Raspberry Crumb Squares (Vegan, Paleo)

If I’m being honest, I am not a desserts/sweets person. I am not a skilled baker (or at least don’t consider myself one), and I don’t crave sugar. I barely enjoy chocolate. The exception to this, of course, is Easter, when I will actually eat an entire bag or two of Robin Egg malt-balls. This is followed by whining, bellyaching, swearing I’ll never do it again, and then doing it the following year. Remember that one time when I said I liked consistency? Yeah, that’s it.

This little number is a collaboration with my favorite little baker, Bri. Bri, my sassy sous chef/kitchen associate/future legal representation is, in fact, quite a skilled baker… which is why she can be so sassy. This girl knocked out HUNDREDS of homemade macaroons for a New Year’s Party (“It’ll only take a few days to make! No big deal, I swear!”), is the queen of a good chocolate cake, and has this inexplicable connection with her KitchenAid mixer… move over, Jesus; this girl may not turn water into wine, but she might turn it into some cream puffs. Those two would throw a great afternoon tea.

And so – with her taking the lead on dessert, these delicious little squares came about. They are Paleo, Vegan, and a perfect treat that’s not too sweet. We were feeling really granola and farm-to-table this day, so we used raspberries from the garden outside. Some were black, some yellow, but the majority of which were red, giving it this really nice color. Adding chia seeds made up for the lack of volume in berries we had on hand, since the jam thickened and increased the volume once the chia seeds absorbed some moisture.

IMG_1122.JPGThis recipe, while it has no true cultural ties to celebrate and lacks an inherent spiritual message within the food itself, is about having help when you need it. There’s always extra helping hands in the kitchen on Sundays, but sometimes it’s good to just let Bri (or Jesus) take the wheel and make the dessert. Let people shine where they will and share the responsibilities – it makes it easier on everyone 🙂 This recipe is broken up into 3 parts – the crust, filling and topping. Since most of this needs to cool, separately, I try to do whatever I can while each is set aside.

Vegan/Paleo Raspberry Crumb Squares

Ingredients

Filling

  • 2 cups fresh raspberries – can use frozen if you want
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup
  • ~1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

Crust

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp water
  • ¼ tsp sea salt

Crumb topping

  • 1 cup pecans
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp salt

Directions

  1. You can start with the filling, since this needs to cool the most. In a medium sized pan, mix raspberries, lemon juice, zest and honey. Heat over medium high heat until it starts to simmer/bubble. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, then turn heat to low. With a wooden spoon, break up the berries into a mash. Continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat.
  2. Stir in the chia seeds, and continue to let cool. If you want to do this step ahead of time, you can allow the raspberry mixture to cool overnight – we let it cool for about an hour while we made everything else.
  3. Once you’ve done your jam filling, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a small square pan (We had a 9x9in – anything bigger and your crust will be too thin!).
  4. Mix together almond flour, coconut oil, vanilla, maple syrup, water and salt in a food processor. Pulse on high power until texture is crumbly. Press mixture evenly to the bottom of the pan, making sure there are no air bubbles. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Set aside.
  5. Now, for the crumb mixture on top,  add the pecans, coconut, coconut sugar, coconut oil, maple syrup and salt to the food processor and pulse until crumbly…. for about 10-15 seconds.
  6. Get your jam filling back out, and spread it over the crust. Add the crumb mixture on top.
  7. Place back in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the crumble turns golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Slice into squares and enjoy!

🙂

-S

Crispy Dijon Chicken (Paleo)

When I was a kid currently, and likely for the rest of my life, I will love chicken fingers. If there’s nothing good on a menu when you go out to eat, chicken fingers will never let you down, no matter what dive restaurant you end up at. They’re safe, you can tell if they’re funky the moment you see them, and you can dip them in anything.

