Chocolate Fudge Cake with Coconut Pecan Caramel {grain free, lactose free, casein free}

We attended a lovely gathering of lovely people a week ago at Opening Bell Coffee in the form of an ever-enjoyable Rahim Quazi concert, featuring the soulful Leon Bridges as an opener.  Earlier last week, and it was proposed that we should also plan to celebrate Thiago X. Nascimento’s birthday at this event.  I immediately recognized an opportunity to push myself a little, while still doing something nice for a dear friend.  I stalled for a few moments and even asked my husband if he thought it was a good idea.  But, before he could answer, I had offered to bring a cake – which I viewed as a pretty big risk, not because I doubt my cooking abilities, but because I knew I was going to be bringing a grain-free, lactose-free, and casein-free, homemade dessert to a discerning group of artists.  I hadn’t really cooked for anyone other than my family in quite some time, and have definitely had my food described as “weird” (predominantly because of the ingredients I abstain from using), so that left me a little discouraged.  But, I knew I needed to quit questioning and just do.  So I did.  And dammit, I’m glad I did.

The cake was a hit, and I’m not saying this to brag, but simply to state how glad I am I took this risk.  People came back for seconds, thirds, and one guy even kept forking bites off the cake platter.  I was privileged to have conversations with people about the ingredients and process, and they were amazed that it was grain-free.  The cake was referred to as “special” and “a masterpiece.” I was even asked if I cooked professionally and asked if I could be hired for private parties.   I found comments on social media about it.  Wow.  I’m still overwhelmed with gratitude for those nice words and the connections I made all because I did what I love.  How ’bout that?

After the concert was over and everyone had gone their separate ways, Rahim offered to reimburse me for the cake.  I would have NEVER asked for it, but he insisted, so I accepted a small amount of money to offset the expense I had incurred.  Though seemingly insignificant, that was a HUGE moment for me, but not because of the cash.  I got paid for doing something I truly love.  As we walked to our car, I looked at my husband, smiled, and said, “Hey, I got paid.  Technically, now I’m a professional chef.”

——–

I have read so many chocolate cake recipes online, and tried several.  This one is an amalgamation of the various recipes I’ve drooled over during my lifetime.  I find that coconut flour imparts a specific flavor and texture I wanted to avoid here.  And since I was using pecans, I didn’t want to use almond flour.  I wanted this cake to be more like a cheesecake than a cake-cake.  It is kind of a take on a German Chocolate cake, but sooooo much more decadent.  The caramel base for this recipe is not mine, and while I adjusted the amounts of salt, vanilla,  and coconut milk to better fit the flavor I was after, the inspiration came directly from Jenni’s recipe at The Urban Poser (link below).

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Coconut Pecan Caramel {grain free, lactose free, casein free}

Chocolate Fudge Cake Rendering

NOTE: For the birthday cake, I doubled the cake recipe.  Well, I technically made the cake twice.  This is a pretty involved recipe if you try to do it layer cake style, and will take you more than one day depending on how many spring form pans you own (I have one and the cake pictured took me multiple days.  I made the caramel and first layer on Wednesday evening, made the second layer on Thursday evening, and assembled it during the day on Friday).  Alternatively, you could absolutely create it as a single layered cake with a caramel topping and save yourself some time and dishes… and probably a sugar coma.

for the cake:
ingredients
18 ounces dark, bittersweet chocolate (I used 2 bags of Enjoy Life soy-free dark chocolate morsels)
1 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup maple syrup (adjust if you like a little sweeter cake)
2 tablespoons filtered water
Seeds of one vanilla bean (can use 1-2 tsp of good vanilla extract if you’d rather)
1/2 dozen eggs,  separated, at room temperature

Special equipment
Hand mixer or stand mixer
9″ spring form pan
Double boiler (or you could simply put a large glass bowl over a small pot of simmering water, which is what I did)

directions
Heat oven to 275 degrees.

Using the bottom of your spring form pan, trace a circle onto parchment paper and cut out.  Assemble your spring form pan with the lip of the bottom turned outward, if possible.  Grease pan, line with parchment circle, and dust with cocoa powder.  Wrap sides of spring form pan with aluminum foil and set aside.

Melt chocolate and coconut oil together in double boiler (or glass bowl), stirring often, being careful not to scorch the chocolate.  As soon as the chocolate is fully melted, transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Add in maple syrup, water, and vanilla seeds.  Blend on low until fully incorporated.

