Thanksgiving Mostly Clean Eating

Brian and I have been hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house for a few years now. We have the most space so it just seemed to make sense for us to take everyone in here (plus, we have the most kids and I’m not trying to cart them around on Christmas!). Over the years we have kind of gotten it figured out, as much as you really can. I do a lot of cooking and prep leading up to the day so that I’m not spending all day cooking and missing out on family time. Having half the dishes already made before Thanksgiving is ultra helpful. Also, our meals have gotten a little more complex since we have been on our limited grains and sugar journey. Gone are the days of boxed anything and cans of gravy.

You know how everyone seems to have their quintessential Thanksgiving dishes? Well, we try to accommodate those as much as we can but also add in healthy options for us. For example, Brian is a huge mashed potato fan and we rarely have them so on Thanksgiving and Christmas I make a lot of them. Everyone else seems to enjoy them as well so that dish doesn’t get modified. In case you are wondering the best way to make the mashed potatoes is in the slow cooker.

On the other hand, I do make multiple stuffing versions. One fairly regular version (except that I make my own bread crumbs because that boxed stuff is no bueno!). The second is one for my family and is never quite the same. In the past I’ve made an almond flour bread stuffing, this year I created one with sweet potato, onions, celery, and a granola that I flavored to be like stuffing. The stuffings are made in advance so we’ve taste tested them. After three years of being mostly grain-free I didn’t even like the regular stuffing (where is all the flavor?! Why do I only taste bread?!). I used to be a die-hard stuffing fan. Eat all the stuffing! And the girls said they didn’t care for the regular stuffing much either, except for the veggies in it. =)

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There is always a big salad filled with vegetables. We are also having roasted vegetables. It depends on what I have on hand but this year we are having roasted green beans and chard (so many green beans, yay!). No dinner rolls. It always seems that people get the dinner roll and can’t ever finish it, so I’ve decided I’m not wasting my efforts. I make my own gravy and am still perfecting the recipe. I follow one from Rachael Ray and sometimes it works better than others (I have real gravy issues!).

I married into a family that has both turkey and ham for Thanksgiving and Christmas so we stick with that. It’s a lot of meat and makes me sick to think about it but I fear there would be a revolt if both them weren’t present. To top the meat I’ve become a fan of cranberry sauce. I never ate cranberry sauce when I was younger but once I started making my own (recipe here) I converted to a cranberry sauce lover.

Those are the key dinner items. Occasionally, someone will bring something like macaroni and cheese or green bean casserole. We welcome people to bring whatever they may want and I TRY to limit how much the kiddos get of these other items.

Dessert has always been my favorite part and we don’t skimp here. There are multiple pies and other desserts for the after dinner spread. This year I kept it fairly simple. I made THE Ultimate Holiday Pie, grain-free and refined sugar-free! Using this grain-free honey graham cracker crust, subbing honey for the sugar in the cheesecake layer, this pumpkin pie, and the pecan pie topping from here. The healthy version came out beautifully and I’m hoping for no complaints about the lack of sugar. I just wanted to be able to eat this lovely creation and not feel sick. In addition to pie we are having fruit salad (chopped up fruits stirred in with homemade honey sweetened  whipped cream), and these cake batter truffles (also grain and refined sugar free).

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Before dinner we snack on vegetables and hummus and this year I made spiced bar nuts. The nuts were a huge hit last year and when I made them earlier this week we were loving the preview.

While I don’t necessarily love making the multiple versions of foods I am excited that this year I have converted all the dessert to be edible for my family. And that despite the mashed potatoes and the regular stuffing the rest of the food fits right into our eating style. I dream of the day when I can say that about all the food on the table. Small steps for now. We have come a long way from Thanksgivings past.

An Apple A Day

I’m working to prove the saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. We were given apples from an orchard of somebody at Brian’s work. A lot of apples! So many that I don’t feel bad using them all the time, they seem endless. In fact, I already made some homemade applesauce (amazing recipe from the Against All Grain cookbook, so easy, no added sugar or juice and very tasty!) and didn’t even put a dent in the apple quantity. Other than that I’ve been feeding them to the girls at least once a day with breakfast or lunch. As for me, I am currently obsessed with an apple dessert I created.

I’m embarrassed to admit how often I’ve made this dessert in the last week because that means that I have eaten a lot of it. Brian has eaten very little of the dessert, mostly because he knows how much I am enjoying it (read: I’m not sharing!). You know I’ve made it often when I have a good idea of the measurements and ratios of the ingredients. Usually, I throw things together until they look and taste good but since I’ve made this numerous times I’ve got an idea of the actual quantities involved.

