Friday, November 8, 2013


Have you ever marveled that so many good things to eat have the letter "p" in them?  And that many of them are harvested in Autumn?  When I lived in Utah, my October and November days and nights (and my kitchen counters, tables, and even floor) were endlessly covered with boxes and buckets of peaches, pears, grapes, apples, and plums.  Here in California, the "p" continues with persimmons and pomegranates.

I've detailed some ideas for using persimmons in a past post.  Please visit here for some tips and recipes.  My dehydrator has been working non-stop for at least a week, thanks to a very generous neighbor who graciously answered the door when I knocked and asked if his gorgeous persimmon tree could spare a few bags of fruit.  "Yes!" he said.  "There's enough to feed the entire street!"  That's the right attitude, folks.

But pomegranates.  I admit, I never really got on the POM bandwagon before.  However, I'm a firm believer in networking with people who will offer free produce from their gardens.  And free pomegranates?  Have you seen how expensive those things can be?  Funny, too, since my friend who owns the pomegranate tree said it's pretty mindless to grow.  They basically ignore it all year long, then prop chairs under the heavy-laden branches in the Fall.

Since I've never been much of a pomegranate fan, I wondered, "how does one get the seeds out?"  I envisioned myself slaving away over the sink with a pair of tweezers in hand.  Ugh.  Or perhaps I could just slice them in half and just throw them in the steam juicer?  (The answer to that one is a big NO.  Don't steam juice the pomegranates.  The white pulp/pith/membrane/whatever will give you bitter juice.)

Okay.  There are two methods for removing the seeds with a minimum of agony.  The first is the under-water method.  Basically, you break apart the pomegranate in a big bowl of water, and use your fingers to scrape the seeds out.  It's easier than tweezers, but you will be standing at the sink for a while.  Plus, any juice that is lost in the process is just that -- lost.  It's swimming in that big bowl of water and seeds and membranes, and it gets drained off when you pour the undesirables from your lovely seeds.

Here is a demonstration of that method:

However!  There is an EVEN BETTER way!  Take a look at this:

I came across this video after standing at the sink using the bowl-of-water method for a few hours. I could hardly believe my eyes!  First thing the next morning, I gave it a try.

The riper the fruit, the more it will release juice as you tap out the seeds.  My pomegranates were VERY ripe, so I used a very big bowl to catch the seeds and the juice, and I put it down in my kitchen sink to avoid splattering the entire kitchen.  (The juice did travel a bit outside the sink, though, so beware.  Dress accordingly.  Clear the counters of important papers or white dish towels.)

The picture below demonstrates the difference between the more-ripe and less-ripe pomegranates.  On the right is a very ripe pomegranate, split in half.  On the upper left, the remains of a somewhat less ripe half.  See how clean it is?  I promise, I didn't rinse it out at all.  Those slightly less ripe seeds popped out pretty quickly and easily.  On the lower left, the remains of a very ripe half.  The seeds hang on a little more persistently, and they juice more when you tap out the seeds.

Another great thing about this method is the ability to save the juice.  After your bowl is full of seeds, pour them into a strainer over another bowl and catch that lovely juice.  I de-seeded about fifteen large pomegranates and ended up with 16+ cups of seeds and two and half cups of juice.  Delicious!

And just for fun, here's my favorite song about the letter P.  Brought to you, of course, by Sesame Street:

Truly Sugar- Free Pavlova

Pavlova is basically egg whites and sugar.  Lots of sugar.  Scientifically speaking (because I love the chemistry of cooking), sugar has an important role in the making of meringue and pavlova.  It provides a glossy sheen, and, more importantly, gives strength and stability to the whipped egg whites.

Since I believe egg whites to be quite healthy -- and sugar, not so much -- I wanted to see if there was a way to make meringues or pavlova without the sugar.  I researched several "sugar free" recipes.  They all use sugar substitutes that I don't keep on hand.  I tried one recipe I found that used honey.  I have no idea how the inventor of that recipe had any success, because honey and whipped egg whites are not really friends.  What I ended up with was a sloppy, flat, sweet mess.  Of course, Superman still ate it.  ;)

My next question:  what if I made the entire thing without any sweetener at all?  I mean, I'm just going to cover it with fruit and coconut cream anyhow.