While mixing, add in egg yolks one at a time.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff.  Fold beaten egg whites into cake mixture.

Pour into spring form pan and set pan in a larger rectangular roasting pan.  Add enough water to the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of your spring form pan, creating a water bath.  Make sure no water gets in your spring form pan as this will create problems with moisture as your cake bakes.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until cake is set.  (Note: cake may still look wet, or shiny once baked.  This is okay as long as the center is set.)

Let cool in pan on a cooling rack for an hour, then transfer to refrigerator to continue cooling for 6-8 hours before removing the side of the pan.

for the Coconut Pecan Caramel:
ingredients
2 cups non-GMO pecan pieces
2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 tsp sea salt
A double batch (approx. 2 cups) of The Urban Poser’s 3 Step Honey Caramel

directions
Begin making caramel, as this large of batch will take almost two hours to reduce and caramelize.

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Spread pecan pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet, creating one layer.  Roast for 5 minutes, stir, then continue roasting for about 4-5 more minutes until aromatic, being careful not to burn your nuts (heh heh).  Remove from tray to cool in a large bowl.

Repeat the above steps, but using the coconut.  You can re-use the parchment paper if you’d like.  Make sure to watch the coconut as it tends to cook a little faster.

Add sea salt to the bowl of pecan pieces and coconut flakes, and toss to coat.  Set aside.

Once your caramel is finished, let it cool slightly then stir half of it into your salted pecan/coconut mixture.  Reserve the remaining half for drizzling during cake assembly.  Refrigerate the Coconut Pecan Caramel until ready to assemble.  Allow it to come to room temperature before assembling the cake, as this will help it spread much more easily.  You’ll need to warm the remaining caramel sauce slightly before drizzling.

To assemble your cake:
When you are ready to transfer your cake to a serving platter or cake pedestal, you should be able to easily stick a flat knife between the parchment lining and the bottom of the spring form pan.  Once you’ve lifted your cake, simply slide it onto your platter.  If you’d like to remove the parchment you can (I typically do).  Alternatively, you could simply leave it on the spring form pan bottom and place the cake+bottom on a platter/stand to serve.

Once you’ve set your cake on the serving platter, spread a 1/2″ – 1″ thick layer of room-temperature Coconut Pecan Caramel on top using a large spoon, butter knife, or icing spreader.  Take the remaining warmed caramel and lightly pour/drizzle on top, allowing it to slowly drip over the sides.  Repeat these steps if you are adding a second layer.

To slice and serve, dip a large knife in a cup of hot water, dry knife, then slice.  Do this before cutting each slice so you don’t end up with a mess.

Chocolate Cake
Click photo to pin on Pinterest!

This is great for a special occasion or anytime you feel the need to indulge!  I hope you enjoy  it.

Always,
Blog Signature

Advertisements

Slowcooker Short Ribs & Spaghetti Squash with Cilantro Pesto {AIP}

Commitment. That’s my theme for the rest of this year. It has to be. A lack of commitment is the reason I haven’t written a blog post in over a month, the reason my house consistently looks like someone broke in all willy-nilly, the reason my Pampered Chef business is not completely where I’d like it to be (though I did receive a promotion to Director last month!)…

I think most people are the same. When we start something new – a job, a project, a relationship, a new way of eating – we tend to be very motivated and excited, essentially “all-in” and committed to making it work, no matter what.  That excitement can last a few days, months, or even years.  At some point, though, reality slaps you in the face.

HIMYM Slap gif

The sting of that slap causes us to doubt, then lie to ourselves.
Should I really be writing a food blog?  There are so many food blogs, why should I add to the madness? Mine’s not as good as the others…  Is this person really “the one?”  Am I even good enough for him/her? There’s got to be something better out there…
Why did I start this project?  I never finish anything!  I definitely wasn’t cut out for this...
Am I really going to get healthier eating this way?  I mean, I see progress, but I’m sure I’m going to screw up again…

