Pineapple Frozen Yogurt

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This recipe came about in kind of a strange way…I bought a carton of yogurt I really didn’t like. I was at a store I don’t often go to and couldn’t find my usual brand. And every other brand I recognized was all skim milk. So I grabbed one that was supposedly Greek yogurt but turned out to be kind of slimy and icky but I couldn’t stand to just throw a whole container away. I had some pineapple and was suddenly inspired!
I added a little of this and a little of that and all of three of us loved it. Even my hubby, who isn’t crazy about frozen yogurt, especially the fruity kinds. (He prefers the chocolate variety. Or peanut butter. Or chocolate and peanut butter…you get the idea.)

A few notes about the ingredients:

Yogurt: So, what about the skim milk? Part of it for me is I eat almost no dairy. The almost? Is yogurt. That, and the occasional real cheese on pizza every once in a while. I also use ghee in place of butter (butter that has been clarified and the lactose and casein are removed; it’s easier to digest and rich in vitamins – yes, it’s from real butter and it’s good for you!). And I hate to admit I’ve become a bit of a yogurt snob. I’ve become very picky about it, but part of that is as I mentioned, it’s usually the only dairy I have. I just have not been able to make or find a store-bought dairy-free version I like, so if I’m going to cheat on the dairy, then why not enjoy it?! The other thing is a personal choice. The other part of the picky is the type of dairy.

I largely stay away from dairy because I don’t handle it well, but have discovered I do fine with small amounts of good-quality, full fat dairy. Skim milk is very processed; all the fats – and the vitamins it naturally contains – are taken out then synthetic vitamins are added back in. That doesn’t make much sense to me. And recent studies actually claim that full fat dairy is actually better for you. I bought into the low/no-fat fad years ago…and ended up the unhealthiest I have ever been. When I simply started focusing on real, wholesome food I lost weight I had been struggling with for years (without really trying which I didn’t think was humanly possible) and several health issues drastically improved or disappeared completely. It’s a matter of personal choice, but an interesting one I did not come about lightly.
And fermented dairy, aka yogurt, is easier on the tummy. Does it ever bother me? Sometimes. I actually consider it a treat. It’s one of the few things I’ve been able to reintroduce to an already quite restricted diet and I enjoy it. Like I said, personal choice. Here’s some food for thought. In her book, Nourishing Traditions, the author Sally Fallon says “the fermentation of milk results in numerous beneficial changes. Fermentation breaks down casein, or milk protein, one of the most difficult proteins to digest. Culturing restores many of the enzymes destroyed during pasteurization including lactase, which helps digest lactose or milk sugar. Lactase produced during the culturing process allows many people who are sensitive to fresh milk to tolerate fermented milk products. Both vitamin B and vitamin C content of milk increase during fermentation.”

Collagen Peptide: Collagen is an insoluble protein made up of amino acids. You can find it naturally in things like a well-made broth and in cuts of meat that contain skin and bone. It contains high amounts of proteins and also vitamins. It’s good for your gut as well as your hair, skin, and nails. I get it in powder form and add it to just about anything. I try to add it to at least something every day (there’s no taste and you won’t even tell it’s in there). I add it to my coffee, yogurt, smoothies, hot cereals, and even some baked goods! There are lots of good articles out there about its benefits if you’re curious. I started using it years ago and haven’t looked back.

Pineapple: These are one of my favorite fruits! Super sweet but also so good for you. Fresh is best, and it’s on the Clean Fifteen list, which means It’s low on the pesticide scale and safe to buy conventional over organic (hence, it’s more budget-friendly!). Pineapple is very hydrating and anti-inflammatory, it boosts energy, is a natural decongestant, and is rich in vitamins like vitamin C, B6, folate, and thiamin. It contains minerals like manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium. It’s also a good source of fiber and healthy carbohydrates. (Yes, there is such a thing as a healthy carb; they fuel your body, regulate your blood sugar, and make you feel fuller – as opposed to the opposite that an unhealthy carb does.)

Ginger and Turmeric: These are anti-inflammatory spices that taste good and are good for you! Ginger is great for the immune system and can relieve an upset tummy. It’s also a natural anti-viral. Both are natural detoxifiers for the body. Turmeric is also good for the digestive tract. It’s also very good for the liver and it has been used in Chinese medicine as a natural anti-depressant. The health benefits are good, but I used them because I like them and think they are a great accompaniment to the pineapple.
Himalayan Pink Salt: Himalayan Pink Salt contains 80-plus minerals and elements without the negative effects your run of the mill table salt contains, where all the minerals except for sodium and chloride are stripped away. It also helps balance the pH in your body, which is very important. Here, I added it for its health benefits, but also because a small amount of salt helps balance the sweet.

Raw Honey: The difference between raw and conventional honey is raw honey has not been heated, which can destroy the vitamins, nutrients, and enzymes it contains. Local honey, which I used, is also a great choice if you suffer from allergies or environmentally-induced asthma. It will contain local pollen, which can help in the anti-histamine reaction the allergies induce. It has anti-viral and anti-fungal properties and can help stabilize blood sugar, instead of throwing it out of whack like refined sugar does. Also, check your labels. You might be surprised to find how much of that regular “honey” is actually high fructose corn syrup. I’ve even seen some that advertise, “made with real honey,” and maybe it was, but the first ingredient is the aforementioned highly processed corn syrup and honey is very low on a very long list. When buying honey, whether raw or not, there should only be ONE ingredient: HONEY. I initially wasn’t going to add any but then added only about a teaspoon full after adding the ginger and turmeric; the sweet helps balance the spice, I think.

I hope you found this information helpful. I personally find it really interesting when someone breaks down ingredients I may or not be familiar with. It’s good to always be learning! Now onto the recipe! Note, some of the amounts are approximate because I really did just add everything to taste and according to what I had in my fridge/pantry. Please feel free to adjust to your personal tastes. Enjoy!

Pineapple Frozen Yogurt
1-1/2 cups pineapple, cubed
16 ounces plain yogurt of choice
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
¼ teaspoon powdered turmeric
1 scoop (or about 2 heaping tablespoons) collagen peptide
A pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt
Raw Honey to taste

~ Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Add to an ice cream maker and churn until thickened. Mine took about twenty minutes – just long enough for me to do the other dishes before we enjoyed this for dessert!

In Good (and pineapple-flavored) health,
Emily

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Sources:
Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. Nourishing Traditions. Washington, DC., 1999
http://time.com/4279538/low-fat-milk-vs-whole-milk/
http://holisticsquid.com/milk-hero-or-villian/
https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/pineapples.html
https://wellnessmama.com/3058/collagen-hydrolysate/
http://fitlife.tv/10-health-benefits-of-turmeric/
https://ritely.com/benefits-of-ginger/
http://www.lifejacks.com/health-benefits-himalayan-pink-salt/
https://bodyunburdened.com/health-benefits-raw-honey/

Paleo & AIP Shepherd’s Pie

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I made this over a week ago, hence the pretty fall photo edit, and was in the midst of getting the recipe jotted for the blog…and we all got sick!  Then there was Thanksgiving and a week of recovering, family stuff, and regular day-to-day goings on of the PreciousBelovedBlessing house.  So, here it is!

 

I love fall.  It’s my favorite time of year and who doesn’t love comfort food?!  I haven’t made Shepherd’s Pie in ages and it doesn’t come to mind when you are thinking either paleo or AIP, but it sounded good one night, so I looked at what I had in the fridge and decided to wing it.

 

What is paleo or AIP, you might be wondering.  Paleo is a type of diet that uses inspiration from our ancestors for a cleaner, less refined or processed, way of living.  It is free from grains, dairy (in some cases), and refined sugars, and basically anything artificial.  To me, it simply means a cleaner way of living.  AIP stands for Autoimmune Protocol, which is a version of the paleo diet that also eliminates nuts, seeds, definitely dairy, and nightshades, among other things.  I don’t think any one diet or lifestyle is one size fits all.  I eat the way I do to help me manage autoimmune issues such as Celiacs disease, eczema, asthma, and some other things.  I have found certain things I can have and certain things I can’t.

 

One thing I have never been able to reintroduce are nightshades.  A nightshade is a certain genre of a seed or plant with a make up that can be very irritating to the gut of some people – and I am one of them.  This includes – in this dish for instance – white potatoes and tomatoes.  I have discovered I can have a small amount of good-quality dairy on occasion, but my son (who also has to eat gluten-free) can’t tolerate any, but I had tried a couple of side dish recipes that used just a little fat and a food processor and had whipped up amazing mashed potato-like goodness, so I gave this a try.

 

I had sweet potatoes in my cupboard, ground beef in my fridge, along with some pureed pumpkin (a great substitute for the traditional tomato), and lots of veggies.  Here is what I came up with.  We all loved it, including my husband who isn’t crazy about sweet potatoes!  The ghee I have reintroduced successfully, but if you are still in the elimination diet phase of AIP use whatever cooking fat you prefer, like lard or coconut oil.

 

Enjoy!

 

Paleo & AIP Shepherd’s Pie

 

Topping:

4 medium sweet potatoes (yams would work as well)

2 Tablespoons ghee (or cooking fat of choice)

1 clove garlic

Dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, and basil to taste (I used probably about a Tablespoon total of the three when mixed)

Sea salt to taste

 

Bottom Layer:

1 pound ground beef (or other ground meat; Shepherd’s Pie is traditionally made with lamb, which would be good; I just used what I had on hand)

1 small onion

2-3 celery ribs, chopped

2 carrots, chopped (or more if preferred – mine were pretty big)

2 cups sliced kale (spinach or chard would be good too)

2 cloves garlic, minced

Dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, and basil to taste

2 Tablespoons plain pumpkin puree (canned ok, but NOT pumpkin pie filling!)

2 cups stock or broth (preferably homemade)

1 Tablespoon arrowroot starch

 

To Make:

First, cook the sweet potatoes.  Peel and cube them and place in a large pot of salted water.  Bring to a boil and simmer about 15 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.  Drain and set aside.

 

While the potatoes cook preheat the oven to 400 degrees (F) and grease a large baking dish.  (I used a 9×13” pan – there are only three of us, but I wanted lots of leftovers for the busy upcoming holiday week.)

 

Next, brown the meat, breaking it up into small pieces, season lightly with salt, and remove from pan with a slotted spoon when finished cooking; set aside.  Into the hot pan add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook a few minutes, until softened and the onion is fragrant.  Add the kale and cook until wilted, mixing well.

 

While that is cooking add the arrowroot starch to the broth and whisk well to combine.  Add to the pan, along with the garlic, herbs, and pumpkin, stirring well to combine.  Continue cooking until the sauce is thick and bubbly; this may take a few minutes.  Then add the browned meat and pour all into your prepared pan.

