Sunday, December 15, 2013

Wholesome Birthday Apple Pie

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

Last weekend was my Dad's 64th birthday!  I hope he's okay with me revealing his age.  My dad is one of the most influential people in my life, and I was so happy to be able to celebrate his birthday with him this year.  The last time I was in town for his birthday was in 2009 for his 60th, before I moved out east.  It's certainly been awhile, so I figured I had to somehow make up for lost time.  Solution?  I made him his favourite dessert - apple pie!

4 candles to represent 64 wholesome years of life!

Now this isn't just any apple pie.  As I was growing up, the first and foremost requirement of a dessert for dad is that it's sugar-free.  Since apples have some of their own natural sweetness, we're off to a good start!  Next criteria, a more recent realization on his part, is that he does much better following a gluten-free diet.  Having been strictly gluten-free in the past myself, and continuing to be mostly gluten-free now, I felt this didn't present too much of an issue (Especially since Thanksgiving, when I made a fantastic pumpkin pie with the Sweet & Salty Spiced Pecan Crust from Oh She Glows - this really boosted my confidence in making gluten-free pie crust!).  The final bit of criteria for my dad's birthday pie was for it to be dairy-free; not essential for him, but important for me so that I could enjoy it with him!

So, a sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free apple pie?  Is this actually going to resemble apple pie when it's done??  I wasn't too worried about it.

As for apples themselves, the old adage goes, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."  How much truth is there to this statement, anyway?  Actually, apples are rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, and dietary fibre, and may reduce the risk of cancer, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and heart disease.  They are also protective against neurotoxicity and stroke, and may help to lower LDL ('bad') cholesterol.

One additional note - apples are an important fruit to consume organic, as they rank highest in pesticide residue of all produce, according to Environmental Working Group.  To read my posting about pesticides on produce, click here.

Enough on the health benefits - let’s get started!  This recipe is adapted from Jules’ Fuel (blog of a nutrition consultant, life & health coach); when I saw that the crust featured ground nuts instead of gluten-free flour, I knew we were off to an excellent start in both the taste and texture departments!

The crust was the first task.  This nut crust features ground almonds as the main ingredient, and an egg to hold it all together:

Crust Ingredients:
2 cups of almond flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 egg
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

Combine almond flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add egg and melted coconut oil and mix well to form dough.  Press dough firmly and evenly into the base and sides of a 9” pie dish.  Using a fork, poke a few holes into the crust before baking.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

'Pat-in-the-pan' pie crust, gluten- & grain-free version!

Next step – the juicy, spiced apple filling.  No wonder this is dad’s favourite dessert!  I did some research into the best apples for apple pie, and honestly, for the most part it seems to be up to personal preference.  For this pie, I decided to use a combination of Fuji (my favourite apple for eating out of hand) and Pink Lady.  Both are sweet, juicy, and delicious.  Other apples that do well in pies are the classic Granny Smith and Honeycrisp (another of my favourites!).  It's best to avoid apples with flesh that breaks down during baking, such as McIntosh and Red Delicious.  It’s hard to go terribly wrong with your apple choice, but these general guidelines will help to prevent a mushy pie.  If you’d like a more in depth discussion of choosing the best apples for pie, read here.

Filling Ingredients

4 large apples
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

Cut apples into thin slices, or smaller if preferred, and place in a large bowl.  Health tip:  Don't peel your apples - most of the fibre and antioxidants are in the peel!  Add the remaining filling ingredients and mix well to coat apples evenly.  Layer apple mixture evenly in the pre-baked pie crust.

And the glorious finishing touch – crumble topping!  This is my favourite way to complete a pie crust, as it takes advantage of the best of apple crumble and traditional pie crust.  Having this crumbly mixture on top adds incredible flavour and texture, and truly is the perfect finishing touch to any pie.

Crumble Topping Ingredients 
1 cup coarsely ground walnuts

1/4 cup coconut flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey (optional)

Process walnuts in food processor or magic bullet, and mix with coconut flour and cinnamon.  Sprinkle the topping mixture on top of the filling, and add a drizzle of honey evenly on top, if desired.

