Oh for the love of balls

Not those balls. Different balls.

I’m talking chocolate, coconut, nutty, fat balls. Paleo and Vegan balls. Balls you will love. Balls for days. Balls you can whip up really fast.

Some days I am focussed in the kitchen and other days I bounce off the walls and cabinets like Ricochet Rabbit. Remember him? Bing bing bing Ricochet Rabbit. There’s an age drop. I may have really only watched it a couple of times. I can’t recall the specifics of any episodes like I can with Bugs Bunny, other than him literally bouncing off everything in the room. Upon reflection, maybe he was a character with either a sugar addiction, food sensitivities/allergies or possibly ADHD. Maybe too much caffeine? Who knows.

Today was one of those excited electron days. Inside I was buzzing with the energy to “DO STUFF” but I also wanted something treat-like without the associated guilt of inhaling half a bag of chocolate chips (I may have done that once or twice before). I have an upcoming trip to San Diego and I wanted something I can take on the flight that won’t get confiscated as contraband goods. So these easy balls were born.

(Yikes! It looks like I could do with a manicure and some cuticle work.)

I chucked some stuff into the food processor and crossed my fingers. This turned out way better than I could have ever hoped. I’m glad I was paying attention to what and how much went in. Sometimes the creative process really is a blur.

Really.

I may need to make more as I don’t think the inaugural batch will last until I fly. That’s ok because that means they were that good. I eat all the stuff I make, even if it isn’t stupendous because I hate wasting food. When the people I love and live with enjoy my creations, I do the Snoopy happy dance inside.

I give you: ccnf (chocolate coconut nutty fat) balls:

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 10 Medjool dates cut into quarters
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
  • 1 tablespoon coconut butter
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Pinch of sea salt

Pulse the nuts for a few seconds in the bowl of the food processor using the S-blade. Add the quartered dates and coconut shreds and pulse until the mix almost holds together when you squeeze a small amount in your fingers. Obviously don’t put your fingers in the processor while it is running. They aren’t kidding when they say that blade is sharp.

Add the coconut butter, coconut oil, salt and cocoa powder and process until everything is well mixed.

Pack the firmly mix into a small cookie scoop. smallcookiescoopMy favourite one is a 1 tablespoon measure scoop. Pop them into the fridge to set. Makes about 15-18 small balls (depending on how much you “quality check” the mixture as you roll your balls).

Don’t have a small scoop? Don’t fret marmoset. Just get your hands dirty and roll your balls the old-fashioned way.

Winner winner chicken dinner 

Don’t you just love a big fancy dinner?

Picture the room. Tasteful decor, perhaps candles and ambient music in the background. There doesn’t appear to be any other patrons in the restaurant. No menus.  The server begins your meal. A salad and maybe a soup course or some other appetizer with an aperitif. Fish, then game followed by beef all with perfect wine pairings. Oooh, dessert and perhaps a cheese plate with a glass of port. Coffee and cognac anyone?

Wait a second. What’s that noise? It isn’t stopping. It’s getting louder and louder. Oh right. You’re sleeping. Or you were sleeping. Your brain alerts you to the sound of your alarm going off and you haul your carcass from under the covers. Feet hit the cold floor and reality lands on your shoulders with a thud. It was just a dream.

You get through your work day relatively unscathed. All day in the back of your mind, however, lurks the age old question of what to make for dinner. When you get home, you open the fridge hoping for inspiration. Meh. The pantry holds no magic either.

You know you don’t want to cave in and order pizza or some other takeaway food that will leave your wallet empty and your gut and heart full of pain and regret. You remember the portioned flattened chicken thighs in the freezer.  Into the sink with water they go. They will thaw out fairly quickly because you froze them flat. (Aren’t you glad you did that?)

While the chicken is thawing, you get busy hauling the veg from the crisper. This becomes a total Hail Mary play. Carrots, parsnips, brussel spouts and maybe the last of the broccoli. Oh hey, grab the half onion too while you’re in the fridge.

You grab a shallow roasting pan and place it on the counter beside the cutting board. Turn the oven on to get it to temperature while you prep everything. Carrots peeled and chopped into chunks. Parsnips get the same treatment. Brussel sprouts get halved (keep the outer leaves to make chips or sauté them for breakfast tomorrow) and the broccoli is split into small florets. Quarter the onion and dump all the veg into a big bowl. Meanwhile you have melted some ghee in the microwave and have added a shake or two of your favourite spice blend. You pour the seasoned ghee all over the veg.

