Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Paleo Foods For a Road Trip - Any Suggestions?

Gee, did you know that next Thursday is Thanksgiving?  My brain seems to have forgotten that fact until this last weekend.  I've been running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to wrap up projects and catch up on a few things so I won't have to bring my work with me when we go to So Cal for Thanksgiving weekend.

If I'm lucky, I'll have a few minutes to post the Weds recipe (I have pictures and everything!) but for now, I wanted to ask a question: Do you have any suggestions for snacks and meals we can take along on our 8 hour road trip?

Our last trip to So Cal was around Mother's Day.  That was over 6 months ago when we were in mid-transition from a gluten-free diet to a more Paleo diet.  If I remember correctly, I took hard boiled eggs, sliced apples, nuts, and carrot sticks for myself and a couple "PB&J" sandwiches, fruit, raisins, and oat granola bars for the kids.  It worked out okay - we had food to fuel us but we got bored of the selection pretty quickly.  I mean, who wants to eat HB eggs for 2 meals in a row?  Not me!  Lesson learned.

This time, I want to take more of a variety with me...but I'm at a lost as to what else we could pack.  I have a small cooler and ice packs, so keeping things cool isn't a problem.  I have to pack enough food for 2 meals and munchie snacks for all three of us.  Do you have any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Recipe - Gluten-Free** Pumpkin Oat Muffin

I've been a big Alton Brown and Good Eats fan for years so when I saw this recipe for Pumpkin Bread, I had to try it.  Of course, I can't eat wheat, so I had to "tweak" the recipe a bit.  I'm sure Mr. Brown won't mind.  ;-)

These aren't really "paleo-friendly" but I'm sharing the recipe here for those of us who are "Gluten-Free" but miss having an occasional "baked good" to enjoy while everyone else is snarfing down pies, cakes, and cookies at the holiday get-togethers.  Best of all, they're cheap and easy to make, thanks to the use of  ground "instant oats" instead of the more expensive specialty flours.

I made this recipe as a "dessert" for one of our "soup" nights a few weeks ago.  Since all I had were "large cans" of pumpkin, I ended up making a double batch and freezing the leftovers.  They freeze well, though I will advise that if you use the microwave to defrost them (as I do often), you should let them cool for 5 minutes.  If you don't they seem to fall apart.

My only real complaint - they didn't rise very much though the look and texture of the inside were perfect.  I'm thinking my baking powder is out of date.  Considering I rarely bake, I wouldn't be surprised.  So, you may want to do a "test batch" to check your batch.  These "small muffins" ended up being the perfect "kid size" snack or dessert, so it wasn't a big deal for me.

I will warn you that they taste a bit too sweet for me but I'm extra sensitive to sugar now these days.  So, I advise cutting back the sugar to 1 cup if you're audience is sugar sensitive/low-carb/Paleo, but if you're serving to people who mainly eat SAD (Standard American Diet), keep it as is.  Otherwise, they may complain that it's too bland.


Gluten-Free** Pumpkin Oat Muffins
(a.k.a. - a gluten-free version of Alton Brown's Pumpkin Bread)

  • 3/4 cup of your favorite oil (I used a combo of coconut oil and butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 small can or 1/2 large can of pumpkin
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups oat flour (I grind instant oats in the food processor)

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Prepare muffin tins - if you're not using paper cups, make sure to oil the pan well.  These do stick!
  3. In a bowl, cream oil and sugar together.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla - mix.
  5. Add in pumpkin, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt - mix.
  6. Once mixture is mixed well, start slowly adding in oat flour, hand-mixing as you go, until it reaches "muffin batter" consistancy.  It's okay if it's lumpy - they'll bake out.
  7. Dish into muffin pan (I filled my muffin cups about 1/2 way, since I wanted small kid portions)
  8. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  Start testing around 30 minutes - a knife stuck in the center of a muffin should come out clean.
  9. Let cool for 5 - 10 minutes and then carefully turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Special Notes:
  • Make sure to re-oil the pan if you're going to make another batch or they will stick! (And yes, I'm talking from experience!)
  • I ground my own oat flour by dumping instant oats into a food processor and pulsing until the right consistency.  Not sure how the recipe would end out using different versions of oats.
  • I'm sure something similar can be done with a basic banana bread or other "quick bread" recipes that use baking powder/soda instead of yeast to leaven the bread.  I'll have to try these later, when I have the motivation and/or craving.  ;-)

If you  have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them in the comments section below.  I love to experiment with cooking and would love some feedback on the recipe so I can refine it.

