Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spaghetti (Squash) and Meatballs, Apple Crumble Bars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spinach and Feta Salmon Patties

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chicken Adobo and Kale Chips

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Grain-Free, Sugar-Free Raspberry Cookie Bars!

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

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

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

Taking the First Steps to Better Nutrition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 17, 2011

Egg Muffins and Grain-Free Choc. Chip Blondies

Whew!  Whirlwind weekend for us!  Because we had so much going on I feel like I barely got to spend any time with S.  She is really walking up a storm and much more comfortable on two feet.  Still crawling quite a bit but it's clear she prefers standing to sitting.

Since we are still on two naps I did have some spare time yesterday to try a few things I'd had in mind.  If you're familiar with Kalyn's Kitchen you've no doubt seen her Egg Muffins.  She is big into the South Beach Diet so she created egg muffins as a quick, easy, make-ahead breakfast or snack.  It is so simple that no recipe is needed.  I sprayed a muffin pan with non-stick spray and then sprinkled some colby jack and sliced green onions into each cup.  In a large bowl I cracked 12 eggs and then mixed in 2 tsp of seasoned salt, use whatever brand you like.  Mix the eggs up really well or else you'll have gross streaks of egg white in the muffins.  Pour egg mixture into each cup about 3/4 of the way and bake at 375 for about 35 minutes.  Mine puffed up considerably, but then fell when I took them out of the oven.  They aren't that pretty but they are delish, and make a great lunch for S too.  I let them cool for a bit before putting them in a ziploc bag.  Take a peek at Kalyn's website and check out all her variations.  You can put any veg/meat/cheese you like in them!  Bacon, tomatoes, cheddar, broccoli, whatev!  Herbs would be great too.

Edited:  I've now been making egg muffins once a week for a few months and have some new input.  First- get yourself some silicone muffin cups, makes clean-up much easier.  Second, I no longer crack a bunch of eggs into a bowl and mix everything up.  I just put whatever add-ins (cheese, green onions, mushrooms, bacon etc) into the little silicone cup, which is inside the muffin tin, and then crack an egg into the cup.  Way easier, and more fun to eat I think.  Sprinkle some S&P over the top and bake. 

I think we all go through different phases of what we're in the mood for.  For awhile, I couldn't get enough of the raw bites with dates and walnuts.  Thinking about it now, ew.  Then it was freezer fudge.  Then coconut flour breads.  Now I'm on to blondies.  These came out AWESOME!

Grain-Free Blondies
1 3/4 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (you know me and cinnamon!)
1 egg
1/4 cup oil (grapeseed, coconut, melted vegan butter etc)
35 drops of Vanilla Creme Stevia
1/4 cup nutmilk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk) and perhaps another tbsp or two depending on how wet your mixture is
1/2 to 3/4 cup choc. chips (or chopped walnuts, dried fruit, whatever!)

Preheat oven to 350 and line an 8x8 with parchment.  Mix flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda together.  In a separate bowl, beat egg and add in oil, nutmilk, and stevia.  This does not make a sweet blondie so if you want it really sweet add a bit more stevia.  Pour wet over dry and incorporate, then adding in choc. chips or nuts.  I used semi-sweet choc chips from TJ's and I realize this makes the recipe not totally sugar-free.  If you wanted to make it totally sugar free then use nuts, or leave out the choc. chips altogether.  If you realllllllllllly want some chocolate, I'll post my suggestion below.  Once the mixture is well-combined, pour into your 8x8 and spread out evenly.  Bake 35 minutes or so or until the top is starting to turn golden.  You want to underbake these a bit so they stay chewy!

