Sunday, July 31, 2011

Port Fonda, Grunauer, and Tannin Wine Bar

This weekend we had the rare opportunity to get out on the town Saturday night and enjoy a few of KC's newer haunts.  Sitting on the patio at the Freighthouse, overlooking Union Station and the Union Pacific trains that kept rolling by, I was suddenly so happy and impressed by the cultural and culinary renaissance taking place here.  With the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opening soon, a growing locavore, slow, and organic food movement going on, new food trucks popping up everywhere, and of course, TJ's- I am feeling more and more proud of my adopted home every day.  Of course, now that baby S is in the picture we have a little bit less time to get out and explore- which is why we have to make every minute count when we do have a night out!  Although we didn't eat- we visited Grunauer in the freighthouse- great patio and train-watching.  It was actually a somewhat pleasant night- being only in the 90's.  Afterwards it was off to Tannin Wine Bar in the crossroads for EMB's 29th, followed by a late-night stop at PORT FONDA!!!  I am soooooooo stinkin glad we did that!  Now certainly GFG wasn't going to slip up, especially after wayyyyy too many glasses of wine (yes, I felt horrendous all day today- sugar hangover plus real hangover = sad GFG.) but luckily I was able to pick around the carb-y stuff and get a couple tastes of the Chilaquiles and then some barbacoa thing.  Holy hell- out of this world stuff.  Get to Port Fonda now.  And seriously- can I please be one of the groups in the airstream that get a seated dinner?  I think I would die.  For reals. 

But I was lucky enough to chat with Patrick, the owner/executive chef, about Kansas City Restaurant Week, and hopefully I'll be able to snag him for the event.  Being the marketing chair for KCRW I am always on the lookout for new chefs, new tastes, new joints to join in on the fun.  Honestly- there are some truly innovative, exciting, unique, inspiring, and exceptional new places that are really pushing the boundaries of what the typical Kansas Citian will eat, and spend money on.  So glad to be a small part of this movement.  As KCRW approaches- I'll probably be pimping it more and more- but it has been a labor of love these past few years and it's definitely one of my prouder accomplishments to say that I am one of the founders of the annual event.  It's been a blast and I hope to see it continue for as long as I live in KC!  We are changing direction in a big way this year and totally revamping all the branding- can't wait!!!

There are so many places I've yet to visit- which irks me to think about because we do tend to go to the same places constantly- because they are close, affordable, and baby-friendly.  So for those rare occasions when we've got the sitter and all systems are go- here is my hitlist:
Le Fou Frog
Vietnam Cafe
Happy Gillis
You Say Tomato
Michael Smith
Justus Drugstore
Port Fonda-seated dinner
Oak 63
Beer Kitchen
Dog Nuvo
new Succotash
Eden Alley (I know it's been there forever, and I'll probably never make it either)
Urban Table
Story- both brand new

I know that is a very long list.  Hopefully most of these will be around for awhile so we can try 'em all!  Some of my favorites though, would have to include Bristol downtown, JJ's, Extra Virgin, The Rieger, Blue Stem, Pot Pie, Blue Bird, Westside Local, 715 and Burger Stand in Lawrence, obviously Spin, BRGR, Blanc, Avenues Bistro, and Trezo (duh).  In the meantime- if more of these awesome food trucks would just come my way- say in my neighborhood around 7pm, I'd be in heaven! 

Unsweetened Chocolate and HEAB's Scookie Recipe!

I have been trying to get into bitter chocolate/unsweetened chocolate.  I've had a block of it in my pantry for awhile, and just yesterday picked up a bag of unsweetened chocolate baking discs from TJ's.  After my cocao nib experience (hated 'em!) I have been a bit hesitant to try bitter chocolate.  I love super dark chocolate, like 85%, but totally unsweetened is still a bit daunting.  Nonetheless, there really is no suitable sugar free chocolate I have discovered, or really a good way to make it yourself unless you have a combination of many different sweeteners as they have a tendency to become gritty, acrid, or metallic when combined with chocolate.  Therefore, I am diving in head first to unsweetened chocolate territory, with these next recipes.  Reading HEAB today I came across a couple fun recipes adapted by Heather, from Elana's Pantry.  The one that first caught my eye was a recipe she adapted for Coconut Cream Pie- yum!  Here it is, with my changes:

