Monday, June 10, 2013

Paleo Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

I was messing around with my microwave chocolate cake recipe, and came up with this version. You could use the microwave mug recipe and add a 1/3rd of a ripe banana if you didn't want to make a full batch, but this version is an oven-baked goody to share with the family.

Paleo Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

4 TBSP butter, softened
6 TBSP honey  (I eye-balled this)
1 ripe banana
5 TBSP coconut milk
3 eggs
3 TBSP coconut flour
1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP almond flour (this equals 6 TBSP, if you just want to use your TBSP measurement)
1/2 cup plus 1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa  (this equals 9 TBSP)

Preheat oven to 350F

Combine butter and honey with a mixer until smooth.  Smash in your banana, mix again.  Add coconut milk and eggs, mixing until the eggs are fully incorporated.  Add the dry ingredients, and mix well until there are no lumps.

Let me state that I don't really do exact measurements. I don't level my measuring spoons, nor do I measure out liquids.  But this is pretty darn close to what I did.  It should make a fairly thick batter, not a runny batter. If the batter is too runny, you may want to add a tablespoon of coconut flour. If you think it is far too thick, add a bit more liquid.  ALWAYS taste the batter when you are done to see if you need to add more sweetener.

Poor into silicone cups and bake at 350F for approximately 15 minutes.  (I use silicone cupcake liners which I set on a flat pan.  Silicone cupcake liners are THE BOMB, y'all.)

Isn't that a beautiful texture? It's like a cross between cake and pudding.
Yum, y'all. Yum.

Note: Yes, you can mess around with your coconut to almond flour ratio, but remember, coconut flour requires more moisture, so keep that in mind!  You could also do half coconut flour and half arrowroot, but I haven't tried that on this particular creation so... I can't guarantee anything.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Paleo Microwave Chocolate Cake with almond and coconut flours

It's a good thing I don't follow the Paleo mindset of "eat only what the caveman eat" because, 1, I don't believe in the whole Paleolithic era stuff (You know, I'm one of those weird people that believes in a Divine Creator, and I don't believe the earth is millions of years old), and um, I do believe that some advances in the kitchen are a good thing (like the invention of the blender).

And while I'm not a huge fan of microwaves, I do have one that we use now and then, mostly for those spontaneous moments when I have just got to have a personal-sized chocolate cake.

Before we became grain-free-freaks, I made many microwave cakes and had it all down to perfection.  After our Whole30 challenge, I decided I should try a Paleo version. Let me just say that I do not care for the texture of coconut flour in baked goods when it is not mixed with other Paleo flours, but I do love the texture of coconut flour in combination with another "flours" like arrowroot or almond meal.

The first Paleo microwave cake I made (with just coconut flour) proved that point once again. Ick. What a way to ruin chocolate.  So the next time I made it, I decided to mix it with almond flour, and I loooved it.

Here's what you'll need:

1 and 1/2 TBSP Coconut flour (I just eye-balled the half using the TBSP measuring spoon)
1 and 1/2 TBSP Almond flour
3 TBSP Cocoa (unsweetened)
1-2 TBSP honey (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 TBSP butter (melted)
1-2 TBSP coconut milk (or whatever you want to use, sometimes I use coffee)
1 egg

There are various ways you can mix this altogether. I usually start with the melted butter and honey, mixing it up well with a fork before I add the coconut milk and egg.  Then I mix in the flours and cocoa little by little so that it gets totally mixed in. (I do it this way so that 1- the melted butter doesn't start to harden back when you add cold milk and a cold egg to it if you mix it with the honey first, and 2- I don't have to use a mixer if I add the dry ingredients slowly rather than dumping them in.)

Taste the batter to see if you should add a bit more honey.  If it seems very, very thick, add a little more coconut milk.  Different coconut flour brands react differently, and some soak up more liquid than others.

Now, you could put this all in a mug and microwave it for about 45-60 seconds OR you could scoop it out into silicone cupcake liners.  I actually tripled this recipe and it made about 8 cupcakes. (I microwaved the cupcakes one by one, FYI.)  If you are making cupcakes, it only takes about 25 seconds in the microwave, at most 30 seconds. (I like mine a little moist, so 30 seconds is too long for me.)

I drizzled some organic chocolate sauce over mine.  Not paleo (sugar!) but... tasty.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Brandon's successes, Mandy's pregnancy

Several things of note: My husband lost five more pounds. High five, fist bump y'all.  I am amazed by the changes that have occurred since we began the Whole30.