 

Lastly, take your drained sweet potatoes and put in a blender or food processor.  Add the remaining topping ingredients and blend until combined and fluffy.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be and then add to the top of the meat mixture.  I did this by spooning dallops over the top before carefully spreading it.  It takes a little time but is worth the effort!

 

Bake about 45 minutes, or until browned and bubbling.

 

Enjoy!

 

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and you enjoy this dish.  I’m definitely going to be making it again!

 

Have a great day,

Emily

Pumpkin Pie Porridge (Paleo, AIP)

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It’s November and finally feeling like fall in Southern California! We are loving it. And on chilly mornings who doesn’t love a hot breakfast? At our house we can eat pumpkin something or hot porridge any time of year, but in the spirit of pumpkin everything going on right now, plus the fact I haven’t posted a recipe in ages I thought I would throw my pumpkin into the pot so to speak. I haven’t posted anything pumpkin related since this time last year, my own version of a Pumpkin Spice Latte, which you can find here: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/pumpkin-spice-latte-dairy-free-aip-variaton-refined-sugar-free/.

I love porridge and hot cereal and miss oatmeal since going grain-free over a year ago and have made several paleo-friendly recipes that we like but I decided to combine the two. We tried a pumpkin porridge last year that we all enjoyed (including my husband who isn’t a porridge fan) and have made since, but it is loaded with nuts. I follow a version of the paleo diet called the Autoimmune Protocol and can have nuts, but they are a treat for me and I really have to limit the amount I eat or else suffer some pretty unpleasant consequences. Many others contain eggs or seeds, or frankly ingredients I find a little odd (cauliflower seems to be a popular choice and I haven’t gotten the gumption to try it yet). I have been trying a few of the so-called forbidden ingredients as of late, trying to reintroduce a few things, which I do every once in a while as my body continues to heal, to see how I do. I’ve had mixed results so when I can find something that will fill me up and taste good and be completely AIP I prefer that.

This version is nut, seed, dairy, egg, and nightshade free and contains several very healthy ingredients but tastes like a treat with texture really reminiscent of the oatmeal I miss. A few notes about the ingredients if you’re curious…or just skip ahead to the recipe! Lately when I cook I try to use things full of healthy fats and proteins; it is really hard for me stay strict AIP and feel satiated. Several of these really help with that.

Coconut contains fiber, which helps you fill up, and also stabilizes blood sugar (even if you don’t have blood sugar issues – which I do not – stable blood sugar makes you feel full and happy). It also contains a fair amount of protein, a bit of calcium, and even Vitamin C! When buying make sure you check the label; they often contain added sweeteners, preservatives or anti-caking agents. There should be just one thing in the ingredients list…coconut! You can make coconut milk yourself (I should really do a tutorial!), but right now my blender is broken so I am buying it. Make sure you find it in a BPA-free container; some contain additives like guar gum which some are sensitive to so keep that in mind when choosing a brand to buy.

You can use either fresh or canned pumpkin in this; did you know that pumpkin is one of the only foods that keeps its nutrients when canned (again, a BPA-free container). When using fresh you may need to adjust the liquid and use a little less, but it’s up to you. Pumpkin is a good source of carbohydrates (no, carbs are not bad for you!), and also is loaded with vitamins, fiber, mono-unsaturated fats, and even contain anti-inflammatory properties.

Collagen is high in protein and I add it to all kinds of things (I actually add it to my coffee or tea every morning!). It’s great for your hair, skin, and nails, as well as the tummy and other digestive issues, and even your hormones! Look for a good, clean source. I am currently using the Great Lakes brand, green can, but I have heard good things about the Vital Proteins brand as well.

Molasses I added for the flavor, but did you know it’s also a good source of iron, calcium, and potassium? Look for unsulphured and avoid any with added ingredients.

Even maple syrup has a few health benefits (the real stuff anyway). A darker, pure maple syrup is the best choice. Did you know it has up to 24 different antioxidants as well as vitamins like zinc, manganese, potassium, and calcium? We use it because we like the taste and it’s a healthier alternative to refined sugar or artificial sweetener. You could also use honey here if you wanted (I just thought the maple would compliment the pumpkin really well).

The spices pack a nutritional punch as well, believe it or not! All three are very anti-inflammatory (a big plus when dealing with autoimmune issues) but also protect your heart and can fight diabetes and are also a good source of antioxidants. And they taste great, giving it that spicy, yummy pie flavor.

I used Himalayan Pink Salt which contains more minerals than regular salt and is very detoxifying, but it’s a matter of personal preference.

But enough of all that! On to the good stuff!

Pumpkin Pie Porridge

Serves 1-2

¾ to 1 cup coconut milk (depending on how thick you like it)
3 Tablespoons coconut flour
2 Tablespoons finely shredded coconut
½ cup pumpkin puree
1 Tablespoon collagen powder
1 teaspoon molasses
1-2 teaspoons maple syrup (according to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of sea salt

Combine coconut milk, coconut flour and shredded coconut and whisk together to combine and remove the lumps. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cooking until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in pumpkin puree then add remaining ingredients, stirring thoroughly to combine. Serve with your favorite toppings (I used chopped persimmons and pomegranate seeds here – very fall!). Add a little love and enjoy!

I made a single batch this morning and shared it with my four-year-old, but we often like to double this. Re-warm on the stove with a little extra coconut milk and it turns out great!

Have a great day,
Emily

Easter 2015 ~ Food, Family, & Finding Joy in the Little Things

The Pselos Family's Easter 2015

Easter has come and gone and I’ve been meaning to write this for the last two weeks because there were some things I wanted to share. I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Ours was lovely. We had been very hot in Southern California the entire week before and it cooled off to where I was chilly outside in my little spring sundress! It was awesome; I am nowhere near ready for summer yet. There is plenty of year left for it to get blazing hot so I will take the cool when and where I can get it!

It ended up being just the three of us. Over a month before we had started asking family what everyone wanted to do and no one ever gave us an answer. Then hubby got a couple of runs that day (our transportation business, Integrity Transportation Service, is always open, which sometimes includes working holidays) so we decided to have our own get-together so that we could plan the day around his schedule. Plus, I actually prefer to cook these days. Yes, it is a lot of work, but at least I know I can eat everything! I often leave dinner parties hungry and/or sick even after trying to communicate with the host and I don’t expect everyone to become an expert, but am sometimes left feeling like an inconvenience – on top of hungry and/or sick – so I just prefer to do the hosting myself.

Everyone else apparently had their own plans, and it turned out to be a nice day, but I was kind of hoping for a busy day. As nice as it is to have just us, sometimes – particularly on holidays – just the three of us makes the house seem kind of empty and overly quiet.

Our son, Christopher, would be eleven this year and his brother, Joshua, five. Both died as a result of extreme prematurity and I miss them more now than I ever have. They are never far from my thoughts and I had been preparing and planning for Easter for weeks. I had been working on my menu and shopping and meal and goodie prepping, and doing fine. Until late Saturday night when I made up the Easter basket for our three-year old and it hit me hard. I was only making one basket when I should have been making three.

Henry's Easter Basket

Henry’s Easter Basket

So I admit a few tears were shed while I put together this fun Easter basket full of things my little boy loves. Everything he received was completely junk-free and fun. There were a couple of books, bubbles, a new baby (as he calls stuffed animals), a Thomas the train engine that chugs and whistles, and a card handmade by his mama. The only sweets he received was a box of Chirps, the clean version of Peeps made by a favorite local grain-free bakery. Here’s a close-up; aren’t they the cutest? They are made with honey and natural colors and real flavors and he was thrilled. He’d actually never had a marshmallow before; it was hilarious but now he may be hooked! I will be sweet-talking Laura at Snackin’ Free to make me a batch before our next camping trip for sure!

Henry’s Chirps, like a paleo Peep!  The blue are blackberry flavored, the yellow are lemon, and the white plain marshmallow.  We got them from a local grain-free and paleo-friendly bakery called, Snackin’ Free.

Henry’s Chirps, like a paleo Peep! The blue are blackberry flavored, the yellow are lemon, and the white plain marshmallow. We got them from a local grain-free and paleo-friendly bakery called, Snackin’ Free.

My husband was out early working, so it was just me and the little guy for breakfast. I have to eat grain-free for health reasons and he has to eat gluten-free, so fun meals can take a little planning. I had had several ideas, about making things or ordering things. I love cinnamon rolls and had found a recipe for them to try and then the bakery we got the Chirps from also had them to order, but in the end I bought a loaf of bread. Yes, plain bread. And it was a huge treat! I rarely have bread around I can eat because it’s quite expensive to buy and though I love to bake it can be a lot of work when you already are preparing a large meal from scratch, plus the ingredients (though it is cheaper than buying in the store) aren’t cheap either.

Then I was doing my meal shopping and my little guy asked for bread. So sweetly and he can be so hard to say no to! So we wandered over to the gluten-free baked goods section in the bakery and there was this loaf of grain-free bread, made locally, that is pretty expensive for bread, but really good. (It’s by Jackalope Good Food Company and worth the occasional splurge.) So while I saw many others on Facebook and Instagram and such serve a fancy brunch or make pancakes, or crepes, or eggs benedict, or such, Henry and I had toast and were absolutely thrilled. Oh, the simple things!

Me and Henry’s Easter breakfast: our grain-free toast with ghee and strawberry jam for me – an almond butter and jam sandwich for him – plus bacon, fresh and local strawberries and orange, dried dates, and Kombucha for him and bulletproof coffee for me.  Simple but divine!

Me and Henry’s Easter breakfast: our grain-free toast with ghee and strawberry jam for me – an almond butter and jam sandwich for him – plus bacon, fresh and local strawberries and orange, dried dates, and Kombucha for him and bulletproof coffee for me. Simple but divine!

My husband got home around mid-morning or so, and I was fighting to get motivated. Our original plan had been to eat at two and I had my plan all laid out and had gotten a meager start, but that was it. And I was emotional. I could hardly stop crying, though I was trying to hide it. Sometimes it just hits you. Many don’t understand, but the fact is you don’t have to be consciously thinking about someone you’ve loved and lost for it to hurt. It can just hit you out of nowhere like a freight train and take you by surprise. It wasn’t like I was thinking, Oh woe is me…my boys aren’t here…I’m sad…etc, etc, etc. It’s just there. And usually has hit you and run you over before you even realize that it’s there.

So my husband, bless his heart, came home to a weepy wife and didn’t even have to ask. He just knew and asked me, “Thinking about the boys?” He understood because he was too. He hugged me and encouraged me a little and then went to take care of some things and play with our son. I could hear him on the phone and the next thing I knew his schedule was cleared for the rest of the day; he had had one more run for later that night he wound up giving to one of our drivers. He had a run early the next morning and would have been out late, so that was part of the reason, but when I asked him later he admitted part of it was he also didn’t want to leave me on a difficult day. I was so touched.