The experiment began...

First, I beat four room-temperature egg whites to soft peaks.  I added 1/4 t. cream of tartar, and continued to beat while I poured in 1/2 t. vanilla and 1/2 t. lemon juice.  Once the egg whites arrived at stiff peaks, I stopped.   I gently scraped the mixture out onto a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet.

Nice height!

Carefully spreading it out.

Ready for the oven.

Next, I slipped it into the oven at the lowest temperature possible.  For my oven, that was 180° F.  I gently shut the oven door, and tried to forget about my experiment for four hours.  (It didn't work.  I couldn't forget.  But I was really good and didn't open the oven to peek.  I do admit to turning on the oven light and staring through the oven door window, though.)

After four hours, I turned off the oven, wedged the oven door open with a wooden spoon, and walked away while the experiment cooled slowly.

This is what it looked like:
A little deflated.

And it obviously wept a little.

Two observations:

1.  Martha Stewart suggests heating the oven to 300°, then reducing to 250° once you put the pavlova in.  I can see how starting at a higher temperature might set the outside, perhaps reducing the likelihood that your pavlova will weep.

2.  Without sugar, you will not be able to maintain the original loft of the whipped egg whites.  Also, having a nice tappable, hollow-sounding exterior will not be possible.  This is just the chemistry, folks.  Egg whites, alas, have their limitations.

But the real question is, HOW DID IT TASTE?

Well, all by itself, it was slightly salty, and it was sticky -- like cotton candy or marshmallows, but without sweetness.  But I topped it with ripe kiwi and drizzled coconut milk with a little squirt of agave.  That provided plenty of sweetness, but the texture was still a bit deflated and gets-stuck-in-your-teeth.

So there you have it.  Is it possible to make truly sugar-free pavlova?  The answer is a qualified "sort of."  While I enjoyed my creation, it was an awful lot of time investment for a serving or two of not-really-pavlova.  Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Conclusion of the Experiment.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Paleo "Corn" Bread

Sometimes, when you're making Mel's Favorite Chili or a BBQ pork roast, you get a hankering for something bread-like to alternate bites with.  In the past, my daughters almost always made cornbread to go with chili (a go-to supper Actress often made when she wanted to give her mom a break).

A few nights ago, I made a pork roast.  To my delight, I had found a pretty clean BBQ sauce at Sprouts, and I wanted to give it a try.  But what about side dishes?  Yes, I could make traditional cornbread for the non-paleo eaters (chiefly, our kids -- especially our pre-teen son who can put away a LOT of food!), but I wanted to be able to eat everything at the table.  I hate feeling deprived.  So I started looking for a basic recipe I could modify.  I combined the ideas from two different recipes and came up with this one.  Our boys (one a staunch quinoa-hater!) gave this their enthusiastic seal of approval!

To make quinoa flour, toast the quinoa in the oven ahead of time (10-12 minutes at 350F), then grind in a coffee grinder.  It doesn't take very long.

Quinoa "Corn" Bread
inspired by this recipe at Power Hungry

1 3/4 c. quinoa flour
2 T. coconut flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

1 c. coconut milk
1/3 c. coconut oil, melted
1/4 c. honey
1 T. vinegar
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper.  Mix dry ingredients.  Mix wet ingredients.  Combine and mix.  Pour into pan and bake 25-35 minutes, until lightly golden.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Crockpot Banana Bread Quinoa

I never was a big oatmeal fan.  I mean, I ate it.  Especially when I was doing the Body For Life diet.  I bought the "weight control" version of the Quaker Instant Oatmeal Variety Pack and combined a packet of my least favorite flavor (plain) with my most favorite (banana or apple).  But it still was mostly like eating paste for breakfast.  I told myself it was healthy.  I told myself it would keep me fueled until lunch.  I told myself it was helping me lose weight.

I told myself a lot of things in those days.