You check the thawing chicken and see it’s almost ready. You put more ghee in the microwave to melt. Grab the kitchen shears and cut the bones from the thighs. Trim the excess skin while you are at it. You put the bones aside to make stock later. You’re so smart it makes you smile. Your grandma would be proud.

You dump all the coated veg into the roasting pan. You stir a healthy splash of bourbon hot sauce (oh yeah, this is the stuff dreams are made of) into the ghee and slather the chicken all over with this deliciousness and plop it on top of the vegetables.

By this point, the oven is ready and in goes dinner. A quick clean up of a cutting board, a knife, one bowl and a glass measuring cup and you can sit down until food is ready. Or shower or feed the cats (or dogs), open mail or any other home type tasks.

In about 40 minutes, you are tucking into a super all in one meal. Plus, lookit all the veg you are stuffing into yourself and your people. You should be proud of yourself. Dinner crisis averted.

Winning weeknight chicken dinner:

  • 8 skin-on, boneless (or debone them yourself and make some stock) chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup melted ghee, divided in half
  • 1 tablespoon Virginia Gentleman’s Bourbon Chipotle Hot Sauce (this stuff is golden! but by all means use another favourite brand)
  • veg of choice to fill your roasting pan  NOTE: I used 3 large carrots, 2 medium parsnips several handfuls of brussel sprouts, half a medium onion and about 2 cups broccoli florets, but use what you have handy
  • 2 teaspoons of your favourite spice blend
  • salt and pepper to taste

Set oven to 375.

Scrub, peel and chop your veg so they are all around the same size. Things will cook at the same time. Mix the spice blend with 1/4 cup of the meted ghee and toss the chopped veg to coat. Put the veggies in the bottom of your roasting pan, spreading everything out evenly.

Mix the hot sauce with the other 1/4 cup of meted ghee and coat the chicken thighs, placing them right on top of the veggies, skin side up.

Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes or until internal temperature of the chicken reads 165.

Soup is good food

Now, if you were into punk music back in the early 80’s you may have heard that line in a Dead Kennedys song by the same name, from their album Frankenchrist. The album cover depicted Shriners driving around in tiny cars in what looks like a parade. Totally aging myself there. Those lyrics and that band aren’t for everyone, so we won’t continue the recitation any further.

The other night I was throwing food together for dinner. I had all kinds of veg that were going to sit ‘neath some lovely chicken thighs. That is another post altogether as that dinner turned out really well. However, I have a non-meat eater in my flock, so, chicken thighs were a no-go. (flock, chicken, see what I did there?)  Nor were the veg under the chicken going to be consumed.

As I was rooting around in the crisper, my eye came to rest on some asparagus that were nearly forgotten at the bottom of the drawer. I really hate wasting food. That upsets me on many levels so I grabbed the bag and thought what the heck can I do with these heavenly spears before they get all slimy and icky? We had had steamed asparagus several times during the week and we were getting kinda tired of them. My brain began to percolate and smoke, then, in a “EUREKA I found it” kinda moment, I had the answer.

The best parts were:

  1. I had everything on hand
  2. It took about 30 minutes from start to finish
  3. All real ingredients, nothing sketchy or unpronounceable
  4. Food waste averted

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Curried asparagus soup:

  • 1 pound asparagus, woody ends snapped and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 an onion, minced
  • 4 cups stock (chicken, or vegetable if you want to make this vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil (coconut oil if you are vegan)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon curry powder (or more if you are game)
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy bottomed pot, melt the ghee or coconut oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and asparagus and cook until fragrant. Add the stock, rosemary, sage and paprika and just bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until asparagus is very tender.

Using a hand-held immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. You could use a regular blender, but you have to do that in small batches with a vented lid otherwise you are going to get burned and be cleaning soup from the ceiling. Just saying.

Once the soup is smooth, stir in the coconut milk and the curry powder. Salt and pepper to taste and bask in the compliments.

 

Did someone say hamburger helper?

You are just about to fall asleep when, wham! Your brain finds the most random memory from waaaay back and clocks you upside your consciousness.

Hamburger Helper. image28

Cheeseburger Helper to be more precise.