Grain Free, Sugar Free Coconut Cream Pie
Coconut Pie Crust Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup blanched almond flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp stevia
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pre-heat oven to 350º.
  • In large bowl, combine almond flour and shredded coconut.
  • Over low heat, melt coconut oil, remove from heat, and whisk in stevia and vanilla.
  • Combine wet ingredients into almond flour mixture, mixing until well combined.
  • Press dough into pie dish and bake 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool completely before filling.
Pie Filling Ingredients:
  • 2 cans light coconut milk
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups dark or unsweetened chocolate chunks or chips
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted (optional topping)
  • Reserve 1/4 cup coconut milk. In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining coconut milk and salt to a boil; whisk constantly for 1 minute, then decrease heat to a simmer.
  • In a small bowl, dissolve the arrowroot in the reserved coconut milk, stirring to make a paste. Raise the heat under the saucepan to high and add the paste to the saucepan, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, about 1 minute. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Add the chocolate, stirring vigorously until it is completely melted. Let the filling cool, then pour the mixture into the crust. Top with toasted unsweetened shredded coconut and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour to set before serving.
But the best discovery today at HEAB by far was her Scookie recipe- sort of a cookie/scone hybrid!  Her recipe was again adapted from Elana but of course I just had to go in and change it again!  With great results!  I am super excited about this recipe because of all the different variations I could make!  Sort of like the almond flour cupcake I made the other day- the possibilities are totally endless!  So that is very exciting!

Here is the recipe with my changes:
Bitter Chocolate Almond Flour Scookies (Makes about 20)
2 1/2 cups almond flour
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup sugar sub
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs, room temp

Pic of HEAB's Scookies!
Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  In measuring cup pour 1/3 cup sugar substitute, then pouring in almond milk until you get to 1/4 cup of liquid- stir to dissolve sweetener.  Elana's recipe originally called for agave, so this is my substitute.  And then HEAB used coconut butter, which would also be yummy.  In separate bowl, whisk eggs, oil, almond milk, and vanilla together.  Then add wet to dry, incorporating thoroughly- and add in chocolate chips.  Scoop onto cookie sheet with a tablespoon and put in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.

The reason I'm so stoked about this recipe is because you could sooooooooo easily make a zillion different kinds of scookies (they are really pretty cookie-like using my recipe) for instance; apricot cinnamon, cranberry orange, chocolate walnut, etc!  The base recipe is simple- (dry) almond flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, plus (wet) coconut oil, egg, almond milk mixture, vanilla, and then flavorings.  Like 1/4 cup chopped apricots and 1/4 cup raisins, or 1/2 cup unsweetened cherries or cranberries with 2 tsp orange zest.  Or- reduce the almond flour by 1/4 cup and replace with 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and add in 1/2 cup chopped nuts.  Since MKG is not a bitter chocolate fan, I'll be trying apricot next.  I've also noticed that when making no sugar desserts- cinnamon really helps take away some of the bitterness- and add a little sweet.  So I use it more often than not. 

On a totally unrelated note- Baby S is FLYING up the stairs as fast as can be.  She just started this week.  It is unreal.  The first time she did the entire flight of stairs was Monday night- we had our friends and their two boys over for dinner and when they went upstairs she did NOT want to be left behind.  Oh my goodness, it was amazing.  And now she just cruises on up whenever she feels like it.  She will be 1 year old one month from Tuesday.  I am just completely dumbfounded about how fast this year has flown by- the last 7 months of it anyways- the first 3 or 4 months don't fly so much as crawl by, at a snail's pace.  I didn't know it was possible to have so much fun.  Definitely need to get cracking on her birthday party!  Maybe I'll make a bunch of fun GFG approved desserts for people to try!

Here's a couple pics, just cuz!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Two Quick Grain-Free Breakfasts/Snacks!

This recipe has been posted all over the place, at Elana's Pantry, Diet Dessert and Dogs, and originally, at Replenish PDX.  It's for a grain-free, gluten-free hot cereal, or cream of wheat if you will.  Looks really good!  I'd actually love to eat without blending and add some yogurt and fruit.  But here is my version:

Grain-Free, Gluten, and Sugar Free Porridge

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
  • 1-2 tablespoon flax seeds (beware what happens to flax when it mixes with water!  If you're not expecting it, um, you might be in for shock.  Admittedly, the snot-like consistency is not the most appetizing thing in the world.  Leave it out if it's too icky for ya!)
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup boiling water (I just put a cup of water in the microwave for 2min)
  • pinch of salt
  • optional- chia seeds, sliced blanched almonds or other nut, sunflower seeds, but TBH, you won't need it- this is incredibly filling.  I did like it with some sliced strawberries though.  Use what you have!
  1. Combine all dry ingredients in the dry container of blender
  2. Blend until finely ground
  3. Transfer mixture to a bowl
  4. Pour hot water over mixture, stir, then let sit for 5 minutes to thicken
  5. Serve with fruit and a bit of yogurt mixed in!