Recently, while I was researching crockpot recipes, I stumbled across this idea: quinoa for breakfast.  In the crockpot.  Okay, it would have to be more like brunch, or even lunch, because it only takes four hours in the crockpot instead of overnight.  But the leftovers could totally be for breakfast!

I experimented with my modifications a few times, and this is the result.  I really enjoy it.  The savory flavor and scent of quinoa is still present -- it doesn't bother me, but I can see how it might turn some people off.  I found that toasting the quinoa ahead of time somewhat lessens its unique scent and strong flavor.

Another thing I learned is that it's important to mix the cinnamon with the wet ingredients before combining everything in the crockpot.  If you just stir everything into the crockpot, the cinnamon will rise to the top during cooking, instead of staying incorporated.  Even when you mix it with the wet ingredients, you will still encounter some of this, but it won't be as severe.

Crockpot Banana Bread Quinoa
modified from this recipe from The Realistic Nutritionist
1 c. quinoa, rinsed (or toasted)
1 c. coconut milk
1 c. water
1/4 c. honey
1 1/2 T. coconut oil, melted
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 T. cinnamon
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 T. chopped walnuts

Combine the quinoa, coconut milk and water in the crockpot.  Stir together the honey, coconut oil, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Mash the bananas, then combine with the honey mixture.  Add the wet ingredients and the walnuts to the other ingredients in the crockpot.

Cook on Low for 4 hours, or until the quinoa is fully cooked.  Serve with a drizzle of coconut milk and top with sliced bananas.

Mashed bananas.

Pouring the honey mixture in.

Breakfast is served!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Paleo Tea Party!

Mom's wedding china.

My mom just had her 75th birthday.  We celebrated all weekend long!  Part of the celebrations included a Tea Party (just us girls, of course).  I experimented in the kitchen to create a gluten-free, sugar-free, grain-free, dairy-free -- and because of my sister-in-law's food allergies, cashew-free and almond-free -- feast. 

Paleo baking without almond flour can be tricky, since most recipes include it.  Did you know that you can substitute sunflower seed flour for almond flour?  I made my own by grinding my sunflower seeds in my food processor, but when that didn't get them fine enough, I poured them into my blender.  That created a nice flour-like texture.

You can always substitute coconut milk for almond milk.  There are many ways to get around almonds and cashews if you're allergic to them.  If you're not sure, make a half-recipe to experiment. 

The Menu:

Alyssa's Quinoa Coconut Macaroons
found at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free 
egg whites, honey, shredded coconut, quinoa, salt

Coconut Lemon Meltaway Cookies
found at Addicted to Veggies 
sunflower seed flour, shredded coconut, coconut flour, salt, honey, lemon juice, vanilla, lemon zest, coconut oil

BLT Sandwiches on Macadamia Bread
bread recipe from Against All Grain (substitute macadamia nut butter for the cashew butter and coconut milk for the almond milk) 
macadamia nut butter, eggs, honey, vinegar, coconut milk, coconut flour, baking soda, salt

Cauliflower-Lemon Fruit and Veggie Dip
(tasty on grapes, strawberries, carrots, and celery!)
my Lemon Pudding recipe, made with coconut milk instead of almond milk 
cauliflower, coconut milk, honey, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice

Almond-Free Crackers
found at Elana's Pantry (substitute seeds and ground nuts of your choice for the almond flour) 
sesame seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, salt, fresh rosemary, figs, olive oil, egg

Mini Lemon Poppyseed Muffins
found here (pour the batter into a gallon ziploc, cut off the corner, and squeeze into muffin tin) 
eggs, vanilla, lemon juice, coconut oil, honey, lemon zest, coconut flour, baking soda, poppy seeds

Assorted Herbal Teas with Honey

Quinoa Coconut Macaroons

Macadamia Bread

Coconut Lemon Meltaway Cookies

Mini Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Monday, September 16, 2013

How Sweet!

I have been thinking a lot about sweeteners.  We all crave something sweet from time to time.  When we banish all refined sugar from our diet, we turn to other sweet sources:  fruit, honey, agave, etc.  Alternatively, there are those who have completely and successfully removed all sweet things from their diets, and consume only meat/seafood, vegetables, nuts/seeds.

