Tag Archives: dairy-free

kale chips

The Ubiquitous Kale Chip

There’s a nice restaurant in Glasgow, Scotland called “The Ubiquitous Chip.” Or at least there was when I lived there in 1996. I had no idea what “ubiquitous” meant before I ate there, but I looked it up and it’s been a regular part of my vocabulary ever since.  Such a great word! I mean, it just feels good in your mouth, you know? Ubickwituuuuuussss.

Ubiquitous – adj (yü-ˈbi-kwə-təs) – seeming to be seen everywhere

So, the restaurant name referred to the fact that chippy (or french fry, to us Americans) shops are found EVERYWHERE in Britain, but this restaurant was something different.

When I thought about doing a post about my experience with trying kale chips, of course “The Ubiquitous Kale Chip” is the immediate and only title that came to mind – because, like British chippy shops they are everywhere. If life was a B rated horror movie they’d be some sort of alien plan to infiltrate the world, they’re that common. Do a simple Google search for “kale chips” and you get 7,800,000 hits. Seven MILLION!

So, yeah. This post is not exactly earth shattering innovation or anything. You can find this just about anywhere. But this blog isn’t intended to be about innovative culinary discoveries, but a resource of food ideas for people trying to figure out how to eat on diets like this, so I figured it would be good to include it.

First, let me say that I don’t really like vegetables. With the exception of Sauteed Asparagus I mostly simply tolerate vegetables because I know they’re good for me, rather than that I actually enjoy eating them. So I didn’t really have high hopes for kale chips.

But since I kept reading about them, and since I’d gotten an enormous bunch of kale from my CSA, I decided to try.

The verdict: Kale chips are very edible and enjoyable…when they’re cooked right! Added bonus: My kids LOVED them. Like, scarfed-them-down-and-couldn’t-stop loved them.

They are not an exact replacement for potato chips. But they have a nice saltiness and kind of fall apart in a melty way in your mouth that I find somewhat addictive. However…if you overcook them even a little they’re very bitter, and if you undercook them they’re chewy and very kale-ish! As I mentioned above, my kids were going to town on these things…until they got to some overcooked ones and they immediately ran to the trash and spit them out!

So, cooking time with these is very important. They make all the difference between, “Hey, I actually kind of like these!” and “These are disgusting and gross!”

No one wants disgusting and gross. So watch your time!

For the one or two people out there who might have never heard how to make these things, this is the process.

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Hot Cranberry Cider Swizzle

Hot Cranberry Cider Swizzle

Apple cider. And fresh cranberries. And fresh-squeezed lemon and orange juices. And spices. And honey. All together, hot and steaming and delicious, on my stove. This is one of my favorite wintertime drinks, and as soon as I start to see cranberries arrive in my grocery store I begin to think about it. “Yay!” I say to myself. “It’s Swizzle time of year!”

I have made this drink for many different groups of people over the years (because it’s a great sort of “special company” drink), and I have never yet encountered anyone who didn’t like it. People who say they don’t like hot cider like it. People who say they don’t like cranberries like it. I don’t know what it is, but it’s some sort of magical combination of ingredients that makes it universally loved. So odds are that you’ll love it too!

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braised lamb shanks

Braised Lamb Shanks

Most people have never eaten, or even considered eating, lamb shanks. Let me rephrase: Most AMERICANS have never considered it. Because, certainly, they’re common enough in the rest of the world – particularly the Mediterranean and Middle East. For some reason, though, lamb has an odd reputation in America and most Americans seem afraid of going anywhere near it.

My grandmother immigrated from Scotland, land of sheep, so my mother grew up eating plenty of lamb. And, therefore, I did too. But I’d never made shanks until about 10 years ago when my mother found this recipe and started making it. And I was instantly in love.

I love a good roasted leg of lamb as well as the next (non-American) person. But these shanks are now my favorite form of lamb. They are so tender – just falling off the bone, melting in your mouth, tender – and full of exquisite flavor. Probably because they’re so common in the middle east, this recipe has tons of spices.

braised lamb shanks

Don’t be scared! It looks like a lot of flavor, but I promise you it’s PERFECT.