Another great, quick breakfast option that I actually had for dinner last night was just a bowl of berries, with sunflower seeds (I got a huge bag of unsalted sunflower seeds at TJ's and am obsessed!) and yogurt.  Throw in some flax, almonds, and unsweetened shredded coconut for more filling meal.  Yum!  Try it!  Especially now while you can get amazing berries at the store!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Elana's Almond Flour Savory Cupcake

Reading Healthy Indulgences a week or so ago, she had posted an awesome looking recipe from Elana's Pantry for a savory cupcake.  Not usually having any kind of "bread-y" type accoutrement for dinner, I decided to try it out yesterday with my Fish with White Wine and Lemons! The recipe was incredibly simple and only a few ingredients.  Of course I just had to jew it up to suit my own personal tastes.  So rather than a scallion goat cheese cupcake, behold my:

Pic from Healthy Indulgences
 Chive Cream Cheese Almond Flour Savory Cupcakes
(gluten, grain, and sugar free)

1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour (I have been using Bob's Red Mill- but will be trying the bulk WF kind when I run out.  I have not been having problems with runny batter like Elana.)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large eggs
1/2 cup thinly sliced chives
6 tablespoons cream cheese.  I used Neufchatel (sp?).

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line or spray muffin tin for 6 muffins. 
In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, baking soda, and black pepper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil and eggs. Blend the wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture until thoroughly combined, then stir in the chives.

Scoop 3 tablespoons of batter into each prepared muffin cup, then press 1 tablespoon of cheese into each muffin.

Bake for 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted 1/2 inch from the edge of the muffin (to avoid the goat cheese center) comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then serve.
Wow- they are DELISH you guys!  So good!  They sort of taste a bit like those little crust-less quiche muffins you may have tried at a brunch.  Very savory and a fun flavor profile.  Try them!  I served it with my white fish with lemons and wine.  It was really great meal, served with sauteed green beans, grape tomatoes, green onions, and mushrooms.  Use What You Have Night was definitely a success.  Throwing in the tomatoes and mushrooms was a last minute addition- as I had leftover mushrooms going bad in the fridge, plus an extra pint of tomatoes (TJ's accidentally gave me an extra pint for free!) and scallions for my Friday recipe. 
I'll also be trying a recipe I found for Coconut Bread- it calls for honey or agave which I'll be leaving out- I'll post it shortly!  With my tweaks of course!

Ok here it is, adapted from Chocolate and Carrots

Pic from Chocolate and Carrots
Coconut Flour Paleo Bread
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup nut milk/light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 flax eggs
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey (I am going to sub 2T unsweetened applesauce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Mix all ingredients together.
  3. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Edited 7.29.11
This morning trying this recipe, I decided I wanted it to be more dessert-y so I made a few more adjustments.  It came out ok, but not great.  It's lacking moisture, so next time I am going to double the amount of nut milk I used.  Here it is with my adaptations:

  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1T nut milk/light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 flax eggs
  • 3 tablespoons sweetener
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350.  Whisk eggs then combine with flax eggs (make sure you have let them sit awhile!), then adding vanilla, oil, and nut milk.  In separate bowl, sieve coconut flour and combine with salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and sweetener.  Mix wet into dry, then pour into loaf pan.  Bake 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Remember, coconut flour is like a sponge.  If it seems to dry and spongey raw, its going to be dense and mealy.  This would be excellent served with some jam, PB, homemade nutella, or even coconut butter!  Get creative and make some banana coconut frosting!  (Blend banana and coconut butter!)

Monday, July 25, 2011

What's my deal with Carbs?

