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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My Daughter’s 1st Slumber Party

Boy was it fun!

No, I’m not joking, we had a blast. The guests seemed to have a great time, as well. The slumber party was originally the idea of my newly 5-year-old daughter. At first I thought, HELL NO, but after a few days to think about it and inquiring with other parents, I realized we could be smart about this and make it the best party ever.

We completed ALL the slumber party things.

We completed ALL the slumber party things.

Slumber parties, to a 5-year-old, mean lots of snacks and movies and makeup and ALL THE FUN! My 5-year-old invited 2 friends and her sister (wasn’t that kind of her?) and I extended the invite to one of the guest’s big sister to even out the ages. My sister wished me luck getting through the night without belly aches but I was already ahead of the game on that one. Just like thinking ahead at the holidays, I wanted to do this party right by these little girls and give them a great experience, not an unhealthy one.

I decided to start the party off with cake and presents and get the biggest unhealthy obstacle out-of-the-way. This year, I allowed each of my daughters to pick out a decorated cake from the grocery store. It wasn’t gluten-free, sugar-free, or paleo… it was a conventional, decorated, birthday cake. The only thing I decided on was a whipped topping instead of the super-sugar-heavy icing, but it is what it is: a quarter sheet of junk. We sang Happy Birthday, blew out as many candles as I could find, had cake, opened presents and moved onto all the fun things the girls thought a slumber party should include.

Snacks included a tray of popcorn, grapes, Stretch Island Fruit Snacks, UNREAL 41 (M&Ms) & a 77 (peanut butter cups) for each girl, a bowl of apples, a dish of sunflower seeds and glasses of ice-cold water! The girls were so happy and excited. It was a joy to see their sweet faces smiling as we jumped from activity to activity all while enjoying good choices and special treats! Yes, they even ate the apples. They didn’t hesitate to help themselves throughout the evening to more popcorn, seeds, juicy grapes or more water. The best part: their manners were IMPECCABLE. “Please” and “thank you” and “excuse me”s all night long. Good job mom & dad!

  • Stretch Island is a special treat in our house. 1: They are a NON-GMO verified company; 2: No artificial additives; 3: REAL fruit puree; and 3: I get coupons for $.75-$1 off at my local grocery store; plus they taste great!
  • UNREAL candy is made with REAL ingredients and NO GMOs. They taste amazing and are available locally at CVS, Rite Aid, and Target. Though their peanut butter cups have half  the sugar content of Reese’s, I still limited the girls to 1 cup each since they were enjoying their candy coated chocolates (40% less sugar then M&Ms) at will AND they just had cake.

After choosing their desired sleep location, 2 in the top bunk and 3 on the floor, I read the girls a story and closed the door at midnight. They weren’t up much later than that and I made sure to eavesdrop for a bit at the door. Their conversations were to die for! I awoke this morning at 8:07am and heard them chatting in the room still, door closed. GOOD GIRLS.

74413_10200353214824650_1170600616_nAs soon as they heard me in the kitchen, the girls all scurried out in their pj’s and I quickly began preparing breakfast-to-order as they dove right into playing with LEGOS and art supplies. The initial order doesn’t reflect all that the girls ended up eating, as most had a 2nd serving of a different choice, but pastured local eggs, uncured bacon, gluten-free waffles and cereal, fresh fruit, grass-fed butter and dark syrup were among the options. I figured if I’m sending home tired kids, I may as well pump them full of premium fuel.

  • Van’s Natural Food is a GMO free company plus they have gluten AND wheat free options. This is a special treat in our house as I rarely buy frozen waffles/pancakes since I have a great coconut flour recipe I like to make and freeze the leftovers for a quick morning meal. But there is something to be said for the convenience of Van’s.
  • Barbara Bakery products are also GMO and gluten-free. My husband and kids enjoy the Peanut Butter and Cinnamon Puffins. This particular morning, the ladies requested cinnamon (40% less sugar then Cinnamon Toast Crunch) and one guest mentioned “I really like dat cereal” when she was all done.

