Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Southern Pecan Pie Revisited

I've made several versions of Pecan Pie over the last several years. Before I ate paleo, I made my Mama's Pecan Pie. Her version had a crispy layer of pecans on top with a thick gooey layer of syrupy goodness in the middle and a flaky crust on the bottom. That was my favorite pie for years and I was sad to give it up when I gave up grains and refined sugars.

A couple years ago I did some research and created a new version of pecan pie with a  nut crust and a center made from pecans, eggs and dried plums. This version was very tasty but not enough like Mama's traditional pecan pie to make me feel like I was back in her kitchen.

So this year I decided to take another stab at remaking Mama's Traditional Southern Pecan Pie without the grains and refined sugars. In this version, I went back to the original recipe and worked on substituting healthy ingredients for the not-so-good ones. I'm pretty happy with my usual nut crust, so I didn't change that. The main bad ingredients were the sugar and corn syrup that make up the gooey layer in the middle. I decided to use maple syrup and molasses for the sweetener and then used some unflavored gelatin along with my eggs to give the middle layer some strength and help it become more gooey rather than runny. I'm pretty happy with the result, and the rest of the family agreed that it was pretty close to a traditional southern pecan pie.

You may be wondering if molasses is paleo. Here's what thepaleolist.com has to say about it.

Molasses comes from the sugarcane plant. It is made by boiling cane syrup a second time, and for the more common blackstrap molasses, by boiling this syrup a third time. That’s it. The problem with common table sugar lies in the refining process, which molasses doesn’t suffer from. Today’s regular white table sugar (pure sucrose) is completely void of natural nutrients and minerals, and concentrated to be much sweeter than anything cavemen would have found while gathering. So, fortunately for us, pure molasses contains all of those nutritive compounds lacking in table sugar, making it a source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper. It’s just about as close to the source as possible, with a deeper and less concentrated flavor than cane syrup. The sources are right; molasses is the optimal primal sweetener!

Southern Pecan Pie Revisited
1 C Walnuts
1 1/4 C Pecans
1/4 C Coconut oil or melted butter

1 1/4 C Pecans - chopped
3/4 C Maple Syrup
3/4 C Unsulfured Molasses
1 T Vanilla
2 T Coconut oil - melted
4 Eggs
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 T Unflavored Gelatin
1/4 C Warm water

In a food processor pulse all crust ingredients until well incorporated. Press mixture into a pie tin and bake at 350F for about 15 minutes.

In a small bowl mix gelatin and warm water until gelatin is dissolved. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix chopped pecans, maple syrup, molasses, vanilla, cinnamon and eggs. While stirring syrup mixture, drizzle in coconut oil. Keep stirring then drizzle in the water with gelatin. Pour combined mixture into crust and bake for about 30 minutes or until mixture doesn't jiggle when you move the pan.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lemon Muffins

I've made a few different lemon muffins over the years. One of my favorite was the Coconut Flour Lemon muffin that was nut free and very lemony. But today, I was looking for a fluffier version of that muffin. Strictly coconut flour muffins tend to be a little denser than an almond flour one because you need to use so much liquid to balance out the thirstiness of the coconut flour. I wasn't really looking to make this one nut free in particular so I played around with it a bit until I found a combo that I really liked. This Lemon Muffin is a coconut - almond flour combo that is just what I was looking for. You can add poppy seeds to it if you like them; I didn't add them because I didn't have any and they're not my family's favorite. Feel free to customize your own until you find your perfect Lemon Muffin!

Lemon Muffin
1/2 C almond flour
3/4 C coconut flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
5 eggs
3/4 C applesauce
1/2 C honey
2 T lemon zest (about 1.5 lemon's worth of zest)
1 tsp. lemon extract
2 T poppy seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl. Add applesauce, honey, lemon zest and lemon extract. In another bowl beat eggs until they are foamy or fluffy. Gently mix eggs into flour mixture. Spoon batter into lined muffin tin. Bake for about 25 minutes or until tops are firm for regular sized muffins and 40 minutes for jumbos.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bell Pepper Egg Cups

I've made several versions of the baked egg cups. Some had bacon, some had sausage, some had veggies. The other day I decided to make the baked eggs in a half of a bell pepper. I wasn't sure how this might work and if the liquid from the cooking pepper might make the eggs runny or keep them from setting, but they turned out beautifully! I added cheese to mine, so these are primal rather than paleo, but you could omit the cheese if you don't do dairy. You can add any mix-ins that suit you: veggies, meat, cheese, etc. I used mushrooms, onions, broccoli and cheese in mine. Now I'm thinking of other foods that may be cup-like...can I make a baked omelet in a giant mushroom or in a tomato? May have to give those a try!

