Sunday, November 24, 2013

Savory, pumpkin-apple chicken chili

Fall is my favorite season of the year. Cool air. Vibrant trees. Leaves dancing in the streets. And best of all, pumpkins and apples!

When asked to demo another recipe at the Springfield Farmer's Winter Market, I wanted to incorporate tastes of the season. Inspired by a cherry-peach chili recipe that my husband sampled while in Traverse City back in October, I decided to make a pumpkin (un-spicy) chili. It tasted fine, but my husband decided it needed something "more," so he went outside and picked a few tart apples from a tree in our yard. I cut them up and added them in, and they absolutely made the dish (thanks, husband)! That's how the pumpkin-apple chili was born.

2 pounds ground chicken (or turkey)
1 large red onion, peeled and chopped
1-2 heads garlic, peeled and minced
coconut oil (or other cooking oil)

3 C chicken or vegetable broth
3-4 C pumpkin puree
4 C black beans (cooked or canned)
1 tsp sea salt

2-4 tart apples, peeled and chopped (don't peel until needed)
4-6 pie pumpkins, rounded gourds or squashes (option)

  1. Add a few tablespoons of oil to a frying pan over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, garlic, and ground meat (about five minutes to brown on all sides). Reduce heat to medium, and cook for another fifteen minutes (stirring occasionally).
  2. While meat is cooking, add chicken broth, beans, pumpkin puree and salt to a stock pot. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently.
  3. When the meat is done cooking, strain the fat off, and scoop the contents into the stock pot. Mix thoroughly. Cook fifteen minutes.
  4. If you'd like to serve the chili in pumpkins or gourds, remove the tops, scoop out the seeds, and have them ready to go! (OPTIONAL)
  5. Peel and cube the tart apples (Northern Spy are my fav), and add to the stock pot for the last five minutes of cooking. Stir well.
  6. Serve in the pumpkins/gourds, or normal bowls :)

*Vegan potential -- use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and either omit the chicken/turkey, or sauté tofu as a substitute (allow an extra ten-twenty minutes to cook the tot firmly, if desired).

Thursday, November 21, 2013


8 Roma (or 4 Beefsteak) tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded, and diced
1/4 - 1/2 head of garlic, minced
1/4 red onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2-4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped (or 2 tsp dried)
1 tsp organo (or 1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped)
sea salt & black pepper to taste

1. Combine ingredients in covered container, stir or shake well
2. Refrigerate 4-12 hours prior to serving for best results (taste improves as it marinates)

Easy, and SO delicious!

This bruschetta makes a great salsa, or can be used to top spaghetti squash instead of using a sauce!

If you're not adhering to a gluten-free or Paleo diet, feel free to warm a baguette in the oven and serve the bruschetta over top, old school!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Coconut oil pan-fried breakfast plantains

2 plantains (sort of ripe but still firm)
1 sweet onion
Sea salt
Coconut oil

1. Peel the plantains. Cut into small cubes.

2. Peel onion and slice/cut to preferred shape (I like large chunks).

3. Heat 2-6 tablespoons of coconut oil in frying pan on medium heat.

4. Add plantains, push around and coat well with oil. 

5. Add the onions. Cook 5-10 minutes, moving contents around to prevent burning. Cooking too long will provide a nicer crunch, but the plantains will dry out a bit inside. I find best results by calling it quits once the plantains and onions show first signs of looking translucent.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Flakey apple tarts

They're so flaky and delicious -- when I took these out of the oven, I felt like I was staring at something from a fancy pastry shop in Paris! Okay, they'd be much prettier if made by an ACTUAL pastry chef, but, their flakiness is nothing short of divine!
The weather wasn't particularly beautiful today in Davisburg, but the farmer's market went on nonetheless! I demonstrated this recipe for apple tarts; their flaky crust left mouths happy.

I have to credit my friend, Annette, for sharing her pie crust recipe and teaching me how to make such a lovely and delicious pastry! I adapted the apple filling recipe from that for apple pie out of a Betty Crocker cookbook.

The recipe is simple in terms of its ingredients, but technique is key. Having the right tools on hand will facilitate success (flaky crust). It's good to have a vision of the whole process before starting, to foster efficiency. Give yourself two hours to make four dozen tarts (if you finish a bit early, brew up that coffee to enjoy along with your freshly-baked, flaky tarts).

If you are experienced with pastry-making, then feel free to skip straight down to the recipe. For those of you who want some tips for perfecting your crusts, or are beginning, the following tips and explanations should set you up for success. (Remember, practice makes perfect ;)

Tips and technique
For best results, be sure that your lard (and/or butter) are refrigerated for a few hours prior to making the pastry; leave it/them in the fridge until ready for use. COLD is key!!

