Tuesday, August 30, 2011

GFG's Cioppino, or Use (Up) What You Have Tuesday

That's right, cioppino!  Not familiar?  It is so amazingly yummy- there's a restaurant here in town that I adore that does a great cioppino- if you're ever in KC go to the Bristol downtown- it will blow your mind!  Anyways- it's a tomato based seafood stew, usually with shrimp, mussels, clams, fish, lobster, etc.  But I would not be the GFG if I actually made something the way it was supposed to be made.  Didn't matter- this came out great and all in all was a very inexpensive meal (except for the fennel, why oh why does fresh fennel have to cost $3.99/lb!?!?!) that will last for several days, enough to feed five or six.  I had a half empty bottle of two buck chuck sauv blanc in the fridge that was about to go bad, a half empty can of tomato paste, and a 3/4 full bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer that I just could not stand looking at for one more day- I don't even want to tell you how long it had been in there.

Yum right?  Not what mine looked like- but you get the idea!
GFG Cioppino
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, and juice
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp salt, plus sea salt to taste at the end
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes, plus a bit more at the end
32 ounces fish/seafood stock (this was actually sort of hard to find which I thought was weird, thankfully WF had it)
1 1/2 cups dry white wine (TJ's $2.99 Sauv baby!)
Roughly 2lbs fish- whatever you want- I used frozen shrimp and frozen skinless boneless mahi mahi.   Mussels, clams, salmon, lobster, all would be delish.

Heat oil in a large pot and then add in onions and fennel and salt- saute over med-high until translucent.  Then add in garlic and red pepper flakes and stir for another two minutes.  Stir in tomato paste, diced tomatoes and juice, wine, stock, and bay leaf, and simmer.  Cover for 30 minutes to reduce.  Then add in fish.  I put my frozen fish directly into the stew.  Season to taste with additional salt/red pepper flakes. I am in love with WF's 365 Sea Salt I just got- I know I am way behind on this one- everyone's been using sea salt for ages and I've been living under a rock.  Anyways- it's great stuff. 

It was very simple and tastes like an expensive dish you'd pay $30 for at a restaurant.  Will be even better tomorrow.  Served with a plain baby greens salad.  Baby S enjoyed the mahi mahi!  Nice evening and I'm so glad to have used up some of those items.  I absolutely hate wasting food, don't you???  And we don't compost, so I feel extra horrible throwing stuff out, which is why I almost never do.  I really need to just buck up and start composting instead of talking about it. 

This meal was also extra extra special because it was my first I cooked on my new range!  MKG and GFG's third wedding anniversary appliances were delivered and installed yesterday, after much deliberation, consternation, and unfortunately many additional unforeseen expenses (plumber, electrician...) but now it's all a distant memory because...
...I'm in love!  Ok so I've only used it once- but it was big.  We switched over from a junky electric range that took forever to heat up and had uneven temps, this was like, a revelation.  The pot actually got hot!  It got hot fast!  Oh my goodness, it was so fun to use.  I need to read the manual though.  Not quite sure how to use the oven.  It's got a convection feature too which I need to read up on.  And check out the dishwasher!
Yay!!!!!!!!!  Our old dishwasher, well can you really call it a dishwasher if it doesn't wash dishes?  I think it just washed itself, and got the dishes dirtier.  Bowls and plates would come out dirtier and filmier than they went in, and silverware had a mysterious tinge to it.  Clear glass was no longer clear.  Ugh good riddance!  We did a lot of shopping around and read online reviews endlessly- in the end we purchased everything from Factory Direct Appliance and I'm so glad we did.  The dishwasher was way on sale because it was last year's model, and the range was on close-out as it was the last one they had.  We scored big time and I was able to get a professional grade range for cheaper than I would have paid for an entry level gas range at Sears.  For reals!

I'm totally smitten, and grateful that MKG and I were able to upgrade these appliances.  We are so fortunate to be able to do these things, and I'm so lucky to have a sweet husband that cares about this kind of thing.  I'm thrilled we see eye to eye on this stuff.  But it's tough- I decided that my family, and my nutritional health was going to be a top priority.  That decision comes with a lot of baggage.  You have to be prepared to spend a lot more time, and more money, than you were probably accustomed to.  I know I know, produce isn't that expensive (except for said $3.99 fennel) and there are so many farmers markets, we've all heard it.  But when you eat a lot of produce, and when you seek out natural, clean foods with as few additives as possible, it starts to add up.  Almond Flour? Please!  That stuff is expensive!  Nuts are expensive too, and protein isn't cheap either.  Some proteins are, beans for example, and eggs, and believe me those are major staples in our house.  Besides the expense- there is the additional time commitment.  Making meals, prepping meals, cleaning up, and oftentimes, going to three, maybe four stores to get everything you need.  It's a lot of effort.  Is it worth it?  A million times yes.  To go to bed feeling clean and healthy and knowing you just nourished your loved ones well.  That you are doing your absolute best to keep them healthy.  It's incredibly rewarding.  But like everything else, you make sacrifices.  We don't eat out, practically ever.  We don't spend much on ourselves, and we don't spend much on S either- we don't have a house full of toys and a closet full of clothes.  And I don't have a lot of leisure time, and what time I do have I prefer to spend either outside at the park or taking a walk, or in the kitchen cooking.  That's partly due to having a 1 year old and a full time job.  But we make our own choices, and do the best we can.  I chose to make healthy eating a way of life, and it really is a lifestyle in every way, affecting your every move.  Is it too much?  I wonder.  I know this weekend at S's bday party everyone will be nudging me about S having bday cake.  It's just a little, what's the big deal, a little bit won't hurt her, etc etc.  Am I crazy?  Or on Sunday, when I ran into the grocery store down the street and was temporarily revolted when I looked in the lady's cart in front of me in line, and saw nothing but pudding snacks, potato chips, soda, ice cream, cereal, and a bunch of other junk.  And then I realized- gross I'm judging, and that is NOT OK.  I'm trying. I need to do better.

I think we're all accustomed to spending a fortune at Whole Paycheck though.  What do you forgo so you can keep on spending $4 for fennel at WF?  Mani/pedis?  A new car? Vacations?  Admit it- you gotta cut somewhere!  Bikini waxes haha?!  Or maybe your home phone line?  I just canceled ours.  Pennies equal dollars right?

