Saturday, December 14, 2013

Happy Healthy Holidays!

Tis' the season to be busy!   I've been virtually non-existent on here these past two months.  I'm sorry about that.  Well, not really..... I haven't made this site a priority in my life because, well, it isn't lately.  I am still cooking in healthy, homemade ways.  I just haven't made anything new or taken the time to take photos or write down recipes in the past several weeks. 

I promise you that things are going really well.  My cooking and recipe habits have their ebbs and flows like the rain and wind....  Sometimes I am really into it and and into sharing it.  While other times, I am working on other projects -- like being published in local magazines for my writing, like outlining my first novel, like working late to make overtime, like doing holiday activities with my two kids and husband, etc. etc.

So all is wonderful on our end - just hectic and busy and chaotic in that "real life" kind of way!  I want to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year too!

From my family to yours, have a healthy holiday season!  Remember that it's never too late to take control of your health and kick those bad sugar habits.  It's the best thing you can do for yourself and your family!


Best wishes,
Mandy, Kirk, Vivian and Lana

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Super Strawberry Cake

My oldest daughter is six years old.  I cannot believe it - where has the time gone? 

I asked my big girl what kind of cake she wanted for her special day.  Her reply was a "strawberry cake."  It did not surprise me!  My girl loves pink and anything associated with it - the character Strawberry Shortcake and the books about Pinkalicious too. 

I wanted to make a cake that the whole family could eat and feel good about.  Somehow I managed to pull it off.  Everyone said how good it tasted. 

I'm just happy that my little super-special girl loved her super six strawberry cake!

Super Strawberry Cake
(For one super-special six year old girl)

For the cake, a double layer - two nine inch rounds
9 eggs
1/2 cup of coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup of honey
3/4 cup of applesauce
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp blood orange olive oil (optional but I highly recommend it!!)
2 cups of almond flour
1/2 cup of coconut flour
1/2 cup of arrowroot flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans.  Set aside. 

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Blend together until smooth.  Pour into the two greased 9-inch cake pans, half into each one.  Bake for 30 minutes.   Remove from oven and let the cakes completely cool.  (I let them sit overnight.  Then I made the filling and frosting the next day). 

I stacked the cakes into a large cake pan.  This kept them the cakes untouched and in tact, until ready to add filling and frosting. 

For the filling
3 baskets of fresh strawberries, washed, leaves removed and sliced (reserve 1/4 cup for the frosting and a few slices for decorating the top)
1/3 cup of honey
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp coconut sugar (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup of coconut flour

After you wash the strawberries, remove the stems and slice them, slice a few (4-5) for decorating the top of your cake.  Place the rest of them in a food processor.  Puree them into they have small pieces but are not totally liquid. 

***Reserve 1/4 cup of the strawberries for the frosting!

Place the pureed strawberries into a small sauce pan.  Cook on medium heat for five minutes.  Add in the honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and vanilla extract. Once it's heated, add in the coconut flour slowly.  Stir with a spoon.  The flour will help thicken the mixture.  Cook for another five to seven minutes.  The filling should be thick and spreadable, like jam.

Remove from heat.  Place the mixture in the fridge for twenty minutes to a half hour or until it's completely cooled. 

Once cool, spread the filling all over one of the cakes.  Cover the top of it and sides.  Once done, place the second cake on top of the cake that is covered with filling. 

Now proceed to making the frosting.

For the frosting
1/4 cup of strawberry puree - reserved from the filling
32 oz of whipped cream cheese (I used two 16 oz tubs of the "whipped Philadelphia cream cheese")
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp blood orange olive oil (optional but again I highly recommend!!)

Place the 1/4 cup of reserved strawberry puree back into the food processor (or a blender).  Blend until completely a liquid.  Place the liquid in the bottom of bowl or electric mixing bowl.  Add in the whipped cream cheese, maple syrup and oil.  Whisk for about five minutes until it's well blended and fluffy. 

Spread the frosting with a spatula over both cakes, covering the top and sides.  Both cakes should be covered by the frosting.  Make as smooth as you can. 

Now decorate the top with your few remaining sliced strawberries or any other topping of your choice.  I made the number six out of our sliced berries.  Place in the candles and tell your someone special to make a wish.  Sing loudly.  Then slice and enjoy! 