I drizzled honey on less than half of the pie - I didn't notice it made much of a difference!

In the oven, already looking good!

Bake at 350F for 1 hour.  Allow to cool briefly and serve hot with coconut whipped cream.  Don’t forget the candles if it’s Dad’s (or anyone’s!) birthday!

Fresh from the oven!

Coconut Whipped Cream

2 cans coconut milk, refrigerated for 24 hours or at least overnight
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey (optional, or to taste)

The purpose of refrigerating the coconut milk is to separate the thick coconut cream from the coconut water.  When you open the cans, scoop off the thick cream and place in a deep mixing bowl.  Save the coconut water if desired for use in other recipes, or discard.  Add vanilla extract and honey, and whip with an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes, or until thick.  Refrigerate to thicken even further; Coconut Whipped Cream keeps well in the fridge for a week.

Ready to dig in and enjoy!

A couple key points here to make this recipe a success:  First, don’t use lite coconut milk – it doesn’t contain enough fat, which is what we need!  Also, I’ve found huge variation among different brands of coconut milk.  I recommend Thai Kitchen’s organic coconut milk, as it has been the most consistent in separating when refrigerated.

This pie was a hit!  I was so happy to be able to make a treat that dad could really enjoy, and to pass along to others wanting to make a nutritious and delicious apple pie.  Success!  I better start brainstorming now how I’m going to top this for dad’s milestone 65th birthday next year!  Any suggestions?  Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear your ideas!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Festive Antioxidant Holiday Granola Recipe

Staying true to my last post, I’m following up with my promise to share my favourite way to have granola.  For me, this all stemmed from back in the day when I could tolerate goat milk yogurt (I miss those days!), but nevertheless, non-dairy yogurt or simply almond/coconut milk will do just fine.  Two of my favourite non-dairy yogurts are So Delicious Cultured Almond Milk Yogurt and So Delicious Coconut Yogurt.  More recently I also discovered a local brand of organic almond milk yogurt called 'Almond Yoga' from the company Crave Conscious in North Vancouver.  I suggest you experiment and see which you like best!  If you are fine with dairy products, just look for an organic yogurt made with whole milk.

An exciting new discovery - locally made almond milk yogurt

Just in time for the holidays, this recipe features a beautiful medley of Christmas-coloured fruits – mango, kiwi, and pomegranate, the true star (you'll see why later).  While I chose these fruits for their festive colours, they also carry incredible health benefits.  Let's review those first before we get to the recipe!

Don't these colours just irresistibly put you in the Christmas spirit?

Aside from being completely delicious, mangos are a rich source of vitamin A and C, fibre, and a variety of minerals and phytochemicals.  In addition, a study at Oklahoma State University suggested that mango could help reduce body fat and have positive effects on blood glucose and cholesterol levels, demonstrating a similar effect to the drug rosiglitazone (used to lower blood glucose levels).

Tommy Atkins mango, freshly diced.  Ataúlfo mangos are also delicious, 
and both are readily available at most supermarkets.

Kiwis are an incredible source of vitamin C.  With one kiwi containing 120% the recommended daily intake, they contain a higher concentration of vitamin C than oranges!  Kiwis are also an impressive source of fibre and potassium, as well as a variety of flavonoids and carotenoids that offer antioxidant protection.  As a tip, to get the most fibre from your kiwi, leave the peel on.  It might take some getting used to, but if you can get past the fuzzy peel, all the better for meeting your daily fibre requirement!

The kiwi is truly a stunning fruit.  I suggest you get acquainted!

As a side note, a good rule of thumb is to not peel any fruit or vegetable that you can easily pierce with your fingernail (other examples: apples, cucumbers, potatoes).  On the contrary, do remove the peel of those fruits and vegetables that are not easily penetrable (bananas and oranges are the most common examples here).