So- I have given this a lot of thought.  After scouring the internet and g-stores and coming up empty-handed, I have a few chocolate options for those of us who want to stay 100% sugar free.  The first option of course would be to just chop up some unsweetened baking chocolate.  There is also malitol-sweetened choc bars at TJ's that aren't bad, but they do have a somewhat grainy consistency.  If you don't have any of those- try this.  Melt two squares of baking chocolate in the microwave with some cream, milk, or coconut milk.  Add in your sugar substitute slowly and to taste, depending on how sweet you want it.  This will create a quasi-ganache.  After you've baked the blondie, you can pour the ganache over the top so they'll have a chocolate coating.  Or you could cut up into individual bars and dip the whole thing in the ganache!  Not bad right?  I have made this ganache a few times and it's pretty good- just beware that it will be slightly gritty as nothing dissolves in chocolate quite like sugar.

What did you guys make over the weekend?  I'd love to take a peek!  Put links in the comments so we can all look!  XoXoGFG

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Post on Supplements

Today's post doesn't have a recipe because honestly, last night's dinner wasn't that great- it wasn't inedible or anything but just not anything worth writing home about.  I made tilapia that was way too spicy for MKG and S and a meh salad.  It happens.  My post today is about supplements/vitamins.  There seem to be two distinct camps.  The "I get all my vitamins from my varied diet" and then the folks who feel they could always use a little more.  It doesn't help that there really are no clearcut daily amounts that we should all be getting.  We know the bare minimums we should get to avoid different illnesses and deficiencies (iron for anemia, vitamin c for scurvy, etc) but what are optimal amounts of each vitamin?  To make it even more confusing, most likely we all need differing amounts depending on genetics, where we live, what health issues we have, and so on. 

I have started taking quite a lot of vitamins.  I've always taken a multi or pre-natal and one or two others for good measure- but in efforts to help increase my insulin sensitivity and get my hormones on track, I've added a bunch of new supplements to the mix and I can't help wondering if it's doing anything at all.  It's only been a month or so- but it's a lot of pills everyday and it can make me a little naush, especially on an empty stomach, and then of course it's an addtional expense too. 

Right now I'm taking cinnamon, chromium, biotin, manganese, vitamin D3, magnesium, plus a multi, something called DCI, and now metformin.  That's a lot!  Plus my daily protein shakes.  Ironically, many times I find myself wishing for a protein pill too, to make it easier to get enough in everyday.  Do you "believe" in supplements?  If so, what do you take, and do you feel like it does anything? 

It's hard to say if any of these are helping to increase my insulin sensitivity.  I don't keep track of my blood glucose levels so I'd just be guessing.  Hormonally nothing really feels any different either- except that I feel like my temperature has maybe gone up a little bit.  Normally I'm always cold, but lately I've been feeling much warmer and sometimes even too hot.  I have noticed my nails are also quite a bit stronger, probably from the biotin.  Other than that- nothing to report.  Honestly, if anything, I am feeling super crampy lately which I'm not thrilled about. 

I know that in a perfect world we'd all get adequate nutrition and the right mix of vitamins and minerals from our colorful, varied, non GMO, macrobiotic, locally-grown and all organic diet.  Obviously that is not the case for the vast majority of us.  And I have to wonder, could you even stomach all that food you'd really need to eat?  Myself personally, I just don't think my appetite is big enough for all that food!  I am still struggling with trying to get more protein. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on vitamins and supplements!  Let me know what you think!  XoXoGFG

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Apricot Walnut Almond Flour Cookies, and, ummm, how to handle meddling loved ones?

It's a bit of a buzz kill when Yom Kippur falls on a weekend.  It's a very solemn holy-day and kind of sucks the fun out of whatever day/s it happens to fall on.  Sooooooo being on Friday night/Saturday day makes for a less than stellar weekend.  Anyhow- as usual we made the most of it and it turned out to be a lovely and productive weekend.  I got a couple gifts for some upcoming showers and we had a blast at S's little friend's 2nd Birthday Party!  The party was at My Gym which is a great place where babies/tots can run around and go absolutely berserk playing on slides, jungle gyms, swings, whatever.   We had a couple great walks outside, although at this point, and I feel crazy for saying it, I would not mind if it was a teensy bit cooler out.  It's October after all!  85 degrees still?  Really? 