After a while of feeding our brains with this gobbledygook, we start to get extremely creative – not the type of creativity that feeds our souls, but the kind that sucks them dry.  Creative “busy-ness,” creative excuses.
I really need to update my blog!  Oh, I haven’t cleaned out my inbox in a while.  Plus, I haven’t developed a new recipe in a while, so I’ll wait until next week….
We really need a date night.  I should buy him this book – he’s really been wanting it.  Oh, but money is tight and he wouldn’t want me spending extra.  Plus, we are SO busy lately and have our own things we could get done this evening...
I need to make phone calls to my customers today.  Oh!  Before I can do that I MUST make sure I’ve got my office completely organized.  And the bathroom really needs cleaning...
Okay – today I clean the whole house!  Ugh, but it is SO much.  I really need to get organized.  I know! I’ll read Clean Mama’s blog for the next few hours to develop a plan…  {house remains a disaster}

Following? At some point, things get completely out of hand, low, broken, etc., and you look around wondering ‘how the hell did I get here?‘  Did I LET this happen?  This is decision time.  Evaluate where you are versus where you want to be.  It is time to quit or start over.  Figure out WHY you wanted to do something in the first place, and DECIDE if that is still important to you.  Sometimes, the answer is to quit, especially if you figure out that your goal, project, job, relationship etc. is destroying all the good in you.  Sometimes, the answer is to start at the beginning and find your motivation again.  Get excited again!  And be realistic, because this is a cycle, but one from which you will grow immensly, either way, if you allow yourself.  (Check out Monday Motivation over at Balanced Bites – great stuff here).

Thiago (amazing Dallas-based pianist – check out his info here) is a good friend of mine, and my husband’s best friend of over 20 years. I’ve mentioned him before. I can always depend on him for sound advice with an artistic twist.  Just the kind I like.  He shared this the other day and it really spoke to me –

Don't Let This Happen
Abbey, don’t let this happen.  Stop making excuses.  Remember your WHY, and go forth.  GET EXCITED.  Create, love, cook, design, lead, and quit yer bitchin’.

Time for food!  This is a recipe that most definitely excites me, which seems appropriate since I’m telling myself to get excited.  I’ve made it a few times now and it has become one of my favorite go-to meals.  It is super easy but seems kinda fancy-ish.  Plus, my husband and son love it, which is always a plus :).

Slowcooker Short Ribs & Spaghetti Squash with Cilantro Pesto
serves 4, maybe more

Slow Cooker Shortribs & Spaghetti Squash with Cilantro Pesto 2
for the short ribs:
ingredients
2-3 pounds pastured short ribs (we typically pick up some on Market Day at Eden’s)
1 tablespoon bacon fat or other cooking fat
1 small white onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large stalk of celery, chopped
4 pieces of thick bacon (pastured is ideal)
1/2 cup of beef bone broth
1/2 cup of good balsamic vinegar
4 large cloves of garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or a few sprigs of fresh, left whole, removed before serving)
1 teaspoon dried, crushed rosemary (or a few sprigs of fresh, left whole, removed before serving)
3 medjool dates or 1-2 tsp honey
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of Real Salt or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of cracked black pepper (omit if in the first phases of AIP – read what The Paleo Mom has to say about safe spices)

directions
Separate short ribs by cutting between the bones, if necessary. (I don’t know this guy, but this is a REALLY informative video!)

Heat cooking fat in large skillet over medium heat.  Add your mirepoix (onion, carrots, & celery) to the skillet and cook 4-5 minutes, until onions are translucent.  Turn heat up to med-high and add short ribs to skillet, searing about 2 minutes per side.

Line the bottom of your slow cooker with bacon.  DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP, because bacon.  (My cooker is a 6-quart, but you can use whatever size you have and adjust the recipe to fit if necessary.)  Add the seared short ribs, veggies, and remaining fat from skillet.  Add balsamic vinegar, bone broth, garlic, dates, and all spices to slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, until the meat easily falls off the bone.

for the spaghetti squash with cilantro pesto:
ingredients
1 whole spaghetti squash, cooked (I typically bake it whole, and here’s a microwaved option from Nom Nom Paleo)
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
Real Salt or sea salt to taste
2 cups fresh cilantro, loosely packed
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 clove of garlic
Avocado oil* (I eyeball this and add slowly until my pesto has reached a desired consistency)

*Note: You can use extra virgin olive oil if you prefer, but I find that the avocado oil allows the flavors of the cilantro, lemon, and garlic to shine more.

directions
Toss cooked spaghetti squash (assuming you’ve already removed the innards – if not, see link above) with olive oil and salt.

