Sunday, July 28, 2013

Maple Brown Sugar Cookies (grain-free : Primal : gluten-free : unrefined sweeteners)

The flavor of maple syrup partners well with brown sugar and butter in these tasty cookies.  Everyone in our family loves these cookies, and I like having such a healthy, homemade treat on-hand for the kids. Since two of us like our cookies with nuts and two like them without, I added nuts to the second half of the batter before scooping up the cookies for baking.

Maple Brown Sugar Cookies
Makes 40-50 cookies

  1. Set your oven racks so that none are in the bottom third of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the salt, baking soda, and coconut flour. Whisk well to combine and break up any lumps of coconut flour.
  3. In another bowl (or stand-mixer), beat the butter, maple syrup, and sucanat together for a few minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. If you are using a stand-mixer, make sure you scrape the sides and bottom a couple times with a spatula to get everything incorporated well.
  4. In a small bowl or pourable glass measuring cup, combine the eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Don't worry about stirring this up.
  5. Pour the eggs into the sweet butter mixture one at a time while the mixer is running.  Let each egg get incorporated before adding another one. (Note: the batter may look curdled during this process, but don't worry about it!)
  6. While the mixer is running, add the dry ingredients a little at a time.  Since coconut flour does not contain gluten, there is no worry of over-mixing it.
  7. Stir in the optional pecans. 
  8. Scoop the cookies onto greased cookie sheets (or line the cookie sheets with exopats, which are wonderful since the cookies never stick and are less likely to burn).  I like to use a 1-Tb scoop for consistently pretty cookies, but you could just use a spoon. Press/flatten the cookies slightly using your fingers or the back of a spoon.
  9. Bake the cookies at 325 F for about 15-18 minutes (or a few minutes longer if you are cooking them on stoneware). They are done when they are golden brown on top and a little darker brown on the edges.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5-10 minutes.  Then use a spatula to move them to a cooling rack.
  11. Once cool, store these cookies in an airtight container.  They can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer if you won't be eating them all in the next few days.  They are nice and chewy straight from the fridge, and even soft enough to eat straight out of the freezer!  Storing them in the freezer will also remove the pressure of having to eat them all in a week or so, as they will last for months in the freezer. 
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Houseplant That Will Keep All Your Other Houseplants Alive

My History With Houseplants Is Littered With Dead Plants

My mother seems to have been born with a green thumb.  She has the most beautiful yard I've ever seen, despite the fact that we live in the hot, dry desert. Her house has always been filled with thriving, beautiful plants, and she even still has some houseplants that she has owned since the early 1980's! I aspired to have the same when I began setting up my own home.

Back in the late 1990's and early 2000's, I had terrible success in keeping houseplants alive.  I seemed to buy a new houseplant every month or two, yet they mostly looked awful and would eventually get tossed into the trash.  I tried many different types of plants, but they all failed to thrive.  I would forget to water them - their leaves would turn yellow or brown - I would remove the dead leaves - soon enough the whole plant would be threadbare and unattractive - bound for the trashcan.

Enter the Peace Lily.  When I bought this plant, I figured it was just another in my long string of houseplant failures.  Little did I know that this little plant would single-handedly keep the rest of my houseplants alive and give me a chance at having healthy, long-lived houseplants. 

How Does the Peace Lily Keep the Rest of My Plants Alive?

The Peace Lily keeps the rest of my houseplants alive because it comes with a built-in watering signal.  When the Peace Lily starts to dry out, its leaves start to droop.  Day by day, the leaves start to droop more, and more, and more, until I finally notice and realize it is time to water houseplants.
A drooping Peace Lily. It can droop much more than this if neglected.
With other houseplants, the leaves start yellowing and dying if deprived of water, but the Peace Lily is different.  Its leaves start to droop, and can get downright flat if I still keep forgetting to water it.  But then, once it gets watered, the leaves perk right back up. Keeping my plants watered is now just a matter of waiting for that characteristic droop in my Peace Lily. 
Peace Lily all perky and happy after getting watered