Before you dive in to baking, round up your tools:
  • Pastry cutter
  • Marble slab or cutting board, or marble/granite/travertine counter top
  • Marble rolling pin
  • Apple corer/slicer (or knife)
  • Peeler
  • Mini-muffin pans/tart pans (enough for four dozen)
  • A two or four cup volume is sufficient. Ultimately, you'll use 1/3 - 1/2 C water (estimate -- I've never paid attention to the precise quantity)
  • A pyrex measuring cup (or other decanter) filled with ice + water (heavy on the ice)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Soup spoon
  • Butter knife
  • Small, glass container
  • Food scale (or 1 C measures for dry and wet)
Now, here's a high-level overview of the process for making these delectable tarts:
1. Prepare pastry
2. Let set for 10 minutes -- pull out tools and ingredients for filling
3. Place pastry in the fridge for thirty minutes -- prepare filling, preheat oven
4. Remove pastry from fridge
5. Create tarts in muffins pans
6. Bake -- start cleaning up that mess!
7. Cool and serve

On to prepping and baking!!

1 pound (3 + 3/4 C) all-purpose flour (keep the bag of flour handy for later)
1/4 pound (1/2 C) lard
1/4 pound (1/2 C) butter
Pyrex measuring cup (or other decanter) filled with ice + water (heavy on the ice)

Feel free to use 1/2 pound lard, or 1/2 pound butter, if you prefer. I think the half-and-half combo of each (per the ingredient list) makes the best crust.

  1. Place 1 pound of flour in a large mixing bowl
  2. Remove the lard and/or butter from the fridge -- measure it and place it in the bowl with the flour
  3. Use a pastry cutter to cut the pastry into the flour. Go slowly, and do not overwork the mixture. Use a knife or fork to scrape the mixture that gathers on the pastry cutter. Continue cutting until the lard/butter chunks are pea-sized. Err on the side of too big rather than too small
  4. Pour a small amount of water (2-3 tbsp) over the mixture. Using a fork, start pulling from the edge of the bowl into the center, slowly, and turn the bowl, repeating the whole way around. Once the water has been absorbed, add another few tablespoons. (I use a fork while pouring to prevent the ice from falling into the pastry.) When a ball starts to form in the center of the bowl (or rather, when the mixture starts to adhere to itself), stop. Err on the side of too dry rather than too wet
  5. Gently gather mixture together by pressing it together with your hands -- just two or three gentle squeezes will do
  6. It's best to flour your surface prior to turning out the pastry onto it
  7. Turn the mixture out onto a marble slab. If it falls apart, assess whether it seems too dry in the middle. You can drizzle another few tablespoons of water if needed. 
  8. Choose a cool part of your kitchen to work (i.e. avoid working directly next to the oven)
  9. Gently press the mixture together, if needed. Cover with the bowl, and leave the pastry set, on the counter, for ten minutes                                    
  10. After ten minutes have passed, place the "ball" of pastry back into the bowl, cover the bowl (with a towel, plastic, or lid), and place in fridge for thirty minutes
  11. Make the filling while waiting for the pastry to chill 
Apple filling
6 C apples, peeled, cored, diced into small chunks (pea-sized)
1/2 - 2/3 C sugar (or honey)
1 tsp cinnamon (or more, to taste)
2 tbsp butter, melted
pinch of salt
Add other spices, such as allspice or nutmeg, to taste, if preferred (I prefer not)

  1. Assuming that your pastry is resting, covered, in the fridge, go ahead and preheat the oven to 425F
  2. Mix all apple filling ingredients together in a medium-size bowl; combine thoroughly
  3. Let the mixture set out on the counter while working with the pastry to fill the tart pans
Create the tarts
  1. Sprinkle a generous layer of flour over the marble slab
  2. Remove the pastry from the fridge. Gently remove and place about one-fourth of the pastry onto the marble slab. Cover the remaining pastry and return to fridge
  3. Gently but firmly press down on the pastry to form it and spread it out slightly, in preparation for rolling
  4. Sprinkle the top of pastry with flour
  5. Start in the center, and use the rolling pin to work the pastry out in one direction (somewhat gently). Return to the center and roll the other side out
  6. Gently lift the pastry and flip it over -- if it seems to be stuck, use a butter knife to release the pastry from the slab. Sprinkle more flour
  7. Sprinkle a but more flour on top, and roll it out a bit more. The thinner the better, but not so thin that it's difficult to handle. If it's your first time making pastry, err on the side of thick -- it just may turn out more chewy than crispy
  8. Caution: avoid balling up the pastry and "starting again" -- the more it's worked, the less flaky (and more chewy) the crust will be after baking
  9. Don't worry too much about clean edges -- it won't matter much once you fill the tart and fold the pastry and pinch it together)
  10. Cut the pastry into 2.5-3 inch squares
  11. These are a bit thicker than optimal
  12. Place squares into the muffin pan (I find it easier to start filling the inside spaces of the pan and working outward), leaving the pastry draped outward (you'll want to fold it over top of the filling). Continue until you are out of pastry
  13. Spoon apple filling into the pastry -- it should be at least level with the top of the pan
  14. I haven't perfected the aesthetic yet, but they taste fantastic!
  15. Fold the edges of the pastry in to the center, and pinch together gently. 
  16. Repeat steps 1-12 until all of the pastry has been used or you run out of muffin pans!
  17. Place pans into the pre-heated oven, and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown. If you decide to use regular cupcake-size pans instead of mini's, they may need 45 minutes or more to cook fully
  18. Remove from oven and let cool for twenty minutes
  19. Remove from muffin pans -- they should pop right out, unless some of the filling oozed out at the seams, in which case I like to use a butter knife to release the tart from the pans
  20. Enjoy!
Vegan potential: use margarine or palm shortening (instead of butter and/or lard).