Me and Carby McCarberson have long had a love-hate relationship.  Growing up in the nineties, when high-carb low-fat diets were all the rage and sugar supposedly had no ill effects on one's health other than cavities, I was a major carb-oholic.  Loved the stuff.  I remember eating cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Cereal actually used to be my number one food group.  With fruit a close second.  Protein?  Eh, not so much.  Such a low-fat diet, surely I was the picture of health!  What could possibly be wrong with eating a lot of carbs?  As long as you didn't overeat, and as long as you consumed little or no fat, your diet and health would not only be fine, but superb!  Right?   Well years later now, looking back at my teenage/college/post-grad diet, I realize what glaring deficiencies there were, and how those deficiencies affected my overall health and well-being.  When you are deficient in one area, you'll probably overcompensate in another.  I ate little to no protein or fat, but went wayyyyyyyy overboard on starches, carbs, and fruits.  I've always eaten lots of veggies, so that thankfully has never been an issue.  I wondered how and why I had trouble losing those stubborn 3-5lbs even if I was exercising and eating the "right" diet.  So what if instead of dinner I had frosted cheerios?  Or if I ate a bag of candy instead of lunch?  A calorie is a calorie and there's nothing wrong with sugar!

So it's no wonder that people have such an inherent misunderstanding about carbs, refined carbs, sugars, and so on.  This information has never even been questioned in my generation, until recently.  It was just a fact of life.  Eat a diet of mostly carbohydrates.  No distinction made between refined and unrefined carbohydrates.  Sugar and fats were lumped together at the top of the pyramid to be consumed "in moderation," yet again, no distinction being made between poly, mono, trans, and saturated fats.  Omega 3's?  Yeah right.

I have always been on the slim side, and I've always fluctuated.  Like a lot of us, feeling bloated, sluggish, and irregular (ew sorry) was the rule not the exception.  I accepted that this was just my lot in life and part of being a living organism with a digestive system.  And I reconciled myself to the fact that I would have to eat a teensy little bit, every day, my whole life, to remain a certain weight.  I wasn't blessed with a fast metabolism like so many others, and that was just the deal for better or worse.

In my mid-twenties I started having issues with hormonal imbalance, noooooooo clue what it could possibly be from.  Doctors could not have cared less and had no explanations.  I didn't fit the profile of women who usually suffered from hormonal imbalance, but, stranger things had happened.  I had no idea what to do or how to deal with it.  So I didn't.  Then when I got pregnant, even weirder still, I failed the Glucose Tolerance Test.  Once again, I did not fit the profile of women who developed Gestational Diabetes.  At all!  But I followed my new diet meticulously and thoroughly, and memorized all kind of different numbers, values, and statistics to get me through the final 12 weeks of pregnancy, until I gave birth and could return to my "normal" eating habits.  Sort of like how you cram for a test and memorize a bunch of info you don't understand, only to immediately forget everything you just memorized.  Memorization and comprehension are not the same thing.  I had absolutely zero understanding of my condition or how what I ate affected my overall health.  That they were even linked at all never occurred to me.  Why should it?  I had always eaten a "healthy diet."

When my daughter was three months-old, and I started having that familiar dizzy, light-headed carb overload feeling, and I decided to start testing my sugars.  Well, wouldn't you know, they were high.  Going back to my "normal" diet was not an option.  I could no longer handle sugars and carbs like before.  Why?  Why was all this happening?  My doctor(s) told me I was nuts.  I didn't fit the profile and I was making it all up.  When I described my symptoms and glucose levels, they were convinced I was stretching the truth or misunderstanding the readings.  Um, when your glucometer says 150, its kind of difficult to misunderstand.  I do know how to count, despite my not having a PhD.  I started eating like I had on my GD diet.  Low carb, high protein.  It was a diet of denial and can'ts.  Can't eat that, won't eat that, shouldn't eat that.  I felt miserable and isolated and like a freak.

So finally, I did what I should have done years ago.  Got educated.  Started reading and researching.  Learning about diet and nutrition.  There is still a tremendous amount that we don't know.  A never ending series of questions and theories that only lead to more questions.  But it's fascinating!  And we are so lucky to be living in a time when people are really starting to pay better attention to what we eat, how it fuels us, and how it affects our whole health.  I now realize that most likely, through a combination of a poor diet and a predisposition to insulin imbalance (on my mother's side), I arrived at my current situation.  Some people are just less tolerant of sugars and carbs than others, but until recently you would never have known it.  Daily life required enormous amounts of labor and exercise, your muscles burning up tons of glucose and calories all day long as fuel.  Too much sugar in the blood would quickly be used up by working muscles.  But for most of us, that is no longer the case, hence the modern phenomenon of the diabetes explosion. 