I was initially really disappointed no one joined us, and the house still felt kind of lonely and empty through the day, but on one hand it was nice. It was so relaxed, it took the pressure off the schedule with no one showing up and no work for my husband to get to. On the other hand, there’s nothing like someone showing up your door soon to get you moving and motivated! I set aside my disappointment, worked through my down emotions, and we ended up having a really nice day.

Grief doesn’t go away. And you learn lessons from it. I am still learning but I think most days I do pretty well at just working through it and finding what works for me. (If I didn’t I would never get out of bed in the morning!) One of my struggles is my faith. I am working through it and have come spades and bounds, but there are still days I purposely avoid church. They are Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Even now that we have our little miracle (that I know we have God to thank for!) it still is hard to show up and put on a happy face and pretend I’m not hurting on days that are so focused on the little ones. I’m not saying I am dealing with it exactly as I should, but maybe I am. I have found what works for me. I turned on Pandora radio and turned to our favorite Praise and Worship station, which is so nice in the background, and after fifteen minutes the same song had come on three different times in different versions, but the same song. The last time was the version I was familiar with and why that made me change the channel in tears takes a story.

When I was in labor with my firstborn at twenty-two weeks and trying to stop it a pastor/friend from our church came to visit and brought me a beautiful worship CD by the group, Passion, with the song, Here I Am to Worship. It’s a beautiful song with an amazing message, but it was playing in the background when my son was born, and then again an hour later when he died. It will always be a song I associate with him, and that’s not always a bad thing, but that morning it was. So I changed the channel and after a few minutes came a song that made me take a deep breath and stop what I was doing to see what it was.

One Step at a Time, by Bernward Koch on Pandora, my Relaxation radio station

One Step at a Time, by Bernward Koch on Pandora, my Relaxation radio station

It was so beautiful and just spoke to me somehow and the breath caught in my throat again when I saw the name of the song and the album. Several more popped up through the day and now I want to download the whole album so I can listen to it whenever. It’s instrumental and very soothing, and I am a person really motivated by music. It speaks to me and inspires me – and is one of the places I find joy – but more on that later.

So I turned on my music, started on my dinner, eventually made myself get dressed and put makeup on, and spent time with my family. Our little boy, Henry, is such a joy and made me laugh many times that day. That brings me to the food.

My husband loves ham, and that was my first idea, but then we got to talking about his paternal grandmother who passed away two years ago last month. She was Italian and her husband Greek, and she melded the two together seamlessly and every big feast at Grandma’s house was big on traditional fare, but she loved Easter. Our family is a big melting pot, including along with the Greek and Italian, there is Polish on that side, and mostly German on my side with a little French and Irish mixed in. Quite a combo and we are tried and true American made with Greek, Italian, Polish, and German etc. parts, but I love teaching our son about his heritage and I LOVE family traditions. So we started a new one this year and wanted to honor Grandma Jean on one of her favorite holidays and share it with the little boy she loved so much. Here is Grandma, meeting Henry the first time – one of my favorite pictures of the two of them.

Henry, barely three months old, with his Great-Grandma Jean Pselos on October 30, 2011

Henry, barely three months old, with his Great-Grandma Jean Pselos on October 30, 2011

Grandma Jean was a sweet, fun lady who had quite a personality and we didn’t always get along, but we loved each other fiercely. She was never Mrs. Pselos, or Jean; from the moment I met her, even though me and her grandson were only dating, she was Grandma. And even later, I was never her grandson’s wife, but her granddaughter. She could be a little secretive when it came to her cooking, but I learned a lot from her. She would give advice – just not share recipes! – but she loved company in the kitchen so I learned to watch and help where she let me.

It was really hard on me when she died, and that was part of my tears on Sunday, just thinking about her and the memories. I must admit, I’m tearing up even now as I write! I know she was looking down at us and smiling as we tried to honor her that day and recreate recipes she had perfected over her lifetime and guarded so closely! We worked from memory plus a recipe book she gave us years ago, did some tweaking to make it compliant with me and Henry’s diets, and here was our menu. Completely gluten-free, paleo, and (almost) autoimmune protocol-friendly.

Antipasto
Italian Wedding Soup
Roasted Lamb
Pasta and Homemade Sauce
Salad

For dessert, Grandma made these Italian shortbread cookies covered in powdered sugar, but she made those more for Christmas. Other big family dinners she made cake or would buy these amazing pies from a local market. I ended up making a carrot cake and some almond butter chocolate-covered eggs.

The only thing missing is the potatoes. The Greek part of the meal came from the lamb and potatoes. I thought about it, but that was already going to be a lot of food for three people so we left them out this year. Then when it came time for dinner we had filled up on appetizers, so I nixed the salad too, but notice how it’s at the end of the meal? That’s an Italian thing and one of the lessons from Grandma – flashback to one of my first meals with her and I asked where the salad was at the beginning of the meal!

Our appetizers were super simple and not really planned to be honest. I had thought of a few things in case people came over and we were waiting for my husband to get home from work. Then my son finally fell asleep for his afternoon nap right about the time I was about to put finishing touches on dinner so we paused, pulled out some goodies and relaxed. There was a chicken liver pate I had made a few days before with some grain-free crackers (purchased from the bakery the Chirps came from), olives, fresh vegetables, and cheese.

A simple but delicious spread of homemade pate and crackers, cheese, olives, and veggies.  With red wine.  I couldn’t have the tomatoes and I admit I cheated on the cheese and wine, but it was a holiday!

A simple but delicious spread of homemade pate and crackers, cheese, olives, and veggies. With red wine. I couldn’t have the tomatoes and I admit I cheated on the cheese and wine, but it was a holiday!

One thing I have learned from eating real food is preparation is key. You can’t just open a bunch of cans, boxes, and packages the day of and throw together dinner. It takes planning and a lot of prep but is so worth it! For a big dinner like this I shop as soon as I can and start cooking absolutely everything I can ahead of time. And I make lists. Here I am trying to get organized about five days before Easter, which is actually a little last-minute for me, finalizing my shopping and to-do lists; this was posted to my Instagram.

We are also on a budget. Planning things out allows me to stretch out the expense. If I have a basic idea of what I want to do I can start planning weeks in advance, making sure I am stocked up on pantry staples, or picking something up ahead of time because it’s on sale and then freezing it, or such. It takes a little work, but it’s not hard and well worth it. I spent a lot on groceries for this meal, but we ate leftovers the entire next week. We happen to like leftovers and we like playing with them and making things different. (Like sandwiches, salads, fried rice – made with cauliflower – and the lamb and veggies on top of sweet potatoes for example.)

Dinner turned out amazing, though we still want to tweak the recipes of Grandma’s we tried to recreate. The others I got on-line. I used recipes I found for the pasta and sauce, cake, and candy. As I mentioned earlier everything was (almost) autoimmune protocol-friendly and I was referring to the pasta and almond butter eggs; the pasta was made with almond flour and the eggs with almond butter and chocolate. Those three things are cheats for me but I do ok with them in small amounts as long as I don’t overdue it and it was worth it. It had been so long since I had had pasta, I was beyond excited!

I found the recipe for it on Pinterest, and I was a little intimidated at first, but it was very easy. It is by Paleo Cupboard and you can find it here: http://www.paleocupboard.com/paleo-pasta.html. The sauce is a nightshade-free sauce I have made before and love; it works great in anything calling for tomato sauce, including pasta or pizza. My husband doesn’t like beets, but he likes this sauce, if that’s an indication how good it is, although he had his own sauce. We had one jar of homemade, canned tomato sauce given to us by one of our clients from her garden last year, so he used that (I love it when he gets homemade tips like that!). The No-Mato Sauce comes from The Curious Coconut and can be found at: http://thecuriouscoconut.com/blog/the-best-no-mato-sauce-autoimmune-paleo-marinara. A note about the No-Mato Sauce; I have made it many times and I often have a batch in my freezer, but didn’t this time so I made it fresh. It freezes beautifully and I usually portion it out into two-cup portions (perfect for a pizza), but for a big dish of pasta for the family I might thaw two.

Here is our finished dinner:

The soup and antipasto in Grandma’s soup tureen and china dishes.  Grandma always served soup in this tureen.  Always.  It means a lot to have it.

The soup and antipasto in Grandma’s soup tureen and china dishes. Grandma always served soup in this tureen. Always. It means a lot to have it.

The finished dinner:  roasted lamb, grain-free pasta with nightshade-free sauce, antipasto salad, and Italian Wedding Soup.  All paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free.  And oh, so good!

The finished dinner: roasted lamb, grain-free pasta with nightshade-free sauce, antipasto salad, and Italian Wedding Soup. All paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free. And oh, so good!

I’d been feeling very deprived of lately and still dealing with some eczema, but my body is still healing. I do cheat on things like almond flour and chocolate and red wine on occasion because I am so diligent all the time and I think occasional treats are ok as long as your body can handle them. As I stated already I can eat them; just not all the time or too much. And that bottle of wine is still sitting on my counter a couple of weeks later as I have yet to finish it, and I enjoy and savor each glass because it probably won’t be until the next holiday I open another one! Life is too short to constantly deprive yourself if you ask me. Like dessert!

I love cake and actually haven’t made one since going grain-free. I’ve made cupcakes but not a whole cake. And I had been craving cake. My birthday was last month and I had a couple of recipes I wanted to make and considered ordering one from the bakery I mentioned earlier but didn’t do either and regretted it, so when Easter came around it didn’t take long to decide what I wanted. Carrot cake! It is one of my favorites and so springy! I found this recipe from Health Nut Nation which happened to already be nightshade-free, although most recipes aren’t hard to make that way. She had several frosting options but I ended up using the Best Ever Paleo Frosting by Real Food RN because it has become the only frosting we use; it really is the best ever and is so good and very easy. I used it because I knew it was good and easy and turns out every time. You can find the cake recipe here: http://www.healthnutnation.com/2013/03/27/paleo-carrot-cake/ and the frosting here: http://realfoodrn.com/best-paleo-frosting-ever/.

I made the Copy Cat Reese’s “Peanut Butter” Eggs last year and they were a hit. Hubby isn’t crazy about carrot cake, but loves chocolate and peanut butter so I made these. Last year we had a big family gathering and no one could believe they were dairy- and refined sugar-free. They come from My Whole Food Life and you can find the recipe here: http://mywholefoodlife.com/2014/03/09/copycat-reeses-peanut-butter-eggs/. I tweaked it this year by using half almond butter and half homemade coconut butter. Oh my, so good; I may do them that way from now on. I was trying to lessen the almond impact and it made the inside a little fluffier too. They still really tasted like almond butter. I could slightly taste the coconut, but was never sure if it was simply because I was looking for it. They are very simple and quick and this year it was a joy to have Henry help. He made funny ropes and wanted me to make a bunny and a snowman. Such fun.