Approximately one minute away from sweet slumber and that giggling, prancing white catoony glove pops into my mind’s eye. Really? Ugh! Now I can’t un-hear the jingle.

Brain is now in full action mode and I know that sleep has been pushed back on the horizon. My thoughts ranged from fudgesicles to coffee and finally settled back on that boxed Hamburger Helper. How could one make something comparable? Something I will eat?

I tweaked my mac n cheese recipe ever so slightly.img_2649

  • 2 smalls yams (the orange fleshed ones)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken or beef stock (homemade is best)
  • 1 cup Bragg’s nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/3 cup red palm oil
  • 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk (more depending on sauce thickness preferences)
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot sauce (or other clean hot sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp chill powder (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

Peel and chop the yams into approximately 1″ cubes. Add minced garlic and boil until fork tender. Using either a hand-stick blender (immersion), regular blender or food processor, blend the drained potatoes, stock, nutritional yeast, onion powder, Frank’s Red Hot sauce and palm oil. Slowly add the coconut milk and continue blending.  You want the sauce to be smooth, no tell-tale yam lumps in case you are trying to sneak the sauce past someone who may not be on board with eating a potato-based “cheese” sauce. Add chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.

My plan was to brown some ground beef and cook some gluten free pasta and stir this all together to recreate the one-pan meal from the ’80’s. I got as far as the ground beef and had to stop and “sample” the flavour. Needless to say I didn’t get around to making any noodles. Adding some gluten-free pasta would definitely make this go further. Chuck some roasted carrots or parsnips in too for bonus veg factor.  Elbow, penne or shells would lend themselves the best to cradle the sauce.

This is now in heavy rotation in my breakfastimg_2657 world. I’ll add a big dollop on top of my sautéed veg alongside my eggs (yolk running into this is heavenly). I’ve topped roasted brussel sprouts with it. Heating it magnifies the hot sauce (don’t kid yourself – this provides some good sinus clearing action). I’ve eaten it cold as a nacho/notyourcheese dip for chips (both organic tortilla and potato) and raw veg as a snack.

Who am I trying to kid? I’m dubbing this a condiment and it will find itself a staple in the fridge. I have mentioned I like things to be easy in my life. By finding something that will act as a base for many dishes, my life is less complicated and thus allows me more time to binge-watch Netflix.

If you or your loved ones are vegan, skip the beef or chicken broth and add veg stock. Nice easy swap without really changing the overall taste. I just like chicken and beef broth for the nutrient factor from slowly simmering quality bones.

I suspect this would make a comforting soup with a little more stock and perhaps a 1/4 cup of white wine in it to thin it slightly. Top it with some crumbled bacon? Um, yes please. (distracted brain going in yet another direction)

Sing the jingle with me,

“Hamburger Helper (Tuna Helper too) when you need a helping hand”

Growing up on KD

Who ate this stuff? Who still eats this stuff?

C’mon, hands up. We’re all friends here. No one will judge you.

Confession time. I used to eat 2 boxes of the stuff, BY MYSELF, because I could. I’d eat right out of the pot I cooked it in, no less. I’d make the stuff, grab the salt shaker and plop myself on the couch in front of the tv and mindlessly shovel it in, stopping only to resalt the next layer. I’d eat until it was all gone, even if I felt full at about the halfway point, because, well, noodles and cheese. Oh and salt. Lots of that. As if the 80’s pantry ubiquitous blue box didn’t already have a stupid amount of sodium in it already.

The first time I made it, I recall, I read the instructions on the side of the box to the letter. I dutifully measured the amount of water I set to boil. I measured out the salt, milk, butter (it most likely was margarine that went into it way back then!) and timed how long the pasta cooked. Sometimes, the noodles were a little firmer than I preferred, but I was going by the directions and I wasn’t about to stray. I recall my brother snickering that if I had to read how to make KD, then there was NO hope of me getting married and being able to cook for my family. I always rationalized that the man I was going to marry would have to be able to cook then, wouldn’t he?

I have vague, fond memories of certain foods that, with my rose-coloured memory glasses, were divine. KD, being one of those things I thought I missed. Quitting gluten to heal my gut and save my skin forced me to say good-bye to KD among other things. When I had to eat all things gluten-y to rule out Celiac disease, I bought a box of the stuff. This time though, I winged the water to cook the pasta, used barely a drizzle of milk (because I wanted thick, cheesy sauce) and used butter, baby. One forkful later. . .  yuck. What was the big deal over this stuff? Even though they claim the ingredients on the box have changed from when I was downing it as a teen, (they have removed the Yellow #5 now) there are still a few sketchy items in my book.

