Friday, December 30, 2011

Butter and Herb Roasted Whole Chicken

Even though we all eat chicken all the time, there is something special, but comforting, about a whole roasted chicken.  The way it fills your entire house with the most delicious smell, knowing you can make an awesome chicken stock afterwards, and most likely having plenty of leftovers make it such a fun dish. 

This time I bought a fresh, all-natural, organic chicken from WF and I don't think I have to tell you that the taste and texture was far superior to a frozen, hormone-filled chicken.  This particular birdy was a bit shy of 4lbs.  I let it sit out on the counter for probably an hour or two before cooking, so it could come to room temp.  I did not wash it.  People have differing opinions on washing your bird first.  I don't do it- do you?  I don't want to get raw chicken juice all over the place personally.

I also did not use a roasting rack- rather I tossed a bunch of sliced onions and baby carrots over a foil-lined baking sheet, and placed the chicken on top of the carrots to keep the bottom of the chicken off of the baking sheet so the hot air could circulate underneath it.  I didn't bother greasing the foil. 

The picture doesn't do this guy justice.  It may look burnt, but that's just the herbs.  It was not burnt at all.  In fact, it was the juiciest, moistest chicken I've ever had!

Butter and Herb Roasted Whole Chicken
1 whole chicken, giblets removed (mine was almost 4lbs) and totally DRY
One container poultry herbs (several sprigs of rosemary and thyme, plus a handful of sage leaves, FRESH)
4 tbsp all natural butter, like Kerrygold (I prefer to use unsalted) room temp
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
handful of baby carrots
half an onion, chopped

Place your baby carrots and sliced onions on your foil-lined baking sheet, then place chicken on top of the carrots.  Salt and pepper the inside of the bird generously, and if you have extra herbs or onions, throw them in too.  Tie the legs together with twine (I only had hemp, it worked fine!) and tuck the wings under the bird so they don't burn.  Finely chop all your herbs and then throw them in a small dish.  Add your room temp butter, garlic, and salt and pepper.  Mix it up well.  Then, with clean hands, take a glob of butter and smoosh it around under the chicken skin.  Try to get it as far down as you can.  Smear the remaining butter mixture all over the skin and don't skimp on the legs, thighs, wings, etc!  Roast in your preheated oven at 425 for about an hour and 20 minutes.  I used my convection feature and it only took one hour, so if you have a convection oven go for it!  You must must MUST let the bird rest for 20 minutes at least.  If you are unsure whether it's done or not- take a peek at the juices running out.  Are they clear?  If so, it's dunzo.  You can absolutely eat the carrots, they are ridiculously insanely good.  Best of all- keep the carcass and use it for the best stock ever!

I did a lot of googling before I decided to use butter.  I had never ever used butter before to roast anything.  EVOO all the way.  But the milk solids in the butter create a fabulous crispy and browned skin that EVOO just can't.  I've also seen a lot of recipes that call for Mayo- which I also think is a great idea, but was worried about trying it for the first time on company.  But I'm all for it next time.  On their Thanksgiving special, I noticed the Voltaggio (sp?) bros used mayo to roast something.  I also am not thrilled with the mayo I have on hand.  I need a really good quality organic mayo. 

Make this chicken.  It's awesome.  Super easy.  Pretty to look at.  Who doesn't love a roast chicken.  With butter.  Duh. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

More Veggie Pancakes

Another pancake post.  This time, savory.  I've got veg latkes, or pancakes, down at this point.  I've now discovered what an easy way this is to get everyone to eat their veggies.  How could you not when they're in pancake form?  I tried them again for Chanukah dinner with M's grandma.  With the addition of crunchy shredded carrots, this batch was colorful and full of your daily beta carotene!

Carrot Zucchini Pancakes (Latkes)
2 small zucchini, grated, water squeezed out
half a bag of pre-shredded carrots (about a cup to 1 1/2 cups)
1 whole egg, 1 egg white
1/2 tsp paprika
4 tbsp chickpea flour (besan)
S&P to taste
3 green onions, sliced finely
1/2 tsp minced garlic

Into a large mixing bowl throw your grated/shredded veggies, then egg, flour, garlic, onions, and seasoning.  Mix well.  Try not to let it sit as the salt will draw out a lot of water and make the mixture soupy.  Heat up a tsp or two of oil in a frying pan and get it sizzling hot.  Using a tablespoon, drop batter onto hot pan and cook about 3 min per side.  These are better crispy.  They have a natural kick to them as the chickpea flour has a bit of spice to it.  I like them plain but they are great with sour cream, applesauce, or even hummus!  I served this with a simply roasted chicken (recipe coming soon) and a salad.  A nice meal to serve to company, no muss no fuss!  Best of all, for all the non GFG's out there, this feels like you are getting a nice starchy carby dish even though it's just veggies!  No one misses out.  Now, if you're expecting a crunchy, super crispy pancake like potato pancakes can be, you may be disappointed.  These don't get crunchy.  A zucchini is delicious and a great substitute, but hello, it's not a potato.  M asked me, why aren't these crunchy?  Well, zucchini's are full of water, and potatoes are full of starch.  Water won't crisp up on you, sorry folks.  But I don't miss those carbohydrate-bombs, and neither should you.  I can't wait to try these with spinach and maybe some red peppers!  Yum!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Protein-Packed Strawberries and Cream Pancakes

Even though we don't celebrate Christmas, I wanted to make a special breakfast for M and S.  It ended up being lunch because we went to the JCC this morning and then over to see our friends new house, but it was festive and very special all the same.  Experimenting with coconut flour is definitely a trial and error endeavor but it very reliably will make a GREAT pancake.  Here is what we had today!

Protein-Packed Strawberries and Cream Pancakes (serves 4)
1/4 cup coconut flour
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup cottage cheese
2 tbsp sugar-free vanilla syrup, or liquid sweetener of choice
3 eggs
1/3 cup strawberries, sliced
3 or 4 tbsp (nut)milk, or even water

In a large mixing bowl, stir flour, salt, and baking soda together.  Add in three eggs, syrup, and cottage cheese, and mix well.  You want your batter to be wet, and pourable, so add 2 tbsp of water or milk and see where you're at.  If it's not the right consistency yet, add another tbsp of liquid and see what you got.  Lastly, mix in your berries.  Drop by the tablespoonful onto a sizzling hot frying pan.  These are great on their own, with some jam, apple butter, whatever!  I think S ate half of them, no joke.  When we finally made her stop eating she was very unhappy.  Not sure if that's good or bad.  Anyways- these are a nutritional powerhouse.  With the naturally higher fiber and protein content of the coconut flour, plus the eggs AND cottage cheese, these are a fantastic vehicle for a yummy high-protein breakfast.  Very filling and very satisfying.  I think I got about 10 large pancakes out of it.  They are a little more custardy than your average pancake, from the cottage cheese, but quite good.  I hope you try it!

Monday, December 26, 2011

CCK-Inspired Double Chocolate Almond Cookies and Walnut Apricot Biscotti

Chocolate-Covered Katie is a great resource for "healthier" dessert recipes, and they are all vegan.  Usually the recipes call for spelt or whole wheat flour and I don't normally try to GFG-adapt them, but every once in awhile she does have a grain-free recipe.  This recipe in particular looked really great because she only used dates as the sweetener.  That is a rare find! 

Before I talk about the recipe, I want to go back to the word "healthier" in quotes.  What is healthy, or healthier?  Five years ago, even two years ago, I would have had a totally different answer for you.  And who knows, a year from now, I may say something else.  I know I used to characterize healthy as primarily something that was low-fat.  Funny how now my nutrition is made up of mostly protein, and fat!  Browsing recipes on Pinterest, I'm always struck by how many people use the word "healthy" to describe something that is anything but.  Sugar-filled pastries that use veg oil instead of butter, a high-carb pasta dish with some vegetables thrown in, or something with a reduced number of eggs, etc.  I always want to comment and be like, "what makes this healthy?"  which of course would be incredibly rude, judgmental, and condescending.  But all the same, it makes me think about what my definition of healthy is.  I'm still in the process of defining it.  But what does a "healthy" diet mean to you?  Has your opinion of healthy foods changed?  Do you have foods you eat now that used to be off-limits?  I know I do.  Fat used to terrify me.  Meat used to be something I only seldom indulged in.  It's just so interesting to experience such a marked shift in food perception.  Tell me about how your perceptions have changed?  What are some food myths you used to believe that you have now "unlearned"?

On to the recipe.  Here it is in its original form.  The post is actually a good read because the commenters get into a discussion about gluten-free as a fad or food trend.  A lot of folks on the thread start getting pretty preachy and judgy, talking about their opinions on whether it is truly a fad or not, making some assumptions and generalizations, and so on.  I am not about to chime in over there- but will say that while I do believe that gluten-free is becoming something of a more popular choice, I don't think you can call it a trend, or that I am following a trend by adopting a grain-free, and thereby gluten-free lifestyle.  There are some theories that I wholeheartedly believe to be true.  I believe that for many many people, maybe even all people, gluten is a toxin.  I believe that over time, many people will probably develop an intolerance to it, depending on how much of it you consume and what your genetic predispositions are.  I believe that the effects of your intolerance will aggregate over time and eventually it becomes systemic.  I believe that the ways it shows itself outwardly can be hard to pinpoint.  Maybe its GI issues, maybe its migraines, rashes, erratic blood sugar, and so on.  I believe that due to genetically modified crops in the US, that the amount of gluten in our grains has skyrocketed, which contributes to the huge rise in celiac disease we are seeing.  European countries that have been eating grain-filled diets for much longer than us have even higher rates of celiac disease- take a look at Italy, and Denmark, for example.  But they are theories, and they are my beliefs, not fact necessarily, and even if they were, we are all entitled to think whatever we want.  I just hope we can refrain from looking down on people who don't share the same belief system as ourselves, and that goes for all things, not just food! 