I didn’t plan this party to be a ‘healthy’ sleepover, but I decided to share our celebration to inspire others to offer good choices, mixed with special treats, that aren’t all that bad. Especially when it comes to children, who typically have a special menu of crap at restaurants and an array of junk fed to them at parties. Life is meant to be lived and I indulge, as do my children, from time to time but control is taught through repetition. My daughters had a wonderful 1st slumber party filled with activities and movies and fun! I can only hope they are learning about food choice and control through example and experience. They are currently napping.

What do you typically serve to kid-guests during parties, playdates or special occasions?


Basic Recipes & Local Treats

I often turn my nose at the idea of “paleo-izing” items from modern food culture. Bread, brownies, pancakes, noodles… attempting to recreate these items doesn’t allow you to fully change your habits. One of the first rules of new habits: Set yourself up for success. Not failure.

In my head, I either change or don’t change. Eating paleo bread makes me want to choose regular bread when there isn’t a paleo option. While I’m pretty black and white for myself, I understand folks may be easing their way into this lifestyle change or, perhaps, look to such food items for comfort or tradition.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

That said, I’ve been known to bake chocolate chip cookies from time to time. You can find my Famous Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe in Paleo Parent‘s first book “Eat Like A Dinosaur” along with an arsenal of approachable go-to’s for families or people with a traditional palate including freezable chicken nuggets, fruit roll ups, waffles and more. I respect their copyright and would encourage you to check out the book for yourself, it’s been one of the most used recipe books in our house! Not to mention, there is a children’s book, their familiar back story of (un)health and an easy-to-read allergy index included on every single page.

Now that I got you all amped up on the idea of a delicious chocolate chip cookie, I’ve got great news for my local friends! Betsy’s Bakery created their first prototype! As soon as I saw their Facebook post about Paleo cookies, I grabbed a kid and headed right over. As the story goes, Betsy has Celiac disease and her bakery is entirely gluten-free! She also has dairy free, vegan and now (the most healthy of all) paleo options!

Betsy's Bakery in Mechanicsburg, PA has recently added a delicious PALEO cookie to their gluten free repertoire.

Betsy’s Bakery in Mechanicsburg, PA has recently added a delicious PALEO cookie to their gluten-free repertoire. Remember to support local commerce for the things you want in your life or don’t complain when it’s lacking.

When we chatted briefly about her chocolate chip cookies, future recipes and marketing to the audience of these sweet morsels, she thought Fridays would be a great day to offer fresh Paleo items. I agreed! As a used-to-be Crossfit’er I know how focused I was during the week, but by Friday it was definitely time for a reward. What better way to celebrate then with a naturally sweetened, protein and (good) fat packed dessert that tastes like a cheat, but isn’t! Remember to refrigerate paleo baked goods – fresh ingredients stay fresher when chilled.

ROASTED VEGETABLES

Paleo eating is easy and shouldn’t overwhelm anyone with ‘how to cook’. I am not, repeat, AM NOT a ‘good cook’. In fact, I didn’t begin really cooking, or understanding how to cook, until I decided to eat paleo. Plants and protein, so EASY. I typically roast or crock pot large proteins, I’ll pan cook smaller portions of proteins, and sauté or roast veggies. The creativity comes in the spice blends, medleys and pairings.

Roasted-Brussels-Sprouts-Carrots-and-Leeks-1.jJPG_.jJPG_-1000x288
To roast veggies:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Add a dollop of coconut oil or grass-fed butter to a baking sheet
  3. Place in oven till oil is melted
  4. Toss chopped veggies onto sheet
  5. Season to taste (salt, pepper and garlic are my go-to’s, be as simple or creative as you’d like with your spice)
  6. Toss veggies every 10-15 minutes until desired  – typically around 25-30 minutes for most of my vegetables – the softer the veggie the faster it cooks so I may wait to add onions to a sheet until half way through, etc
After greasing the pan, dip your veggie fries in egg then a blend of coconut & almond flours with preferred seasonings.

After greasing the pan, dip your fry-cut veggies in egg then a blend of coconut & almond flours and preferred seasonings. It’s definitely a special treat in our house. Who has time for dredging?

