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food: paleo granola bars

the other day my husband called me up, all grumpy about how he’d read the label on his granola bars from his lunch and now he can’t eat them anymore because they’re full of junk.
ya… once you know, there’s no going back.

for years he’d been living the “granola bars are healthy” lie… i mean, they were nature valley (sounds natural and healthy, right?) and filled with nuts, not chocolate and marshmallows and whatever other junk they could have had…

but still, the label doesn’t lie.

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yikes.
there’s a lot of crap in there. sugar, refined oils, binders and just not-food.

and i don’t want him eating them either, but we’d kind of just accepted the necessity of it, as he works in the field a lot and sometimes needs something quick and easy and filling to tide him over.

but to be honest, until he brought it up, i didn’t realize there was that much crap in them either. i mean, i knew they were going to have some garbage, but ya, i was surprised too.

so, its time to make our own granola bars.
i actually used to make granola and granola bars when i worked at a bakery in my youth. so i know the basics… but i wanted to make something that was not only healthier, but also paleo.
the ones i used to make were full of oats and honey and dried sweetened fruits… all delicious things, but again, if you make a homemade version full of sugar, then really, what are you accomplishing? 😉

so i found this recipe from the paleo mom website and decided to give it a go.

Paleo Chewy Granola Bars

  • 1 ½ cups Sliced Almonds
  • 2 cups finely Shredded Unsweetened Coconut
  • 1/3 cup Raw Sunflower Seeds
  • 1/3 cup Raw Pepitas (Shelled Pumpkin Seeds)
  • 1 Tbsp Brown Sesame Seeds
  • ½ cup Blanched Almond Flour
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted
  • ¼ cup unsweetened, natural Almond Butter
  • ¼ cup Honey
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • ¾ tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 Tbsp Flaxseed Meal
  • 1½ Tbsp water
  • ¾ cup Mini Chocolate Chips or your favorite chopped dried fruit (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 9”x13” baking pan with coconut oil.
2. Mix ground flax seed with water and let sit for 3-4 minutes.
3. Pulse pepitas in a food processor a couple of times to break up to the size of sunflower seeds.
4. Add coconut oil, almond butter, honey and vanilla to flax goop and mix well.
5. Add almond flour and baking soda and stir to combine.
6. Add slivered almonds, shredded coconut, pepitas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and chocolate chips or dried fruit. Stir to combine.
7. Spoon batter into prepared baking pan. Spread out and flatten well with your hand or the back of a spatula.
8. Bake for 22-23 minutes, until golden brown. They will puff up slightly while baking, so immediately after removing from the oven, flatten the bars with the back of a spatula (or something else heat resistant and flat).
9. Let cool completely in pan before cutting into bars (I actually like to refrigerate before cutting). Cut into bars (I usually get 18-20) and wrap individual bars in plastic wrap for easy travel (optional). I prefer to store these in the refrigerator.

Note: This recipe is very sensitive to small changes in the wet to dry ingredient ratio. Please measure carefully.

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they turned out great!  held together better than i thought they would and they were nice and soft/chewy and quite delicious.
i sprinkled a little flaked sea salt on top when they were out to finish them off…
the husband’s feedback was that they could have been a touch sweeter, so if your tastes run sweet, maybe increase the honey a bit.  but i liked them as is.

i also did not add any of the optional fruit/chocolate chips, so that would have impacted the overall sweetness as well.  for what its worth.

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food: paleo beef stroganoff

okay… time for a recipe post, since its been a while.  what with all the traveling and such…
i’ve been trying to make a return to what i’m calling “practically paleo”. where for the most part, i’m eating paleo meals… my aim is 80%, but in current reality i’m probably sitting closer to 70%.  because i love carbs.

so i’ve been allowing for splurges in the form of sprouted brown rice and some white potato… and cheese.  definitely cheese.  because cheese is REALLY HARD to give up for me.

anyways.  the other day i whipped up a paleo stroganoff to satisfy my craving for some comfort food.
i had bought some precut strips of beef inside round –  “stir fry beef” as they called it in the store… but wasn’t really feeling the stir fry.  plus i didn’t have the right veggies.  so i decided to go with a stroganoff of sorts.