Storage: they should freeze/defrost well -- store in Ziplok bags, and allow to defrost on the counter.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Spaghetti squash in garlic-cream sauce (dairy-free) topped with pumpkin-kissed meatballs

I've been doing cooking demos at my local farmer's market, and made this recipe today. It was a crowd-pleaser to say the least, despite the chilly, rainy fall day that was upon us.

Spaghetti squash in garlic-cream sauce (dairy-free)
1 can full fat canned coconut milk
1 spaghetti squash, halved, seeds removed
1-2 heads garlic
A few sprigs of fresh basil (2-4 tbsp, chopped)
2 tsp dried oregano
sea salt to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F
  2. Place spaghetti squash halves, face down, on baking sheet
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes (until a fork pokes through easily -- don't over cook or it will become too mushy)
  4. Remove squash and separate strands of squash away from the skin with a fork (the strands are long and thin, similar to spaghetti, but thinner and more fragile)
  5. Empty the can of coconut milk into a large skillet. Add herbs, spices and minced garlic. Cook on medium high until boiling, stirring frequently Reduce heat to keep the mixture simmering, and stir continuously for 10-15 minutes, until it thickens
  6. Reduce heat to low, add squash strands, and stir well, until the squash is warm
Pumpkin-kissed meatballs
1 pound ground beef 
1 egg
1 head garlic, peeled, minced
1/2 C pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
1/4 C chopped kale
salt & pepper to taste
coconut oil (or olive oil)
plate or tray
baking sheet lined with paper towel or cotton cloth

  1. Mix all ingredients* (except oil) in a medium mixing bowl. Use wooden utensil to mix together, or use a mixer if you're fancy!
  2. Shape/roll into meatballs, about 1-1.5 inches in diameter, and place on tray or plate. Continue until you've used up the entire mixture
  3. Add a few tablespoons of oil to a skillet on medium-high heat
  4. Place meatballs in the oil (carefully -- the splashing oil BURNS -- I often use tongs to transfer the meatballs to prevent the splash)
  5. Flip the meatballs every 2-3 minutes, until browned on all sides. It usually takes 10-12 minutes to cook them through -- I always cut one open to ensure it's medium-well
  6. Transfer meatballs to the tray lined with cotton cloth or paper towels.

Place a helping of the squash with sauce on a plate, and top it off with a load of meatballs! ENJOY!!!!

*If you want to use fresh pumpkin puree, handle the pumpkin similar to the spaghetti squash. Cut a pie pumpkin in half, remove the seeds, place open face down on a baking sheet, and bake) -- pumpkin usually takes longer than the spaghetti squash -- check it at 30-40 minutes. Cook longer if needed. After it cools, you can easily pull the flesh away from the skin, and then place the flesh in a blender or food processor, and puree! Freeze leftovers for future cooking endeavors.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pumpkin-kissed chicken nuggets

I should be cleaning my house. Seriously. Both kids are asleep, the husband is out of town, and I didn't quite get through the normal "drill" this evening. (And there is those five loads of laundry I did this weekend which I have yet to fold.) But who wants to clean when one can be blogging about food? Not this lady. (Besides, I've accepted that my house will be partially disastrous for the next 20 years.)

On to said food...

A friend bought a book for me called "The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet...," from which I I modified (significantly) a recipe for "chicken nuggets." Perhaps what I should say is that I referred to that recipe simply to discern the temperature at which the nuggets were baked.

Instead of using chunks of chicken breast, I used a combination of ground turkey and chicken breast meat, simply because the ground meat is super moist, and I intended to skip the traditional four-part breading process (milk, flour, egg, breadcrumbs), and use shredded coconut only. This was inspired by an experience making paleo fish sticks (that required a three-step process: coconut flour, then egg, then shredded coconut). As it turned out, the egg wasn't working (maybe because coconut flour is SUPER absorbant), so I quit and just dipped the fish in water before rolling in shredded coconut. They turned out marvelously. The lazy chicken-nugget-breading process was born!

Without further adieu, here is the recipe.

1 pound ground meat (turkey, chicken, beef...)
1/2 C pumpkin puree
1/4 C blanched almond flour or almond meal
garlic and sea salt to taste
1 C shredded coconut (you may need a bit more, so keep the bag out until you complete the breading process)
1-2 C coconut oil (this can vary a lot -- if you observe the medium-heat frying requirement, and your pan isn't too large, then 1 C should be sufficient)

