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

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

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

Red, White, and Blue Coconut Flour Cupcakes for Memorial Day (Grain Free, Gluten Free, with Dairy Free and Paleo Options)

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       These are my family’s latest favorite cupcakes and they come from Hannah, over at HealyEatsReal.  I found them long before I went grain free and made them the first time for my son’s second birthday party last August, a pirate-themed beach party.  I used puréed blueberries in my frosting to make them blue (plus my son LOVES blueberries) and I made a dairy-free frosting using coconut whipped cream.

        I’ve made them a few times since.  Just a couple of weeks ago I made them for a tea party my best friend hosted at her house with my two-year old and her four-year old.  Her little girl asked for cupcakes, so I made these as they are something me and Blessing can eat but so good no one will care they are grain free if they don’t have to eat that way!  I thought about sharing them then and didn’t, but then the other day I decided to make something sweet for dessert on Memorial Day and immediately decided to make these again.

        They are very easy and contain ingredients I typically have on hand.  (They will turn out fine, I think, without the sparkling water but these do turn out nice and fluffy and I’m sure those bubbles help with that.)  Every time I make them I prepare them dairy free and use coconut oil over butter and coconut milk.  This last time I was a little low on coconut oil so I used palm shortening and that also worked fine.  I typically use coconut sugar but honey works well also. 

        One more note; I now make my own baking powder.  Baking powder has cornstarch in it (a no-no if you’re Paleo but also that cornstarch is usually GMO).  Did you know it is super easy to make your own?  To make one tablespoon baking powder mix together 1 teaspoon baking soda with 2 teaspoons cream of tarter.  I mix up a big batch at a time and store it in a labeled jar in my pantry to use as needed.

        She recommends mixing them in a food processor so every time I have made them I use my blender, which works great, and you dump everything in at once.  As I said, they are very easy. 

        The last two times I have made them I have done her strawberry variation in the frosting – look how pretty that pink frosting is with the specks of REAL strawberries!  That’s not food coloring – it’s real food!  And they taste divine.  I went to Pinterest looking for another alternative to the whipped coconut cream frosting I always used (good, but I wanted an actual frosting), and I found this.  It’s called The Best Paleo Frosting Ever and it’s by Real Food RN and it is not only the best paleo frosting I have ever had but may be one of the best I’ve ever had.  It’s like a buttercream but is completely dairy free.  Trust me.  You’ll want to eat it with a spoon.

        I made it according to the recipe but then added my puréed strawberries (I’m sorry but I didn’t measure either time and just eyeballed it but it was about half a cup puréed.)  Since that adds a little more liquid I added a little more coconut flour and arrowroot powder (about a tablespoon of each at a time) until I got the thickness I wanted.  Then I simply scooped it into a plastic bag, snipped the side, and did a little piping just for fun.  (I want a set of actual piping bags with the tips; not a necessity, I know, but it would a lot of fun, I think.)

        At the tea party I added a sliced strawberry to the top of each and they were very pretty!  On Monday I added some puréed blueberries to make them red, white, and blue.  Just blueberries.  I added a heaping teaspoon to the top of each cupcake and spread it out just a bit before frosting them and I’m pretty proud of myself.  They look pretty cute, don’t they?  And they are amazing.  I am not ashamed to say I ate two of them last night.  They are that good and SO worth every calorie.

        Here are the recipes.  The Coconut Flour Cupcakes, via HealyEatsReal can be found at: http://www.healyeatsreal/coconutflourcupcakes.  The frosting, from Real Food RN can be found at http://www.realfoodrn.com/best-paleo-frosting-ever/.

        Just one more thing.  I can’t close this post without saying something about Memorial Day.  I know it’s not about barbecues and cupcakes.  It’s about the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country so that we can have the freedom we take for granted every day.  The love the saying, Home of the Free Because of the Brave.  It is so true and I am very blessed to have many of those brave in my circle of friends and family, some still with us and some not.  I was telling Henry about what the day meant and realized three out of his four great-grandfathers all served and then I went on to tell him about the uncles and great-uncles and close family friends and I thought, ‘Wow, what a legacy this little boy has!’  I look forward to the day he can understand and be as proud as I am.

 

Have a great day,

Emily

My First Paleo Easter

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If you have been watching my blog – or my Facebook page, Twitter feed or even Pinterest! – you know my diet has changed as I continue on a journey to heal my body with real, natural food and a cleaner lifestyle. I went to a Paleo diet almost exactly a month ago and it’s going well. Though I am still dealing with some eczema and tummy issues, both are better and the acne I have been plagued with since I was a teenager (and that has actually gotten worse in recent years, believe it or not) is almost nonexistent in just this short amount of time.

            It’s taking time for my body to heal and I’m trying to be patient but here I find myself with my first major holiday after my change! (It seems to be a pattern for me; I changed to a gluten free diet five years ago in November – right before Christmas!) We had already been asking some family about plans and when no one had any we volunteered! If I cook I know exactly what I can eat – and if you have eaten a meal at my house at any time in the last five plus years you know I rarely spend the time and money cooking something I can’t eat myself!

