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AIP Kitchen Tour is a monthly feature in which we profile a member of the AIP community and their kitchen setup in hopes that it will further inspire us to get our kitchens organized and set up for success! We’ve interviewed folks who are making the AIP lifestyle a reality in everything from college dorms and small city apartments, to large households with non-AIP family members, and everything in between. Through these interviews, we hope to share how they make it happen across a variety of budgets and living situations, and give the community a wealth of inspiration. Read more Kitchen Tours here!
Name: Felicia Mease
Location: Bucks County, Pennsylvania
AI Disease: psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis
How long have you been eating AIP?
Since September 2016. I was recovering from a bad case of mono and could tell the illness had created a shift in my body causing my AI disease to flare. My medication was no longer keeping my symptoms under control and I didn’t want to simply add more chemicals to my body to continue masking the symptoms so I began looking for natural routes to try and bring my body back into balance and that’s when I stumbled upon The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook.
Have you successfully reintroduced any foods?
So far I have done well adding raw cheeses and raw milk back into my diet as long as it’s in moderation. If I buy raw milk one week, I won’t buy it again for another week or two so I’m not overloading my system. I haven’t had any reaction to reintroducing eggs thankfully. I’m careful with too many nightshades, but if I’m having a salad I can throw a few tomatoes in with no problem. I was so happy to finally add coffee back in! That was one thing I missed every day of the elimination phase and I was thrilled when I was able to start drinking it again with no problems. In fact, having coffee as an option and getting creative with making my own coconut milk creamers has been very helpful for me in avoiding sweets as I enjoy it far more than any other sugary drinks or desserts.
I never thought I had an issue with nuts so I was surprised when I tried adding almonds and almond milk into my diet and each time started with a headache within a few hours so I’ve cut them back out for the time being.
How has the AIP changed your life?
It was a big change at the beginning, I took the advice of others and cleaned out my kitchen right away of anything that was not AIP-friendly. Living alone made this much easier as I wasn’t fighting with anyone over keeping junk food! I actually felt that starting the diet right after having a health crisis made it much easier to dive right in to the system….I just wanted something that would help, it didn’t matter what it meant giving up. I think if I’d tried to make the change earlier, before I had all the symptoms, I may not have been quite as motivated or successful.
Now that I’ve been following it for a while I still do my best to stick with the protocol and I can tell the days that I slip up too much and start feeling joint aches or migraines and need to be go back to the strict elimination diet for a few days. I’m very thankful to have friends and family who are extremely supportive and will eat a meal “my way” instead of bringing foods around they know I can’t have, even on holidays — last Thanksgiving my mom and grandma adapted almost everything on the table so I didn’t have to pick and choose what I could eat. I know they play a huge part in my success!
Size of your kitchen: 10 ft. x 13 ft.
Favorite thing about your kitchen:
My apartment used to be an office before I moved in, so there was no kitchen. I got to pick out all the colors, counters, etc.. so they are exactly what I’d want. And it’s still a work in process, I just added open shelving a few months ago that has made it much easier to quickly grab the kitchen tools I use on a daily basis. My dad and I also recently built a 4 ft. x 4 ft. garden on the roof outside my kitchen window and I am very excited to start growing some lettuce and herbs out there!
Least favorite thing about your kitchen:
I would like a little more counter space. And more natural light would be nice.
Are there any cheap gadgets or little tools that you have found make AIP easier?
I’d recommend everyone getting started on AIP invest in a quality vegetable peeler, you will use it almost daily. Also having glass or stainless storage containers is a must for in-advance meal prep. Most people don’t want or have the time to cook three full meals a day so having freezer meals ready to go is essential to sticking with the diet.
When I first started following the protocol I only had a fridge — the freezer was broken so there were many days I’d skip a meal or two because I was too stubborn to break the diet but didn’t have time to cook. That was a mistake because this diet is all about healing your body from the inside out and just because you’re not putting bad foods in, doesn’t mean you’re truly helping yourself if you’re not consuming the right foods at the right times. Now that I have a working freezer I’ve made it a point to keep single-serve meals ready to go at all times. Another tool I use frequently is a French press. I found an all-glass one for under $20 at Home Goods that I only use for straining coconut milk after blending. Personally, I’ve found it much easier and neater than cheesecloth.
