Saturday, November 16, 2013

Grain Free Mexican Lasagna

Does anyone else out there get the insatiable craving for Mexican food? Usually when it attacks, I could go for any number of food joints in Austin, whether it's Tex Mex, authentic, or somewhere in between. I find myself missing food staples in Austin often, and even though I live in a largely Dominican neighborhood in NYC, most of the folks don't speak English so I usually don't know what to order. While I am working on that little detail, I have to fend for myself. And on top of that, I need to stay away from grains and processed corn.

Enter this little recipe. All of the delicious, wholesome flavors we know and love in Mexican food, minus the guilt. Also, as a major bonus, you can make two 8x8 or pie/cake pans up (one for the freezer!?! YESSS!) or a large pan for a crowd. If you're going to spend some time sauteing zucchini, why not make it count for two meals!?

Mmmm. Bye!

Mexican Lasagna
serves 8-10

4 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise and thin (6-8 slices per zucchini)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, sliced thin
1.5 pounds ground turkey or beef
2 tbs cumin
2 tbs chili powder
1 15 oz can rotel, or diced tomatoes with chilies, OR just diced tomatoes and add in your own diced jalapeno
1 can black beans, drained
1.5 cups corn, frozen or fresh
1 cup of your favorite salsa (salsa verde is VERY nice!)
pinch of salt and pepper

1.5 cups preferred cheese, grated (Mexican, cheddar, whatever floats your boat)
Green onions and sour cream for topping

-Preheat your oven to 350 and heat a large skillet over medium high heat with a tbs of olive oil and begin to saute each zucchini slice, about a minute per side and until a little browned and softened. Do this in batches, adding oil as necessary in between, until all of your slices are sauteed. Set zucchini aside.
-Saute the onion in another tbs of olive oil to soften, add in garlic to brown for about a minute, then mix in your ground meat, cooking until no longer pink. Throw in the spices to incorporate, then the diced tomatoes, beans, and corn for a few minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat and prepare your pan (or pans) - using either 2 pie sized or 8x8 pans or one 9x13 by puting 1/2 cup of the salsa on the bottom of the pan. Begin with a layer of zucchini to cover the bottom of the pan, then pour of the filling, a little cheese and repeat to your desired number of layers, ending with zucchini on top, the remainder of the salsa, and a healthy covering of cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly and serve with green onions and a dollop of sour cream!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Brown Paper Bag Turkey!

Hello Friends!

For those of you who just watched today's episode of ABC's The Chew, you might have seen me for a few seconds introducing the recipe I told you about in my previous post! I had the lovely opportunity to pitch this turkey recipe with two other fantastic ladies, Helen and Deena! Congratulations to Deena for her tasty winning recipe and for an incredible job cooking with Mario Batali on the segment after ours! The whole process was super fun, the crew members are all so kind and so entertaining, and the five hosts (Clinton Kelly, Carla Hall, Michael Symon, Mario Batali, Daphne Oz) are all extremely friendly and a ton of fun to be around. And I must say, having the Pioneer Woman on the show that day was icing on the cake, as she was my original blogging inspiration! If I could work for any TV show, it would totally be this one. What a fun time!

So, several of you have asked for this brown paper bag recipe! As Michael Symon mentioned in his comments, the result is a moist bird, and isn't that what we all want after all of that hard work and preparation? So, here you are! Special thanks to Dorothy Arnold for keeping this recipe around for so many years and to my Mom, for helping me figure out the ins and outs of how it works! May the Thanksgiving meal planning commence!!

Turkey in a Brown Paper Bag

1 turkey, giblets/neck removed
4 tbs butter, room temperature
olive oil for drizzling
salt and fresh ground black pepper 
1/2 tsp paprika (or other seasoning, my sister-in-law's family uses lemon pepper!)
1 onion, quartered
1 apple, quartered
1 lemon, halved
5 cloves garlic, smashed
(roasting pan and 2 brown paper bags)

1) Pat the turkey dry and place in your roasting pan. Allow turkey to sit at room temperature for an hour or so before preheating your oven to 375.
2) While the oven is preheating, salt the inside of the bird and stuff with the onion, apple, lemon, and garlic.
3) Rub the butter underneath the skin of the turkey breasts, slathering all over. Apply olive oil liberally to the entire bird, underside included. Grease her up!
4) Liberally salt the outside of the bird, adding fresh pepper and paprika at this time as well. Truss the legs, tuck the wings.
5) Place one bag over the entirety of the roasting pan/bird seam side up, and then the other, overlapping the bags. Sprinkle the top of the bags with water and place in the 375 degree oven for 13-15 minutes per pound (20 minutes if you choose to stuff the cavity with stuffing) or until a thermometer pierced through the bag and into the bird reads 163-170. Tear the bag open carefully to allow steam to escape. Allow to rest 20 minutes before carving. And remember, don't allow the bags to touch the actual heating element... otherwise, there is no risk of fire here as the burning temperature for paper bags is 451!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Grain Free Punkin' Pie!

Oh hey, blog! I've been so busy healing (which included a fantastic trip to Ponce Inlet for my birthday) that I have neglected you! So, here I am! 28. Feeling the best I've felt in months, and hopefully on the permanent up and up! Although ulcerative colitis is a horrible, humiliating disease, I have spoken to so many who have overcome in one way or another and who are doing so well. I struggled more than I thought was possible for an entire year and I am so ready to say good riddance to pain! I am beyond thankful for the words of wisdom from those with the disease and those of you who are just so wise in life experience, and I am ready to move forward! C'mon, body! Cooperate!

Thankfully, moving forward not only means getting my life together again and making meals once more for my husband and I, but also includes practicing and performing again (woohoo!) as well as some fun culinary-related excitement! 

I've gotta tell you, it was kind of weird to be back in my home state of Florida, soaking up the rays a la summertime, after beginning to experience NYC fall! But don't you worry, I slipped back into that relaxing state for a few days and stocked up on vitamin D that is so necessary while I am decreasing prednisone.(Can't wait to get this junk out of my body and lose the moon face!) 

But how lovely it was to return to NYC and our cozy little apt with the fall breeze blowing through my curtains! We jumped right back into the season with our housewarming party that included apple cider sangria (IN a pumpkin!!!) and finished off my birthday celebrations by being part of my favorite TV show, the CHEW! While we were there, I filled out a survey about my favorite turkey preparation to win a chance to be on the show as a guest. Now let me tell you, a fried turkey is one of the most delicious forms of preparation, in my opinion. But, last year my dear sister-in-law introduced the Luce family to her mother's tried and true turkey in a brown paper bag. What a unique preparation, and one my Mom used for many years that I had completely forgotten about! Katharine's Mom and mine have different ways of dressing the bird up, but both produce perfectly moist results, really enhancing the flavor of the bird instead of covering it up with injections or sauces. So! Keep an eye on the Chew Thanksgiving episodes, and wish me luck as I compete with this recipe for a chance to cook with one of the chefs on the show! 