These people don't usually attend the Annual Cancer Cookie Swap.

Okay, all joking aside, what do we do about sweet things on the Paleo plan?  We all know they should be rare treats.  But judging from the amount of hits on my Paleo Zucchini Brownies recipe (currently number one in my stats list), it's clear we cavegirls are still in need of sweet and chocolate. (Speaking of sweet and chocolate, I have created a no-bake chocolate bon bon called "Nibblers", sweetened only with dates and raisins.)

There is a huge amount of controversy regarding the options for a sweetener.  We seem to all agree (mostly) that common table sugar (refined cane sugar or beet sugar) is bad.  Molasses, a byproduct of refined sugar, is also usually considered bad.  The rest of the contenders include coconut sugar (from coconut sap), agave nectar, date sugar (ground dates), stevia, xylitol, and honey.  Depending on what you read, any of these are considered "nutritious" or "a healthy alternative" or "low glycemic impact", compared to sugar.  I have listened to the agave vs. honey wars.  I have read both sides of the coconut sugar debate.  I believe most have had something smart to say on both sides of each issue. 

In my research on all these different sweeteners, it seems that everyone is asking, "is it paleo?"  Basically, we are looking for permission to have something sweet.  We want someone else to give us the go-ahead, based on "scientific research", that one of these sweet ingredients will not cause inflammation, obesity, or insulin spikes.  Or perhaps you have different reasons for asking.  We all understand that a person's nutritional choices can be as dear to them as religion.  For some, consuming grass-fed and free-range and organic are the only true options if one is completely following a paleo lifestyle.  For others, there is no tolerance for carbohydrate-rich foods --  not even bananas or dried fruits.  It becomes a question as crucial as "is it kosher?"

I get it.  Truly.

And I struggle with the question as well.  Am I derailing my own progress toward health by having sweet things in my life?  How much is "a moderate amount"?  How often is an "occasional" treat?  Birthdays and Christmas?  Or every Sunday?

There's no doubt there are far fewer sugars in my life nowadays.  As I adapt recipes, not only do I swap out something else in place of sugar, the total amount of sweet is also drastically reduced.  But when I do choose to have something sweet, perhaps the argument over honey vs. agave vs. coconut sugar vs. xylitol are secondary.  Perhaps they are meaningless.  Just like religion, each person has to examine their own doubts and the evidences of their own lives, and determine from there how to proceed.

Deep down, we know that consuming large or frequent doses of sweet things will slow our progress and affect our performance -- in the gym and in life in general.  I no longer have the desire to "treat" myself with a tub of Ben and Jerry's, or a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts.  That just sounds gross to me now.  But a small bowl of Lemonade Ice Cream?  Or a couple handfuls of Paleo Granola?  That's right up my alley.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rockin' Moroccan Spiced Nuts

Here another variation on Spiced Nuts, adapted from one of those Women's Day or Family Circle magazines.  It's a little messy (so have napkins nearby), but it wins the snarf-it-up approval of our 12-year-old son.

Rockin' Moroccan Spiced Nuts
2 1/2 c. mixed nuts (just whatever you have on hand.  I used almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, and coconut)
1/4 c. sesame seeds
2 T. coconut oil, melted

1 t. cumin
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. chili powder
1 t. coriander
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/8 t. cayenne pepper

1/2 c. dried apricots, chopped
1/2 c. dates, chopped

Toss the nuts and seeds with the coconut oil until well coated.  Mix the spices together and stir into the nuts.  Spread the mixture out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 300F for 20 minutes.

Cool, then add the chopped apricots and dates.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

mixed nuts

chopped dried fruit

spicy and sweet

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sausage Squash Soup

Back in the pre-paleo days, I used to make a fantastic Tortellini Soup.  Tonight, I decided to adapt it for the noodle-free lifestyle.  Yellow crookneck squash made a terrific tortellini replacement!

