All of the recipes on the site are gluten-free and dairy-free, with many being egg-free as well. And holy wow, do they look amazing. So amazing, in fact, that I want to stop what I’m doing right now and go make the brownies pictures above. But I won’t.
The blog’s author, Alexa Croft (aka Lexie) also has a cookbook out called Everyday Classics*.
About the book: Author Alexa Croft has put a healthier spin on our most beloved pantry staples, breakfasts, dinners and desserts, creating a new set of family favorites that are completely gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free soy-free and 98% corn-free.
From sandwich bread and marshmallows to fluffy pancakes and cheesecake, these are essential recipes that kids of all ages have loved in the past and can enjoy again!
I know that I’ll be spending an inordinate amount of time checking out her site, drooling over her recipes, and stalking her Pinterest Boards for inspiration.
Lisa came to me back in the summer of 2013. She was suffering from chronic hives, daily vomiting, insomnia, acid reflux, and irritable bowel syndrome. Desperate for a change, she decided to give the food sensitivity testing a try.
Lisa’s transformation was so dramatic, that I asked if she would be willing to share her story (which she did below).
What she sent back totally blew me away and I knew that I had to share it with you.
My life changed when I met Emily Levenson.
After more than five months of suffering from chronic hives and migraines that baffled the medical doctors I first went to seeking treatment, I arrived at her office broken, depressed and desperate.
It’s hard not to feel skeptical when sitting in front of Emily’s computer as she tests you for food sensitivities: you hold onto a rod in one hand as she pushes a button against your thumb each time she tests one of the foods from a list on her screen.
We’re taught that unconventional medicine is for hippies or fools; more than one of my friends told me this when I shared that I was visiting a holistic health coach. As you sit and watch a line on her screen jump around with each click, giving each food a number that determines whether or not you will be able to keep it in your diet, you wonder if you wasted your money.
It’s also hard not to freak out and have a complete mental breakdown when she gives you the list of foods you’re not supposed to eat after the testing is finished.
Mine was two pages long and included gluten, soy, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, eggs, potato starch, sugar, berries, wheat, coffee, shellfish, nightshades… I didn’t even know what nightshades were until she told me. Peppers? Potatoes? Mashed potatoes were my favorite food. I went home and cried.
Against my hesitation, however, I decided to follow her recommended diet completely.
Doctors had failed me; I had nothing left to lose.
My hives first started appearing a year ago: first on my hands and feet, then quickly becoming more frequent and spreading across my entire body, often accompanied by a migraine. I ended up in Urgent Care twice in one week. The first doctor prescribed me steroid pills, which only worsened my symptoms. The second doctor suspected I had a rare kidney disease, but after my urine and blood tests came back negative, she diagnosed them as chronic hives caused by an unknown allergy, gave me a prescription for an antihistamine and recommended I see an allergist.
My hives would appear at random times, but I started noticing that more often than not, I would have a breakout soon after I started eating.
Soda was the first thing I noticed was a definite trigger. Soda! I drank a couple of cans of coke every day for years and all of a sudden, half a glass was making me break out in hives. I suspected other foods too, but it was hard to pinpoint anything exactly because I didn’t flare up every time I ate them. Just sometimes. Or not until the next morning.
I set up an appointment with an allergist.
She listened to my symptoms and I showed her photographs of my worst outbreak. She gave me an allergy skin prick test that caused my entire arm to flare up, but dismissed it as Dermatographism, a condition I didn’t realize was uncommon: my skin is so sensitive that merely touching it can cause redness. So while she listened politely to my concerns that certain foods were triggering my outbreaks, she didn’t seem to believe me. She had never heard of anyone being allergic to soda. Perhaps it’s the dye? She ordered me to steer clear of all colored colas until she could figure it out.
She then sent me to the hospital to get extensive blood work, testing me for both allergies to a long list of foods and also testing things like my thyroid to make sure that another condition wasn’t causing my symptoms. The tests? All clear.
