Friday, October 26, 2012

Aspen Trip Recap

A friend and I recently were talking about our shared love of blogging/blogs and I lamented the somewhat sad state of affairs over here at Chez GFG.  Recipes are great and all but personally, my favorite blogs are the ones that weave delicious recipes (with equally delicious photos) into a larger, more complex quilt of genres- travel, fashion, mommy-wisdom, fitness, nutrition, holistic living, etc.  I am going to try to move in that direction.  I say try because honestly, some days it's all I can do slap up a recipe in 2 minutes before I forget it.  I'm sure you can all relate.  I feel idiotic for even complaining, since there are so many women/moms out there with far more on their plates than I and still manage to turn out informative, beautiful, entertaining, enlightening, and FUN pieces.  Stacy at Paleo Parents is a great example.  How the heck does she/they do it?

Part of this starts with more transparency.  I started this blog with the intention of sharing grain free, sugar free, low carb, no starch (etc etc) recipes because I had SO much trouble finding anything online that suited my needs.  If I am having trouble, there have got to be a few other people out there facing the same dilemma.  I think I have pretty well accomplished that goal, mostly anyways, and I am happy to say I feel pretty good about this blog being a decent repository of recipes for those of us needing or wanting to eliminate grains, sugar, processed junk, and live more healthfully.  But posting recipe after recipe is boring, and can feel like a chore.  And if it feels like a chore to me, I can imagine it must be a chore to my readers.  So I am resolving to become more transparent.  With so much going on my life, I sometimes feel like I am hiding, lying, or at the very least, omitting more than I ought to.  So in future posts, you'll see more truthiness, haha.  I hope this is helpful to you, or enjoyable, or something like that.

I wholeheartedly believe that food is probably the single most important aspect of living a healthy, whole life.  Besides sleep, I believe that food takes precedence over every other thing you can do in your life.  What you eat does truly define you, and while I'm sure many will disagree, that is my belief system.  Should you spend all your time cooking, recipe testing, ingredient sourcing, researching, etc?  No, of course not.  But food is love, food is medicine, food is life.  Embrace it and enjoy it!

But as large a role as food plays in one's life, it is not everything.  And someone who makes it their everything probably does not lead a very interesting life.  We want to be well-rounded after all, don't we?  So, that's where I'm at.  This blog is about me living my grain free life.  And my life is more than just recipes and ugly food photos!!

OK- Now that that's all over with- time for a recap of my Columbus Day weekend trip to Aspen.  OMG folks- that was the first time MKG and I had been to Aspen and it did not disappoint.  We live in Kansas City and decided we were going to drive.  Have you ever driven across Kansas?  Uggggg.  There are rungs of hell that are probably more hospitable than western Kansas.  My apologies to anyone that I am offending.  But holy crap!  Horrific.  But everything after that was crazy awesome.  Starting with:

Boulder, CO
We arrived in Boulder at 6pm ish on Thursday evening.  We drove around town a bit and wondered aloud about what it would be like if S went to school there someday- how neat it would be to visit all the time.  Boulder is hella cool.  And also, I think, probably the Gluten Free capitol of America.  I had soooo much fun researching places to have dinner prior to our trip.  Ultimately we ended up eating at The Kitchen- Upstairs.  Located in the trendy pedestrian mall on Pearl Street, we enjoyed perambulating down the street with cute shops, coffee shops, restaurants, and requisite college kids/hippie folk/townies.  Everything was closed, which was probably for the best, and it was also like, 1 degree out, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.  Our meal was spectacular.  Probably our best meal of the trip actually.  The ambience was soooo warm and inviting, but still chic and sophisticated.  We were seated directly next to a blazing fireplace, which only intensified that warm and rustic feel.  We got a couple items to share, awesome lamb meatballs, fresh mussels, roasted veggies, fresh greens, and the portions were just right.  I highly recommend it.