            In addition to cutting out all grains and dairy, I have also eliminated all nightshades. Nightshades are a term for certain types of fruit, vegetables, and other plants; they contain certain attributes that some people have a hard time processing and it can lead to digestive issues and allergic-like reactions. These include white potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, pimentos, and spices like anise seed, annatto, celery seed, fennel, fenugreek, mustard seed, nutmeg, sesame seeds, cayenne, chili powder, curry, paprika, and a few others. Quite a list, isn’t it? And it includes several things I really like, so it’s been an adjustment, but the health benefits will be well worth it in the long run.

            I’ve been on an “elimination” diet the last month. It’s often also called a “hypoallergenic” diet and the point is to remove all potential allergens or irritants from your diet for a set time and then slowly add them back in gradually, taking stock of any reactions that might spring up to any particular food. I did something similar five years ago that helped me pin down my gluten issues. So, out went the eggs, dairy, nuts, soy, sugar, and the nightshades as I mentioned. (Wheat and gluten are usually included in this, but I eliminated those long ago.) This coming week I am going to start adding things in one by one (the rule of thumb is to wait about five days between each to give yourself ample time to identify any reactions and give your body time to heal if there are any.)

            I was a little discouraged at first because I already avoided soy and consumed very little dairy or refined sugar, so I wondered how much good it could do, but I did and completely cut out the dairy and sugar and am hoping I can add back in eggs and nuts. I’m going to try this week, as you will see from my menu, but I got off subject. Back to Easter.

            My husband requested ham. I have prepared ham several times in the last five years and if you are gluten-free it is one of those meats you need to be very careful of. Also if you eating a clean, real-food diet because so many of them are coated with glazes filled with sugar and processed or artificial ingredients. A basic glaze is very easy to do and can be tailored to any dietary needs in the family or simply personal tastes!

            I’ve done it a few different ways and one of our favorites is a simple savory/sweet spice rub that caramelizes as it cooks and so I was going to use that and just change out any spices I needed to, and then I got an e-mail from George, at Civilized Caveman. He sent out an Easter menu – that happened to be headlined by a ham – complete with links to the different recipes and it all looked so good it became my Easter menu with just a couple of changes. You’ll find what I picked and chose plus a few others from some other favorite blogs, complete with links to their recipes.

            Our guests are all bringing things and so I asked them to bring some family favorites everyone can enjoy and everything I am making fits into my diet and will be dairy, grain, and nightshade free. Don’t worry, though, it’s going to be super yummy!

            Here it is!

 

Our Menu:

            Dinner is being served between four and five o’clock because my husband is working and so I plan on having some yummy appetizers to hold us over, and then when he gets home, we’ll eat! There is church that morning, but we don’t go until eleven so that leaves time for fun Sunday breakfasts, which we like to do.

I found this recipe for a Breakfast Fruit Soufflé that is grain, dairy, and nut free, from Primally Inspired and you can find it at: http://www.primallyinspired.com/breakfast-fruit-souffle/ . I plan on serving it with some bacon or sausage and maybe some grain-free muffins, which would be nice with it.

 

Appetizers ~ Chicken Liver Pate with Seed Crackers, Fresh Fruit and Veggies

            Yes, I am making pate! My first one. We enjoy buying it but I haven’t been able to since changing my diet as the one we used to buy has both dairy (butter) and nightshade spices in it. Some of you who know me may find this completely hilarious because until three years ago I was a vegetarian! I’ve never liked meat and even now if you told me at this moment I could never eat meat again I don’t think I would really miss it, but when I got pregnant with Blessing the first thing I craved was meat. I continued eating it after he was born because you need even more protein and iron when breastfeeding than while pregnant and so it was just easier that way. Then I began learning more about it and I’m getting off subject again so maybe I should do its own blog post about it, but suffice it to say I am working on my bravery and have added one of nature’s greatest super foods to our diet – liver. Did you know it was a super food? I didn’t. I really should just do another blog post because I was just fascinated when I started learning about it; the website for the pate, from Balanced Bites, contains some great info if you’re curious and advice for making sure you get it from a good, clean source.

            A great place to start if you’re not feeling very brave is to add it to ground hamburger when you brown it. A butcher at your local meat counter will ground it for you if you don’t want to do it yourself (it can easily be done in the blender – not pretty but effective) and then just freeze small portions (I used an ice cube tray) and then I add one or two (depending on how much meat I’m using) and you’d never know it was in there! We make some meatballs we actually prefer that way; they turn out much moister and with a deeper flavor. Pate is also a nice option; it’s puréed with spices and spreadable for a nice crusty piece of bread or some crackers. I don’t buy it regularly but when I was we liked to have it for a light meal with fresh fruit, olives, and cheese. Be brave and give it a try! I’m glad I did.

