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Recipe Review: Real Deal Cookies (Against All Grain)

Coooooooooooookiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees.

Something tells me that the Cookie Monster wasn’t thinkin’ “paleo” when he said that. But these days? I sure am.

While never positively diagnosed with celiac disease, a gluten intolerance has frequently made itself very well known to me. I used to be able to cheat on the weekends and have a bite of gluten… a bite? Sorry, a plate! I would have some Chick Fil-a nuggets, a bbq sandwich (on a REAL bun!), a cupcake, etc. Only the weekends though! The biggest side effect I’d feel was sluggishness and sometimes body aches. Was it wise to do that? No, but old habits can die hard until they have to be put to death.

Some weeks ago, my husband and I went to get some BBQ with some friends. I know that a lot of BBQ sausages contain gluten, but I thought I’d be okay. I wasn’t. Not to mention, the previous night, I’d added some jalapeno crisps to my salad and had IBS-like symptoms the next morning. After this situation, I knew that I couldn’t even cheat with gluten anymore! One of the catalysts to pursing paleo, I decided that I needed to learn more methods of making gluten free treats. I usually replace the all purpose flour in a recipe with gluten free flour, but those gluten free flour blends often contain potato and rice flours. I also wanted to use alternative sweeteners. I like coconut sugar and would sub that cup for cup as well, but I really wanted a new method of doing things. More about that later.

I discovered this cookie recipe in Danielle Walker’s “Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great”. The first time I made them, I added some leftover pecan pieces. The cookies were different than the textures I was used to. They were really light, so much so that my husband jokingly called them ‘air cookies’. I only wished they were a little more moist & chewy. The second time I made them, I added a little more palm shortening and omitted the pecans. I also used a mix of dark chocolate & mini chips from Enjoy Life. Baking time was decreased by 30 seconds as well. This was a better batch! I love how the coconut sugar mimics the smell and taste of brown sugar.

I think this recipe is a great base to play with. Maybe some cocoa powder for some chocolate cookies? Peppermint extract for mint chocolate cookies? Macadamia nuts and white chocolate? Unsweetened coconut? Definitely something I am planning to get creative with!

All in all, I do recommend this recipe and look forward to manipulating it. She does have a 2.0 version of this recipe in her “Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes to Make Anytime” book that includes tahini (not sure how I feel about that!) and only uses egg whites. Her notes state that she wanted to create a nut free, coconut free alternative that everyone can enjoy. As I do have friends with more severe allergies and intolerances than myself, I will try my hand at these in the future.

Recipe Review: Paleo Paprika Garlic Shrimp (Per Chance to Cook)

I came across this recipe a few weeks ago on Pinterest while looking for some paleo dinner ideas. It looked pretty yummy – shrimp, garlic, coconut milk, paprika… how could it NOT taste good?

A few months ago, during a visit, my mom had given me some shrimp that she’d frozen. I’d been looking for a good recipe that would make me actually WANT to peel and devein (a*k*a remove the yuck!) them and so I came across Per Chance to Cook.

Now, I always always ALWAYS have paprika. Not just one kind either! I usually have Spanish smoked paprika and regular paprika. Of course this is the one time that I have barely 1/2 a teaspoon of either one in my cupboard. How does that happen!? And I wasn’t about to make a run to the store! I just added that to my grocery list and kept it moving! But, let me say – this recipe was so good that I cannot imagine how much better it would have been with that right amount of paprika! I was concerned initially that using a whole head of garlic would be overwhelming, but it was perfect. I added a little ghee to the mixture and added extra coconut milk because my husband and I both enjoy sauciness in our foods. To keep it paleo, I used some arrowroot (instead of cornstarch) to thicken up the sauce a bit.

I served it over some cauli-rice that was sauteed in coconut oil. I added granulated garlic, ghee, kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and light coconut milk to the cauliflower and let it soak it all up in the pan. Perfect compliment to the shrimp! I think that I will add some spinach next time for color and for nutrition and to round it out. Our home is never lacking in spinach (of all the things, right?) so I know I’ll have some on hand for that.

It was a delicious dish! My husband gave it the eyebrow of approval as he ate. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched this man eat cauliflower! The same man who turned his nose up at the thought of it now eats cauli rice regularly. I love it! The flavors were not overpowering and everything tasted great together.