Henry helping with the chocolate eggs; he ate many while we worked, but that’s part of the fun!  These only have a handful of ingredients and are completely junk-free.  The eggs are super easy.  Make a ball, flatten it with your hand, and then pinch one end to a point.

Henry helping with the chocolate eggs; he ate many while we worked, but that’s part of the fun! These only have a handful of ingredients and are completely junk-free. The eggs are super easy. Make a ball, flatten it with your hand, and then pinch one end to a point.

The finished dessert ~ Paleo Carrot Cake and the almond butter eggs.  So, so good!  I didn’t make the frosting until right before dessert, but typically I like to put the frosting in the refrigerator for about ten or fifteen minutes before I frost.  This frosting pipes great once it’s firmed up a bit.  I did just round dollops on the cake and I like how it turned out.  I may have to make another this week; just thinking about it my mouth is watering!

The finished dessert ~ Paleo Carrot Cake and the almond butter eggs. So, so good! I didn’t make the frosting until right before dessert, but typically I like to put the frosting in the refrigerator for about ten or fifteen minutes before I frost. This frosting pipes great once it’s firmed up a bit. I did just round dollops on the cake and I like how it turned out. I may have to make another this week; just thinking about it my mouth is watering!

That brings me to my next point ~ finding joy in the little things. That can be really hard when you are hurting, either physically or emotionally. I don’t always do well at this, but I have learned you have to search for it at times and it’s usually never hard to find. Take for instance the music I mentioned earlier or treating myself to pasta, which I love and haven’t eaten in over a year. There was something else I wanted to share as well. In the middle of feeling sorry for myself that morning I sat down for a break to get lost on my phone and opened Instagram, seeing this.

This Instagram account comes from a woman named Nathalie Hillelrich. I know I did not find her by accident. I don’t spend very much time on Twitter. I follow quite a few people, but it’s not often I actually browse my timeline. I did that day, several weeks ago, and an account about infant loss I follow shared a picture and for some reason I clicked on it. What popped up was the picture of a woman and this tiny baby in a NICU that just took my breath away. I ended up following the link to her website which led me to her Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Find her website at http://www.nathaliehimmelrich.com. You can also find her at http://www.grievingparents.net. She has written a book titled, Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple. I’ve ordered it but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. She is inspiring and shares beautiful things, a grieving mama like myself who is moving on after the death of one of her twin daughters. I sent her an e-mail the day I found her and received the loveliest note back. I stumbled across her on a day I was really struggling and felt such a connection to this woman who lives literally half a world away. I sent her another note, asking if I could share this post of hers, to which she graciously agreed; check her out. She’s amazing.

So I submitted the names of my two angel babies, to which she replied, bringing me to tears. It was such a beautiful gesture and to have someone else acknowledge them meant the world to my husband and I.

My comment and Nathalie’s reply on Instagram.  Was just what my hurting heart needed that day.

My comment and Nathalie’s reply on Instagram. Was just what my hurting heart needed that day.

As hard as it is, and as much I miss them, acknowledging them brings me such joy. We do little things, like hanging their pictures, talking about them to our son, hanging stockings at Christmas, lighting candles, buying little trinkets that make us think of them; we have planted trees in their memory, made donations in their names, I wear jewelry with their birthstones, and so on and so forth. After ordering Nathalie’s book this suggestion came up on Amazon and I immediately ordered it. Reading it the first time made me cry.

Someone Came Before You, by Pat Schwiebart, Illustrated by Taylor Bills and put out by a company called Grief Watch (http://www.griefwatch.com).  A lovely book for a child who has come after a loss.  My advice?  Read it with a box of tissues.

Someone Came Before You, by Pat Schwiebart, Illustrated by Taylor Bills and put out by a company called Grief Watch (http://www.griefwatch.com). A lovely book for a child who has come after a loss. My advice? Read it with a box of tissues.

My note to Henry, honoring his brothers, in the book.

My note to Henry, honoring his brothers, in the book.

My son received this in his Easter basket. Henry is three but knows who his brothers are. He recognized them in pictures the first time very young. It gave me goose bumps. I walked by a picture of the two of them and he wasn’t speaking yet but I knew the look of recognition on his face and he reached for them. Believe what you want, but I believe his little spirit recognized them; like he remembered them from Heaven. Even now he likes to kiss their pictures and the boxes of their ashes and he knows who they are. I always wanted it that way. When someone asks me how many children I have the answer is always three. If someone asks if we have any more children than Henry I politely answer we have two boys who are no longer with us. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out thing. Some people ask more, some don’t, and both are ok. Just for me and my heart, I have to acknowledge them. This was another way for me to do that.

So this Easter I found joy in many things. I found joy in enjoying some wonderful, healthy, yet delicious food that is compliant with a sometimes difficult diet and I enjoyed treating myself to a couple of things. I found joy in honoring a woman whose legacy will always leave a mark on our family. I found joy in starting a new tradition. I found joy in getting all dressed up in a pretty little black and white sundress my mama bought me while here in February; it’s a lot of fun dressing up when you don’t do it that often! I found joy in some beautiful music and a lovely gesture from a new friend that served as a salve for my soul on a difficult day. I found joy in a beautiful little boy that I thank God every day for. Henry is a miracle, no doubt about it, and he himself has such joy and sweetness, and you can’t help but smile when you are with him. I found joy with my husband who my relationship with isn’t perfect but we understand each other, love one another unconditionally, and I know I am extremely lucky to have him in my life. And I found joy in my two angel babies whom I also thank God for. I wish they were with me. I wish I could wrap my arms around them right now and hold them close. I ache for them. Every. Day. But I know I will see them again one day and that brings me some small amount of bittersweet joy.

You have to look for it. You have to work for it. But it’s there. Trust me.

Thank you for listening. I know I really went on and on with this one, but I gave you a rare piece of my heart I don’t often share. I hope it touched one of you, whether it be about the food or the family. I have put myself out there to connect with you, be encouraged by you, and an encouragement for you. Leave me a comment or visit me on social media and let’s connect. Thank you again for sharing my journey.

Blessings to you today,
Emily xo

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Chocolate Cashew Clusters (Paleo, Gluten-Free, No Added Sugar)

Anybody who knows me knows I love chocolate. I can pass up most sweets but not chocolate. Some people say there’s always room for Jell-O, I say there’s always room for chocolate. Have you seen the graphic floating around social … Continue reading

Em’s Paleo Granola (Plus How and Why to Soak or Sprout Your Nuts and Seeds)

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            Since going completely grain-free three months ago I’ve found several ways to recreate old favorites but one thing I do miss is oats.  I have always loved oatmeal in all its different forms, but I have loved creating fun and yummy granola recipes.  It is so expensive to buy but easy to make yourself and the possibilities are endless.

            Until I stopped eating grains that is and oats were out!  I still have them around the house and make them for my son.  He loves them and overnight oats are one of his favorite breakfasts.  I love the portability of granola and have been on the search for some good Paleo snacks that won’t break the bank.  I have found a couple of granola-like recipes on Pinterest and have tried some good ones but most are…kind of boring.

            Are you grain free?  Most of the recipes I have found that mimic oats call for coconut.  And like oat-based granola it seemed simple.  Your base (in this case coconut) some nuts and dried fruit, a sweetener and liquid of some kind to hold it all together and some seasoning and voila!  I found a recipe last week I liked the best of those I’d tried so far, but it still needed something so I set to tweaking and adding some of the things I’d tried in other recipes or simply just liked, I created my own and wanted to share.  It’s a little sweet and full of nuts, so that means a treat for me.  I’ve had mixed reactions to nuts, but find if I limit the amount I eat I do ok.  This is filling and just sweet enough.  I keep mine dairy-free with some cold coconut milk but it was also very good on top of some goat’s milk yogurt.  Need some extra sweet?  Try adding some Enjoy Life chocolate chips!

This is very versatile so feel free to change the ingredients according to your family’s tastes or what you have in your pantry (read to the end for a note on properly preparing and storing your nuts and seeds).  Full of healthy fats from the coconut oil, nuts, and seeds, in addition to protein and Omega-3’s, plus no refined sugar this is a healthier version of a breakfast treat I hope your family enjoys as much as mine does.   My husband doesn’t care for coconut, but raved about this, so give it a try.  Here it is!

 

Em’s Paleo Granola (Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar Free)

 

Ingredients

2 cups coconut chips (shredded would be fine too, but I like the larger flakes for granola.  Also, check the ingredients to make sure there are no added ingredients, like sugar or anything artificial; there should be one thing only on the ingredient list: coconut!)

¼ cup cashews*

¼ cup sunflower seeds*

¼ cup pumpkin seeds*

¼ cup pecans*

1/3 cup maple syrup or honey, or a mixture of both

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup chia seeds

¼ cup hemp seeds

½ cup raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruit

 

Process

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Melt coconut oil with maple syrup and/or honey in a small saucepan over medium heat until it starts to bubble and simmer.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the coconut chips, cashews, pumpkin seeds, pecans, cinnamon, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and dried fruit; mix well.       
  4. Pour coconut oil/maple syrup/honey mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well to evenly coat.
  5. Spread onto a parchment or silpat-lined baking pan and spread out evenly.
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until starting to brown.
  7. Remove from the oven and using a spatula give it a quick toss to break it into pieces.  Let cool and crumble a little further if you want to before storing in an airtight jar. 
  8. Enjoy!  This rarely lasts more than a couple of days at my house but if it does at your house it should stay fresh for about two weeks.

 

Soaked or Sprouted Nuts and Seeds           

            I’ve done a previous blog post about soaking nuts and you can find it here:  https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/crispy-walnuts-and-pecans-and-why-you-should-soak-them/.  Here I had prepared walnuts and pecans.  You can use this process with most nuts, although the cashews should be handled slightly differently.  The fact is “raw” cashews have already been heated twice and so they don’t lend as well to the soaking process but still have enzymes that should be neutralized; with a little extra care it is easily done.