Bell Pepper Egg Cups
3 Bell Peppers cut in half, and seeded
6-8 eggs (depends on size of your pepper and size of your eggs)
1/2 onion diced
2-3 button mushrooms diced
small hand full of shredded cheese if desired
Any other mix-ins you like!
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F. Half and seed bell peppers. Place them in a baking dish with sides to catch any egg that leaks out. In a mixing bowl, lightly beat eggs with a fork and add salt and pepper. Pour about 1/3 of a cup of egg into each bell pepper half. Add any mix ins you like then top up with remaining egg. Bake for about 20 minutes or until eggs are set. If you are using more watery veggies it may take a little more time to cook. Enjoy warm!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Healthy Immune Boosting Gummies

I saw a post a while back about making your own gummies. My kids love gummy fruit and such, but I don't usually buy them because of the sugar content. Then I saw where the Real Food RN posted a recipe for gummies that would fight colds and flu. Why not make gummies that have a purpose as well as taste good? So I looked over her recipe and then altered it to fit what my kids and I like and what I had on hand. So far, I'm having to hide them to keep the kids from eating them all in one sitting. So I think that's a hit!

I made my gummies using Elderberry Syrup, Gelatin, Pomegranate juice, honey and cinnamon. I bought my Elderberry Syrup from Vitacost ready made rather than making it myself, but I may make my own in the future. I purchased my gelatin from Amazon.

Elderberries have a number of health benefits:
Used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, improve vision, boost the immune system, improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis. Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995.

My only issue with the gummies is they didn't want to release from the molds very well. When I make them again I may spray the molds with coconut oil or I may make them in a tray lined with parchment. Have fun making your own Immune boosting gummies!

Immune Boosting Elderberry and Pomegranate Gummies
  • 1 1/4 cup Pomegranate Juice
  • 4 Tbsp. gelatin
  • 1/4 cup Elderberry syrup (use pre-made or make your own)
  • 1/4 honey
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

  • In a small saucepan, heat the Pomegranate juice until just bubbly. Place gelatin in a mixing bowl then pour hot juice onto it. Stir until dissolved. Add all other ingredients to the hot mixture and stir until well combined. Carefully place mixture into candy molds then refrigerate for at least an hour. (You may want to spray molds with coconut oil...I didn't try this, but I think it might help them release better.)
    More info from the SavoryLotus on why you should add gelatin to your diet:
    1. Gelatin is loaded with protein  ~ With 6 grams of protein per tablespoon, it’s a great way to add more protein to your diet.  Even though it is not a complete protein, it helps the body fully utilize the complete proteins that are taken in.
    2. Gelatin improves digestion ~   It naturally binds to water and helps food move through the digestive tract more easily.
    3. Gelatin can help heal food allergies and intolerances ~  Adding gelatin to your diet can heal the lining of your stomach and digestive tract.  And since food allergies/intolerances are thought to come from a “leaky gut,” the idea is that when you heal your digestive tract, you no longer have proteins and toxins that create health issues “leaching” into your body.
    4. Gelatin is good for bone and joint health ~ Gelatin contains lots of amino acids important in helping to prevent the weakness and degeneration of cartilage in joints.  Gelatin, with it’s anti-inflammatory properties, has  also been shown to reduce  the pain and inflammation of arthritis.
    5. Gelatin helps your body release toxins ~ Glycine, an amino acid found in gelatin, assists the liver to efficiently remove toxins from our system.
    6. Gelatin gives you better hair, nails, and teeth ~ Gelatin contains keratin, which is a very strong protein found in your hair, nails, teeth and skin.
    7. Gelatin improves the elasticity of your skin ~ Gelatin is essentially cooked down collagen.  Consuming it will help improve the look and feel of your skin much more effectively then hard- to- absorb collagen facial creams.  Gelatin actually stimulates your body to produce more collagen.
    8. Gelatin helps speed up wound healing ~ One of the amino acids found in gelatin is glycine, which is highly anti-inflammatory.
    9. Gelatin can improve your quality of sleepClinical studies have shown that not only do people sleep better when consuming the amino acid glycine, they report less daytime drowsiness and better cognitive function.
    10. Gelatin can help with weight loss ~ Gelatin is thought to increase the production of Human Growth Hormone and to boost metabolism.  And with it’s nutrient-dense content, it also helps with satiety (keeps you full.)

