Monthly Archives: December 2012

Maple Cider Sweet Potatoes

Buttery Maple-Cider Sweet Potatoes

Doesn’t just that title alone make your mouth water? It sure does mine.

Before I started this diet, I had a standard sweet potato recipe that I made every Thanksgiving. I loved it for its simplicity, but it had brown sugar in it, so I decided to switch things around a bit to make it “legal.”

Well, folks, this is one of the few times in which I can honestly say that the revised version of this recipe is actually BETTER than the original sugary one. That has only been the case once before so far (the Chocolate Pudding Ice Cream). So I can absolutely, whole-heartedly tell you that these sweet potatoes are simply fantastic! They’re subtly sweet, with the maple syrup and apple cider complementing the sweetness of the potatoes instead of overwhelming it like the sugar used to. The butter also goes together marvelously with the syrup, and butter is always wonderful with sweet potatoes anyway. I find myself wondering why I didn’t ALWAYS use maple syrup instead of brown sugar!

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Pistachios

This Year’s Stocking Stuffers

I’m not a huge Disney fan. At all. I’ve never been to Disneyworld and have no desire to go. But there’s one thing Disney does that I’ve taken to heart, and that’s their marketing strategy. You know, the whole “The vault is opening on this movie for only the next month, so hurry and get it now!” thing. (Where exactly is this famed vault, is what I want to know….) Creating this false sense of scarcity and rarity makes people see these movies as special things that must be gotten while they can!

A smart parent will know how to take this strategy and turn it to her advantage. Like with treats. How do you get a kid to think that something that they like but is healthy is a treat? Make it a “special occasion only” treat, or say, “Okay, but only two!” as though you’re reluctantly giving in to their request, and suddenly that bag of pistachios is as coveted as jelly beans.

You don’t believe me? Try it. I swear, it works.

So, it’s in the spirit of this strategy that I’ve selected this year’s stocking stuffers. Other years, I’ve had a thing of stuffing stockings with goodies I don’t always let the kids have. We have chocolate oranges and peppermint bark and Kinderchocolate (it’s a German thing). And I’ve always figured that it’s sweets, but it’s a special time of year so I didn’t obsess over it.

Now that I have a whole new outlook about sugar, however, I just can’t bring myself to do it. I feel like I might as well just pour poison down their throats as to give them all that sugar, and I just can’t do it!

But, since there are things that they like that are healthy, and that they view as “treats” thanks to my Disney-esque treatment of them, I can use those instead! Here are some of the things that are making their way into stockings this year.

honey mints

These honey mints are something I’ve talked about before on here. They have just honey, peppermint extract, and unsweetened chocolate as ingredients, so as candies go they’re not bad at all. I keep a bag on hand so that when I’m having a sweet urge I can eat one and calm it down. Just one goes a long way with me, and so a bag lasts a really long time. I’ve let my kids have some occasionally, but they’re generally “Mommy’s emergency candy” (the kids actually call it that too) so I don’t let them have it too often. But it’s their lucky year! Because each child is getting an ENTIRE BAG of these things in their stocking. They’re going to be over the moon about it.

Pistachios

This might not seem like much, but my kids are crazy about pistachios. Like, really really crazy about them. I usually restrict how many they can eat only because they’re pretty expensive, but because I restrict them, the prospect of an entire bag – each – all to themselves is going to seem like a huge indulgence to them!

mints

My husband often has Altoids, but doles them out pretty frugally, and not very often at all, when my kids ask if they can have one. So I’m giving each of them a mint of Altoids Smalls all to themselves!

cranberries

These are just for my son, as my daughter doesn’t like them. But my son is crazy about them, so he’s getting a whole bag!

peppermint bark

And…since it IS Christmas, after all, I’ll give each of them a couple pieces of Peppermint Bark. A few pieces won’t kill them if they’re eating mostly non-sugar options, so I’m treating them to some.

Besides these things, I’ll probably also get them each a pack of gum. They’re in the same category as Altoids for being “things that we only get occasionally.”

What are some things that your family sees as “treats” but are actually healthy? I’d love to hear your ideas!

creamed chicken

Creamed Chicken over Mashed Potatoes

Well, my husband still is pretty uncomfortable from getting his wisdom teeth out, and still isn’t able to chew too much. And he’s still kind of miserable and in serious need for some comfort food. (You have no idea.) So for dinner I made this.

creamed chicken

It’s something I’ve made for years, especially on cold days. It’s warm and filling and satisfying, and my kids scarf it down. It really is the epitome of comfort food!