The heart pines for what it is denied however.

I have learned to improvise.

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This is my version of KD now. The only thing non-conventional is the Bragg’s nutritional yeast. That stuff packs the cheesy flavour and the yams and red palm oil round out that beautiful colour. Yeah, my photography still requires some work and staging, but, the roughness shows that this is real, easy and tasty stuff I’m sending your way. Feel free to serve it fancily, with all the garnish, but I would rather be eating than fussing with props.

Mac n not-cheese:

  • 2 smalls yams (the orange fleshed ones)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock (homemade is best)
  • 3/4 cup Bragg’s nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/3 cup red palm oil
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk (more depending on sauce thickness preferences)
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound dry gluten free elbow macaroni (I used Tinkyada)

Peel and chop the yams into approximately 1″ cubes. Add minced garlic and boil until fork tender. Using either a hand-stick blender (immersion), regular blender or food processor, blend the drained potatoes, stock, nutritional yeast and palm oil. Slowly add the coconut milk until you get the consistency you want for your pasta. You want the sauce to be smooth, no tell-tale yam lumps in case you are trying to sneak the sauce past someone who may not be on board with eating a potato-based “cheese” sauce. Add chili powder, salt and peeper to taste.

Cook the pasta to your desired level of al dente. Some folks I know like their noodles overcooked to the point they break apart and other folks like a chewier noodle. To each their own.

You can either toss the pasta and the sauce together and dig in right away or. . . throw it into a buttered casserole dish and bake it in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350. If you are going to bake it in the oven, I’d make the sauce a little runnier and to allow for absorption while baking.

MMM, potatoes

Who doesn’t love a spud?

We attended a wedding a few years ago, and late into the evening, as the dancing and obligatory drinking were well underway, a midnight Poutine Buffet was rolled out. Yeah, you read that correctly, a Poutine Bar. There were the basics of hand-cut fries, gravy and cheese curds, but it DID NOT end there. The choices included several types of potatoes, at least 3 types of gravy, mushrooms, pulled pork, bacon crumbles, jalapeño peppers, onions, brie, mozzarella, roasted broccoli and many other items that escape my memory. I think I inhaled 3 large bowls in under 15 minutes. I was scarfing my bowlful of decadence so fast, my esophagus couldn’t keep up to the speed I was shovelling the food in. Utter gluttony. That was a brilliant feature for a wedding reception. The food helped those who were perhaps in danger of over-consuming the open bar, by acting as a distraction. I shall always fondly remember that evening.

But I digress from the humble potato.

There are sweet, white, yellow, red, purple, creamer, new, fingerling, yam and the list goes on. You can prep these magic flavour sponges in so many ways. Boiled, mashed, roasted, fried and baked are the most common methods to prepare the humble tuber.

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These Greekified (is that a word?) spuds were a perfect side to some grass-fed, grass-finished lamb shoulder chops I found at a local grocery store. They are so good, you may want to make extra so you have some leftovers for another meal (or bedtime snack). This is super easy and so tasty, you may find yourself keeping them in your regular meal rotation.

Greekified spuds:

Preheat oven to 375

  • 2 pounds potatoes (I used red, peeled and quartered. Yukon Gold or any other yellow potato will be great too)
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock (homemade is best)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or ghee
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Scrub, peel, quarter the potatoes and place in a 9×13 roasting pan.

Whisk all remaining ingredients together and pour over the potatoes.

Roast in 375 degree oven for approximately 75 minutes, or until fork tender. The trick to these spuds being amazing is to baste them in the stock mixture several times during the roasting time.

Breaking dishes is optional.

 

 

 

Days of indecision and shepard’s chili-stew

You ever at a loss for focus?

There are those days of complete and utter indecisiveness. You have a day off and you don’t know what you feel like doing or eating or reading or watching? Yeah, me too. You pace about in your housecoat with coffee in hand and look at all the things you should/could be doing (laundry, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, dusting) instead? Yup, me too. Now throw the looming dilemma of what’s for  dinner into the fray. At this point, I’d rather just go get another coffee. Ostrich with the head in the sand choice. If I ignore all the drudge work, maybe it’ll go away.

