Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Apples and Beets

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There’s nothing like going on the Paleo or Whole30 diet to make you appreciate sweet potatoes.  There was a time in my life when I didn’t see a sweet potato outside the confines of Thanksgiving dinner. You know the dish I’m talking about.  The one in which our no-nonsense tuber gets all dolled up in butter and brown sugar and is then smothered with ooey gooey marshmallows?

Yum.

But maybe not the best thing to be eating on a regular basis.  Plus the sweet potato is capable of so much more!  Since I’ve been doing Whole30, sweet potatoes have almost become a treat to me.  Does that make you feel sad for me?  I can see why it might. However, since I started the diet I’ve noticed desserts have become less tempting for me.  ‘Junk’ food in general seems to be losing its appeal.  If something unhealthy ever does sound good, I can usually think of how I’ll feel after and it immediately sounds less appealing.  I think that might be the point of the diet!  Hooray!

Back to our sweet potato discussion.  I’ve found myself cooking them with just about everything, even eating them for breakfast.  Thus, this super simple and ultra delicious recipe. The tart apples go very well with the sweetness of the beets and sweet potatoes  It’s also an easy way to sneak beets into your diet.  Don’t get me wrong, I love beets…in theory.  I love them in the sense that I know they’re good for me, but I kind of have to talk myself into eating them.  Beet lovers, please don’t take offense!

I peeled the beet but left the skin on the apples and sweet potatoes.  You can peel those too if you want.  Chop everything into uniform sizes.

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Pretty, no?

Place everything in a medium-sized bowl.  Add pecans.  Drizzle with enough balsamic vinegar to lightly coat ingredients.  Add cinnamon, rosemary, and salt and pepper.  Stir to distribute seasonings evenly.  Transfer to an unlined baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tart apples (like Granny Smith or Pink Lady)
  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 1 beet
  • 3/4 c pecans
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • pepper

These seasoning measurements are approximate.  I don’t usually measure when I cook…so feel free to adjust according to your taste!

 

Thai Chicken Salad

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Thai Chicken Salad

Fish Sauce.  I love it.  I just try not to inhale when in its presence.  I’m realizing more and more that sometimes the stinkiest food is the best tasting.  Is that a metaphor for life?  You decide.  I, however, will probably continue taking showers.

Back to the fish sauce.  Fish sauce is used a lot in some of my favorite cuisines.  Thai and Burmese to name a few.  And for good reason.  It adds a saltiness and tang that’s hard to replicate.  Plus, it’s on the Whole30 approved list.  Huzzah!  If you haven’t used it before, don’t let the smell stop you.  In fact, just try not to smell it.  Your taste buds will thank you later.

This afternoon I found myself starving, staring down a head of purple cabbage.  I always end up wasting cabbage.  I buy it for fish tacos or something, use a tiny chunk of it and the rest grows ever stinkier in the back of my fridge.  This time I was determined to break the habit.  I had a dozen Pink Lady apples from Costco, so those needed to be used up too.  I’m really trying hard these days not to waste produce.  A coleslaw-type chicken salad sounded appealing, but I didn’t want the mayonnaise base for the sauce.  What I came up with is basically a vinaigrette with fish sauce.  And I’m so glad I did it!  This salad was everything.  The savory flavor of the fish sauce, the sweet crispness of the apples, the soft and creamy avocado coupled with the kick of the jalapeno… So good.  My husband even liked it, and he is generally afraid of most fruits and vegetables.  Once he was about halfway done eating his he said, ‘This sure doesn’t look like it should taste good, but it does!’  Ahh, the things that warm your heart after 7 years of marriage.

This salad is easy to put together if you have the chicken already cooked, so make sure to have that done first.  It made enough for my husband and I and there was about a serving left over.  Next time I will definitely double the recipe!

Core the apple but leave the skin on.  Slice all ingredients into long strips and put into a medium-sized bowl.  Remove the seeds from the jalapeno if you don’t want it very spicy.  Put the fish sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and Dijon mustard in a jar with a lid and shake.  Add to the other ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

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Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 c. shredded chicken
  • 1/4 head purple cabbage
  • 1/2 Jalapeno
  • 1/2 white or red onion
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 Pink Lady apple
  • handful of cilantro