problem 1 – i only had 2 mushrooms.  so i filled out the mushroom quotient with a package of dried BC chanterelles that i’d had hanging out in my cupboard from the mushroom display at the PNE last year…

problem 2 – i didn’t want to do the dairy & flour thing to make it rich and creamy.  so i rocked a paleo version with coconut milk and a little cornstarch to thicken. (not super  paleo there, i know)

problem 3 -traditional stroganoff is really lacking veggies, so i threw in some dinosaur kale that i  chiffonaded.  because i just wasn’t in a side-dish kinda mood.

problem 4 – carb craving.  solution: sprouted brown rice.  ya, not my finest healthy moment, but damnit, it was tasty.

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so here’s my “recipe”…

practically paleo beef stroganoff

– 1lb (more or less) of sliced beef inside round
– 2 white mushrooms, thinly sliced
– 1 package of dried chanterelles
– 1/2 cup diced onion (optional – i didn’t put it in)
– 2 cloves of crushed garlic
– 2 cups of dinosaur kale, chiffonaded
– 1 tsp coconut oil (or more – for sauteing)
– 1 cup of coconut milk
– 1 tsp cornstarch (optional)
– 2 tsp dried thyme
– salt, pepper & siracha to taste
– splash of worcestershire sauce

  1. soak chanterelles in 2 cups of warm/tap hot water
  2. brown beef strips in coconut oil on both sides – remove from pan
  3. saute white mushrooms, onions & garlic, add kale
  4. remove chanterelles from liquid (save the liquid!) and chop into bite sized pieces.  add to saute pan
  5. add beef, coconut milk and half of mushroom liquid, spices & seasoning
  6. let simmer for a few minutes until the smell drives you wild.  add more mushroom liquid or let reduce further as you see fit.
  7. add cornstarch dissolved in a small amount of cold water to the pan to thicken if desired.  also could add a pat of butter to finish the sauce.

voila!  my finished plate.  (er… bowl)

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and then my leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch went without the rice and i basically ate it with a spoon.
that sauce was DELICIOUS.
loads of that delightful umami flavour that you’re gonna want in your meals to scratch that comfort food itch…

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fabulous las vegas: including bon apetit vegas uncorkd 2013

you might not know if from my lack of posts, but the 2013 vegas crew did indeed survive our adventure.
i also answered the question – is 6 nights in vegas too long? with a resounding NO.  i was not ready to come home and could have lounged poolside for another week easily.

and once again, i headed to vegas with a to-do/to-see list that was a mile long and really only got through a handful of things.
but i did have an excellent time.

when we checked in at the cosmopolitan, the lovely lady at the desk asked if it was our first time.  we told her it was my 7th trip to vegas, but our first time staying at the cosmopolitan.  she leaned over the desk and whispered “you’ll never stay anywhere else again”.
and by george,i think she was right.

the cosmopolitan was top notch from start to finish.  excellent service, beautiful rooms with incredible pools and terrific restaurants.  i have zero complaints about our stay there. and yes, i’ll be back.

our room was over 1000 square feet with 2 bathrooms and a giant patio overlooking the bellagio fountains.  i pretty much never wanted to move out.  it was gorgeous.

(here’s our patio view)

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and a shot of the living room when we were about to check out… le sigh…

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anyways, like most things in life, pictures don’t do it justice, but lets suffice to say it was pretty kickass.

but, more than anything, in las vegas, we come to eat and drink.
and the bon apetit vegas uncorkd was a strong lure for us…
we decided to do two events, the grand tasting and the bellagio block party.  both were very cool and very different.  the grand tasting was a totally mind blowing experience.  celebrity chefs everywhere, throngs of people loaded up with pork belly and short rib and fine liquor flowing very freely.

here’s my partners in crime and i on the red carpet on arrival.

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it’s kind of hard to see and describe, but all the food is poolside in an outer ring and then the liquor was on the inner ring, hugging the pool.  lovely setting.