Finally, I made the leap to Grain-Free.  At first, I did it out of convenience.  Cutting out grains would mean I didn't have to think and plan ahead quite so much with my carbs.  If I quit eating grains altogether, I really didn't need to worry about how many carbs would be in my next meal and how it would affect my blood sugar.  I was also growing tired of tirelessly logging carbs and calories.  Like anything else, it was no fun in the beginning.  If you don't eat grains, I surmised, what was left?  It turns out, quite a lot.  The decision had so many wonderful but unexpected side-effects!  My metabolism sped up, my energy revved up, the light-headedness and headaches and sugar-highs were over.  I could eat more, and I no longer counted calories!  And best of all, no more icky bloated feeling!  Ever!  Even after a big meal.  Impossible right?  I swear, it's not.  Think about the last time you ate an enormous salad of healthy vegetables, greens, and protein.  Like, a huge salad.  Did you feel bloated and gross after?  Even though it was a ginormous salad?  Probably not.  The salad probably had a ton of nutrients in it, combined with a lot of water, which made you pee and detox out a bunch of other garbage that was in your system.  That's how you can feel all the time!  Anyways- that's my perspective, and my own experience.

My preaching has really started to annoy me though, and is quite honestly making me a little sick- so I'll try to cut it out, and finish up.  Last night, reading Good Calories Bad Calories, there was a part I really found interesting, which I had never heard about before.  If you and your girlfriends are like mine, and are constantly bitching and moaning about feeling gross and bloated and worried about finding shirts that mask the bloatedness without causing people to ask if you're pregnant- then listen to this:
"It is now well-established that a low-carbohydrate diet is followed by the excretion of water and that carbohydrate ingestion leads to retention of both water and salt."  Furthermore, "with diets predominantly carbohydrate there is a strong tendency for the body to retain water, while with diets predominantly fat there a strong tendency for the body to lose water...  Eating carbohydrate prompts the kidneys to hold on to salt, rather than excrete it.  The body then retains extra water to keep the sodium concentration of the blood constant.  So, rather than having water retention caused by taking in more sodium, which is what theoretically happens when we eat more salt, carbohydrates cause us to retain water by inhibiting the excretion of sodium that is already there.  Removing carbohydrates from the diet works, in effect, just like... diuretics, which cause the kidneys to excrete sodium, and water along with it."

So if for no other reason than you are tired of wearing those idiotic flowy shirts and then feeling self-conscious that everyone is looking at you and wondering if you're pregnant, try going grain-free for a couple of weeks and pay careful attention to how you feel, and how you look.  And read a couple books, you might enjoy it!  Lastly, I apologize for using grains and carbs interchangeably.  They are not the same thing.  Cutting out grains does not mean cutting out all carbs.  That would be next to impossible and highly inadvisable.  Healthy, complex and high-fiber carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, and legumes.  But confining your carbohydrate intake to the aforementioned foods will greatly reduce your total carbohydrate intake, and you'll find your health much-improved in the process.  I think it's clear I'm no expert, I'm not a scientist or a doctor.  I'm just one person with my own experiences that I'm so thankful to have FINALLY learned something from.  I'm having fun and enjoying the nutrition process.  And just in time, because S is ready for food!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread Freezer Fudge, Frozen Banana Cookie Crust Fruit Pie, and this week's dinner recipes

After Moroccan Chicken GFG is getting a little chickened out, which I'm sure happens to most of us fairly regularly.  So this week, I'll be trying out a couple non-chicken recipes.  Although TJ's did have boneless skinless chicken breast wayyyyyy on sale, which was awesome.  Tuesday, it's use what you have night, so I'll be defrosting some frozen orange roughy (which belongs to the slimehead family of fish, um gross?!) and cooking it gently with lemons and some leftover white wine from this weekend, maybe toss in a few capers, and the amazingly gorgeous french green beans I found at Trader Joe's.  Friday, I'm going to try cooking with fish sauce, something I've never cooked with before, so that will be interesting!  I was inspired by this recipe from August's Real Simple.  But we don't eat pork and not sure if I'll ever get around to picking up some chilies.