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I tested a grain free pumpkin pie recipe yesterday, and made a video of myself doing it, since some of you have requested such ridiculousness. I have to say, I need a production team or a better recording device... working on that. IN the meantime, you're on your own making this one! Luckily, it's easy as... pie!

Grain Free Coconut Flour Crust

4 tbs butter, room temperature
1 tbs honey
2 eggs
1/2 cup coconut flour
dash of salt

- Preheat oven to 350! Whisk together the butter and honey, add in the eggs to incorporate and toss in the coconut flour and salt. Stir until mixed well and press into a pie plate. Could that be any easier? Par bake in the oven for 10 minutes and mix up your pie filling in the meantime.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

1 can organic pumpkin (or roughly two cups roasted homemade)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbs pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup honey
1 tbs water
1/4 cup goat yogurt (use Greek or plain, too)

- Combine all ingredients to incorporate, pour into the pie filling and bake at 350 for an hour or until no longer jiggly! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Brown Butter Banana Bread made with Coconut Flour and Honey

Today, I finally got out my Canon to take a real photo. As it turns out, I am still in need of a crash course on photography in general, not to mention food styling! The recipes are still pretty quality, though. I can vouch for that! This one especially. It tastes very similar to banana bread made with all purpose flour and brown sugar. To me, that is a huge success. It's moist and extra delicious with some grass fed butter slathered on top.

Brown Butter Banana Bread
1 loaf

1 cup coconut flour, sifted
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 very ripe bananas
4 eggs
6 tbs butter, browned in a sauté pan
4 tbs honey
1 tsp cinnamon
dash of ginger and cloves if you like

- Preheat your oven to 300 and line a loaf pan with greased parchment paper (I actually ran out and used well greased foil as a liner and it worked just fine!)
- Combine the first three ingredients in a small bowl. Mash the bananas, add in the butter and honey to incorporate and whisking constantly, add in the eggs (just in case your butter is still a little warm, you don't want to scramble the eggs.) Toss in the spices and the dry ingredients to stir until smooth. Pour into the pan and bake for about an hour and fifteen minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing from the pan for at least ten minutes.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Quick Berry Jam

Shopping for groceries in NYC is a fun adventure. I think it brings a new motivation and maybe a little bit more fun to the grocery game! Juilliard is a stop away from Trader Joe's and pretty close to Whole Foods, so I send G by there a few times a week for some essentials after his rehearsals. The remainder of our grocery items are picked up in open air markets or a block down the street at C Town when we need something quick. Of course, I could stand to do a bit more planning, but with my diet still not nailed down and my brain a little more confused than usual, I'm not having much luck with being super organized just yet! I'll get there, hopefully soon.

G brought back an assortment of berries the other day, but sadly, they started going downhill faster than I would have liked. This has happened to all of us, I'm sure! But who wants to throw out super expensive berries? Shoo! Turned those suckers into a very simple jam earlier today. I think canning in big batches is a lovely use of time, but I haven't been able to commit to that kind of work recently, nor have I had pints and bushels of produce to do so with. This recipe just makes a little jar to have in the fridge, and it is only sweetened with honey, to allow for more natural fruit flavor and a little more health! Grab those nearly-moldy berries and make this tasty spread in a jiffy!

Quick Berry Jam

2 cups fresh berries, washed
*I used one cup of raspberries, no need to chop, and one cup finely diced strawberries
zest and juice of one lime
3 tbs honey

-Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce to a calm simmer and allow to do so for about 40 minutes. You don't have to babysit it too much in the beginning, but keep an eye on it and stir more frequently toward the end or if it seems to foam up too much (just in case it decides to burn!) Allow to cool and store in the fridge.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Avocado Chicken Waldorf

When you hastily make homemade mayonnaise and it flops (raises hand!), or when you are conscious of the fact that commercial mayo isn't so great for you, here's a very simple recipe for you to try. I always have some kind of shredded chicken on hand for throwing meals together like this one. Bake one chicken per week for just this purpose and make stock from the bones! Just a tip from me to you.

I'm so happy it's Sunday. We're off to brunch at the Smith in the East Village where my Sarah Claire works! And we'll be hitting up some farmers markets! Strength for today! I promise not to over do it. Feeling good so far, so I have high hopes for this beautiful, fall Sabbath.

Avocado Chicken Waldorf
serves 2

1 and 1/2 cups shredded chicken
1/2 of a large avocado or 1 small, cubed
2 tbs Greek yogurt or sour cream
Grapes cubed, as many as you like
A sprinkling of chopped walnuts
Pinch of salt and pepper

- Combine all ingredients and stir to mash up the avocado well. Serve on warm toast or for the grain-free folks, the biscuits in the previous post!!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Cheddar Chive Coconut Flour Biscuits

Look out! It's time for the honesty hour with Anna.

Grain free baking confession 1:
Coconut flour baked goods make me very sad and angry. I have developed an aversion to both coconut oil and sweet coconut flour treats from associating them with times of extreme illness and pain. This is very strange because I have been a coconut fanatic my whole life, so you would think that this couldn't happen to a person like myself. And now that I am recommitting myself to grain-free eating, I am truly up a creek with only an almond meal paddle, if I am taking away coconut flour. No!!!!!!

Since yesterday was my first day back to the grain-free grind after a glorious three weeks of gluten-free freedom, you can imagine my frustration as I stared at my delicious gluten-free waffles that have been my staple every morning. I screamed at them for containing harmful starches, angrily made my scrambled eggs, and resolved to find something grain-free to replace the waffles with. I don't have a waffle maker, so my next thought was: biscuits?? I went to a coconut flour recipe I have experimented with before but couldn't stomach the thought of these imitators posing as my Mama's southern biscuits with butter and honey gloriously slathered on top of them. So, I haphazardly threw in a heap of shredded raw milk cheddar and dried chives just to see if maybe, just maybe, these would be alright with a savory kick, hopefully covering up the nauseating coconut texture.

Lo, and behold, the result was a delightfully crunchy little cheddar biscuit that has a lovely finish thanks to the chives. Sweet relief! I'll take any success in life I can get right now. And this was no small victory! I'm all about the little things these days. In fact, I'm at the place where one day at a time is all I can handle. Isn't that how we should all live anyway? We aren't guaranteed tomorrow, so you might as well embrace today! Lord, give me strength for this moment (and every moment in today) and a lot of hope for tomorrow?!?!