I got off on a tangent.  It just irks me when people make sweeping generalizations.  So to end on a lighter note this holiday weekend, make these.  I made them with sugar-free chocolate chips and grapeseed oil (does anyone else's coconut oil smell/taste kind of spoiled?  I think from now on I'm going to use refined coconut oil.) making them 100% sugar free.  I also decided to round out my sugar free baking with a few new ingredients, xylitol, erythritol, and some sugar-free vanilla syrup which I'll occasionally use in recipes that call for agave.  I already used it in a sugar-free, grain-free biscotti (recipe below), and some yummy protein-packed strawberry pancakes.  Recipes coming soon!  The xylitol I'm a little nervous about, but the reviews on amazon and iherb make it sound like the greatest thing since sliced (grain-free) bread!

Sugar-Free, Grain-Free, Vegan Walnut Apricot Biscotti

1 1/4 cups almond flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sugar-free vanilla syrup, or your liquid sweetener of choice
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup (or more) chopped apricot
1 tbsp arrowroot (or 1 1/2 tbsp corn starch if it doesn't bother you, but check to make sure it's gluten free)

In your cuisi, pulse almond flour, salt, and baking soda just a few times, then add in your syrup.  Process until it forms a ball.  Depending on what liquid you use, it may be wetter or drier.  Transfer to a bowl and add in your nuts and fruit.  Form into a big ovally looking log on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Take it out and let it cool for at least 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 300 and cut log on diagonal into strips.  Bake for another 20 minutes or so until it's browned and starting to crisp up.  Et voila!  Yummy sugar free biscotti!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thai Shrimp and Snowpeas

Are you an "eyeballer?"  Or do you measure everything meticulously?  Do you read the directions on a recipe before you start or do you just jump in without preparing?  Yeah.  I am both an eyeballer and a jumper.  I rarely measure when cooking and never read through the directions fully.  That's what I love about cooking as opposed to baking.  I can get away with both.

I had pinned a shrimp recipe awhile back and after finally picking up some Thai Red Curry Paste last weekend I was ready to give it a shot.  I am not going to post a recipe because it was so dang easy.  Takes 10 minutes to prepare.

Thai Shrimp and Snowpeas- Saute four sliced scallions in a little oil and add some minced garlic and salt, let cook for a few minutes.  Then add a tbsp of thai red curry paste and cook for another minute.  Add your shrimp and cook for three minutes.  Pour in coconut milk, between half and one cup, and a few liberal dashes of fish sauce.  Stir and cook for a minute, then throw in your snowpeas.  Cook until veg are heated through and shrimp is done.  Super easy, super fast.  M and I ate ours with chili garlic sauce to give it some heat, but S scarfed hers down happily without it. 

I need to get some recipes together for this weekend.  We aren't all that into hannukah and we have no family in town so this weekend is going to be long and pretty uneventful.  Lots of cooking, hanging out, and family time, just the three of us.  I'm just kind of sick of baked goods.  Sick of almond flour, coconut flour, flour in general.  Maybe it's time to play with my ice cream maker again.

I hope you all have wonderful, fun, and happy plans for this holiday weekend and for New Years as well.  However you spend your time, and whoever it's with, may it be pleasant, joyful, healthy, and happy.  Much love to you all and your grain-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, whatever-free families! XoXo GFG

Thursday, December 22, 2011

No Sugar, Grain-Free Flour-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

I am having a slight sugar issue.  Everywhere I turn there are sugary treats, candy, and chocolate, and it's slowly making me crazy!  Cookies and pastries and snacks I don't have much trouble ignoring, but chocolate, that is my weak spot.  I have the hardest time turning down chocolate.  And I always find myself justifying it in some way.  I've had enough though!  I need to cut it out NOW.  It's making me feel tired, sluggish, and gross.  I really need to amp up my protein and fat intake and cut out the crap.  Well, crap to me anyways.  That leads me to my next point.  The blogosphere is swimming with posts about sugar substitutes, sugar swaps, unrefined this and refined that, maple syrup vs. honey vs. molasses vs. sorghum, you name it.  And people get into crazy heated arguments.  Stevia is a natural zero calorie sweetener!  No it's POISON!  Splenda gives you cancer and is made of Chlorine!  Agave will shut down your pancreas!  Ahhhhhhhhh!  It's really insane.  I personally used to bake with splenda and quite liked the taste, but have since moved on to stevia, which I'll admit, can taste bitter and have a strange aftertaste.  I haven't tried erythritol, not because I have some moral opposition to it, but because it really only works in wet applications and that just seems like a pain to me.  And then the other natural sweeteners, no matter their glycemic load whether its coconut sugar or date syrup, agave or honey, I just won't do.  It's still sugar, and I'm still not interested.  I felt like making something completely free of any added sugar or sugar substitutes today.  The result was a somewhat cakey cookie and very very subtly sweet, barely a hint of sweet at all actually, and if I hadn't been having so much chocolate lately I probably would have appreciated it much more. 

I don't eat bananas anymore but I still hoard them for baking.  A nice brown banana is like gold to me.  If for no other reason than I love to make banana bread as hostess gifts.  So today, while contemplating how much stevia I'd need for these PB cookies, I decided, what the hell, lets try it with just a banana.

No Sugar, Grain-Free Flour-Free Peanut Butter Banana Cookies
1 cup all natural PB preferably unsalted, or try Sunbutter if PB is a problem
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
sprinkle of cinnamon
1 overripe banana, mashed

Combine mashed banana with egg and vanilla, then stir in PB, cinnamon, and baking soda.  Drop by the teaspoon-full onto parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20min or until browned.  Usually these recipes call for 1 cup of sugar instead of a banana, which in turn yields a much drier, more crumbly cookie.  I would have definitely preferred a crunchy crumbly cookie but using a cup of stevia in the raw would have been disgusting and there really is nothing like real white sugar for getting that chewy but still crumbly texture.  If you want a very subtly sweet cookie and like PB and banana together this will be a really nice treat to have around.  Best of all, it's got folate, potassium, protein, and good fats.  I could give one to S with breakfast and not feel guilty about it.  Is it the best cookie ever?  No.  Will it satisfy your after-dinner snack-tooth?  Yes.  And maybe it will help me pass up a piece of sugar-laden chocolate too. 

How do you feel about sugar substitutes?  Do you use them?  I've read that using erythritol and stevia together is a good combo.  Have you baked with agave?  Coconut crystals, or nectar?  I'd love to hear what you guys use, what you like, what you don't like.  It seems that different brands of stevia can taste totally different too.  I've heard NuNaturals is good, and then there are those that like Truvia, and others still who say it's the devil.  People get really nutty about sugar.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

No Recipe Recipe for a Protein Packed Yogurt Dessert

Kalyns Kitchen is a great blog for anyone following South Beach Diet or Atkins or whatever, which in some ways can be closely related to the GFG diet.  She has tons of low carb dishes.  One recipe caught my eye last week and I was excited to give it a try.  MKG isn't the biggest fan of chocolate and sometimes I get tired of baked goods.  He loves fruity desserts and this looked simple enough.  I am not even going to bother with a recipe, it would be too ridiculous.  Go to Kalyn's blog and check it out if you need to!

This dessert is so easy, S could probably do it.  And packed with protein.

Here are instructions for this Protein-Packed Yogurt Fruit Pie.
Combine two small packages of sugar free lemon jello with one 32 oz container of 0% fat plain Greek yogurt.  Zest one lemon and add zest to bowl.  Stir well to incorporate everything.  Microwave for about 90 seconds, and then stir.  Microwave another minute or two, and stir again.  Pour the heated mixture into a greased pie dish and let set for about 4 hours.  Before serving, top with sliced berries.  How easy is that?  And so yummy.  This is a dessert you really do not need to feel guilty about.  Kalyn suggests serving with whipped cream or topping, but honestly, why bother?  It's awesome just like this!

Edited:  I've also done this with strawberry SF jello and a container of ricotta- has a cheesecake-ish texture to it!

Monday, December 19, 2011

(Cheese)Burger Soup

Pinterest is truly the best invention of 2011.  Well, who knows when it actually rolled out but I discovered it in 2011 and am eternally grateful.  I just love the darn thing so much.  Scrolling through my favorite categories and boards is always an inspiration.  I see recipes I want to try, tricks for the home, products I'm interested in, articles, books, you name it.  So this soup recipe was inspired by Pinterest as well.  As usual, I see a recipe, like the premise, but end up changing most of the ingredients.  Same goes for my (Cheese)Burger Soup.  Weird name, great taste!

(Cheese)Burger Soup (serves at least 8)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 32 oz carton reduced sodium beef broth
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
2 15 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 package ground meat, lean turkey or beef (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1 cup of grated sharp cheddar
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 or 4 large carrots, chopped
1 tbsp celery salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
seasoned salt, salt, and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, brown your onions in a bit of EVOO.  Add ground meat and brown the meat.  Pour off your fat once the meat is browned.  Add celery and carrots and sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for 7 minutes or so.  Then add broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and season generously.  Since your broth is reduced sodium you'll definitely need to season the soup up.  I didn't want to overspice it but some cayenne or a dash of red pepper flakes would be awesome.  The longer you cook this the better but 45 minutes is really the minimum.  Before serving, reheat and then add your rinsed and drained beans.  This will of course be better on day two!  Sprinkle the top with cheddar to make it a cheeseburger soup!  Yum!!  S had a bowl, and then M and I each had quite a bit, and there was still more to fill two containers.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Grain-Free PIZZA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Is there anyone alive that doesn't like pizza?  I'll admit, even before adopting the GFG-lifestyle, I stayed away from pizza because it was just one of those off-limit foods to me, but oh man, I sure liked it!  I'm a Chicagoan so a nice slice of deep dish pizza will always make me salivate.  Lou Malnati's, you know what's going on. 
So, ok, my pizza above may not look like the aforementioned Lou's pizza, but I'm telling you, it is a very very good approximation of some seriously good thin-crust.  MAKE THIS PIZZA ASAP PEOPLE!  It is crazy good.  There are lots of grain-free pizza crust recipes floating around the interwebs.  And plenty more of gluten-free crusts.  You need to buy several different flours, combine them in the right amounts, knead them, add this and that, proof 'em, etc.  Not this recipe.  Even better, this is a great way to "hide" veggies.  The crust is cauliflower.  No kidding.  It does NOT taste like cauliflower either, yummy as it that little white veggie is, if you didn't make it yourself you would have no clue it was cauli.  Try it.  You will LOVE it.  Promise!  And google this recipe, you'll see there are quite a few variations.  I think my technique proved superior, but the ingredients are all roughly the same.

