Coconut Flour & Bacon Candy

My level of “busy” has increased dramatically over the last month and yet, I’ve still managed to discover a few new recipes that my girls and I enjoy. First let’s start out with a warning, as my girlfriend put it “Cooking is chemistry and substitutes are not created equal.” In my lapse of judgement, I took a recipe for banana bread that my sister always has great success with and subbed almond flour and syrup/honey for the regular flour and sugar portions. I should have stuck with what I know because these banana muffins turned into a hard, yet gooey, contraption…which, incidentally, my 3-year-old gobbled up. But she would.

For Valentine’s Day (Love you!) my 3-year-old was scheduled for class snack and my 4-year-old had a class party. When I saw the sign-up sheet for snacks and paper products hanging in the hallway the week before, I quickly added my name to the “Cupcake” slot. This was my (neurotic) way of not only controlling some of the sugar/gluten intake of my own child, but that of the whole class. After writing in my name, I thought “I better come up with something good.” My 4-year-old prefers vanilla and my 3-year-old prefers whatever her sister says, so I began a search for a cupcake worthy recipe for both girls to share with their friends. It wasn’t long before I found a Paleo appropriate cupcake. I tested the recipe in a half portion, which also worked very well. The only change I made to it was grade b maple syrup in place of cane sugar. It turned out to be a light, fluffy cupcake, similar to angel food. DELISH. I then whipped up an icing of almond butter, dark cocoa, butter, and a dash of coconut milk to my preferred consistency, topped with Enjoy chocolate chips and ate entirely too many chocolate/vanilla delights!

Of course, then I remembered the “no nut” rule (almond butter in the icing) and my daughters’ protest of the chocolate topping instead of vanilla, so I began on a new adventure looking for vanilla icing. This journey was not as successful and I was running low on time. I decided to cut my loses and use a Betty Crocker Butter Cream topping (just enough to cover the top) which is gluten-free and allowed the girls to decorate their class’ cupcakes how they saw fit. Everyone was happy in the end.

This morning, I tried a new pancake recipe which turned out to be another success! While the 3-year-old was eating the awkward banana muffins from last night, she helped me mix and stir the ingredients to a fluffy, coconut pancake I found while searching for vanilla cupcakes. The batter was the most like a regular pancake of any Paleo recipe I’ve found. I sprinkled a bit of cinnamon on a couple and left the others plain. My 4-year-old gobbled up a few herself, while I enjoyed a few (more) myself with a side of maple syrup, in addition to some fresh-cut pineapple which are on sale this week and super juicy.

Speaking of Valentine’s Day, friends of ours invited a few families over for brunch the sunday prior in celebration. Of course everyone offered to bring something delicious to eat, so I decided to make bacon-wrapped, almond-stuffed dates. When I reached for my newly purchases container of dates, it was nowhere to be found, so I had to improvise fast. I cut the bacon into portion sizes, about 3 or 4 inches in length, laid them out on parchment paper atop a baking sheet, then drizzled just a tiny bit of grade b maple syrup over them. I baked them at 350 for about 45 minutes. The syrup didn’t allow them to curl upon heating and created a delicious bacon-candy. For the 2nd batch, I baked the bacon plain, then added chopped dark chocolate bits for the last few minutes (until melted) after which I sprinkled with crushed walnuts. SO YUM. I forgot to take a picture, but I’m sure you can imagine the heaven I created, and of course a piece or two will do you.

My bacon candy wasn't on a skewer or dipped in chocolate, but sprinkled with it. I still found this to be a great visual.

Disclaimer: I have no idea where I bought my Coconut Flour, I thought it was from GIANT in their Healthy Foods Aisle, but my sister said there was no such thing and found it at the Healthy Grocer. I will buy it online in the future, as it tends to be cheaper if you find a site with free shipping.

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CHOOSE Health

I posted a lighthearted blog last night about Brussel sprouts and it got me thinking: I hear a lot of folks make statements like ‘I can’t’ or ‘I could never’ in relation to food choice and diet change. I notice others going out of their way to buy organic chips instead of Lay’s or Gluten Free cookies instead of Oreos. These actions always leave me scratching my head, so I decided to post my thoughts about two major health concerns, that are treatable and survivable, in our modern American lives: Diabetes and Gluten Sensitivity.

More than 8% of our population have been diagnosed with Diabetes, while 3 times that number are considered to be in the ‘pre-diabetes’ category, as stated by the American Diabetes Association. The ADA promotes frequent glucose checks and insulin management while ‘losing weight’. This is a major pet peeve of mine because losing weight isn’t what controls Diabetes, it’s the items you choose to eat that will control Diabetes, especially Type II. You could be a svelte looking man or woman and still have Diabetes depending on your carbohydrate consumption.