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this was the most i saw of gordon ramsay all night… he wasn’t exactly hanging out making conversation…

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no big deal… just bobby flay serving food for mesa grill…

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i don’t even know which restaurant this cookie came from, but it had a syringe of chocolate ganache with it and it was a delight.

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i resisted the urge to take pictures of my food and just experience the event instead.  by now, i know that no photo can replicate being there and tasting it, so i’ll just tell you that we enjoyed to the max and kept the camera in my purse pretty much the whole night.  this was an event, not a photo op. and i stand by that decision.

the next night was the bellagio block party… and it was fun!  much more relaxed than the grand tasting and much smaller, in both size and guests.  the food portions were also bigger, as instead of 200 restaurants, you only had about 30 to try from, so you got a bit more of an appetizer vs an amuse bouche.

here’s my crew (minus my husband who left to get a beer) at the block party.

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and then under the bellagio hidden driveway sign…

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yup.  fun times!

anyways… fill in the blanks with food, sun, pool, drinks and laughing… and that was vegas!  definitely always more fun with wicked people.

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food: juicer pulp in baking

my mission to use up my pulp from my juicer is slow going…
almost every internet source i’ve found so far is based around carrot pulp.  and frankly, i feel like thats the easiest one to figure out.

my orange juice this morning gave me a couple cups of pulp… that really, is low on flavour but definitely high on fibre.
so i was going to add some of it to a blueberry muffin recipe i have that usually contains orange oil and orange juice.  i figured it was the easy fix.

but my hesitation is that its hard to find out how much i can add before i throw the recipe out of whack.
muffins can be a precarious business if you don’t have your wet to dry ratio right.  and most of the mentions seemed to be “i added my pulp to muffins” which obviously is lacking in specifics and makes me wonder if these people even do these things or if they just like to say they do online.

but at last i found a mention online that said you should be able to add 1/4 – 1/2 cup of pulp to any recipe without having to change the rest of the recipe.  and thats news i can use.

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so i started out on my muffin mission… but as i was pulling ingredients from the cupboard, i found this box mix from trader joe’s.

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all you add is 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of oil and a cup of water.  so i decided to short cut this bitch and just do the box for my first attempt at pulp adding.

naturally, since i don’t use vegetable oil, i subbed in coconut oil… and added a little coconut mana for fun too… then i added in 1/2 cup of orange pulp and baked it as per the box.

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the results look lovely and smell divine, but i’ll have to report back on the taste test because i sent it out of town with my darling husband.

food: chicken, broccoli & rice casserole

winter is undoubtedly comfort food season… and as i’ve said before, comfort food means something different to everyone, but generally its the foods of our youth.

when i was a kid, my mom used to make this cambell’s soup recipe chicken casserole.  it had a couple cans of cream of whatever was in the cupboard soup, white rice and was topped with a layer of broccoli and chicken breasts laid over the top with a layer of cheddar cheese covering it all.

i love this casserole.
its everything a casserole should be.  it’s easy to make, one dish and relatively balanced…
in fact, i’ve blogged it before – here

but in the last couple weeks, i’ve purged my cupboards of most everything with a long ingredient list… condensed/canned  soup being one of those things.
so when i looked at the giant bunch of broccoli in my fridge and thought of this casserole… i was left with a quandary.  how do you sub for the soup?

i know that those cans of condensed soup work in the slow cooker in ways that other ingredients don’t.  if you’ve ever made the mistake of putting milk in a slow cooker, you know what i mean.  it does not work.
anyways, my fear was that a casserole that spends an hour in the oven might suffer from a similar problem… but i decided to live on the edge and just do my best.

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chicken, broccoli & rice casserole

  • 3 or 4 boneless chicken breasts (skin optional)
  • 1 cup of raw rice (i used jasmine)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups broccoli florets – washed & trimmed
  • spices to taste.  i used s&p, chipotle, garlic salt & thyme
  • 1 cup (or more) grated cheese (enough to cover)
  • paprika to top
  1. preheat oven to 350
  2. stir together stock, milk & sour cream.  add seasonings, stir in raw rice.
  3. pour liquid & rice mixture into your casserole dish
  4. arrange broccoli on top
  5. lay chicken breasts over broccoli
  6. cover entire pan with cheese and sprinkle paprika on top.
  7. cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. remove foil and bake for 10 more to brown cheese.  let stand for 5 minutes and serve.