Grain-Free Cauliflower Crust Pizza (Gluten-Free, of course!)

1 head of cauliflower
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp minced garlic
1 can of pizza sauce, like Muir Glen organic
1 bag of part-skim mozzarella
toppings, like turkey pepperoni, sauteed mushrooms or spinach, tomatoes, olives, green peppers, whatever!!!

Preheat your oven to 450 and spray two cookie sheets with non-stick spray.  Cut your head of cauli into florets and throw them in the cuisi.  You will probably need to do this in two batches.  Pulse the cauli until it's at the "rice" stage and transfer to a glass microwave safe bowl.  Microwave the cauliflower for 10 minutes or so.  You want to cook out some of the moisture and get the little grains a bit drier so your crust isn't watery.  Don't skip this step!  You'll probably have about three cups of cauli rice at this point.  If you use all three cups of it, you can probably make 9 individual pizzas, 2 per person.  Depending on how many you're feeding, make all 9, or save the third cup for another time.  I sauteed one cup and will give it to S for lunch.

With the other two cups, I added a tsp of  garlic, 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp oregano, and 2 eggs.  Mix thoroughly.  Using a large spoon, drop even amounts of the wet crust onto your cookie sheet.  (Warning- do not used a parchment-lined baking sheet unless you want to start a fire in your oven... yeah...)  This made 6 individual pizzas for me, three per sheet.  Spread the crust out evenly using the spoon and try to get it as flat and thin as you can.  Bake the crusts for 25-30 minutes until the edges are crisp and the whole pizza is brown.  Other recipes tell you to make one big pizza, which leaves the centers underdone and soggy.  This technique works muuuch better.  While the crusts are baking, sautee up some veggies or chicken or whatever toppings you want.  Once the crusts are nice and browned, pull 'em out and set the oven to broil.  Spread pizza sauce onto the crusts, then top with about a 1/4 cup of cheese, and your preferred toppings.  Get creative and try funky combinations, like goat cheese and thyme, feta and red peppers!  Or stick to the basics like pepperoni.  Put your baking sheets into the broiling hot oven for just a couple minutes, until the cheese is melted.  That's it!

Don't worry if your edges are burnt, that's ok!  It'll be great, and that way you know the bottom is well-cooked.  You CAN pick these up and eat them like a regular old slice of pizza!  If you choose to make one large crust, I don't think you can. 

I promise, these do not taste like cauliflower.  It tastes like pizza.  Maybe a floppy pizza, but a damn good floppy pizza.  And instead of a bunch of starchy gluten filled carbs, you're eating veggies!  Yeah buddy!  Great recipe for those tough to please toddlers.

I have to say, this is one of those recipes that has really gotten me excited!  Every once in awhile you make something that just totally blows you away, and this is one of those recipes.  Please give it a try!  You'll be so glad you did!

Totally on a different subject, last month I mentioned I was going through a rough patch.  The last six weeks have been pretty trying.  I don't want to bore anyone with the deets, it was work related, and I'll leave it at that.  But I am so so so so so pleased that things are really looking up.  I am so grateful to this goofy little blog of mine for giving me purpose, giving me a positive outlet, and giving me something to do that was rewarding for me and always makes me smile.  Some days, when everything is going wrong and you feel like a failure, at the very least I know I can get in the kitchen and create something healthy, wholesome, and GFG-approved that I can be proud of.  If nothing else, I know that is one thing I am good at.  Sharing that with whoever is out there is a privilege and a joy.

In my little fantasy-world I've concocted, I have a small nutritional empire comprised of a brick-and-mortar store selling all manner of goods for all of us on special diets, whether its a diabetic diet, grain-free, primal/paleo, gluten-free, SCD, GAPS, anti-candida, etc, where you can get quality ingredients at a fair price (can you believe what they charge for "gluten" free products in that sad little gluten-free aisle at the grocery-store?  UGH!) maybe some cooking classes for the newly initiated, and nutritional counseling from holistic nutritionists, that can shop with you, cook with you, clean out your pantry if needed, and just work with you on your new lifestyle.  Maybe this blog is the first step in my little fantasy, maybe not, but it's fun to dream, right?

Do you have any business ideas you'd love to make happen?  However goofy our outlandish?  What are they?  Any tips for a risk-averse wannabe entrepreneur like myself?

Thanks for reading, and thanks for eating!  XoXoGFG

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Easy Grain-Free, Sugar-Free Strawberry Cream Cheese Bars

A jar of sugar free or no sugar added preserves or jam can be a big help if you need a quick dessert.  So can some cream cheese, or neufchatel if you're so inclined.  This entire recipe from start to finish took about 35 minutes, including bake time.  Try it next time you're in a pinch!  Best of all, you can jazz it up any way you like- different jams, dried fruit, chocolate, dried coconut, whatever!  They remind of when I was little and those lucky days I'd get a strawberry and cream cheese sandwich, yum!!!!!!!!

Grain-Free, Sugar-Free Strawberry Cream Cheese Bars
1 jar no sugar added fruit preserves or jam.  I mixed cherry and strawberry together so I could use up the cherry.  Microwaved for one minute.
1 egg
1 1/2 cups almond flour
2 tsp oil
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 packets of sweetener, like Purevia or whatever you like (optional)
3 tbsp cream cheese, microwaved for 30 seconds or so

Line a 9x9 baking dish with parchment and preheat your oven to 350.  In a bowl, mix your almond flour, baking soda, salt, and sweetener.  Mix your oil and egg together, then add to almond flour mixture.  Press your crust into the baking dish and push with your fingers until it's reached all the sides.  Now pour your melted jam over the crust, and then your cream cheese, or neufchatel.  Using a fork or spatula, spread the jam and cream cheese around until it covers the crust completely.  This would be the time to add chopped nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, what have you.  Bake for 25-30 minutes and then let cool for a few hours before serving.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Grain-Free, Sugar-Free Cranberry Orange Muffins

 We all know I regularly lament the lack of unsweetened dried cranberries in the markeplace.  Sooner or later I'll just get a dehydrator and do it myself, but until then, there's always fresh, right?  Well, wrong actually- aren't cranberries only in stores this time of year?  Anyhow- I picked up a bag and figured whatever I didn't use could be frozen.  Back in the day, when I was still on the SAD diet- I used to loooooooove S'bucks cranberry orange scones.  Never mind they had like 500 calories and 3000 carbs.  I felt like trying to recreate those flavors with this muffin.  Next time I would add much more liquid, but the flavors were spot on.  (Recipe amended for more liquid)
GF/SF Cranberry Orange Muffins
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup sweetener
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
zest of one orange
1/4 cup oil
1 cup buttermilk or soured nutmilk
1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped, and macerated in 1/4 cup of OJ and a packet of pure via/stevia
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Combine coconut flour, almond flour, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and baking soda, incorporate well.  In a separate bowl, mix your oil, sweetener, egg, and vanilla.  Add your buttermilk and stir, then add wet to dry.  Add orange zest, then add cranberries and mix evenly.  Pour into greased muffin tin and bake 35-40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  I sprinkled cinnamon over the tops of the muffins too.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Herbed Bacon and White Bean Soup

Are you a Top Chef fan?  Have you noticed how when a chef has either kinda crappy ingredients, not a lot of time, or is just a little stumped on what to make, they'll make soup?  Soup is great for those situations.  Maybe you don't have anything fresh, maybe you don't have much time or you don't want to dirty a bunch of pots and pans.  Make the soup, let it sit for a few hours on or off the heat, and you're dunzo.  This soup is a great example of that.  On another note, if you do like Top Chef, how do you feel about Padma?  I hate her.  I don't often say I hate someone, and it's really not a habit of mine to throw that word around, but I hate her.  She's awful, and makes my stomach turn.  She practically ruins the show for me, and often does.  Two weeks ago, the rodeo episode, when she rode in on a horse, I think I gagged audibly.  She is just the worst.  Sorry, moving on.

Herbed Bacon and White Bean Soup
4 or 5 strips of bacon (I used turkey but use whatever you prefer)
1 can rinsed and drained white beans/cannellini beans
1 carton of low sodium chicken broth
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 bay leaf
3/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried sage
salt and pepper

Heat up your pot with just a touch of oil, and once it's hot, add chopped bacon.  Cook until starting to crisp up, stirring frequently.  Add your onion, pinch of salt, and cook for another few minutes or until onion is starting to brown.  Then add garlic, celery, carrot, bay leaf, sage, rosemary, and another pinch of salt, and some pepper.  Cook for about 7 minutes or so, until veggies are softening.  Then throw in your beans, and cover with chicken broth.  Cook for 45 minutes.  The longer you let it sit, the better it will be.  If desired, use immersion blender to make a creamy soup!  Yum!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cherry Double Almond Cookies

It's really too bad that SF/GF cookies are usually so un-cookie like in appearance.  They may taste amazing and have great texture to boot- but typically you just don't get that nice round spread to them, they don't seem to flatten out, puff up, or brown like you want them to, or like you imagine a proper cookie would.  The "flours" are heavier and denser, and there is just no approximation for real sugar.  But that's ok!  Pretty they aren't, but yummy all the same.  And you don't have to feel quite so bad for eating them! 