Note: This recipe is clean as well as grain free, gluten free, dairy free, and paleo & contains healthy fats from the coconut oil and milk as well as great nutrition from the cauliflower. Adding broccoli or spinach adds to the nutrition and ensures you have a well rounded meal!

Food Prep – Beans: Soaking, Cooking, & Freezing

I tend to use a lot of beans in my recipes, whether it’s chili, soups, or a side dish! I’ve used cans, but there is something about seeing that viscous liquid coating the beans that always makes my stomach turn. No matter how much I rinse my beans, I can’t get that vision out of my mind! Some years ago, when I was single, I’d soak and cook and freeze my beans in 2 cup portions for use whenever a recipe called for beans. I got out of that habit due to convenience, but now I’m back at it!

On my last grocery trip, I purchased four 1-pound bags of dried beans – pinto, black, great northern white, and kidney. I rinsed then soaked the pinto, white, and kidney beans for about 20 hours, changing the water and rinsing the beans once throughout to ensure that those nasty gas causing agents were being eliminated. Once they were done soaking, I cooked all 3 varieties on the stove-top, adding a little kosher salt, onion powder, and a bay leaf to each pot. Once they were done cooking, I measured 2 cups into each pint sized freezer bag, which gave me approximately 3 cans per pound of beans. Each 1-pound bag of beans cost me about $1 while a can of beans can is just under that most times (& sometimes more, depending on the variety!)

Beans, beans!

Beans, beans!

I labeled each one and stuck them in the freezer for use. No thawing is required if adding them to a soup or chili. They will thaw while cooking.

Next up is chickpeas and black beans! For my chickpeas, I’ve always cooked those using Alton Brown’s method and they always come out perfectly! I use those chickpeas to make my own hummus as well as for use in Budget Bytes’ quick curried chickpeas! Soaking and cooking your own beans can be a little time consuming, but it can save you so much money over a year’s time (if you use beans like I do!) and it is so much better for you. Canned items contain so much in the way of sodium and preservatives which can mean bad things for your overall health.

Note: If cooking kidney beans, make sure that you cook them completely through! They contain phytohaemagglutinin which is a toxin that causes severe gastric distress resulting in nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea!

Here are some helpful links if you’re interested in cooking and storing your own beans:

Kitchen Treaty | How to Cook Dried Beans & Freeze Them for Later
Whole Foods | All About Beans
Lifehacker | Cheat Sheet: Soaking & Cooking Dried Beans

Have you ever tried cooking and freezing your own beans? What have you used them for? What’s your favorite bean to cook with?

Budget Bytes – Ground Turkey and Kale Soup

One of my favorite recipe sites is Budget Bytes. It is a great site that contains tons of recipes that can easily be made on a budget. Whether you’re looking for soups, sandwiches, seafood, poultry, Mediterranean, gluten free, vegetarian – whatever you’re in need of, you can find it at Budget Bytes. I have discovered some favorites and new staples over the past several months such as:

Unstuffed bell peppers
Homemade chicken noodle soup
Tandoori chicken dinner
Yellow rice chicken skillet
Easy oven fajitas

Every time I create my 2 week meal plan, you can bet that there will be at least 3 or 4 recipes from Budget Bytes. The latest recipe I tried was the sausage & kale soup. However, since I am not a fan of cooking with pork (or Italian sausage, in general), I decided to sub a pound of ground turkey which I browned with a little cracked red pepper and kosher salt. Yum!

A side note on prep – on my last grocery trip, I purchased spinach, spring mix, and kale for use in green smoothies. I’d rinsed them and stored them in our freezer for easy use in the mornings (and to prevent it from going to waste!) My kale was already rinsed and ready and frozen. In addition, I’d spent part of my Saturday and part of my Sunday soaking, cooking, and storing beans in 2 cup portions (approximately the size of a can). I’ll post more on that in the near future. In the recipe, Beth at Budget Bytes also suggested chopping and freezing carrots and celery which I did as well!