Coconut Sorbet

So I got my Cuisinart ICE-21 Ice Cream, Yogurt, and Sorbet maker- and I do really like it- but obviously there is a slight learning curve involved.  I tried the coconut sorbet recipe right from the manual- it was incredibly simple.  I skipped the part about steeping a vanilla bean in simple syrup, and meant to add vanilla extract right at the end, but I forgot of course.  The result is pretty tasty, though not at all what I expected, and also much more like a granita than a composed sorbet.  I think I made a few critical errors that will hopefully make the next batch creamier and more sorbet-like, rather than a mixture of granita-ish icy stuff, and then the rest mostly liquid. 

I used two cans of light coconut milk, which of course regular full-fat would be much better for creaminess.  I mixed in 1/4 cup of stevia in the raw and a 1/4 cup sucralose.  Next time I would use 1/4 cup sweetener total- I just can't tolerate too much sweet these days.  Grosses me out.  All I did was mix the coconut milk and sweeteners together, and then poured into the freezer bowl.  Mistake numero uno.  You are supposed to pour in the base while the bowl is on the base and already in motion.  This probably contributed to the thick sheet of ice stuck to the bowl.  Secondly, I did some research and it seems like most people have better luck when they've chilled the base in the fridge for a couple hours.  I'll try that too.  And I'm sure a creamier base to begin with would have helped.

Next up is plain tart frozen yogurt.  There are a ton of videos on Youtube about using your ICE-21 to make tart frozen yogurt.  Most seem to use a combination of TJ's Greek Yogurt, and then some plain yogurt, with lemon zest and a bit of sweetener.  I have a feeling it will take awhile to tweak this recipe to my own preferences, but I can't wait!  I'll post recipes once I get a few that actually work well and are up to par!  And stay tuned for a few more recipes later today! :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Use What You Have Friday


Trader Joe's Melange of Bell Peppers has saved use what you have night on more than one occasion.  This bag of frozen veg is honestly becoming one of those "go-to" products that I absolutely can't live without.  The number of peppers you'd have to buy and then slice is just totally not worth it once you've gotten a bag of these one-pound wonders.  They are phenomenal.  I'm tempted to maybe never buy fresh peppers again.  Of course I will, for grilling, but for a simple veggie stir fry these cannot be beat- I think they are $1.99 a bag.  

Tonight was a turkey kielbasa (also from TJ's, fully cooked and 94% lean and delish!), red onion, and bell pepper stir fry.  Yum!  I heated up EVOO and cooked some onion until browned, then threw in the remaining grape tomatoes I had in the fridge, and sauteed.  A few minutes later adding in the peppers and juice, and finally the sausage, just to warm through.  Served with a rosemary Socca- it was a great, easy, and efficient meal!  And that was Use What You Have Friday!  Tonight's socca was an improvement over the last two- because I baked it by itself in the oven for 35 minutes at 425.  I used 1 cup chickpea flour to 1 cup water, plus 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and 1/2 tsp dried rosemary.  I would really like to find a 10 inch cast iron so I can try it again on the stovetop.  

I also had a few minutes to whip up some more coconut butter (which has gotten 100% easier to make since I got the ninja- I process 2 cups of coconut powder from the Indian market in the cuisi for about 5 minutes, then another 2 min in the ninja et voila! perfect coconut butter.) as well as some chocolate peanut raisin balls and cherry almond bites.  

Cherry Almond Bites
1 cup dried unsweetened bing cherries
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 tsp vanilla

Blend, then shape into bites!

Chocolate Peanut Raisin Balls
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup peanuts
2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp cocoa powder

Blend, then form into balls!

We had a nice, somewhat relaxing evening- as relaxing as an evening with a 1 year old can be right?  Usually S likes peppers but tonight- not so much.  Luckily- she happily ate everything once it was slathered in tomato basil hummus- again from TJ's.  I know, just get a job at TJ's already. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chocolate Coconut Flour Cookies and Lentil Arugula Pesto

Today I played around with coconut flour and lentils- winning combo right haha!  Actually- I thought S might like lentils so I made a big batch of them, knowing I'd have plenty of uses for them.  The arugula pesto is bright and springy and a beautiful green color.  If you're looking a for a different take on dip and want something fresh for crudite- try it out!

Lentil and Arugula Pesto
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils
3 scallions, chopped
1/3 cup tahini
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup arugula
1 tsp minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Throw everything in the food processor until well combined.  I am aware that without olive oil it's not really a pesto- so drizzle a bit in if you like while the processor is going- it will emulsify as the processor does its magic.  Great with sliced cucumbers or grape tomatoes!

I had also wanted to try making a cookie with coconut flour.  A) Coconut flour is way cheaper than almond flour and B) all that fiber, and much less fat.  While I love coconut in pretty much every single way- coconut flour can have such a spongy, mealy texture that bothers me.  I find that adding cocoa powder always minimizes that for me, for whatever reason.  So these are chocolate cookies.  Feel free to make whatever substitutions you want with the mix-ins.  As usual, I was trying to get rid of a few things, so that's what I used!

Chocolate Coconut Flour Cookies
3/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanillla
4 eggs
1/2 cup liquified coconut oil
1/3 cup sweetener, like Stevia in the Raw, mixed with almond milk to make 1/2 cup liquid total
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup chopped pecans (or choc. chips, or walnuts, or peanuts...)

Sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt together.  In separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, vanilla, and almond milk mixture.  Combine wet with dry and incorporate, then adding in nuts and shredded coconut.  Using 1 tbsp measure, drop dough onto parchment lined cookie sheet.  Cookies won't spread out so form them into cookie shapes by pressing down with fork.  Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.

These cookies are easy and yummy.  Walnuts would have been the obvious choice but I had just the right amount of pecans leftover, so that's what I used!  Peanuts also would have been great.  You could totally omit the coconut and be fine.  Chocolate chips would have made it spectacular!  This is a good base recipe to have and adapt as the mood strikes. 

I had plenty of lentils left so made a super quick "stir-fry" if you will with sauteed onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and grape tomatoes, a little cumin, and lentils.  So filling, so easy, and so delicious!  Lentils are such a fantastic food- and so incredibly affordable.  Can you get much better than that?

