Soft-Baked Ginger Molasses cookies (PALEO!)

It’s fall, definitely. I’ve rummaged through all my closets of clothes to find my favorite jackets and sweaters, and you bet your bottom I’m making sure my outfits are layered to the maximum. Gotta have my scarf… maybe a wrap… perhaps a poncho…. A vest? Definitely a cardigan somewhere in the mix…. A long cardigan… or maybe a short one… or possibly a really long cardigan…. The more choices I think about, the more I’m thinking maybe I have too many sweaters. Just kidding, it’s a fashion sin to say that.

So, I’ve been MIA – I’m not sure why, but I haven’t had the itch to make as much stuff. Plus, some of the really good stuff I’ve made… I didn’t get good pictures of it. Fall-themed dishes, obviously…. I didn’t even tell you guys I made a CHEESE PUMPKIN to bring to work! If you follow me on Instagram (shameless plug: follow me at @thedivinekitchen), you may have seen it. Definitely one of my guilty pleasure recipes, as it isn’t very high on the whole healthy-eating list. It’s an indulgence though, well worth it.

This past weekend, I decided I wanted cookies. Not just any cookie, but an autumn, holiday-inspired cookie. Who remembers the ginger snaps in the orange box? I did. With that…. it was settled. I needed ginger cookies.

Funny thing about those cookies was that you had to make sure you didn’t break your teeth out  when you ate them. They were like eating rocks… spicy, fall-scented rocks. It was sort of like an I-love-pain type of thing, snapping bricks in your mouth. I was always hesitant to eat them, especially after knocking my teeth out as a child (separate occasion, don’t worry). Wow, this post sure is a wild ride at this point. Anyway, I figured that with the amount of dollars that went into reconstructing my dental dilemma, I should probably stick to soft baked cookies. I knew of some recipes with tons of sugar and butter and regular flour, but I just wasn’t feeling it. For lack of humility, I really hit it off on the first try here. I can’t  don’t bake, and whatever I do bake, is usually burnt. Not THESE!

Ugh, guys, they’re the cutest little cookie, and I definitely ate about 12 of them. I hope you all enjoy them as much as I did.

Soft-Baked Ginger Molasses cookies (PALEO!)

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: ~10 min

Makes 20-24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil, cooled
  • 2 eggs (let them sit out for a little while to remove the chill)
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1 heaping tsp allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 heaping tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground sea salt
  • Organic  cane sugar for rolling (trust me, you want this)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add your coconut oil, molasses, coconut sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Your coconut oil should be liquid, but cooled – you don’t want the eggs to scramble by hot coconut oil!
  3. Next, add in your dry ingredients – almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, spices and salt; mix together thoroughly to make a dough. To allow the flours to absorb, let sit for 5-6 minutes.
  4. Pour about a 1/2 cup of cane sugar in a shallow bowl. Use a cookie scoop to scoop up the dough so that they’re uniform (unless you’re just that good at eyeballing…), and then use your hands to roll it into a ball. Roll dough in organic cane sugar then place about 2-3 inches apart on your cookie sheet.
  5. Gently flatten the dough with a flat wide-bottomed glass until the cookies are about ~1 cm thick.
  6. Bake for 8-9  minutes. Allow to cool for about 5-10 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet….if they appear wet on the inside still, they will dry out and be okay!

Enjoy!

-S

Full Moons…. and Zesty Ginger Sesame Chicken Wings (Paleo!)

Happy Monday…. um, Tuesday! Definitely feels like a Monday, but that kind of thing usually happens over a long weekend.

How was everyone’s Memorial Day? Ours was just crud weather in the mid-Atlantic… but I sort of feel as though the weather in general has been pretty bad. I also feel as though I’ve prematurely aged mentally where I insist the weather/flies/mosquitos/hurricanes/snow/potholes/pollen/life in general gets harder or worse each year. I’ll have to press the reset button on that…. that’s not good energy to be putting out there.

Friday was a busy day, too. I worked from home — after a flurry of appointments, I finally had a chance to COOK STUFF!!! Not that I haven’t been cooking, I’ve just been making food that’s much more palatable to my family. I’ve been cooking a lot of non-paleo, non-vegan and non-keto foods since we’re all around more. I can definitely tell a difference with my body, and it does not like it. My jeans don’t, either. Oh also, I forgot how much I like beer? Yeah, this weekend wasn’t good for that.

In other news, we’ve got an interesting Full Moon. This one falls under Sagittarius, which is the best opportunity to give us a fresh perspective.

Is there anything you’ve been struggling to wrap your head around? Have you been wrestling with thoughts that you just can’t seem to get behind? This is an amazing time to really gain a different lens and to garner better insight to everything going on in your life. Sagittarius energy is really about building on what you already know and already have, and broadening  your horizons. What have you done so far that’s really propelled you towards where you want to go? How are you going to use this to get where you’re going next?