Disclaimer:  This cake tastes so good that it may transform you into a super hero able to leap tall buildings with a single bound!

Happy Birthday Vivian Rose!  You are my super girl and I love you so much!

Mandy's Morning Glory Bread

October is almost over!  Wow, where did the time go?  Our family has been so busy hosting visitors, attending festivals and being outdoors to enjoy the nice fall weather. 

I have been cooking my usual wonderful meals but I did try one new bread that turned out fantastic.  So I had to share it here.  It reminds me of  a "morning glory" style bread.  You could easily use dried cranberries in the place of raisins -- raisins were just what I had on hand at the time of making it. 

I loved it and shared it with my co-workers.  They all raved about it.  Try it for your morning breakfast, as a snack or any time of the day!  You won't be disappointed.

Mandy's Morning Glory Bread
(Makes 1 loaf)

6 eggs, preferably from free-range chickens
1/2 cup of coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup of honey
1/2 cup of coconut flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp of baking soda
dash of salt
1 ripe banana, sliced and mashed
1 apple, cored, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 and 1/2 cups of shredded carrots
1/2 cup of raisins (or use dried cranberries)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lighly grease a bread loaf pan with olive oil or coconut oil. 

Do the prep work for your fruit - mash your banana, peel and chop your apple.  Shred your carrots.  Set aside for later.

Place your eggs, melted coconut oil and honey in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk for about two minutes or until smooth. 

Add in the coconut flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.  Whisk until all is blended (I used my electric mixer). 

Now add in the chopped, shredded and mashed fruit.  Mix with a large spoon or use the lowest setting on your electric mixer to combine.  Fold in the raisins (or dried cranberries). 

Spoon mixture out into the greased loaf pan.  Use a spoon or your hands to press it down and spread it evenly. 

Place in the oven.  Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees or until desired brown color. 

Let it cool for about ten minutes before trying to slice and serve. 

Store in the fridge.  Eat on it for several days.  Reheat and spread a small amount of butter on it for pure delight! 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Pumpkin Fever - Who Has it Besides Me? :-)

Ahh, it's fall time....  Cooler temperatures, light sweater weather and best of all - PUMPKINS! 

Does anyone else out there LOVE pumpkins like I do?!  I love the versatility of this vegetable that is sweet like a fruit.  I've made three meals with it in the last three days!! 

First I went through the drive-thru on Friday to obtain my first Pumpkin Spiced Latte of the season.  Oh yes I did.  Loved every sip of it too. 

Next I made my pumpkin chili recipe for our dinner on Sunday.  This is actually my daughter Vivian's favorite meal that I make for her. 

Then I made pumpkin custard skillet pancake for breakfast on Monday.  I make these at least twice a month though, year round.  Still it feels even more amazing when I eat them during autumn season. 

Finally, this afternoon I made this pumpkin gingerbread cake.  Oh my gosh... it was heaven in a square pan.  Okay, actually I used a round pan!  Still, soooo  soooo good!! 

Mmmm, mmm, mmmm! 

I found this link for the "Best 50 Pumpkin Paleo Recipes" too!  I'm going to cook or bake with as many as these as I can for the next two months!

What's your favorite way to cook with pumpkin or enjoy it? 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

This Week's Meals and Being Prepared (Sept. 9-14, 2013)

I like being prepared.  Don't you?  ;-)

Okay, so maybe that above picture is a bit much; however, I sure can appreciate the same sentiment when it comes to food and having meals ready when I need them.  

I am still doing great with weekend prep-work for the days coming ahead.  I may not always make the time to share them here on this blog; but for now I'm committed to taking a few minutes to share what I'm doing here to make our family's life easier!  So YAY for me to keep a written record of it (so I can repeat it again several weeks from now) and HOORAY for you if you're reading this and it helps your family too!  

Here's what I did this weekend - I made a double batch of my fake tomato sauce (beet sauce).  This is our replacement for tomatoes which my husband no longer eats.  I made twice the amount; therefore I was able to freeze half of it for later!  I used the beet sauce as a base to make this pizza zucchini recipe and a chicken Parmesan one this week too. 

Because I felt like changing up our snacks and treats, I tried out a new banana bread with a hint of pear and also an upside down berry cake too. 

In addition, I made a different pancake for breakfast too which the girls and I enjoyed.  It was very filling - These chocolate peanut butter pancakes!

