Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I hate the idea of throwing things away.  I had 3 big over ripe bananas sitting there waiting to be used.  I tweaked an old recipe of mine for Banana Nut Muffins and they turned out great.  The kids loved them.  My 7-year-old who isn’t a big eater tossed back 2 right away and then asked if I could make more for her lunch.  Sure!  No problem.  These were really quick to make despite the fact my 3-year-old was “helping”.  These muffins are not sweetened with anything but bananas.   Well, bananas and chocolate chips.  🙂  They are grain, nut, gluten, soy, dairy free and have no added sugar.  AND the kids still loved them. 

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

3 mashed over ripe bananas 

1/2 tsp baking soda

6 eggs

1/4 cup melted coconut oil 

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup chocolate chips (I use ENJOY LIFE)

I’m not much into the mucking around with the mixing of the wet in one bowl and then mixing of the dry in another bowl and then finally mixing the two together.  Sifting?  Forget it.  Way too many dishes.  So… Preheat your oven to 350.  In a large bowl add the bananas and mash them a bit.  You can use your hands for this and save dirtying yet another piece of kitchen equipment.  Add the eggs, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and melted coconut oil.  Use a hand mixer and mix until well blended.  Add the coconut flour and mix until pretty smooth.  Then stir in your chocolate chips.  Line 11 cupcake tins with liners.  I used a level ice cream scoop to spoon the batter into the lined tins.  12 would have made a nice number but the ice cream scoop made this recipe in 11.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  These are great warm.  If there are any left after these cool store them in the fridge.

This post was shared at: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/monday-mania-1232012/, http://www.realfoodwholehealth.com/2012/01/fresh-bites-friday-january-27-2012/

Coconut Lemon Bars ~ The Paleo Way

Coconut Lemon Bars

Does anyone NOT like lemon bars.  They might be my favorite treat.  I’ve had good and I’ve had bad.  The bad ones are made with a jello mix, are sickly sweet and taste of fake lemon.  I wanted to make my own using real food.  I wanted them to be super lemony and not too sweet.  I also did not want the crust to be nut or grain based.  I think it is easy to get carried away with nuts so I am trying to switch up my baking and use more coconut than nuts like almonds etc.  Yes, I realize that cicinut is classified as a nut but coconut has a better Omega 3:6 ratio and as an added bonus is low oxalate.  These are not low carb but they are also not a cheat.  A treat, absolutely but not a cheat.  The filling recipe came from here.  (I would highly recommend checking out this guys blog.  He has lots of great looking recipes.  And does anyone else think that a man who can cook and bake is totally sexy??)  I created my own base.  The coconut chips I used are from Wilderness Family Naturals.  They are incredible and I did hesitate to use them in a recipe as they are not cheap (when you include shipping into the cost) and I would have been devastated if these didn’t turn out and I wasted all those coconut chips.  In the end it turned out to be well worth it.  So how good were they?  Me, who really does not have a sweet tooth ate probably 80% of the pan over the course of about 36 hours.  So, yes, they were a smashing success.  The kids hated them as expected due to the lemon in them and this suited me fine.   I do believe that I will have to make more of these ASAP, you know for quality control.  🙂  I believe these are GAPS legal and low oxalate as well as soy, corn, dairy, grain, gluten, refined sugar and nut free.  In case you are interested in seeing the evolution of this blog, check out my first recipe for Lemon Bars.

Crust

2 eggs

1/4 cup melted coconut oil (expeller pressed is fine if you don’t want to use your expensive virgin coconut oil)

2 T raw unfiltered honey

pinch of sea salt

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup coconut chips

1/2 cup coconut chips

Preheat oven to 350.  In a food processor combine eggs, coconut oil, salt and honey.  Mix to combine.  Add coconut flour and 1/4 cup of coconut chips.  Again, process until well combined.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in remaining coconut chips.  Grease a glass Pyrex baking dish with coconut oil.  My dish is 7×11 or 2.2 QT/2 L.   Press cookie batter base evenly into dish.  Bake for 18 minutes at 350 until the edges are just starting to brown and center is cooked through. 