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usually i enjoy this with cheddar, since cheddar and broccoli are bff.  but i didn’t have any, so i used a cheese called reypenaer that i brought back from amsterdam thats kinda like an aged gouda.  it was delightful.

some optional add ins i’ve seen before are diced red peppers or corn… and of course, i add spice, but that wasn’t in the original recipe… but honestly, its a casserole.
there are no rules other than to clean out your fridge.
you could get as fancy or not as you’d like.

food: fun with the juicer

so… on the weekend, i decided to buy a juicer.
this wasn’t an impulse buy per-say… my pal moonbeam fell back in love with her juicer at the beginning of the month and has been extolling the virtues to me for weeks now…

but i’ve honestly never been much of a juice gal. i’m not even a smoothie gal.
i have often cycled through buying oodles of frozen fruit in a misguided effort to start my day with smoothies, only to throw it all out a couple months later as a solid freezer burned mess.

actually overall, i’ve never been a fruit lover.
but i do love my veggies. and veggies make friends with a juicer too.

the other thing holding me back is that i have limited condo space and therefore i shy away from things that aren’t kitchen multi-taskers. and the juicer is very much a one trick pony.
buuuuuut… it was $99 and really isn’t *that* big, so i’m gonna give it a go.

so step one… obviously buying the machine.
step two… stocking up on fruit & veg.
step three… juice!

i started with a really husband friendly option in an effort to inaugurate him, as he often turns his nose up at my happy planet green juices. so i figured as long as it wasn’t super green i had a fighting chance.

so i went apple, orange & celery.

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they suggest you peel your oranges, so i did and there’s some debate about apple seeds, so i split mine in half and tunneled out the seeds and removed the stems. just to be safe.
celery just needed a wash and it was ready to rock.

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the results were delicious. the husband eagerly downed his glass and all were happy.

so i decided to take the leftover orange, apple celery base and green it up a little.
enter the addition of a couple handfuls of spinach, parsley, 2 carrots and a meyer lemon (skin and all)
to make…. this!

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definitely super yum.
the meyer lemon was definitely the most dominant flavour, but it smelled like parsley and celery. very interesting.
and i know you’re not supposed to “save” the juices because they lose vitamins or whatever, but i poured the rest into a mason jar and put it in the fridge for the next day’s breakfast.

last night, my two besties came over for hockey and one of them was sporting a bit of a hangover, so i whipped up a curing juice.

i decided on a couple apples, a cucumber, a few kiwis and a knob of ginger.
the kiwis were peeled, the apples de-seeded and the cucumber stem removed, but then everything was juiced together to produce this:

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i’m not entirely sure why it separated, but it sure was tasty.  the ginger made it spicier than i anticipated.  i used about a 1 1/2 inch piece and this batch yielded a little over a litre of juice total, but the ginger was the dominant flavour.
delicious, but a pretty strong after burn.  i imagine this would be awesome for if you were sick.

the kiwi maybe wasn’t the best plan ever.  the little seeds got caught in my blade and were harder to clean than i anticipated as they needed to be picked out of the teeth individually with my fingernail.

this morning, we went classic.  simple delicious orange juice.