The directions for this sound kind of fussy, but it’s really not bad. There’s just a lot of prep in cooking the chicken and chopping veggies, and then a busy 5 minutes while you make the sauce. But it’s really pretty easy. Don’t be intimidated!

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ice cream

Chocolate Pudding Ice Cream

My husband got his wisdom teeth out on Thursday, and I’ve been making him soft foods ever since. Besides baked potatoes, scrambled eggs, stewed apples, and smoothies, I made this ice cream.

chocolate ice cream

Yes, that ice cream. It is the best ice cream you will have eaten in your entire life. It is, by far, the most decadent thing I’ve ever posted on this blog.

I DO NOT exaggerate.

It is sweetened with honey and maple syrup, and so is still a “consume in moderation” item, but if you’re going to indulge in something? THIS is the one to do it on.

TRUST ME!!!

It’s seriously like frozen, rich, chocolate pudding. Very deeply chocolatey, smooth, and creamy. I’ve made a lot of homemade ice cream over the years, but this one is by far the absolute best. This recipe is very rich, so if you want, you can decrease the sweetener. I’m going to try using 1/2 cup less the next time I make it. As it is, it will blow the socks off you and anyone else in your general vicinity. It’s that good.

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WFmilk

Falling Down The Rabbit Hole: Grass-fed Animal Products

image

I’ve been noticing that this real food thing is somewhat of a trip down a rabbit hole. You start off simple and slow, but then you learn more, and more, and more, and before you know it you’re a countercultural hippy at odds with everyone around you.

Well, maybe not that extreme.

But sort of.

(I’m kind of one step away from getting my own hens. That’s how bad it is.)

Today my rabbit hole brought me here

birchwood farmsIMG_1791 farm cows birchwood farms IMG_1793

 

for this

IMG_1796 milk and eggs

Eggs from pastured hens, and raw milk from grass-fed cows.

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ghirardelli-2

When Will I Learn?

Seriously. When? Because I know all the facts. I know what sugar and preservatives and flavorings and artificial things do to my body. I KNOW. And, still, I find myself getting sucked in.

So, I was Christmas shopping yesterday, trying to get it all done in one fell swoop because I detest shopping in general – much less when it’s surrounded by masses of people running into me with their carts – so I wanted to get it over with. I was in Kohl’s, waiting in the long checkout line (it was like 30 people deep. Really.) and right there, taunting me, tempting me, on shelves next to the line were bags of Ghirardelli peppermint bark.

ghirardelli-2

Have you ever had Ghirardelli peppermint bark? Every Christmas for the past three years, this has been our family treat. I put it in the stockings as a Christmas morning surprise. It’s, quite simply, divine. AND…it comes in a DARK chocolate variety.

Dark chocolate is my weakness.

So, I saw the bags of peppermint bark. I saw the dark chocolate option. I remembered how good it tasted last Christmas, and how much I liked it. And I thought, “Well, I COULD just pick some up so that my husband and kids can still have some. You know. For THEM.”

I brought it home. I ate lunch. And then I heard it.

“Rachel. Raaaacheeeelllll.”

It was calling me. Seriously, it was. From the depths of the Kohl’s bag.

I went and got it. I opened it. And I ate one. Just one, I told myself, and I’d be done and be good for forever and ever.

But after that one, I just needed another one. And before I knew it I’d scarfed down three of the things.

And felt immediately guilty.

Not even five minutes later the headache started. I haven’t had a headache in weeks – maybe even months – but I used to get them all the time. I’ve rather gotten used to feeling headache-free, so the pain shocked me when it hit. And it really HIT. Suddenly and hard, right above my right eye, descending without warning.

I guess it could be coincidence that the first headache I’ve had in a really long time came just after wolfing down more sugar than I’ve had at one sitting in 3 months. But that seems to be a stretch to me. It has to have been that sugar.

I suffered through the rest of the afternoon until it subsided, and kicked myself for my weakness. It’s just so hard, especially when you’re surrounded by people – a WORLD – that doesn’t understand or do what you do, who kind of think you’re crazy (or at least unnecessarily extreme) and there’s cookies and cakes and candy everywhere. Especially this time of year. It’s so hard to remember why I do what I do.