Filling

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (strained so there is no pulp)

6 whole eggs

1/3 – 1/2 cup raw unfiltered honey

1/2 cup coconut oil (I used expeller pressed.)

pinch of sea salt

Whisk lemon juice, eggs, salt and honey together in a large glass bowl or double boiler.  Bring about an inch of water to boil in a medium saucepan or bottom of double boiler.  Set the glass bowl on top of the boiling water.  The water should not be in contact with the bowl.  Slowly whisk in the melted coconut oil.  Continue to whisk as the water remains at a rolling boil.  DO NOT TURN YOUR BACK on this.  Whisk until it starts to thicken.  When it starts to thicken it gets thick FAST.  Remove from heat.  It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Strain the filling through a fine mesh to remove any cooked egg bits.  Top the crust  and smooth it out.  Refrigerate.  My husband and The Civilized Caveman both thought this would have been great frozen too.  It probably would although that would have really slowed me down as I polished these all off.  (Hmmm maybe that is a good thing.)  Top with extra coconut chips as you see fit.  Refrigerate (or freeze) until set then devour!

This post was shared at: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/monday-mania-1232012/, http://www.realfoodwholehealth.com/2012/01/fresh-bites-friday-january-27-2012/

My Paleo Diet and Why I Do It

Me In Vegas for My 40th Birthday

It’s been a while since I blogged about a dessert.  Honestly, I don’t make them much anymore.  I’ve been on a low carb version of a paleo diet for the last year.  In a nut shell that means: meat, fish, chicken, all non-starchy veggies, some nuts and seeds, berries, some fruit, no dairy, no gluten, no grains, no industrial seed oils (corn, canola, cottonseed, soy, safflower etc), no sugar and nothing processed.  Only real food is allowed.  If you can’t grow it or kill it you probably shouldn’t eat it.  If it comes with a label professing its health benefits you should probably steer clear.  If it contains non-food ingredients, run the other way.  If you can’t pronounce it, it isn’t food.  The focus is on nutrient dense, fresh, high quality foods.  Where I get my food is important.  Organic is always preferred if economically possible.  I know it sounds like a lot.  It really isn’t.  It’s just like the steep learning curve we were on when we first went gluten free in January of 2007.  This way of eating has become second nature.  It’s no big deal.  Yes, it certainly requires more time than a drive through or opening packages and microwaving them at home but everything tastes better and the benefits of eating this way are life changing.  I started eating this way because just over a year ago I was 38 years old and I felt like crap.  I had a host of issues that were altering the quality of my life.  I had so many tests with my doctor and neurologist and even an MRI.  The tests showed that nothing was wrong.  But still I felt like crap.  The worst of the symptoms was fatigue.  It was an overwhelming fatigue that went far beyond just feeling tired.  Some days it was hard to remain upright.  On those days when the kids asked me for something I wanted to cry.  The effort it took to do something so small felt monumental.  There were a long list of other complaints but it was the fatigue – both mental and physical, that were the most disturbing to me.  I would rather have a migraine than have that fatigue.  It occurred to  me one day that if that is what my life was going to be like for the rest of my life then I didn’t really want to live it.  No if that thought isn’t a wake up call – nothing is.  I don’t know if this was chronic fatigue as I never got a diagnosis but I suspect that is what it was.  Since changing the only thing I had the power to change, my diet, life has become mine to live again.  I am 99% better now a year later.  All of the little issues have vanished.  The headaches that I have had since I was 13 are infrequent and mild.  The bouts of fatigue are thankfully rare.  How do I know it was my diet that helped me?  Two reasons.  1) I changed nothing else.  I still do not excercise and my stress levels are the same.  Yes, these are the next two areas I need to focus on. 2) Every time I get flexible with my diet every single symptom comes back in the matter of a few days.  When I started this diet – which really isn’t a diet but a lifestyle as it is something I will happily follow for the rest of my life – I didn’t start with the intent of losing weight.  I have a very small frame and I don’t think anyone would have looked at me and said I was obese.  Yes, I had extra weight on me and I deplored the way I looked but I didn’t think I was obese.  The last 8 months is when I fell into a groove with my diet and I had worked out the kinks and found out what works best for me.  In that time I have lost 30 lbs.  I did this without effort to lose weight.  I have never counted calories and I always eat when I am hungry.  I eat until I am full.   I DO NOT starve myself.  I am now at a weight that I haven’t seen since I was in junior high.  I weigh less than when I got married 17 years ago and less than I did when I graduated high school.  That’s been a pretty nice side effect.  Clothes shopping has become fun for the first time.  I feel happy, relaxed, calm, clear-headed and energetic most of the time.  I don’t fear Type II Diabetes anymore.  I know I am super sensitive to carbs probably more than most people and I am careful.  One of the best side effects of the way I eat is the freedom it has given me.  It may be hard for you to imagine that I feel freedom in a diet with so many restrictions.  I used to be a slave to food.  I was ALWAYS thinking about the next meal.  If I went more than a couple of hours without eating I turned into a volatile, anxious bitch.  I was probably hypoglycemic – yet another sign of my sensitivity to carbs.   When I was hungry I was ravenous.  It was not a sensation that could be ignored.  It consumed me.  Now that I limit my carb intake and have removed all grains and sugar in my diet, food does not have that power over me anymore.  When I feel hungry it is like a quiet reminder from my body that I need to eat.  But if it so happens that I am not in a place that I can eat, it isn’t a big deal to wait a few hours.  Nothing bad will happen.  I won’t implode from hunger.  I can still carry on.   I’ve discovered that there is NOTHING in the world that tastes as good as feeling this way feels.  The longer I eat this way the less and less I crave foods that make me feel badly.  I have found that I have a pretty powerful negative feedback system that will help to prevent me from getting too far off track.  I’ve learned to listen to my body which I think is something of enormous value that is not valued in our society.  I am not 100% of the way there and I am still learning.  I have learned so much in the last year.  I will not profess to be an expert and I will not try to teach the details of all that I have learned.  There are lots of great resources on the web that are more knowledgable than I and can say it and explain it better than I ever could.  I can however try to share with you what I am eating and enjoying.  This post started out to be a recipe for lemon bars.  Yes, Paleo Lemon Bars.  Not low carb but not a cheat either.  Treat – yes.  Cheat – no.   I will get to that post soon.  Until then here was my story that I did not plan to share.  My hope for anyone who has actually gotten to the bottom of this loooong post is that you take your own health into your own hands.  Change what you have the power to change.  Educate yourself and take control. Ugh!  Did that sound preachy?  If you have a similar story I would love to hear about it.  Leave a comment and tell me about your journey to health.