This sounds vague, but it really isn’t. It applies most closely to whatever you’re experiencing in life. If there’s something you’ve been waiting to do, wait no more. If you’re waiting to take a risk, move somewhere, take a job, make a big decision, splurge on a vacation, this is the perfect time to start the momentum on that and get it moving. Reevaluate your goals to make sure they still fit you, and to check your state of mind to ensure you’re an open book for growth.

Onto the foodies…. these wings have made an appearance in quite literally everyone’s house this weekend. I made them. All. Weekend. I love them! The key is keeping a bit of the marinade separate and brushing it on right before serving so they keep that really tasty briny and gingery flavor. Try these out on the grill… I whole heartedly believe that good wings always belong on the grill. Plus, while chicken wings certainly aren’t the bare essentials of paleo eating, who doesn’t love a good wing? YUM.

Zesty Ginger Sesame Chicken Wings (Paleo!)

prep time: 20 active min, plus marinating time

cook time: 20 min

Serves anywhere from 1-5 people, depending on your appetite

Ingredients

  • 2 packages organic or all natural wings (separated into wings and drumettes,
  • 1 cup coconut aminos
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 stalks of scallions, green and white parts, sliced thin
  • 2 tbsp tahini paste (or miso, if not strict paleo)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp of fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds (black and white preferred for aesthetics, but any color will do)

Directions

  1. Whisk together your tahini and coconut aminos in a large bowl first to emulsify.
  2. Once the sauce is thoroughly mixed, add the remaining ingredients to the bowl. It should taste VERY briny — chicken absorbs a lot of the salty flavor, so it should have enough zest to really taste salty. Set aside a 1/2 cup of the mixture in a small bowl.
  3. Place your chicken wings in a bag, pour your sauce over them and marinate in the fridge for at least an hour, up to 24 hours. Refrigerate your separate sauce as well.
  4. Once ready to cook, preheat your grill to 400 degrees. We want high heat to make sure the skin is crisp.
  5. Place the wings on the grill, about 1 inch apart. Turn as needed, once the wings darken and appear blackened. They aren’t necessarily burnt — the caramelization from the coconut aminos will just make them appear darker.
  6. Continue to turn until thoroughly browned on all sides, about 15-20 minutes in total.
  7. Remove from heat, and brush with remaining sauce. Garnish with a pinch of scallions.

Enjoy!

-S

Irish Potato Candies! (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Ahh…. A nice and welcome break from work. I have not stopped cooking and though I don’t plan on doing anything crazy for St. Patrick’s Day, I cooked up a storm! I’ll make this short and sweet… I made these little potato candies and I just love them. They remind me of when I was a kid and we would make them in elementary school.

Irish potatoes are a dessert that originated in the Philadelphia area. Despite its name, they aren’t from Ireland, and they have no potatoes in them (and definitely shouldn’t, ew). Also, don’t let anyone tell you that any nuts belong in them, either. Double ew. Then you roll them in cinnamon, and just like that, you have a little potato!

These are made without dairy, gluten, or any crap that makes you feel bad. More treats to come, enjoy 🙂

Irish Potato Candies! (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

prep time: 20 min (active)

chill time: 20 min

makes 25 potatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups of unsweetened shredded coconut (the fine strips, not ground)
  • 1 oz package of Tofutti “cream cheese”
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tbsp light agave, plus more to taste
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cinnamon, separated
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar

Directions

  1. Add your shredded coconut, cream cheese, vanilla, 1 tsp cinnamon, coconut oil and agave to a large mixing bowl and blend with a mixer. If the mixture appears runny, add ¼ cup of shredded coconut and continue to mix until you have a pasty mixture that you can shape.
  2. Chill in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the refrigerator and roll into small potato shaped balls and set aside on a baking sheet. Once your potatoes are formed, add the remaining cinnamon and coconut sugar in a large plastic bag and shake to mix.
  4. One at a time, place each potato in the bag and gently shake to coat thoroughly. Remove and place back onto the cookie sheet.
  5. Chill until ready to serve – remove 15 minutes prior to allow to come back to room temperature.

Enjoy!

-S

Chipotle Caesar Salad (Paleo)

fullsizeoutput_590.jpeg

You know when you’ve reached “old” when you feel as though the end of year shuffle had just come on and gone, when in reality it was 12 whole months ago. Back to the same grind, having all this time off of work, thinking I won’t have any time to do anything, and ending up with all the time in the world to do everything. I’ve done a lot of shopping (I should stop), a lot of cleaning, a lot of eating… I’ve done a LOT of working out.