** I call these muffins "Gluten-Free" because they are made with oat flour (aka - ground oatmeal), which is by nature gluten free...BUT most oats are processed in plants where wheat is also processed.  So, there can be some intermingling of gluten and wheat molecules.  Oats don't bother me so I use them periodically as a cheap "flour substitute", but some people are "super sensitive" to gluten and can not tolerate them.  So, you have been warned!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bachelorette-style Paleo Diet (or what I eat when the kids aren't home)

Source: wwworks
My kids spend every-other-weekend with their father.  I drop them off Friday night before dinner and he returns them around lunchtime on Sunday.  These long weekends are a blessing to me - I can escape the house, go hiking or take a long walk around the neighborhood, do my grocery shopping, run errands, and mainly get caught up on all the stuff that's hard to do with my two shadows tagging along.

This last weekend was a "long weekend" and I spent most of it in front of the computer dealing with my business stuff: updating my business website, organizing the mess I call a desk, and devising a financial plan to get us through the rest of the year.  I did take a short walk down to the Asian store when my brain started to drool out my ear - a sure sign I need a break.  ;-) 

I don't cook a lot when the kids are gone.  I just don't see the need to go through the hassle of defrosting and cooking something when I don't have an audience.  So, on those "non-kid weekend" I find that my diet ends up revolving around eggs and peanut butter (and no, not together - ewww!). I once jokingly told a friend, "If I didn't have the kids, I'd stock my kitchen full of eggs, frozen veggies, celery, apples, and peanut butter.  My food budget would be like $100 a month!"

As I've said before, I buy a lot of eggs - usually around 8 - 10 dozen for  two weeks.  Why so many?  Well, They're not only a super cheap source of protein and fat, but also so versatile. For example, I can:
  • fry up a couple to go along with a bowl of frozen veggies or carrot sticks - this is my go-to-meal when I'm starving and don't have a lot of time to cook
  • make a Spanish Tortilla (aka - "everything but the kitchen sink" egg bake) with lots of garlic and diced vegetables instead of potatoes.  
  • medium-poach a couple eggs and immediately mixing them into a bowl of piping-hot broccoli - the heat from the broccoli helps to finish cooking the yolk so it's not slimy.  
And then there's peanut butter.  I know that some Paleo-enthusiasts poo-poo the idea of eating PB, electing to eat other nut butters or sunflower butter instead.  My problem with these peanut-butter-alternatives is that they're usually super expensive.  I can get a large jar of peanut butter for $2 (yes, the full sugar stuff - it spreads better and I like the taste - go ahead...shoot me) but can't seem to find something even closely comparative when it comes to almond butter or sunflower butter.  Even Trader Joe's prices make me cry.

So, yes, I eat straight peanut butter - I call it my daily dose of "healthy fat".  When I want a carb (usually before bedtime or at breakfast), I'll slice up an apple and slather on the peanut butter - the fat and protein makes sure I don't get a sugar rush.  Or when I want a quick snack to hold me over to the next meal, I'll load a dollop of peanut butter on to a stalk of celery and eat it over the kitchen sink. And of course there's always the "a tablespoon of peanut butter makes the munchies go away" moments of life.  Mmmmmm...peanut butter....  *Homer Simpson's drool*

What do you eat when you don't have an audience to cook for?   Do you cook or order out?  Share your ideas and recipes.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Planning Thanksgiving Paleo-Style

Source: Rachel
Thanksgiving is one of two holidays each year that I spend in So California with my family (the other is Mother's Day).  It's hard to travel by myself with a 3 and 5 year old, so I make the most of my 2 trips, visiting with family and friends and letting everyone see the kids.

Everyone has their own lives, jobs, and priorities, so it's no surprise that Thanksgiving Day is one of the few times where the whole family is together in one place for more than an hour.  My oldest sister and I (the two cooks in the family) fix most of the meal while my other sister contributes drinks, bread, and dessert.  We lay out a spread of food buffet-style, let everyone serve themselves, and sit on the couches and recliners in the living room to eat and visit.

Last year, we had turkey, stuffing, bread, steamed veggies, salad, and three different pies.  It was a glutton of gluten - and I wonder why I was fat, tired, and suffering from constant headaches.  ;-)

This year will be different.  I'm eating Paleo, my sister is gluten-free / salicylate-free, and my mother is gluten-free, which means 3 out of the 7 adults (including the 2 cooks) attending the dinner will be eating gluten-free.  Not quite a majority but close enough to really count.

Considering that my issues with gluten is not only digestive but sanity-robbing (constant migraines make me a little loopy), I decided to be proactive this year and emailed my sister last week with my concerns.  She caucused the rest of the family and replied with suggestions.  We went back and forth for a while until we came up with something everyone could be happy with, whether they're eating gluten or not.  (Most importantly, I vetoed the idea of baking bread for the gluten-eaters - just being in an area where flour dusts was kicked up will set off my allergies - ugh!)