Now here I must admit – I really enjoy hand chopping my veggies. I don’t always love it, but most times, I do. I just got a new food processor back in December, but sometimes I just want larger, more uniform pieces. I chopped my carrots, celery, onion, and minced my garlic and I was ready to rock.

Minced garlic, chopped garlic, onion, & celery

Minced garlic, chopped garlic, onion, & celery

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Ground turkey and veggies sauteeing in olive oil

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Frozen kale and my cooked & frozen great northern beans

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Adding that delicious frozen kale!

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Adding the white beans

Now, she does note in the recipe that you can use vegetable or chicken base, and I opted for vegetable since it’s predominantly veggies & there was no chicken in the recipe. I love using Better than Bouillon’s bases and I have their vegetable, chicken, and beef bases.

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Better than Bouillon organic vegetable base

They are so flavorful and really save me money! Instead of paying for cans of broth, or sodium & MSG laden cubes, I have these organic bases! Good for the wallet and the body!

Now, I didn’t get a picture of the soup when it was done, but it was pretty good. I had to adjust the seasonings by adding kosher salt, white pepper, and some onion powder. I would not put it in my frequent rotation, but I can see myself making it again & would definitely play with the seasonings more! However, I do like that it was very quick & easy to put together, naturally gluten free (watch your broth ingredients always to make sure!), very nutritious and chock full of delicious vegetables. Our bodies appreciated it and our budget did too.

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten Free & Delicious!)

DSC06165One of my favorite go-to recipes for my husband, for friends, and for events is Tollhouse’s chocolate chip cookie recipe. I cannot tell you how many batches upon batches of cookies I have made in the past several years with that recipe! It always gets rave reviews and I always have to confess that it is no recipe concoction of my own! After I decided to bid gluten adieu, I tried the recipe using King Arthur’s GF multi purpose flour (& no xanthan gum, mind you) and ended up making some flat cookie patties! Ha! They tasted great, but sorely lacked dimension.

A close friend of mine, Enrica, sends me a lot of great gluten-free dessert pins, for which I am so thankful! One of the recipe pins she recommended a while ago was a recipe for chewy gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. What!? I was hesitant for a moment, breaking away from my tried & true Tollhouse recipe (I am still determined to make it work!), but I’d decided to try it. I purchased some gluten free oats, put them in my Ninja blender, and decided to try these out.

Note: Bob’s Red Mill does make a gluten free oat flour, but once I found out that oat flour is just oats ground into a powder, I decided to do it myself. It ended up being much less expensive & more economical for me to purchase a 2 pound bag of oats versus a 1 pound bag of oat flour. Tip: Bob’s Red Mill offers a $1 off coupon. Click here to access it!

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The recipe was certainly easy, didn’t call for other flours, and required no xanthan gum. And the taste of the cookies – outstanding! The texture was assuredly different from the Tollhouse cookies due to the oats, but I didn’t care – they were delicious! They passed the husband test too! I brought some to our church for our staff and they enjoyed them as well. I have made them a few of times since the first, sending some to my family and they were a hit with them too. These cookies are not ‘good for gluten-free’; they’re just good!

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The only thing I would do different is refrigerate the dough, but that’s it! Even without chilling the dough, they came out wonderfully!

The Homemade Hummus Adventure

One of my continued goals with our home is learning how to make things from scratch. Sometimes, when I look at shelf stable items and all of their dyes and preservatives, it bothers me that those things go in our bodies. I’ve wanted to slowly eliminate processed foods and learn how to make the things my husband I both enjoy. Also, I have found that it is better economically, too. I will share more about that later on.

A snack my husband and I both enjoy is hummus! I knew that this was something that I wanted to learn to make. After seeing this pin on Pinterest a couple of months ago, my mind was set to conquer it! So, on my last grocery trip, I grabbed a bag of dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and almost grabbed some tahini paste until I saw the price of it! The least expensive jar I could find was $6. Not wanting to pay this much, I googled ‘tahini paste recipe’ and saw that quite a few of them were the same – sesame seeds & olive oil. What?! That’s it?! I settled on this recipe, put that jar down and went to the bulk section, snagging 1/2 a pound of sesame seeds for $2. I must say, I felt overly ambitious at one point. This was a new arena for me, but I was determined to at least try it! And so, I did! If you’re wondering why I didn’t use chickpeas in a can, the thought of eating uncooked peas/beans from a can was totally unappealing to me. Also, since my goal was to go ‘processed free’, cooking my own chickpeas was the way to go.