A Few Notes About Caring for Peace Lilies

  • My Peace Lilies (and all of my other houseplants) do best when planted in pots that have a hole in the bottom. The hole allows for drainage in case of over-watering.  I also make sure there is a saucer under each pot to hold the extra water, and this allows the plant to suck up the remaining water as the dirt starts to dry out.
  • If you wait for drooping leaves to signal that it is time to water the Peace Lily, beware that the water may travel very quickly through the pot when you water it.  If the saucer under the pot is small, it can very quickly overflow in this scenario. For this reason, when my Peace Lily is drooping, I make sure to give it just a bit of water at first, and then water it again in a few hours once the water in the saucer has been soaked up.
  • Peace Lilies are one of the few houseplants that bloom indoors.  I keep my Peace Lilies in areas of moderate sunshine (and never in a very sunny spot), and they both bloom periodically.  The flowers are white and pretty, but they do drop little bits of pollen around.  I often just snip the blooms off with scissors rather than deal with the pollen mess.
  • Over time, a few leaves near the bottom of the plant will slowly die.  I just remove these periodically, and that keeps my plants looking attractive.
  • It may sound obvious, but Peace Lilies can only help your other plants if you make sure to water all of your plants whenever you water the Peace Lilies.  On busy days, I have sometimes been tempted to only water the Peace Lilies due to their obvious distress, but I have to make sure not to forget to water the rest of my plants as well.

I've had my Peace Lilies for over 5 years now, and the rest of my houseplants now have a fighting chance at living a long time in my house.  In fact, I haven't had to buy any houseplants in the last couple of years!

Do you have success in keeping houseplants alive and thriving?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Quick and Easy Sausage Links (GAPS : grain-free : Primal : gluten-free)

I made up a batch of these sausages today, and they were super tasty.  My 3-year-old finished his serving and called out "More, please!" I'm excited to have a recipe that for sausages that is so easy to make and tastes so delicious.

This recipe comes from the Beyond Grain and Dairy eCookbook by Starlene Stewart.  My notes are in RED.
Quick and Easy Sausage Links

  • 1 pound fatty ground pork (you could also use beef, chicken, turkey, separate or mixed, and you can also sneak in organ meats!) (I used grassfed ground beef.)
  • generous scoop of leftover bacon grease (Since my meat was not very fatty, I added some leftover bacon grease. This added a wonderful flavor to the sausages.) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic OR 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion OR 1 Tablespoon onion, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (I doubled the amount of salt to 1 tsp since we like our sausages nice-and-salty.) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, optional (I left this out.)
  1. Mix all ingredients together. I used my hands to mix it all together.
  2. Form into sausage links. At this point you can refrigerate overnight so the spices can marry, or you can fry them immediately. I let mine sit for about 10 minutes before cooking them up.
  3. Fry in your favorite healthy fat until well done, turning frequently to brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. I used a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Because of the added bacon grease in my sausages, I only melted a touch of butter in the pan before adding the sausages.  A good amount of the bacon grease did melt out of the sausages as they cooked, so a splatter screen was necessary to prevent making a huge, splattery mess.
This recipe and many more can be found in the Beyond Grain and Dairy eBook, which is part of this week's Real Foods eBook Bundle only until July 22nd. Whether you are new to real foods and looking for resources, or an experienced real foodie who just needs a bit more variety, this bundle of Real Food books is sure to help!

Click here to buy 5 eBooks, retail value of $63.82, for only $13.95! This sale is for ONE WEEK ONLY, ending on July 22nd! (This bundle sale has now ended.)

