Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Grain-free apple muffins

We have some exciting news around here. Next school year it has been decided that my step-son, who will be 11 next month, will be going to school here in Monticello and living with us! He now lives about 3 hours west of us and we get him on weekends and summers/holidays. I think it'll be a nice change and move for everybody. He seems to do much better here with us, and the kids adore him. I am stoked about joining the PTA and packing school lunches. 

My step-son has ADHD, and this gives me the opportunity to try and control it with diet and lifestyle changes. My first move is going to be to cut out all gluten and food additives from his diet (including colorings as I do for my children). I've done lots of reading about gluten intolerance being related to ADHD and in the long run, I'd really like to get him off all of his medications and see if we can get a hold of things naturally. He is a great eater and will try anything I put in front of him, so I'm not too worried about pleasing his pallet. 

Plus there are so many new recipes out there that are gluten free. I have been using almond flour a LOT lately. Not because I have any issue with gluten, but just because it is more nutrient dense than flour. If I'm going to give my kids cookies, muffins, etc. I want them to be packed with as much nutrition I can get into them. I've been playing around with some recipes this week, including paleo/gluten free graham crackers and herb crackers. They both came out really yummy and even my kids like them. I think that I have a lot to chose from on this challenge!

So I'll be doing a lot more gluten-free cooking on this blog. Like I said, I have no issue with gluten and whole wheat will still be a part of me, my husband's, and my kid's diet. We eat it about as often as any other grain, I'd say, because variety is the key to health in my opinion and the more variety, the better. However, for health reasons all around, we'll be using a lot more almond, coconut, and bean flours!

These muffins are a cinch to make and came out pretty tasty. My toddler wasn't crazy about the texture, but everybody else likes them (not at all uncommon around here). I kind of think it is absolutely necessary to top these with butter before eating them. Then again, I top everything with butter. 

When I use almond flour, I like to weigh it. Whether I grind my own almonds or buy the store-bought kind, it always seems to pack differently. By using my food scale and weights, I can ensure I'm putting the right amount in. 

I ground my own almond flour for this recipe, but will use the variety from Bobs Red Mill next time. I think it'll make for a better muffin. 

I grated my apples, but any sort of dicing into small pieces will do.

I lined my muffin tin, but next time will grease them with butter and forget the liners. Too much of the muffin stuck to the liners.

Somebody was excited to try them

Grain-free Apple Muffins

200 grams (about 2 cups) almond flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 large apple, grated or finely diced
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 eggs
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp. butter, very soft or melted, plus extra for greasing muffin tins (or use non-stick spray)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine almond flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl
In a smaller bowl, combine apples, lemon juice, eggs, butter, and honey.
Mix the wet ingredients with the dry, and fill greased muffin tins about 3/4 full. I got 9 muffins out of this batter.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve with butter!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Veggie Nuggets

My son has never had a chicken nugget. Or any sort of nugget for that matter. So I wasn't too surprised when he didn't want to try these. That is how my boy is though... he also does not like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, or hot dogs. 

I think that if I could get him to just TRY one of these nuggets though, he'd like them. That is usually the way it goes. If I can trick him into thinking it is his idea to try one, I think he'll like them. Being a mother is all about strategy. 

If your little one does like nuggets, however, these are definitely worth a try! They are full of veggies and while they don't taste like chicken, they are delicious. I was in now way going to get out little animal shapes like they show in my cookbook, but by all means, if you have the time, go for it. This recipe comes from my Weelicious cookbook. I'll admit - it takes some work, but I now have a bunch of frozen veggie nuggets in a bag in the freezer ready to pop in the oven to heat up when I need them. Maybe one of the times I do, my toddler will actually try them. 

I like that the veggies are all steamed to retain all their nutrients. 

Chopped in the food processor

Mixed together

Spread out and frozen. Freezing these is important...they won't cut or hold up for breading if they aren't frozen.

I cut mine into squares. I got through half the nuggets before they defrosted and I had to freeze the rest before working with them.

My flour, egg, breadcrumb lineup. This was the most annoying step in the process. I'll have to think of a different way. Most of the coating just got stuck to my fingers while I breaded each little nugget. I know that is the way all breaded things are made, which is why I guess I generally don't bread things.

Ready for the oven

Ready for eating!

Despite the work, these ARE really really good. Maybe I'll try sweet potatoes next time. They have a nice crunch on the outside that would really appeal to a kid.

Most importantly, they are healthy! Look at those colorful veggies!