One of the difficult things about overhauling your diet and seeing amazing, ah-may-zing, changes is that when you see others suffering from the same things you once did, you want to swoop in with a packet of Paleo information, cook them meals for a week, and rid their pantries and fridges of all that nastiness they've been consuming.

But really, while we really do enjoy sharing our diet lifestyle and how it has changed us in many, many ways, we also recognize that people have to be willing to make the changes themselves.  When they are ready, they  will ask for help or advice.  For now, we are happy just to share our success stories with others and tell how we've been changed.

We've been on the other side as well. We've looked at people cross-eyed when they suggested we give up bread. (And we even tried it for a while, and boy that sucked.) But we also saw that we were headed in a direction we didn't want to go.

Brandon went to the doctor and was classified as "morbidly obese".  He was having to lean on medications for pain and was trying the natural methods of chiropractics and massage to relieve pain.  It seemed the solutions offered to a lot of his issues were in reality just bandaids.  Over and over people recommended that he get a CPAP machine because, don't we all want to sound like Darth Vader when we sleep?

His doctor had a lot of negative things to say. High cholesterol. Bad this. Change that.  Lose 10 pounds before I see you again.  Brandon walked away with his doctor-loathing-beam still firmly intact.

He felt like his body was falling apart, and had been for years. We had tried so many things, but hey, one last thing can't hurt, right?  We are so grateful that the Whole30/Paleo diet was that "one last thing".

My husband's posture is straighter. I can wrap my arms around his waist and clasp my hands together behind him.  He no longer snores like a freight train every night (or, you know, forgets to breathe when he's not snoring). He wakes up rested because he's getting REM sleep. He smiles more often. He's not consumed with pain all day.  His bicep, which he injured pretty badly at work months ago, is not giving him as much trouble and is feeling better and healing quicker than it did with chiropractics and intense massage. Some of his other allergies have disappeared (so he can now enjoy black pepper liberally sprinkled on every meat and vegetable).

His biggest issue is that he needs smaller pants, but he refuses to buy new jeans until he hits a certain size.  For now he's just cinching up his belt tighter and tighter.

But you know, while there is a lot of amazing things happening in our home and in our bodies, there is also a struggle as well.

Because I'm pregnant (9 weeks today). And I have these cravings that are so strong it's hard to ignore them.  Shipley's Donuts call my name over and over until I just can't ignore it anymore, and I scarf down a glazed donut only to regret it by lunch time as I lay on the couch with a headache feeling like I'm going to barf up the brick in my stomach at any moment.

And I will go on and say it. It really sucks sometimes to be Paleo. Because there are pretty much no convenience options for people who chose to eat as we do. At least none that don't break the bank or cause the budget to run screaming. NIL. NADA. ZIP. ZILCH.  Well, tuna salad and nitrate-free hotdogs, and both of those make this pregnant lady want to gag.  Ew.  (Although, I do buy this stuff, and I feed it to my children who love them and give me Good-Mom-Brownie-Points.)

Gone are the days of freezer nuggets and Dominos Pizza.   This is not to say that we don't have our cheats now and then, but, really, a cornbread mix and redbeans and rice were an easy staple in my previous pregnancies.  And now all of those items are off the menu.

That means I actually have to use my BRAIN, which is really hard to do when one is pregnant. (Well, it's not that it's not being used, it is actually on overload so thinking about having to actually make lunch is can be overwhelming.) I always forget how exhausting pregnancy can be in the first trimester.  Turns out forming a baby in my womb is hard work!

I mean, for the love of grapes, I could really go for a basic PB&J sandwich.  And those things haven't sounded appealing since I was, like, eight.

So this means I have to actually force my brain to work at creating a meal plan that is doable, even when I feel all icky and sleepy and weird. (Thankfully, I am not hugging the porcelain throne, but I come very close if I have an affair with wheat or get too much sugar in my system.)

This is where I openly proclaim my love for my Crock Pot and One-Dish-Wonders, and The-Husband-Who-Cooks-Better-Than-I-Do.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have some really good slow cooker recipes in your arsenal, along with a few of your favorite casseroles and one-pot dinners.  Also, you will find that soups and chilis will work for summer meals too, and storage containers will be your best friend because you should definitely make extras to store away (in the fridge for lunch tomorrow, or in the freezer for next week).

And don't forget our suggestion to fire up the grill one day and toss on every kind of meat you can think of so you have "fast food" for meals throughout the week.

Really, by the time 4pm rolls around, the thought of making supper seems like a lot of work.  Am I right? You're not even pregnant and you're nodding in agreement, aren't you.