The thing with shanks is that they have to cook for a really long time to make them tender. There’s a pretty strong facia (or whatever) covering all the meat that needs to be cooked slowly to tenderize them. This is not a meal you can whip up in half an hour. So, this is a meal for a day off or a weekend. Or if, like me, you do your work at home it can be an any-day-of-the-week meal! But it’s especially good on cold, rainy, or blustery days. The perfect warm-your-bones sort of meal!

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Bruchetta topping

Bruschetta Topping

I don’t like tomatoes. Raw, I mean. I never really have – though I’m able to tolerate them much more now than I did when I was younger.

So WHY do I love this so much?! I don’t know. Maybe there’s some sort of magical process that happens when balsamic vinegar and garlic meet raw tomatoes. Some sort of voodoo alchemy that turns something I otherwise can’t stand into something I can’t get enough of!

This, really, is all the endorsement you need about how amazing this recipe is. If even tomato-hating me likes it you know it’s good!! It’s good on top of buttery toast (like I’m about to show you.) It’s good on top of chicken for Bruschetta Chicken. It’s good with chunks of fresh mozzarella mixed in as a salad. You can take this as a starting point and use your imagination about it!

This is what you do.

Take some olive oil and drizzle it around a pan. Like 3 Tbsp or so.

Bruchetta topping

And add in about 5 minced garlic cloves and cook them until they just start to turn golden.

Bruchetta topping

Now pour the garlic together with EVERY SINGLE DROP of that garlicky olive oil in a bowl.

Bruchetta topping

Chop up some red onion and tomatoes. This can be cherry tomatoes cut in half, or larger tomatoes cut into chunks. I found these gorgeous yellow and red babies at the farmer’s market, so that’s what I used. Dump them in the bowl and stir around.

Bruchetta topping

Chop up plenty of fresh basil and stick it in. Mmmmm! Fresh basil is the bomb.

Bruchetta topping

Sprinkle in some salt and pepper, and then drizzle in some balsamic vinegar.

Bruchetta topping

Now you taste. Does it need more vinegar? More basil, salt, or pepper? Add it in!

Bruchetta topping

As I said above, you can use this in lots of different ways, not just traditional bruschetta. Use your imagination! But if you’re wanting bruschetta, this is what you do to make it miraculous.

Get a loaf of bakery bread. For this diet it will have to be a whole grain bread. I haven’t had luck with finding 100% whole wheat breads at the bakery that I like, so I usually compromise and buy one that has whole wheat as the first ingredient, but also has white flour. This seems to work fine for me as long as I don’t overdo it. You have to be the judge of what works for your body!

Slice it up. Then melt several Tbsp of butter in a pan. Preferably the same pan you used to cook up the garlic so that you can take advantage of all that garlic goodness!

Bruchetta topping

Then stick the bread in the pan and cook until nice and golden brown. Flip it over and toast the other side too. (Though the second side won’t be as golden since most of the butter was soaked up by the first side.)

Bruchetta topping

Spoon the tomatoes on top and devour. It’s messy. I’d advise you not do this in front of people you’re trying to impress.

Bruchetta topping

Ohhhh. Glorious.

Bruchetta topping

 

Bruschetta Topping
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes (or equivalent amount of larger tomatoes), chopped
  • small red onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • about 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • about 4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • about 15 leaves fresh basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Loaf of whole-grain bakery bread
  • butter
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan and add in the garlic. Stir and cook until the garlic just begins to turn golden. Pour into a large heat-safe bowl.
  2. Add chopped tomatoes, onion, and basil into the bowl and mix.
  3. Drizzle in the balsamic vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Taste it and adjust ingredients as you want.
  5. Melt about 3 Tbsp butter, or enough to generously coat the bottom of the pan, in the same pan in which you cooked the garlic.
  6. Place as many slices of bread as will fit in the pan and cook until golden. Flip and cook until toasted on the opposite side. Repeat until all the bread you need is done.
  7. Alternatively, you can serve this topping on top of grilled/sauteed chicken, or add in chunks of fresh mozzarella and eat as a salad!

