Grain Free Tortillas

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Yes, I’ve been MIA again.  Life just seems to get busier every year.  I’ll spare you the details for now but I just wanted to share something I thought was so exciting.  Grain free tortillas!  I’ve made versions of this with coconut flour but coconut flour has a very distinctive flavor that I like in baked goods but not much else.  These tortillas are soft, elastic and pliable with a neutral flavor.   Aren’t tortillas really about what you are eating them with??  These stayed together, didn’t get soggy and weren’t grainy.  Can you tell I’ve tried several different versions?  I’ve been doing a lot of reading about gut health, our microbiota and  increasing dietary fiber.  I’m certainly guilty of not having anywhere near enough soluble or insoluble fiber in my diet for years and years on end.  And I’ve paid the price.  So in my quest to rectify that I’ve been trying out new foods to work with.  Plantains were on that list.  Plantains have about 57 grams of carbohydrate for a medium green one.  Yes, that’s a lot but I’ve never come close to eating a whole one in one sitting anyway.  Of those carbs 4 grams are resistant starch.  Resistant starch is a type of dietary fiber that we are unable to digest.  It travels down to our large intestine where our bacterial army does it’s magic.  That starch/fiber is what our gut bacteria feed on.  If we don’t feed our micro flora they don’t tend to stick around and proliferate.  We can take probiotics but unless we feed them they are transient and temporary.  Why is our gut bacteria important?  Well, It’s what keeps us healthy.  80% of our immune system is in our guts.  It drives our metabolism and those bacteria are the producers of butyrate.  Butyrate is a byproduct or waste product of our bacteria feeding on the resistant starch.  That butyrate is used by our bodies as energy.  It is also a powerful inflammatory in our guts, it helps decrease gut permeability and because that starch isn’t digestible by us but by our bacteria there is no spike in our blood sugar.  Actually, resistant starch improves insulin sensitivity and reduces blood sugar. Amazingly, it has a “second meal effect” meaning that it helps control your blood sugar for the following meal as well as the meal in which it was consumed. Resistant starch is associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer and may help with weight loss due to its ability to decrease blood sugar spikes post meal.  It may help decrease appetite and help to maintain lean muscle mass.

Anyway, back to the recipe.  These are the reasons I am excited to find a way to enjoy plantain.  Now to the recipe.  This was super fast and easy.  You will need a high powered blender and a large nonstick pan.

Ingredients:

1 green plantain

2 eggs

2-3 T milk or water

pinch of sea salt

coconut oil for the pan

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Peel and slice the plantain.  Add it and the eggs and salt to the blender.  Blend until smooth. Add just enough milk to thin out the batter so that you can pour out the batter into a thin layer.  Water may work just as well if you are dairy free.  Heat pan and enough coconut oil to lightly cover the bottom.  Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the hot pan and swirl the pan or use the back side of a spoon to spread the batter into and 8-10 inch round.  Cook on medium heat until the bottom side is lightly browned and then flip to brown the top side.  When finished lay it on a plate covered with a paper towel.  Repeat for the rest of the batter stacking them on top of each other with paper towel in between.  These were great warm with a little butter (has to be Kerrygold!) or dipped into olive oil.  I added some Italian seasoning to one batch and it was great.  Next time I will try some herbs de provence.  Cumin and coriander might be good too.  When they are completely cooled the paper towels can be removed and these can be stored, covered in the fridge.  Warm slightly in the microwave for a few seconds to enjoy them later.  They are just as soft, elastic and pliable the next day.