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard

Cholula Burgers

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So it’s been a month since I gave birth to my sweet, adorable daughter. One month. I know in the reality based portion of my brain that a month isn’t long enough for one’s body to recover from the previous nine months it took to look so terrible. But still! I long for my ‘fat pants’ to button up.  I long for the end of slimming undergarments. I long for them now. I don’t want to wait several more months to wear my normal clothes. I am sick of my fat lady uniform of stretchy pants and flowy tops.
Enter:Whole30. It sounded a little harsh when I first read about it. Now it’s sounding downright reasonable. As long as I see some solid results, I don’t care what I have to do! Bring on the restrictions! No honey? No problem! Just take my muffin top. Please. I also have some thyroid/skin issues I’d like to see improved.  Whole30 has promised me as much.  So what have I got to lose?  (Answer: my muffin top.  Pay attention!)
If you’re not familiar with the Whole30 program, it’s like a stricter version of the Paleo diet.  Not only do you forgo gluten, dairy, legumes and the like…you also cut out all sweeteners.  That’s right-no agave, honey…nothing!  You’re not supposed to snack, or cook up those wonderful Paleo recipes that try to mimic junk food.  No almond flour muffins or banana pancakes.  I love those!  And here is the real kicker.  If you falter…if you have one tiny taste of something on the forbidden list… You. Start. Over.  Oh, you were on day 29 of your 30 day commitment? Too bad!  Start over!  This diet is like the Soup Nazi of the nutrition world.  And that’s exactly what I need right now.  I need some borderline unreasonable guidelines to get things moving in the right direction.  Here is the official website for both the nitty and the gritty: http://whole30.com/ 
I’m only on day 4, but it actually hasn’t been that bad so far.  One thing it’s made me realize is how much I crave sweets. I don’t eat refined sugar often, so I didn’t think I had a problem. But apparently I eat honey and other natural sweeteners quite a bit!  I’m really feeling their absence.  I’ve also had a hard time with the no snacking thing. Apparently I’m used to eating basically all day long.  Grazing, some might call it.  Part of it might be the fact that I’m breast-feeding and hungrier than normal. Who knows.  So I do my best. If I feel legitimately hungry, I eat a little something. I don’t want to mess with my milk supply. (Yeah I know…I graze and I produce milk.  Moo.)
One good thing Whole30 has done for me so far is to make me focus on using healthier ingredients. I’ve found myself trying to fit as many vegetables as I can into my meals. Not a bad habit for anyone to be forming, yes? I think that’s the point of undertaking something like this. Focus on the things you should be eating more of instead of what you can’t eat.   So for the next month or so I’ll be sharing some of my Whole30 creations.  And here’s the best part, you don’t have to commit to the diet to eat them!
This burger recipe is a simple way to amp up the flavor quotient on your bun-less burger. Honestly, I never miss the bun. Who needs it!  You can use a lettuce wrap or just dig in with a fork. Don’t forget to pile on as many veggies as you can. Cucumbers, bell peppers, avocado, jalapenos, sprouts… Get crazy.  I chose Cholula because it’s on the Whole30 approved list.  Plus, have you tasted it?  Duh.
Ingredients:
  • 1 lb grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. Cholula
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Form into patties.  Cook as desired.  I cooked mine with bacon grease in a skillet.  Top with any yummy thing you can think of.  I topped mine with a fried egg, avocado, cilantro and onion.
Whole30 never tasted so good!

Blended Mocha

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Do you know what it takes to make a delicious, naturally sweetened blended coffee beverage?

One frozen banana.

This little number brings to mind the sugar and calorie-laden Frappuccino of that one popular franchise you’ve probably heard of.  Only this version is lower in calories, free of artificial ingredients, dairy-free, sugar-free, and even has fruit in it.  Win!  So if you’re not already doing it, and I’m sure you are, slice up and freeze those brown, mushy bananas .  Then they’ll be there for you the next time you want to make a smoothie, blender ‘ice cream’, or say, this refreshing drink.  I don’t know about you, but once the temperature hits about 70 degrees I can no longer partake in hot beverages of any kind.  I’m already working too hard to keep my insides cool!  We’ve had some unseasonably warm days here recently, hence the need for a frozen concoction. I fear it’s going to be a long summer…but at least I’ll have something cool to drink!

Ingredients:

  • 1 sliced, frozen banana
  • 1/2 c. canned light coconut milk
  • 16 oz cooled coffee
  • 2 Tbsp raw cacao powder (you could also use cocoa powder)
  • 1 c ice cubes

Blend the banana and coconut milk in a blender or food processor until smooth (1-2 minutes).  Add cacao powder, blend until mixed in.  Add coffee and ice cubes, blend to desired consistency.  You can also pour over ice for maximum chilliness.

 

Skillet Apple Bake

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Phew!  What a week (or two).  The baby finally came, as much as I truly believed I would be the first woman to be diagnosed with permanent pregnancy.  I could see the headlines and everything.  Having a newborn in the house hasn’t left me a lot of time for cooking, blogging, sleeping…  And it’s really made me realize how much better I feel when I eat healthy foods.  We’ve felt so much support from family and friends through dinners and their general willingness to help.  It’s made me very grateful!  That being said, I’m really looking forward to getting back to my clean eating routine.  Especially with this strangely shaped post baby body.