Alternatively – and a great way to cook ‘fries’ (sweet potato, carrot, zucchini, etc):

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Chop vegetables to even sizing, add to bowl
  3. Pour melted coconut oil or grass-fed butter on top
  4. Season with preferred blend
  5. Mix
  6. Add to baking sheet
  7. Toss every 10-15 minutes until cooked

CHICKEN on the bone

I get asked how I roast my chicken a lot. I forget how something so simple can feel so scary for a new cook. It wasn’t 3 years ago that I cooked less than 10% of the time and now I do most of the cooking/preparing. Paleo food is EASY and that’s the whole point. While I roast/bake most of my chicken the same way (350 and flip/marinate every 20 minutes till cooked – whole birds I flip every 40 minutes) the wings I made for dinner tonight were too good not to share. I only regret I didn’t take a snapshot, but they were gone before I gave it a thought. Moist and crispy. They were a flavor so delicious the whole family enjoyed them.

I bake my wings and other chicken parts atop a cookie cooling rack, over tin foil on a baking sheet. Sophisticated.

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Place wings on rack apparatus mentioned above, or something similar
  3. Brush with coconut oil or grass-fed butter
  4. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Savory Spice Shop‘s Red Rocks Hickory Smoke Seasoning: Hickory smoke salt, Hungarian and California paprika, roasted garlic, toasted onion, black pepper, hickory smoke flavoring and oregano OR ANY OTHER SPICE/MARINADE YOU CONJURE UP
  5. Bake for 20 minutes
  6. Flip wings and repeat steps 3, 4 then 5
  7. When timer goes off the 2nd time, flip wings as you place them onto the tin foil covered baking sheet
  8. Wrap wings – I use an additional piece of foil for leaking and insulation – place in oven
  9. Turn heat up to 450
  10. Bake for 10 minutes
  11. Flip foil package and turn off oven – this is when I make salads, get the table set, etc.
  12. ENJOY!
A friend recently tried my Cookie Bar recipe and was delighted! I haven't made them since I originally posted this photo, perhaps I'll make a batch for an impending slumber party.

A friend recently tried my Cookie Bar recipe and was delighted! It’s been some time since I made a batch, perhaps I’ll whip some up for a certain (about-to-be) 5 year old’s slumber party. A special treat packed with protein!


“Everyday is the Fourteenth”

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends.

Treat-focused holiday traditions need not apply! This year, my girls took some of their extra crayons, peeled, cracked and tossed them into a silicone heart-shaped mold I happen to have in the house and reshaped them.
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We were crayon making machines until I haphazardly turned the oven on for dinner, while the last batch was still cooling, and almost ended up burning the house down. I coated my oven in wax, melted the molds and yelled for help when I saw flames. The fact that this happens all-too-often was proven when my husband didn’t even come running. Don’t worry, I took care of it…and husband cleaned out the oven a few days later. (WIN!)

For her class Valentine’s, my little one decorated heart-shaped cut outs with cute little faces, wrote her name on the back and taped a crayon to it (they LOVE tape!). My older daughter ended up taping a sticker (yes, taping a sticker) to each of her heart crayons, then adding that and a small box of stickers to a ziplock baggie for her friends.

For my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher, we checked out Pinterest for a few ideas and settled on using items we had in the house. PERFECT. A cleaned out jar, a box of pencils, paperclips and a few binder clips created the perfect setting for a Love Bouquet. I had her write 5 little notes to her teacher on cut hearts and we clipped them to a few pencils. I think it will bring a smile to Mrs. P’s face, my 5 yo agrees!

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“I like math and science” and “I like you because you are helpful” are two sentiments written by my 5yo to her teacher.

Although I agree, “Everyday is the Fourteenth” I will give in and celebrate tomorrow by having a love-fest of our own, beginning (but certainly not ending) with heart-shaped pancakes upon a Valentine’s place setting with special cups, homemade Valentine notes for each of my girls, some stickers, red and pink glitter glue and a fresh supply of TAPE! I bet they are most hype about the tape. We’re fresh out…if you can believe it.

What will you do to celebrate?


Week 3: Menu & Receipt

This week, there were several grass-fed meat sales I wanted to take advantage of so I did things a little differently. Instead of creating a base menu from the proteins I had in stock and then buying to fill in the recipes, I started by creating a shopping list based on the weekly circular sales I hoped to get in on. It was 90% meat which will help build protein stock, to then cut costs over the next few weeks. Follow me?