*you could omit the garlic and use cinnamon for a sweet version

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Place 1 or 2 baking sheets out.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients except shredded coconut and coconut oil. Mix thoroughly. A mixer will do the job more quickly than your wrist/spoon.
  4. Place shredded coconut in a bowl or on a plate.
  5. Scoop about 1-2 tablespoons of the mixture and flatten it a bit.
  6. Roll the flattened "ball" into the shredded coconut, and smush it down (to encourage the coconut to stick to the mixture). Repeat this until all of the mixture has been used. (I like to lay them out on a plate to carry over to the stove for frying -- stacking them works fine.)
  7. Place 1 cup of coconut oil into a frying pan, and heat on medium for a few minutes. Then add the "nuggets" (as many as will fit, still leaving enough space to get a utensil in for flipping -- I use a small turner).
  8. Fry for 2-3 minutes per side (careful not to burn them), then remove them to the baking sheets you set out previously. (As the coconut falls off in the oil, it may burn over time -- you can scoop it out if you wish -- I keep a bowl near my frying pan for collecting the stray coconut.) You may wish to place them onto a paper-towel-lined plate before putting them on the baking sheet:
  9. I tend to use parchment paper because I'm REALLY lazy when it comes to cleaning baking sheets.

    I think this is about 2 pounds worth.

  10. After all nuggets have been fried and placed on the baking sheets, pop them into the oven for 15-30 minutes (until golden brown and/or until internal temperature is at least 160F). 
These nuggets freeze well. If you freeze them, don't defrost them prior to re-heating. Simply place the frozen nuggets on a plate, and microwave on high power for about 4 minutes (time may vary depending on size of the nuggets -- too long and they will get hard, not long enough and they will be too cold).

If you are reading this blog and have advice for the perfect combination of fry-time and cook-time to acquire excellent crispiness, please advise!  I found a variation in crispiness nugget-to-nugget.

Oh, and this recipe is easy to double (or quadruple) the recipe, as I did here:
    Yes, that's quite a stack! Four pounds of ground turkey and chicken breast.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Long lost garden updates

Happy August!  I've taken many photos of my garden over the summer with intention to blog, but never could afford the time. Long story short: we vacationed for two and a half weeks during late June and early July. That was bad. Really bad. Lesson: Never leave my garden during peak-growing times.

After returning from vacation, I spent a bit of time cutting grass (with scissors) that surrounded the squashes I had planted along the fence. My beans are all toast, as are my cubes. I also managed to spend ten to fifteen minutes a few days weeding, which felt horribly futile. Not only were weeds encroaching viciously on my vegetable plants, but the rains had washed a lot of nutrients out of my soil (a reality I gleaned from chatting with my seasoned-gardner of a neighbor last week).  

I managed to get the kids into our local nursery one rainy day earlier this week to pick up some fish-based fertilizer. I had refrained from ever using fertilizer to keep things as organic as possible, but I chatted with an organic farmer at my local Farmer's Market last week, and she suggested fish and/or seaweed based fertilizers.

My wee babe went down for his nap this morning at 8:30, and I managed to get Peanut outside to enjoy his sandbox while I labored away in my so-called garden.  After one hour I managed to remove weeds from my tomatoes and broccoli. Insane. But I figured there would be no point in fertilizing the weeds, so it had to be done.  I hope to get to my carrots and what's left of my greens this weekend.

Here are before and after photos from this morning...

And yes, my tomatoes are at least partially blighted.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nutty fruit bars

Ever since going Paleo, processed foods are rarely an option. However, many Lara Bar varieties contain nothing more than nuts and fruit for the most part. I've bought several boxes of them, as they are handy when traveling or out-and-about with the kiddos. Every time I read the label of one of the bars, I think to myself, This is basically nuts and fruit -- I should be able to make these.

So this recipe, while original in the sense that I didn't look it up and have never seen a recipe similar to this, was inspired by the Lara Bars I've eaten.
Close-up of a half-eaten nutty fruit bar
1 C dried apricots (no suger added)
1/4 C dried cranberries
1/2 C almond meal
1 C unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 C pepitas*
1/3 C sunflower seeds*
2 tbsp coconut oil (melted) + some for greasing pan

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  2. Grease baking pan (I used a stone bar pan
  3. Place dried fruits and coconut oil into a blender (or Blendtec). Grind or pulse until combined, scraping as needed
  4. Add the dry ingredients, and pulse until well combined, or until desired texture is achieved
  5. Scoop out the ingredients onto the baking pan; spread out and then smash down to really pack the mixture together. It's very sticky -- you may want to lube up your fingers with the oil, or use a dough roller or flat, wooden utensil. Confession: I just used my bare hands and licked them when I was done (YUM)
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown
  7. Remove from oven and set on cooling rack. I cut mine after five minutes of cooling
  8. Store in sealed container in fridge once cool
Since I concocted this recipe on the fly and gave no consideration to how much the recipe would yield, I ended up a bit short in terms of filling the bar pan. I just spread the mixture out, smashed it down, and formed it to a thickness I thought made sense. Doubling the recipe would yield thicker bars (surely that would be a good thing, but may require additional cook time). I cut mine into eight, uneven rectangles, but I think nine or ten would have been more appropriately sized. I used a Pampered Chef medium-sized bar pan.

These snacks are delicious; they're chewy but not sticky (to touch). I think both the sweetness and the chewy texture will accommodate more nuts/seeds than what I used in this recipe. Future experimentation may be required!
* Any nut or seed could be substituted for the pepitas and/or sunflower seeds. Additionally, depending on texture preference, the seeds (nuts) could be ground prior to mixing with other ingredients.