Add cilantro, lemon juice and zest, and garlic to your food processor.  I prefer to use my Manual Food Processor for these smaller, quick jobs.  Process ingredients until finely chopped.  Drizzle in about 1 tablespoon of avocado oil, then continue processing.  Of course, you could drizzle a continuous stream if your processor allows.  Add enough oil and process until your pesto reaches desired consistency.  Serve over spaghetti squash.  If you have extra leftover, it will keep for about a week.

I hope you enjoy!

Always,
Abbey

Slow Cooker Shortribs & Spaghetti Squash with Cilantro Pesto 1

Chinese Five Spice Carrot & Apple Hash

A standard hash usually consists of chopped meat, potatoes, and maybe other veggies, all browned together in a skillet.  Top it all with a pastured fried egg, and you’re golden.  See what I did there?  A hash is a great way to use leftovers and play with flavor combinations.  If you Google hash recipes, you can find the most basic “Hash Browned Potatoes” and also many gourmet versions using seafood, exotic ingredients, and other exciting things.  A hash has evolved beyond the breakfast diner menu staple into a wonderful base for fine dining dishes.  Did you know that the word hash is actually derived from the French verb, hacher, which means “to chop?”  Thank you high school French.  (Actually, thank you Wikipedia, but sometimes I like to pretend I retained at least un petite du Francais.  Is that even correct??  Ugh, merde.)

…Quick thought: I remember not liking hash browns much when I was younger.  It always grossed me out to be at the local Denny’s, or other fine breakfast establishment, and watch people drown their browned, shredded potato side dish with bottled ketchup and stir it all together until it turned pink.  Blech.  I would always request a different side like toast or biscuits, which I thought was the healthier option because it was helping me get my 6-11 servings of grains/bread a day that the USDA food pyramid told me I should be eating as a child.  That’s a topic for another post.  Excuse me while I go scream in my closet for a moment….

I woke up this morning thinking I wanted to make a hash and starting brainstorming with the ingredients I had on hand.  Sometimes I get carried away and add too many ingredients, and too much of a good thing is still too much.  I’ve been trying to simplify lately and it seems to be going well.  I wanted to impart a unique flavor into this dish, without going overboard.  Ah, Chinese Five Spice.  This is a fairly new ingredient for my kitchen, and my husband and son both hate it.  I like the warm, comforting flavor it imparts, but it has to utilized properly.  I think it worked really well in this hash and complimented the salty bacon and tart apples while bringing out the sweetness of the carrots.  I admit, I did not exercise portion control while consuming this dish (let’s be honest, when do I ever?), but I bet it could easily serve two people, maybe even three.  Maybe.

Chinese Five Spice Carrot & Apple Hash
serves 2-3

ingredients
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and grated
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder
Sea salt, to taste

directions
Add chopped bacon to a large, cool skillet.  Heat over medium heat to render out fat, stirring occasionally.

Once bacon has begun to brown, stir in the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, until it becomes translucent.

Add carrots, apple, and Chinese Five Spice powder, and stir until combined.  Cook an additional 5-7 minutes until lightly browned.  Taste and add more salt if necessary.  Serve warm as a side dish, or chilled as a salad.

Chinese Five Spice Carrot & Apple Hash

Always,
Abbey

Simple Slow Cooked Piggy + Quick Meal Ideas

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so it makes perfect sense to post a recipe for pulled pork, right?  RIGHT??  I actually made this recipe several days ago, and have been eating from it over the last few days.  Saturday, I took the last few bites of this delicious shredded meat, cold,  straight out of the fridge.  It’s that good.

I’d love to say that I got this little piggy from a local farmer and it is pasture-raised and all that goodness.  However, I cannot say that this time.  This pork is part of a bulk package from the Costco, and you know what?  That IS okay.  I have to remind myself often that I’m not doing it “wrong” if I occasionally eat meat from a super market.  I try to do the absolute best I can for my family, and sometimes that means buying what is affordable at the moment, then making it taste amazing.

Simple Slow Cooked Piggy

Simple Slow Cooked Piggy (adapted from Nom Nom Paleo’s Slow Cooker Kalua Pig)
serves many people,  for days

ingredients
4 strips bacon
6 – 8 pounds pork sirloin tip roast
1/2 tablespoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled

directions
Layer bacon on bottom of a slowcooker.  (Mine is 6-quart, but you can use whatever size you have and adjust the recipe to fit if necessary.)  Rub pork roast with salt and paprika and place atop bacon.  Sprinkle on the black pepper and drop the whole garlic cloves into the pot, wherever they may fall – but try to spread them out a little bit.

