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I know, I know, it’s been a long time since I have posted anything.  I’ve been busy traveling and having company and a lot has happened that has kept me away from cooking for a while (or at least finding time to write about any interesting recipes).  But fear not, I have been sticking mostly to my Paleo diet and feeling great.  There has been a good deal of cheating on the weekend, but I try to minimize it as much as possible by finding ways to tweak recipes to make them fit my diet better.

Weekend before last, we went over to a CrossFit reopening event where everyone brought something that was as close to Paleo as possible.  One of the recipes that came along were these delicious lemon bars with a crust that was somehow slightly crumbly and slightly chewy, a perfect combination with the lemon curd topping.  Of course I had to try this myself.

Crust before going in the oven

Crust after coming out of the oven

After looking through a variety of recipes, I landed on a couple different ones that I combined and altered a bit to make my own.  For the crust, I followed this lemon bar recipe and for the filling I most closely followed this recipe (props to her for the creative and hilarious name of the website).  Clearly, if you look at the recipe for the filling, I decided to add a little dairy into my Paleo dessert.  I am lucky enough that dairy doesn’t affect me to strongly, so while I still use it in moderation, I do occasionally pop it into recipes – typically via cheese.

The flavor of the filling of this was great and the hint of almond from the almond extra was perfect.  I think you could cut the crust recipe in half and have a much thinner crust based on preference.

**As a side note, I found (by accident) that if you bake the crust, let it cool, then pour in the filling, you can put in the fridge and bake it off at a later time if necessary.  Just be sure to let the baking dish come back to room temp after taking out of the fridge before putting it into a hot oven if using a fragile dish like the one I used.  I also think a little cinnamon in the crust would be fantastic, but haven’t tried it yet so didn’t want to post it.
Crust:
2 cups nuts (I used 1 cup almonds, 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, 1/4 cup walnuts, 1/4 cup pecans)
2 eggs
1/4 cup grapeseed oil (I’ve also heard that coconut oil works well)
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp salt
Filling:
8 oz (1 package) reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/3 c honey
3 tbsp lemon juice
Zest of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs
1/2 pint blueberries (fresh or frozen is fine)
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Process nuts in food processor until ground, but not too finely, I like a few bigger chunks.  Combine nuts, eggs, honey, oil, salt and pour into a greased round pie dish (I used a 12 inch diameter deep dish pie dish).  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Set aside to cool.
For the filling:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Using a hand mixer, blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy.  Pour on top of crust and sprinkle the blueberries over top.  Bake for 25 -35 minutes or until top is just starting to get golden around the edges.

There was something missing from the first batch of muffins I made.  They were good, but a little dryer and not quite sweet enough.  They were, should I say, average muffins.  I have made about three batches since and I think I finally found the right combination, so I thought I would share.

I have to continue to credit Elana’s Pantry for the base recipe which I shift and play around with to suit my tastes.

**Since I first posted this recipe, I have been playing around with it a lot (since I make these practically every week).  I know replace all of the oil with a 1/2 cup of apple sauce (make sure it is unsweetened!).  This seemed to keep the muffins from getting too soft and wet as they sometimes do with the oil).**

Here you go:

Serves 10 muffins.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

3 eggs

1/2 cup strawberries, mashed

1/3 cup grapeseed oil

1/4 cup agave nectar

1 tbsp vanilla

1/4 cup blueberries

1/4 cup walnuts

1/4 cup pecans

Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a small bowl.  In a separate bowl, blend eggs, strawberries, oil, agave, and vanilla together with a hand mixer.  With the hand mixer, add the dry ingredients to the wet and blend until smooth.

Stir in the blueberries, walnuts, and pecans.

Scoop the mix into pre-greased muffin tins (I find they come out much cleaner in greased muffin tins instead of paper lined, but use whichever you prefer).

Bake for 20 minutes or until just slightly golden (keep an eye on them as they go from golden to burned quickly).  A toothpick inserted should come out clean.