Winter has been colder here on the west coast than I like. We’ve even had snow. Several times that nasty stuff has hit us. Yeah, I know the midwest and east coast gets it more often and waaay more of it, but I’m a west coast gal who truly believes the word snow is akin to profanity. If we could get Mother Nature to keep it on the mountains and off the roads, that’d maybe change my outlook on it. Until then, I shall grit my teeth and curse under my breath about it.

Back to food.

Part of me felt like shepard’s pie, part of me wanted stew and part of me felt like chili. So I opted to mix all 3 ideas into one. The heat element of chili with the chunky, stick to your ribs factor of stew and top the whole thing off with mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes with bacon, that is. The lightning bolt that prompted me to do that made me clap my hands together like an evil genius. One of my better ideas for sure.

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What shall recall this? Chili-stew pie? Shepard’s chili-stew? Sure. Let’s go with that for now. If you can think of another name, I’m open to suggestions.

Shepard’s chili-stew:

  • 2 pounds stewing beef, cut into approx 1″ cubes or slightly smaller
  • 5-8 pieces of thick bacon cut into 1/2″ slices
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 1 cup green beans cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 4 medium white potatoes (you could swap sweet potatoes or yams for another flavour)
  • 2-3 tablespoons full fat coconut milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons ghee or butter
  • 1/2 cup broth (home-made beef broth is best, but chicken or veg will do well too)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (yes, you read that, sneaking extra veg in under the wire, you won’t taste it)
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon pepper

Preheat oven to 375 and grease a large casserole dish

Peel and chop your potatoes and get them boiling. When they are fork-tender, drain and mash them with the ghee and coconut milk. I use my hand mixer as it whips them up in a flash. Less arm wear and tear. Just leave these in the pot until you are ready to top the chili-stew. You are going to add some bacon in this later.

Crisp the bacon pieces in a large pot. When they are done, remove them and put half into the mashed potatoes and stir it in.

Keep the other half aside to top the chili-stew.

Add the balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pot and get all those lovely brown bacon bits from the pan. Add the onion and sauté until just translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add the stewing beef and cook until nicely browned. Add the stock and pumpkin puree along with the carrots and cook until slightly tender. Stir in the chili powder, cinnamon, salt, pepper and paprika. Stir the green breams in last.

Place the meat mixture into the greased casserole dish, spreading it out evenly. Layer the reserved half of the bacon over the top of the meat mixture. (bacon layer for the win!) Top with the bacon infused mashed potatoes. You could add a wee spot of butter on top if you wanted, but that’s up to you. Cover and bake for 45 minutes at 375.

Now, don’t kid yourself, this has some heat to it. feel free to dial back the spices if you aren’t a spicy food lover.

 

Let’s reflect on choices (and banana muffins)

If we are lucky, in our lifetime, we meet folks who leave a good mark on us.

I’m going to take you back a few years, ok, a lot of years, to acquaint you with a teacher from Grade 8. Part of our high school curriculum included Home Economics, which was two units each of cooking and sewing and Industrial Education with one unit of electronics, drafting, woodwork and metalwork. Boys and girls had to complete each class. My Home Ec skills were such that I would offer to complete another students IE assignment if they would make a sewing project for me. (I have been known to hem with a stapler.) The cooking portion, well, I’m here to say I passed, but certainly not with any sort of flying colours. Good thing my homework assignments made up for some of my cooking lab outcomes. My blancmange was just scrambled eggs in a custardy-watery soup like base. Seriously though, why make a kid make that for a cooking assignment? I have never since, nor will I ever, make it in my lifetime.

Back to this particular teacher and day 1 of Industrial Education 8. In walks a large man in a plaid flannel shirt. A big human. He stood probably 6’6″. His plaid flannel shirt was tucked in his belted dark denim pants. His slightly oily hair was parted on the side and was starting to show signs of receding at said part. His hair continued downward in an uninterrupted line merging into his beard. Rather a mountain man looking fellow.

He stood at the front of a room of close to 30 13 year old students on this first day of the semester. He introduced himself and asked us to name one thing we had to do. We looked at each other. Hands began to go up.

“Homework?” No, he shook his head. Cheers erupted in the room. We didn’t have to do any homework? Hooray! This plaid guy rocked!

