Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Taking the Paleo Plunge ...

... into baking, that is!

I've been intrigued by the Paleo Diet for awhile now.  Especially - I admit - when friends share amazing muffins, breads, and cookies that are not only free of gluten and dairy, but grain-free as well!  It gets me thinking that there must be something to this seemingly restrictive diet, after all.  And so I began my research.

'Paleo' is short for 'Paleolithic', and refers to the paleolithic era, a time period lasting about 2.5 million years and ending about 10,000 years ago as traditional diets were lost with the development of modern agriculture.  The basic premise of the Paleo Diet is to consume foods that resemble as closely as possible those eaten by our ancestors - all the way back to 'caveman' days, if you will.

The Paleo Diet is rich in good quality protein, healthy fat, fibre, potassium, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant phytochemicals, while being low in carbohydrates, high glycemic index foods, and sodium.  The goal of this way of eating, ultimately, is to prevent modern chronic diseases by consuming a diet containing only those foods which were possible to eat before the advent of modern agriculture and food processing.  Since dairy is already long gone from my diet, and I'm pretty sure we could all eat fewer grains and sugar with the goal of a longer, healthier life, I was intrigued to say the least.  And, I could still do some baking??  I'm game!

In a nutshell (no pun intended!), these are the basic guidelines for the Paleo Diet:

Don’t Eat:
Meat and poultry
Fish and seafood
Beans and legumes
Fruits and vegetables
Refined sugar
Nuts and seeds
White potatoes
Healthy oils (olive, coconut, flaxseed, avocado)
Processed foods (canned and packaged foods)

Refined vegetable oils

I'm not sure I'd commit to strictly following the Paleo Diet in the long-term, but I definitely see the benefit in adopting a lifestyle of consuming more of the foods on the left and fewer of those on the right.  Over time, I've gradually adopted an 80/20 sort of approach - consume Paleo-friendly foods 80% of the time, and eat freely the remaining 20% of the time.  I've found that this works quite well, as it allows me to eat well and yet not feel overly-restricted or inconvenienced - not to mention, I don't have to miss out on baking that doesn't happen to be Paleo!

Most recently, Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies that my colleague shared with our clinic group last week is what really peaked my interest in the Paleo Diet.  So, after years of experimenting with being gluten-free and dairy-free, I decided to try my hand at a new style of baking - Paleo-licious!

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

You will need:
·      3 cups almond flour (or coconut flour)
·      1 teaspoon baking soda
·      1 teaspoon salt
·      2 eggs (4 eggs if using coconut flour)
 ·      ½ cup maple syrup
·      1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·      ½ cup coconut oil (add extra ¼ cup coconut oil if using coconut flour)
·      1 ½ cups Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips

1.     Preheat oven to 350°F (I used 275°F in my hot oven)
2.     In medium sized mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients
3.     In a small mixing bowl beat eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla with a hand mixer
4.     Pour wet ingredients into dry and beat with a hand mixer until combined
5.     Melt coconut oil, pour into batter, and continue to blend until combined
6.     Stir in chocolate chips
7.     On a parchment-lined baking sheet, drop balls of cookie dough, approximately a tablespoon in size
8.     Bake for 15 minutes (8 minutes in my hot oven if using almond flour; a little longer for coconut flour)
9.     Let cool and enjoy!


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