Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Blog and a Giveaway!

About three months or so ago, I told you that I would be hosting a giveaway. Well, the time has finally come! So in honor of my blog's second anniversary (two years ago in December) I shall host, along with some help, my first giveaway! I have been generously given any item of my choice up to a certain monetary value to giveaway from CSNstores.com. Have you heard of them? They carry items ranging from cookware, to china, home bar furniture, camping gear, health and fitness, and office supplies! While I was browsing their website(s) I couldn't help but notice all of the barstools they carry, which would have been great since my parents just redid the kitchen! CSN Stores is quite a large company (think Amazon sized) with several websites including allbarstools.com, cookware.com (my favorite), householdappliances.com (also my favorite), adirondack-furniture-direct.com/ (have you tried one of these chars? so comfy!), bookcases.com (very helpful as a college student) and fitnessequipmentandmore.com, where as the names of the sites suggest, you can find almost anything you need!

Only one person will can win this giveaway. It's too bad I can't giveaway something to everyone :(! But whatever happens, you will want to participate in this giveaway. I encourage you to enter. Who knows? It might just be that one elusive giveaway that you are destined to win! (At least I always feel that way :) Keep reading to hear about more...

Some of you are cooks or bakers or both, real foodies or college students. But regardless of your current status, everyone needs a:

wicked sharp paring knife

Le Cruset fry pan

a beautiful breakfast bowl


a miniature food processor

(Click the links to see the pictures!)

These are the giveaway items. You will not in all four, rather, the winner will win the item of their choosing!

Here's how to enter:

1) Comment saying which item you would chose if you won.

2) Post a link about this giveaway on your blog, link bag to my blog and also link back to CSNstores.com. Leave a comment saying that you've done so.

3) Update your status on Facebook with a link to my blog giveaway. Leave a comment saying that you've done so.

4) Email five friends about the giveaway, including the link to my blog. Leave a comment saying that you've done so.

5) If you have a Twitter feed, tweet about the giveaway! Leave a comment saying that you've done so.

6) Comment about how you found out about this giveaway - this could be as simple as "I already follow your blog and noticed it," or "I found your blog through a friend when she told me about the giveaway," or "I found you on Google," etc.

7) Have you tried one of my recipes? Did you like it? Did you do anything differently? Leave a comment on the original post and tell me. Leave a comment saying that you've done so.

8) Have a question you've been wanting to ask me? Never got around to doing it before? Well, now's your chance! Shoot me an email (you can find the address under my contacts page) and ask me your question! Please know that your question could possibly be will later be posted on a FAQ page that I am working on. I strongly value your input as readers! Leave a comment saying that you've done so.

9) Answer the question: What am I going to do with my chosen item if I won and why? Leave a comment answering the question.

The giveaway will close 3 weeks from today, which is January 11th. After that time, the winner will be chosen at random. Entries can be submitted up till the evening of January 10th. The winner will be announced on January 11th. And you will have your new culinary "toy" on your doorstep to play with in the first month of the New Year!

Unfortunately, this giveaway is only open to US residents - your address must be in the USA.

If you can do all methods of entry, then all the power to you :) That just means more times that your name is added into the hat. Each number counts as one entry, so doing all 9 options means you've entered the giveaway 9 times! I understand that number 4 is based off the honor system, and so I urge you to have integrity when you say that you've done this option (and all options!)

Any questions? Email me! I'd love to hear from you, but until then, good luck everyone! I hope this will be as fun for you as it has been for me!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Grain-free Cranberry Orange Muffins.

I have to admit that I've always been kind of afraid of cranberries. As long as I can remember the only thing I've ever known about cranberries has been in the form of sugar-overload canned cranberry sauce and equally sweet cran-raspberry juice we used to drink as kids. Only now that I am older did I learn that cranberrries are actually a real thing, and there is such thing as cranberry sauce NOT from a can. Through doing lots of reading, I learned that cranberries are a nutritional powerhouse, full of wicked strong anti-oxidants, but they are very tart. Since they are tart, food companies load all forms of cranberries with sugar (try buying plain cranberries, it's nearly impossible). But around Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can find these berries in their raw natural state in the local grocery stores. 

Yesterday was my first day home, which of course involved a trip to the farm, the grocery store and the natural food store with my mom. It was such fun :) To say that I like the grocery store is a bit of an understatement! As I was walking through the produce section, I spotted some organic cranberries. So I took a risk, bought them, and brought them home. My main motivation for the purchase was my dad, who is currently under the weather with a bit of a cold. He's been busy and his immune system is tired, so it caught him. What better to help him fight the icky germs than to make him a superfood muffin and brew him a cup homemade immune boosting tea? (Which I made myself at the health food store :D) So I set to work on these muffins.