    Wednesday, October 2, 2013

    Swirly Sugar Cookies by the Smaller Cavegirl

    Last week The Girl wanted to make some cookies from her kid cookbook, but she wanted to alter them to make them gluten and dairy free. The original recipe called for butter and wheat flour, so we substituted coconut oil and almond flour for those. It also called for lemon zest, which we didn't have. So we substituted lemon juice for that one. And she wanted to add cinnamon to her recipe because she likes cinnamon. :) When all was said and done we had a recipe that loosely resembled the original, but followed the rules she'd set for herself and were very tasty. Win!

    Swirly Sugar Cookies - Gluten free, Dairy Free
    To make about 20 cookies, you will need:
    1 cup powdered sugar (or blitz 1 C granulated sugar in a blender till powdered)
    10 Tbs. coconut oil
    2 Tbs. lemon juice
    1 3/4 Cup almond flour
    1 Tbs. cinnamon
    Few drops food coloring
    Parchment or Silpat lined cookie sheets

    Whisk powdered sugar, cinnamon and almond flour together in a bowl. Melt coconut oil then add to dry mixture. Stir in lemon juice. Mix until well combined adding more flour or powdered sugar if mixture is too runny. Batter should be the consistency of tooth paste. Divide dough into 2 bowls. In one bowl add a few drops of food coloring until you reach the desired color. Mix food coloring into dough. On parchment or plastic wrap roll out the uncolored dough until it is about ¼ inch thick. Carefully spread out the colored dough on top of the uncolored dough. Carefully roll up the dough making a log with the colors swirled on the inside. Wrap log in plastic or parchment and refrigerate for about ½ hour.  Preheat oven to 350*F and remove log from refrigerator.
    Slice dough into ¼ inch thick rounds and place onto a parchment or Silpat lined cookie sheet. Cookies will spread quite a bit!
    Bake for about 13-15 minutes until edges are lightly browned.

    Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    Memories of Papa

    My grandpa died this afternoon. I will miss him greatly. I've been looking at old pictures of him and it's got me remembering the many fun times I spent with him. So I don't forget, I'm writing down some of my memories of my Papa.

    He would let us kids do almost anything we wanted to do. He let me drive his truck on the farm roads when I was 6. I steered and he pushed the pedals. That ended with his truck in the ditch full of water.  But even then he didn't get mad. I ran all the way back to the house and locked myself in the bedroom.  The truck had to sit in the driveway with the doors open for several days to dry out.

    After he went squirrel hunting he'd have me hold the tails while he skinned them, then he'd let me keep the tails. My mom made me throw them away when they started to smell, but he and I thought they were cool.

    He and Mama used to take me frog gigging on their ditch. I got to take the frogs off the gig and put them in the basket.

    He taught me to swim. He would hold the back straps of my swim suit while he told me how to move my arms and legs. Then he would let go while I kept swimming. I always loved to swim.

    At Christmas time he would mix up some eggnog with Jack Daniels. I didn't know it had the Jack in it when he would offer me a sip. I'd make a horrible face when I tasted it and he would laugh and ask if I wanted more. I didn't. :)

    During the summer when I was little I would ride with him when he checked his fields and turned his irrigation pumps back on. Sometimes he'd see a levee that had a break in it. He would have me sit in the hole while he shoveled dirt around me to fill the hole. Sometimes he'd let me swim in the water after we'd fixed the hole since I was wet and muddy already. He would watch out for snakes while I swam. After a while my mom didn't want to let me go because I always came back dirty.

    He made the best fried eggs in bacon grease.

    When Mama was in the hospital I would sit with him in the waiting room and we'd talk about what we'd do when she came home. I think we were both unsure if she would come home, but we were planning for that anyway.