 

Crispy Cashews

1 tablespoon sea saltSoak the cashews in the filtered water and salt for 6 hours and no longer.  Drain well.  Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a warm oven (about 200 degrees) for 12 to 24 hours, turning every once in a while, until completely dry and crisp.  Store in an airtight container (I use a repurposed glass jar that I’ve labeled and keep them in my pantry).            For the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds they can be sprouted.  Have you seen pepitas in the grocery store and wondered what the difference between them and regular pumpkin seeds is?  Pepitas have already been soaked and lightly roasted and they are one of the few I often buy.  Sprouted nuts and seeds can be bought at most health food stores, as can flour made from them, but I find them more expensive and choose to make my own.  It takes just a little time and a big batch lasts quite a while.  To sprout your seeds all you need is a quart-sized glass jar and a sprouting lid.  You can order the sprouting lids online, but I’ve found a few layers of cheesecloth held in place by the wire rim of the jar works fine.  Here’s how to sprout your sunflower and pumpkin seeds:

 

Sprouted Sunflower Seeds 

The process to start is the same – fill your jar as above and soak as indicated but rinse these 3 times a day and let your sprouts reach about ¼-inch long, about 3 days.  Store these in the refrigerator as well.  These are yummy in salads or as a quick snack…or in granola!           

 

            I hope I’ve inspired you to soak or sprout your nuts and seeds.  The little bit of time and effort well outweigh the nutritional benefits in my opinion.  On my most recent leg of my healing journey I have reintroduced nuts and seeds after initially eliminating them.  I can only handle limited amounts of them, but I have found the crispy nuts and sprouted seeds go down much easier.  See what they

            Happy eating and stay healthy!

 

Emily

 

Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.; 1999, New Trends Publishing, Inc.; ISBN 0-9670897-3-5/978-0-9670897-3-7; pgs. 112-115, 512-515

Homemade Sauerkraut (Probiotic-Rich)

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            I have been learning so much on my real food journey, and I am continuing to learn and often being surprised along the way.  I changed to a Paleo diet at the end of March, moving to a grain-free, real-food diet to help resolve some ongoing digestive issues and terrible eczema. 

            One of the surprises I encountered was they are not two separate health issues but their roots are the same!  Your digestive system is interconnected with the rest of your body so intricately that any imbalance can throw off other parts of your body and cause other problems.  I’ve mentioned some of mine in previous posts; including the aforementioned eczema and tummy troubles I’ve also dealt with a lot of dental issues, bad acne and other skin issues, insomnia, depression, and anxiety issues to name a few.  A lot of the research I have personally done points to the same underlying issues and since I have been cleaning up my diet and way of life I am noticing a difference – slowly and subtly in some ways, but there!  It takes time for the body to heal and I have found several great tools to help me along the way.

            Enter fermented foods into our diet!  Fermentation was once widely used before refrigeration as a means of preserving foods.  The production of lactic acid in the fermentation process helps preserve the food but also produces good, gut-healing bacteria and probiotics.

            One of our favorites is sauerkraut.  I come from German heritage and we ate a lot of sauerkraut growing up.  I actually liked it but never dreamed of making it myself once I was on my own.  I found a recipe for it last year and realized how easy it is and have been making it ever since.  There are some good store-bought brands out there.  If I’m either in a pinch or wasn’t organized enough to start a new batch before the previous ran out we like Bubbies and Sonoma Brewery brands; they are both raw and contain the probiotics you want.  Stay away from the canned stuff; you should find it in the refrigerated section.

            It is so easy to make yourself and there are several ways to do it.  I’ve tried several and found a way that worked for us.  I’ve done it so many times I don’t even use a recipe anymore or measure.  And it always works.  I’d made untold batches before I finally realized I needed to share (part of that was after Easter when every single guest we had at some point in the day pointed at the jars in the back corner of my counter and curiously asked, ‘What is that?’ or ‘What are you doing?’)  I had thought about it already and my next batch I took pictures each day to show how it changes; it’s fascinating really.

 

Tools Needed

One cabbage, organic if possible and very fresh to ensure the maximum amount of nutrients

A large bowl for mixing

A cutting board and large knife or food processor

Non-Iodized or Unrefined Sea Salt, 1 to 2 tablespoons

1-3 quart-sized mason jars with tight-fitting lids (how many you need will depend on the size of your cabbage)

A bit of patience

 

The Process

            Chop the cabbage finely.  You can use a food processor for this if you want to.  I read somewhere someone chops half of it and puts the other half in the food processor to have a mix of very fine and not so fine shreds.  I simply use my big knife and a little bit of muscle.  It gets the job done.

            Put it in a large bowl and add the salt.  After several batches I have figured out I like to add a little salt then toss it.  Add a little more salt and toss it again; it’s easier to distribute it this way.

            Next you’re going to knead or mix it for three minutes.  You want to mix it really well and squeeze it.  Turn it and squeeze.  This starts to draw out the moisture in the cabbage.  Then cover and set aside and forget it about for six to eight hours.  The batch here I was taking pictures of I had a cabbage so big it took two bowls! 

            I started doing this first thing in the morning and letting it sit all day, packing it in the jars before bed, but it’s also nice to do this at night and let it sit all night, packing them in the jars in the morning.

            You want to use good-sized jars with wide mouths and tight-fitting lids, preferably quart-sized, but I didn’t buy myself any mason jars until just recently, using whatever jars I have on hand (I drive my husband nuts hoarding jars from peanut butter, pickles, etc.)

            Knead the cabbage one more time to break it down even more, another three minutes.  Then pack it tightly into your jars and cover with the brine you’ve created.  Leave about 1-inch to the top of the jar.  If you run out of juice, which has happened to me, you can make more, by simply mixing additional salt with some water.  Once you have a finished batch save a little of your leftover juice and add to the new jars – it will jump-start the breakdown and hasten the process next time, plus give your next batch an extra probiotic boost.

            Close your jars tightly and place on a plate or tray.  They do occasionally release juice, despite being closed tightly.  It’s normal and part of the process.  Let it in a corner of your kitchen and leave it about five to seven days before you start checking it.  You’ll see it start to break down relatively quickly and I find it fascinating.  We’ve even heard it bubbling before!

            The next step is a matter of personal taste.  It depends on how tart you like it.  This batch was finished at a busy time and sat for a few more days than I usually let it.  Hubby and Blessing loved it but it was a little strong for me.  If you open the jar and taste it and think it has a little more percolating to do just close it back up and give it another day or two then check it again.  I was always worried at first of not doing it right and having more bad bacteria than good but I have read that if something doesn’t go right you’ll know and it will likely smell so bad nothing could tempt you to eat it.  A little mold at the top of jar sometimes happens and it doesn’t mean it’s gone bad; just scoop it off with a spoon and be sure you keep the brine above the cabbage.

            I’ve lost count how many batches we’ve made (there is almost always a batch brewing in our kitchen) and never had any problems and you’ll develop a nose for it.  I can usually tell by the smell before tasting it whether it’s ready or not.  It is a slightly sour smell but not unpleasant.  If you’re feeling leery about it buy yourself a batch first and see what it should look, smell, and taste like.

            This is not an exact science and very forgiving.  You can also add whatever you want to it, any variety of herbs or other vegetables.  My next batch I want to try making Cortido, which is the Latin American version of sauerkraut with pineapple vinegar, carrots, onion, and oregano.  

            If you’re looking to start adding fermented foods to your diet this is a great place to start.  I still buy some of our fermented foods, like Kombucha, but I’m looking forward to trying to make our own.  We also love Bubbies brand pickles, but I now make our own ketchup and mayo, which I then lacto-ferment.  It’s an easy, inexpensive way to add a boost of gut-healthy probiotics to pretty much any meal!  One thing I also want to try to make is Kimchi, which I can’t find nightshade free anymore, so I simply need to make my own.

            See?  It’s easy!  And one thing I have learned (which I’m not always great about doing) is when you finish one batch and put it in the fridge start another one!  That way you will always have another batch ready.  These will keep for months in the fridge, if not longer.  Some say they aren’t fully ready for about six months or so; they’ve never lasted that long in our house for us to find out!  If you have the room, you can do as many batches as you want at a time.  You find cabbage on sale or have a plethora from your garden and time to prepare it and the room for it to sit, great!  Store it on the top shelf of your fridge.

            If you’re looking for some inspiration there are a ton of books out there and websites.  My current favorite is the fermented fruits and vegetables chapter in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (I just bought some daikon yesterday to prepare her pickled version).  Sandor Katz also has some great resources.

            Happy fermenting!

 

Emily

Real Food Camping Pselos-Style

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          My husband and I fell in love on a camping trip.  Every summer growing up the youth group of my church went on a several-day camping/canoe trip and in the summer of 1995 my husband came to my home town in Nebraska from California to visit his sister.  To make a long story short we had met before, when his sister moved to my hometown, and had been writing each other for some time (with pen, paper, and stamps!  It wasn’t until near the end of our courtship we were able to start e-mailing each other; gosh, that makes me feel old).  So, we were already friends.  His sister thought he’d enjoy the time with kids his age so she came along on the camping trip as a chaperone and my (future) husband as a guest.

            It was kismet.  Or something like it.  The whole trip we were literally thrust together again and again.  We’d get on the bus to find only one seat left and have to sit together.  Our seats would be next to each other at dinner.  And the big one – when it came time to pick partners for the two-man canoes we were the only two without a partner.  You see, you had to ride in a canoe with someone who had been along before and everyone else was paired up.  It was hilarious; I had been canoeing before but had never steered the canoe.  It was interesting and there are several funny stories from that weekend.  We were stranded on sand bars several times or there was how we went through “The Chute” backwards (a rather tricky part of the river where it abruptly dropped several feet and could be a bit treacherous if you weren’t careful; no one believed us we went down backwards and came out unscathed!).

            Suffice it to say, you stick two people alone in a canoe for three days and one of two things are going to happen – they’re either going to end up loving or hating each other.  Luckily, our result was the former over the latter.  My mom actually joked at our wedding reception three years later, “Don’t send your kids on the youth group canoe trip because THIS is what happens!”  She was joking of course, and she and my dad love my husband, but that is how our love story started.

            Ironically, I’m not much of an outdoor girl.  I’m more of the “glam-ping” type.  I’ll go camping in a tent but with one condition – there has to be an actual bathroom – no holes in the ground.  We started our camping adventures tent camping and had a lot of fun but we haven’t been in years.  Then we decided to upgrade and last month rented a 22-foot trailer complete with a real bed, air conditioning, our own bathroom and shower, and all the other comforts of home – my kind of camping! 

            I was posting to Instagram bits of our trip but never did an actual post about it.  As we are planning our next trip in a few days and I am thinking of ideas I decided to share our trip with you!

            I was posting what I did to show how easy real food camping can be.  It takes a little more prep but not that much more planning and I have to say I wasn’t as organized as I thought and ended up doing most of our prep the day before and even some the morning of, and it all got done and we ate some really yummy food!  Here’s a break-down of what we had.