The next morning we got up early to make the drive to Aspen, taking I70 to Vail and then taking the Independence Pass the rest of the way, as we had been assured that was the most scenic way to go.  Scenic does not begin to describe it folks.  Here are some images from the Independence Pass route.

 The drive took about 4 and a half hours, and we stopped to take TONS of pics.  But nothing prepared me for just how gorgeous, quaint, cute, and charming Aspen was.  Granted we were there probably the slowest weekend of the entire year, but that ended up working to our advantage (except for it being frickin' cold!) as it wasn't overrun with tourists, or douchey billionaire wannabes, etc.  Here are some ridonc Aspen pics.

Our first afternoon in Aspen we took an easy hike to get acclimated, and enjoyed a casual dinner at Ajax Tavern, which I am not going to bother linking to because it was pretty meh.  But since this wasn't really a foodie trip, we didn't care much.  In fact, this was like, the budget trip to end all budget trips.  Don't even get me started on the ramshackle lodgings we endured at Mountain House Lodge.  YIKES is all I have to say.  But for $89/night (in ASPEN PEOPLE) I can't complain.  Here are some images from our easy little hike- on one of the many clearly marked trails in Aspen.  

The next day we set our sights on Ajax/Aspen Mountain.  As in, climbing the damn thing.  Everyone I talked to said it was was very very difficult, but could be done in 2.5 hours ish.  I was terrified.  Not of heights necessarily, but you know, extended bouts of strenuous physical activity is not really my thing.  I am a pussy, basically, and exertion is just not my fave.  But goddamnit I was determined to do it.

Holy shit.  It was harder than I could have imagined.  The first third of the way is pretty much STRAIGHT UP, on switchbacks.  You are on the edge of a cliff most of the way.  And because it's switchbacks, you have no idea where you are in relation to your destination.  You are just hiking up this goddamned mountain totally blind and ignorant.  Horrible.  Yes, it was pretty, I guess, I don't know I don't remember!  It was just sheer torture for me!  I could lie to you and say how magnificent it was and bullshit you, but I won't.  I was scared to death, thought I might die from exhaustion and/or falling off the mountain, and was scared I wouldn't make it.  Thankfully, after the first third of the way, the path straightened out, so at least we weren't teetering on the edge of a cliff anymore.  The kicker in all this is that I routinely was passed by small dogs, teenagers, large groups, etc, just to make me feel like more of a loser.  Eventually even MKG left me behind as my snails pace was just too much to handle.  The final two-thirds was just as hard physically, though much easier mentally.  And at long last, or, 2.5 hours later, we reached the top!

The view from the top is sick.  If you aren't the hiking type, take the gondola up to the top and enjoy the glorious view.  There is an awesome restaurant at the top and you can hang out, eat, and stare out the vast windows for hours.  We took the gondola back down, and spent the rest of the afternoon on a scenic car ride.  Dinner that night was at a newish place Justice Snow's, where I had a fucking amazing salad with kale, beets, trout, and hazelnuts.  It was crazy good.

The following day was the highlight of the trip.  Maroon Bells.  Oft sited as the most photographed destination in Colorado.  Words really do not it justice.  It was incredible, gorgeous, breathtaking even, and it was probably the most not-pretty time of year to visit!  I can't imagine what it must be like when the leaves are changing, or in summer with meadows of blooming wildflowers and lush green leaves as far as the eye can see.  I absolutely, 100% cannot wait to get back to Maroon Bells.  I could go a million times and not get sick of it.  We chose a fairly easy 3 mile hike along the ridge, and then had a fun picnic at the end.  I could post probably a hundred pictures just of the bells.  After that, I did a little (too much) shopping and then we had a casual dinner in a stupid dumpy place, Little Annies or something.  Blah.  I got a salad.  Boring.  Like I said, not a foodie trip.  This was a save our pennies and have one meal out a day trip.  We went to bed early as we were getting up at 4:30am to drive home, so the evening was pretty uneventful.