2017 was an interesting year. I think after the volcanic eruption that was 2016, people yearned for a change. They were electrified – ready to rip the band-aid off, ready to reach in and pull their heart out and heal what ailed them. In Chinese astrology, each zodiac year is not just associated with an animal sign, but also one of five elements: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, or Earth. Both the zodiac sign and the element influence the astrology of the year itself. Element-sign combinations recur every 60 years. A friend of mine who is also a Feng Shui expert (check out her website here!) got me thinking, and I did a bit of research myself.

2017 was a Fire Rooster year. There was chaos… a lot of ups and downs, but nothing seemed to last too long. Rooster years are a weird but even blend of righteousness and justice, braggadocio and efficiency, back and forth. 2017 was a year to get involved in something, if not everything. A lot of change was unearthed, which in this instance is for the best. People have become more aware of their intentions, more flexible – how they can make changes for 2018 will help them advance in their awareness.

This upcoming year is the year of the Earth Dog. 2018 is the year for those who are loyal, considerate, and well-disciplined to shine. This is a strong year for financial potential by means of new business opportunities, increased cash flow, building good reputation and a high social status for the workhorse out there. You might see that there will be more social gatherings and more to celebrate. As we bring more balance into our lives, we will recognize that the tumultuous times of 2017 can be calmed with our ability to match the good with the bad, the high with the low, and the peace with the chaos.

Take some time to look up your Zodiac signs and how they correspond to 2018 – when noticing trends, be sure to keep them in your thoughts as you kick off 2018 so you can start with the right outlook, the best attitude and stay open to opportunity!

 

While this serves as a rough guide (be sure to check your birthdate to make sure you have the right one – it goes by the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which is a bit different than the Jan 1-Dec 31 calendar!)

What-Does-Your-Chinese-Zodiac-Sign-Say-About-Your-Personality-4

Start off this new year with a tasty and simple treat 🙂

 

Chipotle Caesar Salad (Paleo)

fullsizeoutput_593.jpeg

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 30 min

Serves 8-10

 

Ingredients

  • 2 small garlic cloves, grated or pressed
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste (found near the canned tuna in the supermarket)
  • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (I am a stickler for Grey Poupon)
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp adobo sauce (from canned chipotles in adobo)
  • 2 egg yolks (if you are opposed to using raw egg, you can use ½ cup of Coconaise instead)
  • 1/3 cup high quality organic olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp finely ground Himalayan sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • (optional: freshly grated parmesan for a non-paleo garnish)

 

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce until smooth.
  2. Add the egg (or mayo), salt and pepper and continue to whisk until well combined. Taste and adjust to your preference – more tang needed = more Dijon or lemon, more salt needed, or more garlic.
  3. Serve over some crunchy fresh romaine, alongside some Maple Ginger Salmon, or even a tasty chicken dish like Dijon Crusted Chicken!

Enjoy 🙂

-S

Creamy Potato Gratin with Sage and Fontina (Vegetarian, Gluten-Free)

Who had a good Christmas? I did – and surprisingly, for as much as I jam-packed into those two days, it was relaxing and fun. I was tickled to watch my family open their presents, even if I did over-spend my Christmas budget. You know you may have gone a little overboard when TD Bank calls you because they think you have fraud on your card… and it turns out all the purchases were yours 😦

I got some fabulous kitchen goodies, so you know what that means! NEW RECIPES! I’m happy as a clam with my new KitchenAid hand mixer, my new Cuisinart food processor and a few other fun things. They’ll be making their appearances in my recipes in due time.

I also got a nice gift of one HaloTherapy session to the Salt Cove – it’s a new-ish place that hosts Halotherapy rooms – basically, the room is filled with Himalayan sea salt and is heated to a temperature warm enough to engage the flow of negative ions. Sounds counterintuitive, but negative ions are actually a good thing.  To keep it simple, ions are invisible charged particles in the air. Back to middle school science class, some molecules are positively or negatively charged. If one loses one or more negative ions, it becomes positive – the more negative ions, the greater the negative charge. Negative ions are found mots abundantly in nature… some of people’s favorite places. Have you ever gone to the beach and just couldn’t tear yourself away? Have you ever walked through a forest, took a huge breath, and just felt really energized? Trees, bodies of water, rainstorms, earthen landscapes… welcome to the land of negative ions.

Why are they so good, though? Here’s a few reasons:

  • They neutralize free radicals, which can prevent cancer
  • They promote cell metabolism
  • They enhance the body’s immune function
  • They purify the blood
  • They balance the autonomic nervous system, promoting deep sleep and healthy digestion

Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/ ; https://www.journals.elsevier.com/cell-metabolism/

If you’re stuck in an office filled with hundreds of computers, cell phones and Bluetooth devices like myself all day, finding a place like this is a real treat. I highly recommend you check out one in your area – they’re popping up all over the map! It’s a great place to meditate, clear your mind and enjoy some relaxation.