This eBook bundle includes:
  • Nourished Cooking (121 pages / Retail Value: $11.95): My newest cookbook is a comprehensive cookbook that contains over 60 nutrient-dense, gluten-free recipes. This cookbook is perfect for those who eat traditional, real foods, as well as people on grain-free diets such as Primal, GAPS, and SCD. The recipes in this book are sure to please the whole family, and even people who don’t follow a traditional foods diet will rave over these foods. This cookbook includes recipes for:
    • 8 Breakfasts, such as Lemon Coconut Muffins and Mushroom & Cheddar Crustless Quiche,
    • 20 Main Courses, such as Italian Wedding Soup and Double Cheese Burgers,
    • 10 Side Dishes, such as grain-free Cheesy Bread and Zucchini Spaghetti Noodles,
    • 18 Desserts, such as grain-free Strawberry Chocolate Layer Cake and Chocolate Chip Cookies, as well as
    • 7 Condiments/Sauces/Fermented Foods, such as Quick & Easy Pizza Sauce and Tartar Sauce.
  • Beyond Grain and Dairy (166 pages / Retail Value:$16.97): This cookbook by Starlene Stewart contains 113 delicious recipes to tantalize your taste buds, made with no grains, gluten, dairy, gums, corn, soy or processed sugar. And even if you don’t need to avoid any of these items, the recipes are still delicious! Move beyond grain and dairy and you may find that you feel better than you have for years or maybe in your entire life! Photos included for every recipe, a clickable Table of Contents plus an Ingredients Index so you can easily find recipes by ingredient.
  • Adventures with Kids! In the Kitchen (79 pages / Retail Value: $14.95): Author Chara Shopp encourages and teaches you when, how and why to bring your kids into the kitchen. Chara uses her sense of humor and practical experience as a teacher and mother of 3 to help you and your family succeed with real food cooking. Whether you are a gourmet cook or just learning, you will find practical ideas and suggestions for how to get your kids cooking, culturing, cleaning and celebrating their time in the kitchen! You will learn:
    • Why you want your kids in the kitchen with you (more reasons than you might suspect), there are big benefits!
    • When to train your children
    • The step by step process for teaching culinary skills to your children
    • How to pass on the skills used in a real food kitchen- soaking, sprouting, culturing, and more! (Don’t worry, she’ll teach you first!)
    • Age appropriate ideas for things kids can do in your kitchen (printable)
    • A printable list of over 140 kitchen skills to learn and practice!
    • And more…

  • Real Food Party Menus (22 pages/Retail Value: $7.95): Picking recipes to please a crowd can be difficult and time consuming. KerryAnn Foster has created three gluten-free and dairy-optional party menus, ranging from casual to more formal meals, that are only made with ingredients that non-foodies would recognize while staying on a real food diet. It’s the best of both worlds- they don’t complain about the food and you don’t have to go off of your eating style or be exposed to allergens.

  • Just Making Ice Cream (113 pages / Retail Value: $12.00): This eBook by Marillyn Beard is more than just a recipe book! In this ebook, Marillyn offers practical ice cream-making tips such as choosing an ice cream maker, how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker and the basic principles of delicious homemade ice cream. You’ll also find more than 30 ice cream & gelato recipes, 9 cultured milk recipes, 10 sherbet recipes and 10 sorbet recipes along with natural sweetener & milk alternatives that will keep you busy taste-testing all summer long!

5 eBooks, retail value of $63.82, for only $13.95!

Remember – this sale is for ONE WEEK ONLY! It disappears forever on July 22nd at 11:59pm PST! (This bundle sale has now ended.)

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Kid-Pleasing Beef and Red Pepper Hash (grain-free : Primal : GAPS : SCD : gluten-free)

Looking for a new way to eat ground beef (our go-to, easy dinner base), I came up with this recipe for beef and red pepper hash (based on this recipe for stuffed peppers).  This delicious meal was devoured by everyone in my family, and my 3-year-old even asked for seconds.  This pairs wonderfully with fried potatoes, but it would also be good with rice or even on top of cheesy bread for an open-faced, grain-free sloppy joe.