So do yourself a favor and use that slow cooker.  Toss in a roast in the morning after you pour your morning coffee, and pat yourself on the back for having dinner on.  Go you.

Mmm, Roast, potatoes, and carrots.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What do we eat?

Kristianna wrote in asking what our normal menu looks like. While we are no longer officially on the Whole30, we usually still eat like it.  After being on the Whole30, sweet treats like Paleo Berry Breakfast Cake seem very rich, even with the minimal amount of honey or maple syrup.  I made them last night (as muffins) for breakfast this morning, and I just couldn't stand to eat one, but the kids really loved them.

I do think that treats like that make the big lifestyle change of going Paleo much easier on children.  (Especially if you bring it to a potluck where you know there will be a lot of desserts they can't have or to a birthday party where the sugary icing, dyes, and chemical-cake will make them extremely sick.)

I made a double recipe of the breakfast cake which made about two dozen muffins (could have made about 30 if I would have made them a tad smaller).

These treats are well-loved by all five of kiddos from youngest [Molly Jo] and oldest [Merikalyn]. (One batch I made with strawberries, another I made with Enjoy Life chocolate chips.)

Obviously the kids can't have these every morning.  After all, we don't want to replace old bad habits with new slightly healthier bad habits, but treats are nice now and then.

Here's what we might have for breakfast any given week.  We tend to eat a lot of eggs because it's kind of one of those no-brainer things, but after a month or two you will find yourself growing very weary of eggs so you'll likely want to try different things. Remember, you don't have to eat breakfast foods for breakfast. You could have a hamburger patty and a sweet potato instead!


  • Paleo Banana Bread
  • Paleo Granola with Almond or Coconut milk (add in bananas and other fruit to really amp up the flavor)
  • Frittata loaded with veggies (like tomatoes and zucchini) and meats like smoked sausage or breakfast sausage (Look for ones with no nitrates and no MSG).
  • Baked Cinnamon Banana boats with a side of eggs
  • Eggs and bacon (It is incredibly difficult to find sugar-free bacon, so we have just bought the brands that have no nitrates and the least amount of sugar and not worried about it. Buy the best quality you can afford, organic if possible.  Some people buy sugar-free bacon online but I would not spend that much money on bacon! No thanks!)
  • Eggs and breakfast sausage (No Nitrates and no MSG)
  • Egg Muffins (Basically egg and whatever else you want baked in a muffin cup. Be sure to really grease the muffin cup or line it with bacon so that it doesn't stick. I like silicone cups as there is no sticking.)
  • Fried egg with avocado on top
  • Breakfast hash (we like to use roasted butternut squash, ground breakfast sausage, and eggs).
  • Or something like this, below, which is a fried egg (yolk firm) with green onions "wrapped" in (no nitrate) ham.  Also known as hubby's breakfast this morning.


Sometimes I just lay out a big platter of cucumbers, carrots, celery, chicken or ham, and some bananas for the kid to attack for lunch, but that doesn't usually work for me.  Those typical sandwiches are out, so I now think of lunch as I would supper.  If I need something light, a salad will work.

  • Grilled chicken on romaine with onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, and alfalfa sprouts
  • Hamburger stew (there are a variety of recipes out there for hamburger stew, but for us, it's basically ground beef, carrots, tomatoes, celery, onions, garlic, potato bites, and peas, which some Paleo folks do not eat.)
  • Stuffed Bellpeppers (no rice, of course, but you could use "riced" cauliflower)
  • Sausage and stewed cabbage
  • Paleo chili and hot dogs (no nitrates, no msg)
  • Shrimp salad
  • Hamburger patty with avocado, lettuce, onions, pickles, bacon, and whatever else you like on top. (This is a great "out to eat" meal, since there inevitably comes a time when you have to Whole30 out on the town.  We like to eat at Five Guys and Fries and Smash Burger.  And, since we allow ourselves to break some rules, we sometimes have their fries as well.)
  • Baked chicken breasts with zucchini (layer sliced zucchini under the chicken before you bake, and add in a little bit of water. Season the water/zucchini well before placing the chicken (which you also should season well) on top. Viola, one dish wonder!)
  • Grilled sausages (we like pork and green onion- you can buy them fresh from the butcher department at the grocery store) with grilled squash or asparagus
  • Tuna salad (Note: It is pretty much impossible to find Paleo Mayo, so you can try making it yourself. If that is not an option for you, or you have tried many times and failed, and you must, must, must have mayo, go for best option available, which will NOT be among the major brands.  For those days when the kids are begging for tuna salad [I personally hate fish, but love shrimp], we go for The Ojai Cook Lemonaise which is made with Pure Expeller Pressed Canola Oil (which is NOT paleo), Water, Cage Free Whole Eggs, Creole Mustard, Lemon, Juice Concentrate, Cage Free Egg Yolks, Salt, Distilled Vinegar and Garlic.  It's is VERY flavorful and makes super yummy tuna, I hear.  Our goal is not really to fit all the guidelines so we can call ourselves Paleo, but to make as many changes as we can to have a healthy lifestyle, so not everything we eat is Paleo.)