 

marinated pork chops

Balsamic Marinated Pastured Pork Chops

The farm that hosts our CSA, Snipes, is just about 2 miles from our house. It’s an old farm that has been in the Snipes family for 8 generations!! Our entire region used to be farmland, but theirs is the only one left, still standing after all these years right in the middle of urban sprawl. It’s really something of a miracle. So when they announced last spring that they were starting animal shares (for grass-fed/pastured meat, milk, and eggs) I jumped on board! It’s really pretty cool that, now, the meat we eat is raised just down the road from where we live.

We bought a pig share and a cow share, since they were the most affordable, and it’s been great to be able to see those animals grazing around. It’s a real comfort to know without a doubt the condition my meat is in. It’s not only important to me for humane reasons, but also for health reasons. 

Here are the piggies. They forage free in the brush, and are moved every couple months or so to get new land to dig up!

snipes pigs

Compare that to the way factory farmed pork and ham that’s sold in the supermarket is raised. How healthy do you think these animals really are, cooped up like that, eating only grain (which is probably GMO)? Pigs aren’t supposed to eat grain – they’re supposed to eat roots and bugs and plants. And the meat from animals that eat their natural diet is exponentially healthier for us!!

Pigs confined in metal and concrete pens

And here’s one of the cows, grazing away happily.

cow

We started getting our pig share in the early summer, and an interesting thing happened. As we were eating our first pork chops I was intimately aware of the animal that had died so that we could have that meal. It wasn’t just some anonymous “meat” from the store – it was an actual animal I had met. So in our blessing before dinner I mentioned it, and asked that God help us not take for granted the lives that give us our food.

I’ve also found myself being very conscious of not wasting any of it. I want every morsel to be eaten or used to make soup or something. I find myself wanting to honor the life of the animal by not wasting it.

So it’s all been an interesting – and I think beneficial – change in how we view the meat that we eat.

Okay. So down to the recipe. (After all, that’s really why you’re here, right?)

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zucchini brownies

Grain-Free (and amazing!) Zucchini Brownies

Zucchini. Tons and tons of zucchini. I like it and all, especially in Creamy Shrimp Linguine,  but really…how much zucchini can one person eat? And yet I keep getting it in my CSA share.

So last night I went on a search for things to do with my abundance of zucchini, and as soon as I saw the idea for this recipe I knew I wanted to try it. As in, immediately.

So immediately, in fact, that when I discovered I was short on cocoa powder (gasp! horror!) I sent my 12 year old daughter out to the neighbors in her pajamas in search of some. At 9:00 at night. And when those neighbors weren’t home I sent her back out to the other neighbors to ask them. That’s how desperate I was to do this thing.

Ah, children. God’s little way of helping us do all the unpleasant, embarrassing things we don’t want to do ourselves.

Fortunately that neighbor was home, and awake, and in possession of cocoa, and willing to give me some. (Thanks, Tracy!) So I plopped in all the ingredients – changing up some things according to my whim at the moment – baked it, let it cool for about 20 minutes, and….

zucchini brownies

Oh. My goodness.

So good! It’s not necessarily like my old Baker’s Chocolate recipe that had 2 cups of sugar in it – but it is hands down the best attempt at better-for-you brownies I’ve ever tried. (And, believe me, folks, I’ve been TRYING.)

Before now, none of my attempts were at all worthy of sharing with you guys. But this one totally is.

What makes it special is that it’s really fluffy – spongy and springy – and yet at the same time is really, really moist. It just kind of dissolves in your mouth. And so chocolatey! Really, really chocolatey. There’s no hint of the zucchini in it at all, except for the fact that it’s so wonderfully moist and tender.

zucchini brownies zucchini brownies

Also, this recipe has no flour. At all. Of any kind. It just has almond butter as the main ingredient!

I’ve been able to have foods like this, made with whole food sweeteners, just fine recently. (Well, I had to go through a detox after vacation, but after that I was fine.) Not everyone will be able to, though – in the beginning I wasn’t. So if you’re still sensitive to any kind of sweetener be sure to tread carefully with this! But if you’re able to have whole-food sweeteners in moderation, then this is definitely a recipe to try out!