After eyeing up my hunt, I then looked at my presumed financial total and decided which produce we could use to roast, soup or salad easily. Those easy produce choices for my family are carrots (I could have skipped them this week but grabbed a bag since I was at budget) $2.49, onions (1 of the cleanest non organic option) $2.99, (always) organic bell peppers $3.99, cucumbers 2/$1.98, a tub of organic greens $4.99 and to top it off, bananas $.49/lb and (always) organic apples 5lb/$4.99. There were a few sales in that mix of produce, but I found better deals on some items after reviewing the Dirty Dozen App while shopping. One of these days I should start remembering which plants are on which list, but I find I  have the opposite of a photographic memory: as I see it, I forget it.

I predicted $100.03 and the final bill was $99.07.

I predicted $100.03 and the final bill was $99.07.

A few choice notes: I bought a bag of coconut flour because it was on sale AND in stock, a rare sequence of events $5.15. I also bought 2/$10 k-cups and a box of EnviroKidz Leapin Lemurs (my kids’ favorite) because they are Gluten Free AND Non GMO Verified $3.79. Although, I usually wait to buy EnviroKidz brand cereals when they go on sale for $2.99. I’ve also taken notice to the additional varieties of free range, VEG FED eggs in the regular refrigerated section and one brand was on sale at 2 dozen/$5. I was paying $2.99 for half a dozen when I wasn’t able to buy from the local market on Thursdays. WIN. Other than that, I spent the bulk of my budget on meat.

After the days bounty was put away, I saw down with my laptop and used Supercook.com to come up with some ideas to use all this meat, a lot of it ground, in a variety of ways throughout the week. This site allows you to enter what ingredients you have and then recipes containing those things are displayed in order of adherence to your list. GREAT tool for folks who aren’t able to eat certain foods likes eggs, nuts, etc.

menu

Saturday: Meatloaf Balls and Roasted Veggies (use an egg, OR NOT, add puree and/or chopped veggies, maybe wrap a few in bacon! I like to make a ton so I have leftovers for breakfast or lunch plus some to freeze for a quick and easy option for the kids. You can make them as big or small as you like.)

Sunday: Sausage and Peppers with salad (I’ll cook peppers and onions in a skillet with the sausage.)

Monday: Shepard’s Pie (we stayed with friends during Hurricane Sandy and my daughters fell in love with this delicious cold weather food. To paloe-ize, instead of mashed white pots, use mashed sweet OR mashed cauli. And as Uncle Corey reminds: Remember to paint it with butter. No problem! Also easy to make ahead of time.)

Tuesday: Pulled Pork with salad and biscuits (There are so many good pulled pork recipes. I think I’ll use one that involves cinnamon and coffee grounds. I used this great recipe for sweet potato biscuits on Thanksgiving.)

Wednesday: LEFTOVERS, we’ll have plenty between Shepard’s Pie and the pulled pork.

Thursday: $5 Pizza and salad (I’ll probably have more leftovers or cook up some bacon and scallops and eat them out of a bowl with a spoon)

Friday: Turkey Veggie Soup (found it on Supercook! I’ve also seen ways to make it with a chicken broth or a tomato base for the soup – whatever your pleasure!)

Saturday: Pork and Onion Casserole (I wish I could spell that word without spell check.)

I always like to throw a few random ideas for my husband and the kids at the bottom as a reminder. I know it’s annoying. We made Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies from Eat Like A Dinosaur today. As my 5 yo puts it “Mama’s famous chocolate chip cookies!” She even brought them in for her class snack once. The girls are looking forward to having 2 small cookies for breakfast tomorrow. Ha. Less sugar and more protein than standard cereal or pancakes!

Tomorrow I’ll prep a variety of items including meatballs, omelet muffins, hard-boiled eggs, guacamole, and perhaps I’ll prep some more pancakes for my dear little 5yo towards the end of the week. She loves them and they keep her fueled on school days. Plus it’s so convenient to have them in the freezer.

What are you favorite budget saving tips?