After I’d made my tahini paste, cooked my chickpeas, I was set to make my hummus. I pulled out my Ninja blender, laid out all of my ingredients, and started making my hummus according to this recipe.

garlic, lemon, tahini paste, kosher salt, chickpeas, olive oil, cumin... let's go!

garlic, lemon, tahini paste, kosher salt, chickpeas, olive oil, cumin… let’s go!

prepped & ready!

prepped & ready!

In the recipe, it says you can skin your chickpeas, but um – I was not going to do that! That would have been quite time consuming and it doesn’t seem to make too much difference in the texture. After about 10-15 minutes of adding, scraping down the sides of the pitcher, and blending, I had myself some homemade hummus.

fresh hummus in the blender

fresh hummus in the blender

I was so excited! I couldn’t believe that I had made my own hummus… and it actually looked like hummus too! The true test was to taste it, so I grabbed some pretzel crisps and did just that.

time to taste it

*drumroll* time to taste it!

It was so good! The homemade tahini paste made a huge difference and the taste really came through. It tasted fresh and yes, it tasted authentic. Will I make it again? Absolutely! Was it time consuming? Not really. The longest part was cooking the beans, 1 hour for a quick soak and 2.5 hours to cook, but that’s not a big deal since it does not require you to sit and watch them the entire time. I am looking forward to trying different flavor combinations in the future, and am glad I decided to try this!

Sunday Night Beef and Broccoli

Whenever I go grocery shopping (which is every other week), I start by meal planning. I plan out my meals for the next two weeks and base my grocery list on that, trying not to deviate too much when I actually go to the store! Wanting to try some new recipes, I reviewed my Pinterest page as well as one of my favorite recipe sites, Brown Eyed Baker. I was so excited to find some new recipes that did not require me to buy TOO many ingredients! One of those was beef & broccoli. Now, my beloved and I enjoy Chinese food occasionally so I thought this would be a great addition to our meal rotation. I hit the store, grabbed some oyster sauce along with some rice vinegar, flank steak, sesame oil, and a few other necessities for the meal, and I was set! So yesterday, after Sunday evening service, I got ready to prepare it, excited about trying something new!

I’d never done a recipe with sesame oil or oyster sauce so I got small quantities of each item. I really enjoy shopping on the ethnic / international aisle at our local HEB. I always see so many things that I am unfamiliar with and it always reminds me that there is a whole world of cooking that I am just not familiar with!

It's beef & broccoli time!

It’s beef & broccoli time!

I got all my ingredients together (dark brown sugar, vegetable oil, ginger, garlic, corn starch, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, broccoli florets, and flank steak) and started by cutting up my flank steak.

Getting it ready to marinate

Getting it ready to marinate

Making the marinade was super quick and easy!

Marinade all whisked away! :-)

Marinade all whisked away! :-)

I placed the steak in a bag to marinate, got my florets steamed, & made my sauce. As I opened the oyster sauce, I noticed it had MSG (monosodium glutamate). I thought, It will be okay. How often do I have MSG anyway? Not often! I checked with my husband and he let me know he had no sensitivity to it so I proceeded! I cooked my beef, adding in the fresh garlic and ginger, removed it, then added my sauce to the pan so that it could thicken. Our home smelled like an Asian cuisine restaurant! I added the beef and broccoli to my thickened sauce, stirred it, and served it up over white rice.

Beef & broccoli up!

Beef & broccoli up!

The taste was magnificent! It tasted authentic! We loved it! And then an hour later came…

The Headache

Yes, I got an MSG headache! I couldn’t believe it! I went to bed with a headache and woke up with one. My husband was affected as well. Needless to say, the MSG laden oyster sauce went into the trash and so did the leftovers. As delicious as it was, as great of a recipe as it was, it wasn’t worth the side effects.

This dish is definitely a winner, but next time, an MSG free oyster sauce will be used! I look forward to making this and serving it to friends! It was quick, it was delicious, and it tasted authentic! Win!