I’m calling this Apple Cookie Crumble:

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Two apples are cut into chunks and sprinkled with cinnamon. The apples are placed in a pan greased with coconut oil. The topping is the fun part! I use about 2 cups of nuts and seeds and process them until they are flour like in texture. I’ve been using 1 cup of peanuts and a mixture of other nuts and pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. Almond flour would work too but I tend to have more peanuts on hand. To the nut/seed flour I add 2 tablespoons coconut oil, 2 tablespoons honey, 1/3 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut, and 2 tablespoons coconut flour. I process it all together with some cinnamon and nutmeg until it is crumbly but sticking together. At this point I’ve made something similar to a grain-free cookie base (and it’s pretty yummy eaten just like this too) but to finish the dessert the cookie mixture is scooped and spread on top of the apples to cover them. I cook this at 350 degrees for about 20 mins  and then press a few dark chocolate chips on top to melt into the warm topping.

This dessert has stolen my heart! The apples are soft and warm and the cookie top is a little crumbly, crisp but still soft. Brian enjoyed his with some whipped cream but I prefer mine as is, warm out of the oven. I’ve got some leftovers from making yet another one last night and I’m exercising some serious restraint to not eat it every time I walk by. The only thing stopping me is the fact that if I eat it now, I’ll have to make more for later (problem, I know!) or there definitely won’t be enough for sharing. Apples, warm apples with cookie topping, stop calling my name!

New Recipes Are Fun

Can I just say how much fun I’m having with the recipes in the Against All Grain Cookbook?! I’ve been making my way through some of the recipes, quite successfully. Oh no! It makes me want to actually have the cookbook instead of borrow it from the library. But I’ve already done that recently with a cookbook so no more cookbook buying for me in the near future. (Santa do you hear me?)

I made the Allergy-Free Breakfast cookies. Oh my, they were so good it was hard to remember that they were a healthy breakfast option. They tasted like such a treat, especially warmed up.

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I adapted the recipe slightly to use pumpkin puree instead of the banana and added pumpkin pie spices to give them that seasonal flavor. They ended up being quite soft and needed to be handled with care. The cookies are made with coconut flour, unsweetened shredded coconut, and sweetened with dates and applesauce.

Next on the list is chocolate swirl banana bread. The chocolate swirl was my own addition since it is our family’s favorite version of banana bread. But the base recipe for this banana bread was incredible! Grain-free, sugar-free banana bread that actually tastes like traditional banana bread! I’ve made grain-free banana breads before but they were too dense and just not quite what I was looking for in a banana bread. This recipe has mostly coconut flour in it and a little almond flour (and 4 eggs!). The bananas add most of the sweetness.

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Delicious slices of banana bread!

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We sprinkled the top of the loaf with mini chocolate chips to give it a special chocolate bonus. The bread is so moist and banana flavored. Chocolate swirl = excellent addition

I even packed some for Izzy to take as lunch one day this week. Since it’s filled with wholesome ingredients I don’t even feel bad about making it the main portion of her lunch:

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Sunday Brunch

The family and I decided to go for the early church service in Tacoma. Early service means getting up and leaving the house earlier than on a school day, yikes! It also means there is no time for a real breakfast. A bowl of cereal or grain-free granola was all we had time for. However, in addition to actually making it to church we were looking forward to having brunch afterward.

Brunch is very much a fall/winter thing in our household. During the spring and summer we are gone camping or doing other activities that lazy weekend mornings are rare. In the fall, though, football starts and Brian loves to watch it so we end up lounging around the house and brunch begins making its way into our weekends.

Our brunch this past Sunday was not spectacular in terms of spread but it was spectacular in terms of taste. I like brunch to be buffet style with lots of different options: sweet and savory, fruits, and even a little dessert. And the girls like the idea that they get to fill their plates themselves with all the choices. Not this brunch. This brunch was made when I was hungry and didn’t want to go overboard with the making of all the food. No choices for this brunch, I dished up the plates and that was all there was.

The most exciting part of brunch was that I, for the very first time ever, made eggs benedict! Brian likes eggs benedict and I’ve always thought it seemed so fancy. Too fancy for me to actually make on my own. Inspired by the recipe I saw in a cookbook I decided to give it a try. So glad I did because now I am also a fan of eggs benedict! The recipe I used is actually from the Against All Grain Cookbook and it’s here. The method in the cookbook was much easier and gave a lot more information but the online version has the ingredients and ratios so I’ll be using those and sticking to the cookbook methodology.

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Yeah, we went a little heavy with the hollandaise sauce (oh so good!). The poached eggs are hiding under there, I promise, as is some roasted cabbage and chickpea flour pancakes. I cannot say enough good things about chickpea flour pancakes. They are my new go-to. First, they are easy: chickpea flour and water with some spices! Second, I can make as few or as many as I want at a time. Third, the flavor is so unique. And lastly, they are incredibly versatile. I used them for my tacos the other night, I’ve used them as wraps for lunch, and here they serve as a nice hearty base to soak up all that delicious hollandaise.

