Monday, February 25, 2013

Pumpkin Apple Butter Muffins

Moist, moist muffins.

I'm really in the mood for muffins.  Pumpkin muffins... with apple sauce... NO, apple BUTTER.  Yeahhhhh!

I have a friend who does not like honey.  (Crazy, I know!)  So I want to make muffins she might try.  Something with only fruit for sweetness.  Some cinnamon... cinnamon is tasty with pumpkin.

Too often, breads made with coconut flour are dry and sort of uhh... rubbery.  Like Play-doh but with less flavor.  So let's go easy on the coconut flour.

When I read recipes, I'm usually hungry and in a hurry and if there are too many ingredients or the instructions look complicated, I move on.  I did my best to keep this one simple.  I also made it so you don't have half a can of pumpkin hanging around that you don't know what to do with.

Two suggestions: look for apple butter made with only apples and apple cider.  That's all you need for really great apple butter.  Also, take an extra couple of seconds (and one more thing to wash.. I know!) sift the coconut flour.  It tends to stick together and makes lumps that are hard to break down once it's thrown in the batter.

Pumpkin Apple Butter Muffins

1/3 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup golden flax meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons Pumpkin pie spice
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
15 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
5 eggs
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 1/3 cup apple butter
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup carrot shreds
1/3 cup dried apricots, diced (or raisins or dried cherries)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together coconut flour, flax meal, baking soda, salt, and spices.  In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, coconut oil, and apple butter.  Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, then add the apple cider vinegar, carrots, and diced apricots.
Bake in muffin pans with liners for 30 - 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Allow muffins to cool in the pan.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Science of Paleo Baking

"How can I make my favorite baked goods into Paleo recipes?"  I asked myself this from the first day.  

I am a Baker.  I researched (read: nerded-out) the science of how standard baking works long before I tried Paleo.  I worked in bakeries and I competed in cake decorating and baking competitions.

There.  Now you have my credentials.  I'll try not to lead you astray.

There are a few trips and tricks with Paleo baking.  First, you have to realize that Paleo baked items are not going to be as light and fluffy as your standard recipes.  Even Gluten-free baking is different because the flours are lighter because they are highly processed.  Second, because there is no sugar, paleo items are going to taste different.  Honey is sweet.  Super sweet.  But it doesn't taste like sugar and it doesn't react like sugar when it is cooked or baked.  I don't believe in using Agave syrup because I feel it is too highly processed.  Personally, I'm trying to ease up on the honey as well as maple syrup and leaning more toward fruit as a natural sweetener (personal choice).

Let's start with sweet stuff.

Honey has natural sweetness.  It has a lot of wonderful, natural properties.  Some say it has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergen properties.  For more on that, Google.
In baking, honey adds moisture.  Once added to baked goods, honey will not solidify.  Honey will never set like corn syrup or sugar syrup.  It is not a good choice for candy making.

Coconut Sugar or Coconut Palm Sugar
Coconut Sugar is a sweetener but is not as sweet as regular sugar or honey and is rather dark like brown sugar.  It will melt somewhat, as regular sugar does, but will retain some larger bits.  In very light recipes (such as my Paleo Ice Cream) it will leave brown specks.  It has a sort of caramel flavor.

Banana acts as a binder in Paleo baking (meaning, it helps the other ingredients stick together after they are baked) as well as adding sweetness.  You will see lots and lots of Vegan recipes that use bananas.

Eggs act as a binder as well as adding moisture, richness and flavor.  (In standard baking, flour forms gluten to help molecules bind together.)

Flax Meal
Flax Meal works as a binder but is less effective than eggs.  Used in conjunction, Flax Meal and eggs make great partners.  It helps cut cost, also.  If you saw a recipe for muffins that needed 10 eggs, you probably wouldn't want to make it.  Flax Meal is also Vegan.

Coconut Flour
Coconut Flour is a base ingredient.  Coconut Flour is ground coconut with the oil removed.  It helps hold together wet ingredients such as coconut milk and coconut oil.  Coconut Flour is very absorbant.  More absorbant than Almond Meal.

Almond Meal
Also known as Almond Flour.  Almond Meal is ground, blanched almonds.  Like Coconut Flour, Almond Meal is a base ingredient that helps hold together wet ingredients.  It is not as finely ground as Coconut Flour.

Almond Butter
Almond Butter is ground almonds.  Similar to peanut butter, it comes in a jar and usually needs to be stirred because the oil separates out.  Never pour off the oil from Almond Butter.  You will be left with a super thick paste that is very difficult to use.  I speak from experience.  Almond Butter is more finely ground than Almond Meal.  Use unsalted, unsweetened Almond Butter.  Almond Butter does not blend well with coconut oil.  I'm not sure why, but the coconut oil will separate out and I can not get it to blend back together.