            We’ve eliminated most processed foods from our diets but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good convenience foods out there.  I bought a package of pre-cut fruit salad for convenience (and because it looked good!) of pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew; I also had a bunch of fresh bananas plus apples and mango.  We stopped at our favorite local farm stand on our way out of town for a case of bottled water and a couple of last minute things.  We all wanted something cold to drink and I got myself a freshly squeezed juice (carrot, lemon, ginger, and kale) and only drank part of it; it lasted most of the weekend.  While there I splurged and bought us pre-made muffins from the bakery there.  They have these Paleo muffins that are amazing.  I don’t buy them often but they are such a treat.  I got me one for each morning and muffins and biscuits for hubby and Blessing.

            As far as convenience foods go I also bought flavored coconut water, a great way to rehydrate – it was going to be hot!  If I buy it and don’t make it I usually buy a big container of the plain but I splurged again and got several of the little flavored ones; flavored for a treat and the smaller bottles since they are more portable.  (Check your labels to make sure they aren’t loaded with sugar; the ones I found were just coconut water and real fruit purée.)  I also bought some dried fruit (you’ll see the dates in the picture but we also had raisins and dried pineapple).  I bought hubby some chips and salsa; not something I do often but I wanted a fun treat for him and he loves it.  The salsa is something I can make but I did a little picking and choosing what I was willing to make or buy.  You don’t want to start your trip all worn out and stressed out! 

            On to what I made.  For snacks I made hubby some homemade popcorn.  I simply put some coconut oil (about 1/3 cup or so) in the bottom of a good-sized saucepan with a little sea salt over medium-high to high heat.  To that I added ½ cup popcorn kernels and swirled it well to coat the kernels with the oil.  Cover and continue to swirl it every so often until it starts to pop.  It is so simple and he loves it.  A big bag of that lasted him all weekend and made an easy, very portable, and wholesome real food snack.

            For meals and for snacking I sliced up some fresh vegetables, carrots and cucumber, and bought some grape tomatoes (which hubby loves).  I usually make my own bread but I bought some grain free buns (by Against the Grain Gourmet) and served me up some tuna sandwiches with raw milk cheddar and homemade Seed Crackers (recipe at http://www.wholefoodsimply.com/seed-crackers/ – they are grain, nut, egg, and dairy free and I use savory instead of sweet seasonings) and homemade sauerkraut.  I had a loaf of sourdough bread with some natural peanut butter and some Applegate Farms lunchmeat for hubby and Blessing.

            For dinners I had planned hot grilled sandwiches for over the fire and foil packs.  I made two kinds of foil packs, chicken and beef, and half had white potato and the other half sweet potato (hubby does not eat completely Paleo and he doesn’t care for sweet potato).  I seasoned the meat simply with some sea salt and pepper plus garlic.  Then I sliced the potatoes and added some frozen broccoli.  I added dallops of ghee to hubby’s and coconut oil to me and Blessing’s before wrapping them up tight and they were ready for the fire!  (I did that all ahead of time, by the way, at home.)

            We just needed a fire!  Both nights we were there the wind blew too much until too late in the evening for a campfire in time for dinner so we had sandwiches or just lunchmeat and cheese, veggies, fruit, and chips/crackers.  Luckily, I had taken a lot of everything so we had a nice variety, although we were ready for a hot meal when we got home on Sunday!  That night the wind was good so we headed down to the pool of our apartment complex and grilled our foil packs on one of the barbecue grills there!  We enjoyed them poolside and they were very yummy.

            For treats I made some Cashew Chocolate Chip Cookies that were grain free, gluten free, and dairy free.  They were really good and a perfect sweet in the afternoon after some time at the splash pad or after dinner.  You can find the recipe, by The Paleo Mom, for those here: http://www.thepaleomom.com/2014/02/chocolate-chip-cookies.html.  (I used palm shortening so they would be dairy free and honey in place of the evaporated cane juice; both worked fine and they were a yummy treat.)

            We’re heading out on our second camping trip this weekend, and are so excited!  We are staying an extra day this time and having a company picnic.  Our transportation business is celebrating its one year anniversary so this is a celebration of that and a chance to show our appreciation to our employees.  We’ve asked everyone to bring a side dish to share and we are grilling hamburgers.  I’ll make myself something I can eat but also share (I’m thinking about a sweet potato salad).  I’m also making some homemade ice cream and considering a batch of our favorite coconut flour cupcakes.

            I’ll be making popcorn again for hubby and I already have some grain free muffins in the freezer.  There’ll be sandwich fixings and sauerkraut, plus foil packs again – only this time with fish.  We are taking a small barbecue grill along this time that we can move out of the wind if need be, and I’m also planning some grilled steaks and chicken one night we’ll serve over salad greens.  They’ll be lots of fresh fruit and veggies, dried fruit, and I may buy some Larabars or make an extra batch of muffins or cookies for snacking along with some sparkling water and Kombucha.

            I finally bought my first Great Lakes grass-fed gelatin and can’t wait to make my first marshmallows but we’ll see if I have time.  I searched and searched on the last trip for some all-natural ones and had no luck.  I was shocked what’s in conventional marshmallows.  Corn syrup wasn’t a huge surprise, but that’s a no-no for me, there were a few ingredients I couldn’t recognize (or pronounce for that matter), and the big surprise?  Artificial coloring…blue!  I thought, ‘Um, these are white!  What’s the blue coloring for?’  I have no idea.  I have found a recipe that is just gelatin, water, honey, and arrowroot powder.  That’s it.  Hopefully I’ll have time to make some; I want s’mores!

            It is possible to go real food camping!  It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought, and we ate some really yummy food, had several treats, but still stayed within my Paleo lifestyle and everything else was “real food.”  It’s all about balance and give and take.  I’ve found some great suggestions and articles on Pinterest and even created a “Camping” board.  You can find it at http://  www.pinterest.com/epselos/camping/.  I’m open to any suggestions or ideas you may have too!  I’ll surely be posting to Instagram again on this next trip and you can follow me here:  http://www.intagram.com/preciousbelovedblessing

            Our first camping trip was a huge success and the little guy had a ball.  The campground was beautiful and the lovely picture of the lake?  That was from our campsite!  The weather was a little hot in the middle of the day but cool in the mornings and evenings and we had air conditioning in the trailer (a perk of “Glam-ping!”) and the campground has a splash pad to keep cool (which our little one absolutely LOVES).  I planned for everything and had coats, sweatshirts, and jeans packed along with our bathing suits and shorts and tank tops!  I’d always rather have it and not need it, and the sweatshirts were great at night around the campfire.

            For entertaining the little guy there was the splash pad that I mentioned and a big park that was a lot of fun.  We had his little toddler bike for him to ride, his wagon, and a stroller.  I let him pick out several toys and books to pack in a bag and we had a portable DVD player for music or a short movie at bedtime.  We packed his port-a-crib with his blankets and favorite snuggle toys to be familiar and for outside we had a couple of outdoor toys and a bubble machine.  He got very dirty, scraped up both knees, and likely ate a little dirt, but he had a ball!  And that was what it was all about.

            Don’t stress the small stuff.  Make some concessions here or there if you need to.  I’m not completely worried that everything I put in my mouth is 100% Paleo.  I’m more worried whether or not it’s going to create an immune response or tummy trouble, so I focus mostly on just good, clean food.  We’re still on a budget and so I make most of what I can and have made some concessions, but I think I’m making it work pretty well.  I am still strictly no grain but have found I can handle small amounts of raw milk cheese or goat’s milk.  I can oddly handle eggs ok if they baked into something but have a mixed response to straight eggs, so I overall stay away from those and consider them a treat.  I also have a mixed reaction to nuts, so those are a treat as well. 

            My point?  I have found what works for me.  There is no one-size-fits-all rule here.  Find a balance, what works for you, what you like, and don’t forget to enjoy the journey.  Stay tuned!  I’ll work up another post next week about the upcoming trip.

 

Have a great day!

Emily

My Gluten-Free Holiday

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            Ok, ok!  I know, I know!  It was Christmas two days ago, not Thanksgiving, but guess what?  We had Thanksgiving again!  I froze a whole lot of our leftovers right away, purposefully for Christmas.  So we had turkey and all the trimmings without all the work!  We did that last year when I had planned a big dinner and most of our guests cancelled on us; we ate off everything for about a week then froze the rest and it was such a treat on Christmas.

            I actually meant to share my Thanksgiving menu a month ago (wow, has it been a month already!) but as that statement will tell you time flew by and I simply haven’t had the chance.  I apologize.  I wanted to share it all with you!  We did everything gluten-free and everything I made was dairy-free.  I wanted to show how great it can be and that you don’t have to go without.

            One of my reasons for starting this blog in the first place is to displace some of the misconceptions and ignorance regarding a gluten-free diet I’ve experienced with friends and family.  Most people that come over to my house are really surprised to find out something they are eating is gluten-free.  They had no idea until they saw me eat it!  So many think just because it’s gluten-free it’s not good and won’t even try it.  Some say they won’t have it at dinner because it will be too different.  (I’ve actually changed a couple of recipes to be either gluten-free or simply cleaner and liked the end result better than the original, but in many cases no one has any idea.)

            I like to cook on Thanksgiving because it is my most favorite holiday and many of the traditional dishes are among my favorite things and I don’t want to feel deprived.  I hate feeling deprived and surrounded by people eating things I love so why not enjoy myself?  I hope you can enjoy it too!  Whether it be Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any old Thursday or Tuesday of the week, cook what you love and enjoy!  Life is too short to deprive yourself.

            Here was our menu this year…

 

Roasted Turkey with Fresh Herbs

Cornbread Stuffing

Thanksgiving Caramelized Onion and Sausage Stuffing

Green Bean Casserole with Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup and Fried Onions

Creamed Spinach (provided by my mother-in-law – a family favorite my husband asks for every holiday)

Mashed Potatoes

Turkey Crescent Rolls

Fresh fruit (provided by my husband’s aunt – I wish I’d taken a picture of the beautiful tray she made for us – it was like edible art!)

Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Pomegranates

Pomegranate Coconut Chocolate Bark

Pumpkin Pie (made by my mother-in-law)

 

            We actually celebrated our family Thanksgiving on Friday.  We were invited to my husband’s step-sister’s on Thursday but we were all fighting colds and feeling dreary so decided to stay home, but I had prepared Creamy Cashew Cheese for an appetizer Stuffed Grape Leaves Casserole as dishes to share and have something gluten-free.  I got them both from the Vegetarian Times website and they are both a definite make-again!  They are both gluten- and dairy-free.  The Creamy Cashew cheese can be found at http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/rich-and-creamy-cashew-cheese/ and it’s not a cheese at all; actually, think hummus with cashews instead of chickpeas.  I served it with fresh parsley and chives on top and with gluten-free crackers and fresh vegetables on the side.  It was so good I saved the recipe and made a note on the top to double it next time!  The Stuffed Grape Leaves Casserole is just what it sounds like – Stuffed Grape Leaves without all the rolling.  It can be found at http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/stuffed-grape-leaves-casserole/ and it was very easy; I made both these recipes on Wednesday and just waited to cook the casserole on Thursday.  The baby napped and hubby and I enjoyed a little carpet picnic in the living room with football on; we were really bummed to miss out on the day’s family festivities, but that was nice too.