“Feed and walk my dog?” No, he shook his head again. Wait a second.

“Get a job?” No, once more the bearded man shook his head. Hold on here. What did he mean, we didn’t have to get a job? Everyone has to get a job, don’t they?

He replied no to every offering we had. This went on for several minutes. After we exhausted all our thoughts, we watched him turn and write three letters on the chalk board.

D I E

That,” he said, “is the only thing you have to do.” The room fell silent. “Everything else, you do by choice because you don’t like the alternative. You feed and walk your dog because you don’t want him to get sick, starve or die. You do your homework because you don’t want to fall behind in class. You get a job because you don’t want to live on the streets or in your parent’s basement when you are 50. Get it?” Heavy thoughts to lay on a pack of pre-pubescent teens.

That has stuck with me ever since. I do what I do by choice, because I don’t like the alternative.

Ooooh, back to those banana muffins.

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Doesn’t that look good? I mean, look at the texture of that thing.

Paleo banana muffins:

Preheat oven to 375, makes 12 muffins

  • 4 really ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs (room temperature, otherwise the coconut oil will harden)
  • 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup banana flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup packed almond flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • handful of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (optional)

In a large bowl, or stand mixer, beat the bananas with the coconut sugar until well mashed. Add eggs, coconut milk and vanilla, mix well. Add the liquid coconut oil while the mixer is running.

Sift coconut flour and baking powder and baking soda over the wet ingredients. (I like to save a bowl doing it this way. My Home Ec teacher would be cringing at this lack of second bowl and not following the ‘muffin method’ of stirring until just moist. Oh well.) Add the almond flour and banana flour, salt and mix until well incorporated. Stir the chocolate in last.

img_2305My favourite kitchen hack is to use a 1/4 cup scoop to load the muffin batter? dough? which is it? into my silicone muffin pans. Nothing sticks to these things. The pans I have are slightly smaller in size compared to a standard 12-well muffin pan. I sit the two 6-well silicone pans on a pizza pan to give them stability in the oven. Trying to handle flexible silicone muffin pans filled with uncooked stuff is a nightmare, trust me on that one. You have better things to do than clean your oven of some slopped glop.

 

Bake these bad boys for approximately 20 minutes. Test with a toothpick for doneness. Let them cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before unmolding them. Let them cool a little more before you start scarfing ’em back. Not sure how well these freeze, as they usually only last a couple of days around here.

Don’t be afraid of the banana flour making these too banana-y. As far as the chocolate chips go, use whatever makes you happy. Dairy free, cacao nibs, you get the idea. You could skip the chocolate altogether if you want, but why would you?

 

 

Thoughts about the Grinch and cranberry lime gummies

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I love the Grinch.

There, I said it. It’s out in the open. One of my most treasured books is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. I used to have a copy of the movie on VHS tape (wow-age drop!) and would watch it, rewind and watch it again and again while baking cookies and wrapping gifts and generally prepping for Christmas. Then one year, the VCR ate my tape and I was left with feet of memories spewing from the mouth of that hateful machine. I think I actually cried a few tears watching the shiny black ribbon pool onto the floor.

Thankfully, technology caught up and Santa brought me a DVD version and I have been watching happily ever since. As a child, it was so hard waiting for it to air on tv and hopefully be able to take command of the family boob-tube for that half-hour. One also had to time bathroom breaks to not to miss a single moment of Boris Karloff’s rich voice. The pairing of the visual of the Grinch and that voice is pure magic.

My personal feelings on the Jim Carrey live version of the Grinch isn’t carved in stone. First time I saw it, I was horrified and offended by it. This wasn’t the Grinch I knew and loved. Then, I decided I needed to see it for it’s own creative version. It’s starting to grow on me. I think I’ll need to watch it again a few more times. I do like Jim Carrey. He is one of those guys you either love him or hate him. I fall into the former camp. From early days on In Living Color to a few more serious and somber roles, his expressiveness has always made me feel along with his character.

I used to read The Grinch to the kids when they were little and it is a funny tradition we keep. I still read it to them on Christmas Eve. As teenagers, their favourite lines include (I’m paraphrasing) “he whizzed with his load” and “top of Mt. Crumpit to dump it.” By the end of the book, we are all laughing so hard, my eyes are filled with tears. It’s a good thing I have the words almost committed to memory, because it’s hard to read through those tears of laughter.