On paper, I was allergic to nothing!
The allergist told me in situations like mine, the only way to find out for sure which foods were triggering my outbreaks was to go on an elimination diet, where you start off only eating chicken and rice for weeks and add in one food at a time to see what causes problems. There was nothing else she could do to help.
For weeks, following her instructions, I ate only boiled chicken, plain rice and water.
Suddenly, for the first time in months, I was hive-free! But my spirit had been defeated. I am a person who loves all-you-can-eat buffets, free refills in the soda machine, coffee every morning and going out to eat as often as possible.
The first thing my allergist told me to try adding was wheat. The day after I ate a piece of bread, the itchiness started. My skin was on fire. How was I to know what to add next if the very first thing I added made me so miserable?
I decided to set up an appointment with Emily.
I immediately eliminated all of the foods Emily told me were forbidden after she gave me my food sensitivity test results. It was hard at first. I took the list to the grocery store and cried in the aisle. Pretty much all packaged foods were now out for me. There was at least one ingredient on almost every box that I wasn’t allowed to have.
I’ve also always been a terrible cook. “My night to cook” in our house meant we were having frozen pizza. Only, I’ve burnt frozen pizza twice in the past year because I forgot to remove the cardboard circle underneath
But I started to learn.
And, weeks later, my hives disappeared. After a few months, I also lost weight, got in better shape, learned to cook, bought a juicer, an apron, learned about chia seeds and flax meal. Got called a hippie.
Emily didn’t just give me the results, either.
She kept following up, asking how I was doing and answering any questions I ran into. The recipes on her website were a great resource too. (I strongly recommend her peach refrigerator oats and her peanut butter granola.)
Then something funny happened. Not only did my hives go away, but so did many other ailments that I had long ago given up hope could be cured. The insomnia that has haunted me all of my life? With no sugar or caffeine in my system, I now struggle to stay awake past 11 p.m.
But I’m also able to wake up earlier than ever before. I’m the first one to work most mornings, after years of going in late.
My skin rash that baffled dermatologists for years? Two doctors tried to diagnose me as having scabies without testing my skin. One even treated me for it, leading to a trip to the emergency room after the prescription lotion caused shortness of breath and the rash to expand to my entire body. The second doctor finally labeled it an “allergic skin rash” after I convinced him to take a skin sample and it came back negative.
I recently wore shorts for the first time in public in over ten years after hiding my legs because I hadn’t wanted anyone to see my skin.
My suspicions that I had acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome? I had seen a doctor about both of those problems in the past, but they couldn’t help me. When I told a doctor that I was throwing up every day, the only thing she asked was whether or not I was bulimic. If I was bulimic, why would I be in the doctor’s office trying to get the vomiting to stop? I seriously used to throw up every single day. Now, I can’t remember the last time it happened.
And, perhaps too much information, but my bowel movements are on a regular schedule for the first time in my life.
It has now been almost a year since I first got tested.
There are lots of things I miss about the old me. I definitely miss coffee the most. And it’s still hard to watch my boyfriend microwave a frozen burrito for himself as I’m slaving away in front of the stove cooking a separate meal for myself.
I still get hives sometimes too. But just a few here and there if it’s really hot out, or if I splurge and eat something I know I shouldn’t. (I have a weakness for Thai food and cheated twice to get take-out, which kept me up all night scratching. And who could resist the occasional bowl of ice cream?) But I know now to only try questionable foods on days when I don’t have to go to work the next morning in case I break out or get a migraine.
And since I started my diet, the only time I’ve broken out in hives all over my body was at Christmas, when I was out of town and unable to cook for myself.
I now bring a cooler of precooked foods with me when I go on a trip, and I research restaurants beforehand to make sure there will be something there I can eat. Larger restaurants often have allergy-lists online, and others are usually accommodating if you ask them to make a slight adjustment.