Store wrapped in a paper towel in a plastic bag at room temperature (I find the fridge does funny things to the muffins – kind of dries them out).

My friend pointed out last night that it had been a long time since I posted – shout out to the LionWhisperers – which is true.  It’s been a long busy few months (work and personal) and I just haven’t found the time or motivation to post.  If you must know as well, I’ve done some damage to myself (arm injury, slamming my face into a wall) which has made me a little lazier than normal.  I think, too, I cook a lot differently these days than I used to cook so my “recipes” just don’t really seem like anything worthy of sharing.  Most nights of the week I throw a piece of cod or flounder basted in olive oil, salt, and pepper on the grill with some asparagus and cherry tomatoes on the side, which let’s admit isn’t really ground breaking cooking.

I should also admit that I don’t think writing and photography are my strong points, so I’m not 100% happy with how my blogging turns out most times (I can also be a bit overly critical of myself).  I really enjoy blogging, but not sure that my readers always get where my mind wanders due to my writing/thinking style (if I can call it a style?).

For example, as I am sitting here typing I can’t decide where to take this particular post next.  Do I talk about lunch?  Which is the one meal that is always (still) a challenge on the Paleo diet…but as I think that, I think I may need to do a lunch specific blog one of these days to get all my ideas in one place and to see if I can solicit some new ones as well.

Do I talk to you all (if there are any you’s reading) about cleaning all the carbs out of my pantry??  About the fact that I cheat every weekend on my diet??

So then I try to refocus my mind again, back to the subject at hand, my lack of exciting cooking and blogging.  So, while I say that I don’t cook like I used to I have been doing a few interesting experimentation’s with different forms of carb substitutes.

I know I’ve mentioned one of my favorite sites these days, Elana’s Pantry, quite a few times.  The recipe today is a modification, once again, from her site.  When you can’t have carbs, you really need to find some substitutions for things like bread, muffins,  and potatoes.  Elana has a lot of great ideas and most are easily modifiable.

I decided to try out a recipe for muffins made with coconut flour earlier this week but Elana  made Blueberry and Cream Cupcakes and I made mine into Banana Walnut Muffins.  I also cut back a bit on the agave and oil a bit – but I can tell you from experience that her recipe is amazing as written and I may go back up on the oil and agave next time.   Either way, the muffins were tasty and satisfied my need for carbs.  I had at least two a day and here is how I made them…

Banana Walnut Muffins

Makes 12 muffins.

½ cup coconut flour, sifted

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

3 eggs

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1/5 cup agave nectar

1/5 cup grapeseed oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line or grease muffin cups.  Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, bananas, agave, oil, and vanilla extract with a hand mixer.  Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients with hand mixer and mix until smooth.  Fold in walnuts.
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop and one scoop of batter into each muffin cup.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

Grillin!

Let me start by admitting two things:

1.  This isn’t much of a “recipe” blog tonight.  I really am just so excited about my first grill that I had to write about it.  I’m on a new grill high.

2.  This is my first time EVER owning and running a grill.  I know it’s a little odd that I have gone half my adult life without this well-known piece of equipment, but you have to remember I didn’t really eat that much meat for the majority of my life, so I thought a grill wasn’t necessary.  And if I am being completely honest, I was terrified I would it would be too complicated and I might possibly blow something up (like my house or my dog…I’m still worried that if Stuart is out with the grill he may somehow catch on fire, so I made him stay inside the whole time – which he did not like).

BUT given I am doing Paleo-ish eating these days, meat has become a little less scary (very little) and grilling has proven to be a necessity, so I broke down and bought a grill.  The grill was this little tabletop model that I had to assemble myself.  Well, it was easy enough to put together….but not so fast my friends…I couldn’t get the propane tank to screw in and it was so tall that the grill wouldn’t sit flat on the table.  And, given my fear of catching things on fire, it meant I would have to take the umbrella out of my table every time I wanted to use it so I wouldn’t fear it going up in flames.  I just knew I would never use this thing again, if I could even figure it out in the first place.