Example!  Not my pic.
Orange Roughy with White Wine, Lemons, and Capers
-1 lb orange roughy
-1/4 cup dry white wine, use what you got!
-1 teaspoon lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
-1 tablespoon capers
-1 tablespoon EVOO
-salt/pepper to taste

Marinate fish for 20 minutes in white wine and capers.  Heat oil to medium-high in saute pan and place marinated fish fillets in pan, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Add marinade and cook 2 minutes then flip and season other side. Cook another 2 minutes, lower heat, then pour in white wine and caper marinade, lemon juice, and sprinkle with lemon zest.  Cook for a few more minutes to allow flavors to come together.  Serve with veggies!

Here is the Real Simple recipe, adapted by me:
Real Simple
 Thai Ground Turkey Salad with Peanuts
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 5 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 large jalapeño peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
  •  1 head of romaine, chopped
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • medium carrots, coarsely grated
  • 3/4 cup fresh mint leaves 
  •  1 red pepper, sliced
  •  1 cucumber, sliced
  • 1/4 cup salted, roasted peanuts, chopped
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until no longer pink, 2 to 3 minutes. Add ¼ cup water, 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce, and stir until liquid is evaporated.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the lime juice, peppers, and the remaining 4 tablespoons of fish sauce.
  3. Divide the lettuce among bowls, top with the turkey mixture, onion, carrots, mint, and peanuts, and drizzle with the lime dressing. 
Today I'm having fun making dessert for dinner at our friends house tonight.  As usual Spoonful of Sugar Free served as an inspiration.  I will tinker with the recipe a bit, since it's actually raw, I'm not quite as concerned about ruining it with my tweaks as usual.  But it is very very simple!

Frozen Banana Cookie Crust Fruit Pie
-4 frozen bananas
-1 cup walnuts
-3 or 4 dried pitted dates
-2 tablespoons cocoa powder
-2 cups sliced berries (I have strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries)

Process/blend walnuts, dates, and cocoa powder until mixture is clumpy but well incorporated.  Transfer mixture to pie dish and spread out evenly with your hands, to form the pie crust, and freeze.  Blend frozen overripe bananas until creamy, adding a bit of vanilla or cinnamon if you desire.  Pour bananas into frozen pie crust, and return to freezer.  Thaw a bit before serving, then top with sliced berries!  You could also jazz up the filling anyway you want- with cocoa powder, unsweetened shredded coconut, or even some blended berries!  You could also drop in some chocolate shavings or chopped nuts.  Tons of different fun variations!  This pie is for kids too so I don't want to complicate it too much this time around.

This morning I also tried homemade nutella.  True to form, I did not follow the instructions.  I threw everything in the cuisinart and started blending, then realizing I was supposed to add ingredients in a specific order.  I don't really think it made a difference in the end, the result was realllly good, although I ended up adding a bit more salt.  It's also a bit too sweet for me so next time I'll halve the amount of sugar I used.  The recipe also says to toast and skin the nuts.  Well, I toasted them, and tried to skin them, but got sick of skinning them half-way through so just threw the rest in the bowl.  Eh, again, don't think it really mattered.  I think in the end it made a little more than a cup?  I transferred the mixture to a glass jar and stuck it in the fridge.  But that got me thinking, what a yummy freezer fudge flavor that would be!  So after S eats her half banana at lunch, I'll use the rest for a nutella fudge variation.  2T coconut butter, 2T hazelnut spread, 1T cocoa powder, half banana, and pinch of salt.  May need a teensy bit of sweetener.  Yum!

Homemade Nutella Freezer Fudge
-1/2 overripe banana
-2T coconut butter
-2T homemade chocolate hazelnut spread
-1T cocoa powder
-pinch of salt, touch of sweetener if necessary

Blend and freeze!

Friday, July 22, 2011

GFG #Fail

Something any new GFG will no doubt experience routinely, and if you're anything like me ALL THE TIME, is a GFG #Fail.  Wow, let me tell you, I am very well acquainted with the GFG #Fail.  It's kind of a running joke with myself at this point, how I'll horribly butcher or mangle a formerly fine recipe with my incessant substitutions, adaptations, and tweaks.  Blah! 