So this is the lineup for the next several days:

Breakfast this week - Alternate chocolate-peanut butter pancakes with scrambled eggs or a veggie omelet

Lunches this week - Alternate Leftovers of the following:
Chicken Parmesan over spaghetti squash noodles and spinach
Pizza Zucchini with salad
Jambalaya Stew - which I had in my freezer fron a few months ago, yippee!

Dinners this week - Dirty rice with green beans,
Mexican Meatza with salad
Grilled fish with sweet potato and mixed veggies
Big salads, breakfast quiche or take-out on the other nights

Snacks and treats this week - Banana Bread
Upside down berry cake

Oh joy, it's going to be a great week, at least as far as the food goes!  ;-) 

Have a good one!


One-Dish, Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Pancakes

I'm calling this breakfast because it's technically pancakes.  But it can be used as a sweet treat or snack item too.  My girls really loved these.  They are flour-less, delicious and packed with good protein and fat for a filling meal.

I spent several minutes on Saturday searching around for a different breakfast idea and came across this recipe from Detoxinista.  I bookmarked it to make a variation of it.  I agree with Detoxinista about baking pancakes instead of flipping them on a grill.  They are easier to make and require less effort. 

I took her idea a step further though and baked mine all in one large skillet instead of doing individual cakes.  I baked it on the stove top for five minutes.  Then I added a few spoons of Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips to the batter before placing it in the oven for another fifteen minutes.  I didn't have to deal with parchment paper like she suggested.  I'm all about trying to simplify ways of cooking and baking to make my life easier!

Try out this delicious recipe.  You'll be glad you did!

One-Dish, Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Pancakes
Adapted from Detoxinista
(Makes 8 slices or Serves about 4)

olive oil for greasing pan
1/2 cup of peanut butter (or almond butter or other nut butter of your choice - read ingredients carefully so you're getting the most natural form possible) - I used a combination of an organic flavored Earth Balance Coconut Oil Peanut butter and a Chocolate Peanut butter I had on hand! 
1/2 cup of applesauce, no sugar added or unsweetened
2 whole eggs, from free-range chickens
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp Enjoy Life chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Turn on stove stop burner to low heat.

Spray your skillet (about 9-10 inch round in size) with all natural olive oil.  Or lightly brush it if you don't have the spray.  Set aside. 

In a mixing bowl, place your nut butter of choice, applesauce, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla or almond extract and baking soda.  Let your standing mixer whisk it around for about three minutes.  Or whisk by hand until smooth.

Pour into the greased large skillet.  Turn your stove top heat up to medium.  Cook for five minutes.  Add in the 2 Tbsp of Enjoy Life chocolate chips by sprinkling them over the top of the batter.

Then remove from the stove top and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for fifteen minutes.  Be sure you chose an oven safe skillet. 

Carefully remove from the oven with an oven hand mit so you don't burn your skin.  Place on a towel and let it cool for several minutes. 

Slice it like a pancake pizza.  I cut mine into eight pieces.  Enjoy!  No maple syrup is even's sweet and delicious as is! 

Place any extras in a storage container so you can simply reheat in the microwave for several days in a row for busy, school mornings!   That's what our family does - they keep for at least five days in the fridge and makes mommy's life easy  :-)

Mmm, chocolate and peanut butter (or almond butter or cashew butter) - such a great combination! 

Want more pancake ideas? 
Try my one dish pumpkin pancake recipe
OR my banana cinnamon pancakes!

Monday, September 2, 2013

This Week's Meals (Sept. 2-7, 2013)

My first week back in the work force went well.  Being prepared and having those meals ready to just reheat were my lifesavers!  I didn't do quite as much cooking this weekend as I hoped for but I still managed to plan out four lunches for my husband and me this week.  I also made a breakfast for my daughters and pulled out a soup from the freezer.  Not bad for a weekend with my husband and girls all feeling sick and me having to put in four hours at the office on Labor day! 

Why do I do all this?  Why do I slave in the kitchen?  Because being prepared keeps you on the right track and allows you to have the healthy lifestyle you want and need to survive.  Having good food on hand keeps you from making bad choices....  I'm a firm believer in that.  When people are lazy, they become careless and reach for quick fixes like fast food and processed foods.....that's when you get into trouble and cause your body stress, tension or simply become ill because of the crap you are feeding yourself.  Don't do it!  Just spend an hour in the kitchen and help yourself in the long run with better-for-you and your family choices.