I threw this together one morning before the wee one was born.  It’s so easy to prepare and really yummy.  You can almost convince yourself you’re eating an apple Danish.  Well, almost.  I guess it depends on how long it’s been since you’ve had a Danish!

Ingredients:

  • One thinly sliced apple (I used a Pink Lady, and left the skin on)
  • 2 Tbsp. Coconut Flour
  • 1 Tbsp. Hemp Seeds
  • 1 Tbsp Chia Seeds
  • 1/4 c. chopped Pecans
  • 2 tsp. Raw Organic Honey
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • Dash of Salt

Cover the bottom of your skillet with coconut oil.  Slice apple and spread in an even layer in the bottom of the skillet.  Mix coconut flour, seeds, pecans, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl.  Spread over the apple slices.  Pour honey evenly over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.  Then, eat it!  You could eat this with yogurt or OOH! on top of pancakes.  I think I’ll try that next.

Raw ‘Oats’

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This is currently my favorite breakfast recipe.  And I’m really into breakfast.

I’ve seen some different versions of it online, but this is the one I like best.  It’s quick and easy, my two favorite recipe adjectives.  It tastes really fresh, and has everything my breakfast needs – protein, healthy fats, fiber, you get the idea.  I’ve tried it with different kinds of apples.  I prefer Granny Smith, but I like things a little on the sour side. In fact, I like my food to be just shy of pucker inducing.  Also, I have a Grandma Smith…which now that I think about it is entirely unrelated.  

Anyway.  I soak the date in hot water for about 10 minutes before adding it to the blender.  I don’t have a super fancy blender, so this method helps a lot with the date dispersion.  You could use any kind of nuts you have lying around.  I’ve done a walnut/almond combination that was just divine!  This recipe makes 2 servings, one of which I occasionally find myself eating later the same day.  It’s just too good, y’all.  

1 Apple, chopped

1/4 c Pecans 

1/4 c Coconut Flakes (unsweetened)

1 Date, softened

Pinch of Cinnamon

Pinch of Salt

2 Tbsp Hemp Seeds

1 Tbsp Chia Seeds

Juice of 1/2 Lime

Once the date has softened, throw all your delicious ingredients into the blender.  I would advise adding the lime juice after you’ve tasted the finished product.  You may or may not need it, depending on the apple and your taste preference.  Blend until all ingredients are chopped into small pieces.  Be careful not to blend too much or you’ll have an unappetizing paste on your hands.  You want it to be about the consistency of oatmeal.  

What’s your favorite breakfast recipe right now?

Stir Fry with Thai Peanut Sauce

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Stir fry is in regular rotation at my house.  I cook it about once a week.  It’s quick, versatile, and it’s an easy way to use up any vegetables I have that might be on the verge of expiring.   I was getting kind of bored with my sauce options, however, so I decided to try out a peanut sauce.  And sister, I never looked back.  This sauce turned out so tasty, I want to eat it on everything.  It tastes so much more complicated than it really is!  I like that.  Give me less work and more flavor!

I used peanut butter, but you could substitute a nut butter of your choosing.  I know some people have turned their backs on the peanut, being a lowly legume instead of an official member of the nut family.  Me, I’m more of a live and let live type of gal.  My peanut butter and almond butter live side by side in the pantry.  And anyway, the peanuts add such a satisfying crunch to this dish!  It’s like a little obstacle course for your mouth.  If you don’t have or aren’t interested in the Bragg Amino Acids, you can use plain old Soy Sauce.  It just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I sliced the grass-fed steak first, while it was still frozen.  Are you using this trick? It makes cutting meat so much easier! Then I gave it a chance to thaw while I was doing my thing.  Doing my thing in this case meant walking around my neighborhood, trying in vain to convince daughter #2 to make her grand debut.  Have I mentioned I’m sick of being pregnant?  Come out now, baby.  I have stir fry for you to enjoy.

Anyway.  Back to dinner.  I like to get all my players ready before I warm up the wok.  In this particular instance, that mean chopping the carrots, white onion, celery and broccoli.  Once everything was chopped and ready, I started on the sauce.

This sauce has a little kick to it, but not much.  I like things very, very spicy so if I wasn’t cooking for the wee one I would have turned it up a notch.  Or maybe three notches.  You can add a little more chili sauce and pepper flakes if that’s your thing too.

Start warming up the wok when you start the sauce.  In a separate pan, sauté the garlic and ginger in the coconut oil for a few minutes, then add the peanut butter and water.  After a minute or two it will start getting smooth. The wok should be warmed up by now, so add your cooking oil to it.  You can use whatever oil you prefer, it just needs a high smoke point.  Once the wok is hot, add the vegetables and meat.  I added some snow peas and peanuts too.  You’ll be stirring the wok and the sauce simultaneously, but I think you’re up for it.  Neither needs constant attention.  Once the sauce has a smooth consistency, add the lemon juice, chili sauce, amino acids, fish sauce and pepper flakes.  You’ll want to stir occasionally as it thickens, which should only take a few minutes.  Once the sauce is ready, you can add it to the stir fry.  The vegetables and meat don’t take long to cook, you’ll probably want the vegetables to be a little on the crunchy side (unless you’re into soggy vegetables).  Stir that thing up and you’re ready for business!

