How Crying Turned to Laughing, and the Story of an AIP Fail

Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.”

Luke 6:21 (NIV)

Dear Joey,

So I made a pie on Sunday.

In classic Rachel style, the thought of getting back into the comforting rhythm of cooking helped ease me out of the thick blanket of despair I wrapped around myself last week when the ER doctor threw his hands up and said, “You are a medical mystery.”

That’s what we all want to hear when we are being discharged from a 6 hour stint in the ER, isn’t it? My other phantom pain flared up last Wednesday, sharp in front and cutting through to the back, making each breath feel like razors were rattling inside. I went to the ER, a visit that left me more bewildered than I was before I went in. I spent the next few days shedding a lot of silent tears at night, trying to feel better. By Sunday I was out from under the blanket, but weak and fumbling and without much of an appetite. By Sunday, pie sounded soothing.

Ah, but–the AIP. And the Whole30(ish) thing you’re doing. Clearly, pie, or any other sort of comfort food was not the way to soothe away this particular heartache. And yet, I am not doing this crazy restrictive diet to lose weight or retrain my brain to eat only when I am really hungry, or even to retrain my palate to learn to love flavors as they naturally occur. I am doing it because I don’t have much other choice, at the moment. I have been sick, and I needed to heal.


And so after I fought with myself over whether to make a pie or not, I chided myself for toying with the idea of not making it, and I headed into the kitchen to make the most miserable pie I ever made. And I learned (again) three things:

  1. Listen to my gut.
  2. Laughter soothes my heart just as well as a good slice of pie can.
  3. God doesn’t always work the way I think He will, but I can trust Him anyway.

So this pie: I admit I had my doubts about it from the get go. Although it was completely AIP compliant and looked normalish, something about the ingredients just sort of nagged at me, telling me “I’m not going to work the way you think I will.” 

But I ignored it, saying to myself What do I know? I’m still learning how to use all these ingredients the right way, and who am I to say whether there’s something wrong with the recipe? I whisked together the coconut flour and arrowroot starch, tossed in some sea salt and cut in the coconut oil. I pressed the dough-like-substance into the bottom of a pie pan, crimped the edges with a fork and poked holes in the bottom. I baked it until golden, the smell of the toasty warm crust working its way into my heart and lifting my spirits as it went.

As it baked, I stirred together frozen mixed berries and lemon juice, brought it to a boil, and then reduced the heat to let it simmer away by half. Then I tossed in another few cups of berries into the thick, juicy syrup, gave it a stir and waited to pour it into its cradle. Out popped the crust, in went the filling, and back into the oven the whole thing went for another few minutes, just long enough to fill the house with the enticing aroma that comes only from a freshly baked pie.



This thing looked perfect. Unbelievable, really. On the oven top it sat, and you jokingly said you’d buy me a house with a kitchen that had a windowsill for me to cool pies on, and buy me pretty spin dresses and high heels, and a string of pearls and new tubes of lipstick, too. We laughed, because it was late in the afternoon and I was still in my pajamas, and holy moly if I needed a shower.

But the pie sat there like a promise: almost too good to be true.

Emery heard the oohs and ahhs, and clamored for a piece of pie after polishing off his dinner plate. “I want pie,” he said as he nodded his head, letting us know this was not a request, but a requirement.

So I got out a knife and a pie server and a plate, set up my cutting station and huffed under my breath, “I don’t know about this…

IMG_2876The crust wasn’t cooked through at all. In fact, it was a goopy mess of what can only be called Paleo slime. No one believed me that it was ruined–the thing looked too beautiful to be ruined, except the whole thing was soft and mushy–an utter mess–on the inside.

I scooped some out anyway, believing you when you told me it probably tasted better than it looked. (You remember I told you it had absolutely no added sweetener to it, right? No sugar, no stevia, no honey or maple syrup? Nada!) I lovingly brought the plate to that expectant little boy of ours, who was beside himself happy for the only piece of pie he’s ever asked for. Pie isn’t something I make regularly.


A look of glee and contentment spread across his face as he scooped up his first big bite, only to be replaced by revulsion in an instant.


Laughter erupted around the table, of course, which egged you on to try to convince him to take another bite, which he did, the poor kid.


He glared at you, unsure. Angry. Duped.


Somehow, you convinced him to try again.


To say he hated the pie it is an understatement.


And yet, somehow, he managed to recognize our laughter in the middle of his own freak out. The boy clearly inherited your jocularity because once he noticed he was the center of attention, and he willingly took a few more yucky bites to get a few good laughs out of it.


I was ready to toss the whole thing. You and my parents (and even Emery, to some small degree) convinced me not to, though, insisting that we had to at least try it because so what if it didn’t turn out perfect the first time? (Agreed. I don’t care about perfection: I care about palatability.)

I should have trusted myself. I had serious doubts about the merits of this recipe before I even attempted to make it. I wasn’t really surprised when the crust failed miserably. I’m not entirely sure what went wrong or where, but something did go wrong.