Sausage Squash Soup
1 lb. sausage
1-2 T. minced garlic
1/2 onion, chopped
fresh rosemary, thyme, basil, chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 T. tomato paste
16 oz. chicken broth or stock
2 medium-sized crookneck squash, sliced or diced into tortellini-sized pieces
at least 4 cups spinach or chard

Cook the sausage in a large pot, crumbling it as it cooks.  Add the onion, garlic, and herbs, cooking until onions are translucent.  Stir in the tomatoes and the tomato paste.  Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add the squash and cook until it's tender.  Stir in the spinach or chard leaves.

My chard bolted.  I'm still learning how to garden in CA.

Bowlful of little chard leaves.

Pot full of delicious spicy soup!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lemonade Ice Cream

This might be my favorite ice cream recipe so far.  I've been dreaming about making it for a year.  It has fantastic flavor and a very satisfying texture.

The only thing I don't like about making frozen custard is the amount of time you have to wait between starting to make the recipe and actually eating it.  After cooking a custard, you must chill the mixture thoroughly, usually overnight!  When I start making ice cream, I want it NOW!

Here's the solution:  mix chilled or frozen ingredients into the cooked custard.  Freeze some lemon juice into small cubes, zip them into a bag and throw them in the freezer.  When you get that hankering for Lemonade Ice Cream, you'll be eating it today instead of tomorrow.

Lemonade Ice Cream
2 cans full-fat coconut milk
1/2 c. honey
3 T. lemon zest, finely chopped
5 egg yolks
3/4 c. lemon juice, frozen
1 t. vanilla

Put one can of coconut milk in the freezer.

Stir the other can of coconut milk, the honey, and the lemon zest into a medium saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over low heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and cover.  Let steep for 10 minutes.

Separate eggs and beat yolks with a whisk until creamy.  Refrigerate the whites for another use.

Uncover the saucepan and return to heat.  Bring to a simmer.  Gradually stir the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks, several tablespoons at a time.  This is important so you don't get scrambled egg ice cream.  Stir the egg mixture back into the saucepan.  Cook and stir over low heat until the mixture just coats the back of a spoon, 5 to 10 minutes.  Mixture will register 170 to 175 degrees on an instant read thermometer.

Remove from heat.  (At this point, you can strain through a fine-mesh sieve, to remove the lemon zest and any cooked bits of egg.  I like the bits of lemon zest, so I opted to not strain.)  Scrape mixture into a 8-cup bowl.  Remove the can of coconut milk from the freezer.  Pour 1 1/4 c. of the cold coconut milk into a 2-cup glass measure, pour the remaining into the cooked mixture.  Drop frozen cubes of lemon juice into the glass measure until it reaches 2 cups.  Stir the cold coconut milk and frozen lemon juice into the cooked mixture until all the lemon cubes are melted.

Freeze in your ice cream freezer.  Garnish with shavings of unsweetened chocolate, chopped strawberries, or fresh mint.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Paleo Almond Butter Ice Cream

More ice cream.  Because it's still summer.

Nut Butter Frozen Custard
inspired by Brown-eyed Baker

2 cans coconut milk
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. creamy nut butter (almond or sunbutter or whatever nut butter you like best)
1/8 t. salt
6 egg yolks
1 T. vanilla extract

Warm one can of the coconut milk, honey, nut butter, and the salt in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until the nut butter has melted.  Continue cooking until the mixture comes to a slight simmer, bubbling around the edges of the pan.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining can of coconut milk into a large bowl and place a fin-mesh sieve on top.

Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl.  Slowly pour the warmed milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan.  Place the saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly with a rubber spatula, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula, a few minutes.

Pour the custard through the fine-mesh sieve and stir it into the coconut milk.  Stir in the vanilla extract and polace the bowl over an ice bath.  Stir occasionally, until the mixture is cool.  Cover and transfer the custard to the refrigerator until completely chilled, 8 hours or overnight.

Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker.  I recommend an old-fashioned ice-and-salt type.  My little canister freezer couldn't handle the mixture -- the ice cream mix froze to the wall of the canister, stopping the freezer from turning before it had actually made ice cream.  I poured the entire mixture in a container and set it in the freezer.  It's pretty firm, and needs softening before scooping.