Point of the story- yes, we got tons done so I had some time to spare today during naptime to experiment with some cookies.  I had ordered a couple items from iherb, including some Vanilla Creme stevia drops and was psyched to try it out.  I'm so glad I did!

Apricot Walnut Almond Flour Cookies (Grain-Free, Vegan, Sugar-Free)
1 1/4 cups almond flour
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup apricots, chopped
1/4 cup oil (coconut, grapeseed, whatev)
1/4 cup almond milk or other nut milk
25 drops vanilla creme stevia
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine almond flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and stir well.  Add in coconut, apricot, and walnut.  In separate bowl, combine oil, stevia drops, vinegar, and nut milk.  Add wet to dry and incorporate well.  Roll into 1 inch balls (or bigger if you like, these make teensy little cookies which I happen to prefer, but make whatever size you want!) and place on parchment lined cookie sheet.  I baked mine for 20 minutes- which I know seems crazy long for tiny cookies.  I have a theory that my convection oven, while it does cook/brown very evenly, actually takes longer than a regular oven.  So check them at 10 minutes and see what you think.  These cookies are not very sweet at all.  Tasting the batter, I was a little worried- so I rolled the dough in a mixture of Stevia in the Raw and cinnamon, they looked pretty too.  They don't really need it- but I'm aware that not everyone in the world likes their sweets unsweetened like I do.  Once again this is a good base recipe that can be adapted to whatever you have on hand- dried cherries and almonds, chocolate chips and peanuts- whatev!

We had some other yummy eats this weekend- balsamic marinated steak and some sliced avo on Friday, chicken fajita salads tonight- but honestly nothing that you'd actually need a recipe for.  Super simple, super fast, and big flavors. 

***The rest of this post is really long- and probably too personal, annoying, redundant, and self-absorbed.  So be warned!***  S is growing up so fast.  Her vocabulary is expanding so quickly, it's staggering.  She is such an opinionated, strong, outgoing and FUN little girl.  It is extraordinary watching her become a child instead of a baby.  I know this kind of talk is nauseating to anyone other than myself so I'll get to the point.  I want to do the best job I possibly can raising her.  I want to be not just a good mom, an ok mom, but an awesome mom.  And not by someone else's account- I don't care what anyone thinks or what the other moms say when I'm not around.  But I want S one day to say, or just think even, that she has a great mom.  I want to be the best mom in the world, for her.  And it starts now.  Of course it started already- but when they're newborns and little infants, it's like- feed them keep them warm and clean and for gods sake try to keep the purple crying to a minimum.  But now- it's a whole different ballgame.  She watches everything I do and wants me to watch everything she does.  She notices everything.  She remembers everything.  She is learning at light speed. 