Dark chocolate chips, plain, and sugar crystals!

Grain-free Cranberry Orange Muffins.

    3/4 cup  coconut flour – sifted
    1/2 cup  blanched almond flour – sifted
    1/2 tsp  celtic sea salt
    1/2 tsp  baking soda
    1/2 one  large (7”) organic vanilla bean pod seeds
    1/4 tsp  cloves
    1/2 cup  maple syrup (grade B is best for flavor)
    1/2 cup  organic coconut oil – melted
    2  real eggs
    1 cup  soured raw cow’s milk - buttermilk would work too
    juice  of one clementine orange
    zest  of one clementine orange
    1 cup  ground walnuts
    1 cup  organic fresh cranberries

To make your muffins:
  1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees convection. Place muffin papers in muffin tins.
  2) Combine milk, vanilla bean seeds, orange juice and zest in a large bowl. Mix well to make sure the vanilla seeds are distributed, and pour in cranberries.
  3) In another bowl, combine coconut flour, almond flour, salt, cloves and baking soda, making sure there are no lumps.
  5) In a small sauce pan, combine coconut oil and maple syrup. Gently heat until coconut oil melts. To not let mixture get very hot.
  6) In a small bowl, crack the eggs and whisk until bright yellow.
  7) Whisk eggs and coconut oil mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Pour in milk, and lastly, add the cranberries and walnuts. Mix until just combined.
  9) Scoop batter into standard muffin sized tins with a 1/3 cup measure.
 10) Sprinkle the tops with dark unsweetened chocolate chips or large sugar crystals, if desired.
 11) Bake for about 30-35 minutes (mine took exactly 33) and remove when a test inserted in the middle comes out clean, the tops are set and golden brown. 
  12) Let cool in the muffin tins for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. This lets the bottoms of the muffins firm up and not become soggy. Enjoy!

Dark chocolate chips

These are a great dessert or breakfast option. My family and I each had one after our dinner last night. They are not overly sweet, which I like. The liquids, eggs and coconut flour makes this muffin super moist and not the least bit dry. And the combination of immune boosting coconut oil, cranberries, nourishing eggs and mineral rich maple syrup pack a nutrition punch against these foreign invaders...

A bacteriophase (form of virus), infecting a cell!
Photo credit: USC
This is a human rhinovirus - the cause
of the common cold! Photo credit: Virusworld

I couldn't resist showing some science pictures. ;) 

Merry Christmas! 
^ It's after finals and I am finally beginning to believe that it's Christmas time. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and enjoyed the time with family, friends and good food. Many of you mentioned how happy you were for all the Thanksgiving ideas I shared. I'm so glad that I helped! Since I heard such a great response from my Thanksgiving post, I will definitely be compiling a Christmas recipe post. I hope to do this soon so you readers will be able to plan ahead! My Thanksgiving was great, and I only have ONE picture to show for it. I enjoyed the day and wasn't taking pictures. I do wish I had taken more, but it was nice to spend the day relaxing (and cooking). N's family was so nice to host me again, since I have too far to fly home.

Also, for all of you who would like to know, I survived finals. Survived is the word to describe it because that's just what happened. Since I am a human biology major, I have alot of work to do. I am not complaining. I love it. That being said, it is very hard to study for tests for three science classes as well as a Theology class, as well as complete other miscellaneous homework that has to be done. I believe that I did alright on all my finals, which is definitely a praise.. but I won't know what my grades are like until January! I don't like the suspense!! Overall, I've had a very emotional week, and I can easily say my limbic system is exhausted. I still feel joyful, blessed and happy to be home. We don't even have snow yet! :( Cross your fingers for a white Christmas!!

See the muffin? = Yummy topping!

It's so nice to be back! Enjoy making these muffins! They also make a GREAT breakfast topping

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes

The BEST Cornbread
If it's your first gluten free Thanksgiving, you are probably struggling with knowing what you can eat, how to prepare it, and what is even going to taste good. Throwing other allergies into the mix, like soy and dairy, makes finding nourishing real food options even harder. Fortunately, with the right ideas, recipes and ingredients, Thanksgiving can be just as much as enjoyable as before.

Last Thanksgiving, the snack spread
where I spent Thanksgiving.

It doesn't matter if you follow a gluten free diet or just eat real food, these recipes are delicious and will certainly make your kitchen the most favorite spot of the house. Some of these are classics, and some are a spin on the original. Don't be overwhelmed this Thanksgiving. I encourage you to pick up a recipe and bake some good, wholesome, real food, with no odd ingredients. Real butter, cheese, meat, eggs, fruits, veggies. Enjoy food the way it was meant to be eaten, with family, friends and made with love from nourishing ingredients.