Nutritional information
Serving = 1 bar
8 servings per recipe
Per serving:
Fat (g)       15.5
Protein (g)   4
Sugar (g)    13.1

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Coconut butter

I've been rather obsessed with paleOMG's coconut klondike bites (which I refer to as coconut cups, for short) for the past few months. The recipe calls for coconut butter, and paleOMG blogger, Juli Bauer, shared a friend's recipe for that. It includes processing a package of coconut flakes in a food processor until it gets soft and creamy like butter.

I have followed that protocol and used it in the coconut klondike bites recipe, but found the texture a bit too gritty to enjoy eating by itself. The other thing I disliked was that it hardened back up, and to make it spreadable again, microwaving or additional processing was required.

You can buy coconut butter (it's pricey), and after reading the labels of several brands online, I realized that coconut oil was an ingredient. So, I decided to add some to mine! Much to my delight, the coconut oil really improved the texture, and while it does firm-up slightly as it cools/sets, it's still soft enough to be spreadable without any heating required!

I LOVE coconut butter!

I love to eat coconut butter by the spoonful as a snack, or stuff dates with it (that's a delicious gem that I gleaned from Juli's cookbook, "OMG. That's Paleo?"). So, so yummy (with or without the date).

Here's how I make mine.

12 oz bag unsweetened, flaked coconut (I like Bob's Red Mill brand)
3-4 tbsp coconut oil
1 pint canning jar for storing it (or other container)
One 12 ounce package of coconut flakes yields one pint of coconut butter. I buy coconut flakes by the "case," which includes four packages. I pay about $3 per bag, which means my cost is only slightly higher than $3 for a pint of coconut butter (including the cost for coconut oil), which is awesome considering that 16 ounces of coconut butter can run $10-15 from what I've seen.
Instructions (for Blendtec*)
  1. Dump coconut flakes into Blendtec. Run on Speed 1 for the whole cycle. Remove plastic cap and push contents down, gently, with a spoon handle (AVOID the blade, of course -- you need only to push down the top layer, to encourage movement of the solid pieces)
  2. Add coconut oil, then run on Speed 1 for another cycle (Use a spoon handle again to push down the top layer -- I focus on pushing down in the corners)
  3. Press the smoothie button for one cycle
Instructions (for "normal" blender or food processor)
  1. Add flakes and pulse
  2. Scrape as frequently as needed, until the flakes become pasty/buttery
  3. Add coconut oil
  4. Continue pulsing and scraping until smooth (my normal blender makes WONDERFULLY smooth coconut butter)
I store mine in the cupboard. It rarely lasts longer than a week (or a few days -- OOPS!). Not sure if refrigeration would be required or not, longer term.

*I'm new to my Blendtec, so I'm still experimenting. I think I can get this smoother than it turned out for me this time, and will update the recipe when I figure it out.

Sunshine banana muffins

I recently saw a post on the FB page for PaleoLifestyleMagazine, asking whether or not people ate dandelion greens. I've eaten greens on several occasions, and have been harvesting them from my yard! Just this morning I sautéed them in coconut oil until they wilted, and ate them as a side with my breakfast. I've also chopped them up, adding them to breakfast sausage (could be added to any meat).

I recalled a post that Jim McDonald (my local herbalist) had shared on a forum once, about a recipe for cookies using the dandelion petals.

You might be thinking Dandelion petals... in cookies? Aren't dandelions weeds?

Per the view of many suburbanites, who spend money on chemicals to kill the pretty, little, yellow flowers, I presume the answer is, "Yes." To herbalists such as Jim McDonald and others who enjoy eating for health, however, dandelions are nutrient-packed, edible and medicinal plants.

Said cookie recipe doesn't fit in to our paleo lifestyle, but I wanted to bake the dandelion petals I'd recently harvested into something my son would enjoy eating. After a bit of toiling, I decided upon banana bread, baked as muffins. (My toddler loves muffins -- I even make muffins out of meatloaf for his eating pleasure!)

I really like this paleo banana bread recipe from the CivilizedCaveman blog. I've made it several times, and both my son and husband love the bread! It's dense and moist, and delicious (I have an egg allergy, and since the recipe includes four eggs I don't technically eat the bread; but I couldn't resist indulging in a tiny smidgen the first time I made it -- it was awesome!).

Given the texture and moistness of the bread, I figured the recipe could handle about one cup of dandelion petals, keeping the rest of the recipe in tact, without compromising the texture (or taste).

4 bananas, peeled
4 eggs
4 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 C almond butter
1/2 C coconut flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1 C dandelion petals

It will take several dozen dandelions (depending on their size) to acquire 1 C of petals. I gathered them up and placed them in a vase of water until I could get to them. To remove the petals, squeeze the green base of the flower, and pull out as much of the yellow petals and white silky-looking stuff as you possibly can. Don't have quite one cup of them? Either go back outside to search some more, or just use what you have!