In twelve hours time I managed to screw up two of CCK's recipes.  Well, one of them I really don't think I would have liked even if I hadn't messed it up.  I really don't think I would like any dessert recipe that calls for beans.  Can't you taste the beany-ness?  I will give it another shot some time for sure, I bought a  big bag of Stevia in the Raw today and that may solve the problem in these.  You see, I cannot eat sugar in its refined state in any capacity.  No turbinado, no maple syrup, no honey, nothing.  Kind of like Alex.  So in my efforts to still have yummy desserts that myself and my husband can enjoy, I use sugar substitutes.  Well I can definitely cross this one particular sugar substitute off my list for good.  YUCK!  The blondies had a disgusting metallic taste, which I think was in part due to the garbanzo beans, but mostly the god-awful sugar substitute I used.  No more!  Unfortunately this means that I won't be trying any more recipes that call for brown sugar, as this was a brown sugar sub.  I just don't think anything can equal its sweet, subtly smoky flavor, and moist texture.  But if you have any ideas PLEASE let me know!  I do have high hopes for Stevia and am very excited to try it!

My second #Fail was a microwave Single Lady Cupcake.  I knew from the get-go that this would be a huge, gross, and very pathetic flop.  I sub'd Coconut Flour for regular flour.  DUH!  It was horrendous and did not come together.  Coconut Flour, if you're not familiar, while full of fantastic attributes and totally healthy AND delicious, can just not be traded out in equal parts for other flours.  It has a completely different texture and consistency and is like a sponge.  It needs huge amounts of liquid.  It also has a distinct flavor, and sometimes you need that bland, tastes like nothing at all flavor that all-purpose or ww flour has.  So that was that.  Disaster.  But let that be a lesson to you all that subbing coco flour doesn't work, the recipe really needs to be built around the flour. 

Good thing I still have some of my Pumpkin Spice Bread, Chocolate PB Vegan Fudge, and Almond Flour Macaroons lying around. 

Tonights dinner for the fam will be Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives and Lemon, which I will faithfully prepare per the directions (mostly) with some leftover arugula salad from the other night.  I am also going to try making some fudge babies/truffles with walnuts perhaps, or if I can make it to WF, hazelnuts, which I need for some homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Butter.

Update 10:06 PM:
After walking in from work at 5:30 and immediately starting dinner, then feeding the baby who is happily starting to really get the hang of feeding herself, then bathtime, bottle/storytime, clean up, then a few more dessert experiments, I can sit down and say what a productive evening it was!  We even got to light the shabbat candles which was fun.  Moroccan Chicken was a huge hit!  Oh my gosh you have to try it!  It seemed kind of difficult at the time, but looking back, I think it was more because I was so rushed, and there was a crying baby and psycho dog and hungry husband, all running around the kitchen.  The combination of ginger, paprika, cumin, and cinnamon was awesome.  And the lemons become sweet and soft from cooking, you can actually eat the peel!  And it's delish!  I used my trusty DO for the job.  Soooooooo good.  Later, after pumpkin-head was asleep, I experimented with another batch of Vegan Freezer Fudge.  This time it was plain fudge, with dark chocolate shavings.  Excellent!  Also, and I think I must be hallucinating from exhaustion, I cannot believe that such a delicious, fudgy, chocolatey treat could exist, that is so easy to prepare and not even remotely bad for you!  Ummmmmmmmmmmm did you know that blending walnuts, cocoa powder, a teensy bit of vanilla extract, and dates could be so freaking amazing?  It tasted like the best chocolate brownie you have ever had.  You just blend everything and then roll them into balls, or whatever shape you want.  It's ridiculous.  Out of this world.  Not having ever baked with dates, or really eaten them intentionally, I was shocked at how gooey and sweet they are.  What a happy surprise that was!  And packed full of walnuts with all those Omega-3s to boot! 

Really fun night at home with the crazies.  My little monkey is doing so well with real food.  She loves green beans and likes to suck the little beans out of the pod, and is crazy for oatmeal, beans of any kind, and strawberries!  I lost count of how many she ate.  Fun fun fun!  Can't wait to see what's next!  Although I do wish that sometimes, I could hit pause on a special moment, and just savor it forever and ever.  Certain moments just make you want to die.  Last night at a friends birthday party I caught S grooving to the live music that was playing and trying to dance even though she was exhausted and sitting on the ground.  She was by herself for a second and just started quasi-dancing and I'm so lucky I caught it, I swear I think my whole heart melted.  UGH it's just too much!  It's just totally insane.  It's the best.  XoxoGFG

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Do you ever feel full on a grain-free diet?