Photo credit: Tasteto.com
Gobble, Goooble.

All of these recipes would make great additions to your Thanksgiving meal.

Gluten free Cinnamon Scones

Thanksgiving breakfast:
Cinnamon Scones
Grain free Pumpkin pancakes
Goat cheese and zucchini frittata


Pre-meal snacks:
Apples and Caramel Dip
Pumpkin and Feta Muffins
Nourishing Protein bars
Organic Basil Grain free crackers
Veggies to dip in - Basic Guacamole

Hot Apple Cider
good ole H2O

Photo Credit: Annie's Eats
Turkey Turkey Turkey...

Main event: Turkey

Photo credit: Simply Recipes
Brussel sprouts

Almost Grain-free Crusty Gluten free bread
Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Chestnuts
Butternut Squash Gratin
Garlic mashed potatoes
Gluten free, grain free coconut flour bread - use this to make stuffing
The Best Cornbread - my most favorite recipe
Tossed green salad with Basic dressing
Root vegetables
Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes with parsnips and pecans
Sweet Potatoes with macademia nuts

French Vanilla Ice cream

Homemade French Vanilla Ice Cream
Pumpkin Cake Bars with Cinnamon Icing
Spiced Coconut Macaroons
Apple Crisp

What are you thankful for?
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nuts n' stuff...

...for breakfast!

This is a recent breakfast I put together. Bananas, ground flax, sprouted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, almond butter, walnuts, raspberry jam, cinnamon, salt, raisins. I haven't been eating much of any grains recently. I've been eating paleo/primal for a while now, and of course keeping with the WAPF and real food mindset. I feel great without the grains, but I have some sprouted buckwheat groats in my food supply that I bought a few months ago and need to eat up (I must admit they are tasty and crunchy) so though I don't typically eat grains, they're here in the picture. But technically buckwheat isn't even a grain? And I'm super excited because found another reason why I love my camera. It's because I FIGURED OUT digital macro mode, which is very different than just plain macro mode on the manual setting! Score. Doesn't the shot look good?

Notice my new bowl? It's ONE OF A KIND.

I just had to blog quick to let you know I still exist! No surprise, I have been super busy with school. I have a lot to wrap up between now and the end of the semester, so you won't be seeing me a lot until after December 16th. Thankfully that's not too far away! I am looking forward to going home for Christmas. At the moment though, I have to focus on getting as much accomplished each day as possible. Thanksgiving break will hopefully be as productive as I am planning on. I will continue to ask for your prayers. Only by God's strength can I accomplish all the things I have to do!!

Ps. Thanksgiving is coming! YAY.

I'm going to be eating him --->
Photo credit: Tasteto.com/

Turkey's beware :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Powerful Protein

Photo Credit - Parade.com

If you are like me, you can't eat a meal without having some sort of protein. Protein is necessary but often under emphasized part of our diets. While too much protein is not beneficial and ultimately will turn to fat like an excess of any basic nutrient, we need an adequate amount of protein each day to sustain our bodies. Some people require more protein than others, and I am definitely one of those people. My typical meal is a protein and vegetables, or a protein on a salad. Fats always accompany the meal as well, so I absorb the most nutrients as possible. One thing that you will never see on this blog is a meal or dish without a sufficient amount of protein. Surprisingly, all these rich animal foods-- the eggs, full fat raw dairy, cheeses, real meat, and real butter, are all the foods the "diet dictocrats" tell us to avoid. Thankfully, we real foodies know better. Our bodies crave these extremely nutritious foods!

Photo Credit - Caviarmore.com

With fall around the corner, (or is it already here?) I find myself turning to richer, warm dishes which sound more appealing than simple summer salads. Recipes like oven roasted chicken, pot roast, baked eggs and hearty soups or stews. And of course, do not forget nourishing baked goods-- think stewed apples, fruit crisps and coconut flour based cakes. Also, there is "to die for" vegetable dishes like roasted brussel sprouts, mashed sweet potatoes with cinnamon, browned carrots and butter, and sauteed onions and cabbage. I encourage you to embrace the change of seasons. With the summer fruits going out of season, welcome the fall and winter vegetables into your meals instead.