Sunflower Seed Butter or Sunbutter
Sunbutter is ground sunflower seeds.  It is similar to Almond Butter but I haven't found that it has the same separation issue.  It is good for people with nut allergies.  It does have a green tinge once it is baked.

Baking Soda
Baking Soda is a leavener, which means it helps add air to baked goods, making them less dense.  Baking Soda replaces Baking Powder, which is highly processed.  Apple Cider Vinegar helps Baking Soda react during baking.  It also helps mask the metallic flavor of Baking Soda.

Disclaimer:  with some work, you can probably convert some of Grandma's recipes to Paleo but there will be a LOT of trial and error and it will never, never be exactly like the original.  Coconut Flour and Almond Flour are pretty inter-changeable but if you attempt to replace a quantity of all-purpose flour with the same amount of Coconut Flour, it will fail.  This list is intended to help you understand how Paleo recipes work, and can help if you have a Paleo recipe that fails.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bikini Season Salad

Bikini Season is coming!  Bikini Season IS COMING!!
You're sliding aren't you?  You were good for a while and you stuck to those New Year's resolutions for... a couple of weeks.  I bet you did great! 

Until you started craving Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese.  And then it was Mardi Gras and then Valentines Day is coming.  You can't let that chocolate go to waste!

I have a salad that's going to help you get into that bikini in a few months.

This salad is super simple to prepare and it gets better as it sits in the fridge for a couple of days.

In a large bowl, combine:
Carrots, red and yellow peppers, julienned
Broccoli and cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
Black olives, Kalamata olives (or green olives or even pickles)
Toss with Garlic Vinaigrette Dressing:

Red Wine vinegar
Extra Virgin olive oil
Minced garlic (or crushed, roasted garlic is delicious but doesn't seem to stay fresh for long)
I use 2 to 4 Tablespoons or cloves per cup of vinegar.
Dried spices (oregano, basil, marjoram)
Salt & pepper

I re-use an old plastic olive oil bottle and toss in the ingredients without measuring which gives me the freedom to make a little or a lot. Mix vinegar and oil using a One-to-One ratio (equal amounts of each-- just eyeball it in the jar) then add your other ingredients. Place the cap on the bottle and shake vigorously. Keep this dressing in the fridge for a month or more. Shake vigorously before each use.

I use about 3/4 cup of dressing for this large salad.  When you stir it, you should see a couple of tablespoons of dressing pooled in the bottom of the bowl.
Stir the salad after a couple of hours and then again after it has been in the fridge overnight.  It really does get better and better. A salad I can make ahead and it's not going to get all wilty and nasty? YAY! That is the best kind of salad. Come home after a long day and not have to think about what to prepare for dinner? Awesome!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Eggplant Pizza with Tomato Sauce

Eggplant was abundant at my CSA this year.  Lucky for them because with the drought we've had, not much else was hearty enough to withstand it. 

Lucky for them, less lucky for me, since I don't love the stuff.  Ratatouille - meh.  Eggplant Parmesan - can't do bread crumbs.  Babaganoush - looks like a big pile of mush.  I can't just throw the things away and giving them away seemed kind of wasteful also.  Somewhere my brain recalled a video of someone making a Paleo pizza crust from eggplant.  I haven't had pizza in forever.  Pizza is delicious!  Yay brain!  Let's make PIZZA!

I won't try to fool you and say this pizza tastes just like delivery.  But if you have eggplant, this is a pretty good vehicle for using it up.  And eggplant is really healthy and has lots of fiber.   Mmmm... Fiber.  Just kidding.  But we all know we need it, especially after a lot of meat-gorging.

The recipe for the crust is simple, and I used one I found here:


About a pound of eggplant, shredded
2 whole eggs, beaten
1 oz, weight (about 1/4 cup) grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbs golden flax meal
1/4 tsp salt
Coconut oil
Sauce, cheese, and toppings of your choice
Preheat oven to 450
Toss the eggplant shreds with the salt while you prepare the other ingredients. This will help draw out some moisture.
Squeeze out as much moisture as you can from the eggplant (either by hand or using the press method shown below).

Combine the drained eggplant shreds with the other ingredients.
Line a baking sheet or pizza pan with parchment paper. Lightly coat it with coconut oil. Press the eggplant mixture into a round shape about 1/4" thick.

  Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. 

Flip the crust half way through baking: coat a second piece of parchment with coconut oil and lay it on top of the pizza crust.  Put a second cookie sheet on top of the parchment and flip the whole works over (please PLEASE do not burn yourself.  If you are clumsy, please wait until the first cookie sheet has slightly cooled before attempting this maneuver).  Remove the first cookie sheet and peel the first piece of parchment off. 

Continue baking another 5 - 10 minutes or until golden brown, then top with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and whatever toppings you like.  I used Applegate Naturals Uncured Pepperoni.  I also highly recommend crumbled homemade sausage.