Aside from being rich in potassium, fibre, folic acid and other B vitamins, pomegranates are an outstanding source of antioxidants.  In fact, one study found that pomegranate juice was superior to grape juice and red wine in providing antioxidant protection against free radicals.  Pomegranates offer great cardiovascular benefit, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, preventing abnormal clot formation (which can cause heart attacks and stroke), and promoting reversal of atherosclerotic plaque deposition; they are also well-known for their anti-cancer properties.  

The only downside to pomegranates is that they are known for being difficult to de-seed.  Fear no more!  Pomegranates are the true star of this post because I've discovered the most amazing video to share with you:  How to De-Seed a Pomegranate in 10 Seconds Using a Wooden Spoon.  I’ve done it and trust me, it works!  Prepare to be amazed at 3:07.  You won’t be picking apart pomegranates anymore if you follow the simple instructions in the video.  And it’s fun, too!

From left to right: Pomegranate half, pomegranate seeds successfully removed, 
and the empty pomegranate shell!

Alright, I bet you're salivating by now, knowing what a nutritious & antioxidant-rich treat you're in for!  I won't keep you in suspense any longer.  Here's the simple recipe:

Festive Antioxidant Holiday Granola

Ingredients (serves 1):

1/2 mango, diced
1 kiwifruit, diced
3-4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
1/4-1/3 cup Healthy Maple Granola
Almond or coconut milk (or yogurt, if a thicker consistency is desired)

If using yogurt, put a few large spoonfuls in the bottom of a single-serving sized bowl.  If not using yogurt, skip this step and layer mango and kiwi chunks evenly, then sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top.  It'll be looking beautiful already!  The finishing touch is definitely the granola - sprinkle granola as the final layer, and if you didn't use yogurt, add almond/coconut milk as desired.  Eat the whole thing with a spoon and enjoy!

A close-up view - it makes me happy, just looking at the bright medley of colours!

Next time:  My dad's birthday is coming up this week, and I'm happy to be in the same city as him so I can make him a birthday dessert!  My next post will be a Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Grain-Free Apple Pie.  It's a surprise, so don't tell him... Mmmm, I'm excited already!

Ignarro LJ, Byrns RE, Sumi D, de NF, Napoli C. Pomegranate juice protects nitric oxide against oxidative destruction and enhances the biological actions of nitric oxide. Nitric Oxide. 2006 Sep;15(2):93-102.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Almonds, Coconuts, and Pumpkin Breakfast Porridge

My apologies, as I'm sure you have noticed, I have neglected my blog for the past few months.  For those who don't know, I have spent the last few years studying naturopathic medicine and this year I finished my program to become a naturopathic doctor!  Between graduation, licensing exams, moving back to the west coast, another exam, and working on getting my BC license, I've had my hands full.  But not to worry - while my hands have been full of books, papers, pens, acupuncture needles, and my stethoscope, they've also been full of plenty of good eats!  Now, while I am waiting for my BC license application to be processed, I figured it's a good time to catch up on sharing some of these good eats with you.

We're definitely in the season for warm breakfast foods, and this breakfast porridge recipe is out of this world.  But first, I have to tell you the story that led me to it!

 Yes, it does taste as good as it looks!

I finally made my own almond milk, impressed with the result and happy to be able to finally check it off my bucket list.  It was way easier than I thought, and tasted amazing - it really made me wonder what I have been doing this whole time, drinking the store-bought stuff!  The ingredients are pure and simple, free of any added emulsifiers or stabilizers.  Having been dairy-free for years now, I'm always experimenting with new dairy-free products.  Lately, however, there has been some publicity about carrageenan, a food additive highly prevalent in many non-dairy milks and linked to intestinal inflammation and digestive complaints.  It's a tricky one to avoid, since most non-dairy milks do contain carrageenan for its thickening and stabilizing effects.  I have found one brand, Silk, which is carrageenan-free, however it is not organic!  If anyone has found an organic almond milk that does not contain carrageenan, please let me know.  For now, I'll keep alternating between Silk and making my own!