            The Chicken Liver Pate, from Balanced Bites, can be made with any liver you can find and the darker the better, she says. It’s very reasonable and was the only ingredient in the recipe I didn’t have on hand but it will only cost me just over $3.00! (I’m going to double the recipe so that is for 2 pounds!) The recipe for the pate can be found at: http://balancedbites.com/2011/05/easy-recipe-chicken-liver-pate.html and I am serving it with some grain, nut, and egg free crackers I found from Whole Food Simply. I’m going to swap out the cinnamon and vanilla for something savory – like garlic and an herb maybe. That recipe is at: http://www.wholefoodsimply.com/seed-crackers/ . Why am I making crackers you ask? Because I want crackers and I can’t find any grain-free versions that don’t have dairy or nightshades. These look very easy and I can make them at any time in the week ahead, as well as the pate. It will keep fine for a few days in the fridge (and I actually recommend making it at least the day before to allow the flavors to meld together).

 

Dinner ~

  • Honey Baked Ham with Spiced Apples and Peaches, from Civilized Caveman, found at http://civilizedcavemancooking.com/entrees/pork/honey-baked-ham-with-spiced-apples-and-peaches .  Again, watch your ingredient list on the ham you buy but an all-natural ham isn’t as hard to find as you might think.
  • Roasted Rainbow Carrots, from The Spunky Coconut, and that recipe is at:  http://www.thespunkycoconut.com/2013/02/roasted-rainbow-carrots/ .  These look so pretty and perfect for spring!
  • Lacinato Kale Salad, from Marin Mama Cooks, at:  http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2012/03/lacinato-kale-salad/ .  My mother-in-law is bringing a side or salad so I initially decided to take this off the list but then added it back on because it looks so good and can you have too many salads?  I’ll be omitting the red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese from the recipe and serve them on the side instead if someone wants them.
  • Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits from Beyond Bacon and these are at:  http://paleoparents.com/featured/beyond-bacon-recipe-sweet-potato-drop-biscuits/.  Drop biscuits are so easy because they require no rolling or cutting.  I make sweet potatoes regularly so I’m going to bake an extra one at mealtime before I make these, making them even easier!  Again, this is a recipe that can be made ahead and frozen if you want and just thaw and place in the oven a few minutes to warm before eating.  I’m going to use palm shortening over the lard (because that’s what I have).

 

Dessert ~ I found some yummy, clean candy recipes from My Whole Food Life I can’t wait to make. These can be made ahead and stored in the freezer.

 

So there’s a glimpse at our Easter dinner! I’m thinking everything but the ham and carrots can be made ahead of time so I’m off to get cooking! Have a blessed and healthy holiday!

 

Emily

Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten, Grain, and Refined Sugar Free, Vegan)

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            I am over three weeks into my elimination diet, trying to gain control over some ongoing health issues, and it’s going well. I’ve gone to a Paleo diet, which has been an adjustment, but not as big as it could have been. I’ve been gluten free for over five years and I’ve been making Paleo recipes for over a year so it wasn’t like I heard I should try it then dove headfirst into it the next day. It’s still been an adjustment, though, and I’m working through it.

            At first I felt really overwhelmed; I’m even more limited to what I can eat with the elimination diet and so at first I felt very deprived…and hungry! You know what I realized, though? I felt very similar to this when I started on a gluten-free diet but now I don’t even think about it anymore. I can convert pretty much any recipe and very rarely feel deprived anymore. I’ll get to that place again with this adventure.

            So…back to being deprived and hungry. I love sweets but have cut out all refined sugars. That too, is not a huge adjustment. For a long time I have been substituting more natural sweeteners, like honey, maple syrup, or agave, in treats, but I really didn’t realize how many things sugar is in. Wow! I needed some go-to snacks and I had been craving something sweet. I had some Enjoy Life-brand chocolate chips in the pantry and decided I wanted chocolate chip cookies, but I’m eliminating nuts at the moment (with the elimination diet) and so I went in search of a coconut flour cookie, which was a lot harder than I thought it would be!

            I finally found one in a book I had but it still wasn’t right. It had dairy, nuts, and eggs! All off-limits for the moment. So, I set to tweaking and this is the result. If you haven’t baked with coconut flour before, a word of advice I had to learn the hard way. You have to sift it and it works best if you use an electric mixer and not try to do it by hand. For some reason it just needs that extra help to turn out nice and fluffy. Believe me, it’s worth it.

            The original recipe called for white sugar and I think coconut sugar would be great in these – but I was out. I like the almost caramel-like flavor it lends to things, much like brown sugar will do, so I used maple syrup, hoping that would add a little of that extra kick. Use more or less, depending on your taste. I didn’t want them really sweet but I tasted one after the first pan and they just weren’t sweet enough.

            Another bit of advice. Don’t get too impatient; these need time to cool and “set,” so to speak. I was so discouraged the night I made them because they were coming apart so easily but once they completely cooled, they were fine! It may have been the flax eggs; those work most of the time but they don’t always work as well as eggs will.