Back to food… while I have been doing my darnedest to stick with the paleo grind, I couldn’t help myself with Christmas. I made the most delicious Potato Gratin… for those of you who can appreciate a little starch and a lot of flavor, please check this out J I will have some healthy recipes back on deck for you guys later this week… stay tuned!

 

Creamy Potato Gratin with Sage and Fontina (Vegetarian, Gluten-Free)

fullsizeoutput_585

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 30 min

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons ghee, at room temperature, plus more for greasing
  • 4 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup organic crème fraiche
  • 1 heaping tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 heaping tbsp chopped fresh sage, plus 10-12 large whole sage leaves
  • 1 large block (approx. 8 oz) Fontina cheese, shredded
  • Himalayan sea salt, to taste (I used approx. 1 tsp plus a bit more)
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup plain  gluten free breadcrumbs (these are delicious)
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • ~ 3 tbsp Olive oil, for frying the sage

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large but shallow baking dish with some ghee and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and cook until fork-tender, 20-25 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Mash the potatoes, along with 4 tablespoons of the ghee. Add the crème fraiche, parsley and chopped sage. Once mixed evenly, mix in the fontina and season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Spread the potato mixture in the prepared dish in an even layer.
  5. Separately, in a small bowl, use your fingers to blend the rest of the ghee with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan until the mixture becomes crumbly. Add a pinch of salt if you feel the mixture needs a bit more flavor. Top the potatoes with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden and crisp on top.
  6. Meanwhile, as the gratin bakes, heat olive oil in a small skillet until shimmering (but not smoking!) Add the sage leaves and cook until crisp, in both sides, about 1 ½ minutes per side.
  7. Transfer the sage to paper towels to drain. Once the gratin is finished cooking, scatter the fried sage over the top and serve.

fullsizeoutput_586

Enjoy!

-S

Holiday Deviled Eggs with Roasted Red Pepper and Jalapeño (Paleo)

Such a heart-warming time this last week, especially approaching Christmas. My Adopt-a-Family gift drop-off for work was a few days ago, so I loaded my Jeep up along with several other cars and we dropped off 10 very large bags of gifts to Family Promise, a local chapter of a non-profit that helps families get back on their feet by providing affordable housing and life skills/coaching as they work to improve their situation.

I may have gone a little overboard in buying things myself for them — I picked up the unclaimed items on the list, found myself at Old Navy with their huge sales… and bought these little girls the cutest outfits, shoes, scarves, hats, gloves… I just wish I could be there to see them open everything. I hope they love it all.

Does anyone else feel a little unraveled? I know the holidays are always really busy, and I know i always feel like I’m one “Issue Notification” email away from a mental breakdown at work, but I’ve been feeling particularly frazzled this year. I leave for work, it’s dark. I come home, and it’s been dark. Do you know what I’ll be doing this weekend?

NOTHING.

It stands to reason that this probably won’t be a total truth, but I plan to do as close to nothing as possible. My current definition of “nothing” is listening to Christmas music, with my dog, wrapping Christmas presents and going to bed at 9pm. I’m so excited.

I’m also excited to have some more time to cook things for you all! I’ve concocted a ton of recipes, it’s just trying to find the time to make them. I’ve been so busy that I’m living off of chopped salad and scalloped potatoes I made, and have kept in my fridge. Whatever! Yolo.

A simple reminder for this Holiday Season, don’t forget about yourself. There’s a fine balance with gift giving, and just general giving, which includes your time, your home, and even your thoughts. Don’t forget to give yourself some peace and quiet — you don’t have to accept every holiday party invitation, nor do you need to gift people the most expensive crazy thing you can find to prove their importance to you. Give from the heart, take some time for yourself, and enjoy the time of year where people are a bit more  generous, a bit more forgiving and a bit more kind.

Holiday Deviled Eggs with Roasted Red Pepper and Jalapeño (Paleo)

Ingredients

  • 12 eggs (preferably cage/cruelty free!)
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 2/3 cup Coconaise
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 jalapeño, finely minced, seeds and ribs/stems removed
  • Sriracha, for garnish

Directions

  1. In a saucepan large enough to fit all 12 eggs, cover completely with cold water. Bring to a full boil over high heat. Once the eggs have started to boil, remove from heat and let stand for 12 minutes to allow the eggs to cook thoroughly.  Run the eggs under cold water to stop from further cooking, then drain.
  2. Meanwhile, add olive oil and red pepper to a small frying pan, and sauté until soft and starting to brown, about 5-6 minutes. Stir frequently, so they don’t burn. Once finished, set aside.
  3. Gently peel the eggs, careful not to break the whites. Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and scoop out the yolks into a small bowl. Arrange egg whites face up on a plate,  and set aside.
  4. In a bowl, mash egg yolks, Coconaise, Dijon, red pepper, salt and black pepper together with a fork. Continue to mix until smooth. Transfer the egg whites to a plate and fill them with the yolk mixture.
  5. Sprinkle with the jalapeño, add small drop of sriracha and serve immediately. You can cover and chill them for up to 4-5 hours if you need to make them ahead of time.