    Papa smiled a lot and laughed a lot, too.

    When you'd say something he'd rather not talk about (like trying to get him to stop smoking) or try to tell him something he didn't want to hear he would just smile and laugh and change the subject rather than argue with you. He would never argue with me or be angry with me about anything.

    I'm pretty sure he slipped me extra nickels when we played 31. (card game where you bet with nickels)

    Because my grandparents lived so close to us growing up, I always felt like I had 3 sets of adults helping to raise me. I feel like I learned a lot from each of them and hope I've become a better person by incorporating some of their personalities into mine. Each time I lose one of them it's hard, but I know they loved me, and they knew I loved them.

    I love you, Papa, and will miss you! I hope you and Mama are having a good reunion in Heaven tonight.

    Week 3 & 4 of the Kids' School Lunches

    The kids branched out a little bit in their school lunches these past couple of weeks. The boy started taking Salmon Salad (mix 1 can of salmon with about 2 Tbs. paleo mayo and 2 tsp. mustard) as his protein and the girl made herself some gluten and dairy free cookies (she typed up the recipe, so I'll be posting that soon). They aren't Paleo or primal as they use powdered sugar (you can make your own without corn starch but it's still sugar).

    The Boy is sticking to the gluten and dairy thing pretty well and will deny himself even if I say he can have something on occasion (he seems to be an all or nothing kind of kid). The Girl has been more reluctant. I've told her it's all her choice and she can eat as she sees fit (to a degree). If she wants to eat gluten and dairy, then I'm not going to say anything about it. I'd say she's holding firm at about 70/30. Overall they are still pretty happy with their lunches and so am I.

    The pictures below are some of the lunches I managed to photograph...some got whisked out the door to school before I could snap my pics.

    The Boy: Salmon Salad, frozen strawberries, lettuce and choc chip muffin
    The Girl: Prosciutto, lettuce, frozen strawberries and a banana 

    The boy: salmon salad, lettuce, pears, choc chip muffin
    The girl: pastrami, carrots, apples, choc chip muffin

    The girl: ham(hidden under the carrots), carrots, pears, cookie
    The boy: salmon salad, lettuce, frozen strawberries (they melted and leaked so they got a bag this time), choc chip muffin

    The boy: salmon salad, lettuce, grapes, choc chip muffin
    The girl: turkey (under carrots), carrots, pears, cookie

    The boy: salmon salad, pears, lettuce, grapes, choc chip muffin
    The Girl: ham, carrots, hummus, pears, cookie

    The boy: salmon salad, apples, lettuce, choc chip muffin
    The girl: ham, carrots, apples, hummus, cookie

    The boy: frozen strawberries, salmon salad, kale chips, choc chip muffin
    The girl: got out the door before I could take a picture. I think she had ham, carrots, choc chip muffin, banana and dried peaches.

    Wednesday, September 25, 2013

    Fall Harvest from the Garden

    It's getting colder around here! I've spent the whole day in a sweater and wool socks and I'm still freezing! With the colder weather, the garden gets a little sadder looking. I decided to go see what I could find still growing and pull my root veggies at the same time. I didn't think I'd find much, but the ever-producing garden surprised me once again with it's secret stash of produce.

    In this box: Potatoes (I didn't even plant any potatoes this year!), carrots, turnip, rutabaga

     A bucket full of kale with cabbage, rhubarb and a mystery squash

    In this box: red and green tomatoes, purple and green beans, white and purple onions, 2 tiny zucchini, cucumbers and a few broccoli florets.  I also picked a bunch of sage after taking this picture. I've got that drying in the dehydrator.
    I'm always amazed how different one year to the next can be in the garden. Last year was a cool summer and I didn't get a ton of anything except green beans, apples and broccoli. This year was a hot summer and I got more of everything except apples. The turnips and rutabaga went crazy and I've still got a few in the ground. Kale also did very well and there's a bit of that left in the garden as well. My winter squash did very well but then got eaten by some critters, most likely rats.  Also, this year the alpine white strawberries did much better than the red ones, but I was really bad about weeding that bed. So, who knows! I do my best from year to year and hope for the best. I guess that's all you can ever do with a garden..


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