bring to boil and simmer for 3-4 hours.
- Top with diced onions and serve.
Meat: I like to use organic grass fed-beef and ground lamb, typically in equal amounts or 3 lbs beef to 1 lbs lamb. Nitrate-free, organic, free-range turkey or chicken works well too. Pick 2 types of meat to use.
Bell Peppers: Any color, I like using 1 of each color, because it looks pretty.
Onions: Again, any color you prefer. I typically use yellow or brown.
Tomatoes: I use canned organic tomatoes in juice. I don’t have the time to steam, peel and dice whole tomatoes.
Parsley: I have substituted parsley flakes in the past, but fresh is better.
Butter: I use unsalted, pastured butter. Pastured meaning from cows that are grass-fed. The package should say 100% grass-fed otherwise it was probably finished in a feed lot with grain/corn.
But there’s no beans in this chili!! Nope, there’s not. We don’t eat beans. I’ve substituted carrots for beans instead. You can add beans, subtract carrots, you can even add a head of broccoli. (I like the broccoli in it, but none of the boys did).
I use this in Taco Seasoning and in my chili. It’s got a nice kick (said from someone who’s not BIG on spicy food), feel free to use less cayenne if it’s too hot for you. I’m of course only using organic spices with no additional additives. I mix up two batches at once and store in my cupboard in an air tight container. It makes a little over 1/3 cups.
3 tsp paprika
6 tsp ground cumin
6 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp oregano
3 tsp cayenne pepper
Total Time: Less than 5 minutes
Yields: Between 1/3 and 1/2 cups, Approximately 7 Tablespoons
In high school, one of our assignments in English was to journal on various topics. I typically hated the act of journaling. Not due to a lack of anything to write about, but because I felt it was intensely personal at times. I wasn’t a person who let many people close. I felt safer in relationships based on my terms. And if not for one assignment and one teacher that pushed back when I needed it I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing our adventures.
It was close to the end of senior year. We only had a few weeks left and I opened my heart in a journal entry. I did not think she would actually read it, only check that it fit the length requirement. I laid out my insecurities about my feelings of being mediocre. My friends were all accomplished in some talent or another. Some were talented actors and are now starting theatre companies, some were brainiacs and heading to Berkeley or later became PhD’s researching cures for cancer, some were wildly creative and are now making fantastic art and children’s books. I was a straight A student, but I wasn’t going to a top-notch college. I lettered in two sports, but I was far from the best on the team. Math was ok when it was just numbers, but throw in some letters and I was completely lost. I could draw a little; I was in the choir, and on the yearbook staff. I felt silly for not feeling good enough when I had so much to be thankful for. And I was good at a lot of different things.. just not GREAT at anything; unless you count not panicking or ridiculous organizational skills as something to be great at. Or my ability to always finish first on tests. When I got my journal back there was a 2-page handwritten letter tucked in at that spot of my journal. Not only had she read the entry, she had listened to my fears and responded in a way that touched me. She wrote, “You have a smile that will light up the room. When it’s gone I wonder what is happening that makes you so sad.” I still have that letter.
That was the beginning for me. She made me feel good about my well-roundedness. I didn’t need to be a rocket scientist, or a famous actor.. I just needed to be happy to be me. I’m still just ok at a lot of different things, but when you have a child on the spectrum you have to be good at a lot of different things! We have conversations about the differences between battery power and electric power. What the center of the earth is made of. What two colors make orange. Why we shouldn’t destroy Jupiter (because it saves earth from meteors). Not to mention being able to come up with creative consequence and reward systems. I also build mini Lego sets for creating pictorial instructions for him (this uses my creativity, engineering, photography and photoshopping abilities). Today, the three traits I value the most in our daily life is my anti-panic personality, my need to organize everything, and my weird ability to remember just about everything I read. (I don’t know what Asperger parents did before Google.. I guess they spent more time in the Library). Staying calm, providing structure, and teaching are the most important things for our Aspie.
I hope that relating our adventures will help someone else struggling with this new and different world seen through Aspie-tinted glasses. My goal is to teach my children (all of them) to be happy with who they are, whatever characteristics and talents they are born with. I want them to be happy being them. As a mom of course I want them to enjoy going to school and to be able to make friends, so whatever we can do to make that easier we are willing to try.
At the beginning of this blogging adventure I have so many things to share that it’s difficult to pick what to start with. I have friends and family asking questions and getting excited about changes they can make, because the diet changes are not just for those specifically on the spectrum. It will help those with anxiety, depression, ADD, ADHD, diabetes, asthma, eczema and allergies. We have started a healthier way of eating and are seeing the benefits (if not in behavior yet) in mood and looks.
I want to start by answering the questions I’m getting, but they are not necessarily in chronological order, or any kind of order really. It wouldn’t be an adventure without a little bit of winding road, right? If there is something you would specifically like to hear about.. like what Cullen’s behavior was like, what books I read, what a certain recipe was.. please ask!!