Cheddar Chive Coconut Flour Biscuits
makes 10 small

1/3 cup coconut flour, sifted
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
5 tbs butter, room temperature
4 large eggs
heaping 1/2 cup grated cheddar
heaping tbs dried chives

- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and combine dry ingredients first to incorporate. Whisk eggs in a separate bowl then add to the mixture along with other items until smooth. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat and form ten little biscuits with your hands, flattening them a little bit to achieve a biscuit look. Don't worry! It won't be as messy as you think. Sprinkle with coarse salt and toss in the oven for 14-15 minutes or until they begin to brown. Store at room temperature for 3 days or stick in the freezer!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Turn up the Tang : BBQ Sauce Edition

What a day I'm having!

I saw an IBD specialist today who seems to think my current medical regimen isn't going to work. The alternative is a series of infusions I refused back in March that now I have no coverage for. But you know what? I just can't dwell on that. I have to believe in what my body is doing right now. I have to have hope that comes from a gracious God who has allowed me to be on earth this long. And if I'm going to be here any longer, welp, I might need some help. And what a time to learn trust and acceptance. Life really doesn't get easier as you get older, hmm? Should have listened to my Mama!

Enough about being old and dealing with difficult things. Life is still beautiful.  Did I tell you that I am so enjoying cooking in my little funky kitchen? My stamina isn't so hot these days, so I started prepping dinner before my appointment this morning. I take naps and detox baths and practice breaks in between food making, and it works out quite well! Now, if it weren't so sweltering, we'd be in great shape here in NYC! Luckily, this evening it has cooled off quite a bit thanks to the rain, and little Zoe is having a hay day barking at the lightning show. Simultaneously adorable and annoying.

Oh, how thankful I am to have dinner with G at our dining table again. I roast a lot of chickens these days and it is always accompanied by some thrown-together sauce. Tonight, I actually measured out my usual haphazard method. We like our BBQ sauce nice and tangy, so cut back on the vinegar if you're afraid of the tang! But do attempt your own sauce as it is a lot better for you, not to mention cheaper! This recipe makes a small mason jarful!

Tangy BBQ Sauce

1 scant cup ketchup *homemade is best if you have it or at least low or no sugar!
3 tbs apple cider vinegar *Bragg's is a GREAT brand
3 tbs honey
2 tbs good quality Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs of your favorite mustard, I used a grainy horseradish for an extra kick but yellow will do, too!
1/2 tbs chili powder
2 pinches of sea salt
1 pinch of pepper

- Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes whisking often, to allow the flavors to meld. Serve warm! Store in the fridge for up to a week.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Scrambled Eggs

I've been itching to write for a while. But sometimes I can't help but wonder when I will be able to cut it with the epic posting and instead be able to sit down for a normal little session containing a few short words and a recipe. That doesn't seem to be in the cards anytime soon, and perhaps you'd like to be updated on recent happenings, faithful readers!?

As some of you know, my ulcerative colitis came out of remission on my birthday last year. At the time, I was hopeful that I could regain control of my health in a timely fashion, but as it turns out, this has proven to be the most challenging year of my life. Needless to say, I am looking forward to October 4 of this year and have high hopes for it being a really new year full of health and upward motion.

You see, the more I am on this journey, the more I realize the impossibility of reconciling western medicine with the natural world. Usually when one has a flare up of an autoimmune disease, it's straight to the specialist, diagnoses, treatment plant, GO! And when I attempted to follow that regimen this last time, I was overwhelmed with conviction about the drugs being pumped into my body, drugs that didn't seem to be doing their job. At that point, I threw myself into the world of the GAPS diet and natural healing for six months. And for about two of those months, I did well, I saw healing, and I was convinced I would be well. But when an unexpected relapse occurred at the end of July, I felt like a giant failure. I poured so much time and discipline into this lifestyle, and it failed me? I then attempted a last-resort water fast to try to stop the inflammation, and unfortunately that put my body over the edge and sent me to the hospital for a grueling week of needles, IVs, an overabundance of antibiotics, isolation, and miserable fluid retention.

Since my recovery, I've dealt with a ream of ridiculous symptoms and other unpleasantries (I think I made that word up) that accompany high-powered steroid use. And because of the steroid, I can't be sure if the drug I am currently on to tame things down is actually working or if it will fail me once the steroid stops.

Through this whole discouraging process, I was perhaps the most flabbergasted in the hospital when I realized that they have NO idea how to treat GI patients, especially when it comes to food. Keep in mind, I am being hospitalized for an inflamed colon... and what do they send me? Sugar, dairy, gluten... in the most highly processed forms. PEOPLE! IT'S THE HOSPITAL! WHERE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO MAKE YOU WELL!??! AND THIS IS THE FOOD THEY SERVE? Oh, I was furious. And apparently pioneered a gluten free menu at this particular hospital. (I'm not joking.)

Be still my heart. I can't afford to get worked up about this. Or anything. Attempting to remain calm at all times is my new life goal. Worried? Not me! Mad? Don't worry about it! I've got this!

I do have to say that amidst all of the misery, I have been completely blown away by the generosity of friends and family in getting us moved to NYC and in taking care of me. We've felt so loved and supported and have received such wonderful surprises. I don't know what the future holds for me, but I'm going to keep trucking and thanking God for each day that He gives me. I'm happy to be here on this earth and in this amazing city and I am so thankful for all of you in my life holding my hand through this time.

Come visit us soon and I will make you soft, digestible foods like these eggs that I start every morning with! When the day is daunting, look at the basics of life. Food. Health. Family. Prioritize them, make them special, and don't take them for granted. Love what you have!! <3 p=""> 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Homemade Almond Milk

For those of you who did the Against the Grain Challenge : Congratulations! I've received several messages containing success stories. I think everyone cheated a little here and there, but overall I've heard very good reports and some of you are even considering this as a lifestyle change, which is incredible! It's so very encouraging to see the lights come on for some of you, health-wise. Keep up the good work!

I wish I had a better report for myself. Still tapering off of prednisone, and after two very good months, I am back to a flare and all of the beautiful symptoms that accompany it. The timing couldn't be worse as G and I are packing up our home in DC and leaving next week to hopefully find a new home in NYC! I'm so beyond excited to be a New Yorker, but gracious I've gotta get better so I can enjoy it!

As with this entire journey, food is everything. I'm not eating much of it right now, but when I do I can only handle mild things and I find myself needing to use dairy of some kind here and there. Seeing as true dairy is out of the picture for now, I finally tried my hand at almond milk. It's surprisingly easy! Grab cheesecloth or a milk bag and get to work!

Almond Milk
makes about 2-3 cups

1 cup almonds
Blender or food processor

-Soak almonds in a generous amount of water overnight.
-Rinse almonds and place in a blender with 2 cups of water. Pulse until complete pulp 2-4 minutes.
-Strain through the cloth thoroughly. Store milk in the fridge for a few days and save the remaining almond meal for baking (dry it out first in a low oven like granola, then grind.) Sweeten to taste with honey.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Coconut Beef Curry with Basil Lime "Rice"

Happy 4th Anniversary, little  blog!