            Friday morning I planned a fun breakfast, since we weren’t eating until two, and I found a recipe for crescent rolls and cinnamon rolls all in one; it makes a big batch and I just split it in two.  I prepared it the night before, made my cinnamon rolls (sorry I don’t measure when I make cinnamon rolls – I just add until it looks good – but roll them out and spread with butter (I used coconut butter so it would be dairy-free) then sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar, roll up, and cut into slices.  Place in a greased cake pan and refrigerate overnight.  The next morning, pull them out of the fridge and let rise while you preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and then bake for about fifteen to twenty minutes. 

            I use my mama’s Powdered Sugar Frosting to top them and it’s actually her mama’s roll recipe I usually use, but this one was the two in one so I tried it.  They were very good, but my grandma’s recipe converts beautifully to gluten-free and rise much better; I’ll share that recipe another time.  The rolls I got from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom and she converted her recipe from Pioneer Woman.  It can be found here:  http://www.adventuresofaglutenfreemom.com/2010/11/crescent-rolls-and-cinnamon-rolls-gluten-free-dairy-free-egg-free/ and has a great tutorial.  She also has links to lots of other yummy-looking Thanksgiving recipes at the end of the recipe I can’t wait to check out!

 

Connie’s Powdered Sugar Frosting

About 1/3 bag powdered sugar

¼ to 1/3 cup shortening (I used coconut oil)

Extract – vanilla or almond – ½ cap to start (I like pure almond extract on my cinnamon rolls; I think the flavors compliment nicely.)

 

While mixing, slowly add milk to easy spreading consistency.  Adjust ingredients to taste.

 

            I’ve used both lactose-free cow’s milk and coconut milk to make this and both work fine.  This is the recipe I used, with butter and real milk to make frosting for my homemade sugar cookies to give as Christmas gifts.  It’s also good made with peppermint extract and put over top of brownies…but, I’m getting off subject!  (And hungry!)

            Back to breakfast!  The cinnamon rolls are pictured above and I served them with some nitrate-free bacon, fresh pears, and coffee (ever tried Starbuck’s Thanksgiving blend?  It’s awesome!). 

            On to dinner!  I did everything ahead of time that I could and did everything homemade that I could.  I was determined to not use anything from a package, but I ran out of homemade broth and at the last minute had to use some gluten-free, low-sodium vegetable broth.  I cooked for the better part of a week, doing everything unprocessed, but I think it was worth it!  It tasted so, so good, but it also felt good, knowing I was feeding my family something better for them and unprocessed.  Here come the recipes!

 

Roasted Turkey with Fresh Herbs

            I don’t usually use a recipe for my turkey.  I have a couple of times, but for me, there’s so many other things to do and I’ve never preferred any of the recipes we’ve tried to just basic seasonings, although I did see a recipe this year from Melissa Sevigny of I Breathe I’m Hungry that inspired me a little (http://www.ibreatheimhungry.com/2012/11/easy-roasted-turkey-with-sage-butter.html ).  I often use chunks of onion or garlic and stuff into the cavity and along the sides of the pan, but I’d never used lemon or apples and I thought it was a great idea.

            When shopping for your turkey, make sure it is gluten-free!  Some out there are injected with broth or other gluten-containing ingredients – even the “all-natural” ones.  If I am going to be a guest and not the hostess I will ask if they wouldn’t mind making sure it is gluten-free.  You don’t have to make a special trip somewhere you’d never shop; several supermarket brands say “Gluten Free” right on the label!  I like Jennie-O (most of their packaged meats, even their sausages, are gluten-free), but still check the label.  The last two years I have bought our turkey at Sprouts, but only because I was already there, they had their turkeys for a good price, and I didn’t want to make an extra trip when I would only save literally a few cents a pound going elsewhere. 

            I used an 18-pound turkey.  Yes, eighteen pounds for nine people!  As I stated before, I was planning ahead for leftovers.  And I used the 20 minutes per pound rule and put it in the oven at eight a.m. for serving at two o’clock.  I usually use a combination of butter and olive oil but used just olive oil this year so it would be dairy-free for Blessing.  I used thyme instead of sage and I’m sorry, but again I didn’t really measure.  I chopped up a few bunches with some garlic and salt and pepper, added some olive oil and got messy.  Spread it all over, instead and out – like a deep-tissue massage for that bird!  I stuffed more garlic and the lemon and apple into the cavity then I followed Melissa’s advice and put it in upside down at 400 degrees F.  (Have you tried that?  It makes all the juices sink to the top instead of the bottom!)  After an hour I turned it over and turned the oven down a bit and started basting about every half hour or so. 

            I don’t have a meat thermometer and the little button that came with the turkey popped prematurely so we had to wing it (literally!), but by the time we were ready to eat it had been in long enough we knew it would be good, but Melissa recommended 165 degrees F at the thickest part of the thigh.  (I asked Santa for a meat thermometer, by the way.)  I am not very good at gravy.  I’ve gotten better over the years, but if there is a mama, an aunt, or grandma willing to do it, they get the job!  This year, Auntie Anne took over, using Arrowroot Starch over flour (xanthan gum, gluten-free flour, or cornstarch work fine too), and she did a great job.

            After removing the turkey from the oven let it rest.  I find it works well to pull it from the oven and put your sides in to finish.  If you have just one oven this is even better, but a few years ago for Christmas I got an electric roaster for Christmas and I never knew I wanted one until I had one.  It frees up the oven, plus keeps it from being on all day and sweating everyone out by dinnertime!  (We have a small place and it really heats up when the oven is on.)

            Don’t throw away all those bones after dinner!  Make yourself a super-healthy, nourishing bone broth!  Get all the meat off the bones you can and place the bones in a big, heavy pot.  If there are bits of onion or apple or lemon in there, leave them!  They’ll help flavor your broth!  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Once it comes to a boil, turn down and cover, simmering for about thirty minutes to an hour.  I use a fork to test it, and when any leftover meat falls off the bone (if it hasn’t already on its own) it’s ready.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Remove bones, using a slotted spoon to get any little ones that came off while cooking and separate the meat from the bones, adding the shredded meat back to your broth or set aside for another use, depending on what you want your broth for.  Either strain it and freeze for future use – it can be used in any recipe calling for chicken broth (and is SO much better for you than the canned kinds; plus, you made it yourself so there’s no doubt it’s gluten-free!) or make into soup.  We went with soup this year.  I added rice, some white beans, and the basic veggies – carrots, celery, onion, and garlic – and it was really yummy!  I froze a bunch to have next month before or after the move.

 

The Stuffing

            The stuffing… Yes, you can have stuffing when you are gluten-free!  This was one of those things that when I made it the first time no one at the table believed me it was gluten-free.  We made two stuffings this year and I don’t stuff my bird with it.  It’s just a matter of personal taste; I don’t care for it that way, plus it’s one more thing to do before we eat!  I like just taking the dish out of the oven and putting it on the table, but I know there are those of you who swear by cooking it in the turkey, so have at it.

            We made two stuffings because I wanted bread stuffing but my in-laws are eating low carb at the moment and I found a recipe for a grain-free stuffing.  It was sweet potatoes with sausage and onions basically and very, very good!  I found the recipe from one of my favorite blogs, PaleOMG.  You can find it at http://paleomg.com/thanksgiving-caramelized-onion-sausage-stuffing/  and I recommend you try it even if you don’t have to eat gluten- or grain-free.  It was savory and sweet all at the same time and really complimented all the other flavors well.  My mother-in-law made it for me after I asked her to after I found out I needed to prepare food for myself the day before and she said it was easy.  I’ve saved the recipe for myself for another day.  Try it!

            The other stuffing was a cornbread stuffing.  I love stuffing or dressing, whatever you call it.  When I wasn’t eating meat I would eat fish on occasion and made that once, but I was happy with only a big dish of stuffing, some green beans, and a big dollop of cranberry sauce.  Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without it, if you ask me so that was why I made two.  I hadn’t had stuffing since last year, so I was ready for it!  I first tried this recipe a few years ago and it’s now our favorite.  I got it from a little booklet put out by Jules Gluten Free.  I’ve tweaked it just a bit to our personal tastes and I’ve included their recipe for the cornbread that goes with it, but you can use a mix too.  Bob’s Red Mill is my favorite gluten-free cornbread mix and I always have to snitch a piece of two before crumbling it for the stuffing!  I actually baked my cornbread the weekend before.  Let it cool, crumble and toast it, then just store until you need it.  It’s always one of the first things I do.

            Another note about stuffing before I share the recipe.  You don’t need a gluten-free recipe to make stuffing.  Use a family favorite and substitute your favorite gluten-free bread.  I’ve used a cheaper brand of bread too that I thought was a little dry and dense otherwise, but after being soaked in broth and baked with all that other goodness you’d never know!

 

Cornbread Stuffing

 

Ingredients:

1 recipe cornbread (homemade, by a mix, or bought from your favorite local bakery)

2 Tablespoons butter or non-dairy substitute (I used olive oil)

1 cup each diced celery and carrot

¾ cup diced onion

2 cups gluten-free vegetable stock (Imagine Foods and Pacific are both gluten-free if you have no homemade on hand)

Salt and pepper to taste

¾ teaspoon cinnamon (yes, you read that right; trust me, it’s good!)

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

2 teaspoons dried sage (thyme or oregano good too; I used thyme this year)

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup chopped pecans

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Allow the cooked cornbread to cool, then cube and spread onto a baking sheet (I like to simply tear it apart with my hands).  Bake the cornbread cubes for 30 minutes or so, until they are browned and toasted.  (As I stated before this is always one of the first tasks I do.  The rest can be done the day or two before up until putting it in the oven.)

Raise oven temperature (or preheat) to 350 degrees F.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Sauté the celery, carrots, and onion until soft.  Add the stock, toasted cornbread, cranberries, pecans, and spices, mixing together well.  Pour the stuffing into an oiled 9×11” baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Serve warm.