Homemade almond milk and beautiful flowers from my mom!

I'm addicted to Angela Liddon's vegan recipe blog, Oh She Glows.  So, it's not surprising to me that her recipe for My Favourite Almond Milk absolutely blew my mind.  It has a very fresh almond taste, with the natural sweetness of dates and flavours of cinnamon and vanilla.  I won't re-post her recipe here, but I highly encourage you to visit her blog and check it out for yourself.  For the record, here's a close-up of how mine turned out:

Check out that gorgeous foam with flecks of vanilla!

Feeling increasingly adventurous these days, I more recently made my own coconut milk, which is possibly even more simple than almond milk!  Less squeezing involved - I used a wire strainer and it worked just fine.  This creamy deliciousness closely rivalled my almond milk, and really it's up to your taste buds which one you prefer.  Here's the recipe:

Homemade Coconut Milk
4 cups hot water (not boiling)
2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a blender, combine hot water, coconut flakes and vanilla and blend until smooth.  Filter out remaining chunks of coconut using a wire strainer (you can also use cheesecloth if desired).  Save the coconut pulp for making breakfast porridge (see below).  Drink coconut milk immediately or place in the fridge to enjoy a chilled beverage. 


I was so impressed with how the coconut milk turned out, I just had to show you two views.

As you can see, homemade non-dairy milks are pretty easy to make.  Actually, the hardest part for me was figuring out what to do with the leftover pulp afterward.  For inspiration, I did a quick Google search which led me to a multitude of ideas, but the one that most stood out to me was the one that used another ingredient I currently have sitting in my fridge - leftover pumpkin!

Pumpkin Breakfast Porridge.  It makes me feel all warm inside just thinking about it.  As a bonus, not only is it gluten-free and dairy-free, it's Paelo too!  So really, anyone can eat it.. unless you have a nut allergy.  In that case, choose your ingredients accordingly!

The site I found used almond pulp, but since I had just made coconut milk, I decided to use my leftover coconut pulp instead.  Here's the link to the original recipe, and below is my rendition!

Just in case the first photo wasn't enough to get you excited!

Pumpkin Breakfast Porridge

Ingredients (1 serving):
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 heaping tablespoons coconut pulp (leftover from coconut milk - see above)
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1/3 cup almond milk (coconut milk would work well, too!)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
Pecans, chopped (or other nuts of choice)
Raisins (or other dried fruit of choice)
Additional coconut pulp for sprinkling

In a small pot, combine pumpkin, coconut pulp, ground flaxseed, half the almond milk, sea salt and cinnamon.  Stir continuously as the mixture heats up, and allow to cook for a few minutes.  Add remaining almond milk as desired.

Remove from stove and transfer to a small bowl.  Sprinkle with chopped pecans, raisins, and coconut pulp.  Serve hot and enjoy!

That's all for now - stay tuned until next time for a return to my Healthy Maple Granola, which has gotten such great reviews that I feel inspired to share how I like to use granola as part of a festive holiday breakfast!


Monday, May 6, 2013

Healthy Maple Granola

Reflecting on my Cavewoman (aka Paleo) Adventure, I'm continuing to follow the principles of the Paleo Diet in an 80/20 fashion, and it seems to be a very sustainable way of eating!  I'm consuming more vegetables and fruits than ever, and with summer's bounty on its way, what could be more exciting?

One recipe that I attempted during my more strict Paleo phase was a recipe for Paleo-nola.  Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like - Paleo granola!  It seemed promising, but I found it to be a bit too heavy for my taste buds.  So, together with my roommate Katie Smith (a fellow ND), we created a granola recipe using rolled oats (read my post about Medicinal Properties of Oats).  We made it a lot less grain-heavy than most granola recipes, while being much richer in nuts & seeds.  If you do the math, it might almost be an 80/20 ratio!  But I'll leave the number crunching for you... I'll crunch the granola.  Here's my new favourite breakfast recipe!