There’s something to be said for consistency – as a self-proclaimed creature of habit that also suffers… no, *cancel, rip burn* THRIVES from OCD, ADD, BBQ, WTF, etc, I. Hate. Change. I mean…. If this were a job interview, I’d tell you I love change, I love switching it up, I love waking up and not knowing what the hell I’m doing for the day….but that also might be a partial fib. I don’t like the mundane, but I also enjoy knowing what’s around the corner. Always. I will ruin any surprise party anyone tries to throw for me… because I must know what’s going on.

I am also a bad liar, so… I can’t pretend I don’t know things, either.

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On a more serious note, I think it makes life a little easier when you have even the smallest predictable habit in your schedule – it gives you a little comfort in knowing some things won’t change in your life, even if it’s a morning coffee routine, walking your dog every night, or walking to lunch with a co-worker. You could even commit to something amazing, such as 10-15 minutes of meditation, or a positive affirmation of your intentions before bed? When it boils down to it, having something you can mentally rely on to be there, no matter how small, helps you muscle through the really hard, unpredictable and gritty parts of life. Sometimes you just gotta go get your chicken fingers after a hard day.

So here makes the arrival of a little experiment I did a few weeks ago, and again this weekend. Having several people in my life that need to eat gluten free, I’m determined to find Paleo alternatives to things that I love. I’ve made variations of this before (of which I will definitely share at some point!), but nothing is better than a good ol’ chicken finger. Plus, I’m saving you a step by including sawsie goodness right into the chicken finger itself. (plot twist… there’s always extra sauce… if you learn anything about me, it’s that I love sauce on everything….)

**For you non-meat-eaters, you could also do this with strips of tofu. I like to sear the tofu to give it a nice crust for some extra crunch – but to each their own.

Crunchy Dijon Chicken

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 20-25 min

Serves 4-6

  • ~1 to 1 1/2 lb chicken breast, or 2-4 breasts (depending on size), sliced in half thickness-wise
  • 1 cup of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut Flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups of Crushed Plantain Chips
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 2 Tablespoons of Dijon Mustard, plus more to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons of Coconaise, or Vegenaise, plus more to taste
  • 1 Small Shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp raw honey

For the Extra Sauce

  • 1/2 cup of Coconaise
  • 1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard
  • 1/2 tbsp raw honey
  • ¼ cup of scallions for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Crush up plaintain chips in a bag. I’ve used unsalted, but I find that using salted ones are just the right amount of flavor. Add to medium sized bowl and set aside.
  3. In a small non-greased pan over medium high heat, toast the coconut until most of it is lightly browned. Remember to stir – you don’t want it to burn! Once browned, add the coconut flakes to the plaintain chips, add salt, and set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl,  mix the dijon, honey, shallot and mayo to make the sauce mixture. It should be tangy, a little sweet, and savory. Feel free to add a bit more mayo or dijon if you need to.
  5. Dip the chicken in the sauce mixture until generously and thoroughly coated. Next, dip into the crust mixture. Repeat this for all chicken pieces and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Discard any remaining sauce in the bowl and the plantain/coconut – you don’t want to risk anything with the raw chicken!
  6. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until crust starts to crisp and brown.
  7. As the chicken is baking, prepare the extra sauce. Mix mayo, Dijon, honey and scallions in a bowl. Spread over chicken once finished cooking.

Enjoy! 🙂

-S

Caprese Chicken (Paleo)

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I love sauce on stuff. Not necessarily tomato sauce, but just sauce.. Dipping sauce. Or gravy. Slather that @#&$ on, I love it. The upside to this is that every bite is covered in whatever steamy goodness the sauce is; the downside is that most good sauces and gravies are pretty unhealthy. My Achilles heel is sausage biscuits and gravy. Drown those freakin’ biscuits in that sausage saucy heavenly gravy and let me be the little piglet I am and eat every last bite, because I will do it. I could probably eat 3 or 4 of them, and I try to avoid going out to brunch because it’s always somewhere on the menu…. And I have little self-control.