Copyright Jules E. Dowler Shepard 2010

 

Homemade Gluten-Free Cornbread

 

Ingredients:

1 cup milk, dairy or non-dairy (I’ve used both coconut milk and lactose-free cow’s milk)

1 egg (or egg substitute)

¼ cup yogurt, dairy or non-dairy (I use either coconut milk yogurt or sheep’s or goat’s milk – whatever I have on hand – and it all turns out the same)

½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar

¾ cup gluten-free all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 Tablespoons gluten-free baking powder

½ cup gluten-free cornmeal *

1/3 cup granulated cane sugar

 

Directions:

Preheat oven 375 degrees F, 350 degrees for convection.

Mix together all liquid ingredients, adding the dry ingredients in gradually and stirring until all the lumps are smoothed.  The batter will be thin but not watery.

Pour the batter into an oiled 8×8” baking pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cornbread is lightly browned and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove to cool.

Copyright Jules E. Dowler Shepard 2010

 

* Cornmeal by itself is gluten-free but always check your labels!  Same thing with the baking powder.  Never assume something is gluten-free.  I always check a label of something simply out of habit and have been shocked at some of the places gluten hides.

 

The Green Bean Casserole

            Yes, you can still have Green Bean Casserole too!  I went without this for a couple of years before I found this recipe (tweaked a little to our tastes), another from the Jules Gluten Free cookbooklet, but I used a Martha Stewart recipe last year and just converted it.  In the past I have used store-bought cream of mushroom soup (Progresso, Health Valley, Imagine, and Pacific all make some gluten-free versions) but in an effort to eat cleaner this year I jumped on a recipe I found for homemade that was also dairy-free!  You can find it at http://www.againstallgrain.com/2012/03/22/cream-of-mushroom-soup-scd-paleo-vegan-option/ .  It is really good and made a nice big batch with extra leftover after making the green beans that Blessing and I enjoyed for lunch the day after our celebration. 

            For the crispy onions, there is a brand of onion-flavored “chips” out there that are gluten-free, but why use that preservative-filled, sodium-saturated junk when you can make your own for a fraction of the cost and just a few minutes of your time?  All it takes is an onion, some gluten-free flour, a little salt and voila!  Homemade crispy onions that are AMAZING and so worth the few minutes it takes to slice and bake them!

            Here are the recipes:

 

Green Bean Casserole

 

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed, and halved (don’t cinch on canned or even frozen; nothing beats the taste of fresh green beans if you ask me!  It’s a bit of extra effort, I know, but I make the whole dish beforehand, usually the day before, but you can do the green beans even before that.  It’s worth it, trust me!)

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter or non-dairy substitute (I used coconut oil)

About 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced (the original recipe called for 2 large Portobello mushrooms but button mushrooms work fine…they’re cheaper too)

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 Tablespoons gluten-free flour

2 cups gluten-free cream of mushroom soup (not condensed)

“Fried” Onions (recipe follows)

 

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Boil the beans in lightly salted water for 5 minutes, then rinse in cold water and drain.  (You can do this up to a couple of days before.)

In a large saucepan, melt the butter or oil and toss in sliced mushrooms and pepper.  Stir over medium heat about 5 minutes, then add spices and flour, stirring to coat.  Cook an additional minute then add the soup and lower the heat to medium-low.  Cook while the mixture thickens, approximately 5-8 minutes more.  Remove from heat and stir in half the fried onions and all of the beans.  Pour mixture into a large casserole and cover with remaining onions.  I usually do it up to this point the day before.  The original recipe calls for it to cook only 10 minutes but the first time I used the recipe it took much longer, so I put it in at the same time I do the stuffing and it’s perfect (about 25 minutes).

 

“Fried” Onions

 

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, sliced thinly

1/3 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Olive oil

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.  Oil a baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.

Combine the chopped onions and dry ingredients in a large bowl, tossing until totally coated with flour.  Pour out onto the baking sheet and separate the onion ring slices so they are not touching each other too much.  Bake for 15-20 minutes (again, I think it takes much longer, about twice that; whether it’s my oven or personal taste, I’m not sure; I like them good and crispy!), tossing once or twice while cooking until golden brown. 

Remove when cooked and set aside while you are making the casserole.

 

Note:  Along with baking my cornbread for the stuffing this is usually one of the very first things I do, and this year I made them both on Saturday for a next Friday dinner.  They’re both supposed to be dry and crispy so get them out of the way first.

 

Turkey Crescent Rolls

            I had some fun with these.  I got the idea from the television show, The Food Nanny.  She goes to people’s homes and helps them “rescue” dinnertime, giving them easy, healthy recipes and helping them making meal plans…it’s good and I always enjoy watching it.  I saw her help a mom make these several months ago and knew we had to do it for Thanksgiving.  (You can see my version in the bottom-middle picture of the collage at the beginning.)

            On the show she made her own roll dough and I had never made homemade crescent rolls before, but went to our trusty friend, the Internet, and found the recipe I mentioned before.  Just so you don’t have to scroll to the top again you can find it at http://www.adventuresofaglutenfreemom.com/2010/11/crescent-rolls-and-cinnamon-rolls-gluten-free-dairy-free-egg-free/ .  As I already told you I made the whole recipe and split it in half for cinnamon rolls for breakfast, but if you having a lot of people over make the whole batch – or save the other half of dough for the Pigs in a Blanket idea she shows!

            These were so easy.  Roll out your dough into a large circle, about ¼”-thick or so and cut into triangles like a pie or pizza.  Then take each triangle and place in an oiled muffin tin, one triangle for each tin.  Using a pair of kitchen shears cut a slit on wide end of triangle, about four or five for the feathers then use a toothpick to poke in two eyes at the point of triangle and there’s your turkey!  Brush with olive oil or melted butter and bake according to the recipe and they’re perfect and oh, so cute!  Don’t you just love them?  I think they’ll become a Thanksgiving tradition at our house.

 

The Cranberry Sauce

            I got brave and decided to make homemade cranberry sauce a few years ago.  I was going through a huge Martha Stewart phase and I followed the entire menu she had in a magazine.  The whole menu was amazing, as she is, and I realized how EASY! it is and (in my opinion) so much better tasting, not to mention better for you.  I make mine with honey instead of sugar, so it’s refined sugar-free and fresh cranberries are SO! good for you, loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants.  This year our pomegranate tree finally began to fruit so I added some fresh pomegranates to the mix.  Oh my!  So good!

            Feel free to add more honey, according to your tastes.  I personally like mine a little tart.  There are several recipes out there, but I usually just check the back of the cranberry bag.  Sometimes I’ll try theirs if it’s a little different and sounds good, but this is a very basic recipe that you can tweak to your taste.  I always make this ahead of time, this year the weekend before, but I think you can even do it before that.  Refrigerate until ready to use then serve cold or warm (I like mine warm personally).  Leftovers are good cold over Greek yogurt…just saying.

 

Ingredients:

1 (12 oz.) package fresh cranberries

½ – 2/3 cup fresh pomegranate seeds

½ cup plus 1-2 Tablespoons honey

½ cup orange juice

½ c. water

½ teaspoon grated orange rind

 

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan,      boil the honey, water and orange juice for a few minutes, until honey is      dissolved.
  2. Add      whole cranberries and cook for 10 minutes.       Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes without stirring.  (I recommend using a splatter screen if      you have one or tilt a lid on top to allow venting – it makes a bit of a      mess!)
  3. Remove      from heat.  Stir in orange rind.
  4. Sauce      with thicken as it cools.  Store in      the refrigerator.

 

Dessert!

            Our traditional family desserts are usually Pumpkin Pie and German Chocolate Cake.  The cake thing is what I grew up with, and it’s still a favorite.  We went with something else this year, but I’m thinking of making one for a late-Christmas family get-together next week.  My mother-in-law offered to bake a gluten-free pumpkin pie so she did that and I did something very simple that would still give us that chocolate fix.

            I used another recipe from Juli Bauer of PaleOMG and made her Pomegranate Coconut Chocolate Bark recipe.  It can be found at http://paleomg.com/thanksgiving-treat-pomegranate-coconut-chocolate-bark/ and was amazing and so easy.  So easy that I made it the night before, but you can make it sooner than that and refrigerate until serving. 

            It went well with the Pumpkin Pie and was a great way to use more of those yummy home-grown pomegranates!  My in-laws have been growing them, so I surprised them with these.  They are refined sugar and dairy-free when using the Enjoy Life chocolate chips; they’re a little more money but they also have no soy and they are made in a dedicated allergen friendly facility so they have not contact with nuts or any of the other top food allergens.

 

            So that was our Thanksgiving menu!  After dinner I set aside a fair amount of everything and immediately froze it.  I took it out of the freezer a few days ago and on Christmas Day we had a lovely turkey dinner that we are still enjoying! It was great, I sat down and looked at my plate and went to the hubby, “Wow, what a good idea!  Turkey and all the trimmings and it only took about ten minutes!”

            It is possible to have a gluten-free, dairy-free, clean food holiday on a budget without breaking the bank or losing your mind.  It may take a little effort but it is well worth it and if you are the hostess and go to that effort it will mean the world for the gluten-free loved one at your table, I guarantee it!

            It always surprises me how often someone asks me if I ever cheat on my diet, and the answer is a resounding (and almost deafening) NO!  It’s just not worth it and there’s no reason to.  This menu is evidence of that.  Look at all the holiday greatness I get to partake in!  When you are cooking for someone (whether it be a food intolerance, sensitivity, or allergy) remember that just a little is NOT ok, and cross-contamination is a real thing.  They will thank you for it!

            If I could give you any more advice as a hostess it would be to talk to your guests and find out what they can or cannot have.  I know you can’t be a short order cook and appeal to everyone but any bit of effort you put out to making something they can have will mean the world to them.  I personally have had family meals I’ve downright felt unwelcome to because it seemed like an inconvenience or annoyance when I tried to talk to the hostess.  I’m often automatically told to bring my own food, which is fine (and then I don’t have to wonder if it really is safe) but that gets old and it means so much when someone has something or ANYTHING I can have.  One thing I often offer to do is to make a side dish.  I make it a hearty one that I can make a meal of if there is nothing else I can eat, but something that I can share.  I sometimes offer to bring dessert too; it’s really the only time I feel deprived and it really, really stinks sitting there surrounded by people eating something you love (especially if dinner was small because there wasn’t much you could eat and you’re still hungry!)

            As the guest, communicate!  I’m still learning to be bold but as I mentioned already, offer to make something or go through the menu and offer some small substitutions that will easily make the meal something you can eat.  I personally always ask my guests if there is anything they can’t have or don’t like because I know what it’s like to show up at someone’s house and be left out at dinnertime.  It doesn’t take a lot of effort and I simply want everyone to feel welcome in my home.

            I hope you had a wonderful holiday and I wish you a very happy New Year.  Stay tuned for more in the coming months.  I look forward to continuing this journey with you.

 

Blessings to you,

Emily