The flavor combination of the chickpea flour pancakes, the roasted cabbage, the poached egg, and the hollandaise was out of this world good! Since, it was my first attempt I only made one for everyone but we really could have used a second one (note for next time). Brunch was rounded out with some apples, some leftover fruit salad (various fruits, unsweetened coconut flakes, and homemade honey sweetened whipped cream), and a sample of sausage (also leftover).

No, this brunch wasn’t brimming with variety but what we did have was so tasty it didn’t matter.

No Oatmeal Porridge

Weekday breakfasts are tough! It doesn’t matter what time I get up, I always end up in a breakfast crunch. And there are too many things to do at night to make breakfast ahead of time consistently. I do try to do that a few times a week but I like to feed my family a variety and pre-made breakfasts rely on having the same thing multiple times a week. No fun!

I tried a new breakfast recipe yesterday morning (adventurous for a weekday morning)! And I loved it! The recipe was for a grain-free coconut porridge. My girls love their porridges. They like grits, cream of rice, oatmeal, buckwheat, steel-cut oats, etc, etc.

Ever notice how traditional breakfast foods are so grain heavy? Like that is the only option other than eggs for breakfast. I do make a lot of eggs for Brian’s breakfast and the girls partake in that as well. But they really like their oatmeal and such. In fact, I’d say most people will tell you they can’t give up their morning oatmeal. Enter the No-Oat Porridge. It is grain-free, and sugar-free and can be completely nut-free (if you use coconut milk or other alternative)!

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This porridge was simple enough for weekday morning prep. It is made of almond milk, coconut flour, unsweetened shredded coconut, and an egg (or a banana if you want to be egg free). I made the version with an egg to add some extra creaminess but maybe next time I’ll experiment with the banana. The texture is similar to any creamed cereal (wheat, rice, etc).  I topped the porridge with toasted almonds, dried cranberries, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and dash of maple syrup. Both girls had a hard time finishing their portion, it was so filling. So we saved some and they were thrilled to have it again the next morning. Even I had some as my breakfast forgoing my usual greens (oh, missed opportunity, I should have added some to it!).

Looks like oatmeal without the oats is possible and satisfying.

First Day of Fall

Today is the day. The girls have been watching the calendar and waiting for the arrival of fall. I’m not sure why, I’m still not ready for summer to be over! But alas, fall has arrived and it did so with the typical rain. In my attempt to hang onto summer for as long as possible I have held off on making any sort of pumpkin flavored dishes until the actual start of fall.

To celebrate the arrival of the new season I made the girls pumpkin pancakes for breakfast. Not just pumpkin flavored pancakes, pumpkin shaped as well (or roughly pumpkin shaped, ha!). I used this almond flour pumpkin pancake recipe to keep them grain-free.

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We’ve changed our breakfast routine around here because of school and preschool schedules. The girls come downstairs when they wake up and serve themselves small 1/2 cup bowls of cereal. Then later in the morning I’d make the three of us an actual breakfast around nine or so and then we wouldn’t have anything more until lunchtime at noon. This worked well for our family since the three of us would be home all together in the morning and allowed us time to sit down together to start the day. Also, since we’d had a substantial breakfast at 9 am there was no need for additional snacking until lunch time. Now that we are on the go in the mornings between getting Isabelle to school and then Lexi to preschool all during our usual breakfast time we’ve had to adjust. We totally don’t have it figured out yet and are making little tweaks to make breakfast work for us. At first we were letting Isabelle have additional cereal and the fruit we normally would have at 9 with her cereal. But then Lexi started school and the schedule changed again. Giving them even more cereal in the morning was not the solution. At least not one that I felt good about. I’d like them to not eat the cereal at all but it is something they enjoy since they get to do it all themselves (they grab their small containers, cereal bowls, spoons, and small containers with milk in them and pour everything into the bowl).

Numerous times last year I’d ask Isabelle if I could make her an actual breakfast instead of having cereal and the answer was always no. They love the independence. So we compromised. They get a small bowl of cereal on school mornings and then I make them a small breakfast with some fruit next to it that they eat shortly after cereal. All this means I have to adjust my own breakfast ritual to accommodate theirs. Now I’m attempting to eat my substantial breakfast bright and early instead of at the later 9 am. Which is hard for me! I’m hungry in the morning but prefer a small holdover snack of fruit until a little later on. It’s all an adjustment.