Our trip was so much fun.  We were fortunate we had the time to make the drive, and we were lucky to find such an affordable trip, and thank goodness my MIL was happy to watch S for the weekend.  The stars really aligned for us on this trip and I am so grateful.  But gosh darn it of course something had to go wrong right?  I got a motherf*ing ticket in stupid Aurora, CO on the way back.  OMG for real people?  With your speed trap?  Awful.

I can't recommend this trip enough.  Get yoself to Aspen pronto!  I'll leave you with my favorite picture of the trip- of the Bells of course.

I am already planning another trip to CO- this time to Estes Park.  Can't wait!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Weeknight Thai Coconut Spinach and Shrimp with Peanut Sauce

Weeknights can be rough, amiright?  Whether you work or not, work from home, rush home in rush hour traffic, etc, they are just all around rough.  At our house, there is a very brief window of time where many things happen at once- get home, walk the dog, feed the dog, cook and eat dinner, give S a bath, bedtime routine, clean up after dinner, put S down, etc.  This is usually squeezed into 2 hours or so.  Moral of the story- we ALL need some quick and easy recipes, using freezer ingredients, that you can throw together fast and with a minimum of dirty dishes.
For me, there are a couple freezer lifesavers that I would seriously die without.  Shrimp and spinach are two of those freezer staples that are regularly called upon to be the basis of a nutritious, filling, and GFG approved meal.  
You may have also noticed by now that I am pretty partial to Asian flavors, Thai in particular.  I loves me some Thai.  Unfortunately, I don't eat it too often because most of the dishes have lots of noodles in them and who knows how much added sugars.  And let's face it, with a two year old, we're not eating in restaurants much these days anyways!

Thai Coconut Milk Spinach and Shrimp with Peanut Sauce (3-4 servings)
1 bag of frozen spinach, defrosted
12-15 medium/large raw shrimp (defrosted and peeled)
1 cup light coconut milk (or use full-fat)
4 tbsp peanut flour
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp thai chili sauce
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 scallions, chopped
some EVOO, or a bit of toasted sesame oil, for cooking the shrimp
salt and pepper 

Get out two sauté pans.  In one pan, heat some oil (I used hot chili garlic oil) for the shrimp and cook just a few minutes per side until opaque and cooked through.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder before flipping.  Remove from heat when finished.  In your other pan, heat up just a tiny bit of oil, and dump in your defrosted spinach.  Season with salt and pepper, then pour in your coconut milk and let it come to a simmer.  While you are waiting for that, get a medium sized bowl to make your peanut sauce.  Combine your peanut flour, sesame oil, soy sauce, chili sauce, garlic powder, and water, and stir well to combine.  Spoon half of this mixture into your spinach and mix well to incorporate.  The rest you'll spoon over your shrimp.  To plate, place shrimp on top of spinach, top with peanut sauce, and cover with scallions/green onions.  Dinner done in 15-20 minutes.  This is a healthy, filling, protein, vitamin, mineral, and fiber packed meal.  Peanut flour is my newest favorite ingredient to have around.  Do you ever cook/bake with peanut flour?  What are some ways you use it?  I am curious to know if you can use it as a breading- any ideas?

Hope you try this one out!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cashew Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

Cashew Butter.  The best f*cking thing known to man.  I may never bake a cookie with anything else.  So delicious, such a buttery, but mild flavor, so smooth, no weird almond-skin taste going on, subtly sweet.  I could go on and on.  It's crazy good stuff.  Dangerous to have in the house if you ask me.

Every blogger out there and their mama has an almond butter cookie recipe.  Don't get me wrong, I like a good almond butter cookie.  But they just have this distinct flavor that bugs me and after a couple bites I am just totally meh about the whole thing, and then I've used up all that good almond butter that could otherwise have been used on celery sticks or GF toast for S.  But cashew butter?  YUMMMM.  I wonder if they made almond butter with blanched almonds if I'd like it better.  Probably.  Those darn skins are just so icky!  And filled with phytic acid as well I might add.