Four years of experimental recipes and so many memories shared through food with the ones I love. This started out as a place to keep track of the things I make and to update friends and family on our newlywed adventures. These pages are full of trial, error, and many lessons learned in life and in the kitchen. Sometimes I think it's a silly thing to keep, but I'm glad to have all of the crazy recorded. Thanks for being on this journey with me, readers!

Wish I would have snapped a better picture of this dish. I have a horrible, glaring light in my kitchen and haven't set up a light box for food photography yet. So, if I make something in the evening, well, the picture ain't gonna be pretty! But rest assured that this is a super flavorful, healthy dish that you want to try. I can't handle too much heat these days because of my digestive system, so if you want to kick up the heat, add more red curry and less yellow!

Coconut Beef Curry
serves 4-6

1 tbs olive oil
2~ lbs ground beef
1 cup of chopped onion (1 large)
2 tbs freshly grated ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbs yellow curry powder
1 tsp red curry paste (optional - or use more red and less yellow)
1 and 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 can coconut milk, unsweetened!
1 can diced tomatoes plus the juice
3/4 cup golden raisins
2 cups frozen peas

- Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown the beef over medium high heat. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, and curry powder and paste and season with a few pinches of salt and a dash of pepper. Stir frequently, toasting the spices, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the broth, coconut milk, tomatoes, raisin,s and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, stirring occasionally, and allow to do so for about 20 minutes. (prepare the cauliflower at this time.) Add in the peas and keep on low for another 10 minutes. Serve warm with rice, naan, or with the cauliflower rice recipe below! This stew tastes even better the next day!

Basil Lime Cauliflower "Rice"
serves 4-6 as a side

2 tbs olive oil
3 cups riced cauliflower
1 tsp turmeric (optional - I just add it in everything since it is an anti-inflammatory!)
1/2 c Thai basil, julienned
zest of one lime, and the juice for squeezing on the final product

- Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat and add in the cauliflower, stirring often to toast until soft, about 8-10 minutes or until desired softness is reached. Add in the turmeric if using, and stir in the basil and lime zest. Season with salt to taste, keeping in mind that the curry may add to the saltiness! Squeeze the lime juice over before serving alongside the curry.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Grain-Free Cinna-Scrumptious Muffins

If we're all doing this Against the Grain Challenge!! we will, at some point, require a tasty treat! Lucky for you, this is the best one I've created in some time. Give it a go!

Grain-Free Cinnabon Muffins
Makes 8

1/2 c coconut flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs (small)
3 tbs honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 c full fat milk or cream

Cinnamon drizzle

2 tbs melted butter
2 tbs cinnamon
4 tbs honey

- Preheat your oven to 350 and line 8 baking cups, filling the remaining four with a little water to encourage even baking.
- Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and add in other wet ingredients, then stir in the dry to incorporate. Spoon heaping tablespoons of the batter into each cup.
-Combine cinnamon drizzle in a small bowl and evenly drip over each muffin cup.
-Bake for 15 minutes, cool in the pan for 5, serve warm. Will also keep for a few days in a sealed container at room temperature.

Against the Grain Challenge Meal Plan!!

The goal of this challenge is to FEEL BETTER. You can calorie count if you like, but it isn't necessary. Eat whole foods. Feel good! Refer to yesterday's post for more guidelines. Today, I will help you with a few specific ideas in regards to what to put into your body in case you're feeling like " WHAT DO I EAT IF I HAVE NO GRAINS OR SUGAR?! WHAT DO I MAKE FOR DINNER?!?! WHAT DO I SNACK ON?! WHAT IS FOR LUNCH!!!! "

Things to Drink!
Water (consider adding fresh citrus and other fruits like strawberries for a refreshing change-up!)
Coconut water (no added sugar)
Kombucha (no added sugar)
Coffee (organic, with a splash of full fat cream and a teaspoon of honey if you must)
Iced and hot teas without sugar!

Consider these pancakes
How about muffins?
EGGS! Any way!
Fresh fruit (preferably eaten first to aid in digestion)

Big salads are great! Get creative with adding fruit, nuts, protein and raw or aged cheeses
Zucchini Pizza!
Snack on carrots and white bean dip
Apples and Nut butter (don't get too generous with the nut butter!)

A cooked protein with a myriad of roasted vegetables
Get creative with cauliflower pizza crust
Use riced cauliflower as "fried rice" and do a stir fry

For additional safe recipes, consult these websites:

Remember, no grains, no corn, potatoes, beans, and no sugar! Only natural, hormone and nitrate free meats and eggs!

Ask me your questions! And keep track of your experience. I want a recap from everyone!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Against the Grain Challenge!!

Friends! Bloggers! Countrymen!

I am recruiting all who are willing for a week long challenge that will give the participant an idea of what it is like to live as natural a life as possible (as I have been doing for the last few months.) You can be as extreme with this as you like. At the most basic level, the name of the game is to be mindful of what is going into your body in regards to chemical intake and those foods which cause inflammation. Even if you are a relatively healthy individual, you will benefit from seven days of clean eating, I promise! We will call this goal of eating :

Level 1!
*NO grains, NO sugar, NO corn, beans, potatoes, or processed meats

Instead, enjoy the following:
Fruits (all kinds, bananas with brown spots preferable)
Vegetables (with the exception of corn,  beans, potatoes)
Nuts (nut butters and dried fruit without sugar)
Well-sourced, pastured eggs and natural meats
Nitrate/nitrite free bacon, pepperoni, lunch meats
Honey in moderation
Coffee, tea, sparkling water (try to limit caffeine)
Limited dairy is best (a little cream in coffee (full fat, organic) and organic butter, lard, coconut oil and olive oil are recommended for cooking)

Level 2!

Commit to exercise!
Over-exertion is not recommended  for those unaccustomed to this type of restricted diet, so do light walking or make a $3 investment in the YogaStudio app which is a private in-home yoga experience that not only leaves your body feeling amazing, but also is a great help in centering your mind!

Level 3!

Eliminate as many toxins as possible!
Refrain from excess caffeine, pain killers, or other unnatural drugs, cosmetics, and cleaning products if possible.

This should get your thinking cap in gear! I will be posting a suggested meal plan tomorrow and will also be posting suggestions and recipes along the way!

Comment, message, text or call me if you have questions or need some support!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Zucchini Pizza Time!

Oh hey there, blog. It's been a while.

I've been a little busy focusing on healing and moving, as well as summer travel and a very special wedding! Thankfully, I've been well enough to do all of these things and am happy to be spending the summer with G. Currently, I'm posting from Stanford in a lovely law student housing apartment! We have a ridiculous balcony and I have WAY too much time to practice my little Baroque violin.

How is it possible that I fill up a whole day with yoga, practicing, minimal food making, and a little reading? I'm just that cool at this moment in life, I suppose. I try not to beat myself up too much for being a bit of a slacker at this point. My body still has a long way to go, but compared to March 8- about May 8, my health has increased about 100% in my mind - wahoo!