I've baked with coconut flour quite a few times, and I make S coconut flour pancakes every Saturday, and I'm slowly figuring out how best to work with it.  It is just so stinking good for you, has tons of fiber, protein, but wayyyyyyyy less fat and calories than almond flour.  I won't lie, I've had some issues with the stuff.  It can be alternatingly mealy, cakey, eggy, or spongey.  Yuck yuck yuck and yuck.  It needs tons of liquid.  When you think you've added enough, add more.  These coconut chocolate chip cookies came out really good.  They are really more like little balls than cookies- I need to remember how little they spread and to press them down next time.  But if you want a chocolate chip cookie and don't want to use almond flour- check these out.  You'll be glad you did!

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten/Grain-Free)
1/4 cup coconut flour (room temp)
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, or coconut powder
1/4 cup sweetener, like stevia in the raw
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil (coconut, grapeseed, etc)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used 365 brand 72% dark chocolate chunks)
1/4 cup nuts (optional)

Preheat your oven to 375.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Mix your oil, eggs, sweetener, and vanilla together.  Add coconut, coconut flour, salt, and combine, then adding in chocolate chips and nuts, if using.  Don't overmix.  If your batter is looking too dry, add some (nut)milk.  Using a tbsp scoop, form balls and drop onto cookie sheet.  For a more cookie-like appearance, press them down with your palm.  They will not spread in the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are starting to turn golden brown.  To make this completely sugar-free, sub nuts/dried-fruit for chocolate chips, use SF chocolate chips, or create a SF chocolate ganache for dipping.  Makes about 12 small cookies.

My Cherry Double Almond Cookies were a good excuse to use up some blanched slivered almonds I'd had for awhile.  I don't really like almonds all that much and wasn't sure how to use them.  The dried cherries are nice and plump and are totally unsweetened (oh how I wish I could find unsweetened cranberries!) so these are truly SF.  MKG is in loooooooove with them!  They are very crunchy and crumbly and while a bit messy, have a great cookie texture.

Cherry Double Almond Cookies(Gluten/Grain-Free, Sugar-Free, Vegan)
1 1/4 cups almond flour
1/4 cup sweetener
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup oil
2 tbsp (nut)milk
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup dried cherries

Preheat your oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment.  In one bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl, mix oil, sweetener, and vanilla.  Add wet to dry.  At this point, you'll most likely need to add some liquid.  Try 2 tbsp of (nut)milk first and see how easily it comes together.  The mixture will be crumbly, but you want to be able to form into a ball with your hands.  Once it's reached the right consistency, add your cherries and nuts, or whatever fruit/nut combo you want!  Bake for roughly 20 minutes or until golden brown. 

If anyone has any tips for how to give your GF/SF cookies some spread, or some chew, like a regular cookie, let me know.  I've noticed even Elana's cookies don't appear to be much different than mine.  They certainly don't look like normal cookies.  I'd love to hear your GF baking tips, suggestions, and thoughts!  It's tricky isn't it?  But pretty rewarding too!

Have a great night, XoXoGFG

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Grain-Free Zucchini Pancakes (Latkes)

Traditionally during Chanukah a dish called latkes are served, which are basically potato pancakes, to remind us of the miracle of a single container of oil, lasting the Maccabee clan 8 days around 165 BCE when Judaism was outlawed in Jerusalem.  The latkes are fried in oil which stinks up your entire house for at least 8 days, again reminding you I guess of story of the Maccabees haha.  Many cultures have potato pancakes and they basically taste like a big round fried tater tot- how could that be bad?  But low-carb and GFG-friendly they are not!  So behold my Zucchini Latkes- Jewish or not- these are delish and also a great way to get kids to eat zucchini.

Grain-Free/Gluten-Free Low-Carb Zucchini Pancakes (Latkes)
2 small zucchini, or one very large zucchini, grated and water squeezed out
1 egg
1/4 cup parmesan
2 tablespoons chickpea flour (besan)
1/4 tsp paprika
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp minced garlic
EVOO for pan

Using your shredder attachment for your food processor, shred your zucchini.  Place in a large clean dishtowel and wring out as much water as possible.  Place in large mixing bowl.  Add to bowl one egg, salt and pepper, paprika, garlic, chickpea flour, and parmesan, and combine well.  You want it to have a thick batter consistency and stick together well.  If it's a bit watery, add a tsp more of your chickpea flour.  In a hot frying pan, add a tablespoon of EVOO and drop using tablespoon scoops onto hot pan.  You want the pan to be sizzling at this point.  With a spatula, spread the pancakes out evenly.  Flip after about 2 minutes, making sure each side is browned and crispy.  Serve with sour cream, applesauce, or eat plain!  They are really delish.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Breast

We all know how boring, bland, and dry plain boneless skinless chicken breast can  be.  Especially if it's been sitting in your freezer for awhile.  But, it's nothing some bacon can't fix!  Many recipes call for first pounding out your chicken, and rolling up some kind of elaborate stuffing into it- smoked gouda, swiss cheese, herbs, all kinds of things.  By all means, if you have the extra time and ingredients, go for it.  But if you're looking for a quick and budget friendly meal, this version is it!

Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Breast (Serves 2)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, patted dry
1 tbsp mayo
2 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper
5-6 slices of bacon, depending on how big the breasts are

Preheat your oven to 365.  In a foil lined baking dish, spray a little cooking spray to ensure nothing sticks.  Mix mayo and dijon in a small bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Slather may mixture onto chicken breasts liberally.  This will keep them moist and flavorful.  On a clean surface, lay your bacon strips down horizontally, then put your chicken breast down over them perpendicular to the bacon.  Wrap the strips around the chicken breast.  You don't really need to put toothpicks through them to keep them in place, but if you want to, go ahead.  Repeat for second chicken breast, or however many you're doing.  Now, I would not recommend using turkey bacon, as there is really not enough fat for them to crisp up nicely, and you'll end up with something more like smoked turkey wrapped chicken, which is fine, but not really what we're going for.  If that's all you have on hand, you could try brushing some EVOO or butter over the turkey bacon to help it crisp up in the oven.  Bake chicken breasts for 30 minutes or until the bacon is starting to brown.  Let it rest for a few minutes before slicing.  Served with some kale chips and salad, this was Wednesday night's dinner in a flash.  Best of all, clean up is easy- just remove the foil and you're done!

Bacon is sure getting ample time in the spotlight these days.  I'd say we are experiencing full-on bacon fanaticism.  Don't get me wrong, I love bacon, but people are really going all out nuts.  One awesome result from the bacon craze is that people are really starting to seek out sustainably raised, organically fed heritage pigs, and going back to nose-to-tail eating.  Utilizing every ounce of protein and fat from the animal humanly possible.  And why not?  If you have to kill an animal for food, do it with honor and respect for the animal, and use every bit of it you can. 

What are your favorite bacon recipes?  Bacon pancakes?  Bacon chocolate-chip cookies?  Bacon milkshakes?  I just recently made some egg muffins with bacon too.  Share your fave bacon recipes! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Crockpot Beef Stew

I finally did it!  Pulled out my ginormous crockpot I've had since one of my bridal showers over three years ago.  I don't know why but I was always a little hesitant to use it.  Maybe because it's such a beast.  Takes up a lot of space on the counter that's for sure.  Most beef stew recipes call for potatoes, which I left out.  I think that with plenty of vegetables (throw them in frozen even) you'll have a hearty meal all the same.  I made this recipe last Friday- but have had a not-so-fun stomach flu the past few days and eating/cooking has not been high up on my list of priorities.  Anyways- I will definitely be trying out many more recipes in the crockpot as this turned out great.  Just beware, if you've never used your crockpot before, don't assume the cooking time on the recipe will be true for your crockpot, and the size of the pot will also alter cooking speeds and how much liquid you need. 

Crockpot Beef Stew (Serves 3)
1 1/2 lbs beef stew meat
1 can of tomato paste
2 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper
1 package sliced button mushrooms
2 cups baby carrots
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 cup beef broth, vegetable broth, or water
1/2 tsp minced garlic
add frozen veggies as desired, green beans, asparagus, spinach, etc.

If you have time, brown your stew meat first in a bit of oil with S&P.  If you don't, no worries.  Into your crockpot, toss your beef, veggies, balsamic vinegar, seasonings, tomato paste, and broth.  Stir so tomato paste is well distributed.  If adding frozen veg, add these last.  Set your crockpot either to high for 4-5 hours or low for 6-8, depending on how big your crockpot is, how old it is, etc.  Super easy, and dinner done with almost no effort and NO DISHES!  Yeah!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Parmesan Broiled Tilapia

I'm pretty sure there was once a rule mandating that fish and cheese were not to be combined.  Maybe some old school Italian rule.  But paremsan and tilapia, or any mild white fish for that matter, go incredibly well together.  And it couldn't be easier.  Sprinkle some seasoned salt over your fish, heat up some EVOO in a pan, and cook 2 or 3 minutes per side, while your oven is preheating.  This entree takes about 15 minutes top to prepare.

Parmesan Broiled Tilapia
2 large tilapia or white fish filets
2 tsp seasoned salt (I used Curt's from Door County WI but use whatever you like!)
2 1/2 tbsp shredded parm, freshly grated or pre-grated, though fresh is preferable
2 tsp EVOO

Set your oven to broil.  While it's heating up, coat your fish on both sides with your seasoned salt.  Pour EVOO into saute pan and cook fish 2 or 3 min per side depending on how thick your fish is.  Transfer fish to a baking dish and sprinkle generously with parm, a sprinkle of black pepper would be great too.  Place in broiler for 3-5 minutes or until parm is starting to brown and bubble.  So delicious!  With a big helping of lemony asparagus, dinner is dunzo in minutes!