Cover and cook on low for 16-18 hours, and there is no need to add liquid.

Remove pork from cooker and place into a large bowl.  Shred with a fork, or two, or three if you’re talented.  Taste and adjust the seasonings by adding the cooking liquid, a small spoonful at a time.  It is best not to shred the pork directly in the cooking liquid because it is awfully difficult to control the amount of salt when you do it that way.

I love making pulled pork because it lasts for days and gives me such a great base for all sorts of yummy meals.  It is also freezable!

Quick Meal Ideas

Pulled Pork Tacos: I simply topped some lettuce with pork, a simple carrot slaw made with paleo mayo (or your favorite paleo slaw), pineapple, red onion, avocado, and cilantro.  A flavor explosion in the best way.

Pulled Pork Tacos
Pulled Pork Tacos

Pork and Apples On-the-Go: Add a serving of the pork and a small granny smith apple, chopped, to a microwavable safe dish.  Microwave thirty seconds, just to warm it up.  Stir and add two tablespoons of your favorite paleo mayo.  Sprinkle with cilantro.  Consume and be joyful.  (Warning: this may become addicting)

Pork & Apples On-the-Go
Pork & Apples On-the-Go

Use as a protein in your favorite soup recipe, like my Pork, Sweet Potato, & Cabbage Stew with Avocado Pesto Cream 🙂

Serve it up for breakfast, or anytime, with a pastured egg on top.

What is your favorite way to eat pulled pork?

Always,
Abbey

Meat, Veggie, & Goat Cheese Lasagna {grain free!}

After a couple weeks or so of not really feeling up to doing much of anything, I’m finally making another blog post.  It’s about damn time, Abbey.  Good grief.

Let me first explain how this lasagna came to be.  I was soaking a cup of raw almonds for homemade almond milk (which I seem to be making almost daily lately) and completely forgot about them for about 24 hours.  After some online research, I was just about to throw them out thinking they would have gone bad, but I held off for some reason.   Throwing real food away just seems wrong.

A while later, I was flipping through Against All Grain looking for Danielle’s mayo recipe and happened upon the Basic Nut Cheese.  After snickering a bit at the title (sometimes I pretend to be a lady, this was not one of those times), I noticed that the recipe required soaking raw almonds for… wait for it… 24 hours.  Score!

Basic Nut Cheese

Once I had the Basic Nut Cheese made, my creative fooding wheels started a’turnin’.  The resulting texture is so much like ricotta that I just had to use it in that fashion.  Plus, I had never made a Paleo, or even a gluten and grain free lasagna before, so it was time for a challenge.  I’m mostly dairy free, with the exception of the occasional raw cheese or the more than occasional goat cheese.  So this recipe does have 6 ounces of goat cheese, which I imagine you could omit if you’d like it to be completely dairy free.

Meat, Veggie, & Goat Cheese Lasagna 2

Meat, Veggie, & Goat Cheese lasagna {grain free!}
serves 6

ingredients
6 large zucchini (these gents will be playing the part of your noodles)
5 ounces goat cheese
3 ounces good quality sliced prosciutto

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon bacon fat, or other paleo fat of your choice
1 pound grass-fed ground beef
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
8 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
4 cups (32 oz) diced tomatoes, fresh or canned (I used a combo of the two because that is what I had on hand)
3 ounces “no salt added” tomato paste
1/4 cup loosely packed, chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

For the “ricotta” filling:

1-1/4 cup Basic Nut Cheese from Against All Grain by Danielle Walker
1 ounce goat cheese
9 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove as much water as possible
1/4 cup loosely packed, chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley
1 clove garlic, pressed
Sea salt & black pepper, to taste
1 egg

directions
Heat oven to 375 degrees.

To make the sauce: melt bacon fat in large skillet over med-low heat.  Add ground beef and break it up.  Once the meat begins to brown, add in the onion, garlic, and mushrooms, and cook until meat is thoroughly browned and veggies are cooked.  Stir in spices, salt, and pepper.  Add tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered.  Taste (don’t burn your tongue like I did!) and add more salt if necessary.  Stir in olive oil and parsley.  Let cool a bit before assembling your lasagna.

