Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bitter Chocolate, Cherry, and Sea Salt Coconut Bars

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How was your Thanksgiving?

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

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

Sunday, November 20, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

No Sugar Creme Brulee Ice Cream

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

No Sugar Turkey Sloppy Joes

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

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

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

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

Ina-Inspired Chicken Piccata with Lemon and Wine Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2-Minute Grain-Free Coconut Cookies

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

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

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

Monday, November 7, 2011

Curried Pumpkin Soup

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 5, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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