To keep the fall theme going I made the girls caramel apple bites for snack. Now that Isabelle is not getting a snack provided by someone else (and filled with sugar and grains) at school we can have the occasional after school treat (wish I could say the same about Lexi). For the past few years now I’ve made this caramel recipe for our fall apples. The caramel is made of heavy cream and honey. Yep, that’s basically it! Obviously since it’s made of honey and cream the taste is more honey like than sugar syrup like but it does set up and get firm like the standard caramel recipes. I just love that this recipe is so simple and made with stuff you would regularly find in my house.

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Caramel apples aren’t complete without the fun little add-on toppers. I used some chopped peanuts and mini chocolate chips, coconut, M&Ms, and peanut butter M&Ms (because those were my favorite to get at the Fair). My attempt to make these more bite size than whole apple wasn’t a complete win since I chopped the apples into thirds and attempted to dip them this way. They dipped ok but the caramel doesn’t stick to the inside of the apple as well as to the peel while they are setting. So we used a spoon to scoop up the remaining caramel to eat with our apples bites or just eat on its own (yep that also happened).

Happy Fall!

 

 

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut butter cookies have been my favorite cookie for a long, long time. I have very fond memories of making the dough and eating a very good portion of it before it was even in the oven. I’ve also been known to mix up peanut butter cookie dough and eat it on its own with no intention of baking it. Something about peanut butter just gets me. Even now I will mix up something resembling peanut butter cookie batter and eat it with a spoon. Granted these days my cookie dough indulgences don’t have the grains or the sugar of my past indulgences but I’m just as satisfied.

Since going grain and sugar-free I have not attempted a plain peanut butter cookie recipe. Oh we’ve eaten peanut butter in our cookies but always with other things as well: chickpeas, chocolate chips, almonds, etc. All very yummy but not the same as my classic favorite. Last night, I took on the challenge of recreating my beloved peanut butter cookies.

There are lots of recipes floating around the internet for grain-free peanut butter cookies. All of them use a ton of peanut butter and some eggs. I came across this recipe which uses coconut flour as well as eggs and a reasonable amount of peanut butter (can’t use up all my homemade peanut butter on a few cookies!). Well, I combined this recipe with another and played around until I liked the taste and texture of the dough. And boy did I like the taste of the dough! It brought me back to the old days.

Some cookies did make it into the oven to be baked. They were scrumptious warm from the oven. I even used a little leftover chocolate frosting to top a few for Brian. I, of course, preferred mine the old-fashioned way.

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Not too bad, right?! The taste was just right. After sitting for a day the coconut flour flavor comes through a little more but I wonder if that will disappear if they are reheated. Now, if I only I can remember how to recreate these the next time. Such is the problem with playing around with recipes and not writing it down. They will never turn out exactly the same again. If I get to eat more dough though, I don’t mind having to rework the recipe a few more times.

School Free Friday

Our first Friday of summer break! It was me and the girls all day today since Brian is up in Seattle preparing for his long-awaited marathon. When I asked what they wanted for breakfast this morning I got the answer I had been anticipating: pancakes. But then they changed their minds to waffles. Lexi is a waffle lover and she convinced me to make them. Waffles are so time-consuming because you can only cook one at a time! Maybe it’s time to invest in a second waffle maker? Probably not, I’m pretty particular about my waffle maker and I doubt I could find one that fits my specifications. Plus, mine makes heart waffles, definitely can’t beat that!

I used this almond flour pancake recipe and just made into waffles (no changes). They worked out beautifully. They were extremely filling waffles and I was shocked to see the girls finish their plates. The oversized breakfast worked out well though because we went to a Kid’s Day event (official school is out kickoff in a nearby city) and didn’t eat lunch until late.

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Poor lonely strawberry. There were only a few left after sending some to work with Brian and snacking on them before breakfast. Because these waffles are so dense I’ve got quite a few leftover and should probably freeze them so I can easily pull them out when Lexi requests waffles again.

Since it was just us girls for dinner guess what I made. Salad! Not just any salad, Mexican inspired salads! I’m in the middle of stocking my freezer with big bags of cooked beans. Sadly, it took my awhile to realize that if I soak a lot of beans at once and then cook them, I can have beans in the freezer that are almost as instant as canned beans but better. Homemade cooked beans are not as salty and taste fresh compared to the canned kind. This project usually takes me three or four days depending on how many different beans I’m making. I used to cook only what I needed at a time (huge time waster). So today’s variety was black beans and a few of those got thrown into the salad along with some shredded chicken that I cooked for tomorrow’s pizza night.

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These bowls are deceptively heavy, packed with veggies. There is onion, roasted broccoli, red cabbage, carrots, peas, and corn. The salads got a splash of lime juice and the girls have oil and seasonings while I got chipotle salsa (so obsessed with this stuff right now).

We are looking forward to tomorrow. Isabelle has her last soccer game and Brian will have completed 26.2 miles! Serious accomplishments around here.