Sauce Ingredients

2 tsp. Coconut Oil

1 clove minced Garlic

1/2 Tbsp minced Ginger

3/4 c Hot Water

1/4 c Peanut Butter

Juice of 1/2 Lemon

2 Tbsp Chili Sauce

1 Tbsp Bragg Amino Acids

1/2 Tbsp Fish Sauce

1 tsp Pepper Flakes

I’m all about getting the best tasting dish for the least amount of work.  What about you?  What’s the easiest and best tasting meal you make?

Fluffy Almond Butter Pancakes

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I feel like I’ve been searching  for this recipe my whole life.

Maybe that’s an overstatement.  Maybe the ‘hunger of ten grizzly bears’ stage that is the third trimester is clouding my brain.  But I want a cake for breakfast! Not some, but the whole thing!  I will settle for pancakes, but it’s going to take a lot of them.

Lately I’ve tried a lot of variations of the 1 egg/1 banana pancake recipe.  The taste is pretty good, but they always end up on the heavy side and take waaaaay too long to cook.  Who has that kind of patience?  I need my breakfast now!

So I turned to Apple Cider Vinegar, that magic elixir.  The vinegar and baking soda combination make these as fluffy as regular pancakes.  They taste downright normal.  Go on, try to fool your family!

This recipe makes about 6 good sized pancakes and is open to new relationships.  I think it could get along well with nuts, fruit or chocolate chips.  (I added coconut flakes to mine.)

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1 c Almond Butter

2 Bananas

2 Eggs

1/2 tsp Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1 1/2 tsp Vanilla

1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

2 Tbsp Flax Seed

Dash of Cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in a food processor/blender.  Pour into a greased skillet, flip when bubbles start to form.  Enjoy with reckless abandon.

Cherry Chocolate Chunk Bars

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I love Lara Bars.  They’re the perfect little package of energizing goodness.  I love making them at home even more.  They’re cheaper and you can adjust the ingredients until they’re just the way you like them.  If you have very specific (ok, OCD might be a more apt description) taste requirements like myself, this is paramount! I decided to do cherry chocolate.  They’re so good!

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If your cherries and dates are on the tough side, it’s a good idea to soak them first.  It will make it easier to blend and will put your food processor through a little less stress.  Mine is on it’s last leg, so I try to treat it kindly.  You can do any combination of nuts you like.  I used what I had on hand.  I try to buy nuts in bulk when they’re on sale. (Ahem, cheapo.)  You don’t need to toast the coconut, but I would recommend it based on the smell alone.  Skip the tropical getaway, I imagine they smell just like this!

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Ingredients

1 c Dried Cherries

1/4 c Dates

1/4 c Toasted Shredded Coconut (unsweetened)

1/2 c Cashews

1/2 c Walnuts

1/4 c Dark Chocolate Pieces

Pinch of Sea Salt

Pinch of Cardamom

Grease 8×8 brownie pan with coconut oil.  Toast coconut flakes at 350 degrees for 3-5 minutes.  While coconut is toasting, soak cherries and dates in warm water until softened (about 10 minutes). Combine all ingredients in food processor until desired consistency is reached.  I like to leave it a little chunky, myself.  Spread even layer in brownie pan.  Put in freezer for about 20 minutes.  This will make 8 small bars.  I store them in the fridge, but they’re good frozen too.

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Avocado Chicken Salad

 

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I have a love/hate relationship with chicken.  What a tricky bird!  Can we call a chicken a bird or do we have to call it a fowl?  Or is it strictly poultry.  Let’s talk about it later.  Right now I want to address how difficult it can be to avoid dry, bland chicken.  Even when you marinate!  Even when you cook it slowly and lovingly in a variety of juices.  It is exactly this frustrating history that led me to create this decidedly un-dry concoction.

I used shredded chicken I had from a whole chicken I’d roasted earlier in the week.  (Spoiler alert, the thing came out a far cry from moist!)  I added chopped celery, onion,  orange bell pepper and cilantro and then mixed up the following sauce:

1 Avocado

Juice of 1 Lemon

1 Tbsp Vegenaise

1/4 c. Plain Greek Yogurt

1 clove Garlic

1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard

Dash of Celery Salt

Dash of Oregano

Blend the above ingredients in a blender/food processor until smooth and creamy.  Add chicken and vegetables.  I put mine over broccoli slaw, but you could also put it in a lettuce leaf/wrap of your choosing.