I actually like to buy frozen fish from Trader Joe's so I always have a healthy and super easy protein ready to go.  What's your favorite way to cook frozen fish?  I get sick of salmon pretty easily and am always looking for a nice flaky, mild white fish.  Let me know your favorite way to cook fish, and what your favorite kind of fish is!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bitter Chocolate, Cherry, and Sea Salt Coconut Bars

I am always looking for ways to incorporate more coconut into my diet.  I love the almost instant metabolism boost I seem to get from it and all those awesome medium-chain saturated fats.  Plus, I can get huge bags of unsweetened coconut powder (really just shredded coconut but a bit finer) at the Indian market for next to nothing.  I was a little skeptical about how these coconut bars would turn out, I had intended for them to be cookies but the mixture was so dry I decided to go for a bar instead.  What a happy accident it turned out to be!  With only a few ingredients and totally ridiculously yummy, you have got to get in the kitchen and try these out asap!

Bitter Chocolate, Dried Cherry, and Sea Salt Coconut Bars 
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 whole egg and 1 egg white
1/4 cup sweetener, like Stevia in the Raw
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup dried unsweetened cherries
1/3 cup unsweetened chocolate chunks, or dark chocolate chunks if you can tolerate a little sugar, or sugar free chocolate chips if you can find them
Optional- 1/3 cup white chocolate chips if you can have a little sugar, chopped pecans or walnuts, or other dried fruit
Sea Salt, for finishing

Preheat your oven to 350.  Grease a 9x9 pan.  In a large bowl, combine coconut, egg, vanilla, oil, and sweetener and mix well.  Add in cherries and chocolate and whatever else you're using.  Transfer to 9x9 and press down firmly to distribute in an even layer.  The mixture will be on the drier side but that's ok- the egg will pull it together.  Sprinkle sea salt over the top and bake for 25 minutes or so or until the top is golden brown.  Another idea would be to spread sugar free preserves over the top.  These bars easily fulfill all my requirements for the perfect homemade dessert.  One bowl, a handful of ingredients, hardly any clean-up, and soooooo yummy.  Do not omit the sea salt- that clean salty taste you get when you first bite into it is the best part!  I personally used 72% dark chocolate chunks but if you want to go sugar free all the way- use chopped unsweetened chocolate or sugar free chocolate chips, or even better, cocao nibs.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How was your Thanksgiving?

GFG just got back from Chi-town yesterday and barely made it to the g-store so no new recipes for now- but I'd love to hear how YOUR holiday was!  Any fun new recipes to share?  Healthy eating strategies you tested out?  We all like to indulge over the holidays and I am certainly no exception.  I had so much fun visiting with old friends, family, and watching S gobble up all the new and different foods she encountered.  We didn't end up having much time to shop but kept busy with lots of activities and exercise.  I also got to try uber-trendy restaurant The Publican for brunch on Sunday which was a rare treat.  They are huge into the nose-to-tail movement which I wholeheartedly applaud.  If you're around the West Loop, Greek Town, or find yourself in Fulton Market, check it out!  You won't be disappointed. 

While Thanksgiving has always been my fave holiday and by far, IMO, has the best food, the highlight of my trip was definitely all my adventures with S.  The Kohl's Children's Museum in Glenview, cabbage soup at The Bagel, visiting her namesake at the cemetery, running around Old Orchard, and meeting up with my best friend HJP to play at the park.  I hope you all had an awesome Thanksgiving!  I have pinned about a thousand recipes over the past week or so, and have a lot to do in the kitchen!  Have a great night, XoXoGFG

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sweet Potato Pie and Two No-Recipe Recipes (Cauliflower Puree and another yummy steak marinade)- Plus tips for navigating the holiday dinner table

The blogosphere abounds with pumpkin pie recipes right now- vegan ones, paleo ones, low-carb, high-carb, no sugar, unrefined sugar, you name it.  I wanted to make one myself but have also had some organic sweet potato puree in my pantry for some time, thinking maybe I'd give it to S one day in a pinch, and I thought it was time to use it.  So GFG Sweet Potato Pie was born!

No Sugar Sweet Potato Pie
2 1/2 cups nuts (I used a mixture of blanched almond, walnut, and pecan)
4 dates
2 tsp coconut oil
pinch of salt

1 can sweet potato puree
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
40 drops vanilla creme stevia
1 1/2 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Pulse first 4 ingredients in a food processor until mixture is starting to come together but still crumbly.  Press firmly into pie tin.  You'll want to make sure you get the crust up the sides of the tin.  Bake for 15 minutes and remove from oven.  While crust is baking, beat eggs in a bowl and add milk, and stevia.  In separate bowl, mix puree, salt, and pumpkin pie spice until well incorporated, then add wet mixture and combine well.  When crust is finished, pour filling into crust and bake for about 50 minutes or until the middle is just starting to set.  Let cool for at least two hours before eating.  If you're in the mood for a fall-ish dessert and are tired of pumpkin, this is a great alternative.  I can't eat very much, as sweet potato is kind of a carb train-wreck, but it's great for a party and can be dressed up with pretty pecans, some coconut whipped cream, or regular whipped cream.

Another recipe making the rounds right now is mashed cauliflower.  This time of year many of us have a hankering for mashed potatoes.  I can't say I miss mashed potatoes too much, I miss french fries and potato chips much more, but if you want that creamy, buttery taste, this is an awesome option for you, and is incredibly easy.  You really can't call it a recipe.  Steam a whole head of cauliflower until very tender, then mash with whatever you have on hand.  Pour in some whole milk and a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper, and you're golden.  Great for babies too!

We have become big fans of top round steak.  Number 1, you can't get much cheaper, and #2, very very lean.  You do need to marinate these suckers because they are pretty tough.  My latest marinade consisted of:
1 1/2 tsp Vietnamese garlic chili paste
1/4 cup Worcestershire
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 green onions, chopped finely
1/2 tsp black pepper

After 4-6 hours marinating you'll have a very tender steak.  All it needs is 4-5 minutes per side on the grill/stove top and you're dunzo. 

With Thanksgiving only days away, I'm reminded of the usual weird mix of emotions it used to stir up.  Excitement to see my family and go home, looking forward to all the yummy home-cooked dishes and annual "I'm thankful for..." game we played at the table, the craziness and utter chaos of my entire enormous, ridiculous, neurotic, and utterly insane Jewish family all at the same place at the same time, but also, trepidation and anxiety about the food, overeating and feeling gross, gaining weight, etc.  Last thanksgiving I was nursing so didn't much care what I ate or how much because it hardly mattered, but in previous years it was always a minefield.  I'm sure many of us still feel like that.  In fact, any event where eating was the main attraction used to make me go a little nuts.  Too many obstacles, too many opportunities to overindulge and then deal with the requisite guilt that surely followed.  Ugh and that god-awful overstuffed feeling, ick!

Is this ringing any bells?  Who else has felt like that?  Have you found a way to deal with it?  There is no right or wrong answer.  I know that for me, I never ever have those anxious, fearful feelings anymore.  Doesn't matter what the occasion or how many temptations there will be.  I have finally found what works for me and can breathe easily in these situations now.  Eliminating grains and sugar has literally saved my mind.  Many people just don't get it.  One of my friends in particular cannot get it through her head that I just don't eat grains, sugars, and starches.  The idea is totally unfathomable and she thinks that I subsist on lettuce and chicken.  And even though I eat more now than I ever have in the past, some people are convinced that I starve myself.  A lot of people are just never going to understand.  And that's fine, who cares!  Here is how I navigate the shark-infested waters of an EATING EVENT.
-If necessary, do some preparation before-hand.  I do it for S anyhow so it's no extra trouble.  Do you need to bring any extra veggies?  Dip?  Cheese?  Nuts?
-If possible, try to figure out what will be served to ensure there will be a couple options for you.  If you truly have to avoid certain foods like wheat/dairy/gluten/soy/eggs or have blood sugar issues, perhaps a few minutes on the phone with the host would be best.
-Offer to bring a dish that you know will be a crowd-pleaser but is also appropriate for your diet.  For instance, if you are helpless against dessert, bring your own GFG-approved delicacy to share.
-I prefer to arrive hungry so I can enjoy eating a nice big meal just like everyone else.  I know a lot of people will conversely suggest you have a snack before arriving so you don't risk chowing down on a bunch of crap you shouldn't eat, but this is counter-intuitive to me.  I want to feel like a normal person and I don't like drawing attention to my special diet.  The fastest way to ensure people are hounding you about your diet, asking stupid questions, and making uninformed remarks, is to stick out like a sore thumb and nibble on celery all night while everyone else is indulging.  So I prefer to go in with a big appetite and go in for seconds if I feel like it.
-The key to going in with a big appetite is creating a game plan once you see the spread.  Thanksgiving is actually super easy if you're grain/gluten free or on a primal or modified primal diet.  Duh, as much turkey as you want.  There is usually a couple green veggies to choose from, you may have to eat around some of the accoutrements  (fried onions, croutons etc) but for the most part, you should have some decent veggie options.  Certainly squash and sweet potatoes aren't off limits (unless you've got glucose issues) and you may even get lucky and have some kind of salad available too.  Usually there will also be nuts and cheese as hors d'oeuvres that you can load up on as well.  That is quite a lot of food.  So check out the spread, and visualize your plate from there. If you eat until you're satisfied, you'll have less temptation to "try" a bunch of sugary shit afterwards.  And honestly, most of it you've had a million times before.  It's not like this year's cheesecake would be mind-blowingly spectacular and unmissable.