Enjoy!

-S

Throw-Together Curry-Spiced Couscous (Vegan)

We had our first snowstorm this weekend, and it was kind of fun! I drove home, and it was nice to see the snow covering all of the trees. I think I’m ready for more snow after Christmas… I just need to get through the next three weeks so that I can get my shopping done.

Yesterday was a madhouse out shopping.  People were everywhere, and the sales were actually pretty good. What wasn’t good was the amount of money I spent… it was painful. It seems as though my list of people to buy for continues to get bigger and bigger, and I found myself getting upset with the fact that I was trying to find just something to buy for people.

After talking with people about what the best gift ideas are for big crown, I decided that giving people something that I love, that I also knew they would love, would be the best route. Food, it is! Maybe I’ll make people cookies, or fun dishes and things they can freeze and enjoy later. I haven’t quite decided what I want to do, but I do have a few ideas… They’re a surprise.

This past Friday, my best friend and her old roommate came out to my house for reading. It wasn’t meant to be anything grand or spectacular, but I knew there be people to feed and I was excited to throw something together. I made some delicious vegan garlic bread and a salad with some tasty pomegranate Dijon dressing, but the best part about the dinner was the dish that I just threw together with whatever was in the cabinet. I had couscous, a can of beans, and as I dug through my freezer I found some frozen spinach. With my endless supply of onions on hand, I decided to throw it all in a pan and see what happened. Delicious!

 

Throw-Together Curry-Spiced Couscous (Vegan)

img_30831.jpg

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 20 min

Serves 5-6

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp oil, divided
  • 2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 can white beans, rinsed and thoroughly drained
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 package frozen spinach
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp black pepper

 

Directions:

  1. In a frying pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions and sauté until they start to become translucent – about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic, and continue to stir for another 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Once the onion begins to brown, add spinach to pan. If it hasn’t thawed, lower heat so as to not scorch the spinach as it cooks. Break apart with a spoon and continue to cook, allowing the water to cook out, turning the heat back up once the spinach is completely broken up. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until most of water from spinach is gone.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate medium sized sauce pot, heat vegetable broth and other tbsp of olive oil over high heat. Once brought to a boil, add couscous and allow to cook per directions. Stir to fluff and set aside.
  4. Back to the frying pan – add beans and raisins to the pan and mix. Gently stir in the couscous and continue to mix. Add curry powder, paprika, salt and pepper and stir. Continue to sauté for another 5 minutes, until couscous starts to brown. If your mixture starts to dry out, add in a tsp of olive oil while stirring. Feel free to add additional salt, to taste (I find the other flavors mix nicely with this amount of salt, but feel free to add).

IMG_3082

Enjoy with some thing light – like my Garlic Tahini Kale Salad!

-S

 

Mushroom Thyme Twice-Baked Potatoes (Vegan)

If you guys haven’t gotten the hint yet that I really love potatoes, you must not be paying a whole lot of attention. While white and yellow potatoes aren’t Paleo, they’re too important for me to give up… which is why I can’t eat a strict paleo diet. I try though… so, perhaps I can get an honorary mention for that.

The weather took a turn and it’s been super chilly recently — another reason to carb-load like a little hibernating animal (which I wish I could do).  After a long work day, intense lifting at the gym, and battling rush hour traffic, let me come home to my potatoes. I grew up with my mom making these with real milk, butter and cheese — they were a staple of guest dinners and holidays, because they do take a bit longer than a quick throw-together meal.

I think my favorite part about these is how well they freeze and keep — you can totally make these ahead of time. Pull one (or a few) out, brush with olive oil and bake until hot. I’m trying to get into time-saving… I’m sort of tired of rushing around everywhere, but it seems to be the norm. My day starts at 4:30am – I get up, get ready, pack up for my day, feed and let my dog out, run around and figure out what I didn’t pack yet, and rush out the door, rush to work, run around at work, rush home to feed my dog, rush to wherever I’m going after work, rush home and take dog for a rushed walk, rush to cook dinner, rush and get ready for bed, and then pass out. Did reading that exhaust you? Because recapping my weekday exhausted me.