Once you get into a preparation and meal planning routine, you can see great results and be a lot less stressed!

Here's how our week is planned out:

Oh wow, I love seeing our fridge stocked up with containers ready to go just like the above!

Our meals -

Breakfast for the girls and me- Alternate Scrambled Eggs with Pumpkin chocolate chip pancake

Lunches for husband and me - Alternate the following:
Meatloaf (with added carrots and spinach inside!) and steamed broccoli,
Basil-onion chicken burgers with green beans,
Sausage and Kale soup - lucky me I had this already in the freezer from the last time I made it! 

Dinners - Leftover meatloaf for two nights
Hot dogs,
Skillet Sausage with Sweet potatoes and spinach
Pepperoni Pizza using this crust recipe
Salads with all dinners listed above
And take-out on Friday night to wind down the work week.

Snacks - Protein, protein, protein!  This week I'm bringing deli meats, my favorites by Applegate farms and some Amish cheese too.  I have it all packed in a bag like this: 

Protein is what fills me up and sustains me until my next meal.  Don't reach for crackers or bread or empty carbs folks!  Grab healthy protein and you'll feel better and have more energy throughout the day!

For more meal planning ideas, check out this post I did awhile back for ideas you can serve in a month!  Enjoy! 

Have a great week!  I know I will since I already have so much less cooking to do or plan!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Stocking Up and Being Prepared

I start a new job outside the home this week.  I'm actually VERY EXCITED about it!  It is a temp to hire job working for a local TV station.  I'm so thrilled at this opportunity.  I hope it will be amazing.  The people seem great.  It's the equivalent of a local PBS station - therefore it's everything I believe in - quality programming, education and community outreach.  I can't wait to learn more and see how I can help. 

I will miss my girls, that is true.  But with V in Kindergarten and L so active and into everything, I realize that they will thrive and love being around other children.  I've laid a good foundation for them this summer but I think we're all ready to return to school in our own respects. 

Since I'm going back to that 8 to 5 job (or rather 7:30 to 4:30 in my new case), I know my time will be less in the kitchen when it comes to preparing healthy, fresh meals.  So I'm doing more work on the weekends to set us up for the week.  I am stocking up and preparing ahead of time so our breakfasts and lunches will be ready to go. 

Yesterday I took three pounds of grass fed meat (combination of beef, sausage and veal) and made eleven burgers.  I also took two cans of wild-caught salmon and made eight salmon patties with it.  I baked about ten sweet potatoes. I made my banana cinnamon pancakes and added blueberries to them for this morning and tomorrow's breakfast.  I portioned out the burgers for lunch and froze the three or four I had leftover for future lunches.

Burgers and salmon patties are made with extras to place in freezer.

Baked sweet potatoes for the whole week.  They just need re-heating. 

Today my plan is to steam broccoli and carrots for our lunches this week.  I will make an egg quiche with vegetables for my breakfast for the next several days.  I will also make my favorite carrot bread/muffins for snacks to enjoy this week. 

On average, I spend about 2 hours in the kitchen on a Saturday and Sunday doing prep-work in the kitchen.  That may seem like a lot to some folks - four hours within two days?!  It's worth it to me though.  There are many hours in a day and I can get that done in the mornings while my kids play together.  Those hours will save me tons of time during the work week. The prep-work I did already will allow me to have the following for this week:

Breakfast each day - Alternate egg quiche and pancake

Snacks - Carrot bread, spoonfuls of peanut butter or almond butter, cheese, grapes

Lunches - Alternate burger and salmon patty with a side of sweet potato and steamed veggies. 
On future weeks, I will make my chicken basil burgers and meatloaf.  Or I could make pumpkin chili or sausage and kale soup.

- This will vary.  I imagine I will cook two nights a week, something quick like my stir fry or my dirty rice.  The other nights I will just eat a large mixed salad.   

Dessert - I always have my 90% Lindt Dark Chocolate bars on hand!  :-)

One day a week for lunch and dinner I will allow myself to eat out.   Now that I'll be bringing in some income again, I feel justified to spend a little cash to give myself a break in the kitchen.  I will still make healthy choices in what I choose for take-out though as I always do.