Baked Veggie Nuggets

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
2 medium carrots, cut into cubes
1 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4-1/2 cup flour
2-3 large eggs, whisked
1-2 cups breadcrumbs, depending on how much sticks to your fingers
olive oil spray

Steam potatoes and carrots for 15 minutes, then add broccoli and steam another 5 minutes. Remove broccoli and carrots to a food processor, add corn, and process until finely chopped.

Mash potatoes in a bowl and add in veggies and spices. Mix until well combined.
Spread out on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet to about 1/2" thick and freeze until solid, 1-2 hours.

Place flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs in their own bowls. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with olive oil spray. Cut nuggets into desired shapes and then dredge in flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs. Place on baking sheet. Spray tops with olive oil spray.

Preheat your broiler and bake the nuggets for just about 2 minutes on each side. You can also bake them at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.

You can freeze them and take them out when needed - just pop them in a 400 degree oven for 5-10 minutes or until heated through and crunchy.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Brownies - Paleo style

A lot of people take the new year as an opportunity to start fresh, get into healthy habits, and cleanse their bodies and minds with resolutions that vary from going outside more to organizing their closets. I am certainly not above all of this, and have several resolutions of my own.

This year, it seems like a lot of people are cutting out gluten, or grain altogether. After reading some books about the "paleo" diet trend, it does seem to make a certain amount of sense. While I am not one to follow diet trends, I did think that trying to eat this way was worth a shot to give my body a fresh start for the new year. I am not saying good-bye to grain forever, and I still think a variety can absolutely be part of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, for busy mothers, athletes, children, outdoorsmen, etc, I think healthy carbohydrates are absolutely necessary. I also believe that treats are an essential part of life and I wouldn't want to live in  world where I wasn't allowed a piece of my son's birthday cake.

Anyway, this month I decided to spend 30 days avoiding most grain, dairy, and sugars. I have been eating lots of wild game, our farm fresh eggs, loads of vegetables, and fruits. Also, LOTS of healthy fats. Avocados, ghee, coconut oil, and olive oil primarily. My goal is not weight loss...I just want to feel good and strong. So far I am half-way through this experiment, and am still not feeling as great as I was when I was eating healthy carbs. I'll give it the whole month, but I really do think my body needs healthy, whole grains.

In the mean time, I've been making mostly paleo-style recipes. This coming weekend is kind of special though. Monday I am getting together with some amazing friends of mine and I want to celebrate it. They are like-minded Mamas and we always have loads to talk about when we get together (which isn't often enough for women that see eye-to-eye on as many topics as we do). Well, I like to celebrate things with food. It was how I was brought up and will always be! So besides whipping up some wild venison stroganoff over spaghetti squash, I am also bringing these brownies.

These brownies. Oh my goodness. Grain or no grain, these are my GO TO brownies from now on! I've never liked things to be too sweet, and these are perfect. The texture is super moist, but not too dense or too cakey. They don't fall apart like some "fake" desserts, and they are just absolutely DELICIOUS. I had to stop myself from just eating half of them as they came out of the oven today. I adapted the recipe from PaleoGrubs.

Please try these brownies, whether you are cleansing your bodies or not. They are easy, tasty, and dare I say it...healthy!

Mixing peanut butter and maple syrup

The addition of eggs, butter, cocoa powder

Must resisit yummy batter! (Ok, a little taste doesn't hurt...)
Baked and cooled

Look at these beauties! They are perfect!

Paleo Style Brownies

2 cups nut butter of choice - I used organic peanut butter (all natural - should only contain nuts and oil)
2/3 cup maple syrup - the good stuff
2 eggs
4 Tbsp. butter, really soft or melted
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and mix well. Pour into a buttered 9x13 inch glass baking dish and bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Let cool and cut. Makes 12 generous brownies.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Venison Stew

Be prepared for a lot of venison recipes this coming year. In my opinion, venison is the perfect meat. High in protein, flavor, and we have a ton of it in our freezer! This recipe is as simple as venison stew gets, and that is probably why it is so good. I didn't have any sort of potato to put in it, so instead chose to serve it over polenta, which was different and quite tasty. However, I would usually throw in some potatoes or sweet potatoes to round it all out. 

I had about a pound and a half to 2 pounds of venison leg chops. I just cubed it up, seasoned it, and put it in my NEW Cuisinart cooker. It is more than a crock pot, but I call it my crock pot. What makes it so great is that I can brown ingredients right in the main compartment! It gets hot enough to saute meat, onions, veggies, whatever, and I don't have to dirty a skillet or lose those great flavors that end up at the bottom of a pan. 

Venison tends to steam a lot when you cook it because it has a lot of moisture. I brown it until all the water evaporates, and the meat gets a nice brown color.