Of course you cannot control how every single dish is prepared.  The sweet potatoes may have brown sugar on them, the cranberry compote will have some sugar too.  You cannot control these things.  You are going to have to decide for yourself how important those indulgences are.  I think you'll find that once you're accustomed to not eating sugar, that sugary foods you used to like don't taste the same anymore.  Now, the sugar is overpowering and it's all you can taste, yuck.  You might not care if you don't eat the sugary stuff.  Or you might really miss it.  So have a little.  Will it kill you?  Nope.  It's up to you to decide.  I know I used to loooooooooooove stuffing.  I was a carb addict, and that was a biggie.  Thinking about it now- ew.  All those starches turning into glucose instantly- no thanks.  But we all have to weigh the pros and cons and be accountable.  All I can say is that you have free rein to load up on turkey and veggies to your heart's content.  Do that, and you probably won't have room for anything else. 

Tell me how you cope with the holidays and abundance of carby, stachy, sugary treats?  What are your tricks?  And by all means, put links to your recipes in the comments!  Have a great holiday and enjoy!  We all have much to be thankful for.  XoXoGFG

Monday, November 14, 2011

No Sugar Creme Brulee Ice Cream

Just because you no longer eat sugar doesn't mean you can't find a way to indulge every once in awhile- and I don't mean the odd piece of fruit here and there either.  While real creme brulee at home is not something I'm too interested in- I was successful at making some awesome creme brulee flavored ice cream at home!  If you have an ice cream maker- definitely give this a try. 

Creme Brulee Ice Cream
6 egg yolks
4 cups whole milk
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
8-10 packets of stevia (I used purevia)
pinch of salt

Separate egg yolks in a mixing bowl and whisk with electric whisk/beater until the yolks are a light yellow color, will take a couple minutes or so.  Empty contents of stevia packets into yolks and incorporate well.  In a saucepan, heat up milk until it's just simmering, and remove.  With a ladle, slowly and carefully pour milk into yolks, stirring continuously.  Go really slow and take your time, this part is a bit tedious but better to go slowly than get scrambled eggs!  Once all the milk has been added, pour mixture back into saucepan over med heat.    You'll want to keep stirring and wait for the mixture to thicken, and coat the back of your spoon.  It will start to resemble a custard.  Once it has thickened, remove from heat and add cinnamon, pinch of salt, and vanilla.  Stir to combine, and then strain to make sure there are no solids.  Pour into a large bowl and refrigerate over night.  The next day, prepare according to your ice cream makers instructions, and you'll have delish softserve creme brulee ice cream in about 25 minutes.  If you'd like it to harden a bit more, place in freezer for about 2-3 hours.  Overnight, it will harden quite a lot, so you'll need to leave it out on the counter for 30 minutes or so before eating.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

No Sugar Turkey Sloppy Joes

After realizing I had basically no ingredients to prepare any of the ground turkey recipes I googled, I decided to try my hand at sloppy joes.  I might be the only person in America who has never actually had sloppy joes, but they've always looked pretty good.  MKG has had plenty of sloppy joes and was slurping up the juice.  S also enjoyed them.  Once again, super easy and super fast.  I even managed to make most of it one-armed, as S is teething pretty badly and wailed every time I put her down. 

No Sugar Turkey Sloppy Joes
1, to 1 1/4 lbs ground turkey
1 cup ketchup (I used my homemade version but I hear WF has no sugar ketchup)
1 can diced tomatoes and juice
2 tbsp Worcestershire
3 tsp yellow mustard
2 tbsp raspberry balsamic vinegar
S&P to taste

Most Sloppy Joe recipes call for a few key ingredients.  Ketchup/tomato sauce/paste, onion, and vinegar.  Then there are varying degrees of sugar and/or barbecue sauce, or even grape jelly.  I didn't want to use conventional ketchup and also did not want to use any sugar, so instead of regular vinegar, why not raspberry balsamic?!  It worked out GREAT!  I would definitely recommend it in place of sugar.  If you have an onion, by all means, dice it up and brown it in your saute pan, then adding in the ground turkey.  Once the turkey is browned (I poured some of the fat out, I don't like how the grease looks in the bowl!) add in your ketchup, diced tomatoes with juice, mustard, worst, balsamic, and salt and pepper.  Make sure the seasonings are to your liking, and add more liquids if you desire.  Then bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced and thickened.  By now, we are so accustomed to breadless meals that we really don't miss buns at all, and happily, this is a great meal in a bowl.  I threw in some spinach at the last minute to bulk it up a bit, or you could serve this over a bed of lettuce.

GFG has been having a tough couple of weeks.  I am trying to roll with the punches and maintain good spirits and stay positive, and remind myself that things always have a way of working themselves out.  I am a control freak though, and nothing scares me more than the unknown.  I think of what's going to happen and obsess over how things are going to play out, creating endless scenarios in my head.  I think too much.  I've always been jealous of people who just are.  There are just a few too many unknowns for this crazy-lady to handle right now, and I am having a difficult time managing.  But then I think, gosh if my problems I'm having right now are the worst I'll ever have, then I have ZERO to complain about.  Based on the fact that I actually am spending time writing about sloppy joes, I'd have to say I can't be doing too bad.  I guess that's what I truly love about cooking and nutrition.  How it can transcend a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, bad whatever.  You can control the ingredients and cooking preparation and create something totally original and unique and be proud of it.  Even better when it's good for you.  That's pretty cool, and I feel a lot of gratitude that I found something I love that is so rewarding for me.  I hope it's that way for you too!  Have a great weekend, XoXoGFG

Ina-Inspired Chicken Piccata with Lemon and Wine Sauce

As we all know, I love Ina Garten.  I adore her.  She seems like such a fun, sweet, happy person, and is usually no muss no fuss in the kitchen.  She's not overly fancy and she seems to generally enjoy life.  Although, with a life like hers, how could you not?!  Her husband is only home on weekends, and the rest of the time she's entertaining her fabulous group of Hampton notables and a steady crew of her gays!  Anyways- you'd be surprised how many of her recipes are paleo, or can easily be adapted to paleo.  Vegan, not so much.  The other day I pinned a chicken piccata recipe of hers and was excited to give it a try.  Even though I was using frozen chicken breasts, it worked out great.  Another win for Ina!  I've had a half-full bottle of wine in the fridge for awhile and wanted to get some good use out of it- so decided to make the sauce too.  Here is the original recipe.  Don't let the fact that you need to pound the chicken first scare you.  It takes all of two minutes and you don't need any special equipment.  I used a heavy plastic cup.

Ina Inspired Chicken Piccata with Lemon Wine Sauce, Grain-Free
2 chicken breasts, dried very well, and pounded out so they're equally thick, about 1/4 inch
2 cups almond flour
1 tsp each sea salt and pepper
1 room temp egg, beaten
2 tbsp water
2 tsp EVOO or butter
If you have any fresh herbs they'd be great too
Juice of one lemon
3/4 cup wine

Make sure your chicken breasts are the same thickness and very dry.  Beat your eggs with the 2 tbsp of water in a bowl.  On a plate, combine almond flour with salt and pepper.  Get another plate to put the chicken on once they're coated.  Dunk your chicken into the beaten egg and then coat it well on both sides with almond flour.  You'll want the chicken to be nice and crispy so don't be stingy with the coating!  Place the coated chicken breast on the empty plate, and repeat with second breast.  In a large skillet or saute pan, melt your butter or oil until it's sizzling.  Put both pieces of chicken in the pan, you want to hear it sizzle immediately.  Cook your chicken breasts 3 or 4 minutes per side, until the it's nice and browned, then flip.  Once the chicken is finished, remove it so you can start the sauce.  Add your white wine (something dry) and lemon juice, then put the rinds in too.  Cook for a few minutes until it starts to thicken, then spoon over chicken breasts.  This is an easy recipe that seems quite complicated and fancy, but it's not!  And for those of us who miss fried chicken, this is very slightly reminiscent.  A great choice for little mouths too because the chicken gets very tender from pounding.  With a salad, this was dinner done in less than 20 minutes.

Tonight is Friday night, and we usually stay in and do shabbat.  I have a bunch of frozen ground turkey.  What to make????  Any fun new recipes with ground meat you've tried lately???

Happy Friday!  And happy pinning!  I am loving being able to pin all my fave food bloggers recipes I want to try.  You can follow my pins at XoXoGFG!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2-Minute Grain-Free Coconut Cookies

These cookies took all of 2 minutes to throw together, one bowl, and only a handful of ingredients.  20 minutes in the oven, and you're done.  Try them!

2-Minute Grain-Free Coconut Cookies
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut (I used powdered, but flakes will work too)
2 tbsp oil (grapeseed, coconut, whatever)
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
25 drops vanilla creme stevia, or use 1/4 tsp vanilla and 2 stevia packets

Beat room temp eggs, then add in oil, stevia, cinnamon, and salt.  Once incorporated, add coconut in a little at a time until the mixture can be formed into balls easily.  Using 1 tbsp scoop, drop onto parchment lined baking sheet.  I sprinkled the tops of mine with extra cinnamon.  20 minutes later, you're done!  Enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Curried Pumpkin Soup

As I've said many times, GFG does NOT waste food!  That extends to the squash assortment I purchased for a fall centerpiece!  I had some sugar pumpkins lying around, and knowing they'd go bad soon, I figured- pumpkin soup! why not?!  Even better, more crunchy salty pumpkin seeds! 

First, you'll need to roast your pumpkins.  The pumpkins should be the smaller pumpkin pie pumpkins, or sugar pumpkins, not the big carving ones.  Cut a circle around the stem and then pull the stem out, then halve down the middle, and proceed to scoop out the stringy guts and seeds.  The seed are awesome, don't throw them out!  Once you've cleaned them out, place skin side down on a foil lined baking sheet, and preheat the oven to 350.  Rub the insides with EVOO and sprinkle with sea salt.  Roast for about 70-80 minutes or until a fork will pierce it easily.  The soup is easy peasy from here.