We all have turning points in our lives. A moment when we stand at a crossroads looking down the paths our lives may take.. knowing there is no turning back; no do-overs. My turning point came when I finally realized that there was something “off” with our youngest child, not wrong.. just off. I could see the obstacles and the heartaches ahead, the challenges at school, with family and in public. I wondered if my son’s differences were something we could ignore or make excuses for. Surely most of his behavior could be written off as normal boy behavior, right? I took one last look at the road we had traveled for so long, made a 90 degree turn and started in a new direction. I will admit I needed a running start. I needed momentum to carry me along the first couple blocks, and thankfully my husband was the catalyst and my strength. I believe that it doesn’t matter what hand you are dealt in life. It’s all about how you play that hand. So I’m not going to relate the entire prologue to our adventure in Asperger’s.. I am going to share how we’re playing our hand.
In 2011 our 6-year-old was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m not going to lie it changed our lives, but in all honesty getting a real and proper diagnosis was the best thing that happened. He was so smart and I was so inexperienced that a lot of the warning signs I made excuses for. Once he started school there was no ignoring them any more. Unless you’ve spent a fair amount of time with him, or have seen him interacting with other kids you don’t notice his quirks. He is bright, wants to make friends, enjoys talking to adults (usually with his mouth full of food), and he loves to play with legos. In school, he became hyperactive, sometimes violent, too much stimulation would send him over the edge, he argued with the teachers, and either refused or forgot how to use the bathroom.
At first we thought it was ADHD, but although he scored higher on the hyperactive side of the test it was within normal 5-year-old level, and the attention side of the test was also fairly normal for other kindergarteners. We decided to take out high fructose corn syrup and other processed sugars from his diet. This seemed to help a little, but he was still having meltdowns over the way his socks felt and trips to the grocery store. Consequences and reward systems failed. He was just as happy sitting at the table all night as he was playing with toys. We started seeing a psychologist monthly for “behavior skills.” This was therapeutic for me to be able to talk about what was going on in our family without being told he was “completely normal” or “he’s just a boy.” But I didn’t see the value in it for Cullen. The doctor didn’t spend a lot of time working or coaching him. He was the doctor that finally pinpointed the Asperger’s though, and for that I am thankful. It gave us something to work from. I went on a research binge and read just about anything and everything related to Asperger’s Syndrome. I found support groups, I found teaching aides and success stories from other parents. Eventually we ended up at the psychiatrist to try medication. In the meantime he had also been given a tentative Tourette’s diagnosis, so the psychiatrist opted for non-stimulant medication. It helps a little. But we are still having constant trouble.
Looking back to when he was in preschool I know that we have made huge strides, but it’s a constant battle to teach him skills that most kids pick up subconsciously and with little effort at all. The funny thing is that the things that get him in the most trouble now are things that are going to serve him well later in life. He’s persistent, he’s a perfectionist, he challenges differing opinions, he doesn’t go along with the crowd, he thinks for himself and tells you what he thinks.. It’s a tight rope walk for us as we try to teach him self-control without completely stifling those characteristics that we want him to have as an adult.
Over the last year and a half we’ve found useful tools and he is making progress, but the aggressive or depressed child is always lurking. We will have two or three weeks of pleasant, enjoyable Cullen followed by weeks of a tyrant. In March a friend mentioned the GAPS diet and said it might help him, and referred us to a nutritionist that works with other autistic families. I did my usual thing (submerged myself into internet research) and decided to make an appointment with the nutritionist. At the initial consultation she went through his and my entire medical history; covering antibiotics, surgeries, serious and not so serious illnesses, and diet. She recommended that we start with the Page Food Plan, which is similar to Paleo. We were only to eat organic, pastured meat, organic veggies, pastured eggs and raw nuts. Exciting, yes? We knew that whatever we did we would be doing it as a family. Eating restricted foods in front of him would be cruel and unusual punishment, and I had been having health issues as well. Cutting sugar wasn’t a big deal as we hadn’t had much in the last year anyway, but cutting carbs and fruit?? In addition to the food changes we would be adding a therapeutic probiotic dose, fish oil and homemade bone broth twice a day. Once we’d successfully weaned ourselves off the carbs, sugar and processed foods we would be starting the GAPS diet.
And that’s where this blog comes in. Over the past two months since starting the Page food plan I’ve been posting pictures of the food I’ve been slaving over, and commenting on the amount of weight Mike and I have been losing. We didn’t expect to lose anything, but it has been a pleasant side effect. We are only losing the stored fat though, we’re not losing any muscle mass. Cullen on the other hand has been becoming more muscular and filling out more. Friends have been asking for my recipes and details about what we are doing. I thought this would be an easy way to share the adventure. I plan to fill the pages with recipes, tips, articles and “cullenisms.” I ask for your patience as I am a wife first, a mom second, and a woman with two full-time jobs third.