(Please note: if you use chemicals on your lawn, DO NOT eat your dandelions. You may want to forgo harvesting your dandelions if your immediate neighbor(s) use(s) lawn chemicals. Go visit your friend in the country and steal theirs. Or, better yet, MOVE to the country and grow your own!)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Grease muffin pan or 12 muffin liners
  3. Combine the first four ingredients (bananas, eggs, coconut oil, and almond butter) and mix well on medium speed*
  4. Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT for dandelion petals and mix well on medium
  5. Add dandelion petals, mix well
  6. Distribute mixture evenly between 12 muffin cups. They will be pretty full -- not to worry, as they won't raise significantly
  7. Bake for about 35 minutes (that's how long mine took in a silicon muffin pan)
Not the best photo, but there are two of the sunshine banana muffins. 
Again, I can't eat these since they contain eggs, but they are toddler-approved! My two-year-old son gobbled one up with no indication that he even noticed of the petals.

*If using a Blendtec or Vitamix, you can add all ingredients at once (in order: liquid then soft then dry) and mix it up quickly (batter).

Friday, May 17, 2013

Quiche muffins

My two-year-old son loves muffins. It has more to do with their shape and size than their contents (or so experimental results have suggested).

I adapted this recipe I found online for our Paleo needs. And by "our" needs, I mean those of my husband and son, as I am allergic to eggs. (MAJOR bummer.)

12 eggs
1 C organic heavy whipping cream
4 tbsp beef gelatin
2/3 chopped kale (2-3 C of kale prior to chopping)
2/3 pound ground pork sausage, cooked
Garlic and onion powders to taste
Salt to taste
1-2 tbsp coconut oil, melted (for muffin pans)

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  2. Grease the muffin pans with coconut oil (melted), or other fat.
  3. Spoon a bit of sausage into each muffin cup.  This batch yields twenty-four mini muffins AND fifteen normal-sized muffins.
  4. Whip eggs and whipping cream together
  5. Add spices and kale, mix well
  6. Add the gelatin, and mix well
  7. Pour into muffin cups, filling each one two-thirds full
  8. Bake mini-muffins for 25-35 minutes, and normal-sized muffins for 35-45 minutes
  9. Let cool on racks before serving
  10. Store in the fridge, or freeze them for later! (They freeze perfectly!)
A brief note that my muffins deflate as they cool. I think adding some starch could resolve this issue. I intend to add some mashed, steamed cauliflower or parsnips next time.

My two-year-old son's breakfast -- either three normal-sized muffins, or nine mini-muffins as shown here. He also had a side of soup.
Normal-sized muffins

Thursday, May 16, 2013

2013 Garden: Some planting

I planted seeds, indoors, back on March 31st. Here's a photo of how they have progressed in the past six weeks.
Cherry tomato, sweet pepper, chili pepper, basil, and luffa gourd seedlings.
The weather finally gave me a break, and with my baby in a bouncer and toddler at his sandbox (or sometimes digging in my garden), I managed to get to work. Bits of progress over three different days yielded some success.

On May 7th I was able to pull the new weeds from the section I had weeded previously, turn the soil again, and get to planting! I planted one row of Swiss chard, nearly two rows of spinach, and a small section of kale. I had no idea that my packet of kale would contain so few seeds-- "Now I know, and knowing is half the battle...G.I. Joe!" I also managed to pull the weeds from the other half of the raised bed!

My husband doubled my garden this year by moving the fence to encase a larger area, but we don't plan on adding more raised beds until the fall.
Hence, I decided to dig up spots to permit more planting than what my existing, raised bed can accommodate. I took a shovel and dug holes around about half of the garden's perimeter, along the fence line. I removed the grass, shook out the soil, and decided I'd need a bit of topsoil and manure to prep these spots for planting.

My husband picked up topsoil and manure and dumped the bags near my garden. I finally found time on May 11th to prep the newly-dug spaces, then planted seeds for pumpkin, cantaloupe, green beans, and cucumbers.
I turned the soil in the unplanted portion of the raised bed, and planted seeds for carrots and broccoli (one packet of seeds, each), leaving space in the garden for some chili peppers and sweet peppers that are growing indoors.
Of course it got down into the twenties Sunday evening/Monday morning -- I had contemplated waiting until the following weekend to plant, but instead decided to monopolize on some free time, as my husband was caring for the boys. I hope that the melon and pumpkin seeds weren't damaged. Time will tell.

As for the tomatoes and basil that I am growing indoors, I plan to transplant them to large pots that I will keep in the garden. I also intend to purchase herb plants at a sale next weekend, and a few more tomato plant varieties in a month or so from the farmer's market -- all to live in pots in my garden area.

Oh, and a rhubarb plant, given to me last fall by my manager, has come up nicely!  I planted it outside of my garden last year (near the fence), as rhubarb has few pests to worry about, and takes up quite a bit of space.
I'm looking forward to harvesting strawberries from my patch to accompany the rhubarb in a delectable pie ;). I also enjoy eating rhubarb, raw, by the stalk -- it's tart bite makes my mouth water!! As long as I keep up with the daily watering routine, I should get a fine yield of berries. I intend to freeze some, and can a little jam, too!

