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!!