We still ate the pie (shockingly). It wasn’t sweet, but it wasn’t tart either. It just tasted like really good baked fruit (if that’s a thing?). And the oozy pie crust turned into something more akin to a topping than a crust, and the whole thing ended up giving us a satisfying (if unconventional) small bite of something sweet-ish after dinner that night. But I think the best thing about that pie was the laughter it elicited. Hearing belly laughs around the table was like medicine–it cleared my head and released my tension and helped me see beyond myself, and outward toward the people and things that bring me joy. And through it, God seemed to whisper to me, “I’m not going to work the way you think I will. But trust me anyway.”



Finding Beauty and Something New at the Farmers Market, and Coconut Lime Beef with Cilantro and Red Cabbage

Dear Joey,

We finally made it to the Farmer’s Market this summer. It only took us until the first Saturday after school started to make it there. Not everyone was as excited about it as me: Addie crossed her arms and stomped her way to the car, going on about how mean we were for dragging her out of the house and huffing “You said I could color all day” as finally climbed into her seat.

IMG_4327 (1)

Once we got there, I handed her my phone and asked her if she wanted to take some pictures. It was a desperate move on my part to coax a happy attitude out of her. The last thing I wanted was a grumpy, whiny kid ruining a trip to a place so alive with every color imaginable. Color and beauty speak to this kid and she has a knack for capturing it. Plus, she feels pretty grown up when I let her tinker around with the camera. I knew she’d take the bait.


As we strolled up the deserted aisle, 8:00 in the morning felt early. The tables were still piled high with fruits and vegetables that seemed to glisten in the morning light. Nothing was picked over yet and the sellers greeted us with the sort of smiles I read about in those winsome books about the farm to table movement. I felt like we were part of something big, beautiful and important in those few quiet moments.

I led the girls from stall to stall, pointing out the colors and textures and quizzing them on the names of the things they saw. They swooned over the brilliant red berries, begging to taste as much as they were allowed. They touched and smelled and asked questions as we went. Then, I let each girl pick something special: Addie picked a ruddy heirloom tomato that looked very much like clown lips to her young eyes. Mia picked a pale green bitter melon, a new vegetable for us and one she wasn’t actually keen on tasting after all. But the farmer was so kind to tell us all about it, and his enthusiasm for it must have done its job because she was pretty excited to tell you all about it.

I was not as excited to cook it, to be honest. As I sliced it up, I wondered how I would ever mellow the sharp bite that in my mind screams don’t eat me!  But the little mound of scalloped half moons piling up on my cutting board was so pretty I didn’t care about that for a moment: certainly they would just make dinner more beautiful.


They did, and they didn’t. Certainly the colors and textures of that stir fry were far more brilliant than much I’ve made lately, but the sly bitterness of the cute little veggie was not our favorite. Thankfully it didn’t permeate the rest of dinner, because what I came up with was super delicious in its own right.


So hooray for us for getting up and out on an otherwise lazy Saturday morning, for stretching our legs and our culinary muscles and trying something new and different. And hallelujah for a pantry full of ingredients to turn something so-so into something delicious.



Coconut Lime Beef with Cilantro and Red Cabbage

IMG_4455 After all that, bitter melon didn’t make it to the ingredient list here, but if you enjoy a challenge (or happen to like bitter melon), it really does work in this recipe. We handled about a half-dozen bites with it until we started plucking the pieces out of our bowls). Like I said before, the bitterness didn’t overpower the flavor of the dish, and what was left was sweet and tangy, mellow and spicy all at the same time. This dish uses Tamari, which is gluten free soy sauce (regular soy sauce uses wheat, a lesson I learned the hard way). Addie likes the beef ok, but the veggies aren’t her favorite yet. Emery liked it all until he got a bite of the bitter melon. And Mia wouldn’t go near this for the life of her.


For the sauce:

1/4 low sodium Tamari

1/4 white vinegar

5 Tablespoons lime juice (plus more for garnish)

2 T Stevia/erythrytol sweetener blend (like this one) or about 4 T cane sugar

a pinch of kosher salt

For the Stir Fry:

1 pound ground beef

1 medium carrot, jullienned

1/2 medium head red cabbage, sliced (about 5 cups or so)

5 green onions, ends removed and cut into 1″ sections

1/2 medium onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced (plus more for garnish)

2 Tablespoons unrefined Coconut Oil

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

almond slices, for garnish


First, prep the veggies and have them cut and ready to go. Next, mix together the sauce; taste it and adjust the sweetness as you go.

Now for the meat: set a large skillet over medium heat. Melt the coconut oil, then add the onions to the pan and cook until they are almost translucent. Next, add the garlic and cook for a few minutes until the it releases its fragrance.  Turn the heat up to medium high and add the beef into the pan, squishing it as you go to make nice large pieces of it. Season the beef with the ginger, salt and red pepper flakes.

On to the veggies: crank up the heat to high and add the carrots first, then the cabbage. Cook those two together for a few minutes (3-5) and let them soften a bit. Add the green onions next, then the coconut. Pour in that sauce and let it deglaze the pan. Once the veggies are soft to your liking, add in the cilantro and give it a good stir.

To serve, mound the sweet and spicy goodness into a bowl and top it with more red pepper flakes, a squeeze of lime juice, a sprinkle of cilantro, and almond slices if nuts are your thing.