The greens (chard, kale and spinach) were visible on May 14th!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Salmon cakes

When I read, "It Starts With Food," I was pleased to see a variety of recipes in the appendices. The salmon cakes stuck out, as they contain protein, fat and veggies - an all-inclusive meal! As usual, I modified it a bit per what I had on hand (i.e. the recipe calls for dill, and I didn't have any at the time, so simply omitted it).

*The recipe below is a double recipe - simply cut everything in half if you wish. I like doubling it so that I can freeze a few servings for later.

2 14.75 ounce cans of bone-in wild-caught salmon (28+ ounces total)
2 C canned or roasted sweet potato (I used 1/2 C roasted sweet potato and 1 1/2 C canned pumpkin)
1 C almond meal
2 eggs, whisked (or two tbsp flax meal in 6 tbsp water, let stand 5 minutes)
1/2 C kale, chopped
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 tsp parsley, dried
1 tsp paprika
1-2 tbsp coconut oil or clarified butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  2. Flake salmon into large mixing bowl, removing all bones (if you are using bone-in salmon, that is)
  3. Add all remaining ingredients. Mix well with wooden spoon or hands
  4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Brush the paper with coconut oil or butter
  5. Using a 1/4 C measuring cup, scoop up the mixture, and dump out onto the parchment (that way you get metered, nicely-shaped patties.
  6. Bake 20 minutes, then remove from oven and flip. Bake 10 more minutes, or until golden brown.

Check those puppies out! The batch I made yielded sixteen, 1/4 C-sized salmon cakes (enough for four adult-sized servings plus two kid-sized servings).

Store in a sealed container in the fridge, or freeze for later. If you freeze them, defrost in fridge prior to reheating.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Quick jam: strawberry

My son is on a produce strike, and this includes fruits. It's insane, as he used to eat berries as if they were going out of style. At one point I couldn't even keep berries in the house. And now - nothing. He won't eat anything. BUT, he loves jam. Only problem is that most everything I can find in the stores has added sugar or pectin, etc. So, I decided to make my own. I recalled a recipe in "OMG. That's Paleo?" for cherry jam, which called for coconut oil, cherries and honey. So I omitted the honey, used strawberries instead, and made my own strawberry jam!

1 pound strawberries (quartered, stems removed)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp honey


  1. Melt coconut oil in saucepan
  2. Add the strawberries, and stir periodically to keep from burning 
  3. Cook and stir 20-30 minutes
  4. Place in an 8-ounce jar or other sealed container, and store in the fridge
The strawberries begin to cook down quickly - I snapped this photo after about one minute of cooking!
Bright-colored jam! No sugar added. Beautiful. Fragrant. DELICIOUS!!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Applesauce jello

I saw the blog post on Primally Inspired for a jello recipe and was super happy! A nice treat with a bit of protein and amino acids, yet not heavy on honey. I made it once with true cranberry juice (no sugar added = super tart), per the recipe (i.e. two cups of fruit juice, two tablespoons gelatin, one tablespoon honey), plus added a few cherries, and it was delicious!

However, I don't want to add honey to my foods, certainly not on a regular basis. So I decided to try the jello recipe with applesauce as the liquid, sans honey.

2 C applesauce, hot out of the crock pot, or out of a jar and warmed
2 tbsp beef gelatin
3-4 tbsp cold water

  1. Set out an 8x8 baking dish
  2. Mix gelatin in with the cold water, and mix with a fork until combined (it will be really thick)
  3. Scoop the hot applesauce into a mixing bowl and quickly add the gelatin/water mixture, mixing fervently to ensure that it dissolves evenly throughout
  4. Place in fridge for a few hours until it sets up
  5. Cut, serve and enjoy! It's delicious!
The texture is very homogenous - it's like a semi-solid bar of applesauce. I really love it!!
This is what it looks for going in to the fridge, and coming out when solid!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Lazy-ass applesauce

I buy produce from door to door organics on a weekly basis, except in the summer when my garden is producing. One of my latest favorites is their ten-pound box of imperfect apples for $6.99 - what a steal! This week I bought two boxes (ahem, twenty pounds of apples)! I picked the worst twenty apples (which weren't really even that bad, perhaps one to two bruises each, and/or a mark or two) of the two boxes to use for applesauce. I have about forty apples remaining, and will make at least one more batch of applesauce, perhaps two.

I have two wee guys at home, and hence don't have time to hang out with a double broiler all day making applesauce. When I bought a ten pound box of apples a few weeks ago, I asked some ladies from a parenting forum to share the quickest way to make applesauce. One person replied with a crock pot recipe, and I was sold!