            I miss eggs! I made hubby and Blessing omelets one night this last week and they looked SO good! It will be a month for the elimination diet on the seventeenth and I’m pretty sure that’s going to be one of the first things I try adding back in! Hopefully I can add them back into my diet permanently; they are so good for you and one of my favorite easy go-to meals.

I am feeling much better but still having some bad eczema flares, mostly at night much to my frustration. Especially now that Blessing is FINALLY sleeping through the night. Overall, though, I am so much better. At least I’m not completely and totally miserable ALL of the time. I was getting discouraged about that too, and like the other feelings I mentioned, I realized it took some time when I went gluten-free. Though I felt so much better initially, it took time! (Gluten damage can take anywhere from six months to two YEARS to heal!) So, I know I must be patient but I’m also doing some other research and also continuing to pray to the Great Physician, the most important part of my healing journey!

Be well! And have a cookie!

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten, Grain, & Refined Sugar Free, Vegan)

 

Ingredients

½ cup palm oil shortening

½ cup plus 1-2 Tbsp. maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla

4 eggs (I used flax eggs which worked out to 4 Tbsp. flax seed meal to ¾ cup water; mix together and let sit for a few minutes before adding to recipe)

1/8 tsp. salt

1 cup coconut flour, sifted

1 cup chocolate chips (I like the “Enjoy Life” brand; they are naturally sweetened and free of gluten, soy, nuts, dairy, or anything artificial)

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a standard baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

 

In the medium bowl combine the shortening, syrup, eggs (or egg substitute), vanilla and salt, and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in the sifted flour and chocolate chips, mixing until well combined.

 

Scoop 1-2 Tablespoons of the dough on the prepared cookie sheet, flattening slightly (your hand is fine), and bake for 9-12 minutes.

 

Note: A friend told me years ago that the best way to make cookies is to pull them out of the oven when they are JUST starting to brown at the edges. I did that with the first pan and it wasn’t quite long enough; they turned out kind of crumbly. For me and my oven the 12 minute mark was about perfect, but you may have to experiment with yours.

 

XO,

Emily

Crispy Walnuts and Pecans (And Why You Should Soak Them)

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            I love nuts.  Every kind; almonds, walnuts, and pecans are among my favorites, though.  Every time I buy nuts I soak them before I eat them.  My husband thinks it’s hilarious when I do this – that I soak something only to then dry it out again.  I know, I know.  It sounds silly but there’s a method to the madness.  Just wait.

            According to Sally Fallon, in her book, Nourishing Traditions, “Nuts are an extremely nutritious food if properly prepared.”  How do you do that and why?

            She goes on to say, “Nuts contain numerous enzyme inhibitors that can put a real strain on the digestive mechanism if consumed in excess.  Nuts are easier to digest, and their nutrients more readily available, if they are first soaked in salt water overnight, then dried in a warm oven.”

            Nuts sometimes get a bad rap, but they’re a great, healthy snack.  Take the pecans and walnuts here.  The pecans, for instance, may contain about 70 percent fat, but it’s monounsaturated.  Monounsaturated fats are better than saturated fats and can help lower cholesterol levels and are full of vitamins and even some trace minerals!  In pecans these include, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, manganese, B complex vitamins, carotenoids, and even a small amount of vitamin C!  All in that tiny little nut.

            Did you know a 1-oz. serving of walnuts provides a day’s worth of omega-3 fatty acids?  They also contain B vitamins, vitamins K, C, and E, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, and selenium.  Phew!  Suffice it to say, they’re good for you.  I like them because they taste good!

            I like them plain out of the jar, on top my oatmeal or yogurt, in salads, mixed into cookies – pretty much any old way – and so I’m glad I’ve learned what I have about them and now always soak them.  Ever eat a handful of pecans and get a weird feeling in your mouth?  I had but never gave it much thought, but it’s those enzyme inhibitors!

            This might seem like a lot of work, but it’s not.  I filled my jars last night, left them out all night, then this morning drained and rinsed them, put them in the oven, and more or less forgot about them.  All I had to do was give them a light toss every once in a while, and I don’t really worry about and only do it if I happen to think of it.  Then I put them in jars and they’re done!  Just a note, the pecans can be stored at room temperature, but it’s best to refrigerate the walnuts; it’s because of lionlenic acid apparently that makes them more susceptible to go rancid.  It’s not a bad idea to store all your nuts in the fridge; they’ll last longer – if yours stay around that long; mine usually don’t!

 

Crispy Walnuts and Pecans

Makes 4 cups

4 cups pecan halves

2 teaspoons sea salt

Filtered water

            Mix nuts with salt in large jar and cover with filtered water.  Leave in a warm place for at least 7 hours or overnight.  Drain in a colander.  Spread on a baking pan and place in a warm oven (no more than 150 degrees) for 12 to 24 hours, turning occasionally, until completely dry and crisp.  Store in an airtight container.