I am still struggling with how to handle her nutrition.  Sugar is a no-brainer.  I do not give her anything with added sugars, period.  Fruit is probably her favorite thing in the world besides Elmo and that's fine with me.  No sweets or junk food or candy- nada.  Obviously this will eventually no longer be something I can control- but hopefully by then we'll have taught her that it's best to avoid sugars.  Will it work like that?  Who knows.  But I can do my best in the here and now.  What I have more trouble with is how to limit empty and nutritionally void carbs.  I just don't want her to have empty starches and refined garbage.  How do I regulate this and how do I communicate it effectively?  And once I decide, how do I explain it to the army of meddlers?  It's not like I can say, she has an allergy to crap.  I do not want her to have empty, refined, overly processed, starchy junk.  I need a more effective way to communicate this though, and I DO NOT want to have to argue with people about it.  Suggestions?  The only thing I can come up with is "I've spoken with S's doctor about her nutrition and we agreed that this is best for her.." or something like that.  I wouldn't be lying either- we did discuss it.  Saturday night- at break-the-fast dinner- I did not want her eating a bagel.  Please- do not get me started on the terribleness that is a bagel.  Besides a baked potato, I'm not sure there is a worse glucose bomb out there.  Table sugar would be better than a bagel.  Anywho- NO BAGEL for S.  Not now not ever.  Do you know what would happen if I ate a bagel?  Well- I'd probably get into a wreck from the drunken haze of high blood sugar, and then faint afterwards once my blood sugar plummeted to 45.   But MIL wanted to give her a bagel- or some blintz, etc etc.  So I said- S is not eating wheat.  I realize, to most Americans who are on the Standard American Diet (SAD) or common wisdom diet (CW, depending on what other blogs you read haha) that saying you don't eat wheat sounds ludicrous, unnecessary, and perhaps even dangerous.  But what am I going to do?  I am not going to be some grain-free evangelist trying to convert people to my line of thought.  I don't care!  Eat what you want- no judgement from me.  I am no one to judge anyone on anything.  I just don't care to to explain to people what my choices are.  It's just not what I'm into.  I'd rather keep my choices to myself (or whoever's interested!).  I don't expect anyone to care about my personal choices and I don't want to bore anyone with that kind of thing.  If they're interested- great.  If not- no big deal.  So anyways- when I said no wheat- of course I was met with a WHY?  I didn't know what to say.  Again- what is there to say?  That I believe grains are unnecessary?  That I believe we are not evolved to digest the amount of grain that the SAD suggests?  Seriously?  I'm not going to get into all that.  I don't care to- and I think in most cases, the person to whom you are speaking cares even less.  So I said- "because I said so," and was immediately annoyed, irritated, and flustered by my totally half-assed response.  Ugh.  I have GOT to do better than that.  This issue is divisive.  It's scary, and huge.  What do you do- when the some of the biggest crops in the world, the most farmed, most subsidized, and profitable commodities, are on your do-not-eat list?  Wheat-corn-soy-sugar.  How do you explain, when asked, WHY that is your choice, without getting into an argument, without having to go into lengthy detail, without coming off like a judgmental, condescending hippie? 

Whew- that was intense.  Sorry in advance for anyone I might have offended- just because this is my personal choice doesn't mean it's any better than anyone else's.  What is right for me is not going to be right for everyone else.  XoXoGFG

Liebster Blog Award!

So exciting!  GFG received the Liebster Blog award from Mrs. Ed's Research and Recipes blog!  The Liebster award goes to blogs with 200 followers or less and means "dear, sweet, kind, nice, good, beloved, lovely, kindly, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome," in German.  I am really honored that anyone at all takes the time to read my ramblings and even more so to get this fun award.  The best part is- you pay it forward!  Now I choose 5 blogs that I also feel should receive this award :)

Diary of a Nutritionist:  Lauren is a 20-something nutritionist navigating the world of healthy eating incorporating vegan, raw, whole, clean, and unprocessed foods.  She has an interesting perspective as she also prepares many meals for her family, who are not necessarily raw/vegan.  I like to read all kinds of different blogs, not only GF blogs, and I love Lauren's emphasis on fresh produce and fun, easy meals.

What Katie Did:  Katie is another fun blogger in her twenties who enjoys GF cooking, getting outdoors, photography, and all manner of healthy living.  She was also nice enough to tag my blog awhile back.  I think it's so important that bloggers focus not just on recipes, but what it means to lead a whole, clean, FUN, and fulfilling life.  Life is not ticking things off on a to-do list or constantly analyzing your diet.  It's about choosing nourishing foods AND activities that fuel your mind and body so that you can get the most out of every second.  And Katie is a great example of that.

What You're Missing KC:  Switching gears big time- my next blog is Sharmin's What You're Missing KC!  I am proud of my adopted home, Kansas City, and I am a big proponent of the burgeoning foodie community here.  I may not be able to actually eat a lot of what Sharmin talks about, but that isn't the point.  The point is that local cuisine here is going through something of a renaissance and I love that people are just as excited about as I am!  Sharmin is doing great things for the community (and we hope to lean on her once Kansas City Restaurant Week 2012 rolls around!) so big thumbs up to you Sharmin!

Paleo Parents:  This mom and dad team have undergone major transformations, including together losing over 200 pounds on the paleo diet!  They have successfully transitioned their whole family (3 young boys!) to a paleo lifestyle and make it look fun, appetizing, and accessible.