***I decided to post a picture of myself which I normally would not do but I always wonder what the writers of the blogs I read look like.  So here I am.   I am soooo not photogenic.  This picture was taken on a friends phone when I met my high school girlfriends in Las Vegas this past October to celebrate our 40th birthdays.  The picture quality isn’t great but it’s one picture of myself that I don’t hate.

Cranberry Salad

This is too good to not find the time to share.  This recipe is inspired by my friend Stephanie who makes something similar.  Her version has the same basic ingredients but has jello in it.  It is great but I wanted to try something sugar free.  It was her version of this that first introduced me to eating raw cranberries.  Honestly that had never occured to me.  I had only ever had cranberries as cranberry sauce.  I made this a few days ago and it worked out to be a very big bowl. I figured I would never get to the bottom of it and that it was unlikely that anyone else in my family would eat it.  I was wrong on all sides of that thought.  It was all gone in less than 2 days.  True, it was me that ate 90% of it but that may have had something to do with the fact that I hid the bowl in the back of the fridge so it wouldn’t attract attention.  It was super quick to make.  I want to hurry and write this up so I can go make more.  I was thinking about Thanksgiving dinners as I ate this.  We all have experienced the coma that follows the big dinner.  I was always told that it was the tryptophan so something like that in the turkey that makes us sleepy.  I think it is the carbs.  Think about it.  The usual dinner includes stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, marshmallows, gravy, cranberry sauce… and that is all before the dessert.  For me anyway that all spells carb coma.  This salad contains all the flavors of fall without all the carbs.  Enjoy.  And Happy Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Salad

1 12 oz bag whole cranberries

4 peeled oranges cut into chunks

3 small apples – cored (skin left on if they are organic)

3/4 cup pecan pieces

1/4 of a large pomegranate

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1  T honey (optional)

In a large bowl food processor add the cranberries, apples, oranges and pecans.  Pulse until you get a consistency you like.  Transfer into a large bowl and add pomegranate, cinnamon, cloves and honey if you are using it.  Toss to combine.  Adjust to desired sweetness with honey.