On weekends we will have more time for some of my more labor-intensive meals that involve homemade sauces and lots of vegetable chopping.  This would be things like our Mexican Meatza and Baked Cauli-tater Casserole.  

I think this will work great for our family and allow us to keep up our healthy eating habits without rushing around in the kitchen each day.  I will keep you posted here on how we are doing and how work is going. 

Cheers to the start of something new with preparation in place!

Friday, July 26, 2013

I'm Still Cooking, But....

Hi there!  I say to no one in particular.  I don't think too many people view this site. 

This blog is for me to have a place to share and view my favorite recipes from the past year.   I have really enjoyed it.  I make these meals all the time for my family.

But I'm taking a break from recipe writing and creating new foods.  I'm still cooking but I'm focused on other things now.  I'm more than just a good cook after all.  I do writing of all kinds - stories, poetry, news articles, etc.  I've always been a creative writer.  I wrote my first poem in the fifth grade and won grand prize at my elementary school.  Ever since then, I've been hooked on this whole writing thing.   I enjoy reading all types of literature but my real passion is to write about real life, what I'm doing, how crazy my kids are, what we do together and more. 

Recently I have had two articles published simply because I wrote them and then pitched my ideas to a few different editors.  I was happily surprised how well received they were.  One is about a creative reading program you can do with your children.  The next one, coming out in September, is about my family's healthy eating habits, how we got rid of all processed foods and how we support our local farmers and farming communities.  I will share that one here once it's in print! 

I'm entering writing contests, from humor topics to essays.  I search every day for a new opportunity.  I can't believe how many free contests exist out there with winners having the chance to receive prize money and be published.  Hell yeah!~ 

In other news - I am also on the job hunt.  After being home with my girls for a year, it's time to enter the work force again.  I'm so glad I have been a stay-at-home mom not once but twice for my family.  It made a huge difference in our health and sanity.  We never could have made the switch to no-processed foods if I wasn't as committed to cooking at home as I have been in this past year.  Now that we have perfected that and that dollars are needed, I am ready to move on to a career.  Wish me luck!  I know that any employer would be lucky to have me.  I just have to find the right place that I will love and want to give my heart and put my determination toward.

So that's what is happening with me.  If you came across this site and liked what you see, thank you!  I will probably still post from time to time but certainly not that often or every week like I was doing for awhile.  Life takes you in new directions and you have to roll with it.

Have a great day.  Keep cooking.  Keep being healthy.  It will pay off! 


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Festive Flag Fruity Pizza and Happy Fourth of July!

I had an urge to be all Martha-Stewart like today and create something edible, full of holiday spirit and that looked pretty too!  The end result is cute and tasty, not beautiful like her creations but darn good for just little old me and my basic hands. 

This would be a great addition to your barbecues and cook-outs on Independence Day.  No guilt when consuming it either - this one is gluten-free, dairy-free, has no added sugars or artificial preservatives.  So relax and enjoy while watching the fireworks fly!

Festive Flag Fruity Pizza
(Serves 10-12)

For the crust:
1 cup of tapioca flour
1/2 cup + 1/8 cup of coconut flour
1/2 cup + 1/8 cup of pecan flour (or use almond or another nut flour)
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup of warm water
1/4 cup extra light virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp honey

For the whipped topping:
1 can of coconut milk - preferably one that was in the fridge for a day or so
3 Tbsp maple syrup

Decorations for the flag:
1 basket (pint) size of strawberries
1/2 cup of blueberries

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a 13x9 inch rectangle pan.

To make the pizza crust: In a large bowl, combine the tapioca flour, coconut flour, pecan (or other nut) flour, cinnamon, vanilla extract, almond extract, salt and baking soda.  Mix well.

In a smaller separate bowl combine your two eggs, warm water, honey and extra light olive oil.  Mix well.  Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Stir until combined.  It should look like a dough or typical batter:

Spread the pizza dough out into your greased 13x9 inch rectangular baking pan. Don't worry if the dough seems thin or barely able to cover the pan.  It will puff up and spread out.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until it is lightly browned.  Like this:

Let the pizza crust cool for at least 30 minutes.  Go do something fun - read a book, listen to music. 

After 30 minutes, make your whipped topping and slice your strawberries.

To make the whipped topping: Open up your can of refrigerated coconut milk.  Pour or scoop out into a standing mixer.  Add in the 3 Tbsp of maple syrup. 