T minus 6 days until my amazing, sparkling, fabulous new range arrives!  I am thrilled beyond words about it.  It is your standard 30 inch range but five burners, and the middle burner is like a long oval shape for a griddle/grill pan.  Plus warming drawer which I doubt I will ever use, and a convection oven which I am dying to try.  I am so stinkin excited!  And a new dishwasher to boot!  My top row of dishes might actually get clean, rather than come out of the dishwasher cloudy with bits of food stuck to it.  Yeah!!!!!!  Really stoked.  I am hoping it improves the whole aesthetic of the kitchen and maybe the falling apart piece of garbage cabinets won't bother me quite as much.  I actually think it will!  Can you tell how excited I am?????  I don't even remember the last time I was this excited about a thing or object.  Pretty goofy!

My little pumpkinhead is soooooo close to walking, although watch in another month I'll still be saying the same thing.  For whatever reason she has decided she mostly prefers bear crawling around the house rather than regular crawling.  It is pretty hilarious seeing her big diaper tush scooting around.  She is the absolute loudest baby I have ever heard.  The girl babbles LOUDLY all day long.  In her crib, on the floor, when I'm holding her, in the bath, on a walk, whatever.  At Trader Joe's, at the pool, in the car, you name it.  The girl can TALK!  She comes by it honestly though!  She will be one year old next Friday.  OMG.  I am starting to research preschools and the thought of dropping her off somewhere by herself is terrifying- I could cry thinking about it.  Good thing I still have another year of her all to myself!  Ok.  I am doing that thing where I nauseate even myself.  So on that note- some random thoughts.

Why have True Blood and Entourage become completely unwatchable?  They are so god-awful.  I am embarrassed and irritated the entire time I watch both shows.  Why do I watch?  Why did I spend a ridiculous amount of time cleaning today when the plumber is coming Weds to run the gas line and both he and my insane psycho of a dog will completely destroy the house?  And why do I have eighteen million bug bites and why aren't the really old ones going away?  I am covered in them!  UGH!

Night Night, XoXoGFG

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Frozen, Raw, Pecan Pie, Cashew Fudge, and Marinated Flank Steak on the Grill

I recently saw a recipe for a Raw Pecan Pie at Gluten Free Easily- and was so excited to try it myself.  But usually, with recipes like that, you have to wait until you're entertaining to give it a whirl.  So last night, we headed over to a friends' for dinner and I decided that was the perfect opportunity to try it out.  Of course, my recipe was modified, and I also made the decision to freeze it, to make it a bit more summery.  But it was an absolute delight, and so easy.  The original recipe called for honey in both the crust, and filling, which I omitted and did not miss at all.  Try it out!  Makes 4 large portions, or 5-6 smaller ones.  I did not have a 5 inch pie plate, so used a 6 inch round casserole dish.

Raw, Vegan, Gluten and Sugar Free Frozen Pecan Pie
2 cups pecans, 1 cup of which should be frozen
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp liquified coconut oil
1/2 cup dried pitted dates, soaked for 10 minutes in 1/4 cup water
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Process 1 cup frozen pecans for a minute, then adding 1 tbsp oil.  Process until crumbly and and finely ground.  Press into 5 or 6 inch round dish.  Then, add second cup of pecans, and date/water mixture and vanilla, and cinnamon and pinch of salt to processor and blend until everything is well combined and dates and pecans are well combined.  Add a splash of water if necessary.  Pour date mixture over crust and spread out evenly.  Freeze for a few hours before serving.  I covered mine with plastic wrap, which you could probably skip.  There was not a single bite leftover!  If you like pecans, you will die for this dessert!

I've also had a single serving pack of Artisana Cashew Butter laying around for awhile, and I knew I would never eat it.  So I made Cashew Fudge with a leftover half banana from S's breakfast, and it is amazing!  Better than Peanut Butter Fudge I think!

Cashew Freezer Fudge
2 tbsp cashew butter
2 tbsp coconut butter, I used homemade
3 tbsp cocoa powder, or less if you don't want it to be quite as chocolatey
1/2 overripe banana

Blend everything together and spread into square plastic container and freeze and/or stick in the fridge for a few hours.  It is amazing!

Summer is almost over- munchkinhead's birthday will pretty much mark the end of it.  This summer has been the sweetest, most fun, most exciting, happiest, and longest summer of my entire life.  Between working around the clock, our fabulous fun Door County vacation, a couple visits to Chicago, and watching S grow up into the big girl she is now- it really has been quite the summer.  And certainly one of the hottest I have ever experienced.  So we are going to enjoy the last few Sunday Summer nights and grill out and take it easy tonight.  I love nights like these.  They are magic.  I've had a flank steak marinating all day, and we have some broccolini and mushrooms to throw on the grill, and a simple spinach salad.  The marinade is not only super simple- but requires no "special" ingredients at all.  Here it is!

Easy Flank Steak Marinade
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
juice of one lemon
3 tbsp EVOO, I used Meyer Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cayenne
1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

You can marinate the steak for up to 24 hours in the fridge.  I also scored the meat on both sides to help the flavors soak in.  The steak can be grilled or broiled. 

My Paleo NOatmeal Protein Cookies are all gone so I'll have to come up with something else to try.  I have never made a cookie using coconut flour, so I'm interested to see how that would work.  So stay tuned for that!  That's all for today- enjoy these last few weeks of summer, it'll be chilly and sweater weather before you know it! XoXoGFG

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Purchases!

I remember pre-marriage, pre-baby, pre-mortgage, I got excited about very different purchases than I do now.  I used to buy clothes, shoes, handbags, shop online, buy accessories, spend a ton of money on drinks and going out...  These days- the thought of buying clothes or accessories, spending money at a bar- ugh barf.  Not that those things aren't fun, but they sure aren't rewarding, and give you almost no pleasure after the initial rush from making the purchase.  Well, I guess certain purchases do still make me happy, but they are few and far between.  What excites me most these days are purchases that are at all related to the kitchen.  Whether it's food or baking ingredients, accessories for the kitchen, or even new appliances, I literally die over anything for the kitchen.  I would rather scrimp and save everywhere I could, to make my kitchen prettier, more functional, and/or more efficient.  Baby steps right?  Hopefully this time next year our sad and dilapidated cabinets will be undergoing a small but much needed transformation.  Any thoughts on refacing vs resurfacing?  I am leaning towards refacing.  And in a few short months I'll be cooking on a new gas range, and cleaning up with a new EnergyStar compliant dishwasher!  For our 3 year anniversary, we decided to forego a trip/gifts/date night in lieu of some new appliances!  What can I say- priorities right?