Cabbage Rolls – Paleo Approved

Paleo Style Cabbage Rolls

You simply have to try this.  It is a teeny bit time consuming but worth every minute.  The cabbage rolls I remember – and it’s been a really long time – were stuffed with white rice and ground beef.  These cabbage rolls are stuffed with ground beef and cauliflower rice so are therefore low carb, GAPS legal and paleo approved.  I did all the work the night before.  I made marinara from scratch, as always.  I suppose you could buy a jar or two if you are short on time but the sauce is great and has no weird ingredients so I think it is worth the effort.  I stuffed the cabbage rolls, put them in my crock pot, covered them and put them in the fridge overnight.  In the morning all I did was cover the rolls with the marinara and set the temperature to low.  I came home to an unbelievable aroma and a dinner ready to be devoured.

Paleo Cabbage Rolls

1 large head of green cabbage

Remove core and steam entire, intact head of cabbage in 1-2 inches of water for approximately 5-8 minutes.  Set the cabbage in the water core down.  There is a fine line between over cooking the leaves and leaving them still too stiff to be pliable.  It is probably easiest to steam for 5 minutes, allow to cool enough so that you can peel off the outer leaves and then stem for another couple of minutes to soften the inner leaves.  When you have the leaves soft but not too cooked and separated, set them aside.

Marinara

2 T olive oil

1 large onion chopped

6-7 cloves of garlic, minced

2 stalks of celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 can tomato paste (6 oz)

1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz) or 2 cups chopped fresh

1 tsp dried basil

1 1/2 tsp dried oregano

2 cups stock/bone broth, preferably homemade (I happen to use pork because that’s what I  grabbed out of the freezer. Beef or chicken or whatever would work too)

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

2 tsp red wine vinegar/or fresh squeezed lemon juice

Heat large saute pan and add olive oil.  Add onion, celery, garlic and carrots.  Instead of hand chopping these I just put them all in the food processor using the S blade and made it into a fine meal consistency.  It doesn’t really matter because you are going to blend the final sauce anyway.  Saute until veggies are soft, approximately 10 minutes.  Add tomato paste, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil, oregano and stock.  Simmer, covered for about 30 minutes then remove from heat.  Add red wine vinegar/lemon juice.  Start mixing the filling for the cabbage rolls now (See next section).  When you are done making the filling and the marinara has cooled a bit, use a stick/immersion blender or even food processor to blend your sauce to a smoother marinara.

Filling

1 large finely chopped onion

2 T bacon grease or other fat of choice

4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tsp Italian seasoning (this should be only herbs with no fillers or preservatives)

1 1/2 lbs of ground beef (I used grass-fed)

1/2 large head of cauliflower, grated in food processor (I guess this could be done with a box grater but I value my knuckles and time)

1 egg

2 tsp sea salt

black pepper, however much you like

Saute onion and garlic in saute pan with fat.  Cook until onions are starting to brown and are soft.  In a large bowl combine raw beef, onions and garlic with remaining ingredients.  Mix well.   Using your hands is easiest.

Assembly

Fill each cabbage leaf with about 1/4 cup of filling.  Roll into cylinders and tuck flat edges under.  Some of my smaller leaves were still a little stiff (this is why I think the steaming should be done in two steps) so the edges were not tucked.  It didn’t matter.  I just wedged the looser ones in between the tighter ones.  I did all of this the night before and placed them in my crock pot, covered them and put them in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, well mid morning, I pulled them out and covered the rolls with all the sauce.  I set the crock pot to low and left the house.  I came home to dinner ready and an absolutely amazing smell.

Stuffed Squash

Stuffed Squash

Honestly, I’m not a big lover of squash.  I eat it because it is a sort of neutral filler, it’s often cheap and it’s low carb.  I can’t eat it by itself.  Ick.  In something like my lasagna, sure no problem.  So, in my CSA bag for the last few weeks there were several squash.  I made some squash pancakes which were great but I still had a few of those squash that have the hard yellow exterior.  Those things were staring at me every time I opened the fridge for a week.  I considered giving them to the chickens.  I am so glad I didn’t.  This is by far the very best way I have ever eaten squash.  I loved it and so did everyone else.  It was great in my lunch the following couple of days too.