Beef and Red Pepper Hash
Serves 4-6
  1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sprinkle with salt.  Saute for about 10 minutes, until the onion is starting to soften and becoming translucent.  The onion will taste especially good if you let it get a little bit browned.
  2. Crumble the ground beef into the skillet.  Sprinkle the chopped bell peppers over the top. Season with a teaspoon of salt and about 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper. Saute for 5-8 minutes, until the meat is mostly browned.
  3. Add the garlic, parsley, allspice, and paprika. Stir to combine, and continue to cook just until the garlic is fragrant (about 1 minute).  
  4. Add the tomato sauce, and stir. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 12 minutes.
  5. Uncover the pot, and taste for salt.  Add more salt and pepper as needed.  Continue to cook uncovered for a few minutes to allow some of the moisture to evaporate.
  6. Turn off heat and serve!  This pairs well with fried potatoes, white rice, or a side salad with homemade ranch dressing drizzled over the top.
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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Simple Yet Special: Real Food Afternoon Tea Party (grain-free : gluten-free)

I often find it hard to take the time to leisurely enjoy activities with my kids.  There always seems to be one more thing on my to-do list, yet I know that being present with my kids, really connecting with them, is something that should take precedence over most other things on my list. Today my kids were asking for a tea party, and I thought it was a great opportunity to slow down a bit. 

Since this was a spur-of-the-moment activity, I didn't have any fancy tea party foods.  Nonetheless, I pulled together several different items that were on-hand, and took the time to lay them out nicely so that it felt like a special occasion. The kids placed flowers on the table and set our places with cups, saucers, and spoons.

More Tea, Please!
I chose Passion Tea because of it's beautiful pink color and aroma.  Rather than heating up the house, I chose to make cold tea; Passion Tea is wonderful because it can be "brewed" by just placing a tea-bag in cool water and allowing it to sit for 5-10 minutes.

My kids delighted in pouring their own tea and adding in milk and sugar (or sucanat).  We sweetened our second glasses of tea with maple syrup, and it was delicious!

Savory Plate
My goal in putting together the savory plate was to combine lots of different flavors and textures: salty & sweet, crispy & soft, tangy & creamy, juicy & dry.

Sweet Plate
The sweet plate combined different textures and flavors that all complimented each other.  I included the chocolate chips as a treat that my kids would be very excited to see. Bananas dipped in the chocolate chips were superb.

We read from the Treasury of Children's Poetry during the tea party, and had fun trying to remember some of the poems without looking at the pages.  My 3-year-old astounded me by reciting most of a poem he only heard one night a few weeks ago. My daughter relished reading some of her favorite poems aloud for everyone.

After the first few minutes, I put the camera away and got down to the business of enjoying the tea party with my children. 

What special activities do you enjoy with your children?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Crispy Fried Potatoes (grain-free : gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

Back when I was suffering from extreme adrenal crash on GAPS, I found potatoes to be crucial to recovering my energy levels. While potatoes are not GAPS-legal, they are one of the first foods to be reintroduced when transitioning off GAPS. We now eat potatoes regularly, and they don't give any of us any problems (whereas we still have a hard time with many grains).

Crispy fried potatoes are one of our staple side dishes these days.  These are crispy, buttery, and delicious.  They pair well with almost any other food, from baked bacon and eggs to double cheese burgers to brisket with carrots and onions to tacos to honey-glazed pork chops, and anything in between!  They are even great sprinkled over a salad or onto a bowl of soup.

Still on GAPS? Don't worry; more GAPS-friendly recipes are coming your way soon.