Anyways- the reason I'm posting is because I am suuuuuuuuuuuper excited about a couple smaller splurges.  Yesterday, I dragged S to BB&B to look for a few items.  I have been researching high speed blenders for quite some time, and my poor little Oster just could not handle even a measly handful of ice cubes for my protein shake.  Fudge babies?  Please.  It just whirred and clicked for awhile until I would mercifully press the OFF button.  I know all the cool bloggers have a fancy vitamix or blendtec, and I am therefore not cool nor will I probably ever be cool.  I also don't have an iphone ok?  I'm not cool.  Back to my story.  I desperately wanted a high speed blender, but I could buy a new dishwasher for the price of a blendtec and it just was not going to happen.  So Ninja it is!  And I am really excited about it.  It's enormous!  And- get it Bed Bath and use a 20 off coupon and it's only $79.99!  I kept the receipt of course, but I can't wait to try it out.  My second splurge will hopefully soon become a well-used AND space-saving piece of equipment.  I possessed neither a hand blender nor a hand mixer.  So behold- this piece of machinery! 

It is a hand blender, with whisk attachment, plus a mini chopper!  Very cool.  Not quite what a hand mixer would be, but if I really needed a mixer I could just use the stand.  I'm pretty pumped about it. 

There are so many recipes that call for a high speed blender.  I'm wondering if you could make Homemade Coconut Butter in a ninja?  And this delish looking drink recipe that I've been wanting to try!  Not to mention, I can resume testing various ball, bar, and bites recipes that I've been too lazy to drag out the cuisi for!  Although I suppose now that's not an issue either.  My purchases inspired me to organize a bit in the kitchen and clear off the countertops.  No more protein powder and baby formula and unused cookie jar on the counter.  Now my small kitchen electrics are proudly displayed next to the stove.  Though sadly, that beast of a ninja is too tall when the container is affixed to the base, so they have to be separated, sitting side by side. 

Besides trying the recipes I posted about here, (minus Giada's Meatballs Pizzaiola which I made last night, instead with no mozzarella, basil, or sun dried tomatoes, but with dried oregano and pickled red peppers YUM it was fabulous!!) I already have a few new ones up my sleeve, including a Raw Pecan Pie and a grain-free biscuit.  With my GFG modifications of course.  

I've also been screwing around with socca.  Not an easy recipe to master, not for me anyways.  Don't let the fact that there are really only 2 ingredients fool you.  It is a finicky little thing.  I've tried it in the skillet, and in the oven.  I've tried it with different ratios of flour to water.  I've tried letting the flour and water sit for a few hours and tried making it right away.  Not impressed so far.  But I'll keep trying.  And once I get through this bag you can bet I am buying from the Indian market down the street where it's practically free.  The packages say "Besan" not Chickpea flour.  I think that is the french word for it.  

I'm blathering.  Really, I am hard-core procrastinating on several projects I have to do.  Mostly work, but crap I SO need to write my speech for DLN's wedding in ONE MONTH!!!!  Ahhhhhhhh!  And so I'll leave you with a pretty picture of their ceremony sight which will hopefully inspire me to get cracking!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Few Updates/Success Stories

Don't you love it when things work out?  And it's really the miserable failures that make those fleeting successes all the more enjoyable!  (Edited:  Here's a great example- this morning's protein shake, which I wanted a bit icier than usual.  My crappy blender was not actually blending anything, so I took off the cap and tried to stir things around a bit.  Of course, after loosening things up, the entire thing exploded and it was like an ice cold protein bomb went off in my kitchen.  Smoothie bits everywhere, all over me, my hair, my face, clothes, floor, cabinets, even the ceiling.  And I was running late for the dentist, and S needed a diaper change.  I didn't even have time to change or put on makeup- went to the dentist with Jay Robb in my hair.  AWESOME!!)  I just had to share a couple updates from a few recipes posted recently.  First, was a very modified version of a vanilla almond flour cake recipe I found on HEAB which she, in turn, adapted from Elana.  I have been obsessing over Baby S's first birthday cake/treat for her birthday party in a few weeks, and decided I would make this Vanilla Almond Flour Cake.  Well, MKG suggested over the weekend that I do a test-run first, and I'm really glad I did!  And not because it came out badly- it was awesome!  In the end, I decided to cupcakeify the recipe so I could make an S-sized cake, perfect for a big 1 candle.  The cupcakes were sweet, vanilla-y, buttery, and just the right size.  I halved the recipe and it made 4 pretty big cupcakes, so that's what I'm posting.

Vanilla Almond Flour Cupcakes
1 egg, separated
1/8 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup stevia/sweetener dissolved in almond milk to make 1/4 cup of liquid total
1/2 TBSP vanilla extract
1/2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 heaping tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin tin (I didn't, and had no problems.)  Separate egg and put yolk in one bowl, white in another.  Whisk yolk, then whisk in oil, almond milk mixture, vanilla, and vinegar.  The coconut oil will solidify if the liquid ingredients are cold, so leave everything on the counter for a bit if you can.  The original recipe says to whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form, I of course did not do this, instead I just whisked it until I got tired of it.  Once you've reached that point, fold in egg white to yolk mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, and baking soda, then gently fold into the egg mixture. Spoon the batter into muffin tin, using about 2 tbsp batter each.  Bake 20 min or so or until the top is starting to turn golden. 

Strawberry Frosting
The munchkin loves strawberries.  I know babies aren't supposed to eat them, I guess if she develops some strange strawberry allergy we'll know why.  This makes enough for the four cupcakes.
2 tbsp coconut butter, I used my homemade stuff
5 or 6 medium strawberries

Blend well, then slather on cupcakes!  So delicious!  No sweetener needed!

Next up were the Paleo NOatmeal Cookies.  Again, I halved this recipe.  And boy did I GFG the crap outta this one!  Big time.  But it was a big success and I'm so excited to share this!