To make “ricotta” layer: mix all ingredients, except the egg, in a small bowl.  Taste and season to your liking.  Mix in egg with a fork.  (Hint: you can do this while your sauce is simmering.)

To make zucchini noodles, slice thinly lengthwise with a knife or mandoline.  Put the slices in a single layer on a microwave safe plate and microwave for 1-2 minutes to help draw out some of the moisture.  Blot with with a paper towel if necessary. I do this prior to assembling because zucchini produces water when it is cooked, and nobody wants watery lasagna.  You may have to do this in batches. (Hint: you can do this while your sauce is simmering.)

To assemble: Spread 1/2 cup of sauce evenly across the bottom of a 7×11 baking dish.  Layer one third of the zucchini noodles atop the sauce, slightly overlapping the edges.  Spread half of the “ricotta” mixture on the noodles and top with half the prosciutto, then 1 cup of sauce.  Repeat the zucchini, ricotta, prosciutto and sauce layers.  Top with a final layer of zucchini noodles, more sauce, and crumbled the goat cheese.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly.  Uncover and bake another fifteen minutes to lightly brown the top.  Let cool ten minutes before slicing.

Tip:  You can complete all the above steps ahead of time, assemble, cover with foil, and refrigerate until you are ready to put it in the oven.  I made my lasagna the night before, then put it in the oven to have ready for lunch the next day.

Meat, Veggie, & Goat Cheese Lasagna 1

I will not lie, this is most definitely a labor of love, but I honestly believe it is worth every minute (er, hour).  It’s great for a special occasion and I fully intend to make it again, once I recover from making it this first time.   Hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

Always,
Abbey

Meat, Veggie, & Goat Cheese Lasagna 3

Smoky Roasted Root Fries

My husband sent me this photo earlier (unsure of the original source) and I giggled a little because I knew I would be posting this recipe.  Good timing.  He has that gift, most of the time :-).

Back to Our Roots
Back to Our Roots

I make these “fries” quite often.  They resemble a french fry in shape and texture, but their flavor is much more unique, and my boys really like them.  I have only tried this particular recipe with carrots and their cousin, parsnips.  I’ll experiment in the future with other root veggies, and I encourage you to do the same!  The parsnips, once roasted, have a sweet flavor that works very well with the smokey spices.  You could change it up a bit and use all parsnips or all carrots, and play around with the spices to see what you like the best.

Smokey Roasted Root Fries

Smoky Roasted Root Fries
serves 4

ingredients
4 medium-sized organic carrots, peeled
4 medium-sized organic parsnips, peeled
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
sea salt & cracked black pepper, to taste

directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut carrots and parsnips into “fries” that are approximately 2-1/2″ long and 1/4″ thick.  Toss veggies in coconut oil, making sure they are evenly coated.  Toss again with paprika, cumin, and garlic powder.  Spread veggies onto a baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast them in the oven for 20 minutes, then stir.  Continue roasting for another 15 minutes, until they are nice and browned.  Remove from oven and toss with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

We like to serve them with a side of my husband’s Most Excellent Guacamole, or homemade mayo.  Throughout dinner, we heard, “Can I have your fries?” from my 9-year old.  Needless to say, we had no leftovers.

Always,
Abbey

Auron’s [apple] AwesomeSauce

My son likes to hang out in the kitchen with me.  He’s pretty dern tall for his age, but he STILL likes to stand on a chair and watch me cook.  He towers over me, casts a major shadow on my workspace, and is always asking if he can help.  It’s awesome.  He’s awesome.

He loves Granny Smith apples, so we picked up a few the other day.  Once we got home, he asked if we could make applesauce.  I told him of course we could, but HE had to develop the recipe and name it.  I let him smell several spices to see what he might want to incorporate, and he also helped chop the apples.  We had a great time and ended up with a super simple applesauce that I will probably make regularly from now on.  There was a little bit of an argument about whether or not we should add ghee, but Mommy won that one (and later he agreed that it was a good move).  The ghee added a little more depth and nuttiness to the finished product.  This recipe yields about 3 cups, and I’ll be honest – it didn’t last very long in our house.  In fact, I think Auron is finishing it as I type.  Makes a nutritious after-school snack or dessert, even if you are following The 21 Day Sugar Detox (which I completed earlier this year and plan to do again soon – hopefully this time with my husband on board).