Ok, enough rambling.  Make these cookies.  The ingredients are so darn simple.  And go buy some cashew butter.  Not into cashews?  Try pecan butter.  But branch out of the standard peanut and almond variety and you'll see what you've been missing!

Paleo Cashew Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt
1 cup cashew butter
1  egg
1/3 cup liquid sweetener (I used SF sweetener but feel free to use honey, maple syrup, coconut nectar, etc)
2/3 cup chocolate chips
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
sea salt for sprinkling

Mix all your ingredients in a bowl.  Easy peasy.  Spoon onto parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt, (DO NOT SKIP THE SEA SALT PEEPS!) and bake at 350 until the bottoms are beginning to turn golden.  Don't ask me how long this takes because my oven is from Mars.  A normal oven, probably 15 minutes.  This made 16 cookies.  I wish it was twice that.  They are so good!

Happy eating GFGs!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Banana Peanut Flour Muffins- Sugar, Grain, Gluten Free

Clearly not a paleo recipe, but certainly a gluten, grain, and sugar free muffin, these little guys have that  unmistakeable peanut/banana flavor combo going on that most of us can't resist!  They make the perfect  breakfast for S and are a nice change from all that coconut flour.

Banana Peanut Flour Muffins
2 overripe bananas
2 eggs
1/4 cup walnut oil
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp SF liquid sweetener
12 drops Vanilla Creme Stevia
4 tbsp peanut flour
1 tbsp coconut flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Makes 8 muffins.

Mash your bananas and add your eggs, oil, vanilla, sweetener, and liquid stevia.  Mix well.  In a separate bowl, use a fork to combine your peanut flour and coconut flour, and salt and baking powder.  Add wet to dry and mix well.  Pour into lined muffin tin and bake at 350 until the tops are browned.  A new trick I learned is that you want to remove the muffins when they are nice and browned, but still "crackling" when you listen to them.

These are for S to have for breakfast during the week, but I did have to cut off a small piece to make sure they were good.  If you were wondering, yes, they are crazy ridiculous good.  I so miss bananas, sigh.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Crunchy Lentil Snack

This snack was a happy accident.  I wanted to make lentil crackers but ended up with these.  They are best described as like, a salty granola ish type snack.  They are crumbly, salty, spicy, and suuuuuper crunchy.  Kind of like chickpea poppers but much much crunchier.  Pretty darn easy too!  And of course, they are gluten, grain, and sugar free.

Crunchy Lentil Snack
4 cups green lentils
1 cup water
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
EVOO for greasing your baking sheet, and for drizzling over the top

Process your lentils in your food processor for about 7 or 8 minutes, until you have a good mix of flour and chunkier pieces of lentil.  This is what will make it crunchy and have a good texture to it.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add in your spices.  Stir well, then add in your water and knead with your hands.  It will become sticky.  Grease a baking sheet and crumble your lentil mixture evenly over the sheet.  Sprinkle with EVOO and more kosher/sea salt and bake at 300 for about 40 minutes or until it is browned and crunchy.  You might want to start checking after 30 minutes and go from there to avoid burning.

If you miss croutons in your salad, this would be a fantastic replacement.  Or just throw some in a baggie and you've got a great, high-fiber, high-protein snack.  I am always on the lookout for a yummy, salt, crunchy snack that isn't too starchy (sweet potato chips) and isn't too fatty and/or hard on the tummy (nuts).  Besides chickpea poppers, this is the best alternative I've found!

Try it!  And enjoy!  XoXoGFG

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Awesome Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I wanted to make a basic chocolate chip cookie, with some extra squash for good measure, but not necessarily the pumpkin flavors.  These turned out really good, you wouldn't even know there was pumpkin in them except for the slightly orangey color.  I will say, although this is a great recipe if you have an egg allergy or are doing AI protocol, they are quite crumbly without egg or some kind of egg replacer.  If I made these again I'd probably throw in two eggs (or maybe just the yolks) and reduce the butter to a third of a cup.  The chocolate chip recipe takes about three seconds and you can keep what you don't use in the freezer for another time!