Scarlett & Katie's Amazing Maple Granola

Dry ingredients
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 + 1/8 cups hazelnuts, chopped
3/4 + 1/8 cups almonds, chopped
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon sea salt

Wet ingredients
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/8 cup almond cashew butter (almond butter would work fine too!)
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Melt coconut oil over low heat in a small pot and mix in rest of wet ingredients.  Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and bake in the oven at 325 F for 15 minutes; remove and stir, then bake another 10-20 minutes, or until golden brown.  

Sprinkle on a bowl of fresh fruit and serve with almond milk.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Paleo Continues: The Best Chicken Ever

My first day of being Paleo was a few weeks ago, and overall it's been a great experience.  So far I've dedicated the weekdays to being Paleo and allowed myself to be more relaxed on the weekends - like indulging in a small piece of dairy-free chocolate cake!  Aside from ensuring I am aware of consuming adequate carbohydrates during the week (see my previous post), I have found the Paleo diet to be one of the cleanest ways of eating that I have discovered to date, and I feel fantastic!

Today, I just have to share with you simply the best chicken recipe ever, which I've adapted from the book Delicious Detox by Carol Morley, ND.  It relies on heart-healthy almonds for its base, which are known to lower LDL ('bad') cholesterol, increase HDL ('good') cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease.  Almonds are also an excellent non-dairy source of calcium, as well as being rich in vitamin E, magnesium, fibre, protein, and monounsaturated fats (the same health-promoting fats as in olive oil).  This chicken is easy to make, incredibly flavourful, lightly 'breaded' yet moist, and superbly healthy.  If that combination sounds good to you, you're in for a real treat!

Rosemary Almond Chicken with steamed broccoli and carrots

Rosemary Almond Chicken

1/2 cup almonds
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 chicken breasts
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 360°F, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and lightly grease with olive oil.

Grind the almonds and spices in a blender or Magic Bullet until they have reached a crumbly consistency, similar to that of breadcrumbs.

Ingredients for almond mixture, clockwise: Almonds, salt, pepper, parsley, 
rosemary, basil, oregano.  Final almond mixture in centre.

Generously coat chicken breasts with almond mixture on both sides, and drizzle with olive oil.  Save leftover almond mixture in a glass container in the fridge.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes.  Flip chicken breasts, drizzle with a little more olive oil, and bake for 15 more minutes, or until cooked through.  Enjoy with steamed vegetables of your choice, and use any of the baked almond mixture left on the baking sheet as a sauce for the vegetables!

Bon Appétit!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Carb it up, buttercup! - Day 2

Although it usually takes an extreme diet to severely affect your metabolism, I have heard of some people feeling unwell while following this diet because they weren't consuming enough carbohydrates.  Remembering my colleague's promise that this is not a low-carb diet if done properly, and also wanting to prevent hypoglycemia, I loaded up on root vegetables at dinner tonight.

The first half of the day's meals weren't too remarkable, aside from adding shredded coconut and sunflower seeds to my mixed fruit at breakfast, and as promised, leftover frittata for lunch - see yesterday's post for the recipe!

Then, working in my office toward the end of a long day, my body was asking for an early dinner (5pm is early for me!).  Although my original goal was to do all this Paleo cooking myself, as a busy clinic intern, you often have to adapt.  So, the special in our delicious CCNM cafeteria today?  'Gourmet Poutine'; which isn't really poutine at all, but rather a hearty and nutritious dish of roasted yams, sweet potatoes and beets, spinach, mushrooms, onions, salsa, homemade hot sauce, vegan gravy and a side of kale salad - I can feel my salivary glands perking up at the sheer memory of it!

'Gourmet Poutine' - in a box!

This dish is a perfect example of how to follow the Paleo Diet while ensuring you are consuming sufficient carbohydrates.  Root vegetables such as the ones featured in this dish are rich in complex (slow-digesting) carbohydrates as well as high quality fibre.  Yams and sweet potatoes have the added bonus of being rich sources of beta-carotene (plant source of vitamin A), while beets earn their nutritional stars from pigments called betalains, which give them their deep red colour.  Betalains are known for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and liver detoxification properties.  Turnip, rutabaga, parsnips, radishes, celeriac and all varieties of squash are additional sources of paleo-friendly carbohydrates.