So, I’m going to try to remember! Remember the headache! And the nausea and the joint pain and the insomnia and everything that used to be part of my normal life. Because feeling good can get to be routine, and it can become easy to take it for granted and forget the reasons I went off those tempting things in the first place.

I’ve read other people commenting that they can’t understand why people are ever tempted by food, or have a hard time avoiding things that they know are poisonous to them. That must be so nice. I wish I couldn’t understand it either. But, unfortunately I can. All too well.

Maybe it will get easier with time? I hope so. Until then I just have to, as they say, “remember my chains.”

And avoid long checkout lines booby-trapped with chocolate.

browned butter banana bread

Browned Butter Banana Bread

(I’ve been making this bread almost weekly for the past year and a half, so by now I have a really good handle about how to make it consistently good every time. So I wanted to update this post with those changes, and new pictures showing how I do it now. Normally if I need to update a post, I’ll just add a little note and say that it’s an edit, leaving the original intact. But since I have a completely different method now, I need to replace all the pictures, so I’m basically just going to end up rewriting the whole post. So if you’re used to the old post and wonder why it’s different now, that’s why!)

I’ve  been eating this bread pretty much every day for breakfast.  It satisfies that early morning sweet craving, and when topped with homemade chocolate almond (or peanut) butter, it has a lot of staying power! It easily carries me through to lunch. It’s not as sweet as my old sugar-laden recipe was, but it’s has a nutty, mildly sweet flavor that satisfies me perfectly fine. I hope it does you as well. 

One of the things that gives this bread great flavor is the browned butter. It deepens it and gives a slight toffee smell and taste that’s wonderful! It’s not hard at all to brown butter, but if it intimidates you, you can always use just regular softened butter – it’ll still turn out fine. It just won’t have quite as much flavor.

Just get 1/2 cup of butter in a pan and turn on the heat to medium high.

browning butter

If you look closely at the picture, you can see the white solids of the butter sinking to the bottom while the clarified oils rise to the top. Those white solids are the part that’s going to brown.

I have a gas stove, so I usually just pick up the pan and kind of swirl it around over the flame to keep it moving. You, of course, can just use a spoon for that if you’d rather!

After a minute or so, it’ll probably start to foam up like this.

browning butter

That’s okay! Don’t freak! Just keep it moving until you start to notice some dark brown liquid bubbling up through the foam.

browning butter

That’s the browned butter solids. Turn off the heat. The bubbling will immediately settle down. And it should smell wonderful and nutty and caramelly.

browning butter

Pour it into a mixing bowl to speed up the cooling process.

browning butter

I typically plan ahead of time when I’m going to make this, so I’ll brown the butter at night so that it’s the consistency of softened butter in the morning. If you’re in a hurry, though, you can stick it in the fridge for a bit. Just make sure to take it out before it gets too hard! When it’s ready it should look like this.

browning butter

While you’re waiting for your butter to solidify, soften your dates. Get about 15 large dates, pitting them if necessary, and put them in a heat safe bowl.

softening dates

Pour boiling water over top to cover them.

softening dates

How hard your dates are when you start out will determine how long they need to soak. Mine generally only need about 10 minutes, but you should leave them until they’re mushy soft.

When they’re soft, take them in your hands and sort of squeeze the excess liquid out of them, then put them in your food processor.

browned butter banana bread dates

Pulse a few times to get them going. They’ll probably end up going to the outside of the container because there’s not enough liquid in there. I used to add some of the soaking liquid, but I found that this could make the bread soggy sometimes. So now I add in the eggs instead! It serves the purpose of adding liquid to get the dates pureed, but it’s liquid that’s already in the recipe so you’re not messing with the liquid to dry ratio at all.

browned butter banana bread dates

Process, scraping down the sides as necessary, until the dates are completely pureed with the eggs. It’ll look like this.

browned butter banana bread dates

Take three VERY ripe bananas, peel them, and mash them up with a fork. I used to put them in the food processor with the dates, but I found that the consistency of the bread is much nicer when they’re more roughly mashed this way.

banana

Now scrape the mashed bananas and the date/egg puree in with your browned butter and mix it up.