Based on Frisky Lemon's recipe here.

Grain, Gluten, Sugar, and Egg Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup liquid sweetener
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar free chocolate chips, recipe below

Combine coconut flour, baking powder, and salt and mix well with a fork to get out any lumps.  In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, melted butter, sweetener, and extract.  Pour wet into dry and mix well.  Add your SF chocolate chips and spoon onto parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 until the tops are starting to turn golden.  This made 14 very generously sized cookies.

Sugar Free Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup liquified coconut oil
3 packets stevia (i used pure via)
1 tsp instant decaf coffee

Mix everything together well and pour into a flat plastic tupperware container, and freeze.  These taste great baked in things, but I probably wouldn't eat them all by themselves (which is probably a good thing right?) because the stevia after taste is definitely noticeable.  There are many other recipes out there for SF homemade chocolate, calling for powdered erythritol, xylitol, etc, but I didn't want to mess with them.  These are just fine for what I needed them for, and are a thousand times cheaper than buying the sugar alcohol sweetened Hershey's at the grocery store.  Be advised, they do not have stabilizers in them like regular chocolate chips and will melt and spread in baked goods, rather than staying in chip form.  If that bothers you, there are other recipes using cocoa butter which will probably work much better for you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Yummy Toddler Breakfast Muffins- Grain, Gluten, Sugar, Dairy Free

These days, getting S to eat anything other than raisins is a struggle.  Veggies are especially difficult.  I am not complaining though, up until this moment she has been a great eater, ate fruit, veggies, and protein heartily, so if she's getting a bit pickier now as she turns two, I really can't complain.  That said, I still have to figure out how to get some dang nutrients in her in the mornings!  So, behold, my

Yummy Toddler Breakfast Muffins- Grain, Gluten, Sugar, and Dairy Free
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
3 packets of stevia (i am using pure via right now)
1 4 oz container carrot baby food
1 4 oz container apple baby food (or apple sauce is fine too, half a cup)
1 egg
1/2 cup almond butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup raisins (optional- or chopped walnuts would be great too, or berries, whatever!)

In a small bowl, mix your shredded coconut, baking powder, salt, spices, and stevia packets.  In a separate bowl, mix your carrot, apples, almond butter, egg, and vanilla extract.  Combine well, then pour wet into dry and mix.  Add your mix-ins if desired.  Bake in muffin tin at 350 until golden brown and a knife comes out barely clean.  For me this was 30 minutes, for a regular oven, probably more like 20.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Homemade No Sugar Apple Butter

We had lots of fun apple picking this weekend, if you are in the KC area then definitely don't miss Schweizer Orchards in St. Joseph.  A hike for sure, but well worth it, with a hayride, pumpkin patch, and lots of kids activities.  A super affordable afternoon and best of all, you can pick a bazillion apples for next to nothing!  We were a few weeks too late I think, but still managed to score pretty big.

And what is a family of three to do with a bazillion apples you ask?  Make homemade apple butter of course!

Homemade Apple Butter, No Sugar
12 apples, cored and sliced (I used assorted apples, honeycrisp mostly, some jonagold, some green)
3 cups filtered water
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg

Dump your cored and sliced apples in your crockpot with your water, and sprinkle on your cinnamon and nutmeg.  Stir well to coat the apples in the spices evenly.  Then turn your crockpot on to LOW and let it cook overnight.  I actually let mine cook for 15 hours, and at the end, they were totally finished, no additional cooking necessary.  However, if you just do yours overnight, here is what you do in the morning:  Get out your stick blender and blend them all up well in the crockpot.  Then recover and cook on high for an hour or two until you get the consistency you are looking for.  I like mine really super dark brown, and this also concentrates the flavors so you get a deep, dark, rich, buttery maple flavor.  You absolutely do not need added sugar.  Try it out!  This made probably 20 ounces of apple butter.