There is a commercial that airs all the time “Are you suffering from Diabetes and trying to lose weight?” That line pisses me off every time. I may be arguing semantics, but losing weight should be the last thing on the mind of someone with this potentially fatal diagnosis. The emphasis is on the wrong end of treatment. Food CHOICE and education should be their first priority. Weight loss is of no importance if you’re still eating the sugar filled carbs that your body is unable to manage in the first place. After going through the ADA website, I couldn’t find real diet advice other than ‘contact your dietician’ when, in fact, a diet lacking sugary carbs should be the #1 course of action in treatment and prevention. Where is the upfront, critical education that will save lives?

Diabetes stems from a an abundance of sugar in your diet, creating an environment where your body is unable to make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar levels at a healthy and steady point. I talked about it in my “Why No Grains?” post briefly. I’ve also learned from friends in the food world like Steve Cooksey, a Diabetes Warrior, that Diabetes leaders continue to push grains as if they were an innocent bystander of the diagnosis. Because our food pyramid includes these cash crops, Dietitians keep them in your recommended daily consumption schedule, not fully allowing your body to heal itself. Tricky. Be your own investigator when it comes to health and wellness. If a grain were just a grain, it might be another story but our grain heavy foods are also filled with sodium and sugar.

A thoughtful, controlled diet of fresh foods, natural sugars and protein can prevent Type II Diabetes. In turn, it can control your Diabetes diagnosis and its complications like high cholesterol and blood pressure. I’m sure it benefits our drug companies to keep you sick and on (multiple) drugs for these diseases, as well as the life threatening side effects of the drugs your doctor prescribes so readily, what would they do if we were healthy? It’s also an easier choice for many folks to throw a pill down with a glass of juice (see the irony?) then do the hard work and planning of permanent dietary change while surrounded by breads, pastas, donuts, crackers, pretzels and the like at every celebratory breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m saying it’s CONTROLLABLE. Every snack, every meal, is an opportunity to choose health.

Now let’s briefly touch on the newest diagnoses to hit the American public: Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance. Celiac effects more than 3 million Americans, many of whom deal with the symptoms like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) through medication and perseverance. Did you know controlling your diet and limiting it to protein and plants will allow you to live pain-free, symptom free and make you healthier all around?  I bet you did, so what’s stopping you? Could it be all the “Gluten Free” options we now have in the grocery store?

Take a walk through the ‘healthy food’ aisles and find gluten-free cookies, pasts, breads, cereal, snacks, junk, crap – anything you’d normally eat, just minus the gluten. Do you see the flawed logic there? No change, no gain. There may in fact be a bit less sodium or sugar, but you’re still eating highly processed food when you could opt for food that is grown naturally without gluten, now THAT would make for a healthier body, mind and future. There is a reason our bodies are rejecting these items so why look for a substitute that is almost identical?

It makes me think of things like “fat-free” food. Imagine what that ‘food’ went through to have the fat taken out… YUCK. Did you know processed milk actually turns blue when all the good fat and nutrition is taken out of it? It is then dyed white to make it appealing to the consumer. I won’t both mentioning the irradiated hydrogenated vegetable oil that is added back, after all the good stuff is lost in this process, which is allowed by the FDA to be called Vitamin D, even though it’s not. Gross. In fact, there are so many things wrong with the average gallon of milk, it makes me angry – does your child have ear infections? Has your doctor mentioned tubes? Try cutting milk from their diet first.

When living with Celiac or Gluten Intolerance, as with all diets, moderation is key. Sure, there are recipes available for the occasional cupcake or banana bread that are gluten-free, but your body is craving a natural diet. A diet full of vegetables and protein with healthy fats. Listen to your body or your disease will take over through weakened organs or the appearance of cancers. Serious business.

I understand the desire for your favorite foods, I cave occasionally as well, but think about that: I will never give up (insert favorite food) even it if will save my life. Nonsensical. Think of it as an experiment, I’m sure our government does based on their recommendations and our current health status as a country, and make some changes. Decide to eat REAL food: food that is grown naturally without a lot of fuss or chemicals; single ingredient foods that come from the earth; food that is naturally void of sugar or gluten; and you will find health. It is your choice and no one can make that choice for you.

If the current trends in food consumption continue, 1 in 3 Americans will have Diabetes by 2050. I will be 70 years old, my children will be in their 40s. Think about that: 1 in 3 Americans will be CHOOSING sugar laden, highly processed, carbohydrate dense foods over their health. Will you be one of them?


Brussel Sprouts – Who Knew?

One word: YUM.

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Shocked? Me too. I am a big huge fan of sauerkraut, so imagine my surprise when I chomped into my first slice of Brussel sprout only to find a hint of kraut upon my tongue! Being a relative of cabbage gives them a similar, yet milder taste to their fermented friends. I had no idea I had been missing out on this yummy treat until my girlfriend served them during a post-bouldering, paleo feast of roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower with meatloaf balls, a dinner I replicated for my family a week later and one they gobbled up.

The next amazing detail to note about Brussel sprouts is that they grow right out of a thick, spikey looking stalk creating a visual feast. This is also how I prefer to purchase them, rather then packaged in containers already removed from the stalk. If you do buy them already packaged, open it up when you get home and remove any yellowed or soft sprouts so they don’t ruin the entire bunch. These sprouts will also give off a sour odor, perhaps a reason for their bad reputation.