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man, this is the best stuff.  just so good.

only downside is that i kept my box of oranges on the counter and i think i should move them to patio because my juice (obviously) is coming out at room temperature.

the next challenge is to find a good use for all the pulp i’m getting.
veggie pulp is easy… it can be added to soups, stocks, meatloaf/meatballs/burgers ect.
but the fruit pulp is something that will require some googling.

most of what i’ve read does say that the bulk of the vitamins & nutrients are coming out in the juice… but the pulp is pure fibre.  so while it might not have much in the way of flavour or vitamins, it’s definitely still worth eating.

also, wasting food really bugs me.  and since i don’t have a garden or compost, its making me feel guilty to pitch it.
the internet tells me that saving the pulp in freezer bags works too, and its good to separate it when blending juice… so like if i’m making a carrot whatever juice, do the carrots then stop and collect the pulp in a bag and then do the rest of the veg and store that separate ect.  makes sense.
i foresee carrot cakes in my future.

food: slow cooker beef with balsamic

so this is fun… the leaves are falling, the air is chilled… that means its SLOW COOKER SEASON!
hooray!  every lazy cook’s favourite time of the year.  i for one, am a huge fan.
but i’ll be honest… there gets to be a point when everything you throw in the slow cooker kinda starts to feel the same… it’s broth or tomato base… its a soup or a stew… since it comes from *my* slow cooker, its usually spicy and slightly mexican seasoned… it has mirepoix or similar for the veg…

yes, its easy to get into a slow cooker rut.
i did however find a fun listing of “30 nights of paleo crock pot meals” which has breathed new life into my slow cooker (can i from here on just refer to it as the SC? perfect.)

so yesterday i decided to try out the recipe from civilized caveman cooking for a balsamic roast.
i basically had all the ingredients in my house (besides the roast, which a quick trip to the farm solved) and it sounded different and tasty.  plus we buy a balsamic vinegar from costco that is not only delicious, but in a giant bottle, so i always feel the need to cook with a lot of it whenever possible.

step 1 – season & sear off the roast.

i used paprika, garlic salt, salt & pepper for seasoning and then seared it at high heat with coconut oil in my non stick.
it was smoky in my kitchen for 5am, lol.  but we were rewarded with a beautiful sear on that little fucker.
oh, it was a small beef top sirloin roast about 1lb – served 2 people.  the recipe calls for a 2lb roast but obviously serves more.

step 2 – veggies meet meat.

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the recipe called for onions only, but i had carrots & celery handy, so i threw together the tried & true mirepoix.
i used a whole yellow onion as per the recipe and 2 sticks of celery & 2 carrots.
then lovingly placed the seared roast on top.

step 3 – add liquid.

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the recipe told me to deglaze the pan with the wine & water, but since i seared mine at such a high heat, the pan had some black bits that i decided i should live without.
also, the recipe calls for white wine – which with beef seemed weird to me. so i used red.  also i had red open already and not white, so there’s that.
i combined the following and poured it into the SC:
– 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
– 1 cup tomato sauce (i used the italian kind in the glass bottle)
– 1/2 cup of red wine
– 1/3 cup of water
of course, throw in a pinch of salt for good measure and some cracked black pepper.

step 4 – cook on low for however long you’re going to be out of the house for.  mine went for 12 hours.

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step 5 – serve and eat up!

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final thoughts – as always, i think every recipe can benefit from chili flakes. but also i think its worth mentioning that often in recipes like this, i’ll remove the meat and use my immersion blender to puree the slow cooked veg, making the sauce thicker and more gravy-like.  that would have been delightful in this case.
the vinegar gave a nice acidity but didn’t overwhelm anything and the beef turned out delightfully slow cooker perfect.
and my house smelled fucking spectacular when i got home.
SC win!

here’s the original recipe for those that like to play by the rules.

Crockpot Balsamic Roast

Ingredients

  • 2 Lb any roast, I used Top Round
  • 1 Large Sweet Onion, sliced
  • 8 Ounces Tomato Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 2 Tbsp White Wine
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • Rub(Amount to your taste): Salt, Black Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Smoked Paprika

Cooking Steps

Season your roast on both sides generously with the spices listed above to your liking
Heat your coconut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, once warm sear each side of your roast for 3-4 minutes
Place your sliced onions in the bottom of your crock pot and put your seared meat on top of the onions
Combine your balsamic vinegar and tomato sauce in a bowl and mix well, then pour over your meat in the crock pot
Add your water and white wine to your pan and de-glaze it
Pour this mixture in your crock pot as well
Place the lid on, set to low and cook for 6-8 hours
Enjoy

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