Auron’s [apple] AwesomeSauceAuron's AwesomeSauce
makes approx. 3 cups

ingredients
4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp orange zest
1 Tbsp grass-fed ghee

directions
Mix all ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes, until apples are soft.  Mash mixture to desired consistency (we like ours a little chunkier, and this favorite tool of mine worked brilliantly!).   Cool and store in a covered glass container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.  Sauce will thicken a bit as it cools.

We hope you enjoy his “awesome” apple sauce!

Always,
Abbey (& Auron)

Strawberry Lemonade Chia Cups

My family and I had a fantastic play date in Dallas on Saturday.  We finally checked out HG Sply Co. for a great paleo lunch, hung out for a while at Klyde Warren Park, then finished our day listening to great music by our friends Rahim and Thiago at Ascension Coffee in the Dallas Design District.  It was one of those days that just makes me smile when I think about it.

A week or so ago, I was inspired by Vanessa at Plaid & Paleo, to finally try my hand at chia pudding.  She posted a simple recipe for Paleo Cranberry Chia Cups that caught my attention.  Since I have didn’t all the ingredients she used, I got creative with what I had on hand as I reminisced about my family’s sunny and smiley weekend together.  I still definitely plan on trying Vanessa’s recipe since I LOVE cranberries, but for now, we have Strawberry Lemonade Chia Cups.  Topped with fresh strawberries and packed with calcium, vit C, antioxidants, omega 3’s, etc., they are a wonderful and healthful treat my son and I are enjoying together today.

Strawberry Lemonade Chia Cups

Strawberry Lemonade Chia Cups
serves 4

ingredients
13.5 oz. can of full-fat coconut milk
Zest and juice from 2 lemons, + 2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup chia seeds
1 Tbsp local honey
2 cups organic strawberries, chopped
2 Tbsp filtered water
1 tsp grass-fed gelatin
1 cup organic strawberries, diced (optional)

directions
Combine coconut milk, lemon zest and juice from two lemons, honey, and chia seeds in a bowl.  Stir and pour into small containers (these worked great).  Refrigerator 1 hour until set.

Once pudding is set, simmer chopped strawberries, water, and remaining 2 Tbsp lemon juice in small pan for 20 minutes.  Puree strawberries in blender or food processor then return to pan.  Stir in gelatin until dissolved.  Let cool for a few minutes, then gently pour or spoon strawberry mixture atop each pudding cup.  Refrigerate 4 hours, or overnight.

Top with diced strawberries to serve.

Since this is my first time experimenting with chia seeds, I’d love to know how others use them.  What is your favorite way to use chia?

Always,
Abbey

A Valentine’s Day Menu

Growing up, Valentine’s Day was always made special in our home.  My parents got married on Valentine’s Day thirty years ago (my dad is a hopeless romantic and my mom loves hearts) and they have never failed to get me some form of gift – as a child, it was always a heart-shaped box of Reese’s PB Cups, but now it is usually some themed socks and a kitchen towel (which I love!).  Valentine’s Day is also special because it is the day my husband proposed to me ten years ago.  Wanna hear that story?  Sure you do!

Michael and I had gone to look at rings together a few months prior to Feb. 14, 2004, but I had no idea when he was going to ask me to marry him.  Okay, maybe I kind of had an idea… BUT I didn’t know the exact time or details.  Waking up that morning, we looked outside together and it was just beautiful.  The ground was covered in snow, which was a pretty rare site in Texas.  After my shower, I exited the bathroom to find a music stand with a little yellow note taped to it, but Michael was nowhere to be found.  Thus began the Yellow Note Scavenger Hunt.  For the next hour or so, I drove around town going from yellow note to yellow note, deciphering clues and smiling.  At the last destination, I walked up to a teddy bear with the final clue tucked into his I AM LOVED sweater.  Then Michael walked out from behind a pillar, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him – right as it started snowing (which is one of my favorite details).  And here we are ten years later.

We cooked our Val-Day meal a day early.  I wanted to have a meal that made me feel, well, sexy.  The last meal that did that was at Gordon Ramsay Steak in Las Vegas, so I figured it best to let that meal inspire this one.