Curried Pumpkin Soup
Flesh from two roasted pumpkins, or two cans of pumpkin puree
4 cups chicken stock
1 can light coconut milk
4 strips of turkey bacon (optional)
one small onion, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
Salt and Pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp garam masala

In a large pot, saute onions until yellow.  Add in bacon (if using), garlic, and stir for another minute or so.  Add seasonings, and stir for 2 or 3 more minutes.  Now, add pumpkin, coconut milk, and chicken stock, and stir.  Check your salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.  I love salt and salty foods so I added quite a bit, and also quite a lot of pepper, because I like things spicy.  My roast pumpkin was a bit on the bland side, so needed a lot of seasoning.  At this point, bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes.  Then, use your immersion blender to puree until it's nice and creamy, or pour into a blender if you don't have an immersion blender.  Et voila!  S ate a huge bowl of it, mixed with yogurt for some protein.  Personally, I think some Curried Pumpkin and Bacon Soup would have been even better!  So if you have some, dice it up and throw it in with the onion for even more depth of flavor.  Yum!

Are you getting pumpkin'd out yet?  I'm on the verge.  But really, who can resist all that orange squashy goodness!?  XoXoGFG

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Salmon with Asian-Inspired Sauce, Snap Peas and Water Chestnuts

This has been a pretty horrible week- not going to lie.  I made these recipes I'm not sure what day, the whole week kind of runs together in my head.  Some weeks are going to be like that though right?  Good news is, I just went to an insanely hard Bar Method class, it was free as the studio has just opened up, and all that hard work released some major endorphins, so definitely feeling a little better now.  What do you do when times are tough?  Cooking is always therapeutic for me, but when I'm really upset, the thought of it irritates me!

I had some frozen salmon and snap peas and some water chestnuts that I wanted to use.  On a recent epi of Barefoot Contessa, my fave, she made a super quick side dish with snap peas and water chestnut.  And I had pinned an asian sauce preparation I was anxious to try.  The meal was ready in about 15 minutes, super easy, and really yummy.

Salmon and Asian Inspired Sauce
2 large salmon fillets, grilled, broiled, or seared to preferred doneness
1 bag frozen snap peas
1 small can of water chestnuts
2 green onions, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
3 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp soy sauce
4 tsp peanut butter
1 tsp sriracha
1/4 cup water

You'll need one saute pan and one small pot.  In the saute pan, with a bit of oil, begin sauteing chopped green onions and garlic.  After a few minutes, toss in snap peas.  I was lazy and threw them in frozen.  Let cook for a few minutes, then add 1 of the teaspoons of sesame oil.  After 3 or 4 minutes, toss in drained water chestnuts.  I wanted the veggies to brown, so I sauteed mine for quite awhile.  In your pot, add 2 tsp remaining sesame oil, soy sauce, water, rice wine vinegar, sriracha (or vietnamese garlic chili paste) and peanut butter.  Stir to incorporate, and bring to a low boil.  Turn down to simmer for a few minutes, before pouring over salmon, and vegetables.  So easy, and really delicious.

Fall has truly arrived, and it's time to get a few more visits to the park in before it's too cold.  Fresh air and crisp leaves can cheer anyone up- so I'm off!  Have a great weekend, XoXoGFG!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spaghetti (Squash) and Meatballs, Apple Crumble Bars

Living GF has its ups and downs.  I would say, 98% ups.  The 2% downs mostly are due to my regularly occurring baking disasters.  Thursday night was the latest in a long string of these unfortunate wastes of perfectly good ingredients.  At this point, I have tried at least 4 different grain-free brownie recipes and it seems, it really is not going to happen.  I am done trying to create a yummy, chocolatey, fudgy brownie.  My favorite dessert, ever.  No matter what, it's either too dry, too cakey, too bland, too bitter, or too nutty tasting due to all the nutbutters.  This final and last attempt involved using "date-paste" as the sweetener and needless to say, turned out horribly.  I really am so upset about this.  But cocoa powder alone cannot create the consistency I'm looking for and an almond flour brownie just sounds wrong.  I had intended to bring said brownies over to our friends for dinner Friday night- and instead had to show up empty-handed, although that certainly was better than the alternative!

Anyways- I am happy to report that I redeemed myself today with two successful GFG approved creations.

Go get yourself a spaghetti squash and make this NOW!  I have to say I never cared much for pasta but I absolutely love marinara, every single kind of it- so this was a great opportunity to use quite a bit.  I was skeptical about the taste of squash and marinara together, and the texture too.  I was soooooooo pleasantly surprised.  This dish was incredibly easy and did not dissappoint in any way. Seriously- try it!

Spaghetti (Squash) and Meatballs
1 squash, halved lengthwise, seeded, and drizzled with EVOO and S&P
1 jar of your fave (homemade, store-bought, whatev) marinara
Prepared meatballs (click here for my Giada-inspired Meatballs)

Preheat oven to 350.  On a foil lined baking sheet, place both halves of squash cut side up.  Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and pepper generously.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours.  Once it's finished, let it sit for 10-20 minutes so it can cool enough to handle.  Into a bowl, use a fork to scrape out all the "noodles."  If you want, sprinkle with some parm, EVOO, more S&P.  At this point, I dumped the warmed marinara and meatballs into the bowl and tossed everything together.  These days, there are great frozen, pre-cooked turkey meatballs at the store.  I got some from TJ's that I really liked, and they are a great quick protein for S.  Dinner was a breeze.  Of course, if you are planning on making meatballs anyways- why not make a double batch and freeze a bunch?!  Same goes for sauce.  It freezes great.  If a nice big plate of pasta and sauce sounds good to you, seriously try this.  It was hearty, filling, and a fun new take on spaghetti.

We had a few too many apples lying around so I decided to make a quick crumble.  Thanks to my new convection oven I was able to roast the squash, bake the crumble, and roast pumpkin seeds at the same time.  Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!  The recipe for the crumble originated at Chocolate-Covered Katie.  I changed it significantly and while I'm sure it pales in comparison to hers (which uses flour, brown sugar, and maple syrup) this version is really not bad at all!  I also recently made an Apple and Cherry Crumble that was quite good too.
Apple Crumble Bars (Vegan, grain-free, sugar-free)
1 1/2 cups almond flour
2 tbsp nut milk
3 tbsp vegan butter, like earth balance
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup stevia in the raw
2 cups chopped apple
15 drops Vanilla Creme Stevia
3 tbsp Orange Juice

Grease a 4x7 baking dish or casserole.  Combine flour, nut milk, cold vegan butter, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and stevia in a bowl.  Spread 2/3 of the mixture on the bottom of the dish.  In another bowl, toss apples with OJ (or just more nut milk) and Vanilla Creme Stevia.  Pour apples into the dish and then sprinkle remaining crumble mixture over the apples.  Bake 45-50 minutes until the top is golden.  No question- the addition of brown sugar and maple syrup is going to have a superior "crumble" taste.  The almond flour I can promise though, is a welcome addition.  I personally never bake with sugar anymore so wouldn't even try it- but for those of you watching your sugars, this is a fabulous approximation!  Hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and have a fantastic Halloween tomorrow! XoXoGFG

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spinach and Feta Salmon Patties

I am a big fan of HEAB, especially her baby-friendly recipes, and recently she mentioned salmon balls or salmon dip that her baby really liked.  This got me thinking of some ways to use this giant can of salmon I've had in the pantry for awhile.  I also had half a block of feta in the fridge, leftover from feta egg muffins, and wanted to throw that in too.  These salmon patties were super simple, and best of all, S scarfed it up.  It was a great way to get a protein AND veggie in at the same time.

Spinach and Feta Salmon Patties
8-10 oz of frozen, thawed and drained chopped spinach
4-6 oz of feta, crumbled
1 14 oz can of salmon (if you get the kind with skin/bones like I did, you can leave it all in for added nutrients, although I tried to pick most of it out)
1 beaten egg
juice of one lemon
sea salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp mayo

Combine everything except the egg in a large bowl and make sure you have the seasonings right.  Once it's to your liking, add in a beaten egg and combine.  Form into patties about the size of your palm and place on foil/parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 30-35 minutes at 375, or until the top is starting to brown.  This made 6 patties for me- but may make more depending on how much spinach you use.  Enjoy! XoXoGFG

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chicken Adobo and Kale Chips

I am the latest convert to Kale Chips!  I was soooo pleasantly surprised by the taste, texture, and ease of preparation.  I'm looking forward to trying them again some time with nooch!  This version of chicken adobo is probably an abomination of the traditional Philippine dish but it was easy and tasted great.

Kale Chips
1 bunch kale (I prefer curly) ripped/chopped into bite sized pieces
1 tbsp EVOO
salt and pepper to taste, garlic powder, onion salt, whatever spices you like

Preheat oven to 300.  Place kale on baking sheet and pour EVOO over, then sprinkling spices.  Coat kale evenly and bake for about 30-33 minutes.  Start checking at 25 min or so and see how you're doing.  You do not want these suckers to burn!

GFG's Chicken Adobo
4 pieces chicken, split breasts, thighs, etc
1 cup water
1 cup soy sauce (if you have gluten sensitivities make sure you are using gluten free!)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar (or white wine)
cracked pepper
3 bay leaves
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 large onion, sliced

 I marinated my chicken for a few hours in the fridge.  Take them out 30 min before cooking to let them cook to room temp.  Brown each piece of chicken in your skillet/dutch oven, about 4 min per side, and then pour marinade over and cover for about 20 minutes.  To make life easier, I also through a bunch of frozen vegetables in the dutch oven.  Use what you got!  Simple and tangy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Grain-Free, Sugar-Free Raspberry Cookie Bars!