But oh my goodness, it's wonderful!

Roasted Rainbow Carrots

For Christmas, Superman gave me a bunch of seeds.  As soon as I could, I planted my rainbow carrots, one of my favorite things to grow.

Recently, I went out and plucked several of these beauties from the dirt.  After a good scrub in the sink, they were ready for the oven!  Pastor Ryan has a lovely (and very easy!) recipe for Thyme Roasted Carrots that I highly recommend.

A rainbow of flavor.

Did you know purple carrots are orange on the inside?

Steaming hot.

Thyme Roasted Carrots
fresh carrots
olive oil
thyme, salt, pepper

Drizzle fresh carrots with olive oil and toss until evenly coated.  Sprinkle with thyme, salt, and pepper.  Bake at 400F for 35-40 minutes.  Serve hot.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Paleo Granola

You may remember the sadness and regret I related at banishing my favorite homemade granola from my kitchen when I started the Paleo experiment.

I have now found something better.

Thanks to Brooke McLay at The Cheeky Kitchen, I now have reason to celebrate!  Her search for oat-like ingredients led to this masterpiece, and her pictures are absolutely drool-worthy.

I have tinkered with her recipe just a tad to personalize it, but I believe either recipe will satisfy your breakfast (and bedtime) bowlful cravings.

Paleo Granola
2 c. sliced almonds
1/2 c. raw pecans, chopped
1/4 c. raw walnuts, chopped
1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
3/4 c. unsweetened coconut, wide shreds
1/4 c. unsweetened coconut, fine shreds
1/4 c. chia seeds
1/4 c. flax meal
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
1/4 c. honey

Preheat oven to 300F.  Mix all ingredients together.  Spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Cool, stirring occasionally, until mixture is crispy.  Store in an airtight container.  Good luck making it last more than a couple of days.

Preheat oven to 300F.

Gorgeous ingredients.

Before baking.

Perfectly toasted!

Paleo "Oatmeal" Cookies

I combined the best parts of two recipes to come up with this creation.  If you'd like to look at the original recipes, please visit here and here.

Paleo "Oatmeal" Cookies

1 c. almond flour
2 T. coconut flour
1/4 c. flax meal
1 c. coconut flakes, pulsed to oat consistency
1/4 c. honey
1 egg
3 T. coconut oil, melted
1 t. vanilla
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 c. raisins

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Stir all ingredients together.  Using a large cookie scoop, form 12 cookies.  Flatten and shape with wet fingers.  Bake 12-15 minutes.

They make excellent ice cream sandwiches too!

Paleo Garlic Bread

Despite the misleading picture, this recipe makes just one loaf.  I doubled the recipe for the two loaves shown below.  Also, toasting a slice of this hearty bread and cutting it up makes lovely croutons for your favorite salad.

Paleo Garlic Bread
inspired by fastPaleo
makes 1 small loaf

1 c. almond meal
1 1/2 T. coconut flour
1/4 c. flax meal
1 t. baking soda
1 t. oregano
1/2 t. thyme
1 t. salt
3 eggs
1/4 c. coconut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced

Preheat oven to 375F.  Line a small loaf pan with parchment paper.

Combine dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds.  Add eggs, coconut oil, garlic.

Scrape mixture into the loaf pan.  Bake for about 35 minutes.

Garlic bread with Zucchini Spirals

Zucchini Spirals

One of my youngest daughter's favorite dinners is Lasagne Rolls.  Back in my pre-paleo days, I made it all the time.  I stopped eating it, though, because Italian food started giving me severe heartburn.  With a family history of GERD, gall-bladder problems, and intestinal woes, I heeded the warning.

But it was a fun and pretty dish to make.  So I decided to see if I could re-create it, paleo style!  There is a little planning ahead necessary in this dinner.  You will need oven-roasted, mashed butternut squash, and cooked, chopped chicken.  But don't let that hold you back!  It's easy to roast a squash and cook up some chicken a day ahead of time.