I don't want to get too crazy getting back into the blogger game, so I bring to you an embarrassingly easy recipe for those of us on the road this summer with minimal kitchen tools and the need for on-the-go type meals that require little to no prep. Being mostly grain free leaves me feeling satisfied with what I do eat most of the time... but every once in a while I get a mad hankering for "normal" food. A few weeks ago, to appease an unruly appetite for pizza, I made these little zucchini pizza slices. Zucchini, as you probably know by now, is a very subtle vegetable, adapting to any flavor profile (thus its use in things like sweeter dishes.) If you're trying to kick the carbs, this recipe is for you. Give it a go next time you feel the urge to go against the grain (wink.)

Happy summertime!!!

Zucchini Pizzas
serves 2

2 large zucchini, ends lopped off, each zucchini sliced into 4 long pieces
1 small can organic pizza sauce, no sugar if you can find it!
1 heaping cup shredded organic raw milk hard cheddar (or cheese of your choice)
As many nitrate-free pepperonis as you can fit on top of each zucchini slice!

- Preheat the oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with foil. Place your neatly sliced zucchini on the baking sheet and spread 1 tbs of pizza sauce onto each slice. Top with cheese and pepperoni and stick in the oven for 15-25 minutes, depending on the level of desired crispiness you're after. Fork and knife recommended for this one!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Pumpkin Banana Muffins with Spiced Honey Butter

My heart is full this morning as I sit down to share this recipe with you. My body is finally healing, I'm surrounded by beautiful people and weather, and have much to look forward to! I'll keep this short so I can go back to sharing these lovely muffins with friends.

Here's what you need to know : grain-free baking is much, much different than traditional, and really doesn't share any more similarities with gluten-free baking either. The product rarely meets your expectation, but for those of us with such restrictions, it is always a special, treasured treat. For those of you who don't know, grain-free typically only includes almond flour/meal or coconut flour. The community is in an uproar over the almond meal nowadays, which is a shame since we only had two solid "flours" to work with from the beginning! So, I've been gearing my test kitchen towards the coconut and I'm very pleased with the result. Coconut flour is far more dense and absorbent than ANY of the flours out there, which can be a challenge when experimenting, but every once in a while, you (perhaps accidentally) make a brilliant move and come to a lovely result. Try these muffins for a healthy twist to an otherwise unhealthy treat. And DON'T skip on making the butter. You want it, trust me. Full fats help us to digest proteins and carbohydrates. I know it's hard, but the low-fat craze is truly nonsense. Get that out of here and eat butter.

Grain-Free Pumpkin Banana Muffins
makes 12

3 eggs (pastured)
2 tbs butter (organic)
2 tbs milk (I used raw)
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs honey
1.5 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (if you don't have it, throw in a pinch of cloves, nutmeg and 1/4 tsp ginger)
1 tsp cinnamon

- preheat your oven to 375 and line 12 muffin tins with paper cups. Whisk your eggs in a medium sized bowl, incorporate the melted butter (be sure to temper if butter is hot), stir in the milk, honey, vanilla and bananas/pumpkin.
- In a small bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients. Add into wet ingredients and spoon heaping tablespoon-sized dollops into your muffin tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. While the muffins are cooling for a few minutes, mix up the butter and serve!

Spiced Honey Butter

4 tbs butter
4 tbs honey
1 tsp cinnamon (other pumpkin pie spices as well, if you prefer!)

- Make sure the butter is at room temperature before stirring all together! Store in the fridge!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

GAPS Banana Pancakes with Almond Extract

So, the two ingredient banana pancakes are super for every day eating. But, on those special days when you need something a little more filling or you just want a special treat that is still guilt-free, this recipe is the one for you.

You see, I still crave donuts and other baked goods that I just can't have. My love for food hasn't waned one bit, which is sometimes a problem. Staying on track and focused, especially when I feel better most days, is extra hard. It's funny how just one pain-free moment can make you feel like you have the right to be "normal" again and return to "normal eating." Still dealing with all of these things, but recipes like this really help. They taste like a delicious, non-GAPS baked good. Give them a try!!

Banana Pancakes with Almond Extract
serves two, eight small pancakes total

2 ripe bananas, smashed
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
3 tbs coconut flour
honey for drizzling

- Combine the mashed bananas and whisk in the eggs and extracts. Sprinkle salt, soda, and coconut flour over the mixture, whisk until smooth and allow to sit for five minutes. Pan fry over medium low heat in butter, ghee, or oil. Allow a few bubbles to form before flipping, being cautious as they can burn pretty easily! Drizzle with honey and enjoy!!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Two-Ingredient Pancakes!

The opportunity for change presents itself anew each morning. And one of the first choices you will make during your day is what to eat for breakfast. So, make it a good one. Make a change. You can have pancakes without any kind of flour! How do you like that?

I start every morning of the GAPS diet that I can with these pancakes. I can't get enough of them!

Banana Egg Pancakes
makes eight small pancakes, all for one person!

1 banana
2 eggs
and Ok fine I'll admit it, I add:
1/2 tsp cinnamon
chopped walnuts
but I did just the first two ingredients for a LONG time before branching out. All ways are delicious!

- Mash the banana, whisk in the eggs (and other two ingredients if you like) and pan fry in ghee, butter or coconut oil. Drizzle with a little honey and serve!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Grain-free Zucchini Muffins

Well, friends. After three weeks of bed rest and some of the worst days of my life, I am happy to say that I am now finally coming into a place of healing. My body still has a long way to go, but I at least have a doctor who knows a ton about my condition and the GAPS diet, and I am functional for most of the day! Now, to just get my evenings back and the rest of the symptoms to subside... Natural healing takes a long time, just like spiritual healing. It's an interesting parallel and one that I have been marveling over for the last few days. But anything worth having never happens overnight, and my health is worth it to me. The long road continues, but it's looking like there's a little sunshine on my path for now!

I've always wanted to make drastic changes in my eating habits. I carry around a lot of conviction about and love for food, but I would have never made these changes if I hadn't been thrown into it out of necessity. I'm pretty sure we all have goals health-wise we want to achieve, but knowing where to start is the real struggle.

The way I see it, replacement is everything. And so is prioritization. We can say that eating organic is far too difficult due to expense, but if you do your research and wise meal planning, it's totally possible. When you run out of commercial mayonnaise, make your own - it's cheaper that way anyway! When you run out of deodorant, make your own - definitely cheaper! And as for training your body to not want crap anymore, well that's a long process, but it's much easier to go through with real food recipes like this one! Although I think the primal community totally overdoes it with almond flour, almond meal has a ton of nutritional properties and is only 2.99 at Trader Joe's! Give recipes like this one a try and see if switching to a healthier lifestyle is right for your family!