At my follow-up test with Emily, my forbidden foods list was cut in half.
I was overjoyed to be able to add back in eggs, strawberries, and watermelon to my diet. But I’m still reluctant to add everything back in. I’m really happy with where I am right now and it makes me feel really good knowing that the things I’m putting into my body are meant to be there.
I am no longer a skeptic to alternative medicine.
Emily helped me when no one else could. She didn’t just heal my body. She healed me.
Motherhood has been an amazing adventure. I feel energized and am constantly learning new things about myself on a daily basis. I am in awe of how the babe is growing and learning. And there are moments where I feel like my heart is so full that it’s going to burst.
And then there are days when I wish I could be sent to timeout.
To take a break and get away from the constant pressures of taking care of another (albeit cute) human being. To have personal space again. To stop feeling like my brain is constantly being in fifteen places at once. And to get a mental breather from it all.
And then I feel guilty for wanting to get away… until I remind myself that it’s okay to take care of myself and get my needs met too.
There is nothing healthy or productive about being overwhelmed, irritable, and anxious all the time.
This past week has been a special one in the Levenson household. We have a teething baby who is a raging crankball that doesn’t want to sleep at night. Pair that with transitioning into working again and a husband that has been super busy at work (and therefore not around as much to help out).
Showering has been quick at best.
Eating has been a juggling act of holding a baby and grabbing the quickest thing possible (i.e.—total crap).
And sleeping has been… sporadic.
No rest. No breaks. And no down time.
After a pretty epic breakdown, I handed the baby to The Hubster and went to go get a pedicure. I came back feeling refreshed and renewed. And had pretty toes to boot.
I’m not sure that it mattered what I did during that hour, just that I took it.
That night, The Hubster and I talked about how to make that a regular thing. We have agreed to carve out an hour each week (at least) for me to do the things that I want to do—whether it’s getting my toes done or writing a newsletter.
And you know what? Just knowing that I have that time carved out each week has made everything better.
I am officially back on the schedule at Wellspring Whole Health and will have up to 4 appointments each week. Two slots available on Wednesday evenings (a 5pm and a 6:30pm) and two on Saturday mornings (9am and 10:30am).
1. I am currently in love with our Infantino Sash Mai Tei carrier*. The very first time I put it on—just to see how it felt—the baby fell asleep for a solid hour. Same with the second attempt at wearing it. Any carrier that can do that for the babe is a carrier I will love for life.
We have tried other carriers like a Moby Wrap* (I swear you need a degree in rocket science to figure out how to use this thing) Infantino Flip Front to Back* (will work in a pinch, but she still wiggles and squirms) and a Baby Björn*(the absolute hardest to get on because of the lock system). None had the same effect as the Mai Tei. And none were as easy to get on.
2. The baby went through another “rough patch” where she refused to be anywhere other than in my arms, at my breast, or snuggled up sleeping on me. And if any of those three things didn’t happen…she screamed. I also think she was trying to major in spitting up on mommy. For which she would have received honors.
Did I mention that this period also came with a total switch-up of her sleeping patterns? Yeah… Instead of the glorious 5-6 hour stretch followed by another 4 hour stretch, she decided that it would take 1+ hours to go down, and then wanted to be up every 2-3 hours. And that was a good night. I swear, I totally understand why sleep deprivation is a form of torture. This mama was just plain exhausted.
3. When the aforementioned stuff was going on, several mamas recommended a book called the Wonder Weeks*. It talks about cognitive leaps that happen to babies at very predictable intervals. The first being at 5 weeks (a time when she was incredibly fussy, colicky, and irritable). The next is at 8 weeks (where we are now). Felt good to know why she was behaving the way she was.
I am happy to report that the sleeping is getting back on track. HOO. RAY.
This may sound like an easy task. In which case I’ll remind you that I live in Pittsburgh. I swear we could rival Seattle for the number of rainy days. Today, for example, we beat the rain by a mere 5 minutes.