What else are we supposed to do with all those zucchinis this time of year?

zucchini brownies

Grain-Free (and amazing!) Zucchini Brownies
Author: 
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-12
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup natural almond butter
  • 1 cup zucchini, grated VERY fine
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 10-15 drops liquid Stevia extract, or to taste, optional (I used Trader Joe's organic)
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder (preferably dark)
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (or whatever nut you prefer)
  • 1 tsp espresso powder (optional)
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients except Stevia together in a large bowl. (Make sure the zucchini is grated finely if you want to disguise it thoroughly!)
  2. Taste the batter, and if you think it needs to be sweeter add more honey or 10-15 drops of Stevia extract.
  3. Grease an 8x8 baking dish with butter or coconut oil, and then pour in the batter.
  4. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.
  5. Let cool slightly before cutting into it, or it will fall apart!

 

fruit salad

Fresh Fruit Salad

This isn’t exactly ground-breaking food blogging here. There is absolutely nothing revolutionary about this at all.

But, like with other no-brainer posts I have on here (iced tea, popcorn, etc.), it’s just something else that’s “something I can eat,” and is something that’s especially helpful for a sugar-free diet. I thought I’d put it here simply because I’d like this blog to be a resource of ideas for eating on this diet, even the obvious ones.

Once you go off sugar, you find yourself really enjoying fruit more than you did before, and something about combining the right ones together in a bowl makes them even better. I find myself craving this a lot anymore, and it always hits the spot! If you’re having cravings for sweet things, give this a try. Don’t psyche yourself out and pretend it’s a brownie. It’s just something really yummy that will fill you up and taste great and satisfy those sweet taste buds.

I know everyone has their own take on fruit salads and everyone thinks they’re right. I, of course, am no exception, so I think that the way I make it is really the only right way. You can obviously do whatever you want, but this is what I expect from a fruit salad:

fruit salad

Fruits to use

  • Fruits I ALWAYS use: pineapple, red grapes (cut in half), red grapefruit, mandarin oranges, and at least one variety of berry for color.
  • Fruits I use when they look good and are affordable: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, cherries (pitted and cut in half)
  • Fruits I never use: hard, crunchy fruits like apples (the texture is all wrong); melon (melon is good by itself, or in a melon salad, but I don’t think they go with the other fruits in a fruit salad); pears, peaches, and plums (I just don’t like their textures compared to the other fruits. Also, they get mushy and tend to get discolored quickly); bananas, unless it’s being eaten immediately with no leftovers (they get gross and slimy pretty quickly in a fruit salad).

fruit salad

Other things that add to it

  • A couple sprigs of mint, shredded or chopped, adds a really nice, cool surprise of a flavor.
  • Juice of a lime or lemon brightens up the flavor and helps to preserve the fruits.
  • Juice from the jar of mandarin oranges (make sure it’s 100% juice and not sugar syrup) and from the grapefruit after the segments have been cut out gives the juicy base for the salad.
  • Heavy cream, whipped up with an electric mixer, can be nice on top (though I prefer mine plain, with just the flavors of the fruits shining through.) If you use it, either have it unsweetened, or sweetened with only a bit of real maple syrup or stevia.

General guidelines

  • Use fresh fruit and only if it looks good. If the strawberries don’t smell like anything, then they won’t taste like anything and you should just skip them. It will only be as good as the fruit that’s in it!
  • The only canned fruit I use is mandarin oranges. I use it for the juice. Make sure it’s oranges packed in juice only and not a sugar syrup.
  • Try to cut everything into roughly equal size. It helps to get a nice variety of fruit in every bite if everything’s the same size.
  • In the winter, your fruit salad will be sparser because there aren’t as many fruits in season. I generally just get one variety of berry – whatever looks the best and is the best price – to add in for color in the winter. It gets too pricey otherwise.
  • If you’re making this ahead of time, don’t add the juice until just before serving. The juice can make certain fruits (mostly the strawberries) mushy after a while.
  • For the above reason, it’s also good to drain the juice before storing leftovers. You can keep it in a jar and pour some on as you need it, if you want.
  • Try to get as many colors in it as you can. Use red grapes instead of green. Put some blueberries in, even if it’s just a few. We eat with our eyes, so color matters!
  • Serve in a glass bowl, if you have one, because it’s pretty!

fruit salad