My dinner bears a striking resemblance to my computer...

I had to share this picture of because it made me laugh - the compostable to-go container is nearly the same size and shape as my MacBook.  Yes, I admit that I was multitasking; not the best thing for my Spleen Qi, but at least my meal was (mostly) cooked!  What is Spleen Qi, you ask?  I'll talk more about Traditional Chinese Medicine next time, including my views on raw vs. cooked foods.

Until then, stay tuned for the next chapter in my cavewoman adventure!


Monday, March 11, 2013

My Cavewoman Adventure: Day 1

Today was the first day of my ‘Cavewoman Adventure’, so to speak.  In my previous post, I discussed the potential benefits of following a Paleo Diet, and while I have been mindful of the diet’s principles, I’ve decided it’s time to go for it 100% and see what happens!  A large part of my motivation comes from the fact that several of my colleagues are doing it as well – and what better kind of motivation to keep on track than having others for support?  Our group’s goal is 4 days, and depending how it goes, I’m hoping to last longer than that!  As I snack on plantain chips and trail mix, let me tell you about my first day as a pseudo-cavewoman!

Breakfast wasn’t too out of the ordinary.  In my usual bowl of mixed fruit, nuts and almond milk, I replaced my homemade granola with – you guessed it – more nuts and more fruit.  Not a bad start!  Together with a cup of green tea, I was well fueled for my morning class and dance rehearsal, and wasn’t hungry until lunchtime.

This was my big protein-dense meal – chicken breast (skin on!) with mixed greens, chopped avocado and tomatoes, and flax oil dressing.  Mmm, mmm.  If you’ve ever had the organic chicken from Hearty Catering (the cafeteria at CCNM), then you know what I’m talking about!

Afternoon Snack
I attended a MediHerb lecture this afternoon, and lucky for me I was able to navigate the food offerings to make a substantial Paleo-friendly plate of snacks.  A mandarin orange, mixed berries, and a handful of cashews were enough to keep my energy up throughout the afternoon.


For dinner, I made one of my favourite dishes which I make all the time – Fritatta!  This recipe is so good, I just have to share – see below!  You can think of this as basically a crust-less quiche (and in my case, cheese-less also!).  I pack it full of veggies and healthy fats, and hold it all together with free range omega-3 eggs.  I made it in my large stainless steel pan, so I have leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  Trust me, this is one of those things that tastes so good the next day, you’ll be happy to eat it cold!

Evening Snack
Tonight I’m babysitting my two-year-old ‘niece’ (my friend’s daughter), and while she’s sleeping, I’m catching up on work and enjoying the snacks her parents left for me.  Somehow, all these snacks are paleo-friendly – how did they know?!  There’s a sizeable bowl of almonds, pistachios, and plantain chips, with dried prunes on the side.  Together with my peppermint tea, I’m feeling pretty content at the end of Day 1 of my Cavewoman Adventure.  I’m excited to see – and taste – what tomorrow will bring to my plate!

Scarlett’s Frittata
½ tablespoon coconut oil
½ onion
3 large collard leaves
1 roma tomato
1 ½ cups zucchini, chopped
A dozen black olives (optional)
5 eggs
Dash of salt
Generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
As much cayenne as your spice tolerance will allow!
Drizzle of olive oil or flax oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F on broil setting. 
Chop vegetables into bite-sized pieces. 
Melt coconut oil in a large stainless steel frying pan over medium heat.  Add vegetables, and lightly sauté. 
Add eggs and spices, and mix well to combine.  Allow to cook without stirring on low-medium heat until mostly done; then put pan in the oven to allow the top to cook.
Once the top is firm (no uncooked egg visible), your frittata is ready!  Cut into slices and serve warm with a drizzle of olive oil or flax oil on top, and save the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.

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!