Back to what I was talking about, sawce. For a big crowd, I love making Caprese Chicken with a creamy sauce. It’s delicious, but i looked at it as a “treat” that could only be had on special occasions because of how rich the sauce was. Heavy cream, loads of butter… delicious, yet leaves you feeling guilty.

After making a creamy dessert with coconut, I decided to sub the dairy in this recipe for coconut milk. What a glorious decision that was…. The coconut milk gives it this light, fresh taste, but doesn’t compromise the Italian feel of the dish. That gets me thinking about the actual culture and locale of Italy, and how they kind of do the same thing. Rome, one of civilization’s oldest cities, sits right alongside Italy’s modern cities and life. While I’m sure this could be said about any old city, Rome in particular is quite special. As one of the starting places for societal “norms”, historic landmarks and literature, modern-day Italy was built around it, changing as its people did. Technological advances and trends continued to evolve, but Rome stayed intact, never having its integrity truly compromised. I feel like the same sentiment comes through on this dish – the same pure flavors of basil, garlic and tomato are present, but are reinvented in a healthier way. You could say I’m reading too deep into a chicken recipe, but the very point is that these kinds of continuing themes, observations and ideas are present and exist in almost everything around you today. Just a little reminder that we are all connected, we all came from the same place, and we will all return there eventually… so why not get creative? 🙂

Also, I am really considering making a special trip to a diner to get myself some sausage gravy over biscuits… borderline hangry right now, sigh.

Paleo Caprese Chicken

Serves 6-8

Cook time: 50 minutes (total)

Prep time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs thin sliced boneless/skinless chicken breast, preferably organic/all-natural. If they aren’t pre-cut, they can be sliced in half thickness wise
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and chopped
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • 1 can of coconut milk, full fat
  • 1-2 tbsp of coconut oil or ghee
  • 2 cups of low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ cup of basil, finely chopped
  • 1 log of fresh mozzarella, pre-sliced (optional)

Directions

  1. A little bit of pre-work… generously salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts and set aside. In a large oven-safe skillet or pan over medium high heat, add 1 tbsp of the ghee or coconut oil, allow to heat. You’ll be using this same skillet throughout.
  2. Cook chicken breasts until they’re browned on both sides, about 5-6 minutes per side. I cover my chicken so that the steam helps it cook – add more coconut oil or ghee as necessary if the pan dries out. You want to make sure it’s fully cooked since it will only be simmering in the sauce later for a short time. Set chicken aside on a plate, covering with foil until all the chicken is cooked.
  3. After cleaning your large skillet, add another tbsp of ghee or oil to the pan – allow to heat. Add onion and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic, and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring to prevent burning. Turn heat to low, and add thyme, parsley, oregano and sun-dried tomatoes.
  5. Once the herbs are fragrant, stir in the coconut milk and majority of your chicken broth, withholding about a ½ cup aside in a small bowl. Turn the heat up to medium-high and continue to stir until it starts to bubble. Allow to simmer for about a minute or so, continuing to stir.
  6. After you’ve let the sauce simmer, turn the heat back down to low. Whisk together the remaining chicken broth thoroughly and arrowroot powder and add to the pan. Arrowroot powder thickens very quickly, so make sure you stir it in thoroughly.
  7. Next, add your chicken around the pan, ensuring all pieces are covered in the sauce. Since your chicken was seasoned already, this is where I taste the broth to see if I need more salt and pepper. I usually do, but to prevent over-salting, it’s good to check. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  8. This next step is optional and moves away towards paleo cooking, but keeps this dish just a little indulgent without a lot of guilt 🙂 Turn on your oven broiler to high, making sure you’re using a middle rack (not too close to the heat!) Place the slices of mozzarella over the chicken pieces, ensuring each piece of chicken has some mozzarella. Place skillet in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until mozzarella starts to melt thoroughly. Carefully remove from the oven, and allow to cool for about 3-4 minutes.