First, slice a medium zucchini lengthwise into "lasagne noodles".  I used the 1/8" slice on my mandoline, but I wish I would have used the 1/4".  The thin slices were too fragile for easy rolling.

Next, steam the zucchini slices.  I used a Tupperware microwave steamer, on high for 3 minutes.  Lay the slices out on foil, and blot the extra moisture with a paper towel.  Cooking with veggies instead of pasta means your ingredients will be releasing moisture, rather than absorbing it.  This can lead to very soupy/watery dinners.

Spread the butternut squash mixture on each "noodle".

Top that with finely chopped cooked chicken.

Roll and place next to each other in a casserole dish, atop a thin layer of homemade spaghetti sauce.

Generously dot the top with more spaghetti sauce.

Bake at 375F for 20 minutes.  Delicious served alongside Paleo Garlic Bread.

Zucchini Spirals
1-2 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/4"
2 c. butternut squash, oven-roasted, mashed
1 t. Italian seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. coconut flour
1 egg
1 t. salt
1 c. chicken, cooked and finely chopped
homemade spaghetti sauce

Steam the zucchini slices for 3 minutes in the microwave, lay out on tin foil and blot excess moisture with a paper towel.

Mix mashed butternut, italian seasoning, garlic, coconut flour, egg and salt.  Spread on each zucchini "noodle".

Top butternut with chopped chicken.

Pour a thin layer of homemade spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish.  Roll each "noodle" into a spiral and set next to each other in the casserole dish.  Generously dot with more spaghetti sauce.

Bake at 375F for 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rupture...Tear...Pop...Not an athlete's favorite terms.

Now that I've experienced this twice, I'm going to share what I've learned:

Climb in your Way Back Machine to December 2007.  I was running down a short flight of stairs and felt a startling *pop* in the back of my leg.  I nearly crumpled.  I suddenly couldn't walk.  I thought it was the charley horse from Hell. I attacked it with massage, vigorous stretching, and applied heat packs. For four days it was excruciating. When I finally hobbled into the doctor's office, he correctly diagnosed my injury as a ruptured plantaris tendon, but all that was left was to patiently wait for it to stop hurting. I didn't know that I should have iced it -- that would have been most helpful immediately following the injury.  It took two to three weeks before I could attend ballet class comfortably.

This time, when I felt the familiar rubber-band snap at the base of my calf (during a warm-up run before my wod), I knew exactly what it was. I could walk on my toes, or on my heels, but rolling through the foot caused blinding pain deep in my calf. Apparently, though the injury is rare, it is mostly seen in "older athletes". (I'm going to focus on the "athlete" part of that description.)  I rested my leg, but I didn't baby it. I still worked out, just not with movements that required rolling through the foot (squats, pull-ups, sit-ups). I sat with my feet up and iced my leg. No stretching, massage, or heat packs. I biked several miles. I walked -- very slowly, with a limp. Two DAYS later, I'm nearly back to normal. There's slight soreness, like the light ache of a muscle that got a good workout. I can even roll up onto my toes -- carefully.  That movement is still a little uncomfortable.

The best news of all: this can never happen to me again. The plantaris tendon doesn't grow back, and unlike the Achilles tendon, you can get along fine without it. There's only one in each leg, and now both of mine are gone. What a relief!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Burnt Almond Fudge Ice Cream

Decadent.  Deeply chocolate.  Much too good for children.

Paleo Burnt Almond Fudge Ice Cream

1/3 c. agave nectar
2 T. vanilla extract
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cans coconut milk
1/2 square unsweetened chocolate, shaved with vegetable peeler
1/2 c. sliced almonds

In a 2 quart mixing bowl, whisk together agave and vanilla extract.  Whisk in cocoa powder until completely dissolved into a syrup.  Stir in coconut milk.  Chill.

Line a baking sheet with foil.  Spread sliced almonds out in a single layer on baking sheet, lightly sprinkle with cinnamon.  Bake 6 - 8 minutes in a 350F oven.  Let cool.

Pour chilled mixture into an ice cream maker.  When mixture thickens, add the chocolate shavings.

Serve with a garnish of the toasted almonds.

Nutrition information per 1/2 c. serving:
7.5 g fat
8.5 g carb
1.5 g protein

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bike Adventures

Today's post isn't about food.  I plan to experiment with a new recipe tonight, so hopefully I'll have something on that front soon.  Today is about exercise zen.

Sometimes, instead of throwing heavy weights around the driveway, I just want to take a long adventure.  Today I woke up and decided to go on a "super long bike ride".  I moved here almost a year ago now, and I still am mostly uneducated about the bike trails nearby.  So, with water bottle, phone, and keys, I strapped on my helmet and proceeded my investigation.

There is a nice park not too far from my house, complete with several bike trails.  Getting there by bike is slightly treacherous, since the road is an expressway and there are no bike lanes.  The only sidewalk is on the "wrong" side of the street, but for my own safety, I choose to use it.  Better than getting creamed trying to "share the road", as all the signs say.  The expressway passes over a major freeway, and the guardrails are low.  All the other overpasses have nice tall fences protecting people from falling off, but not this one.  I have no desire to jump off an overpass, but I do sometimes worry that an extra strong wind will lift me off the sidewalk and drop me to my death among the speeding cars below.  I white-knuckle it a bit through that area.

After safely arriving at the park, I ride the trails and enjoy the currently dry wetlands.  There are benches situated for bird-watchers, I believe.  The wildlife wasn't particularly active today.

My goal was rather bear-went-over-the-mountain.  I just wanted to see what I could see.  So I chose a path and decided to just follow it.  I passed one paved trail, making a mental note to explore that another day.  Then I turned on to a wide gravel path that ran alongside a river.  Absolutely nothing looked familiar.  It was sort of surreal, riding along for miles, not knowing where I was.  As I approached my first gravelly incline, I saw a man struggling to pull his bike and trailer up.  I stopped and asked if he had everything under control.  He seemed surprised that I was speaking to him, but he smiled widely, revealing missing front teeth, and told me he'd be fine.  I smiled back and proceeded on my way.  About a mile or two later, I stopped and pulled out my phone, attempting a "you are here" moment.  I was by a park I'd never seen before, and I couldn't tell how far from home I was.  As I was putting my phone away, Toothless came riding up.

"I rode double time to catch up with you, because I wanted to tell you something."


"You know that saying, practice makes what?"


"Well, there's no such thing as perfection.   But I have to say, you must have practiced an awful lot, because you're the nearest thing to perfection I've ever seen."

Wow.  I haven't been picked up like this since I used to go to the gym.  I smiled and said thank you, you're very kind.  As he rode off, he told me I'd made his day, and I waved and wished him a lovely bike ride.

I continued on the trail as it rose above the backyards of small homes with manicured plants and swimming pools.  I passed a huge FedEx parking lot. Then I came to a fence that said "AIRPORT PROPERTY.  KEEP OUT."  I was so surprised, I said aloud, "Airport?  Where am I?!?"  There was still a public gravel trail alongside, so I decided there was nothing to do but keep riding.  Until I came to a dead end.  There was an empty hamster cage there.


Nothing to do but turn around.  I knew I'd passed a bridge a couple miles back, so I decided to cross it this time, and see if there was more to this trail on the other side of the river.

Ahhhhh, shade.

Sure enough.  On the other side of the river was the official trail, newly paved.  Lots of runners and bikers, and the occasional business person out for a lunchtime stroll.   I rode until I came to the airport.  At last!  I knew exactly where I was!  And pretty dang far from home, too.

parking garage at the airport

I turned around and headed back home.  I was starting to feel fatigued at this point, but euphoric with my adventure.  I passed this water tank that must have been decorated in the 70's.

retro water tower

My last stretch home was another "share the road" experience.  Taking the street instead of heading back to the park would be faster at that point, so I risked it.  I battled a headwind for the last couple miles, and my leg muscles were burning.  I arrived home, triumphant, having traveled 21 miles.  Super long bike ride, accomplished!