GAPS Legal Zucchini Muffins
makes 12

2 c almond meal
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 medium organic eggs
1/4 c butter or ghee, melted
1 c packed, shredded zucchini
2/3 c walnuts, chopped
2 tbs honey
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

- Preheat oven to 350 and lightly olive-oil a muffin tin with a pastry brush. In a small bowl, combine first three ingredients. In a larger bowl, whisk eggs, add in zucchini, walnuts, butter to combine then stir in the final three ingredients. Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 12-15 minutes. Check right at 12 with a cake tester to see if it comes out clean. If you are concerned about the bottoms burning, use muffin liners! Otherwise, pull out of the oven as soon as they are cooked through, only cool for a minute or two before gently running a knife around the edges of each muffin and popping out to cool on a wire rack. Drizzle with honey for a little more sweetness!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Starting Over

All diseases begin in the gut - Hippocrates

KeepitLuce is about to become a health and wellness blog. So, if you can handle my crazy discoveries, keep reading. Otherwise, it's about to get real in here health-wise, so be prepared!

The last two weeks have been an insane roller coaster of sickness and education for me. I reached my lowest point with ulcerative colitis, mostly due to the fact that I was instructed to take a medication incorrectly. However, for months, I have wanted to truly understand why my gut is the way it is, why MOST of us in America struggle from illness of some description and what helpful effects the drugs that are handed to us so freely actually provide.

I don't have to tell you that we're a society of instant gratification. We put bandaids on relationships and avoid seeking counsel. We work on a surface level, few of us ever achieving dreams because to admit them would be too scary God forbid we fail. And we eat to make ourselves comfortable, or uncomfortable depending on whether or not you feel you exercise enough. We believe in fast fixes and live on the edge of insecurity and breakdown.

I am more than willing to admit that some of you reading this don't live that way but, as a culture, that's what I see. I've been fighting it for a long time, but the ease of comfort food, half-hearted excercise, getting by work-wise and somehow trying to manage a house and relationships take over so much of the time. And I don't think it is ironic that this disease has brought me to my lowest point as a human to really get a hold on why I'm here and what I'm doing.

Whether you consider yourself a spiritual person or not, I think we are all aware of the pull in ourselves to be better, to live for more and in the vein of my spiritual convictions, to treat our bodies as a temple. I've been reminded of that constantly and let me tell you, I don't know about yours, but my temple is in need of some renovations.

When I was first diagnosed with this disease, I was young, couldn't fathom giving up delicious food as I was just beginning to enter the world of foodies, I was in an unhealthy relationship and for goodness sake, I was in my first year of college and my Dad had just survived a really close call with a brain tumor. Just getting through that first year of medications was enough for me. I weaned off of the meds, felt great, ate normally and was in remission for four years, attempting the Maker's Diet once or twice more along the way until this past October. Then it hit me like an eighteen wheeler heading down a Texas highway and the doctors said it was my fault for not being on a maintenance medication. Well, they were right, but I knew that if I would have stuck to a consistent diet and a more stress reduced lifestyle, I could have possibly avoided it on my own. I felt that guilt, dealt with it, started taking medications (paying for them out of pocket thanks to an Rx coverage mixup) and didn't see true healing or results.

When I sat down in my GI's office last week and he explained to me that I would get my life back if I started Remicade, I blinked twice, filled out the paperwork and went home. I didn't think I was that close to losing one of my intestines. I didn't want to start on what some call the chemo-drug, lose my hair after overuse and possibly develop heart failure or lymphoma. I sat with that information for two days by myself, hoping and praying for a different answer and went to my next appointment with a naturopath. He was more encouraging, accepting the severity of my situation and the damages prednisone has been doing to my body, but was hopeful and began me on a regimen of something like 20,000 IUs of vitamin D, a soluble vitamin B and enzymes to increase my immune system's strength, restore my adrenal glands that have been working overtime and penetrate through the bacteria that lives in my body. As I began to understand that although conventional medicine is sometimes brilliant, necessary to save lives in some situations, and the easiest fix for our ailments, I began to truly realize that all of the antibiotics and painkillers and immuno-suppressors that we throw into our bodies are just a cover up. They don't heal, they reduce the symptoms and leave our bodies starving for a real cure. They are a quick fix and they provide long lasting harmful effects. It is kind of a beautiful picture of our lives as beings, too. We have a choice as people to cover up our outward ailments OR we can truly treat them with Love and Hope and Peace. After that appointment, I resolved then to get off of the meds and made a somewhat hasty and foolish decision to do so right away, resulting in a huge flare two days later.

In those two days, I recalled a friend's suggestion to consider the GAPS lifestyle. I looked at it again, resolved to do it and continued with research. I have spent the last week in complete disarray, looking up every possible testimonial for drugs and diet and surgery, fighting depression over the state my body is in and what it will take to get it better, considering ways to taper off of my current drugs, getting G to purchase a blendtec for us, talking to friends, updating family, and trying to get my head to stop spinning from all of it. Luckily, I was able to cancel the week and be home in Delaware while G is away and my trusty Mother has been by my side the whole time helping me to unwind the confusion and make a solid plan.

Now here's what I want you to know. Good bacteria and bad bacteria live in the world, and to acquire some of the good, we usually have to deal with some of the bad. But that delicate balance we require in our gut, is crucial to our entire body. And the more I study GAPS, the more I understand the gut and brain connection and how restarting and restoring your gut can not only cure diseases like mine, it also has the ability to completely remove allergies, to aid in depression and to even help children with autism (as it was created for.)

Back to our society : we believe in low-fat, carbohydrate free living and now some are beginning to get on board with diets like Paleo/Primal as they have begun to see the value in eating whole, sustainable foods accompanied with full fat, well -sourced dairy, oils, and butters that actually aid in digesting proteins and other more complex foods, creating the healthy lining of our intestines that we need. The science of this is fascinating and I can spout off a ton of reasons why you should consider diet change even as a healthy person, but I'm going to let you do that research on your own.

However, if you feel like your brain and your gut need recharging and you are willing to take time NOW to repair the damage that has been done, let's be friends. Let's hold each other accountable. My journey with GAPS starts now. Join me if you like and if you'd rather not, keep reading my posts! They will still contain healthy, everyday recipes for a traditional American diet and may spark an interest in you to eat more whole foods, as they were intended to be.

As this post is mostly for my friends and family, thanks so much for your support. I'll love any of you who still consume white flour and you know you'll find me making cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning because I still believe there is nothing better than kneading bread for those you love. I hope to make it through this introduction diet and grow into a new, healthy lifestyle that we can all share in! Love you all.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Grain-Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust

 Well, this was pretty tasty! I was surprised at the taste and consistency of this alternative to traditional dough. Some substitutes are disappointing at best, but this is surprisingly easy to assemble and delicious to eat! Give it a try, grain-free or not!