 

            This method can be used with different nuts.  Mine usually don’t take more than 12 hours.  I don’t time it though.  This batch I put in the oven while the morning coffee was brewing and took out of the oven as I was finishing up a few day’s chores before bed.  They only took a few minutes to cool and put in the jars and they were done.

            Hope this helps you.  I found it so interesting when I first learned it and have been meaning to share it with you for a while.  So, stay nutty!  They’re good for you!

 

Emily

 

Sources:

Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.; 1999, 2001 New Trends Publishing, Inc.; ISBN 0-9670897-3-5/978-0-9670897-3-7; pgs. 512-513

http://www.livestrong.com/article/353295-what-vitamins-minerals-do-walnuts-have/

http://www.ehow.com/about_5427232_health-benefits-monounsaturated-fats.html

Dinner Guests ~ A Family Dinner with a Middle-Eastern Twist

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            So…on February 22 we had my in-laws over for dinner.  I made a fun, yummy dinner and took pictures of everything for a blog post with great plans.  It’s been really busy around here and I thought I had!  Then the other day I was posting all my recipes on Pinterest (Have you checked it out yet?  You can follow me at http://www.pinterest.com/epselos/ ) and didn’t see that one.  I swear I remember posting it!  Did I dream I did?  I must have.  Am I dreaming now?  I hope not because I really wanted to share this with you!

            As I stated already it has been really busy around here, but it is almost all good.  We are running two businesses out of our home.  (There is my husband’s, Integrity Transportation Service – we do airport runs, weddings, proms, wine tours, or anything else you need a ride to, and my own.  Under the name PreciousBelovedBlessing I offer homemade jewelry, custom-made cards and prints, and my artwork.)  That keeps us busy enough but on top of that we are trying to finish unpacking, have dealt with TWO garage floods in the last month, and are chasing after a toddler.  Phew!

            We moved on January 9 and absolutely love our new place and are doing a good job of getting settled I think but I’ve been struggling not to get discouraged.  We are having a party tomorrow to celebrate my 35th birthday (wow, 35?!  When did I get this old?!  I’m entering a whole new age bracket tomorrow!  Yikes!) and are also having a housewarming.  My goal was to be completely unpacked by then.  Very realistic I thought, but as I said it has been busy and I’m not completely done, although I do have to say all the boxes left are mostly craft stuff, some stuffed animals of Blessing’s, and movies and a few knick knacks.  The crafts haven’t been a priority and have been unpacked as I need them or make a space for them.  In our old place we had a shelf that ran all along the top of the walls in his room and displayed a bunch of stuffed animals; we haven’t decided yet if we’re going to do that or something else to display them so they’re still boxed up.  As for the movies and knick knacks, I am still trying to decide what to do with them; we got rid of our entertainment center before the move because it was big and bulky and something we got super-cheap but really wasn’t our taste, so we are making due with the television on a sturdy coffee table which works fine but there is no storage!  So until we get something else I have no idea what to do with them so they are still boxed up.

            I was so excited for the move, but shortly after we got here I just burnt out.  I was so tired!  I had been packing for several months then there was all the craziness of the holidays, a family death to deal with, and lots of other stuff that just plum wore me out I guess.  After being here a couple of weeks I was suddenly running on empty and felt so unmotivated and so was so worn out I even got sick!  My body was just telling me to SLOW DOWN!

I tried to boost my spirits with a little retail therapy, shopping for some decorative stuff and things we needed (new shower caddies, I replaced my fifteen year-old broom and dustpan, and some floor rugs).  My mom had helped me start Henry’s bathroom (we went a different direction; the guest bathroom in the old place was golf-themed and now it’s blue and fishes – super cute!) and I put the finishing touches on that.  I want to go a bit of a different direction in my bedroom/bathroom too, and so I started looking for those.  It’s been fun but I was finally getting motivated again when we got some (desperately!) needed rain…only to find water in our garage!

            Cut to several days of messy cleanup, insurance adjustor visits, maintenance visits and ensuing messes, and a new organizing disaster in the garage.  It was awful but our management company jumped right on it and even offered us a free carpet cleaning when maintenance was done (traipsing through the house and cutting holes in walls to find the source of the leak) and gave us two free ceiling fans and installed them for us.  Hubby jumped right on the organization band wagon and ordered some nice, sturdy utility shelving and we thought it all was behind us but the cleanup really took some time and there’s still a lot of organizing to do…  Then the next storm hit and there was water in the same place again!  Hopefully we can find the root cause and nip it in the bud and luckily this time nothing was ruined, but it was still very discouraging and lots of work!