browned butter banana bread

I also add in two droppers full of liquid Stevia (about 30 drops) to boost the sweetness. This is the brand I use, and I’ve really loved it. It doesn’t taste nearly as strange and bitter as the kinds I’d used before, and it’s pure – no additives – and organic. If you use a different brand, I don’t know if this same amount will work or not. If you’d rather not use Stevia but still want to boost the sweetness you can add some honey or palm sugar – but then you’ll have to think more carefully about eating it.

stevia

Add in the dry ingredients: whole grain spelt, almond or cashew meal, baking soda, and salt. I now use more baking soda than my original recipe called for, as I’ve found that it needs a little extra boost to rise well. Also, I always use almond or cashew MEAL as opposed to flour, so if you use flour instead the amount might be different – I don’t know because I’ve never tried. I’d suggest starting with less and seeing how the consistency is, then adding more as you feel you need!

I love a little texture to my food, so I like to add chopped pecans and cacao nibs to the batter. I think it’s delicious! You can just leave these out if you’d rather, though.

browned butter banana bread

Mix it all up until it forms a moderately thick batter.

browned butter banana bread

Spread it into a large loaf pan that’s been greased with coconut oil, butter, or palm shortening.

browned butter banana bread

Bake at 350 for 75 minutes.

browned butter banana bread

Let it cool for about 15 minutes, then slide a knife around the edge and turn it out. Cut a piece for yourself while it’s still crusty and hot and wonderful!

browned butter banana bread

Be sure to smother it with nice grass-fed butter.

IMG_1776

And top it with chocolate nut butter and wash it all down with a glass of farm fresh raw milk if you really want to fill yourself up! This is pretty much what I have for breakfast most days. I like to put a slice in the toaster oven to crisp and warm it a bit first. It’s quick and easy and yummy, so it’s my perfect kind of breakfast!

banana bread with chocolate pb

Now, as I said, this bread isn’t as overwhelmingly sweet as banana bread that has sugar in it, but it is definitely sweet enough. Or at least it is for me (especially with the chocolate peanut butter on top!) If you want it sweeter, you can always add palm sugar or honey for some of the dates but then you won’t be able to eat it as liberally. I love the fact that I can eat as much of this as I want, so I’m fine with the mild sweetness of it for that reason!

Enjoy as breakfast, a snack, or even – with some whipped cream or fruit – dessert!

Browned Butter Banana Bread
Author: 
Recipe type: bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Note: I use almond (or cashew) meal, not flour - so if you use flour the amount might be different. Start with a smaller amount and add more until it looks to be the right consistency - then make a note of how much you used for future reference. Also, if you prefer not to use Stevia, you can leave it out and it just won't be as sweet, or you can use ¼ cup of honey or palm sugar instead.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup butter
  • 15 large dates, pitted
  • 3 very ripe large bananas, mashed with a fork
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 droppers full (about 30 drops) of liquid Stevia (I use Trader Joe's organic brand)
  • ¾ cup whole grain spelt
  • ¾ cup almond meal or cashew meal
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • (optional) handful of chopped pecans
  • (optional) handful of cacao nibs
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350 and grease a large loaf pan with butter, coconut oil, or palm shortening.
  2. Brown the butter. Put the butter in pan over medium high heat. You'll see white butter solids on the bottom of the pan as it melts - that's what will brown. After a minute or so it'll start to really foam. Keep stirring until you see brown come bubbling up through the foam from the bottom. Remove from heat. It should be a dark brown and smell nutty and caramelly, but not burned.
  3. Pour the browned butter into a mixing bowl and let it come to the consistency of softened butter. You can stick it in the fridge for a bit if you want to speed it up.
  4. While you're waiting for your butter to solidify, start softening your dates. Put them in a heat-safe bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Let them sit for 10-15 minutes, or until they're very soft and almost mushy.
  5. After the dates are soft, remove them from the bowl with your hands, squeezing out the excess liquid. Put them in your food processor.
  6. Pulse them a few times to get them started, and then crack the two eggs into the food processor to add some liquid and let them puree better. Process the dates and eggs together until completely pureed.
  7. Scrape the egg/date puree and the mashed bananas into the bowl with the browned butter. Add in the liquid stevia or other sweetener if using.
  8. Add in the dry ingredients: the spelt, nut meal, baking soda, salt, and pecans and cacao nibs. Mix thoroughly.
  9. Spread into the greased loaf pan.
  10. Bake for 75 minutes, or until the center springs back when pressed with your finger.

 

(This post is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s “Real Food Wednesday” and Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday)