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