Then I add a chopped onion, a bay leaf, and some paprika. I seasoned the meat with salt and pepper, so I save the rest of my seasoning for the end.

Another good addition to this would be some mushrooms.

I poured about 2 cups of water over everything and gave it a stir and set it on high for 2 hours. After the two hours, I added celery and carrots, chopped into pretty large pieces and set it again for another 4 hours. Venison is great, but it can be tough due to lack of fat. If you cook it for a nice long time though, it comes out absolutely perfect and delicious.

An hour before you want to eat, add a cup of wine to the stew to thin it out a bit and give it great flavor. I cook with wine about every day because it gives so much to a dish.

IT got dark out before we ate, so these photos aren't so great, but you can see how hearty, warm, and comforting this is. It is so healthy too, something that tends to be lacking in most "comfort" foods.

Venison Stew

1 1/2 to 2 lbs venison chops, steaks, stew meat, whatever, cubed
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
2 cups water, possibly more
1 cup wine of your choice
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped carrots
2 potatoes, chopped (not shown in my stew)
more salt and pepper to taste

Season venison with salt and pepper. Brown venison until it has a rich color on the outside. Put in crock pot with onions, paprika, bay leaf, and water. Turn to high and set for about 2 hours (this is all very flexible - just make sure the meat cooks for at least 6 hours). Then add in the celery, carrots, potatoes, and wine. Cook an additional 4-10 hours, and the venison should be fork tender. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Holiday Recipe Round-Up

I've been thinking about writing a post about a recipe I've tried over the past couple of weeks for the holidays, but I've been a little lazy taking pictures and generally documenting my cooking. There are several recipes I have tried from other blogs or sites, however, that have been a part of our un-processed lifestyle this year, and they are worth sharing. These are all my photos, I just kept forgetting to take the steps! I've also been working on this post for days, but with my husband working from home, my 10-year old step son playing computer games, and my littles demanding attention, it has been a busy couple of weeks!

The first is a recipe from My Baking Addiction: Baked crab rangoons. I made these for a little gathering I had at my house before Christmas and they are just as good as the real thing...but so much easier and so much better for you! I used real mayonnaise (not light) and used a green onion too. I also doubled the recipe shown here.

For the same gather, I made this Beer Candied Bacon from Tide and Thyme. I followed the recipe exactly, just subbing a porter for the beer they used (it was what I had). Oh. My. Goodness. This is bacon at a whole other level, my friends. It takes time and you have to babysit it, but if you have a snow day, like we have today, please make this!

Next up, Christmas Kringle. My in-laws order a couple of these for their Christmas morning breakfast and I wanted to make one for my husband. This isn't as labor-intensive as a classic kringle, but it is just as good (in fact in my opinion, better). It has everything I would want in a breakfast pastry. My good friend gave me some home-made apple pie filling which I used for the middle, and mixed it with some raisins too. You can use whatever filling you desire. You can find the recipe here.

Next up are sticky buns! My Mom and Step-Dad came over a few days after Christmas to close on a house they bought in town and to hang out with us. My Step-Dad had his gall-bladder out just a couple weeks before and was still on the mend. He happened to mention that sticky buns sounded really I decided to whip these up! They were just what the doctor ordered. Very ooey-gooey and sticky!

I followed this recipe: Cinnamon Rolls

I of course used butter, and I also had the formed cinnamon rolls rise in the fridge overnight. I let them sit our for about 20 minutes in the morning before baking them.

My little helper put on the glaze. 

Next up is a bit of a revelation. Homemade Velveeta. Yes, it is kind of an oxy moron - homemade processed cheese, but that is basically what it is! I used it to make a cheesy pull-apart bread for New Years Eve and they were so so good. This is the cheese cubed up after I made it, ready to get put into bread dough, rolled in butter, and placed in a pan for baking. I WILL be making this again soon for cheesy dips. Definitely a super-bowl party must coming up! Here is the recipe: Homemade Velveeta

I also tried a new bread recipe. It is supposed to be a Great Harvest copy-cat, and I LOVE Great Harvest. When I can't make bread myself, I go there. This came out AWESOME. The bread rose so beautifully it overflowed my bowl. Half the loaf was gone by the time it cooled because the boys kept going back for warm bread and butter. A perfect snack, in my opinion!

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Last but not least, another hit for us all - Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins. I had leftover buttermilk from something or other. These are light but flavorful and best warm. I used dried blueberries (a trick I learned from the Pioneer Woman - they plump up in the muffins but stay put and don't bleed). A perfect New Years muffin. I also used whole honey greek yogurt instead of low-fat vanilla yogurt.

I hope you are all safe and warm if you are experiencing the same weather I am here in the Midwest!