So, 3 weeks before Thanksgiving, we have a menu planned out.  Most of it can be cooked ahead, leaving my sister to glaze and cook the ham on the big day.  Scary that we can be this organized sometimes.  ;-)

Our Thanksgiving Menu:

  • Ham
  • Turkey (being provided by our non-pork-eating friend who is attending)
  • Carrot-&-Raisin Salad
  • Steamed Veggies
  • Salad
  • Store-bought bread (for the gluten-eaters)
  • Pies (for the gluten-eaters)
  • Homemade Gluten-Free Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins (These have oatmeal in them, which is one of those questionable items...but they are super yummy!  I'll have to post that recipe next Weds)
Have you thought ahead to Thanksgiving yet?  Are you going gluten-free or will it be a crazy free-for-all at your house?  ;-)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Garden Bounty Continues

There are certain people you should always make friends with - your pastor's wife, your neighbor, and people with large garden plots.  ;-)

It's the beginning of November here but you wouldn't have guessed it by looking at my friends' garden plot.  I stopped by their house tonight to eat dinner and gossip (a common Friday night occurrence here) and they sent me home with a bounty of veggies:

From the top, going clockwise are: beet greens, eggplants, jalapeno peppers, and tomatoes.  

The tomatoes are garden fresh and are to die for.  Those will probably be gone by Monday and I will be left with the store-bought barely-ripe monstrosities they call tomatoes.  Oh well....better enjoy them while I can!  ;-)

The greens will be braised with onions and garlic on my next steak night - I fry the steak first, and then turn down the heat, add in a little coconut oil before tossing in the onions, garlic and greens.  Cover and let steam until done.

Not sure what I'm going to do with the jalapenos and eggplants but I'm sure I'll figure something out.  Nothing goes to waste in this house, especially free food!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Paleo and the Common Cold

Source: Snugg
Earlier this week, I felt like a slug.  You know...that typical run-down, "I'm coming down with something" ickiness that seems to overtake you at the most inopportune time. Well, let me tell you - this last Tuesday I felt icky.  I just wanted to crawl under my desk, curl up in a ball, and sleep it off.  Ugh.

Now, yes, I work out of my home, but that doesn't mean I can stop and have a "sick day" just because I'm feeling "icky".  I had deadlines to make, people to please...oh, and let's not forget about the two kids bouncing off the living room walls.  So, instead of crawling under my desk like I wanted to, I took the time to make a huge pot of chicken and vegetable soup (with lots of garlic and broth), brewed a big pot of green tea, and soldiered on.

Doing this "pre-paleo" would have sent me into a downhill spiral to Cold Hell.  I'd be sniffling and sneezing and grumbling and generally suffering for at least a week.  Being around two small kids all the time (have I mentioned my two kids- ages 3 and 5?  I swear they're germ sponges at this age) resulted in me being sick a lot, which in turn meant I suffered a lot. 

Last cold season alone, I caught the flu in October...OCTOBER!...and from that time on, I seemed to be sick or fighting off a sinus infection on a weekly basis.  My kids, on the other hand, were sick for a day, maybe two, before they completely recovered.  They'd be bouncing around, causing havok and destroying the house, while I laid on the couch and prayed for death.

That was the Cold Season from Hell.

This year has been totally different.  We've had two colds wander through my house already (yah, kids!) and I think we were sick for maybe a day and then it was gone.  When the ickiness overtook me this week, I soldiered on with the thought of "I can be sick after my deadline, damn it."  Who knew I'd wake up the next day and feel just fine?  Who knew diet would make such a difference???

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Recipe - Carrot & Raisin Salad

I'm hoping to start a "Recipe Wednesday" sort of feature on this blog.  I can't guarantee that I'll have something every week but I'm going to try!

I was raised in the south where sweet and savory salads ran rampant at potlucks, BBQ's, and family get-togethers.  Since many were made with pure mayo, it wasn't uncommon for you to get your monthly mayo quota in at one church potluck.  ;-)

This recipe is one of my favorites.  It's a classic southern recipe (or some friends have told me) and super easy to make.  It's best if you make it the evening before and then let it sit in the fridge overnight - that allows the raisins to release their juices and the carrots to soften.  The resulting salad is sweet, thanks to the natural sweetness of the raisins, and if you use farm-fresh carrots it's even better!


Carrot & Raisin Salad

  • carrots, grated (3 large ones make enough for 1 family meal or 2 meals for me)
  • raisins - as many or few as you want
  • mayo - enough to evenly coat the carrots and raisins
  • salt & pepper
  1. Toss carrots and raisins in a bowl - mix.
  2. Add enough mayo to evenly coat the carrot mixture - mix well.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Cover and place in fridge for at least 2 hours - overnight is better.
  5. Mix and serve.