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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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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

baking: paleo zucchini muffins

if there’s one baked good that i have a serious soft spot for it’s a really nice zucchini bread.
preferably the kind with chocolate and/or chocolate chips in it.

and wouldn’t you know it… it’s zucchini season.

sadly, my 3 zucchini plants are not yielding bounty like i had hoped.
they appear to have some sort of pest… maybe a fungus? i don’t know.
but all my zucchinis get about an inch long and then shrivel up and die.
so it’s a good thing that zucchinis are local and cheap right now – $.69 a pound – bargain!

so… i kinda bought 2 pounds of them. and then another pound of yellow zucchinis.

but i have plans.

i found this recipe that sounded seriously yummy.
and i thought it was worth testing out.
after all, it did come to my inbox courtesy of nom nom paleo, which never steers me wrong…

Recipe: Perfect Paleo Zucchini Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups almond butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 c. shredded zucchini, strained or squeezed
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon (GOOD quality makes a huge difference)

Instructions

  1. Add all items to a mixing bowl in order and stir.
  2. Pour into paper-lined muffin tins (trust me, this is a step you don’t want to skip).
  3. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until slightly brown on edges and passes the toothpick test.
  4. Makes 12 muffins.

ummm… ya.
these muffins are fucking incredible.
this is probably the best baked zucchini item i’ve ever had.
period.  paleo or not.

i did make a few slight tweaks to the above recipe…
i added about a tablespoon of raw agave syrup for a bit more sweetness and i also added a 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips.
and i didn’t have 2.5 cups of almond butter, i only had 2 cups.  but it still worked magically.
i also used trader joe’s almond butter with sea salt in it because it was all i had.
the only real difference was that i had to cook them for 21 minutes before they were done.

but i just absolutely annihilated one.  …and i’m thinking about going back for a repeat performance.
they’re light and cakey and sweet and chocolaty and so frigging good!
i’ll admit that there’s been a bit of my paleo baking adventures have netted me some puck-like results… but this was not one of them.  in fact, i would bet money that not very many people would peg this as a flour-free product.

i’ve never cooked with almond butter before… although i’ve cooked with almond flour lots… i just didn’t realize this was a “thing” that one could do.
so, awesome learning experience.

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food: nicoise salad

i don’t know if this is in any way unusual or noteworthy, but until last night neither my husband nor i had ever had a nicoise salad.
i mean… we’re not french… but we do like salads.  and seafood…. so… ya.

anyways.  in addition to working on paring down everything about our lives, the food budget is definitely a giant blinking light on the list.  we like food and 100% believe its worth the money to buy quality food.
but we also are living on the BC working man’s paycheque.  which means it can’t be all sablefish and spot prawns.

canned tuna and canned salmon are two things we’ve really taken a shining to lately.
it’s economical, relatively speaking, although you pay a premium for the ethically caught options, but its worth it…
and it’s tasty, fast and easy for those times when standing over the stove just isn’t your idea of a good time.
but one can only eat so many fish cakes (untrue – that shit is delicious) and so we’ve been hunting around for new ideas.

this nicoise salad really made itself.
my husband came home with bags of produce on monday and among them were lovely green beans, little red potatoes, baby heirloom tomatoes and 2 giant heads of romaine…
and also this genius idea.

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we made a dressing of olive oil, anchovy, olive brine, lemon and white wine vinegar with some tarragon and garlic for flavour and whisked it together by hand.
the cooked potatoes and blanched green beans were tossed in it and the rest was drizzled on top.

for the tuna, we used one can packed in water and drained and one can packed in oil with jalapenos in it and mixed them together so it had oil, but not too much.

garnished with perfectly hard boiled eggs sprinkled with a few grains of coarse salt, tomatoes, olives and capers and it was ready for eating.

except for for mine, of course.  thats my husband’s plate above.
mine is the picky and much smaller plate below.
which was still equally as delightful.

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food: sablefish with zucchini salad

well, it’s summer.  so it’s really that time of year when i think, gee, i should try and exercise and eat healthy and maybe put in a little effort to looking good in my bathing suit.
and then i remember thats a lot of work.  and just sip my coffee while contemplating all the things i should be doing.

but, the nice weather does put me in the mood for some fresh healthy-type meals.

yesterday i requested a fish.  but beyond that, i was not particular.
my husband came back with an amazing recipe from the newest Taste Magazine (thanks liquor store) for Grilled Lemon Oregano Halibut over Zucchini Salad.  which obviously sounded crazy yum.
buuuuut… we’re really trying to focus on sustainable seafood and also i have a crapload of basil growing right now… so it became Grilled Lemon Basil Sablefish over Zucchini Salad.
which was in no way a sacrifice or compromise.

it is essentially a marinated zucchini salad tossed with lettuce before serving and then the marinade/vinaigrette is also used over the fish.  and then we also bbq’d some local baby tomatoes and some green onions.

so here’s our version of the recipe – also pared down for 2 people.

Grilled Lemon Basil Sablefish over Zucchini Salad

  • 2 Sablefish fillets – aprox 6oz each
  • 1 medium green or yellow zucchini
  • 1.5tbsp chopped pitted green olives
  • 1.5tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 cup washed salad greens (we used romaine & lambs lettuce – recipe calls for arugula)
  • 2 tbsp roasted pine nuts

Vinaigrette

  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 1/6 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped basil
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  1. using a mandoline or knife, trim zucchini and cut into paper thin rounds.  In a large bowl, toss zucchini with tbsp of vinaigrette.  set aside to marinade for 20 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Pre-heat grill or grill pan to medium high.  Brush fish fillets with vinaigrette and grill until just cooked through.  Meanwhile stir olives into remaining vinaigrette.
  3. when ready to plate, toss dill, pine nuts and greens into zucchini mixture.  Divide among plates and top with fish fillets.  spoon remaining vinaigrette over fish & salad.  Serve immediately.

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sablefish is probably my favourite thing that comes out of the ocean right now.
it’s rich and buttery and so fucking delicious.
if i see it on a menu, its what i’m ordering. as long as it’s local and line caught, naturally.
because sablefish is so buttery (seriously – its the best possible word to describe it) and high in fats, it can withstand the bbq/high heat really well.  which is good, because its a bottom feeder and should be cooked through.

but, further to this recipe… honestly, neither my husband or i like olives and we’re really working on it… and these green olives that he found were actually really good.  also, chopped up in the dressing made a big difference.
i’m on a 3 year plan to train myself to like olives.  i’m slowly getting there.

another win about this dish was that it was a zucchini meal that my husband actually enjoyed.
i love zucchini all the time, prepared any way… but he’s not a fan.  but, he’d never had it raw.
and this marinaded salad was almost like a quick pickle.  so he was sold.
which is good, because i have 3 zucchini plants growing on my patio this summer, so inevitably at some point we’re going to have a lot of zucchinis around.

this new issue of taste magazine has a whole mess of amazing looking meals.  you’ll be seeing a few more of them show up here.  i promise.

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