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Keep It Simple

Paleo eating should take you back to basics (as basic as modern humans can get, of course). It’s a very refreshing way to simplify, at least, a portion of your life. Salt and pepper, garlic, butter or coconut oil, start there to season your protein. Chop and roast your veggies. Mash a sweet potato. Salad, salad, salad. Eggs and bacon. It doesn’t have to be more complicated. Broth is easy to make (crock pot, carcass, cover in water) and therefore soup is too – the combinations are endless and fun to try!

At 5'4", I went from 160 to 128 after switching to a Paleo lifestyle. The benefits are ongoing and include lack of headaches, increased energy, better sleep patterns, shorter menstrual cycles, lack of body odor, cleaner hair, stronger nails...

Food has become so much a reward (and for what?) that we have trained ourselves to expect variety at every snack and meal. And why shouldn’t we? Each new commercial brings us a ‘delicious’ new treat (consider it a dare to find one that isn’t made of grain). They’re all so fantastic! Give me more… it’s an endless cycle and I feel like I’m being taken for a ride, like I’ve lost control of what I want. All the ‘must have’s and ‘latest’, ‘newest’, ‘yummiest’. I’m continually left overstimulated and unsatisfied. With Paleo, I have regained control.

I’m not a chef, nor do I pretend to be one, so I will (again) link you to other sites that have a great variety of recipes and updates on their food choices. Also sites that I enjoy myself, so I know you will too. It’s far too hectic a world for me to try to make things complicated in my kitchen. Instead of running off the grid with my family, like I was planning, Paleo has given me a bit of a ‘deep breath’. A moment in my life that is easy. Food choice is simple now and that sits well with me. I feel calm. Cooking has become a ritual that brings me peace.

SO, if you’re looking for some food inspiration, get clicking below. Don’t be swayed by the more foreign ingredients, it’s okay use what you have. Your cooking arsenal will grow in time. It took me 7 months to buy coconut oil.

Sarah Fragoso and her family at Everyday Paleo are a great source of information and inspiration. Her search option is super easy and she has a Food link that’s categorized by meal time or protein type. Good stuff!  Search “chicken chili”, one of my favorite soups with a bite. YUM.

Fast Paleo has a ROD (Recipe of the Day) feature and about a zillion recipes to browse.

The family friendly Paleo Parents food section is mouth-watering and a great spot to find a sweet treat. I posted about their Dark Chocolate Banana Bites a day or two ago. Just yesterday, my newly-Paleo friend, Betsy, confirmed that these bites are worth their weight in almond flour.

And lastly, the best damn food related Paleo-specific inspiration comes from Nom Nom Paleo‘s blog. One word: NOM.

Pancakes and Bacon, Coffee: Black

Also, I have 2 recipes that friends have recently shared. First, my 4 year old’s favorite: PANCAKES! (err, WAFFLES, but they pancake well) Thank you Pam, I have tried several recipes over the year and haven’t found any that my daughter will eat or that I enjoy. This one is delish with a hint of vanilla and a sweet bite, I even added ENJOY chocolate chips to my 3 year old’s pancakes. Pam makes it for her boys with a bit of almond butter on top. It looks and feels like a pancake too. Great for a snack or meal. Today we had them with bacon (line a baking sheet with foil, lay out bacon, place in oven then turn on to 350 and wait 20-30 minutes till your desired crispness. I typically pour the grease into a pan that I will then use to cook dinner.)

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix together, let sit for thicker waffles, bake in waffle iron. (Again, I’m not an experienced cook, so it took me a few tries to lessen the ‘blackened’ look. I greased the pan with butter, poured a spoon full, then removed from heat for a minute, then back to heat till bubbled, flip and remove from heat again PERFECTION)

Second, we have a delicious dip, spread or as my brother suggested ‘sauce’: ROASTED EGGPLANT DIP. I had some ladies over yesterday and my friend Betsy (also mentioned above, I don’t go around collecting Betsy’s) brought this along with sweet potato chips and celery stalks.

  • Peel & slice eggplant
  • Slice red pepper
  • Slice onion
  • toss with olive oil, salt & pepper and garlic
  • Roast
  • Puree with a scoop of tomato paste
  • Serve

Remember to google “Is ____ Paleo” if you have a question. Or try “Paleo ____” for any recipe, that’s how I find a lot of mine. But also remember: KEEP IT SIMPLE. Fill yourself with clean fuel and enjoy the rest of your life. It tastes so good.