I think that’s a New Year’s intention I’m going to make. Note, I said “intention”, and not “resolution”, because resolutions are absolutes. Here’s why:

in·ten·tion

/in-ten-shuhn/ (noun)

an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.

While resolutions are done in anticipation, they speak from a place of fixing what’s wrong, rather than just adding to your life to make things better. Things change, your life evolves, and your goals at the beginning of the year may not really align with where you want to be at the end of the year new things happen. Based on the above definition of intention, there’s much more association with cause and effect, and it’s more synonymous with change. Always leave room for change! Always leave room, period.

That’s my intention in and of itself; I need to give myself more time to just… do whatever. I work 60 hours a week, have several pets to care for, a very large family, and love to make time to cook… but unless I’m doing it at 3am, I have to make sacrifices elsewhere in my life, just to make recipes… and that doesn’t feel good when it’s something I love so much. However, I realize that the workweek  hours aren’t changing any time soon, my pets aren’t going anywhere… so I need to learn when to find balance. And that’s my intention. I’m approaching it with optimism, with positive thoughts for a positive outcome, and from the angle that I won’t beat myself up if I fall back into my own ways… I’ll just pick up where I left off, and try again to cut myself some slack.

Starting with thawing out last week’s twice-baked potatoes for a quick dinner that I don’t have to think about… it’s something, right?

Mushroom Thyme Twice-Baked Potatoes (Vegan)

Prep: 30 min

Cook: 1 hr 20 min

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 baking potatoes, washed and scrubbed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ cup vegan shredded cheese, such as GoVeggie Vegan Cheddar (available at Whole Foods, Wegmans, Giant)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, grated or pressed
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • ½ tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Rub them with the olive oil and bake for 1 hour, making sure they’re sufficiently cooked through (poke with a knife or fork to the  center – it should be quite soft, but the skin should not yet be wrinkly).
  3. Meanwhile, while the potatoes are baking, add 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add onion, and sauté until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and mushroom, and continue to  cook, stirring so the garlic does not burn, for another 6-7 minutes until the mushrooms start to brown. Remove from heat.
  4. Remove the potatoes from the oven and set aside to cool a bit. Lower the heat to 350 degrees F.
  5. With a sharp knife, cut each potato in half, lengthwise. Using a spoon, gently scrape out the insides into a large mixing bowl, leaving a small layer of potato left (so it stays intact), being careful not to tear the shell. Lay the hollowed out potato shells on a baking sheet, and brush the skin side with olive oil. Place them back upright on the baking sheet.
  6. With a mixer or potato smasher, mash the potatoes so that the large chunks are all gone. Add the vegan cheese, almond milk, mushrooms, onions, herbs, salt and pepper (to taste) and mix together well.
  7. Fill the potato shells with the filling – they should be “over-filled”, and have a heap of mixture on them.
  8. Place back in the oven for another 20 minutes, until the top starts to brown. Garnish with extra rosemary and serve… though it’s vegan, it does go quite nicely with Paleo Grilled Hawaiian Chicken, Maple Ginger Salmon, or even my all time favorite Garlic Tahini Kale, a.k.a. “No New Friends” Salad.

Enjoy!

-S

The Holiday Hustle: Made Better with (Paleo) Chocolate Chip Peppermint Skillet Cookies!!

The weather has turned! This is both good and bad. I have a Jeep and I grew up in the Northeast — I am not afraid of any snowstorm, any time. There’s two sides to this situation — the first, I work too much to be inconvenienced by snow. Closed roads, inexperienced/bad drivers… not a fan. The good part — if it’s bad enough to not go into work, it means I get to cook all day… SCORE!

I’ve been doing a lot of shopping, trying to get it all out of the way early this year. If you haven’t checked it out yet, take a look at my Gift Recommendations for kitchen gadgets, natural beauty products and other fun stuff — link here!

The last few weeks have been so incredibly busy… I can’t believe it’s already December. I’m not sure where last week this month this year went. Appointments, dinners, parties, working, traveling… so much going on. At a doctor’s appointment a few weeks ago, I came across the concept of a “skillet cookie”, which is basically a giant cookie pie inside of a cast iron skillet. I had big plans to incorporate pumpkin or spices during October and November, but I clearly missed that boat. So, here we are in the middle of Christmas season, and I have decided to make a Christmas skillet cookie. Cue the peppermint.

Honestly, I sort of don’t like peppermint in a lot of things, but there’s something wonderful about a sweet little bite of chocolate chip cookie with a hint of mint in it. A few drops goes a long way, this stuff is quite strong.