Crunchy Paleo Cranberry and Seed Crackers

Paleo Cranberry and Seed Crackers

Paleo Cranberry and Seed Crackers

 

Have you been looking for a good grain free cracker that is crispy and crunchy like a cracker should be?  Me too.  I like my previous crackers very much.  They were almond and flax based and very tasty.  These crackers however are completely different.  No almonds in sight.  They are very crispy and crunchy and will stand up to being heavily smeared with goat cheese.  I served these at a dinner party last weekend to a bunch of non paleo, gluten eaters and there wasn’t a crumb left over.  I think that speaks volumes.  I got the idea for this after making Carol’s Gluten Free Seed and Nut Bread.  I made it exactly as written which is a rare thing for me and it was amazing.  I got thinking that it reminded me of a GF cracker I had this summer in Whistler, BC.  These crackers are the best GF cracker I’ve ever had but they are not grain free and the only variety that is GF is impossible to find in stores which I personally think is a mistake on their part.  So with Carols bread recipe and that cracker in my head I came up with this amazing little cracker.  This is 100% exactly what I wanted it to be.

1 cup sunbutter (as in peanut butter made out of sunflower seeds instead of peanuts.  Trader Joes carries it.)

3 eggs

2 T coconut oil

2 T honey

1/4 cup tapioca starch

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 T chia seeds

1/2 cup dried whole cranberries**

12 unsulfured dried apricots diced to about the size of the cranberries

1 cup whole roasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly oil a standard sized loaf pan with coconut oil then line the pan with wax paper.  Cut off the paper that hangs over the sides of the pan.  This doesn’t have to be pretty.  It just helps the loaf pop out easily.  With a hand mixer combine the sunbutter, eggs, oil, honey and salt.  Mix in the tapioca and chia seeds.  When that is well mixed hand stir in the apricots, cranberries and pumpkin seeds.  Put the batter in the pan and smooth out the top.  Bake for 45 minutes and cool.  Slice the loaf as thinly as you can.  I cut each slice in half so that they are smaller.  Line a cookie sheet with parchement paper.  Lay the crackers out on the pan.  Bake in a 300 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes or until they are lightly browned, dry and crispy.  Let them cool completely.  They become more crunchy when they are cooled.

**I have used dried cherries in here too.

Asian Slaw

Yes, those are peanuts in the picture.  No, I don’t usually eat those.  Sunflower seeds are a better choice.  The second time I made this I did have sunflower seeds and used those.  I liked it better.  I came up with this idea after eating at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant.  I get the same salad every time I go there.  Their version likely has soy in it and now that I think about it probably wheat because they use regular soy sauce.  Hmmm and I wonder what they sweeten it with.  I know it isn’t honey… Crap!  The restaurant also adds daikon radish, shrimp and BBQ pork (and does not have the seaweed in it).  I want to try that at home too but that will require some pre-planning.  Does ayone have a good recipe for Vietnamese BBQ pork??   This salad is sweet and salty and was whipped up in 10 minutes.  I almost didn’t post this recipe.  I realize that most people don’t keep Thai basil and arame in their house as a staple. I don’t expect this to be a very popular post.  However, this is currently my favorite salad and if you happen to have access to the ingredients I highly recommend it.

Asian Slaw

Half a head of green cabbage – shredded

1 english cucumber with the skin on – quartered and sliced

fresh Thai basil – handful

fresh mint – handful

big pinch of dried arame (seaweed)

sunflower seeds as a topping

Dressing

1/4 cup EVOO

3 T Braggs liquid aminos or coconut aminos

1 T sesame oil

1/4 cup unsweetened rice vinegar

3-4 T raw honey

Soak the arame in room temperature water.  It softens in just a few minutes and doubles or triples in size.  Next make your dressing.  Combine all ingredients in another bowl and whisk together until well blended.  In your food processor using the slicing blade shred half a head of cabbage.  You could do this by hand too if you are less lazy than I.  Then slice your english cucumber lengthwise into quarters and feed it through the food processor (or slice by hand).  Very coarsely chop the Thai basil and mint.  Add cabbage, basil, cucumber, mint and arame to a large bowl.  Mix everything together.  Dress the salad as you need it.  The dressing keeps well in the fridge.  Top with a handful of sunflower seeds.

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

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.

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.