If you are contemplating becoming a GFG, this question may have occurred to you.  I think there is a common misconception that you need grains, and lots of them, to feel full.  Grains can and will make you feel full.  Even full to the point of that horrible, overstuffed, you never want to eat another bite of food again full.  Until your blood sugar crashes that is, and you want more carbs.  But in my opinion there are two kinds of full.  There is full, like- I've had plenty of food and I'm not hungry anymore, pleasantly satisfied, that sort of thing, and then there is the horrible uncomfortable bloated full.  I suppose some people might not mind that feeling but I happen to HATE it.  UGH!  So- yes it is entirely possible to feel full and satisfied as a GFG, but most likely you will not ever feel uncomfortably overfull.  It is just really difficult to overeat to that point.  But no one wants to feel hungry all the time or feel like they can't eat and be sated.  I promise, you can, and will be totally satisfied as a GFG.  Here is a great example, my Turkey Sausage and Flageolet (fancy word for white beans) Vegetable Stir Fry.

1 tablespoon EVOO or coconut oil
1 turkey kielbasa, sliced
1 head of cauliflower, sliced into florets
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 red onion, sliced
1 can rinsed and drained white northern beans
1/2 bag of arugula (optional, I used it as a bed for the stir fry)
Salt/pepper to taste, plus any other spices you like- I used paprika and cayenne

I actually used my non-stick wok for this!  It worked out AMAZING!  Because all the veg take up quite a bit of space in the pan, and have a tendency to go sliding out onto the stove-top which just means more clean-up, I thought I may as well give the wok a try.  The high sides not only kept everything inside the pan, but gave me a much larger cooking surface.  I highly suggest it!  Heat tablespoon of oil in pan and then toss in onion and celery, season with salt and pepper and cook for 4 minutes or so.  After onion and celery have begun to brown a bit, toss in cauliflower florets.  Season a bit more and stir, thoroughly until cauliflower is cooked.  At this point you'll want to add in the beans and stir to combine, then turkey sausage.  The sausage is already cooked so you are just warming it through.

This makes an enormous quantity, enough to feed four very hungry people, especially if you serve on a bed of greens.  The combination of beans, arugula, cauliflower, and sausage is incredibly filling, but a happy, healthy full.  My husband likes to eat big portions and get second helpings, and that's something you can feel good about with this meal.  And you will 100% feel full afterwards.  But not so full you won't be able to indulge in a yummy GFG dessert later!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Homemade Sugar Free Chocolate Hazelnut Spread!

Can't wait to try this bad boy!
So flippin' good!

Homemade Nutella
Adapted from The LA Times' Hazelnut Chocolate Spread Recipe (and then adapted again by me!)
*1 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
*1/3 cup cocoa powder
*2/3 cup sugar substitute (edited 7/22- wayyyyy too sweet, 1/4 cup would be fine)
*pinch of kosher salt
*2 tablespoons organic coconut oil

1. Place toasted and skinned nuts in a food processor. Process until the nuts turn into a smooth paste (you may need to scrape the bowl a few times so all the nuts get ground up evenly...this takes a few minutes).
2. When the nuts have been processed into hazelnut butter, add the sugar sub, cocoa and salt. Process again until smooth.
3. Add the oil and process once more. Your homemade nutella should now have a spreadable consistency.
4. Transfer your chocolate hazelnut spread to an airtight container. Storing it in the refrigerator will make it harden up and it won't be easy to spread, but that's the best place to store it if you want your homemade Nutella to last for a while. If you think it will get eaten up in a few days, you can store it at room temperature.

Edited:  I've tried making this a few different times and have a better recipe for you.  Give this one a whirl.

Sugar Free Chocolate Hazelnut Spread Revisited
2 cups hazelnuts, skins removed, lightly toasted or not, personal choice!
1/4 cup cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp oil ( i used grapeseed, use whatever neutral tasting oil you have)
4-5 tbsp sugar free vanilla syrup, like Torani or Davinci
*have some filtered water on hand too

Grind your hazelnuts (or try almonds!) for awhile until it starts to get buttery. This may take awhile and you'll need to scrape down the sides intermittently.  Don't be lazy about this step or you'll have coarse, grainy hazelnut spread.  ick! Then add in all your other ingredients and pulse until it all comes together.  Taste it at this point and see if you like the flavor.  You can add a bit more sweetener if you desire.  You can also determine if you want it smoother or a bit more wet.  I added about a tablespoon of water at a time until it was the exact consistency I wanted.  I store mine in a glass jar in the fridge.