Vagablonding:  Switching gears again, to travel, my other passion.  Ariel is a young budget traveler from the Pacific Northwest who has documented her world travels with awesome photography.   She navigates the world on practically pennies a day, which reminds me so much of my experiences backpacking.  These days world travel isn't really on my radar, but a girl can dream right?

If you were tagged and would like to participate, here's what you do:

1. Mention who tagged you.

2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to others.
Thanks for reading, XoXo GFG!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

15 Min Tomato Basil Soup

Wasting food is NOT allowed in the GFG household- so when I had half a can of diced tomatoes left over from my Spinach Chana Masala, I knew I had to do something with them.  I hadn't used any basil and my little plant had tons of new leaves, so what better than some super simple Tomato Basil Soup?

Tomato Basil Soup
1 tbsp EVOO
14 ounces of diced tomatoes
half onion, chopped
3/4 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
S&P to taste
big handful of fresh basil

Saute onion for a few minutes until starting to brown, then add in garlic and cook for another minute.  Season with salt and pepper to your liking.  Add in red pepper flakes and saute for another minute or so, then pour in chicken broth and milk.  If you'd rather use cream, go ahead and use it, or leave it out all together.  Stir to incorporate, then adding in tomatoes.  Cook down for five minutes, seasoning if necessary.  Blend using a handheld mixer or pour into blender, throwing in as much basil as you like.  Blend to your preferred consistency and serve!  Yum! 

S is going to be in a fashion show tonight!  The show is benefiting an awesome local cause, Back in the Swing, which helps women get "back in the swing" of life after breast cancer.  It's a phenomenal cause that helps women with medical care, diet and exercise, counseling, you name it.  I'll put up vids when we get them, but I can't wait!  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so do your self-exams and encourage your moms, sisters, cousins, friends, and anyone else you know to do the same!  Early detection is the best weapon in the fight against breast cancer.  XoXoGFG

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Easy Spinach Chana Masala, and 2-minute chocolate candies

My absolute fave dinners are ones that can A)be whipped up using only pantry/freezer ingredients and B)one pot/pan meals!  If you want a quick, easy meal that meets both of the above requirements, you've got to try this!

Easy Vegan Spinach Chana Masala
2 tsp EVOO
1 box frozen spinach (about 10 ounces, although I actually used a 16 ounce bag) thawed and drained
1 can chickpeas rinsed and drained
1 10 ounce can diced tomatoes
half onion, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp curry
1/2 tsp garam masala
S&P to taste

Saute onions until they are starting to brown, seasoning with a bit of kosher salt to help release their moisture.  Add in garlic and saute a moment more until fragrant.  Pour in tomatoes and juice, then adding in spices.  I did not have any coriander, so simply used a bit more of all the other spices.  Cook for a few minutes until sauce comes together.  At this point, add in drained chickpeas and cook for a few more minutes, finally adding in thawed spinach.  You'll want to taste everything and see if it needs more spices.  The whole dish only takes about 15 min. from start to finish.  It's so easy and super delish.  So S could eat it more easily, I blended some up in the cuisi for her and she ate every bite. Makes about 4 servings.

Did you ever have only unsweetened baking chocolate in the house and had a craving for a few bites, but aren't too keen on plain unsweetened chocolate?  Try this- melt a square of bakers chocolate in the microwave with two tablespoons of milk.  It only needs about 30 seconds, followed by some stirring.  Add in a packet of stevia and continue mixing.  With a teaspoon, drop small spoonfuls of chocolate onto a parchment lined baking sheet and stick in the fridge.  A few hours later you'll have yummy chocolate candies with no artificial sugars!  They aren't very pretty- but who cares?!