Paleo NOatmeal Protein Cookies
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup vanilla protein powder (I use Jay Robb Whey Protein)
1/4 coconut flour
1/4 raw sunflower seeds
1/4 raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 unsweetened shredded coconut
1 egg
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup (or a little less) sweetener dissolved in almond milk for 1/4 cup liquid total
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 heaping tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Optional- 1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325.  Combine flours/protein powder well. Add in baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and stir.  Then add in seeds/coconut.  In separate bowl, combine egg, oil, vanilla, almond milk mixture (remember about the cocounut oil!) and make sure everything is well incorporated.  Then add in dry mixture and combine.  If using, add in raisins.  Using 1 tbsp scoop, drop onto parchment lined baking sheet and bake 15 minutes.  For me, this made 14 cookies. 

Lastly, this isn't so much of a success story as it is a useful tip.  Yesterday, I didn't have time to marinate the chicken.  So instead I threw together a quick rub right before the chicken went on the grill.  It was just a couple tablespoons of Meyer Lemon EVOO, and then various eyeballed amounts of oregano, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and then a pretty generous amount of kosher salt and black pepper.  It was awesome!  So if you are in a rush and have no time, this rub will do wonders.  Just rub it liberally on both sides of the chicken, and then, if you're so inclined, sprinkle a bit more salt/pepper over it. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Six Fun New Grain-Free Recipes

One of the best things about going GFG is that it really forces you outside your comfort zone.  You can't just make a sandwich or boil some pasta or a bag of rice and call it dinner.  You have to get creative!  My google reader is just overflowing with fun recipes to try every single day, and while I pretty much am dying to try all of them, certain ones I just know were practically made for me.  Here are a few recipes that I've come across this past week that I can't wait to try.  I hope you'll try them too!

Laura Calder French, Food at Home's Halibut and Brown Butter with Carrots and Cumin, Chickpeas and Green Olives

  • 1 cup or 14-ounces dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives
  • Handful chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 8 slender carrots
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed, lightly crushed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 (4-ounce) halibut fillets
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the chickpeas:
Soak the chickpeas in a bowl of cold water overnight. Drain and rinse, then put in a pot with the onion and bay leaf. Cover the beans, just with water. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until very tender, about 45 minutes. Drain the beans, discarding the onion and bay leaf.

Heat the oil in a saute pan, and gently fry the garlic, 30 seconds. Add the chickpeas, salt, and pepper, to taste, to heat through. Crush a bit, here and there, with a potato masher, leaving some chickpeas whole. Remove from the heat, and stir in the olives, parsley, and lemon zest. Add lemon juice, to taste. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and serve as a base for the fish or chicken.

For the carrots:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice the carrots lengthwise, leaving a bit of green top attached, for looks. Toss on a baking sheet with the olive oil, crushed cumin seed, and salt and pepper, to taste. Roast until tender and golden-edged, about 30 minutes, depending on their size. They should be slightly crinkly and golden-edged.

For the halibut:
Melt the butter in a saucepan, and cook until lightly brown and foaming. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Season the fish with salt, and pepper on both sides, place the fish in the hot pan, and fry 4 minutes. Flip, and cover to finish, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve the fish with some brown butter dribbled over.

Almond Flour Chicken adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded
1 egg, beaten
1-2 T olive oil (enough to generously coat the baking sheet)
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tsp. paprika (not smoked or hot)
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Turn on the oven to 400.  Brush a baking sheet liberally with olive oil and put the pan in the oven to heat as the oven preheats.

Trim all visible fat and tendons from chicken breasts, and pound out making everything the same thickness.  Crack egg into bowl and beat with fork.

Combine the almond meal, paprika, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper in a bowl, mixing together well. Dunk chicken in egg and then dredge each piece into the almond meal mixture, pressing on with your fingers so it coats the chicken. Coat all the chicken before you remove the baking sheet from the oven.

When all chicken is coated, lay them on the hot baking sheet and cook 12 minutes, or until the side touching the pan is lightly browned. Remove pan from oven, turn chicken, and bake 10 minutes more on the second side, until lightly browned and cooked through.

Giada Inspired Meatball Pizzaiola

  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained (5 or 6)
  • 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground turkey or turkey and lean beef
  • 6 ounces smoked mozzarella, cut into 36 (1/2-inch) cubes
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 cups marinara sauce, warmed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

In a food processor, pulse together the shallots, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, shredded mozzarella, Parmesan, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and salt. Process until blended. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add ground meat, and using a wooden spoon or clean hands, stir until well combined. Form the mixture into 36 equal-size meatballs (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter).

Insert 1 cube smoked mozzarella cheese into the center of each meatball and form the meat around it, completely enclosing the cheese.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat half the oil over medium heat. Add half of the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining oil and meatballs.

Place the browned meatballs onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes for medium doneness. Set aside to cool slightly, and serve with warm marinara sauce

Chocolate and Carrot's Almond Crusted Fish Tacos

  • 1 (15 ounce) can reduced sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 chopped small bell pepper
  • 1 (15 ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups spring mix salad
  • 1 cup unsalted almonds
  • 2 tilapia filets, cut down the middle (long-ways)
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoon skim milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan
  1. Prepare the salsa: In a bowl, mix the black beans, peppers, tomatoes, pepper and salt together. Set aside.
  2. Place 1/2 cup of spring mix salad on each plate
  3. Spoon out 1/2 cup of salsa on top of the spring mix salad.
  4. Meanwhile, in a food processor, grind up the almonds to a crunchy almond meal. Just pulse until you get the texture desired.
  5. Pour the crushed almonds in a low bowl.
  6. Put the flour, pepper and salt in another bowl.
  7. Pour the egg, egg whites, and milk in another bowl.
  8. Over medium heat, get a pan with olive oil ready.
  9. Meanwhile, coat the tilapia filet halves in the flour, then the egg, then the almond meal. Place in the pan. cook a few minutes per side and serve over plated salad and salsa.  
All Day I Dream About Food's Garam Masala Eggplant Chips with Cilantro Mint Raita

2 Japanese Eggplants
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp garam masala
additional salt to taste

1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Cut eggplant into 1/4 inch slices and lie in a single layer on a large parchment-lined baking sheet (you may need two baking sheets). Sprinkle with salt and let sit for an hour to remove some moisture. Blot dry with a paper towel.

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a small bowl, combine olive oil and garam masala. Brush both sides of each eggplant slice with the oil mixture and place back on baking sheets. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until slices are crisp and browned but not burnt. Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional salt to taste. Serve warm.

For the raita, whisk yogurt, cilantro, mint and cumin together in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve alongside eggplant chips.