20 apples, minus bruises, cores and nibbles (be sure to remove all seeds)
1/2-1 C water
2 tbsp cinnamon

The carnage. I use that nifty little gadget there to core and slice the apples in one step. I leave the skins on, because it provides a nice color for the applesauce (pinkish). My mother-in-law strains her applesauce to remove the skins once it is finished cooking, but I don't mind the skins in my applesauce, and hence I leave them in. Feel free to strain as a last step if you wish, or peel prior to coring/slicing if you prefer.
  1. Add enough water to the crock pot that you have about a quarter-inch of water (to protect the apples from burning until they start to produce liquid)
  2. Add those apples (minus cores and bruises, of course)
  3. Add cinnamon (I used about 2 tablespoons - use as much or as little as you wish - you can always add more at serving time)
  4. Put the lid on, cook on low for 6-8 hours. I stir them periodically (once every hour or two, if I'm around)

The finished product
I keep some in a pint or quart sized canning jar in the fridge, and also freeze some (in individual six-ounce-glass containers). I pull the frozen ones into the fridge the night before consuming - the applesauce freezes wonderfully!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Greens nuts and ham

The crux of the Whole30 approach to Paleo eating is to balance each meal in terms of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. This balance constitutes one to two palm-sized portions of protein, one to two tablespoons of fat (depending on the fat source it could be more), and two-thirds of the plate occupied by vegetables. If having fruit, one closed-palm portion is the way to go.

In an effort to enjoy an all-inclusive easy-to-cook meal (that is, inclusive of all sources, but without having to make foods individually), I concocted this: greens, nuts, and ham.

Serves two!

1 thick slice of ham (3/4 to 1 pound), cubed
1-2 bunches of kale (or any greens)
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 C cashews*, crushed (I crush them by clenching them tightly in my fist)
1-2 tbsp coconut oil (or other fat)
1 apple, cored and sliced

One bunch of kale (raw), de-stemmed and torn into pieces
3/4 pound of ham, cubed

  1. Heat coconut oil in wok or frying pan over medium-high heat
  2. Toss in the cubed ham. Cook for five minutes, then add garlic and stir. Let cook a few more minutes.
  3. Add the kale
  4. Stir occasionally until the kale wilts
  5. Add the nuts last, stir and cook for three to five more minutes

Ta-da!!!  I didn't cook the apples, but you could throw them in along with the nuts if you like. I just placed half an apple worth of slices on each plate next to main course.  (And as you may be able to infer, that seemingly huge pile of kale became rather small once wilted - this photo shows approximately half of what was shown in the picture of the raw kale).
*You can use any nut you wish - just remember that peanuts are NOT nuts, they are legumes. The last two times I made this, I used walnuts and they tasted great!

Vegan potential: Just replace the ham with cubed tofu. Main difference is that you'll have to cook the tofu much longer than the ham, if you like it prepared firmly. Of course, soy is a no-no in Paleo land, but if you're a non-Paleo vegan, this meal's for you!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Turkey loaf

I never really made meatloaf prior to our Paleo conversion. My husband thumbed through the newest cookbook gracing my shelf, "OMG. That's Paleo." a few weeks ago, and flagged the chicken basil meatloaf recipe. Since then I've concocted various versions of meatloaf or meatballs, inspired by the recipe he saw, but I have not following it exactly. My recipes have varied based on what I have in my fridge, or what I want to sneak into my two-year-old's tummy.

Today it was turkey loaf (or turkey meatloaf, or turkeyloaf - whatever you want to call it), with carrots, onion and chard!

1 pound ground turkey (or meat of choice)
1/4 cup steamed carrots, chopped
1 chard leaf, chopped or minced
1/3 of a small red onion, chopped
1 tbsp flax seed meal* + 3 tbsp water (OR 1 egg, whisked)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp fat (coconut oil, bacon fat, etc.), melted + more for greasing the baking dish

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. If using flax meal in place of an egg, place 1 tbsp flax meal into 3 tbsp of water, mix and allow to set for 5 minutes
  3. Combine all ingredients except for turkey (meat)
  4. Add the meat, and mix thoroughly (wooden spoon or your hand)
  5. Grease a small baking dish - I used a Pyrex bread dish (see below)
  6. Place mixture into dish, cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or so. Remove foil, and bake until golden brown and cooked through (about 15 more minutes)
Chopped veggies
Flax meal setting in water
Turkey loaf prior to baking - sorry, I didn't get an after photo - we ate it all up!

*Depending on who's Paleo rules you may follow, flax seed meal is either OK or a no-no. According to the Whole30 program from "It Starts With Food," flax seed meal is permitted in small quantities on the Paleo diet. I use it once or twice per week at most.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cashew butter

Nut butters are a bit of a staple for our family these days. Michael is in LOVE with Sunbutter. I really like the Trader Joe's Almond butter, and can swallow the price. But I can't find a simple, affordable cashew butter (made with just cashews and salt). Hence, I made my own!

1 C cashews (whole, raw, unsalted or salted)
1 tbsp coconut oil (room temperature)
salt (to taste - i used 1/2 tsp)

  1. Place ingredients in food processor
  2. Grind or pulse for 5 minutes total. Stop to scrape if/when necessary (when you hear the motor revving higher, or notice that the contents within are no longer moving - I had to scrape 3-4 times). I wanted a super smooth texture - it was thinner than butter when I finished. 
  3. Store in a jar in the fridge. After refrigeration it hardened a bit, but is still spreadable (rather typical of refrigerated all natural nut butter texture).
It's delicious - I need to double the batch next time!