Review: Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind (Vanessa Barajas)

Book: “Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind”
Title: Vanessa Barajas
Author Website: Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind


I want to share some of my favorite cookbooks that have been getting a LOT of rotation lately! I know a lot of hardcore paleo enthusiasts do not believe in paleo desserts, buuuut hello – I do! While I do believe that God gave us food not only for nourishment, He also gave it for enjoyment (minus gluttony and other food abuses, of course). With that being said, first up is…

cewadm“Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind” by Vanessa Barajas. This cookbook, while published in September of 2015, is a new one for me. She calls herself a ‘dessertavore’. I can dig it! I stalked this book on Amazon for several days waiting for the price to drop (I have a hard time paying almost $30 for ANYTHING! lol) and finally found a used version offered through Half Price Books through the Amazon marketplace. While I was checking out, I noticed that it was going to be shipped from a location in my city, so I called HPB, had them put it on hold, and picked it up myself, cutting out the shipping fee and time! When I flipped through the book, I was both impressed and excited. To know that I could enjoy some of my favorite desserts again made me so happy! And not only can I enjoy them, but I can share them with my husband as well.

Some of the recipes that I have tried so far have been the better than box brownies, chocolate fudge cookies, and the molten chocolate lava cakes. Everything has been delicious, albeit a little too sweet. The brownies called for an entire cup of coconut sugar which I’ll definitely reduce when I make it in the future, potentially by a at least ½ a cup. The cookies were delicious and soooo chocolatey – no complaints there. The chocolate molten lava cakes were SO easy to make and so delicious! Oh. My. Gosh. I served them with fresh raspberries and a homemade raspberry sauce. We had guests over recently, one who also avoids gluten, and I thought it would be the perfect dessert to make for them. Later that evening, after company had left, I had a conversation with my husband that went like this:

Me – What are your favorite desserts? (I was flipping through the cookbook planning next weekend’s treat)
Him – This one!

That made me so happy! My hubby listed a paleo, grain free, refined sugar free, dairy free dessert as one of his favorites! Pow pow! We liked them so much that I halved the recipe to make 1 each just for the 2 of us and we had them again 2 nights later.

The following weekend, I made the no bake strawberry cheesecake jars. That required me to purchase some 8 ounce wide mouth mason jars. Man. They were SO good. Cashews for a cheesecake? I admit – I was super skeptical. But, super delicious! I probably needed to add a bit more lemon juice, but overall, loved it and would definitely make it again. My husband, not paleo in the least, actually liked them as well! Another win? I’d say so! I loved the addition of zucchini as well.

There are various sections full of  recipes as well:

  • Meal Ticket
  • Bake My Day
  • Confections of a Dirty Mind
  • Easy as Pie
  • Let Them Eat Cake
  • That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles
  • What’s The Scoop?
  • Whisky Business

The thing to note about this cookbook is that a lot of the recipes, like the book states on the front, are paleo inspired, meaning you’ll see a lot of dairy ingredients, i.e. butter, heavy cream, etc. She does list subs for these in most of the recipes. For someone like me, one that is actually allergic to dairy (including ghee which made me so so sad!), I am thankful for products like Nutiva’s buttery organic coconut oil. This has been great to use in all of my various recipes as it provides the buttery flavor without the dairy component.

Many on Amazon pointed out the dairy ingredient fact, but there are so many subs and workarounds that I feel it is not a real problem, but is definitely something to be aware of when considering this cookbook. There are some recipes that do NOT have non-dairy workarounds, but those are few and far between and easy to avoid.

In the back of the cookbook, there is a recipe index which is extremely helpful, making it easy to locate recipes as well as a section on which recipes are egg free, dairy free, and nut free. However, in the nut free section, there are recipes listed with almond butter. Almonds are not considered true nuts, and are actually drupes, but they are still avoided by many that have nut allergies.

I like the conversion chart included in the back as well that demonstrates the conversion of teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, and more. Super helpful. You can also find it on her website here – Conversion Guide. She also details what you need to get your kitchen set up for baking these treats as well as types of cake tips to buy for your decorating adventures.

As I make more from Vanessa’s book, I will be sure to share my thoughts. Until then, check out her blog that shares the title of her book – Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind.

 

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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.

Review: Russell Stover Sugar Free Bites (Blueberry & Cranberry)

(Disclaimer: I received this product, for free, from BzzAgent, in exchange for my honest review.)

Most people don’t go for sugar-free when they are in the mood for a chocolate treat. I know I don’t! I usually grab a candy bar or small bag of dark chocolate goodness and worry about the sugar & calories later! Because I do not consume sweets on a regular basis, I don’t normally pay much attention to the sugar content. Therefore, I have never opted for sugar-free sweets.

I recently received, for free, some Russell Stover Sugar Free Bites, dark chocolate with blueberry & cranberry flavors. It appears to be their sugar free answer to Brookside Chocolates. Fruit & dark chocolate are a great, delicious combination so I looked forward to seeing what Russell Stover had in store for me! When I have had drinks with sugar free sweeteners, I have always noticed a strange aftertaste. I wondered if these would be the same.

From first glance, I really like the bag. I think the lighter colors actually communicate that it is a ‘lighter’ candy. The green and white look somewhat festive. Opening the bag, I was surprised to see how big these ‘bites’ are! Definitely a good surprise. I tried the blueberry bite and immediately liked it! It was SO delicious! After eating it, I waited for that aftertaste to hit. It was very faint. As I ate more, I tasted more of the aftertaste, leading me to want less. I decided to go ahead and try the cranberry and immediately regretted that. The taste of the Splenda (also known as sucralose) was very strong in those.

With that being said, I have several concerns about this product. I decided to take a look at the ingredients and saw quite a few concerning things. First, the cranberry flavor states that it is partially produced with genetic engineering. That is quite disturbing. Why would a candy need that? This is not listed on the blueberry flavor so I do wonder if it is pertaining to the cranberry source. Additionally, the label on both packages warns that excessive consumption may cause a laxative effect. I believe this is from the maltitol, which is listed in the ingredients twice. Maltitol is a sugar alcohol used as a sugar substitute. “Excessive consumption” is relative so there’s no true way to determine the threshold for a person. Sugar alcohols commonly cause laxative effects. Now, to Russell Stover’s credit, the label does indicate that it contains sugar alcohol which, it says, generally causes only a small rise in blood glucose levels. However, the more I looked at the label, the less I wanted to eat it.

(NOTE: When I did eat it, let’s just say – I had to change my plans for the evening after eating these. Never again will I consume anything with sugar alcohols. My digestive system was wrecked.)

Although the sugar content would be different, I’d much rather grab a well known candy bar or bag of chocolates instead of Russell Stover Sugar Free Bites. While being sugar free is a great thing, the things mentioned highly outweigh this fact. I’d rather have pure sugar than deal with the possible effects from Russell Stover Sugar Free Bites. I do not plan to purchase it, and although it would be better for a diabetic than regular candy, I would still not recommend it.

If Russell Stover reworked the formula to remove the sugar alcohol and remove the genetic engineering, I think this product would be a winner. However, until that happens, I cannot, and do not, recommend this product.