Use the beater blade and whip for about five minutes or until it has a creamy texture.  Like this:

Spoon or pour the whipped topping over the cooled pizza crust.  Like this:

Now comes the fun part.  Decorate your pizza into a flag using about 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries and 1 pint of fresh, sliced strawberries.  Make your rows (stripes) and your square (stars).  Then eat and enjoy!

Have a wonderful Fourth of July Holiday!   Our guest room will be full for most of this month so I may be missing in action on this recipe site in July quite a bit. 

Let the summer time fun really begin! 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fruit and Veggie Drink

I can't really call this a smoothie.  I didn't put enough ice or amount of liquid in there to make it true to a smoothie form.  It definitely is not juice either.  I'm not sure what to call it except for one very tasty concoction that I sucked down in about two minutes flat.  No brain freeze either! 

I suppose I will just refer to it as a Fruit and Veggie Drink.  That's easier to say than Mango-Berry-Banana-Carrot-Spinach Drink.  That seemed just a bit too much to try to roll off the tongue.  This recipe is very sweet but has some nutritious, raw veggies in there.  It has no added sugar.  Did I mention it was delicious? Because it is! 

I don't know what possessed me to make it.  I just wanted to drink my snack instead of spooning out my usual go-to items like yogurt and almond butter. I literally had no plan.  No recipe.  I just looked around my kitchen for available ingredients.  I threw them into my blender and this is the end result.  

So I'm sharing it here before I forget - You'll thank me for this one!  And you're very welcome!

Fruit and Veggie Drink
(Serves 2 - or one for now, one in the fridge for later)

3/4 cup of crushed ice
1 ripe mango - peeled, seed removed and flesh scooped out
1 banana - peeled
1/3 cup of blueberries - rinsed
1 cup of raw, fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup of raw carrot slices
3/4 cup of dairy or non-dairy liquid (I used 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream and 1/2 cup of organic, whole milk) - you could certainly use almond milk or coconut milk if dairy isn't your thing!

Place the ice at the bottom of your blender.  Then add the mango flesh, banana and berries.  I packed 1 cup of spinach leaves into a measuring cup and tossed them into the blender.  Then I added the carrot slices.  The cup of dairy liquid (or coconut or almond milk) goes in last.  I used a combo of 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream and 3/4 cup of organic, whole milk. 

Now blend for about a minute or two.  I pressed several settings on my device - Stir, Mix, Crush (to make sure my ice didn't stay chunky).  You'll have to follow your instincts as far as what your machine can do.

When everything is well incorporated and liquified, you are ready to pour.  Mine filled up two tall 16 ounce glasses. 

Yes, I realize it doesn't look very pretty.  But I promise you it tastes amazing and refreshing!  It is very filling too.

This one is a keeper so I will continue experimenting with fruits and veggies as drinks.   If I can create another amazing recipe like this, I will be sure to share it here. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sweet & Savory Stir-fry, Paleo Pen Pals and My Mishap too!

Earlier this month I signed up to join the Paleo Pen Pals community.  This is a place where those of us following the Paleo lifestyle can network, get to know each other, share recipes and products.  You can read more about the rules and how to participate right here to determine if it's something you might be interested in joining!

My Paleo Pen Pal for June was Michigan-native Jennifer from the site Wine to Weightlifting.  She is this witty, beautiful, free-spirited crossfit super-woman who can do it all.  She follows the 80/20 rule when it comes to Paleo lifestyle.  She lifts heavy things.  She runs (even though she doesn't always like it).  She exercises in these stylish and fun outfits!  She cares for her big dog Ripley who happens to loves carrots and peanut butter treats.  She is really cool, from what I can tell.  I had a lot of fun getting to know her and bugging her with lots of questions. Go check out her site

Jennifer sent me a whole box full of goodies.  See below.  

Woo-hoo, I'm special! I sure racked up for my first time with Paleo Pen Pals!  :-)

She even thought to include something for my kids too.  Vivian had fun unwrapping the goodies and enjoyed eating the portable applesauce "Fruity U" that you can drink.