Back to a very random week of appointments, meetings, teaching, and rehearsals! Ta-ta!

Grain-Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust
makes 2 pizzas the size of large plates

4 c riced caulfilower (best accomplished in a food processor or with experienced knife skills!)
3 eggs
1 c almond meal
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp kosher sea salt
(depending on your toppings, other savory spice blends!)

- Preheat your oven to 425. Combine all ingredients above in a large bowl until incorporated. Split "dough" into two groupings. Line a large baking sheet *or two small with parchment paper or a silpat and brush with oil or coat with nonstick spray. Plop the mixture onto your coated and lined baking sheets and shape into an oblong shape or oval, patting down to achieve an even height, rounding out edges. Don't thin out so much that it creates holes in the dough! Refer to the picture above.
- Bake for 20 minutes, rotate and bake for another 5-10 or until pretty golden and very set looking. Allow to cool a few minutes before topping (with for example; mozzarella and chicken.) At this point, hold off on any sauces you may be using since this type of crust quickly gets soggy. (If using traditional sauce, warm on the stove and drizzle before serving to avoid crust fail.) Bake toppings for an additional ten minutes or until cheese is melted. (For this pizza, I added a strawberry balsamic reduction as in the picture above - cook down 1 cup chopped strawberries with 4 tbs balsamic and water, simmer until reduced in half, add in 3 tbs honey, reduce again!!)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Grain-Free Cinnamon Rolls

Two posts in two days? What is this? I have two more lined up for the next two days as well, so hold onto your seats!

I usually wouldn't be in such a hurry but these seem to be some popular recipes with my friends, so here you are! The following recipe from a Paleo website endured some minor tweaking from yours truly. But I must say, although not quite like the real thing, to someone who isn't eating many grains, this is quite a treat for weekend brunch and is also quite easy to throw together with little hassle and mess!

For the Rolls 
makes 8

1 and 3/4 c almond meal, fine
1/4 coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tbs honey
1tbs cinnamon

For the Glaze

4 tbs melted butter
2 tbs honey
dash of vanilla

- If making right away, preheat oven to 325. If making next day, ignore that step. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl then add in the 2 eggs. The dough should form a large, wet ball. It should be manageable and not gloopy!
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly brush with oil. Lightly brush oil onto another piece of parchment and place the dough in between. Squish into a rectangle shape about 1/4 inch thick overall. Drizzle with the honey and coat with cinnamon. With the assistance of the parchment, roll into a log carefully, piecing together inevitable cracks in the dough as you go!

- After a tight log is formed, take a fresh piece of parchment and gently wrap around the log, place in a ziplog bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until the next morning. Remove the log from the fridge, cut into eight pieces with a greased knife. Place all pieces on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 325 or until golden brown.
- Mix the Glaze ingredients together and allow to sit and make a paste. Place dollops onto each roll and serve while warm!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Taking Stock

Oh hello there. It's been too long! Lack of inspiration has been a free flowing river around here the last few weeks. I hate to admit that, but when you feel less than grand, it's hard to be excited about even the greatest joys in your life.

But I'm trying to change that. I'm trying to turn my crazy hodge podge life into something meaningful. I'm attempting to gather up all sense of purpose in every scattered area.

I've been hoping and praying for motivation, to journey through circumstances instead of just wishing to be lifted out of them. That kind of endurance is pretty special, I'll tell ya.

But exciting and unexpected things are happening amidst the insanity. Living in the moment. That's what they call it. And it's quite an art!

When you're reworking your life, fundamentals become painfully obvious. In health, in lifestyle, in work, in food. What's more fundamental than stock, I ask you?

Nothing. It's the base for most culinarily satisfying savory dishes. And I have been pretty ignorant to the ease and cost effectiveness of making my own. I have a new habit now of baking a chicken per week for G and I. I get a big bird, usually on sale, fire it up, and have enough protein for a few dinners and lunches. And now? NOW I have finally started  boiling down that cooked bird carcass (ew!) into a delicious, cheap stock. 

You know what my Mother is saying right now? Anna, I could have told you that forty years ago! This is nothing new! Well, as I've learned with many things in life : My Mom is always right and knows way more than me and I am just now beginning to discover and use all of her secrets. Note to self : ask Mom more questions about life to make things easier. 

Bake a bird. Boil a bird. Done.

Homemade Chicken Stock
depending on your pot, you should end up with about 6 quarts of stock

Large stock pot with lid
1 chicken carcass, meat removed for eating
2 cups various saved vegetable peels and parts
(Onion, carrot, celery, leek) 
(Or chopped fresh of the above, but the sustainable route is best of course!)
1 tbs salt

- Place all ingredients in your large pot. Pour running water over everything until the bird is covered, leaving 4 inches of space or so between the water level and the rim of the pot. You really can't can't can't mess this recipe up. Bring the pot to a boil for about three minutes or so, reduce to a calm simmer and cover with a lid. Allow to simmer for at least 1.5 hours, 2 if you have the time. Remember you don't want it boiling, just barely simmering. Allow to cool a bit before ladling into jars or containers. I froze all but one quart of the stock and have been using it the last month!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

GF Banana Pancakes

Sitting down to some espresso chocolate from my travels and Thai hot tea. Finally a moment of calm after a complete whirlwind of a trip to Thailand, coming back to unexpectedly go to the inaugural ball the very next day, and dealing with so many emails and so much cleaning!

Sometimes I can't help but notice that my life is completely insane. G and I are poor musicians but our lives recently have been super blessed and wildly extravagant. Sure, I might wear my eleventh grade prom dress to perform on the Strad collection at the Smithsonian or recycle a bridesmaid dress to stand twenty feet from the President, but don't worry about it! I'm having the time of my life here! Someday if I do have money for a decent dress or jewelry, I probably won't get asked to these things, right? Isn't that how life works? So I'm just embracing every event as it comes along and through each of these life changing moments, I'm brought back to a little something called humanity.

It's a little funny because my sweet sister in law (wasn't she nice to invite me to the ball?!?!) kept referring to the "humanity" of things last night. And I realized she's right. In Thailand, I was just truly awakened to how real people are when we choose to see them in that light. America (ok and other places, too) is full of so many people trying so hard to appear a certain way, but no matter who you are, the guard comes down at some point either by force or choice, if you'll let it. I saw it in the small children sleeping on the concrete in Bangkok and in old ladies preparing food on the sidewalks, in sitting in our gowns on the ground with our shoes kicked off in the middle of the festivities last night, and even in the president dancing with his wife. These are the real things, this is why peace is important, why unity is sacred, and only in these times are we truly reminded of how life should be and how we can be so, so wrong about what we think is right. Why spend so much of your time trying to appear a certain way when at the heart of it all, the every day things are what matter? In all of these completely fabulous and humbling moments, I'm so much more aware of equally (or more!) important times with sweet friends and family that I love, and especially completely ordinary moments with my husband (which is easy to remember when he is away for a month.) Before our sad parting, we shared an ordinary breakfast of these delicious pancakes and I love their simple reminder. Because aren't most important moments shared over food with people you love anyway?