At my wit’s end, I headed over to Target at 7:30 pm to try to scavenge for a grill, but as I looked around, the thought of assembling one was daunting.  Then I had a thought…at Lowe’s there are lots of men who work there wandering around.  The thought going through my head, “Maybe I can get one of those handsome men to sell little old me a pre-assembled grill.”  I turned on my heels and headed off with a mission.

Needless to say, I got to Lowe’s and the one man in sight was helping someone else.  I paced, I sighed loudly, I put on my most confused but charming face, and then I resorted to staring.  10 minutes later and I hadn’t even gotten an, “I’ll be right with you, ma’am.”  Where’s the chivalry???  Last I checked we were in the South people.

Partially giving up, I started wandering the aisles around the grill section thinking maybe I could entertain myself for a little while.  That’s when I saw it.  My little Aussie Walk-About gas grill.  It was so cute, all assembled already and folded, on wheels, with a handle so I could pull it through the store.  Eureka!  It even fit in the backseat of my SUV (which was key because I remembered as I was wheeling through the parking lot with a huge grin on my face that my trunk was stuffed with tennis racquets, balls, bike helmet, camelbak water book bag, laptop bag and a variety of other things).

My new baby and my old baby (trying to lick the hot grill)

It took me all of two minutes to get it unfolded and into table position and I was a grillin!  I mean, you have to see this thing to understand.  What did I make?

  • Burger from Fresh Market – cooked on medium-high for about 6 min on each side.  Topped it with mozzarella about with about two minutes left on the clock.
  • Half a Bell Pepper – when I put the burger on, I put the bell pepper (halved) face down on the grill (to char the top of it)
  • I put the Bell Pepper on top of the burger/mozzarella and topped with pasta sauce (good pasta sauce with no sugar added – make sure you know clearly what all the ingredients are)
  • On the other side of the grill, I tossed some asparagus with olive oil, S&P, and put in a veggie grill basket.  I only grilled this for about 5 minutes – I like it crispy!
I have a feeling this is just the beginning of my grilling journey.
By the way, for anyone that read this far, I may have dropped the burger and had to start over with a new one.  I also, in my frenzy of trying to save the burger, grabbed the veggie grill basket with my bare hands and burned my fingers decently.  Somehow, and I’m not quite sure how, that didn’t dampen my new grill spirits.

I’m mainly doing this post to document my recipe so I don’t forget next time I want to make it…because it was fantastic!  I apologize in advance, as always, for my poor camera skills.  I couldn’t get any great photo’s so you will have to take my word that it was fun to make and kind of (in and ugly way) pretty.  Also, this looks complicated but it’s totally not.

So, I’ve been on Paleo for over a month now and I don’t feel like I have seen the weight loss that I had expected (especially not as quickly as I had hoped).  I feel great and I feel like I am getting stronger and stronger at my gym and I no longer have the lack of energy that I did in the beginning of Paleo (and come to think of it, before Paleo).

I’ve discovered some great recipes that have gotten me through this diet (thank you www.elanaspantry.com for the bread, the cupcakes, the muffins…) and I have a totally different view on how I ate before this.  I never realized how much of my diet revolved around bread, rice, grains, and most of all – SUGAR.  Now, even on my cheat days–yes I cheat sometimes–I don’t eat nearly as many carbs and sugars as I used to eat.

All this being said, I still haven’t eased cheese all the way out of my diet.  I’ve gotten rid of most of the other dairy but I LOVE cheese.  I also love Mexican, I mean I could eat it every day and not get tired of it.  So, I have had to come up with some new ways to do Mexican without the rice, beans, and shells/chips.  I think I found it with this recipe, which you could do without cheese, but I still add a little in because I just can’t help myself. Messy but tasty…

4 large poblano peppers

1 lb ground beef (93% fat-free)

1 onion, finely diced

1 zucchini, finely chopped

3 eggs

5 dried ancho chiles (those big shriveled red ones you get in the Mexican section at the store)

6 oz can tomato paste (make sure there is no added sugar – and you understand all ingredients on the label)

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp oregano

Mexican cheese blend (optional)

For the peppers:

Turn broiler on high and line a baking sheet with foil.  Place the poblano peppers on the sheet and watch closely as the char on each side – flipping as each side chars (the skin should be blistery and black).  Mine took about 5-6 min per side.  Once all sides are charred, take peppers out and place in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients in the dish.