Right, back to cranberries.

In one of my most recent Spud boxes, I got some fresh cranberries. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of pairing them with turkey. I know, I know, everyone loves the two together. Not me. I figured I’d use up some limes that were starting to look a little tired to pair with the cranberries and, well, who doesn’t like a chewy gummy-style treat? Gelatin helps heal the gut and as a person who had horrific eczema from a Leaky Gut, I try to consume healthy gelatin when I can. These were not super sweet and had a nice tanginess to them.

Cranberry-lime gummies:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • juice of 4 small limes
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon full fat coconut cream (helps offset the tartness)
  • enough water to make a total of 2 cups fruit puree before adding the gelatin powder
  • 4 tablespoons gelatin (I use Vital Proteins)

I pureed the cranberries with the lime juice, honey and coconut milk and approximately 1/2 cup water in the blender until it was a nice mash. I strained this mixture to get all the skin pieces out for a prettier looking finished product. You can totally skip the straining step if you don’t mind bits of cranberry skin in the treats.

Measure the fruit puree and add enough water to make a total of 2 cups of liquid. Heat in a medium sized pot for several minutes. You want this quite warm to help the gelatin dissolve without clumping. You can either whisk the gelatin in by hand on the stove or pour the warm fruit mixture back into the blender and add the gelatin there. Choice is yours. The blender was already dirty from earlier, so I went that route. Don’t cover the vent holes on the blender lid when processing warm or hot things, you’ll end up with  a hugs mess and a possible burn or two. . . just sayin’.

Once the gelatin is completely dissolved and well mixed, pour into small silicone molds or a glass baking dish. Into the fridge it goes to cool and set completely. If you use a glass baking dish, the bigger the dish, the thinner your gummies will be. You can use small cookie cutters to make fancy-schmancy shapes if you felt so inclined. I usually just cut them into squares and grab 3 or 4 and throw them into my lunch.

Ok, my vegan friends, you can switch out the honey for maple syrup and swap agar 1-1 for the gelatin.

Chicken, quinoa and chickpea salad

If you can find a way to make a little food go a long way and make your tummy happy in the process, you win. If you can do the same things for a fairly inexpensive price tag, you win again. Make it flexible for almost everyone to enjoy, well, I think you get the idea.

This “salad” came about out of a lack of time, a few pantry staples and hungry bodies sharking about in the kitchen.

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This is a great way to get lots of bright coloured veg into people who may not like eating cucumber spears, or pepper circles on a regular basis. Add in the healthy fat in the avocado oil, some protein and boom!

Now, chickpeas or garbanzo beans have bean/been known to contribute to a rather gassy factor for some folks. They may not be strict Paleo but lots of folks eat them without suffering ill effects. Think of hummus. Same goes for quinoa. Not strict Paleo but, some rules are meant to be bent. Food shouldn’t be dogmatic.img_0429

When you open a can of garbanzo beans, one thing you will notice is an outer hull that resembles dead skin or fingernails. Not overly appetizing to look at. You can gently slip the skin off. Yes, this will add some time to your food prep, but trust me, your salad will look far more appealing. My grade 8 Home Economics teacher would be proud I gave visual presentation any thought whatsoever.

So, let’s poke around in the fridge and the pantry and get “cooking”.

Quinoa, chick pea and chicken salad:

  • 1 can of cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans, (really well rinsed, drained and skinned)
  • 1 can of cooked chicken (I like the ones from Costco, or leftover cooked chicken)
  • 2 cups cooked, cooled quinoa
  • 1 English cucumber, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped (the seeds make everything too wet)
  • 1 red pepper, diced (by all means, use yellow, orange or green instead if you like)
  • 1 cup feta (optional)

For the dressing:

Whisk together

  • 1/3 cup avocado oil (extra virgin olive oil is another choice)
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Throw everything together and mix well. Add the dressing just before serving.

If you eat gluten, paint the inside of a pita pocket with tzatziki, hummus or baba ganoush (or all three) and stuff this inside. I opt for a gluten free wrap or a just a bowl and spoon. (to get every drop of the dressing)

Vegan? Skip the chicken and feta and it still is pretty darn tasty.

Strict Paleo? Skip the garbanzo beans and quinoa, and well, the dairy is up to you.