Three Bean Chili with raw milk parmesan

Need some ideas? Here's a collection of some of my most favorite recipes out there. Maybe you will find a new favorite.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken

Goat Cheese, Red pepper, Zucchini Frittata

Photo Credit: Nourished Kitchen
Creamy Spiced Butternut Squash

Raw Milk French Vanilla Ice Cream with Maple Syrup

Red Vegetable Soup with Roasted Chicken

Banana Cake

Beef "Pot Roast"

Photo credit: Simply Recipes
Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Photo Credit: Real Food Digest
Three Ingredient Quiche with Veggies

Photo Credit: Smitten Kitchen
Sauteed Apples with Butter and Cinnamon

I love the foods of fall. Savory ever bite! (And of course I can't wait until I am home so I can have real homecooked meals!)

Is there any particular fall food that you especially miss since going gluten free, grain free, off dairy or finding out about food sensitivities?

Ps - I am thick in the throws of studying and tests (especially Physics!) Pray that God would give me His strength and peace, so that I might glorify Him through my efforts (and hopefully get an A!)

Pps - Happy November!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Two Delicious Dinners Out

This post is about a week late, but school was different this week. We had conferences with special speakers Wednesday through Friday, and classes were cancelled. Now I have so much to do! Going to the conferences takes up way more time then classes do.

Chang's Spicy Chicken with Broccoli, gluten and soy free.

As a college student, sometimes you forget about the simple things in life. Especially what it feels like to do nothing on a Saturday night except spend time with family and friends and occasionally go out for dinner. Well, my former roommate's mom was in town visiting (yay!) so we went out for dinner. She treated us, which was way too nice of her. I really appreciated it. And I loved my food! I have heard so many great things about PF Changs but have never tried it. I ordered off the gluten free menu and they easily made my dish soy free as well! Thank you PF Changs. I will definitely be by again soon.

Flourless chocolate dome with fresh berries and raspeberry sauce.

Also at PF Changs, they have this amazing gluten free flourless chocolate "dome" dessert. Her mom was so generous really wanted to get a dessert for me. In the end, we decided we would share, but she was so nice and really gave most of it to me. It was soo good, and I certainly didn't mind. I could have licked the plate!

Huge chocolate flourless brownie with pecans,
real vanilla ice cream, fresh whipped cream,
homemade real chocolate sauce and fancy chocolate shavings.

Then, the next Monday, I was treated out for dinner again with my "Aunt" who lives about 45 minutes to an hour away from me at school. I borrowed a friends car and we met in the middle at Outback's. Outback's has become a bit of a restaurant staple in my life, since they have an amazing gluten free menu and are very kind and knowledgeable about the diet. I have heard so much about the flourless gluten free chocolate dessert, The Thunder Down Under, and so we both decided to split it (perfect since we are both huge chocolate lovers!) The dessert was HUGE and perfect for splitting, or thirding, or fourthing! We were having such a good time talking that I forgot to take a picture of my steak, sweet potato and veggies. It was so good I couldn' finish it all. But demolish the dessert we did :)

I am not really used to being able to get dessert in a restaraunt! But since going gluten free I've been forced (but quite happy) to do research and I've found some great options! Do you have a specific dish or dessert at restaurant you really like, or want to try but haven't yet?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Orange Vegetable Soup with Chicken

Oh my goodness! Remember my Red Vegetable soup? Well, this is a similar version of that but with some fall flair and flavor. I used pumpkin!! I am so glad that pumpkin is now on the shelves, since I have been known to eat it out of a can for dinner. But when I make something like this, I don't have to do that. The symphony of vegetables and fall spices (cinnamon) really comes together in this soup. It is so filling and nourishing, but surprisingly light on calories.

Real food soup. Real foodies rejoice!

Both soups look orange, so don't be confused even though I named one soup 'red' and another 'orange.'

Orange Vegetable Soup

1 bag organic baby carrots or half bag large carrots
2 small golden sweet potatoes or yams
2 large red peppers
1 - 29 oz can Libby's pumpkin
4 cups chicken stock (I used Pacific brand)
1 - 10 oz can of dark/white chicken
kelp flakes
black pepper
garlic powder

Yes it's that easy.

To make your soup:
1) Throw all the veggies, minus the pumpkin, with the chicken stock into your favorite crock-pot. Simmer on high until vegetables are soft. Puree with hand blender.
2) Add in pumpkin and spices, blend again.
3) Add chicken and stir.
4) Simmer until all warm and bubbly and you're ready to eat!
5) Serve piping hot with some real grassfed butter on top and enjoy.

Of course, if you have either real homemade chicken stock, roasted chicken and real pumpkin, then go ahead and use that. Being at college I have to use what I can, and sometimes canned is a good option! If you can eat wheat, why not serve in a homemade sourdough bread bowl or with some toasted cinnamon pita chips? This soup is a good option for dipping! In the past I made roast chicken, and dipped the chicken meat into the soup before putting it in my mouth. So delicious!