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Also potential cause for a bad rap may be in the preparation of the delicious little buggars. If you cook them whole, cut an X in the bottom of each sprout to allow for more internal/even cooking – whether you steam or roast. An undercooked sprout is hard, an overcooked sprout is mushy and stinky, who would enjoy either of those options at dinnertime? I would suggest slicing or dicing these balls of magic, tossing in coconut oil or pastured butter, a little salt, perhaps some garlic and onions and roasting them in the oven alone or with a buddy. I’ve been roasting ours with carrots because I know my girls will eat them. I also just found a recipe pairing them with diced bacon, tossing every 10 minutes for about 30 mins at 350 degrees. This will be on tomorrow night’s menu, guaranteed. Another recipe I look forward to trying is Brussel Sprout Slaw, found in Paleo Comfort Food. I’m drooling just thinking about all the possibilities. (While I have your attention, are any of my readers currently borrowing this book? I’d love to have it back soon for this recipe and others.)

Image More spectacular facts about Brussel Sprouts:

  • One of few vegetables originating in Northern Europe
  • Introduced to America through the French settlers in Louisiana – most are now grown in California
  • Best harvested in the Fall through Spring
  • Related to cabbage, broccoli and kale
  • Contain significant amounts of protein, Vitamin A, C and nitrogen compounds that may prevent some cancers (boiling voids most of this, so try steaming for 6 mins or roasting for 30)
  • A stalk costs $4.99 at GIANT in season and has fed my family of 4 through 3 dinners.

In short, finding out that Brussel sprouts aren’t repulsive little vegetables was similar to the day I learned relish is just chopped pickles, my head almost exploded. I could weep at the thought of missing so much time with these delightful options. I hope everyone continues to try new and old foods alike. Our taste buds, like other sensory cells, wear out as we age which can alter our taste preferences and allow room for more additions to our diet. You never know what might become your new obsession.

I’d also like to extend a special thanks to Wendy for sharing the delight of a roasted, sliced Brussel sprout with me for the first time and also to my husband, Chris, for educating (and making fun of) me about relish, after 30 years of fearing these foods based on name and reputation alone.


Stubborn Belly Fat

I love/hate those commercials “Got stubborn belly fat?” uh…yeah!  Who doesn’t? Selling a ‘cure’ for something that is a result of the food you eat, without changing the food you eat, will either 1) not work or 2) backfire. Everything we buy between the produce and the dairy sections in the average grocery store has sugar added for taste – yes, even the healthy/organic foods and most of the dairy too. If it’s packaged, it’s usually not very healthy after all. We are taught that food is bland without sugar. So where do you think that layer of stubborn fat comes from, and why it doesn’t go away with regular ‘dieting’ and exersize? Because you’re still filling your body with sugar. 

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Sugar, sugar everywhere!

After a year of working out at the Y and watching what I ate through calorie and portion control (and losing a significant amount of weight), I thought I had reached my new ‘thinnest’ and had a handle on the belly fat. While I realize everyone’s post-baby belly is different, I was blessed with a pronounced gut which cut off like a ledge right above the bikini line – not attractive – I thought I was stuck with it as well as the layer of fat that extended straight up over my ribs, my thicker thighs and fat butt because it was genetic. Too much information? We’re all friends here and it is what it is… or it WAS what it WAS

During my 1st two weeks of going strict Paleo, I lost 2-4 pounds but more amazingly, my stomach was actually flattening and my gut didn’t seem so gut’y! I had cut all sugar from my diet, only eating fresh vegetables, eggs and meat whenever I was hungry. I knew I was going to see more progress as time went on and I did. Of course I also joined CrossFit towards the end of the summer 2011 which helped firm and tone what I got down through diet. CrossFit strengthens your core through complex moves without even trying. Hundreds of sit-ups have never done for me what a random routine of deadlifts, burpees, squats, v-ups, sprints, kipping pull-ups, wall balls (kill me) and the like have done for my ‘stubborn belly fat’. Now my ‘gut’ actually smooths right into the rest of my body, I forget where that ledge once lived and I can see fitness lines that I thought I’d only see in magazines.

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                                                         V-ups

Remember, fitness takes time. It isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. My gut a year later is what I was aiming for in the first month, silly woman. Instead of refined sugar, choose alternate sources, when necessary, like honey or dark maple syrups or puree some dates for a sweet punch to a yummy meatball or loaf. Also keep in mind, natural sugars ARE sugar and too much is not a healthy choice. If you’re in a weight-loss frame of mind, cut the fruit out of your diet other then a special treat. Otherwise, keep it to a minimum. Moderation is key and too much of one thing is never going to end well. But most importantly, sink your money into fresh produce and not the gimmick-of-the-day that promises to make you lean and toned – only YOU can make that happen through smart choices and hard work. No really, you can.