Paleo NOatmeal Cookies adapted from Primal Palate

2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup ground flax
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup sweetener dissolved in almond milk for 1/2 cup of liquid
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cinnamon
Optional-1/2 tsp nutmeg and/or 1 cup raisins or chopped walnuts

Combine dry ingredients.  In separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, vanilla, almond milk mixture and mix.  Pour wet into dry, then stirring in raisins/nuts if using.  Drop batter in 1 tbsp increments onto parchment lined baking sheet and bake 15 min at 325. 

Protein Shakes, Homemade Coconut Butter, So Delicious Ice Cream, and more!

Discovering fun, delicious, and healthy new products is always a highlight in my day.  After several weeks of researching protein powders, I finally settled on Jay Robb Whey Protein Powder.  Many other blogs had mentioned his products, and I really did my research.  I wanted something with no sugar, but also no artificial sweeteners, and a huge protein punch.  Taste was also incredibly important, as was calories, and the quality of ingredients.  I wanted an isolate powder, with as few ingredients as possible.  Jay Robb really is exceptional stuff.  25 grams of protein per serving and no artificial sweeteners.  I prefer the vanilla flavor, chocolate wasn't my thing- I felt you could taste the licorice-y stevia flavor a bit more.  Mixed with some flax, frozen berries, and a bit of almond milk and ice in the blender, and you've got an incredibly filling and healthy breakfast.  It actually kept me full for over 4 hours!  That is insane.  I also did a lot of price comparing, and it was cheapest at my local Vitamin Shoppe

Next up on my list of items to try was So Delicious Coconut Milk Ice Cream.  OMG!  An ice-cream type dessert that I can actually eat?????  It is sweetened with erythritol, and has an amazing and smooth coconut taste.  It is packed with fiber, and only 100 calories per serving, or 200 if you eat an entire cup!  The chocolate flavor is awesome!  But yikes, expensive!  $5.99 at my WF.  Although I suppose that's cheaper than getting yogurt at your local yogurt shop.  But this got me thinking- you can make coconut milk ice cream with only a few ingredients.  I need an ice cream maker!  And so the list of small kitchen appliances on my list grows longer.  Cuisinart makes one that a ton of people on Amazon really like. 

Another fabulous weekend discovery was a small Indian market close to my house.  Among other things, I've also been desperately searching for cheaper Artisana Coconut Butter, and/or a good homemade replica.  It is just so darn expensive!  As the blogosphere very often laments.  I stumbled across a comment on some low-carb forum that recommended buying Coconut Powder, not shredded coconut, but powder, from an Indian Market.  Wow- I am so glad I decided to go this route!  Not only did this market have enormous quantities of coconut oil, nuts, dates, and chickpea flour for half the price of WF, it had a huge 28 ounce bag of coconut powder (basically just shredded coconut more finely chopped) for $4.99.  That is wild!  This meant I had to get on home and try homemade coconut butter in the food processor that everyone and their moms seems to be making.  It took wayyyyy longer than anticipated.  From reading posts on HEAB and CCK I had expected it to take a couple minutes.  Well, after 30 minutes of processing and a steady stream of smoke/steam coming out of the machine, all I had was an incredibly gritty and pale imitation of the exalted stuff.  Not fun.  I resigned myself to spending $11.99 a jar for Artisana and put the concoction in a tupperware and left it on the counter.  BUT!  Reading a bit later some posts on Oh May, she recommends to put it in the blender for another 5 minutes or so to finish it and smooth out the grittiness.  What an enormous difference that made!  It's now so smooth, and almost indistinguishable from the jarred stuff.  Right now it's still a bit soupy, which I think is due to the fact that my house usually hovers right around 80 degrees. 

Here is why I think I had problems.  1) God knows how long that bag had been sitting on the shelf at the Indian market.  I'm not complaining, it was super cheap, but I don't think that helped matters.  2) I didn't measure how much coconut I threw in the processor.  But I absolutely put way too much.  This next time I'll stick with 2 cups (which sadly only yields about 1/2 cup of butter). 

I am so thrilled about this!  I've already made some yummy chocolate hazelnut freezer fudge with it, with my homemade nutella, and am going to be using it to make some strawberry frosting for my vanilla almond flour cupcakes I'm trying out in preparation for Baby S's first birthday party!  Next up, chocolate coconut butter, and cashew coconut freezer fudge!  Can't wait. 

I know I haven't posted too much this past week.  That's because one, I've been super ridiculous busy with work and SMG, but two, I've been compiling a huge list of fun recipes to try out in the next few weeks.  I don't think I'll ever have "nothing to make", ever again.  I need to do some formatting and tweaking to these, so stay tuned. 

Tonight's Sunday night dinner is going to be super simple.  Grilled spice-rubbed chicken thighs, with grilled veggies (Yellow Squash, grape tomatoes, red onion, mushrooms) and Skillet Socca with green onions. 


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Weekend Trip to Chicago = No Time to Grocery Shop

Baby S and I had a jampacked weekend of fun in Chicago!  We swam in Lake Michigan for the first time, ate sand for the first time, and started saying "Thank You!"  Well, sort of.  But it was a blast and I wished we could have stayed longer.  Alas, it's back to the real world of neverending work, a constantly sweltering house to clean, and an empty fridge.  But not to worry!  My well-stocked GFG pantry can definitely get us through the week.  What's for dinner you ask? 

No Mayo Mediterranean Inspired Tuna Salad
1 can of tuna, canned in oil preferably and drained
1 can rinsed and drained cannellini beans
2 tbsp capers
1/4 cup chopped black olives
half a red onion, chopped
veggies- whatever you got- I'll throw in some celery, grape tomatoes and shredded carrots.  If you have some arugula or lettuce, even better!  May also try adding in some red peppers and artichoke in brine.
2 tbsp EVOO

Do I really need to write out instructions?  This is a great, refreshing, and light alternative to your usual drenched-in-mayo tuna salad.  Ick. 

I brought home a ton of GFG snacks for the weekend.  They must not have been too terrible because everything was devoured in about 12 hours.  The vegan garbage cookies, apricot balls, and bitter chocolate cookies were all hits with the 'rents.  Apricot balls especially.  Gosh I am in love with pecans.  I never noticed what a sweet, vanilla-y taste they have.  I also have been giving more thought to S's first birthday cake.  I think I'll try making them cupcakes instead of a big cake, and whipping up some Raspberry Coconut Frosting to go with them.  That would be just a cup of raspberries, 4 tbsp coconut butter, and a tsp of vanilla, in the blender. 