Totally switching gears- we had plans last night to go to dinner with two other couples and then head back to casa GFG for drinks/dessert.  Yes GFG has a drink once in awhile and no it's not the end of the world, though I do usually regret it the next day.  Oh well.  Anyways- we had to schelp S along with us to dinner and we probably should have guessed how it was going to turn out.  She is teething pretty bad and at this point we know better than to make her wait even a minute passed 6:30pm to eat dinner.  Combine the two and it's a recipe for a meltdown.  Soooooooooo MKG ended up taking her home while I stayed and hung out with our friends!  Don't ask me how that ended up happening!  Anyways- I wanted to have a few choices for dessert and made one regular dessert and one GFG-approved dessert. 

Grain-Free, Sugar-Free Raspberry Cookie Bars
1 cup almond meal/flour
2 egg whites
2 tbsp butter
1 can coconut milk
10 drops vanilla creme stevia
3/4 cup raspberry just fruit spread (or strawberry, or whatever you have)
3/4 cup chopped pecans, or walnuts, or hazelnuts etc
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
3/4 cup chopped sugar free chocolate covered almonds (they sell these at TJ's)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 9x9 with parchment.  Combine almond meal with egg whites and butter and then spread mixture evenly on parchment to make a very thin crust.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until it starts to turn golden.  While it's in the oven, pour your coconut milk into a pot and add stevia.  Cook for 25-30 minutes until it's realllllly thick and condensed.  Once you've removed the crust and let it cool for a minute, sprinkle coconut, chopped nuts, fruit spread, and chocolate covered almonds liberally.  Pour condensed milk over toppings, then sprinkle a bit more coconut over the top.  Bake for about 30 minutes.  The cookie bars are killer!  Really delicious with a thick cookie crust.  I personally really liked the strange combo.  This would be awesome too with apricot spread, dried cherries, and chopped almonds.  If you are lucky enough to have sugar free choc chips on hand, throw those in too!  Or some peanuts and blobs of PB.  Go crazy! 

Taking the First Steps to Better Nutrition

So my best friend in the world since I was 3 YEARS OLD (!!!!!) also has some gluten intolerances and asked me yesterday,"how do you do it?"

 There are a million sites out there that will, in excruciating detail, pinpoint every single product you should avoid when going gluten free.  But that to me immediately gets you started off on the wrong foot.  (Though it can be super helpful once you've really decided to go all out.  Here is a helpful link once you're really ready.  But if you aren't ready yet, this will only deflate you!  So don't look yet in that case! Your nutrition should not be about avoidance and denial.  It's not about what you can't eat.  It's about how eating certain foods can actually make you feel better, look better, and improve your overall mental and physical health, and focusing on mainly those foods.  If your diet previously consisted of mostly carbs, it may be a difficult transition at first.  I know it's hard to convince yourself that eating fat is ok, and even healthy!  So, how do you do it?

As with anything else, this is mostly a mental, rather than physical hurdle.  You have to mentally prepare yourself to completely reverse your way of eating and be ok with it.  We have been told since birth to eat a high carb, low fat diet.  Eliminating most carbs and incorporating fat into your diet is going to sound insane at first.  So give yourself a few weeks to just think about it.  Eat the same foods you've always eaten, and start paying special attention to how you feel after.  If you eat a big starchy carby meal, think about how you look and feel after a few hours, the next day.  If you eat a bunch of sugary snacks, ask yourself if you feel sleepy afterwards, and then almost instantly hungry and thirsty again shortly thereafter.  Don't change anything, just evaluate what you eat and how it makes you feel.  Sounds simple enough, but it's amazing how many of us simply ignore how the food we eat makes us feel, and the fact that there's a correlation at all.  After you've done this for a few weeks, and given yourself a chance to realize that "hey this crap really is making me feel terrible," I bet you'll be able to start changing your diet pretty easily.  But make changes before you're ready, and you risk giving up too soon.

So it's been a few weeks, and you've begun to realize maybe you could feel better, maybe the lethargy and bloat is pretty annoying, and you want to feel cleaner, leaner, and lighter.  What should you do?
1. Drop packaged foods from your diet.  Cookies, chips, crackers, snacks, bars, cereals, junk.  Stop buying it.  You'll save money that can be put towards quality produce and lean proteins.  If you have a ton of junk in your kitchen, start getting rid of it.  If you love snacks and treats, well you're in luck, because this blog as well as thousands of others have a trillion awesome recipes that are grain-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, you name it.

2. Start reading food labels, if you don't already.  Don't just look at calories.  How many grams of sugar does it have?  Unfortunately labels don't distinguish between natural sugars (fructose in fruit, lactose in dairy) and added, but normally I shoot for 0 grams of added sugar.  How many grams of protein does it have?  How many carbs does it have?  Are the carbs from dietary fiber, or sugar?  One serving of protein is about 7 grams.  Shoot for at least 45-50 grams of protein a day, if not more.  That should really be the bare minimum.  What is the first ingredient listed? Is it sugar?  Wheat?  Soy?  Corn?  Don't eat it!  If you're going gluten free, you'll be surprised by just how many products contain wheat. 

3. Think ahead with respect to meals.  Don't leave it until the very last second, once you're starving, to get your meal together.  At least in the beginning.  You want your plate to be colorful, and consist of about half produce, half protein.  Everyone says you should shop the grocery store perimeter, which is a good tip.  But not always the most practical.  Instead, my freezer is STOCKED with frozen veg/fruit.  Like, overflowing.  Nowadays frozen veg can be even fresher than what's in the produce section, owing to it being flash frozen right after harvesting.  Don't shy away from it.  A few seconds in the microwave and you're good to go.  Meals don't need to be elaborate to be filling and satisfying.  Yesterday I had an organic turkey hot dog with some melted cheese and some defrosted green beans with oil and S&P.  Took all of 4 minutes.  No big deal!  With an apple after, you'll be set for three or four hours.  Concentrate on splitting your plate in half.  One half of the plate vegetables (or fruit, or some beans) and one half lean protein.  Make as much as you can ahead of time too.  Big pots of chicken chili, a batch of egg muffins, and a big container of cooked lentils will get you through the week.  Canned chickpeas and cannellini beans are my best friends, and so is tuna packed in olive oil, light string cheese, yogurt, hummus, turkey bacon, and eggs.  A couple minutes of planning can translate to multiple meals/snacks that are ready almost immediately.  And that is the key to staying on track and not snacking mindlessly on crap.  The freezer section at TJ's is my mecca.  Frozen pre-cooked turkey meatballs, every frozen veg imaginable, fruit for protein smoothies, cheap frozen fish, honestly- there's not too much else you need!

4. Get used to spending some time in the kitchen, especially to do a little prep-work to save yourself time later.  I happen to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but that's because I enjoy it.  If you don't, no big deal.  If you have a free hour just one day a week, get in the kitchen and try roasting a whole chicken to eat all week.  (Don't want to?  Costco has big roasted chickens for $4.99.)  Save the bones for stock later on.  Make a batch of lentils, bake some egg muffins, make some chili or stew, or even roast a ton of vegetables.  When you're strapped for time all week or tired at the end of the day, and have a couple different options ready to go, you'll feel like a million bucks.  Other awesome alternatives are bagged salads (I know I know they're not ideal) that you can quickly add some roasted red peppers, capers, olives, and carrots to, all from the fridge.  Whatever you do, just try to take a little bit of time in the beginning of the week to do some planning.  You'll be glad you did.

5.  Try to change your perception of what a "meal" is.  A meal can look like many things.  It might be a green apple with peanut butter and some carrots.  It might be cottage cheese and berries with a salad.  Turkey and sliced cheese rolled up and sweet potato.  Whatever!  It's not weird.  Your taste buds are going to change, and so will your cravings.  Sunflower and pumpkin seeds and some spinach with lemon juice?  A protein shake with blackberries and coconut milk?  Food doesn't need to come out of a package or look "normal" to be good.  And keep in mind "normal" is why most people are sick, and fat.  If you can honestly look at a burger and fries or a bowl of sugary cereal and tell me that looks better, then take a minute to reflect on why you're even reading this I guess!

6. Understand that the quantity of food you might want is going to change.  Do not feel guilty making a huge salad and eating the whole thing.  They say a serving of chicken/meat is about 4 ounces.  Um, no way.  Try twice that, at least.  Not sure what to have for dinner?  There are nights I throw an entire bag of frozen veggies in a saute pan and have the whole thing.  And don't be afraid of fat.  Use some olive oil, enjoy egg yolks, have a little butter, cook with whole milk, eat some nuts or coconut butter and relax knowing you're going to be full and satisfied for awhile.  The only thing I'd watch out for is how much fruit you eat.  Better to treat fruit as a dessert or treat for the end of a meal.  But if you have a snack attack, certainly an apple or bunch of grapes is better than pretzels or chips.

To me, these things aren't a big deal.  I have a family so even if I didn't want to think ahead for myself, I'd have to so I could feed M and S for the week.  That makes it easier for sure.  But there's no getting around it.  Changing your nutrition and your life takes some effort and takes some thought.  You simply cannot grab a granola bar, a sugary drink from starbucks, a muffin, or a sandwich anymore.  You need to give yourself a few minutes in the morning to plan out your day, and leave as little to chance as possible.   Once you have fully realized that the way you're eating is detrimental to your health, and you've decided that it's time to start feeling better, that's when you're ready to start making these changes.  Until then, don't even bother! If you are still lamenting all the foods you'd have to give up, or how it might change your social life, you're probably not ready.  And that's ok.  You'll come around when the time is right.  Until then, even making a few small changes can do a world of good.  Try having a handful of nuts instead of a bag of chips, or an orange instead of a sweet.  It makes a difference, and it adds up over time.  Most of all, cut yourself some slack, and don't beat yourself up.  There's no perfect diet and no one right way to do something.  It doesn't have to be all or nothing.  Do the best you can most of the time and you'll be in great shape.  XoXoGFG