So, here's the benediction. Be yourself, do what you love, have coffee with those you enjoy, travel when you can and definitely go to balls when given the chance, but whatever the circumstance, be gracious and kind and don't worry about appearing fancy or sustainable or people pleasing, because that's just not real life. Can we all just kick our shoes off and be real?

Be real. Make pancakes.

GF Banana Pancakes
makes enough for two really hungry people 

3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tbs melted butter
1 tsp honey
2 eggs
1 cup all purpose gf flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup coconut milk (or almond or regular! all are good!)

-Mix together first four ingredients in a medium sized bowl. After sifting together the dry ingredients, add to the wet to incorporate. Add in the milk and a little more to reach your desired pancake consistency. Top with butter and warm maple syrup!!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Affording French Onion Soup

Ready for a long post?

I haven't even begun and I know this is going to be a doozy.

But someone asked for both my French onion soup recipe and tips on grocery budgeting. The former will be posted at the end as usual.


Well, this is going to be a good talk.

*The below information pertains to winter grocery shopping. In the summer, hit up every farmer's market you can find for cheap, cheap produce. Summer is the BEST time to just eat tons of vegetables every evening for very little!

You see, I don't really have a budget because that word scares me. Or not a strict one anyway. But after three years of marriage, I've learned what works on busy weeks and make creative adjustments when I can without using the scary B word. Although I don't hold myself to a fine line, I hope to spend no more than $100 on groceries for the two of us per week and that amount has to last for breakfasts, lunches, and 3 main dinners (with  leftovers for each of those) in hopes that we will only eat out once. The funny thing is that from the very get go, G and I decided that we cared most about eating well and enjoying food together over other material things. So, most of the time, our marriage revolves around eating good food together and perhaps that is why I don't feel held to a budget even though a number is lurking in my mind on runs to the store every week!

Here's a typical breakdown of our weekly grocery list with minimally processed foods :

$6- organic baby spinach (enough for salads, smoothies and sauteed spinach when it begins to wilt)
$2- carrots for our favorite oatmeal, to prepare for dinner, and for dipping in hummus
$3- cherry tomatoes when on sale for hummus, salads
$5- apples/bananas/whatever fruit is on sale, berries if you're lucky for smoothies and snacks
$3- one red onion for salads, two yellow onions for cooking with chicken
$3- red potatoes to accompany chicken for two nights
$2- head of cauliflower as a side
$2- sunflower seeds for salads and on top of cauliflower
$3- hummus for snacking
$5- raw sharp cheddar or other tasty cheese
$4- cage-free, organic eggs for breakfasts and baking
$4- almond milk or organic milk
$2- half and half
$5- organic coffee
$2- oats for granola/oatmeal
$4- Ezekiel bread for sandwiches (lasts at least two weeks)
$2- my favorite waffles in the world (nature's path quinoa/amaranth GF waffles SO GOOD!)
$2- organic frozen broccoli for roasting with a protein
$2- green beans as a side
$7- 6lb natural roasting chicken for two dinners and hopefully a few sandwiches
$12- salmon or other fish for two nights
$7- shrimp/other protein that may be on sale for two nights

For example, the above trip cost about $87, I believe! Is that right? I'm not very good at math....

If I make meals out of all of the above things, considering some overlap from week to week, I have some wiggle room when it comes to replacing key ingredients or perhaps a chance to splurge on something expensive like making French onion soup for a meal.

For a week like the one above, I take the chance to go ahead and pick up the following when I see they are on sale : salted butter, cream cheese, gluten free all purpose flour, maple syrup, honey, other condiments that may be running low, chicken or beef stock if I don't see myself having time to make my own soon, cheeses that are otherwise normally expensive, frozen fruit for smoothies, etc.

In this manner, I have a chance to tuck things away like Gruyere, pick up a little cooking brandy or white wine, etc., so that when I want to make something that requires special ingredients, I hopefully already have them on hand from collecting random things over the course of a few weeks.

Now, here's the other thing. I usually shop at four or five different stores. I run around the corner to our co-op (Glut, stop by if you're ever here in Mt. Rainier- not something you want to miss, quite an experience) for the coffee and half and half, Giant for most items since it also gives us gas points and typically has the best deals although it definitely isn't my favorite store - and you must find a local standard store with a decent produce section, Whole Foods or Mom's Organic Market for a few items that I want to be super high quality, and Target for the occasional sale item (you never know!)

Once you get kind of a set shopping list and start frequenting the main local store that seems to have the best deals, you'll start to notice what goes on sale when and can start crafting meals around those sales.

On average, it takes about an hour to meal plan (because I can't focus) and about two hours to shop around.

Another tip : if you're single, you could still stick to a list like this as long as you watch dates. I highly recommend freezing meals so you don't have to eat a whole chicken four nights in a row, for instance!

I think that's about the extent of my knowledge, and sadly, for those of you curious as to how I accomplish making tasty things on a budget, I guess my strategy is probably rather disappointing.

I just buy pretty regular stuff, pick up extras of things when they go on sale, eat pretty basic meals, and when the creative streak hits, I'll omit something normal and replace it with something a little more exotic, keeping my grocery "budget" in mind.

Now forget all of that and go make this soup! There's nothing better on a wintry day! I paired mine with a delicious sandwich option : sprouted grain English muffins that our friends brought over, peppered deli turkey, spring greens, apple cider vinegar mustard, fig spread and melty brie! Highly recommend this for your next soup and sandwich night!

French Onion Soup
serves 6-8, allow 2.5 hours total (recipe adapted from Julia Child!)

5 medium sized onions, thinly sliced
5 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
3 tbs flour
2 quarts beef broth
1/2 c white cooking wine
2 tbs cooking brandy
2 cups grated Gruyere

- In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed large pan, slowly cook the butter and oil with the onions over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes, covered. Stir/check on every few minutes.
- Uncover, raise heat to medium and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30-40 (I say 40) minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning, until a deep golden brown color is achieved with the onions.
- Sprinkle flour over the onions and stir for three more minutes.
- Add the 1/2 c of cooking wine to deglaze, scraping up the brown bits from the pan and allowing the alcohol to cook off for a minute or two. Poor in the beef broth, bring to a boil, stir, reduce to a simmer, season to taste with salt and pepper, simmer for 30-40 minutes, adjust seasoning, and set aside until ready to serve or serve immediately. (Right before serving, stir in the brandy!) Put a sprinkle of cheese in the bottom of each bowl, add soup, and top with cheese again for good measure. If you have soup tureens, you can also do the whole round of french bread thing, and broil those with cheese on them as well, of course!