I would love some suggestions on a high-powered blender.  I'm sorry, but this GFG cannot spend $400 on a vitamix.  Sounds like people really do like their Ninjas.  My sad little bargain basement Oster is not quite cutting it these days, please excuse the pun.  I love my cuisinart, it's amazing, but sometimes you need a blender not a chopper. 

And it's bottle time!  Can't believe in just a month I can quit buying icky formula and put these ridiculous bottles away, with their 800 parts to clean.  That is just nutty. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

It's Friday and I'm Excited to...

Happy Friday!  I don't know about you but I am absolutely thrilled it's almost the weekend.  Work has been KILLER lately and I'm totally exhausted and desperately in need of some R&R!  Luckily S and I are headed to Chicago to see the fam this weekend and I am ready to hit the beach!  Yeah can't wait!  Lollapalooza is this weekend though so I'm a little concerned about traveling to and from, but it'll be ok. 

Seeing as I'll be OOT this weekend I won't be cooking GFG-style too much, unless my mom wants some help.  But I am itching to try a few recipes that I've seen lately, with my GFG twists of course.  One thing in particular that I had not heard of until only recently was Socca- which means I was living under a rock until now.  Four million websites talk about it.  Diet Dessert N Dogs, Pure2Raw, Diary of a Nutritionist, Alex at Spoonful of Sugar Free, HEAB, you name it.  It looks easy, delicious, and a great "bread-y" type food that is grain-free.  And quite versatile.  Used like flatbread, or like bread for a sandwhich, or more like a pizza crust.  Pure2Raw even says you can prepare it in the skillet.  Yum!

Skillet Socca:
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1 cup water
pinch of salt/pepper
herbs- rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, whatever! 
1 tbsp coconut oil or EVOO

Combine ingredients and then pour into oiled skillet.  Once edges are starting to brown (like a pancake) flip to the other side and continue cooking.  Top with any number of things- from nut butter, to cheese, to roasted veggies, prosciutto, cream cheese, whatever!  Awesome as a side dish with hummus, salsa, olives and parmesan, the options are totally limitless!

Another fun recipe I saw today was for Sloppy Josephines, from Chocolate and Carrots.  Cute huh!  The recipe was originally from Cooking Light and then adapted- I'm leaving out the sugar/chocolate syrup.  I also would eat this on its own instead of using a bun, but MKG could have a bun, served with a side salad/fruit salad.

Sloppy Josephines:1 cup dry lentils, cooked according to package instructions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet onion
1 large carrot
1 portabella mushroom
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (15 ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes
1 cup ground turkey/soy crumbles vegan ground meat etc.
Prepare the lentils according to the packaged instructions.
In a food processor, finely chop the onion, carrot and mushroom.
In a sauce pan over medium heat, add in the olive oil, the finely chopped vegetables and the garlic.
Sauté for about 5 minutes until tender.
Add in the pepper, salt, chili powder, oregano, and red pepper.
Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a boil for 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, mash half of the beans with a fork.
Add the mashed beans, whole beans and ground meat to the pan.
Turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Finally, with Baby S's FIRST BIRTHDAY coming up in less than a month, I've been thinking a lot about her first birthday cake, her first time eating sweets for that matter.  To be quite honest- I really am not thrilled about her having a dessert.  But taking a couple bites in celebration of her big birthday is not going to single-handedly send her down the path to diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or obesity, so I think I need to take a big chill pill and have some fun with this!  Along those lines- I may as well make something fun that my whole GFG family can enjoy!  HEAB recently posted a Vanilla Almond Flour Cake recipe- adapted from Elana- and with a few of my own adaptations it will work beautifully!  If I wanted, I could even double this and turn this into a pretty two-layer cake with vanilla or chocolate coconut butter frosting.  More on this to come.  But for the base recipe, here goes!

Vanilla Almond Flour Cake:

2 large eggs, separated
    1/4 cup coconut oil or butter
    1/2 cup stevia/sweetener dissolved in almond milk to make 1/2 cup of liquid total
    1 TBSP vanilla extract
    1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
    2 & 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
    1/2 tsp sea salt
    1/2 tsp baking soda

    Preheat oven to 350. Grease round cake pan.
    In a large bowl, whisk the eggs yolks until pale yellow with a handheld mixer, then whisk in coconut oil, almond milk mixture, vanilla, and vinegar. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs whites to stiff peaks with a hand held mixer. Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixtures.
    In a separate bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, and baking soda, then gently fold into the egg mixture. Spoon the batter into cake pan.
    Bake for 20-30 min, until the top of the cake is golden brown or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 30 minutes; the center will sink just a bit – that is normal.

Frosting would be super easy.  1 overripe banana, 1/4 cup coconut butter, 1 tsp vanilla, and extra almond milk if necessary to thin it out.  Plus cinnamon, sweetener and/or cocoa powder to make chocolate frosting. 

Can't wait to try out these fun recipes! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Use What You Have Wednesday, or, the Garbage Cookie Post

Use What You Got Bitches!
This week, today is Use What You Have Day.  Thank you, Bethenny, for the best phrase ever.  I decided to try the coconut flour curry chicken recipe.  Yum!  It was not without incident of course.  I only had old wilted green onions, and didn't add the curry powder at the right time, and also was using chicken legs skin-on bone-in so I think they must have needed longer to cook than the recipe called for- so cutting into it at dinner blood squirted everywhere and I then microwaved it thinking I was going to kill myself and my husband from salmonella... three hours later I guess we are both still alive.  Um, it was really good though!  Super! The coconut flour added a really sweet, subtle flavor, and the curry spices were awesome.  All I did was saute frozen succotash veg from TJ's and frozen bell peppers in a little of the curry sauce.  Use What You Got!  Baby S had fun eating the red bell peppers.