We cut out most snacking when we were on the Whole30, but I found the kids typically needed a snack between lunch and supper, especially if supper wouldn't be until six or seven.  

  • A palm full of nuts (no peanuts!)
  • Homemade trail mix (nuts, seeds, and raisins or craisins- be aware that most brands of craisins have added sugar).
  • A banana, apple, or orange
  • Carrots
  • Lara bar  (make sure you don't get the peanut ones).
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Apple sauce (no sugar added)
  • A few slices of bacon (if you bake a bunch ahead of time [lay out on a pan in a single layer, bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes depending on thickness] and put it in the fridge, it's super tasty to have for snacks, especially dipped in guacamole)
  • A box of raisins
  • Sweet potato chips (You could make these yourself, but every now and then I come across some at Sprouts or Whole Foods which is Whole30 compliant.  Sometimes I will buy some that are not Paleo, because they are made with Sunflower oil, though.)

  • Apple and Cabbage Baked Chicken Casserole (we also add in sausage to it feeds our whole family, and I use as many chicken breasts as I can fit. 
  • Crockpot roast with garlic, onions, carrots and potatoes (you can use white if you're okay with white potatoes, or sweet potatoes)
  • Oven barbecue ribs with cole slaw mixed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (I love this recipe from Cook Like Your Grandmother, which is not Paleo/Whole30 because of the brown sugar but I'm going to attempt my own version this week. My husband smokes ribs like a pro because, um, he is a pro, but sometimes it's just not feasible for him to do any grilling or smoking, so it's nice to have a back up recipe I can use to do it in the oven rather than try my hand at burning the house down smoking meat. Do some web searching and I am sure you can find a Whole30 rib recipe. )
  • Chicken thighs (with skin and bones) and brussel sprouts (I heavily season the thighs on both sides and brown them in some coconut oil in a big pot while I cut up some onions, celery, and garlic.  Then I toss in those veggies, and when they've softened I deglaze the pan with two or so cups of water. I season the water with salt and such, then let it all simmer, covered, for a while as I cut the brussel sprouts in half.  When the chicken is almost done, I toss in the brussel sprouts, cover, and allow to simmer 10 or so more minutes. And then, there it is, another one pot meal!)
  • Grilled chicken with a side salad
  • Juicy grilled steak with a sweet potato and green beans
  • Cubed Steak, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers (another one-dish-wonder)
  • Meatballs and spaghetti squash with marinara sauce
  • Crockpot (whole) chicken with whatever I have left over to throw together as a side.

Note: We do eat white potatoes in our family. We are a large family, and while most Paleo folks do not consume white potatoes, well, we do.  We loved loaded baked potatoes (a variety of meats, olives, onions, and such with lots of butter) and we sometimes use them in breakfast hash.  This also means we enjoy fries now and then (but not from McDonald's- believe me, after being on the Whole30 and eating real food, McD's fries, which used to be so yummy and appealing, will taste like chemical garbage).

If you get in a rut, check out pinterest or do some searching on the web.  I really love one-dish dinners and crockpot meals, especially in the summer or when our schedule gets pretty busy and I don't have a lot of time to think about meals. That way I only have to think about meals in the morning...

For example:

As I'm preparing a frittata I cut up extra tomatoes to use in the hamburger stew I'm making for lunch.  While the frittata is baking, I brown up a bunch of ground beef- some for the hamburger stew, some for the chili I am making tomorrow. I also chop up celery, onions, and potatoes for both the hamburger stew and the crockpot roast I'm preparing for dinner.  By the time breakfast is done, the crockpot is simmering for dinner's meal and the pot on top of the stove is simmering with a soup for lunch.  There you go, all my meal work is done in the morning, and I don't have anything to do but serve it when lunch and supper roll around!

Don't be fooled though, it doesn't always work this way.  I am still trying to get into a steady routine!  Sometimes I wake up and tell the kids to dig into the emergency gluten-free cereal (which is not grain-free) before I fall back into bed.