I turn the oven straight onto 400 degrees F to get in ready for the rest.

For the “stuffing”:

Brown ground beef in a pan.  Add in onion and zucchini and cook until veggies are soft.  Drain off excess grease.  In a bowl, whisk the eggs and stir in the beef/onion/zucchini mixture.

For the enchilada sauce:

Stem and seed the dried ancho chiles (I find this easier to do before you cook them, but you can do it after but you have to be careful!).  Cover the ancho’s in water and bring to a boil.  Boil for about 15 min to soften.  Pour ancho’s into a colander and let cool a little.

In a food processor, add the ancho’s, tomato paste, garlic, cumin, paprika, and oregano.  Process into a paste. Add some water a little at a time until you get a slightly (very slightly) thinner consistency – it should be spreadable  but not too thick.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Take the poblano peppers out of the bowl and peel the outside charred skin off.  Remove the stem and open up the pepper.  Take your knife and smooth it along the open inside of the pepper to remove all seeds.  Place a single layer of poblano peppers at the bottom of a 9 in x 5 in loaf shaped pan (you could use a variety of other pans, I just like the way this one works).  It took about 2 poblanos to line the bottom for me.

If using a layer of cheese, I put a very thin on here, but you can do without.  Next, add about a 1/2 – 1 inch layer of the beef mixture.  On top of that, add a layer of the enchilada sauce.

Repeat each layer on more time and if you want, top with a little queso fresca or cheese of your choice.

Bake for about 30 min or until you see it start to bubble around the edges.

You could serve this with sour cream or with avocado on top and a nice green salad to start.

Okay, so lots of small posts today from my one tasty lunch.  As I mentioned in a previous post, chicken salad is a good easy Paleo lunch.  You can pretty much add anything you want to it, but here is what I put in:

Shredded Chicken (I used a 4.99 Rotisserie Chicken that was on sale on Sunday – probably not the best way of approaching this, but I have to tell the truth)

3 Hard Boiled Eggs, peeled and diced

Shredded Carrots (1/4 – 1/2 cup)

1 celery stalk, diced

Pecans, chopped

Almonds, chopped

Paleo Mayo – 1/2 batch or about a 1/2 cup – adjust to your liking

I often add a variety of spices like parsley, sage, thyme, and dill – but I put most of those straight into my mayo this time so it was already mixed in!


Mix all of the ingredients above and serve on top of a slice of gluten-free bread.  I like to add a side of Parsnip “Fries”.

Parsnip Fries

Parsnip “Fries”

I love to serve these along side my Paleo chicken salad for a tasty and balanced lunch.  I found this recipe from Aarti Sequeira from Food Network that I had to try because I do miss fries.  I didn’t set my hopes high but was surprised when I ended up loving these!  They are definitely a little softer and sweeter than fries, but the Garam Masala adds such an interesting flavor that I didn’t mind at all.  The beauty is that they are Paleo friendly and actually not fried in any way.

I just make a quick lunch size portion for myself, so adjust as necessary.

1/2 large parsnip, cut into fry size chunks (about 1/4 inch think)

2 tbsp grapeseed oil (you can also use olive oil or any other good oil!)

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp garam masala

A pinch of salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Put all of the ingredients in a plastic bag (I used a quart size ziploc bag) and shake away.  Make sure all the ingredients get coated.

Dump the parsnips onto a foil lined baking sheet and back for about 15-20 minutes – keep a close eye on them though as once they start cooking they can burn fast and all ovens are a little different.

If I weren’t doing Paleo, I would suggest serving them with a Chipotle Ranch dipping sauce – very nice combination.