 

Serve with some basic orzo and a nice side salad!

 

Enjoy 🙂

-S

Back to Basics… Garlic Parmesan Orzo

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I’m really not a pasta person. Orzo though, let’s talk about that for a moment. Those cute little flat jawnies are really adorable, honestly. Not too starchy, and they mix well with other ingredients to make a flavorful side dish. I’ve got a  ton of orzo recipes, but this weekend I was in need of a basic side that wouldn’t overpower our main dish (which I will be sharing soon!), and this is my go-to. While this is definitely not paleo, it’s a favorite of mine that I want to share with you all.

I’ve been running around a lot recently, doing my normal routine… you know, over-booking myself, trying to re-create the wheel for no reason, wasting time doing things I know can be done by others… pretty run-of-the-mill for me. As I was scrambling to make this dinner that had so many steps and parts to it, I realized I didn’t leave a lot of  time to make a hearty side dish that would feed all of the people eating dinner. Not only did I not have the brain power left to think of something in 15 seconds, I didn’t want it to be crazy strong in flavor and compete with my chicken. This is where one of my essentials comes in: a basic, yet tasty, side dish with orzo.

I always keep a big jar of it on hand because it’s quick and easy, but there’s so much else you can do with it. This little side dish only took about 20 min total to finish, and it has all of my favorite things…. Garlic, garlic…. And a smidge (a heap, really) of Parmesan. (Note: Vegan parmesan can be substituted, but since it isn’t actually dairy-based, it won’t melt the same way. This could be remedied with adding a bit more olive oil, but you want to be careful that you don’t end up with “greasy” orzo.)

I love adding fresh Parsley from my little herb boxes on my balcony (that I now realize I’ve neglected in this heat…. Hope they aren’t upstairs all sad and crunchy L), which really adds to the colors in the dish. Orzo keeps well in the fridge too, and I love throwing it in a pan with some chicken the next day to make a little stir-fry.

Case in point – sometimes it’s just not worth trying to make things complicated. Going the simple route, which can be the easy route, is hard for some people, including myself. This is not just limited to cooking, but can also be your job, your friends, your relationship, or your education. We’ve been trained to believe that “if it’s easy, it isn’t worth it, and if it’s worth it, it isn’t easy.” While that definitely holds true for some things, why go through your life thinking that this mantra applies to everything?

Here’s some homework. Aside from making this simple little orzo dish, I want you to take one thing you do daily or weekly, and re-evaluate it. Can it be done more easily, or can it be done differently so that you enjoy it? Are you stuck doing it because it’s a habit; does it actually serve you? If you can simplify one thing, no matter how small, you’re on the right track. Literally, there is nothing to small. Personally, I switched to a pencil eyeliner this summer, because it’s too hot to stand there and use my liquid eye liner. I don’t want my wings to melt off the side of my eyes in this 95 degree heat, I don’t feel like standing there waiting for it to dry… small victory, but a victory no less.

Garlic Parmesan Orzo

Serves 6-8

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups orzo
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2  gloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • ½ cup grated or shredded good quality Parmesan
  • ~1/2 to 1 tsp salt, to taste. Start with a ½, and continue to add if more is needed
  • ½ tsp black pepper

Directions

  1. In a large frying pan, add 1 tbsp olive oil and onion. Sauté the onion for about 3-4 minutes on medium heat, until it starts to brown. Add garlic and orzo and a pinch of salt, cooking for another 3-4 minutes until slightly browned (but not burnt!).
  2. Add chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Turn to low and cover, allowing to simmer for about 15 minutes. I never ignore the pan though – I’ve found that different brands of orzo take different times to absorb, so more water may be needed. The orzo should be al dente; not chewy, but not super mushy. If you find it’s done but you still have too much moisture, turn the heat back up to medium, sautéing and stirring with the lid off until most of the liquid burns off…. Then put back down to low heat.
  3. Add parsley, salt and pepper – stir to combine. If you used low-sodium broth, you may need to continue adding salt until you get some flavor. Always start with less, so that you don’t over salt 🙂
  4. Right before serving, add Parmesan, stirring throughout to ensure consistency. Optional: Add some fresh parsley to garnish.