Pizza Sauce

6 oz. can tomato paste
1 teaspoon coconut sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

After topping, bake an additional 5 - 7 minutes, until the cheese has melted. 

This re-heats really well in a toaster oven, if you have leftovers.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Paleo Zucchini Bread

Just look at that gorgeous, tall loaf of bread.

One thing that I struggled with about Paleo (and being gluten-free) was the nasty bread alternatives.  Gluten-free breads are typically dry and crumbly.  Okay for toast or bread crumbs but I never found one suitable for a sandwich. 

Paleo bread recipes do not rise the same as traditional breads.  There is no gluten in them to help the molecules hold together but there are other ways to achieve baking magic.  Cooking is an art, but baking is a science.  Once you learn the science, the recipes become managable.  I realize not everyone is a science-of-baking nerd like me, so I will do a whole other post about the science of Paleo baking some other day.  Let's just talk about this pretty loaf right here.

Zucchini bread.  Healthy, right?  Traditionally, no.  My original recipe calls for lots of sugar, flour, and a little zucchini.  My improved recipe has less than 1/2 tablespoon of honey per slice which makes it very low carb.  I don't feel guilty eating this bread.  It is moist and delicious and since it's not very sweet, I might even use it to make a sandwich.  But really, it's so good all on its own, it'll probably never make it to sandwichdom.

After shredding, squeeze some of the liquid out of the zucchini.  Just simply take a small handfull and squeeze it before measuring and pack it lightly in the measuring cup.
Or you could do this method.   Place the shredded zucchini into a fine mesh strainer over a larger bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, place a smaller bowl on top and put into the bowl a weight of some kind. This is a 1-pound jar. Then let it sit for one hour.

Low Carb Zucchini Bread

1 cup almond butter (toasted, unsweetened)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
3 eggs
1 cup shredded zucchini (squeezed)
1/2 cup golden flax meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon allspice)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare a bread pan by coating with coconut oil and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper, then coat the parchment with a little more coconut oil.
In a large bowl, mix together almond butter, coconut oil, honey, and eggs then stir in zucchini.  In a smaller bowl, mix together flax meal, salt, baking soda, and spices then stir the dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture.  Add vanilla. 
Place into parepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.
After removing from the oven, allow the bread to sit in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and allow it to cool on a rack. 

Slice and wrap the cooled loaf in plastic and store in the refrigerator for 1 week (if you can keep it around that long) or store in the freezer wrapped in plastic and placed in a zipper freezer bag with most of the air squeezed out.  This loaf will keep in the freezer for 4 or 5 months.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Collard Wraps

Wrap sandwiches are a quick, portable lunch.  Collard leaves make a wonderful Paleo alternative to tortillas for wrap sandwiches.  Turn over the leaf and with a sharp knife, remove as much of the rib as possible without cutting through the leaf.  I found that it's much easier to do this if I bend the leaf over the edge of the cutting board.
Add sliced meats and cheese (if you are ok with dairy), onion, peppers... or whatever you like.  Fold in the ends and roll up.  I look for large leaf bunches but if you can't find them, you can set two together: stem-end overlapping stem-end and continue wrapping the same way.  You will have a separation you have to pay attention to, but if you overlap enough, your wrap will stay together.

Wrap in plastic.

Another option for filling is cashew cheese or use cashew cheese as a base for mock chicken salad (add onion, celery, sunflower seeds, a bit of apple cider vinegar, some walnuts, if you like).
Dry ingredients work best as fillings since the collard leaf will not absorb any moisture.  Meatballs and marinara are not recommended... take my word for it.  You may as well try to eat soup with chopsticks.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Paleo Teriyaki Sauce

There are many varieties of Teriyaki sauce.  My favorite is sweet, salty, and a tiny bit spicy.  Some say that garlic is not traditional in Teriyaki but I like it.  If you prefer, you can leave it out or replace it with a teaspoon of fresh ginger.

I may have mentioned that I like sauces.  I try not to over-indulge in sauce.  It's better to taste the food with a hint of sauce, I know... I know.  I'm getting better about that.  At least now, it's healthy, real food and not some mass of chemicals bound together with corn starch and soy. 

Paleo Teriyaki Sauce
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 can (12 oz.) frozen pineapple juice concentrate
1/2 cup Coconut Aminos
2 to 4 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 tablespoons crushed garlic
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 cup honey

In a medium sized pot over medium heat, saute onion and 1 teaspoon salt in olive oil until onion is translucent and beginning to brown.  Add pineapple juce concentrate, Coconut Aminos, garlic, red pepper, vinegar, and honey plus 1 tablespoon salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to medium and continue simmering for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and mix well with a stick blender (or cool slightly and mix in a food processor or blender).  Taste and see if it needs more salt.  Return to heat and boil gently for another 3 - 4 minutes.  Sauce should be thick but not a paste.  Cool, then place in jars and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.  Makes 3 half-pint jars.