Fried Potatoes
Serves 6-8
  1. This recipe uses potatoes that have already been cooked and then cooled. (If you are in a pinch and don't have time to pre-cook the potatoes, skip to Step 4. You can use raw potatoes but you will need to increase the cooking time in Step 7 to 35 minutes, starting with a relatively cool skillet, and increasing the heat once the potatoes have cooked most of the way. )
  2. Bake the raw potatoes until they are fully cooked. During these hot summer months, I like to just put the potatoes into my toaster oven on 225 degrees for 3-4 hours, until I can squeeze them slightly (with a towel-wrapped hand).  You could easily bake these a day or two in advance, perhaps whenever you are using the oven for something else. I don't even wrap the potatoes or oil them; I just bake them plain.
  3. Chill the whole potatoes well in the fridge.  Frying the potatoes will work best with cold potatoes, but if necessary they can be just cool or slightly warm (but NOT hot, else they will completely fall apart in the pan).
  4. About 25 minutes before mealtime, roughly chop the cooled potatoes into chunks.  If some of the skin is loose, go ahead and pull it off to discard.  I leave on the skin that is well-adhered to the potatoes, but you could remove it all if desired.
  5. Melt the butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Don't skimp on the butter, as it is wonderfully healthy and will make the potatoes taste great! 
  6. Add the potatoes to the melted butter, arranging them evenly. Sprinkle with salt.
  7. The trick to getting nicely browned potatoes is to make sure not to stir them too often.  Leave the potatoes alone, and just let them cook for several minutes before you stir them. A bamboo spatula works wonderfully for stirring the potatoes and scraping any bits that get stuck to the pan. Continue cooking for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are nicely browned.  You may need to reduce the heat during this process if the pan starts to get too hot.
  8. Sprinkle the potatoes generously with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the dill over the potatoes, stir them a bit to mix the dill in, and then cook for a few more minutes. Taste for salt, and add more as necessary. Turn off heat.
  9. Serve and enjoy!
*I use Frontier brand spices because they are non-irradiated.

What is your favorite way to eat potatoes?

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Monday, July 1, 2013

July 4th Recipe Round-up Including a Recipe for Fried Rats (GAPS : grain-free : Primal : gluten-free)

The 4th of July has always been one of my family's favorite holidays.  Here in the hot dry desert, the arrival of early July ushers in the monsoon season, when we will get the majority of our 8.5-inches of annual rainfall.  We finally start to see a break from the 100+ degree days, and the 4th of July is a great time to celebrate the change.

We spend time with family, watch the kids play in water, and enjoy a great meal.  Our July 4th is usually a potluck, so no one has to spend too much time cooking.  Then the evening is topped off with lots of fireworks.

July 4th Recipes

All of these recipes are grain-free, and the majority are GAPS-legal, too. The recipe for fried rats is below under "Side Dishes".

Main Courses
Side dishes
  • Grilled zucchini or summer squash - Simply slice squash lengthwise about 1/3-inch thick.  Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill them!
  • Probiotic potato salad
  • Lemon basil chopped summer salad - This salad showcases the flavors of summer's bounty.
  • Fermented bread and butter pickles - This fermented recipe keeps everyone coming back for more, even people who don't usually eat fermented foods.
  • Kale chips - These salty, crispy snacks are a yummy addition.
  • Creamy cukes with beautiful salmon roe - This recipe is extremely simple and delicious. 
  • Raw veggie sticks with homemade ranch dip
  • Summer roasted vegetable medley
  • Fried rats - My friend Linda is always requested to bring this delicious dish to every potluck. And no, this recipe doesn't actually include rats, but the jalapeno stems look like little rat tails. Fried rats are unbelievably scrumptious, and not too spicy if prepared properly.
    • Ingredients: 
      • jalapenos (of roughly the same size), with stems attached and preferably straight rather than curved
      • cream cheese
      • bacon, preferably thick-sliced
    • Method: 
      • Slit the jalapenos down one side, and remove the seeds/membranes/veins using a small spoon. The more of those bits that are left in the jalapenos, the spicier they will be. Be careful, those seeds and bits are so hot that any residual oil on your skin will burn your eyes for days afterwards. I like to wear disposable latex gloves to prevent that, and be very careful not to touch my skin (and especially not lips or eyes) with the spicy stuff.
      • Stuff the jalapenos with cream cheese.  A small butter knife with rounded ends would work well for this. 
      • Wrap a slice of bacon around each jalapeno.  Place them in a baking dish, and bake in a 400-450 degree oven for about an hour, until the jalapenos are fully cooked and the bacon has started to crisp up.

What foods will be gracing your Independence Day table?

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