            Suffice it all to say, I am working on budgeting my time and trying not to let the bad stuff steal my joy from the good stuff.  There is a lot of exciting stuff going on that is taking a lot of my attention!  A year ago at this time my husband was deep in negotiations with his former boss, thinking he was taking over the business we had sacrificed so much for, for the last seven years, and were weeks away from a major disappointment when his boss unexpectedly sold the business out from under us, leaving my husband without a job and a lot of disappointment after all that hard work, not to mention losing a friend in the process!

            The next couple of months before that and the six months or so before that were some of the toughest of our marriage.  I’ve shared a bit of already and I will a little more in the future, but through it all we are smarter and closer, not to mention stronger.  My husband shook off the disappointment in a matter of days, picked himself up, brushed himself off, and started making phone calls!  Two other limo companies in town were nice enough to hire him but we decided to go off on our own.  Both companies were very supportive of him too, believe it or not, and we still have business relationships with both of them!  More about this another time…I’m getting off subject!

            What I was trying to say is we have learned so much and come so far, so why let a little discouragement over a few cardboard boxes get me down?  I have a beautiful new place, filled with beautiful things that have been stored away for ages and a happy, healthy family to share them with!  Not to mention yummy food to make for them!

            So, back on point here!  My husband’s mom and step-dad had been here before, and seen our place, but we hadn’t had them over “officially.”  We had tried a few times, but it never worked out (once the day after the first flood!) and then we finally worked it out and had a fun evening of yummy food and play time.  They brought Henry a set of blocks that he loves so much he sleeps with them sometimes (it is one of the cutest, funniest things I have ever seen him do)!

            I am going back to my Good Book Cookbook again.  I love that cookbook and you’ll be seeing more from it.  I don’t make Middle-Eastern style dishes very often because my husband isn’t crazy about it (although he claims to be but seems to like it whenever I cook it…hmm) but this turned out great and he couldn’t get enough of it.  It’s hearty and delicious, but wholesome and healthy too. 

            It’s called Traditional Sabbath Casserole, and the concept is you’re not supposed to do ANY work on the Sabbath so you get all this ready, do your chopping and pre-cooking ahead of time and put in the oven on Saturday night to cook slowly until you’re ready to eat it on Sunday.  I’ve always wanted to try the recipe and our first dinner date was for a Sunday so that’s why I picked it.  We’re not Jewish, but what does it matter?  Plus, it sounds like a good idea to me; a day of no work, just relaxing, worshipping the Lord, and spending day with family…yes please!

            Several of the recipes have additional menu ideas – and this was one of them – so I turned to that page and found it was a cookie that was gluten-free, not to mention refined-sugar free and filled with healthy honey and nuts instead!  Of course, I added a little homemade ice cream to it.  Then Blessing and I went to one of our favorite local markets that morning and picked up some yummy olives, dates, and artisanal cheese to serve with it and my mother-in-law brought a broccoli salad to share (which she graciously gave me permission to share with you)!  Yum!

            A note about the ice cream.  This is our favorite homemade ice cream recipe.  It is so simple and the creamiest, most luscious homemade ice cream I have ever tried!  I’ve shared it on my Facebook page before but in case you missed it, here is the link: http://thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/video-healthy-homemade-ice-cream/ .  It is not dairy-free, but gluten- and refined-sugar free.  And so, so, so good!  There is a nice breakdown on the website too about some of not-so-good truth about even so called “natural” store-bought ice cream.  I’ve said it before – I love finding healthier alternatives to our favorite treats and this one is near the top of the list.  With maple syrup instead of sugar and organic, grass-fed cream and eggs there are actually some good health benefits in it!  Can you believe it?!  (I won’t bore you with the details, but if you want to read more about it, check out:  http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm .)  So scoop up!

            On to the recipes!

 

Traditional Sabbath Casserole

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.  In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. ~ Exodus 20:8-10

 

The Fourth Commandment forbade all labor on the Sabbath, including cooking and housework.  Before sun-down on the Sabbath, casseroles were placed in the embers of the Sabbath fire to bake overnight, providing a hearty one-dish meal for the day of rest.  Records of this type of cooking date as far back as the SecondTemple, about the time of Jesus.

 

2 cups dried hulled fava (broad) beans or other dry white bean

3 onions, diced (mine were kind of big so I used only 2)

3 pounds brisket or lamb shanks (you could probably use your favorite cut of any meat.  Realized while shopping it probably calls for those because they would be Kosher!  Not an issue at our house but I used lamb because my hubby and his parents like it.  I recommend getting it ground – I didn’t and it took forever to clean off the fat and chop it!)

3 Tablespoons olive oil (I used coconut oil as olive oil is not as heat stable; I don’t sauté or fry with olive oil anymore.  Read more about that here:  http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/10/15/cooking-oil.aspx#! )

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons alt

1 cup barley (Barley is good for you…but NOT gluten-free!  I used rice instead and it worked great.  I think about any grain would go well here, like maybe quinoa or millet (both gluten-free).  I used rice because it was what I had.)