There’s a few ways you could do this recipe — you can use multiple mini skillets  for personal sized cookies, or you could use one big one. Don’t be alarmed if you think you don’t have enough batter for a big skillet — a thicker cookie will turn more into a pie-like thing if there’s too much batter (plus it will take a lot longer to cook!). This was even approved by my non-Paleo parents, who enjoyed a few slices after I brought it over on Saturday. My stepdad enjoyed a nice scoop of regular vanilla ice cream on it, but you can absolutely add some non-dairy ice cream for a nice treat!

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie (Paleo)

fullsizeoutput_4c9

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 15 Min

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil (room temperature, but still solid)
  • 2/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2-3 drops of food-grade peppermint* essential oil
  • 1 3/4 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 ¼ cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-10 in. cast-iron skillet lightly with some coconut oil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together coconut oil, coconut sugar, vanilla and egg until smooth. (If you aren’t using a mixer, mash coconut oil with a fork to get rid of clumps—this part is really important! Add coconut sugar, vanilla and egg; continue to mix until smooth.)
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the almond flour, salt and baking soda. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until fully combined – you should end up with a dough that is a bit sticky. Stir in the chocolate chips, mixing evenly.
  4. Add the mixture to the skillet. Using a rubber spatula, scoop contents from the bowl and spread evenly through the skillet to ensure it bakes consistently.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the middle is just set and the edges begin to turn golden brown.** Test doneness in the middle with a toothpick to see if any batter comes out on the toothpick.
  6. Allow to cool a bit in the skillet. Optional: top with vanilla ice cream prior to serving. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

*I use Young Living’s Peppermint Vitality essential oil, which is certified for food/drink and safe for internal consumption. Do NOT consume products not intended for internal use – adhere to your product’s directions for proper use.

**If your cookie is still gooey but the edges are quite dark, you can drop the oven temp down to prevent the edges from burning until the  center has cooked thoroughly.

Enjoy!

-S

Best 2017 Holiday Gifts for the Healthy-Food, Natural-Beauty and Causeworthy-Clothing Junkies

Some might say I get a little excited when it comes to gift giving. When I was younger, I used to buy birthday and Christmas presents for people, and in typical Sarah fashion, I would do it months ahead of time. The problem with this was that I couldn’t wait to give them their gifts and demanded they open it immediately.

Not a whole lot has changed about that, so I really have to fight the urge to hold onto presents when I have them for people. It’s hard. Life is hard.

The drawback with gift-buying these days is that the preference is digital, and since everyone’s super busy, it can be hard to really know your audience when gift shopping. When in doubt, I always aim for something healthy or sustainable

So – if I’m not thinking about food? I’m probably thinking about shopping. There’s definitely a LOT going on this season in terms of fun stuff at every price-point! See below for my favorite picks for this year.

$25 and under

Pacha Whipped Soap + Scrub – $12

Pacha

www.pachasoap.com

I absolutely love this stuff. The fact that it smells amazing is, oddly enough, the least cool thing about it (but a major selling point!). The owners of this company have embarked on a mission to provide underserved communities around the world with clean water and soap, and means to help them improve their situation. You can find this at Whole Foods.

Black & Decker CitrusMate Plus Juicer – $17.99

Black-And-Decker-CitrusMate-Plus-Juicer

www.vitacost.com

This is one of those things you didn’t know you needed until you have it. For those of us that hate pulp, you can even filter that out. This is perfect for recipes, measuring your juice, and just makes an all-around great little addition for someone you know that loves to do stuff in the kitchen. This makes it super easy and quick to make some delicious Lavender Lemonade…

HUM Nutrition Daily Cleanse Skin Supplement – $25

hum1

www.sephora.com

I really like this vitamin. It’s vegan, sustainably sourced, and is free of most major allergens. It has green tea extract, chlorella, MSM, and other beneficial plant nutrients. Sephora stocks a few different types to suit different skin needs, long with some other products in this line. Definitely worth a look.

Chef’n Kale & Greens Stripper – $7.95

www.chefn.com

I use this thing all the time… and quite frankly, what was life without it? For the amount of Garlic Tahini Kale Salad that we make, this is a huge time saver. It’s even great for tedious little herbs like Thyme and Rosemary. It’s easy to wash, compact to store, and it makes a great stocking stuffer.

Youth to the People Cleanser and Cream Mini Duo – $20

kale spinach face

www.sephora.com

This little set is great for people who have allergies to a lot of other major skincare lines. While I’m a Clinique/Origins girl myself, I’ve tried this and really liked how smooth it left my dry skin. It is made with actual spinach and kale – like a salad for your face!


$50 and under

Cuisipro Fat Separator – $34.95

cuisipro

www.surlatable.com

If you’ve ever made a gravy, confit anything where you need to separate a liquid, this is a great tool to have. The little filter separates the pan drippings and solids, it cleans easily, and its BPA-free, which I feel is really important if you’re using plastic.