A Valentine’s Day Menu (recipes below)
HeartBeet Salad, with arugula, herb-crusted goat cheese, and jalepeno-infused olive oil
Garlic Rubbed New York Strip with a Rosemary Mushroom Sauce, Lemon Steamed Broccoli
Chocolate Soup, Fennel Vanilla Panna Cotta with Balsamic & Black Pepper Pomegranate Strawberries

HeartBeet SaladHeartBeet Salad
serves 1-2, best to share and maybe feed to each other

ingredients
2 organic beets, peeled, cooked, and cooled (I used Love Beets)
1/4 cup fresh arugula
Herb-Crusted Goat Cheese (see below)
Jalepeno-infused olive oil (see below)
Sea Salt
Cracked Black Pepper

For the jalepeno-infused olive oil, you will need:
1 jalepeno, membrane and seeds removed, sliced
3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil.

Pour olive oil into a jar or bowl with lid.  Add jalepeno slices.  Seal and let sit for at least 1.5 hours before serving.
*This oil will have a slight, lingering spice to it – just enough to leave you wanting a little more.

For the Herb-Crusted Goat Cheese, you will need:
1 tbsp each of the following fresh herbs, finely chopped: Tarragon, Thyme, Rosemary, Italian Parsley
Zest of one lemon
Pinch of sea salt
4 oz. goat cheese

Mix the herbs, zest, and salt in a small bowl.  With your hands, roll goat cheese into several little balls, approx. 3/4″ in diameter.  Roll the goat cheese balls into the herb mixture.  Place on a dish and refrigerator for at 1 hour before serving.

Assemble your salad:
directions
Arrange arugula on plate.

Slice beets into 1/4″ thick slices.  Using a small heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut beets into hearts.  Some slices will not be large enough, and that’s okay.  This is intended to be a very light starter salad.

Place beet hearts and herb-crusted goat cheese on top of arugula.  Drizzle with jalepeno infused olive oil.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Garlic Rubbed New York StripGarlic Rubbed New York Strip

ingredients
2 good sized grass-fed NY strip steaks, 1.5″ thick
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp ghee, melted
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper

directions
Heat oven to 200 degrees.  Preheat grill pan on medium for 10-15 minutes, until very hot.

Place steaks on cutting board and rub each side with one pressed garlic clove.  Let steaks sit for about 20 minutes, then add plenty of sea salt and cracked black pepper to all sides right before you are ready to cook.

Grill steaks in pan approx. 2 minutes per side.  You can also turn the steaks on the side and grill them if you’d like.  Place pan in oven for about 15-20 minutes, until steaks are cooked to medium-rare.  If you’d like to use a thermometer, aim for an internal temp of 135 degrees.

Remove steaks from oven and let rest at least 10 minutes before cutting.
Note: I served our steaks with a Rosemary Mushroom Sauce that still needs some tweaking.  Once perfected, I will edit this post.

Lemon Steamed Broccoli
Slice one lemon and add slices to 1″ of water in a saucepan.  Place 2 cups of broccoli florets in a steamer basket in saucepan and cover.  Steam until bright green and tender crisp.  Toss will sea salt and additional lemon juice if you prefer.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Chocolate Soup, Fennel Vanilla Panna Cotta with Balsamic & Black Pepper Pomegranate Strawberries
serves
3-4

As I told my Instagram followers, I’ve never been terribly talented in the area of desserts.  I can follow a recipe, just not yet completely confident in creating my own.  I decided to bring a couple different recipes together for this very successful sweet and sexy ending.

ingredients
Fennel Vanilla Panna Cotta, by Empowered Sustenance (GAPS, Paleo – bonus!)Chocolate Soup, Fennel Vanilla Panna Cotta
Chocolate Soup (see below)
Balsamic & Black Pepper Pomegranate Strawberries (see below)

For the Chocolate Soup:
I used the recipe for Bittersweet Hot Cocoa from The 21 Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfilippo, and added 2-1/2 tbsp of grade B Maple Syrup.  I chilled the mixture and stirred it before serving.

Balsamic & Black Pepper Pomegranate Strawberries

ingredients
1/2 cup organic strawberries, stems removed, diced
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

directions
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour.  The balsamic vinegar and the fruit sugars will mix to form a syrup.

Assemble your dessert:
Place Panna Cotta in the center of a shallow bowl. Ladle Chocolate Soup around Panna Cotta, being careful not to drip on the Panna Cotta.  Top Panna Cotta with Balsamic &  Black Pepper Pomegranate Strawberries.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Always,
Abbey