Big week for S.  She has started saying her name, and now she says it constantly and for no reason, which cracks me up.  Also, my little pumpkin has officially started walking!  She has been taking steps for awhile already, but this is actual honest to god walking!  She is still crawling, I don't think she quite understands what she's capable of yet, but my little peanut can walk!  Yay!  It is so incredible watching her develop and learn more about her world.  Her favorite show is Super Why and the kid can't get enough of it.  I know TV is the devil I'm a horrible parent I'm rotting her brain etc etc.  But it's actually a pretty great show and very educational.  Do you let your kids watch TV or am I truly the worst mom?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Greek Inspired Roast Chicken with Cauli Rice

Chicken gets pretty boring if you don't switch up your flavor profiles- and as much as I like to use powerful spices in cooking, especially with chicken, even that can get tired if you're always doing the same thing.  I was looking through an old Real Simple for inspiration for yet another chicken recipe and came across a souvlaki recipe with tzatziki.  I love chicken souvlaki so decided to make my own interpretation.

Having a whole chicken to use, and no indoor grill- I was stoked to use the convection oven.  I had never used the convect feature for a whole roast chicken and had heard they come out so much juicier and more evenly browned.  Yay! Another win for my convection!

Greek Herb Roasted Chicken 
1 whole chicken, marinated in red wine vinegar, lemon juice, S&P, rosemary, and oregano for a few hours. (I cut out the backbone and butterfly it, roasting it on a cooling rack over a tin foil lined baking sheet to catch all the grease.)
1 tbsp EVOO
additional S&P to season the skin
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tbsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Arrange your butterflied chicken on the rack and make sure legs are both facing outwards and wings are tucked under for more uniform cooking.  Slather EVOO over skin then sprinkle with salt and pepper (I used sea salt) and rosemary, oregano, and garlic.  I roasted mine for 50 minutes in a 425 degree oven.  Make sure to let it rest for at least an extra 10 minutes!  Serve with TJ's tzatziki!  So delish!  I contemplated making my own but reading the ingredients on the store-bought version, I didn't see any reason to.  The ingredients seemed natural and fairly unprocessed.  I served this with plain slices of cucumber, and cauliflower rice.

Cauli rice is a super popular recipe on all the food blogs.  I was happy with it's couscousy texture and it was super easy to prepare.  And no steaming or boiling either!

Cauli Rice
1 head of cauliflower
1/2 med onion
1 tbsp EVOO
S&P to taste

Cut cauli up into large chunks and place in bowl of food processor.  Pulse until it looks like small grains of couscous.  In a large saute pan, brown onion in EVOO and season to taste.  After onion is nice and brown (maybe 7 min) add cauliflower.  By now you've noticed I rarely cook with garlic, I really cannot stand it, but feel free to add at this point.  Stir cauli regularly and cook until starting to brown.  This took another 7 minutes or so.  Since S was going to be eating this, I didn't add anything spicy.  But some red pepper flakes would be awesome if you aren't concerned with spiciness.  This makes quite a lot of cauli rice.  We all ate large portions and had more to spare.  Perfect for babies too.

Are you an NY Times reader?  If not- you must check out the Food & Drink Issue of the Times Magazine.  It is amazing.  It has fun interactive features and answers some very interesting questions.  Play around with it.  There's an even a separate link to stress-free dinner party recipes.  I really applaud the NY Times' effort to familiarize more people with the business of agriculture, and the sad state of food policy in the U.S.  Rather than being completely downtrodden and pessimistic however, they encourage readers to become their own food advocates and seek out locally sourced, non GMO and organic foods.  The more we buy from these sources, the more available higher quality food becomes.  One person really can make a difference.  And for gods sake, start reading food labels and ingredient lists!  Don't just look at the calories, look at what you're actually eating!  Is sugar the first ingredient? DON'T EAT IT!  Are there ingredients that aren't actually food?  DON'T EAT IT!

I could go on and on but I won't- just read the piece instead, and enjoy!  I'm contemplating sharing a non-GFG pancake recipe- I feel like it wouldn't be appropriate to post it since it's mainly oatmeal- but S eats oatmeal for breakfast most days and I wanted to switch things up a little.  It wasn't quite what I was imagining, so perhaps once I perfect it I'll put it up.  Have an awesome day, XoXoGFG