Color contrasts of fall!

Lastly, a word of caution. If you have a plastic hand blender please exercise common sense. I actually ended up melting my hand blenders puree attachment a bit by not being particularly careful about watching out for the sides and bottoms of the crockpot which are scalding hot! In other words, don't be like me and melt your kitchen appliances. The thing is still useable though, thankfully, and I won't have to repurchase one. And also, (more embarassment) I also scratched the bottom of my crock-pot. Poor Cleo now has some battle scars, and from his very first soup!

We all need a good nourishing fall soup. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Grain-free, dairy-free Banana Cake III.

By now you have probably figured out that I love any baked good that has to do with bananas. That's obvious here, where I made some great banana cake with almond flour, and here, where I made a different version of it instead with soaked oats and coconut flour. Both recipes are very good. I also seem to be obsessed with brownies, but that is another story. Can you handle another version?

I think so.

You can see cinnamon specks!

I've been wanting to make a version of banana cake like this for a long time. Grain free and no dairy, but not lacking in flavor. Some of you readers can't eat any dairy, or live a Primal/Paleo lifestyle. You should be able to enjoy banana cake too. In my own life also, I have discovered that grains really aren't necessary in the human diet. I feel better without them. Believe me, you certainly won't miss them in this recipe!

Banana Cake III (three?!)

1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cup ripe ripe bananas (I used one normal/large banana and two small)
6 large real eggs
1/4 cup raw honey
1/4 cup coconut oil (I did not melt mine since it was soft, but not liquid)
1/2 cup coconut flour (I did not sift, mine was closer to packed)
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt

To make your banana cake:
1. In a small bowl, puree bananas, coconut oil, raw honey, cinnamon and salt, together with a hand blender.
2. Last, add the baking powder and coconut oil, switch the attachment to the whisk and blend together. The batter should come together nicely, hold it's shape, but still be fluid and not stiff.
3. Grease your favorite 8x8 pan with a small bit of coconut oil.
4. Pour in the batter and smooth out the top.
5. Place immediately into a preheated 350 degree oven (I confess I am not sure if my school's oven is convection or regular), and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until golden and springy when touched.
6. Let cool before slicing and eating. For refridgerator storage, cut into squares and wrap individually with plastic wrap and store in a large plastic baggie.

Look at that texture!

I confess that I ate probably a 1/4 cup of the batter raw before the oven. It was too good! When I tried it straight out of the oven though, I wasn't quite a fan. Something was missing. But I decided to let it "age" a little bit (think the fridge overnight) and then see how it tasted. Some things are better a few hours later. After it had some time to rest and chill out, I really like the results. It is definitely cakey! That's a hard texture to acquire in gluten free baking. It also holds together very well and is not crumbly. You can really taste the banana and the cinnamon. For those of you who are averse to coconut, do not worry, this cake does not have a strong coconut flavor. In the end, I recommend letting this cool or eating it the next day for the maximum flavor and "enjoyableness." It made a scrumptious breakfast for several weeks :)

*This version is inspired by these recipes: Original Banana cakeBanana cake II, and Coconut Flour Orange cake @ Nourishing Days.

Try it out and let me know what you think! But try not to eat half the pan yourself. Believe me, I was tempted and I have good self control.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Crock-pot Chronicles

So last week when I told you about my crockpot coming in the mail? I never got to mention later that it actually came broken! I couldn't believe it! It is honestly not that hard to package something and ship it so it doesn't break; but because of poor packaging that is exactly what happened. Thankfully, Amazon has great policies, so I was able to send it back and get a replacement.

The replacement came not broken and beautiful (and quick, thanks Amazon)!

I took him on his "maiden voyage" last saturday by making some stewed apples. I haven't decided on a name for him yet and I'm open to suggestions! Here's the basic recipe:

Stewed apples

6 apples, ones that will hold their shape when baked, I used 4- gala and 1-granny smith
1/2 cup water
3 good dashes cinnamon
1 dash sea salt
2 Tbsp butter

Instructions: Cook these on high for 2.5 hours, then stir in 2 Tbsp real grassfed butter, 1 large handful maple sugared walnuts and raisins at the end. Let cool and then store in the fridge. I ate the rest for snacks and leftovers over the course of the week! The apple-y liquid on the bottom tasted like apple cider. It was delicious! I suggest using less water next time, or before storing your finished product drain off the liquid and eat it like hot cider in a mug, while putting the apple portions back to the fridge.

I have some sweet potatoes that I might make into a stew this weekend. I'm just itching to make some soup! I love fall.