OXO V-Blade Mandoline – $39.95

mandoline

www.oxo.com

I have a mandoline very similar to this, and it has greatly reduced the time spent slicing potatoes, cucumbers, apples, onions, etc… as well as greatly reduced my fear of cutting my finger off (came very close, one time….) The great thing about this is that it folds up nice and flat, comes apart to clean well, and is adjustable using a little nozzle.

Gandy’s Flip Flops – $33

gandys1.jpg

www.gandysflipflops.com

This company was started after two brothers from the UK were traveling in Sri Lanka when the 2004 tsunami  hit – unfortunately both of their parents were killed. This was their motivation to create something that would help other orphans, specifically those impacted by the tsunami, by helping build orphanages in India and Sri Lanka. Your feet feel good, you feel good!

Kopari Coconut Multitasking Kit -$40

Kopari

www.everythingbutwater.com

This little set includes Coconut Melt, a nice blend of Kopari’s 100% organic coconut oil, as well as aloe vera, cocoa seed butter and beeswax. The Body Glow has to be the best part of this – well worth trying!

WHBM Living Beyond Breast Cancer Butterfly Print Scarf – $48

whbm scarf

www.whbm.com

I may be a bit partial to White House Black Market (I’ve worked there part time for almost 7 years), but I’ve been really touched by the company’s involvement with and contribution to Living Beyond Breast Cancer – an organization that helps women assimilate back into normal life once in remission from Breast Cancer. I’ve had a few family members and close friends that have experienced this, and it really touches me to know that there’s an organization out there that serves this purpose.

Antonym Certified Organic Baked Blush – $36

Antonym blush

www.antonymcosmetics.com

This blush has a great shimmer to it, is cruelty free and Ecocert certified. The naturally-derived mica flecks give a nice shimmer without nasty aluminum, or other harsh chemicals. I prefer the Peach color for lighter skin tones, but according to reviews, the copper tone is a really nice tone on darker skin. It comes in a fun wooden container, so makes a great gift.


$100 and under

Taaluma Totes – $60-100

taluuma

www.carryacountry.com

The concept of these tote bags is pretty  cool. Wool and cotton from all around the world is brought back to the US, where disabled adults are employed to construct each bag. As if that didn’t make you smile, proceeds from the sale go back to the fabric’s country of origin in the form of a micro-loan to farmers and small business owners. YET – there’s more – the repayment funds go towards purchasing even more fabric, so as to promote sustainable economic growth. Carry your bag, carry the world.

Gloss Moderne Clean Luxury Masque – $65

gloss moderne

www.glossmoderne.com

This super conditioning mask is great for curly hair – it doesn’t weigh your hair down and keeps everything super sleek with zero frizz. The smell is to die for – the company’s signature scent was created by a popular perfumery. The best ingredient? Cocoa Butter 🙂

Le Creuset Heritage Stoneware Oval Covered Casserole – $100

le creuset casserole

www.lecreuset.com

This is another one of those things where, when you have it, you use it all the time and you can’t remember what life was like before you had it. A covered casserole dish is a great alternative to cooking things in a traditional dish with foil – the best part is, there’s no waste to remove and throw away. This one is big enough to fit all of your holiday side dishes, your fall mac and cheese dishes, your picnic salads… the whole nine yards.

Cuisinart Wine Opener – $99.95 – currently on sale for $79.96

cuisinart wine opener

www.williamssonoma.com

Remember those days in college when you would only buy screw-top wine bottles because you didn’t have a wine opener? Remember those days when… I still do that… because I’m lazy, shred a cork every now and again, and this screw-top Malbec was on sale? For days where I like to be a bit fancier, I really enjoy using a good ol’ shortcut… and this puppy can open up to 120 wine bottles on a single charge. It’s like a power tool! But, it’s safe! And for the kitchen!

 

Lilah B Perfection Eye Quad – $58

lilah b

www.lilahbeauty.com

This eye palette comes in 4 different combinations to cater to warm and cool skin tones. The best part? It contains aloe, marigold extract and coconut oil to give a creamy color that keeps your eyelids hydrated.

 

Trudeau Graviti Electric Salt and Pepper Mill Set in Copper – $79

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 9.06.41 PM.png

www.williamssonoma.com

These are absolutely beautiful, and are super simple to fill. All you do is flip them over, no work required! It grinds on its own. They stop as soon as you flip them back upright. They’re so pretty, you won’t want to hide them away in your cabinet.

Here you have it — my favorite picks so far for gift buying this year. Keep an eye out for more updates — definitely more to come! Be sure to share with your friends and follow on instagram @ thedivinekitchen for more fun!

Enjoy 🙂

-S