Stuffed Squash

4 squash halved lengthwise, seeds removed

olive oil

s&p

Drizzle squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Filling

2 T fat of choice (I used bacon grease)

1 large onion, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 T Italian seasoning (check ingredients. there should only be herbs in there – no fillers or preservatives)

1 tsp salt

pepper to taste

10 sliced black olives (maybe 1/3 cup)

1.5 lb ground beef

1 can diced tomatoes or 3-4 chopped fresh

1-2 tsp red wine vinegar

Heat oil in large saute pan.  Add onions, bell pepper and garlic.  Saute for approximately 10 minutes or until veggies are nearly cooked.   Add ground beef, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  When beef is nearly cooked through add tomatoes and olives.  Cook until beef is done.  Remove from heat and add vinegar.  When squash is tender remove from oven and fill tightly with ground beef mixture.  Return to oven and bake for 10 additional minutes at 375.  Serve immediately.

Coconut Waffles with Fried Apple and Blueberry Topping

Sinless

I haven’t done a dessert/sweet breakfast for a while and I think it is about time.  I wanted to do something without nuts (coconut not included).  I have nothing against nuts of course but it is really easy to go over board with them.  Most desserts I make are nut based as are my muffins.  I made a chocolate almond muffin (not my recipe) a while back and just for curiosity sake I put the data into Nutrition Data.  I have to admit I was stunned with what I learned.  One small muffin was nearly 300 calories. Man, I hope that thing is wrong.   No, I don’t count calories nor do I even pay much attention to it but….holy crap that is a lot of calories for a SMALL muffin.  The other little detail about nuts that I try to be aware of is their omega 6 content.  It’s pretty easy to upset your Omega 6 : Omega 3 balance with nuts.  So anyway, last night I was craving something sweet – no doubt because I had had a smoothie earlier in the day.  (Anyone else like that?  If you have something sweet or higher in carbs than you are used to, then the cravings for other carby things kicks into overdrive?)  I went to my fridge and pulled out organic apples I had bought but turned out all mealy and soft (the kind that you have no choice but to cook them) and the remaining fresh organic blueberries (although I also made this with frozen and it worked out equally as good).  This is what I came up with.  I don’t really know what to call it other than a smashing success.  The kids loved it and literally licked their bowls clean.  Hubby gave it a thumbs up and helped himself to a second bowl.  We ate it right out of the bowl by itself but this morning the leftovers were used to top waffles.  Oh My!  It was incredible.  It’s a nice change from the usual bacon and eggs.  As an added bonus to it’s flavor is the fact that it is lower carb and has no refined sugars so I had one waffle with some of this sauce and didn’t feel hungry for hours and hours.  Had this been the sugary, gluten version I personally would have felt like crap right after and then felt hungry in less than 2 hours.  It also did not leave me craving carbs all day.  This topping would also be great on a minimally sweetened, dense, coconut pound cake.  I am not sure if this will qualify for GAPS legal because of the baking soda in the waffles and the iffy stevia but it is absolutely 100% paleo goodness.

Apple Blueberry Sauce

2 T coconut oil

3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cloves

3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1/2 cup coconut milk

pinch of salt

liquid stevia to taste (I used about 1/2 a dropper full)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

unsweetened coconut flakes

Heat saute pan, add virgin coconut oil.  Add apples and salt.  Saute for 5- 10 minutes until they begin to soften.  Add cinnamon, cloves, blueberries, coconut milk.  Continue cooking until apples are soft and sauce has thickened a bit.  When apples are soft remove from heat and add stevia and fresh lemon juice.  Stir to combine.  Serve hot in a bowl alone or serve on waffles or pancakes. Top with coconut flakes for garnish.

This waffle recipe was originally from The Food Lovers Primal Palate.  I made it as they wrote it first then made some changes that suited our tastes.  Here is what worked for us.  For about half of the recipe I made these as pancakes the other half as waffles.  It makes about 8 small waffles if you are only making waffles.

Waffles/Pancakes

1/4 cup coconut flour

4 eggs

pinch of sea salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

liquid stevia to taste (I used approx one dropper full)

1/4 cup melted virgin coconut oil

Combine all ingredients and mix well with electric mixer.  Tough hey?  I used a couple of tablespoons of the batter onto each of the four sections of my waffle maker so that the waffles were small.  They are done when the waffle is lightly brown and separates from the waffle maker easily.  (Or when the light comes on and the steam subsides.)  Top waffles/pancakes with Apple Blueberry sauce.