Jennifer even got a little something for our dog too!  Bono loved the all natural peanut butter flavored treats.  Here he is waiting patiently for me to give him some:

The main goodies that I received and use in this recipe are the Coconut Aminos bottle and the pink sea salt crystals. I love, LOVE, L-O-V-E Coconut Aminos.  It's a soy sauce replacement genius.  I've been cooking with it for awhile now but I can only purchase it at one specialty foods store here in Pensacola (Ever'man's Grocery, a co-op).  It's a great place but located about 25 minutes from my home; therefore I just don't get over there very often.  So it was nice to receive a bottle of this stuff from my pen pal.  I use this Coconut Aminos in everything - burgers, eggs, marinades for shrimp and more! 

Jennifer told me she makes a lot of stir fry meals because she wants something fast and easy after a  long day at work and coming home from the gym where she finished an intense crossfit workout.  So in her honor, I wanted to make a new and delicious stir-fry meal for my family.  I think she would approve of this one.  I know my family and I did.... 

Sweet and Savory Stir-fry
(Serves 4)

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pound (16 oz) bag of mixed vegetables - I chose California blend: broccoli, cauliflower and carrots
4 to 5 links (12 oz) of sausage (or chicken or other meat of choice) - Love this Al fresco brand!
1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced into small pieces
1/4 cup of Coconut Aminos
1/4 cup of my mango salad dressing (Or try substituting a combo of orange juice and applesauce)
two dashes of sea salt
optional - 1 tsp of bacon grease (I always have some on hand and love to add it to dishes for flavor!)
optional - 1 bag of frozen cauliflower if you wish to serve your stir-fry over "rice"

Coat a large skillet or sauce pan (or Wok if you have one) with the 2 Tbsp of olive oil.  Place on medium-low heat.  Place all your ingredients out on the counter for easy access.

Slice up your sausage (or other meat you are using).  My family's favorite is the sweet apple chicken flavor by Al Fresco.   Toss it into the heated olive oil.  Let that cook for about 3-4 minutes, just until the sausage becomes a little brown.  Open up your bag of frozen vegetables and pour them into the pot with the meat.  Cook for about five to seven minutes.  Stir your meat and veggie mixture once or twice during that time. 

Note: You could easily prepare your cauliflower rice to serve this on while the meat and veggies are cooking!  Follow this easy recipe!

If you like your veggies real crunchy you can lower the heat then add in your sauces here.  If you like your veggies a bit more soft, continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes or until desired consistency. 

Add in the 1/4 cup of coconut aminos.  Add in the pre-made mango salad dressing.  (If you don't have this on hand or can't get your hands on a mango, you could substitute part orange juice and part applesauce).  Put two dashes of sea salt in the pan. 

Don't be like me and dump more than a tablespoon of rock hard sea salt crystals into your pan!  Yes I suppose I need a dummy-proof cap on those grinders because when I opened the one Jennifer sent me, I managed to knock 1/3 of the bottle into my stir fry!  YIKES!  WHAT A MISHAP!  Biting into a sea salt rock would NOT be a good thing!

After I cursed a little bit, I decided to laugh about it.  Then I used a collander to help "drain" the crystals from my stir fry meal.  Like this:

            Yikes, who wants rocks in their food!?

After I fished out all the sea salts, I put the rest of my stir-fry back in the pan.  I continued to cook the mixture for another few minutes.  Mix and stir.  Mix and stir.  Mix and stir.  Let the sauce simmer with the veggies for about another five minutes. 

Remove from heat.   Serve this over my easy, primal rice.   Sweet and savory.  A winning combination!

This recipe was kid and husband-tested and approved.   Enjoy! 

I can't wait to meet another Paleo Pen Pal next month and beyond.  It's nice getting to know someone new and hearing about how this eating lifestyle works.  Although for next month, I think I will just suggest that my pen pal and I only swap recipes and not send any products.  This will help me stay within our family's tight summer budget! 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Banana Coconut Cookies (Just 4 Ingredients - Egg-free, Nut-free)

My husband Kirk has been avoiding so many foods to help his stomach heal.  He hasn't been able to eat any cookies, muffins or my usual baked items because they all contain eggs or seeds or nuts of some kind.  I wanted to find a recipe that he could actually eat while following the AIP protocol.  It was going to be my Father's Day gift to him.  I searched nearly 50 recipes and only found this recipe from Empowered Sustenance that fit his current needs.  So I tried it out.  I replaced the coconut oil for the butter from her version.  However, I burnt the cookies and I found them lacking a bit of sweetness.  Also, mine came out flat and oily.  Therefore I decided to change that recipe by adding in some bananas since my husband loves them so much.  I also substituted Coconut Nectar for the honey since it's thicker and has a more molasses-like flavor.  I hoped it would hold the cookies together better.  It did!  And I'm happy with the end result! 

