Alaena Haber is the creator of the Paleo and AIP recipe website Grazed and Enthused. After eating standard Paleo for two years, Alaena transitioned to the autoimmune protocol/AIP six months ago to combat lingering symptoms of Hashimoto’s, leaky gut, and histamine intolerance. Alaena’s passion for holistic wellbeing shows in her dedication to sourcing nutrient-dense ingredients for creative and flavorful recipes. She believes each meal is an opportunity to show respect for oneself and gratitude for others. Alaena hopes to reach members of the autoimmune community who need inspiration and support during their healing journey. She lives with her husband, Jeff, and cockapoo, Rafael, in Chicago while attending a full-time occupational therapy master’s program. Connect with Aleana on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.
It took me a couple months of eating AIP before I realized that every meal didn’t have to be a redundant combination of meat, veggies, and broth. I initially felt disheartened without my morning eggs and butter coffee. I would have staring contests with the empty spot in my pantry where my almond butter used to sit. Constant trips to the store for fresh meat and produce became time-consuming. But my daily stomach pain, headaches, fatigue, and brain fog disappeared. I only noticed this one day, about three weeks into the protocol, when I realized I felt “normal”. I hadn’t been able to say that for several years. It was truly a victorious moment, and I continue to eat a 99% AIP diet because of the mental and physical clarity it has provided. Let’s rewind to how I ended up here, writing a guest post on Sarah’s website.
I began cooking around 8 years old…mostly kids’ lunches like sandwiches, quesadillas, and French toast. At this point, my culinary skills were limited to whatever Emeril was “kicking up a notch” during family television time. At age 15, I ordered a subscription of Food and Wine magazine, and I began voraciously cooking laborious and technical dishes for my family (ethnic cuisine to traditional American pies.) I developed my cooking skills using others’ recipes, but during my college years I found satisfaction when creating my own, often inviting friends over for dinners and happy hours.
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s at age 19 during my sophomore year at University of Florida. The next 5 years were a balancing act between social obligations, career-shifting, puppy-raising, all while struggling daily with debilitating stomach pain, fatigue, mood swings, and pesky symptoms like facial swelling, skin rashes, and mouth sores. After spending thousands (yes, thousands) of hours researching autoimmunity, food intolerances, and leaky gut and even more money on Western and Eastern doctors, I realized I had to be my own advocate if I was ever going to feel freedom from disease. I began a Paleo diet in January 2012 and saw immediate relief in my constant headaches, back pain, and gastric distress. It took two more years of fruitlessly visiting many doctors and alternative health practitioners to finally decide to try the Autoimmune Protocol. It was the best decision of my life and has given me a priceless understanding of my body in both its diseased and healthy state.
My dedication to eat satisfying and flavorful food never waned throughout the years. While I certainly enjoyed standard Paleo, cooking beautiful frittatas, pancakes, and nut-based desserts, I have found much more gratification creating AIP meals that leave me feeling nourished, content, and excited for leftovers. This leads me to the below recipe: Cherry Pie Bars. I am in love with these fruit-sweetened, gooey handheld treats. Not only do they taste and feel like the real deal, but they’re made with only AIP-approved fruits and vegetables and can be packed for kids’ lunches or as an on-the-go snack bar! The dough is a base of mashed Japanese sweet potato, which you can find at most grocery stores and Asian grocers. It has a purple-toned skin, white flesh, and can be used as a substitute for white potatoes in any recipe. The pie filling consists of caramelized and macerated sweet summer cherries and Medjool dates. These Cherry Pie Bars make breakfast, snack-time, or dessert something to truly look forward to! They would be fantastic served after a meal of Sweet N’ Smokey Chicken or Grilled Skirt Steak, sweet potato salad, and coleslaw for the All-American eating experience.
- Total prep time: 25 minutes (see tip at the end of the post to save time)
- Total cooking time: 25 minutes
- Makes 4 bars
Ingredients (Pie Crust)
- 1 ½ c Japanese (white) sweet potato, peeled and chopped into ½ inch cubes
- 2 T coconut oil, melted
- 2 T coconut flour
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- Place sweet potatoes in steamer basket set over a pot of boiling water. Cover and let steam for 13-15 minutes until easily pierced with a fork. Transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl.
- Pour coconut oil into the mixing bowl and use a potato masher to mash the potatoes as smoothly as possible. Stir in coconut flour, cinnamon and sea salt and mix well using your hands while kneading the dough.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and form a compact ball with each. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, create a small 4 x 5 inch rectangle with each portion. Smooth down with hands to ensure two rectangles of even thickness and equal size. Set aside.
Ingredients (Cherry Pie Filling)
- 1 cup cherries, stemmed and pitted
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 5 large Medjool dates, pitted
- 1 tsp arrowroot powder
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- Place dates in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Let sit for 5 minutes. Remove dates from bowl, reserving the liquid.
- In a small saucepan, heat cherries and lemon juice over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, breaking open the cherries with a wooden spoon as they simmer.
- Add dates and 2 tsp reserved liquid to the pan, breaking open the dates as they cook down. Continue cooking and stirring until you get a thick paste (about 2 more minutes). Remove from heat and stir in arrowroot and cinnamon.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon cherry filling over one of the rectangles until evenly covered. Lift up remaining rectangle with a large spatula, and carefully lay it on top of cherry filling, using your fingers to smooth and seal the dough. Brush with 1 tsp melted coconut oil.
- Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest in fridge for at least 1 hour prior to slicing. Slice with a sharp knife into 4 bars.
- Note: The bars can be served warm or cold. I love them the most after they have been sitting in the fridge overnight. Store in refrigerator for 2-3 days.
- Time Saving Tip: While the sweet potatoes are steaming, make the cherry filling!