2 Tablespoons flour (gluten-free works fine)

1 teaspoon capers

1 Tablespoon chopped olives

2 Tablespoons raisins

6 cups boiling water (approximately)

 

Soak the beans for 1 to 2 days (or do what I did and simply follow the pre-soak instructions on the back of the bag they came in).  Other dry white beans need only be soaked overnight.  In a Dutch oven, brown the onions and meat in oil.  Sprinkle on the spices and salt, stirring as the onions brown.  Stir in all other ingredients except the water.  Pour in enough boiling water to rise an inch above mixture.  Cover tightly with lid.  Bake for 24 hours in an oven at 250 degrees F or 4 to 5 hours at 350 degrees F.  Serve with fresh fruit, a salad, and Pistachio Almond Cookies (recipe to follow).

 

            I cooked it that day, putting it in the oven after lunch to be ready for supper.  It is savory with a hint of sweet every once in a while from the raisins.  It was so good and a definite make-again!  So glad everyone loved it!  As I said already I served it with some nice cheese, olives, and some dried dates.  (I love dates; have you ever tried them?  If not, give them a chance!  They are so good and so, so good for you.  Blessing and I love them for snacks; you can make all sorts of yummy recipes for them but we often eat all of them plain before we get a chance to!)  Also with dinner, my mother-in-law made a very yummy broccoli salad and shared the recipe.

 

Amish Broccoli Salad

1 head broccoli, chopped

1 head cauliflower, chopped

1 cup Greek yogurt with a little olive oil to thin

The juice of 2 lemons

½ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ pound bacon, fried and crumbled

1 cup shredded white cheddar

 

            She left the cheddar aside since she knows I don’t eat a lot of dairy and let everyone add their own.  My husband doused his, along with the casserole!  He said it was really good, and I’m sure it was.  I took his word for it; the cheese I served was lactose-free, but the ice cream wasn’t and I was saving up!  Speaking of which, make the ice cream the day before or at least that morning so it has time to set up in the freezer.  While it’s churning make your cookies!

 

Pistachio Almond Cookies

…a little honey, spices and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. ~ Genesis 43:11

 

2 cups shelled almonds

1 cup shelled pistachio nuts

½ cup grape or apple juice

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup honey

1 teaspoon salt

 

Grind nuts to meal in a blender or food processor, a few at a time if necessary.  (My Ninja blender did an awesome job – I actually mixed the entire batter in it!)  Add juice to make a smooth paste.  Add cinnamon, honey, and salt.  Drop onto an oiled baking sheet and press into rounds.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes or until golden.  These cookies burn easily, so watch carefully.

 

            These went so well with the ice cream!  And where both were made with honey and maple syrup instead of sugar it wasn’t overly sweet either.  It makes a big batch of cookies but I used my small scoop to make them – they were actually perfect toddler size!  Henry loved them.

            Thanks for listening to me ramble on.  I hope you enjoy the recipes.  They were easy and oh, so good!  I better get back to preparing for tomorrow’s party then later I have to head into town.  My mama surprised me by ordering me a carrot cake from my favorite gluten-free bakery I need to go pick up!  And speaking of a toddler to chase after…  Gotta go!

 

Emily

 

The Good Book Cookbook; 1986, 1990, 1995; by Naomi Goodman, Robert Marcus, and Susan Woolhandler; ISBN 0-8007-1706-6; pgs.30, 82

Dinner with Friends: Our First Dinner Guests and a “Really Good Gluten-Free” Meal!

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           I meant to post this weeks ago, but it’s been busy!  On January 29 we had our first dinner guests in the new place!  It was our friends Russ, Laura, and their son, Zander.  Laura and I met over ten years ago when we were both working at a paint-your-own-ceramics store.  We lost contact for a while and then my husband found her on Facebook a few years ago and surprised me while on bed rest with baby number two.  (There is a very amusing but somewhat indelicate story from bed rest with baby number three that proves how good of a friend Laura really is, but I’ll share it another time.)

            We were on the road to Palm Desert to pick up a couch that my in-laws were giving us when Laura and I were discussing, via text message, plans for the evening.  My husband, Chris, and I went back and forth over what to make and his advice was to “keep it easy.”  I thought and thought and came up with one of our personal favorites.  It is very easy and “really good” so it made the cut!

            If I am going to the effort to spend the money on it, prepare and cook, it is almost always gluten-free.  I don’t cook two meals.  It’s ridiculous.  So, fair warning:  you come to my house you’re getting something gluten-free whether you want to or not!  I make my husband his own cookies and I have wheat bread in the house, but when we make something like pasta or stuffing, etc. it’s gluten-free.  And lasagna!  My husband is part Italian so I have to have a good lasagna recipe in my repertoire and THIS is it!  I had tried a recipe or two before coming across this one and they were ok, but this one lives up to its name and I think it’s even better than “really good!”