Enjoy!

-S

Paleo Cilantro Lime Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw

fullsizeoutput_258I feel like there aren’t enough cool things in nature that are purple. Sure, there’s flowers – but what a majestic color. Aside from that, is there anything else naturally occurring that’s purple?

One cool thing about working with Feng Shui with my friend Kristin’s business is seeing how important it is to incorporate certain colors into your life and into your home. Purple is the color of richness and royalty – using the color purple sparingly in certain areas of your home is common as a remedy to promote prosperity, wealth, insight and wisdom. It’s a color with a high vibrational frequency, and is commonly used in healing modalities like light therapy or meditation, as it has a calming effect in the lighter hues (think Lavender!). This color also reaches western practices, as Christian art depicts a lot of colors around Christ as purple… robes, Advent candles, etc.

I personally love seeing this color most in the form of crystals – I love Amethyst. Geodes, slabs, tumbled stones, you name it. Amethyst crystals are everywhere in my house…. but never too many! Favorites of mine includes amethyst candle holders. They fit the little tea lights and give off a really pretty glow… adds to the ambience J While it’s fun to look at, I’m most interested in the healing properties of this stone. It is believed to increase intuition, clarity and communication with angels. It is also known for its protective properties, and for promoting emotional stability and strength… in a nutshell, these make great gifts. Have a friend who needs a chill pill? What nicer way than to give them a nudge with a nice candle holder?!

fullsizeoutput_28eThe colors can range from a light lavender color to a deep plum hue. I prefer the lighter colors, and from an affordability standpoint, lighter hues tend to be less expensive. Win/win for me. It really is nice though – if not for any other reason, they are directly procured from nature, and it’s always good to have a lot of outside elements in your home…. Gotta get that high vibrational positive Chi going…. ya dig.

For more information about colors, Feng Shui and space clearing, make sure you check out Kristin’s site, www.kristinmwistar.com. Kristin is an interior designer, Feng Shui expert, dowsing and space clearing specialist… the credentials go on and on!

But back to food, all this rambling about purple has a purpose. This Cilantro Lime Red Cabbage and Apple slaw is just so good. I put it on everything…. It’s a nice light side salad when made with Vegenaise, it’s good on fish tacos, it’s good on a turkey burger…. And it keeps well. With all the food I make, it breaks my heart when it goes to waste because I am but one person, and I cook for 10. All the time. I just can’t help it. This tastes great the next day, after all the dressing has really soaked in. See for yourself!

 

Cilantro Lime Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw

Prep time: 25 min

Cook time:  —

Ingredients:

  • 1 head red cabbage, sliced very thin
  • 1/4 to 1/3 of a red onion, sliced very thin. If you are sensitive to onion, start with a little less. The best cut for this salad is to slice in half lengthwise from fuzzy to non-fuzzy end, then cut across so you get those nice half-circles
  • 1 large gala apple, skin-on, cored and sliced very thin

(basically everything in this salad should be sliced paper thin. If you’re OCD like me and hate chunks of food, this salad will put you in your happy place)

For the dressing:

  • ¾ cup mayo or Vegenaise
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar or other light/fancy vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Juice of one lime
  • ¼ cup cilantro

Instructions:

  1. Mix contents of dressing together in a bowl until emulsified… it should be thin like normal dressing. If it’s too tart, add more mayo or honey to taste… it should have some zip to it though, as it’s going to flavor the cabbage which absorbs a lot. Likewise – if not zesty enough, add more vinegar or lime.
  2. Mix cabbage, onion and apple in a bowl together, cover with dressing. It’s best made ahead of time so it can marinate – it keeps well for lunch the next day, too!

Enjoy 🙂

-S