Today I also made Garbage Cookies.  I am calling them that because I basically had a bunch of things that were almost used up so I threw 'em in.  The cookie originated from a Vegan Peanut Butter cookie Elana posted.  Hers called for PB, agave, celtic sea salt, spectrum vegan shortening.  So naturally mine had pretty much none of those things.  But, it turned out great!  Not sweet at all, almost salty.  You can tell there's no egg in it- and if vegan isn't important, I'd say add two eggs, it won't be so crumbly.  But these cookies are yum!  And lots of protein.  Here it is:

Garbage Cookies (Vegan, Gluten, Grain, and Sugar Free)
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used less, whatever was at the bottom of the container I was trying to use up)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sweetener dissolved in almond milk to get 1/4 cup liquid
1 tsp cinnamon (I put cinnamon in every single thing I make, leave it out if you want)
1/2 cup total of the following things I wanted to use up- homemade nutella, PB, and almond butter
2 tbs vegan butter, shortening, coconut oil, whatever
3 tbs flaxseed meal

Combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and cocoa powder.  In blender, add vegan butter, nut butter, vanilla, flaxseed, and almond milk mixture.  The almond milk mixture is my agave replacement.  Blend ingredients until thoroughly combined, then add to dry ingredients.  Spoon using 1 tbs scoop onto parchment lined cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes at 350.

These cookies definitely have the salty/sweet thing going on.  I like replacing some of the flour with cocoa powder- I love cocoa powder in anything!  I have also noticed I usually like adding more baking soda than is called for, same usually goes for vanilla and cinnamon.  Cinnamon has enormous health benefits and also sweetens and warms things up without added sugar.  It made all the difference in my apricot nut energy bars I made today too.  Just apricots, shredded coconut, walnuts/pecans, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Yum!

I'm going home to visit the family on Friday and am really excited!  I'll take S to the beach and she'll probably eat loads of sand.  I'm going to bring home an assortment of all my GFG approved snacks and try to persuade my mom to join the GFG cult.  And I'm super excited because Vera Bradley just had this awesome promotion where you could buy an enormous diaper/tote bag and a duffel bag for like, half off, and they should arrive in time for me to use them!  It's the little things right?  Very excited to travel with actual proper bags, instead of the broken, donated, ripped, ugly, crappy, things I've been lugging around.  Everyone registers for nice luggage when they get married and no one ever gets it.  Like towels and sheets.  No one buys you that stuff.  But now I'll have cute little matching travel gear and all is right in the world.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Apricots and bitter chocolate

In my efforts to get into bitter chocolate, I'm experimenting with different combinations that will yield the most successful results, for this GFG anyways.  I've never been huge into apricots- never really cared about them one way or the other- same for dates- but now, they're both taking up increasing amounts of space in my pantry and I'm excited to be trying out a few different recipes for them.  Today, I had fun rejiggering yesterdays Scookie recipe, with chopped dried apricots.  They are amazing.  Completely wonderful.  I put quite a bit of cinnamon, probably 1 1/2 tsp, which does wonders.  MKG mentioned how buttery they taste- which I think must be all the almond oils or something.  Anyways, I only had a few apricots left in the package and decided to melt some bitter chocolate and dunk 'em in there.  Just like Ina taught me, I tried her microwave tempering trick, which alas did not work out and the chocolate became grainy and pasty rather than warm and oozy.  Maybe it's because of all the cocoa mass?  I don't know.  Anyways- no matter- I ended up kind of smooshing the pasty chocolate on them and put the apricots in the fridge to firm up, et voila!  Delish!  Certainly not the chocolate dipped fruit you envision but super yummy and the sweet apricot goes great with the bitter chocolate.  I had some chocolate left at the end so decided to roll a few hazelnuts in it.  Really yummy too!  

Just for kicks- here is the Apricot Scookie recipe:
 2 1/2 cups almond flour
3 ounces dried apricot, chopped into small pieces
2 eggs (room temp)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup sweetener, dissolved in almond milk to make 1/4 cup liquid.
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4  tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  In separate bowl, mix eggs, oil, vanilla, and almond milk mixture.  Add wet to dry and incorporate, then adding apricot.  Spoon using tablespoon measure onto parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 20 min.  

I am not going to bother with a recipe for the apricots and bitter chocolate seeing as I screwed it up so bad, but they were still pretty good!

Next up on the apricot train is an energy bar type concoction that I'll take home to Chicago this weekend.  Elana posted recently an apricot energy bar, hers has eggs in it and some other stuff, and I don't really feel like having to bake it- so I'm going to go a slightly different route.  

Coconut and Apricot Energy Bars (or balls!)
2 cups apricot
1 cup pecans (or more likely cashews)
1/2 to 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
optional: 2 tbs flax

Throw it all in the food processor until sticky/clumpy- then press into 8x8 pan and refrigerate.  If you wanted to add in a pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp vanilla that would be even better!  Elana's version I think has two eggs and you bake it for a bit.  That would be a good way to sneak in some more protein.

I think I'm going to take a day or two off from baking- if you hadn't heard, we are in the midst of a horrible heatwave/drought- it's been over 100 for the past several weeks, and my house is sitting at a pleasant 80 degrees with the AC on high.  When I preheat the oven, it's already at 100 when you turn it on, which is nice!  Another upside is that my coconut oil is already liquified!  But poor baby S I guess has allergies, all this heat and dry air is giving everyone loads of allergic reactions, and she has had a runny nose and itchy eyes for a week.  Poor munchkinhead.  She has been pretty finicky, especially at mealtimes.  Although she did eat a giant slice of avocado out of my salad last night, and some of my orange today.  But a big fat NO to any peas, corn, or edamame at dinner.  Speaking of- Paleos excluded- what is your take on soy?  Soy products, soy derivatives, tofu, tempeh, soy isoflavones, all that jazz?  I've heard about soy getting a bad rap the past few years, phytoestrogens and all- but wasn't that knowledgeable on the subject.  With all my hormone issues I myself tend to avoid soy products but S really likes soy beans so I thought I should do some research.

Turns out the jury is still wayyyyyyyyyyy out on soy.  All kinds of conflicting research stating in one article that soy is helpful in preventing breast cancer and then dispelling it in the next.  It's beneficial, no its harmful, no it's neither.  I'm sure a huge part of the problem is that these days, soy "product" is found in pretty much all processed foods and in much higher quantities than is nutritionally necessary and needless to say, we consume a lot of processed junk in this country.  Another interesting fact I read is that nearly all soy product in the US has been genetically modified.  But nothing I read seems to say anything negative about the occasional serving of edamame.  So for now- a little bit probably won't hurt.