What is the biggest thing that changed in your kitchen setup when you adopted the AIP?
From a dietary perspective, I ate fairly healthy before starting AIP, but I did clear out all breads and beans from my kitchen. Mornings were the trickiest. My go-to breakfast was eggs and Ezekiel toast for a long time so I had to come up with a new meal that fit into my morning routine. I also am a huge coffee drinker so I had to switch to broth or tea throughout the day. A crockpot full of bone broth took over the coffee corner of my kitchen for a long time.
If someone was just starting to invest in some useful but more expensive kitchen tools, which one would you tell them to buy first?
That’s a tough one. The two more expensive kitchen tools I started using on a daily basis after adopting AIP were my French oven and blender. Often I used them both together for soups, one-pot meals, etc. If I had to pick one, it would probably a good blender with both chop and puree settings. You really can’t make pureed soups or sauces without one and it’s a huge time saver to just throw a bunch of veggies in there for a few seconds versus chopping everything by hand.
Are there any tricks you have learned to make AIP work in your space?
I use herbs in almost all my cooking so I found it cost-effective to start a small container garden in my kitchen. The flavor was better and I wasn’t constantly restocking my spice rack. Now that I have the small garden outside my kitchen window I’ve replanted all the herbs and added a few lettuce plants. I eat a lot of salad now so I’m hoping they do well!
How do you deal with food for family members that are not AIP?
I live alone so I don’t have to plan separate meals too often, but I do try to keep some “normal” sauces and dips and cheeses in my fridge for when friends come over. It’s not a big temptation for me as I didn’t really put a lot of condiments on my food before AIP, but it lets them season the foods I cook to what they’re accustomed to. If I’m cooking for company I’ll try to make a meat and veggie that I can eat and then also add a side of rice, pasta, or potatoes for everyone else. Extra side dishes are your friend when it comes to cooking for a crowd without breaking your diet.
Are there any tools or appliances that you’ve stopped using now that your diet has changed?
I have always been pretty careful about avoiding plastic and non-stick cookware so I didn’t have many big changes there, however, I had been using a Keurig and while it was very convenient, I didn’t like all the plastic and found it hard to clean well. Once I reintroduced coffee, I switched to a glass pour-over coffee maker with a stainless steel reusable filter. The coffee tastes much better than it did in the Keurig and I like that it only comes in contact with glass or stainless steel. Plus, it’s extremely easy to clean and creates no waste, especially when I use the coffee grounds in my garden. I have also used it to make small pitchers of turmeric and ginger teas and attempted coconut milk but that didn’t work out as well.
What are your favorite meals to batch cook?
I don’t do a ton of large batch-cooking. If I’m making a recipe, I’ll make 4-5 servings and then put the leftovers in the freezer in single-serve portions. If I know I’m going to have a busy week I’ll try to fill up the fridge ahead of time with cooked veggies and shredded chicken or beef that I can throw together quickly for a few different meals.
What are your favorite AIP and Paleo cookbooks?
I only own The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook. I usually go online for new recipes or adapt recipes from old cookbooks to be AIP compliant.
Do you have any tips for those starting an elimination diet and setting up their kitchens for the first time?
Definitely go through your refrigerator and pantry and clean out everything you can’t eat, or at least put it in a separate spot if you have other people in your household who are not on the same diet. I also reorganized my kitchen to make all the appliances and tools I was using regularly to be as easily accessible as possible.
Another thing I did that helped motivate me was to take pictures of my favorite recipes after I made them and kept a photo album on my phone of all the best meals. When I was getting tired of cooking all the time or missing regular foods it helped having a visual reminder of all the delicious options I COULD have.
And lastly, find a way to make it fun! You don’t have to have a bunch of plants in your kitchen, but I enjoy gardening and getting creative with seasoning the AIP recipes with fresh herbs so I bought as many cute flower pots as I could fit on my window sill and filled them with all kinds of herbs, I think I had four types of basil alone at one point. Now I’m even more excited to start expanding that and working on my window garden! I love being in my kitchen — it’s become my creative space and probably the favorite room in my house.
Would you like to be featured in an AIP Kitchen Tour? We feature members of the community who are willing to share the real spaces where they cook, as well as their stories of transitioning to this lifestyle. If you are interested, fill out our interest form!