Hubby loved these too! I'm so glad I could find something sweet to make for him.  He's an amazing husband and father.  He deserves a treat from time to time (besides his two girls and me, that is :-)   Best of all these cookies are easy and only require four ingredients.  No eggs or nuts needed!

Banana Coconut Cookies ("Kirk's Cookies")
(Makes 8)

2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed - some small chunks are fine!
1 Tbsp coconut oil - do not melt!
1 Tbsp Coconut Nectar (or just use honey)
3 Tbsp coconut flour

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Place parchment paper over a cookie sheet pan. 

Mash your bananas in a medium size bowl.  Stir with a fork.  Add in the 1 Tbsp of coconut oil.  Do not melt the oil first.  Just mix it around and in with a fork to incorporate it.  Pour in the Coconut Nectar (or honey).  Blend and mix together. 

Now sprinkle over the coconut flour and mix it in.  The coconut flour should thicken up the cookie dough. 

Spoon the cookie dough in 1 Tbsp measurements onto the non-greased parchment paper.  I was able to make 8 perfect size cookies with this batter.  I used a cookie scooper but a regular spoon should work fine too.  I pushed lightly down on each cookie with a fork. 

Bake in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  The cookies should just be a little bit brown on top.  Bake longer (2-3 minute increments) if they still seem soft in the center.  Or just bake until your preferred consistency or darkness.

Remove from oven and let them cool for at least five minutes.  If you try to eat them or remove them from the paper while still hot, they will fall apart.  Also, a banana chunk hot from the oven could burn your tongue! Be careful.

Also, don't be surprised if they stick a bit to the parchment paper.  Mine did! 

Oops!  Oh well, they still stayed together and they tasted great!

 Maybe next time I'll make a double batch - one for him and one just for me.  

I may even try these with bacon in them too!  Mmm, mmm, everything tastes better with bacon....

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mango Salad Dressing

I love salads.  I eat one almost every day, sometimes twice a day.  How boring you might be thinking!  But honestly I do.  When you find the right oils and vinegars, you can dress up that boring stack of spinach leaves and enjoy every bite you take.

I've become obsessed with my infused oils and vinegars.  I have established quite a collection of them too:

This is in part thanks to a local specialty store here in Pensacola, Florida called The Bodacious Olive.   We love going to this place to sample and purchase a new flavor, especially when our out-of-town family and friends come to visit us.  It reminds me of wine tasting in California.  You've got your little paper cups and even some bread for dipping.  Except this place has more than 20 different flavors of both infused vinegars and olive oils.  Going there and sampling their products is so much fun (and delicious too)!  I have tried nearly all of them, from blood orange olive oil to garlic butter olive oil and from white chocolate truffle vinegar to aged 18+ years balsamic vinegar.  They are all good in their own ways.  You just have to figure out what you'd use the most of and how you'd use it.

However, this little obsession has gotten expensive.  All of those bottles add up ($10 per average small bottle). When you're on a tight summer budget, it's time to start thinking more frugally and to start making your your own! 

So that's what I did.  I had a mango on hand and wanted to try a mango sauce/dressing that would be sweet and tasty on salads.  Thankfully I achieved that! 

Mango Salad Dressing
(Makes one cup - about 6 to 8 servings)

1 mango - peeled, seeded and sliced
3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp white cooking wine
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried and crushed sweet basil leaves
1 cup water

Grab all your ingredients and spread them on the table.  It's much more helpful to have everything at your fingertips, ready to pour.

Prepare your mango first by peeling, removing the seeds and slicing it.  Place it in a medium size bowl.  Place all other ingredients into that bowl.  Mix well.  Pour into a blender or food processor. 

Puree until smooth.  Some small chunks are okay if yours doesn't quite liquify. 

Serve over spinach leaves, Swiss chard or any salad green of your choice.  This is really good and very simple to make.

In my next post, I will show you what else you can use this mango dressing for to really enhance a weeknight meal.  Stay tuned!