Okay, so, that should give you an idea of what we do.  I apologize that it's not better organized, and there are probably loads of typos, but I have to get the crockpot started, so.. I'm out.

Apple and Cabbage Baked Chicken Casserole

I love one-dish-wonders. It's less clean-up and doesn't require a lot of work.

I meant to take an after photo, but I got so caught up in eating it, that, well, I didn't.  So, you can have the before photos.

I first came across this recipe on The Healthy Foodie. It was such a hit with my family that my husband demanded we make it a regular feature.  I do mine a bit different, so here are my directions, but I assure you, THF deserves all the credit.

1 head of cabbage
2-3 apples
1 onion

1/2 unsweetened apple juice,
1-2 teaspoons mustard
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar.

Seasonings (I used salt, a Cajun blend, and garlic powder).
1/2 unsweetened apple juice,
1-2 teaspoons mustard
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar.
Sausage (I used several links of green onion deer/pork blend)

2-4 chicken breasts


1. Use a mandolin to thinly slice apples and onions. You could do this with a knife but it is more uniform and quicker with the handy gadget! Thinly slice cabbage as well. I did this with a knife.  Slice up the sausage as well. (I added in the sausage because I needed more meat to feed my family, and I couldn't fit any more chicken into the dish.)

2. Put 1/2 of the cabbage into a large casserole dish (8x10 or bigger). Season with salt and cajun seasoning. Add in all the sausage. Layer in 1/2 onions and 1/2 of the apples. Layer in the remaining cabbage (pause to season again here), onions, and apples.

3. In a small bowl, mix together apple juice, mustard, and apple cider vinegar & pour over the top of the apples/onion/cabbage.

4. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt, a bit of Cajun seasoning, and a generous amount of garlic powder. Place on top of the last layer of apples. Cover with foil and bake for about an hour!

Note: You could change this up and use chicken or veggie broth! I sometimes throw in minced garlic as well.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Paleo Rant.

Sometimes the Paleo community really irks me. I've seen this in all circles- among vegans, vegetarians, and raw foodies too.  It's this mindset that people have to do it "just like you do" in order to fit into the label. Really, I don't even care about labels, but I know labels help us identify things, so, in some ways, they are necessary.  When I'm scoping out recipes on pinterest, listing grain-free, legume-free, dairy-free etc will bring me far less results than typing in "paleo".

I know a lot of people who are interested in many of the Paleo principles but are hesitant to try it out because they think they cannot afford it.  After all, the major Paleo blogs say you have to buy directly from the farm, grocery stores are the devil.  So while some Paleo folks can afford to buy the extremely pricey sugar-free bacon from online vendors, regular folk like us cannot.

Our thought has been to do the best that you can. We all have to start somewhere.  So, while some Paleo folks would turn a critical eye at a person picking up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, others understand.

For many, it's a big step simply to remove grains, dairy, and legumes from their diets.  (And, yanno, I know some Paleo folks still consume dairy, although our bellies are not able to handle it.)

Don't get me wrong, much of the Paleo community can be very helpful, loving, and encouraging, but there's also that nasty side (just as I saw when I was a vegan) where folks are extremely critical and demeaning.

What is of more importance to us?  Our precious label or helping people make the healthiest choices they can manage at that point in their life?

For some of my friends, simply disconnecting themselves from frequent fast food visits is a huge step.  Must we nitpick them about where they purchase their meat at, or that it's not organic, and so, "Harumph, you're not Paleo!"

I tell you, if folks are just making the step to cut out grain, that's a HUGE deal. Let's be encouraging and supportive of that step, without being nasty about the 2% of sugar in their bacon they bought at Kroger's.

I think some have forgotten what a trial it can be to make such a drastic change in your diet, especially since some have been eating the typical American diet for 50 years or more. Many people have never gone a day in their lives without dairy or had a meal that didn't involve some kind of grain involved.  Even if this is the only change they make, it's still an important one!

We have five children, soon to be six, so we know the importance of being frugal.  When we can afford to buy organic, we do.  When we can afford to buy straight from the farm, we do.  We have shared a cow with friends. We do the best we can, and yes, we are willing to put a little extra toward the healthier things, but we simply cannot afford to spend $8 per pound on chicken! (Which is the price offered at our Farmer's Market.)

Believe me, we want to support the little guy. We prefer to buy local. We want the healthiest produce and meat, so we do the best we can.  Let us be more encouraging of people who are trying to make the healthiest choices they can. Let us be supportive of where they are instead of hyper-critical of how they are "doing it wrong".