            It came from the website, celiac.com.  Their newsletter is really interesting and if you like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter you may have seen me share articles from them.  Warning, some of them get kind of technical and are almost medical journal-like, but overall most are easy enough to understand and I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve gotten some really great recipes from them.  Shortly after I first found them several years ago we were coming upon St. Patrick’s Day; we usually love traditional Irish fare on that day, like stew or Corned Beef and Cabbage – either with Irish Soda Bread and I couldn’t find a gluten-free recipe and was feeling a little deprived.  One of my first e-mails from them had a full Irish-themed gluten-free menu – and it all turned out great!

            The website for the lasagna recipe is:  http://www.celiac.com/articles/23107/1/Really-Good-Gluten-free-Lasagna/Page1.html.  I changed it a bit.  This time around I used all ground beef because someone doesn’t eat sausage.  Another secret?  I use a Mediterranean Kefir cheese in place of the ricotta.  The brand I use is called, “Karoun.”  The first time I used it in a lasagna (several lasagnas ago!) I simply couldn’t find ricotta at the cheese at the market I was at.  I came across that and decided to take a chance and OH MY!  It works and is really good!  It adds a nice tang and makes it so creamy!  There’s even more tang in this one with the addition of the sour cream.

            If you have not guessed already, this is NOT dairy-free!  I saved up my dairy allotment all day for this, and it was so worth it!  I’ve actually been thinking of trying to make one because every time I make this, Blessing wants some so bad!  And that makes this mama feel bad!  He loves pasta so I usually cook a little pasta on the side for him, reserve some sauce, but I felt AWFUL! when I forgot to do that this time.  Poor baby had to sit and watch the rest of us eat yummy lasagna and he was stuck with leftover meatloaf!  Of course, the night before he hadn’t been able to get enough of my meatloaf, but could you blame him the next night?  I made it up to him in dessert, I hope! 

            On to the rest of the menu!  While I put the finishing touches on the lasagna, Laura made a beautiful salad and now I wish I had taken a picture of it – or at least turn the bowl around before hubby took the picture!  The lasagna is so rich and filling I personally think that and a salad is all you need.  I had put out some hummus and crackers before dinner, and then we sat down to feast!  I was so glad my friends liked my dish!  And the guys both had seconds!  I put a lot of love into the food I cook so that made me feel so good!

            We finished our meal with some homemade gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream.  It was not a low-calorie meal, but hey, it was a special occasion!  They were our FIRST dinner guests in our new place!  That’s a big deal.  Plus, I couldn’t remember the last time I had bought ice cream.  (Our new fave is the Baron’s store brand; that night was French Vanilla.  It is REALLY good!)  I’ll share the cookie recipe below, taken from the back of a bag of “Enjoy Life” brand chocolate chips.

            We’re settling into our new place well.  Or trying to!  We are desperate for rain in Southern California and were so excited a couple of weeks ago to get some…until we discovered rain in our garage!  One corner flooded, soaking several boxes!  It was awful and luckily nothing irreplaceable was ruined beyond repair.  I had to get a wedding photo reframed (luckily the frame and mat took damage but the photos were ok) and a few books were beyond saving.  An antique frame was damaged, but an awesome framer at Hobby Lobby helped me fix it up as best we could and all is well.  It could have been SO much worse and we thank God it wasn’t.  The only stuff left in the garage to unpack is stuff like books, pictures, scrapbooks – things we haven’t needed so have waited to unpack!  That set us back and we’re still trying to reorganize out there, but we got some sturdy utility shelving set up out there this week and it is slowly but surely coming together.

            I hope your Valentine’s Day was special.  Hubby worked on and off all day but Blessing and I had a fun day together and met up with him and the in-laws at Starbucks in the afternoon.  Tomorrow night we are taking a family date out for dinner and tonight I am making Split Pea Soup to purée with the new immersion blender my two boys got me!  Enough of my ramblings and onto the goodies!

 

‘Enjoy Life’ Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

2/3 cup Palm shortening (why Palm shortening and not Crisco?  Crisco is made from hydrogenated oils which are not good for you.  Palm is non-hydrogenated.  Easy math in my book!)

1 Tablespoon coconut oil (recipe called for grapeseed or safflower, but they aren’t as heat stable and I just personally prefer coconut oil)

1 cup packed brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup water

2-1/4 cups gluten-free baking mix (I like Arrowhead Mills)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

1-10 oz. bag ‘Enjoy Life’ semi-sweet chocolate mini chips (I like this brand because they are one of the few soy-free brands out there and also dairy-free.)

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cream shortening, oil, and sugars in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add vanilla and water.  Mix until just      combined.
  4. Combine gluten-free baking mix, salt, xanthan gum, baking soda, and baking powder.  Add to creamed mixture and beat until smooth.
  5. Add in mini chips.  Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.
  6. Drop spoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheet and slightly press down each cookie to flatten.
  7. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Cool on baking sheet for 15-20 minutes and serve.

 

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

 

            These are SO good and I have another bag in the pantry, so after writing the recipe I really want to make a batch!  Enjoy!

 

Emily