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Monday, September 15, 2014

CRUNCHY Butternut Squash Chips (GAPS, SCD, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free)


This, my friends, is a bowl of truly crunchy heaven!

When you are on GAPS, or many other diets, you seriously lack the crunch factor. There is the odd crispy thing, but there is no real crunch crunch. There’s the kind of crunch you get from a cracker, or the crunch you get from dried zucchini chips (which is a little on the chewy/leathery side) and of course there is the crunch you get from a carrot - but there nothing close to the crunch you get from a potato chip or a tortilla chip.
Until you make these little babies!
They are truly crunchy. And delicious. And even though somewhat labor intensive, not hard to do!
My family really, REALLY likes these! Even the ones that aren’t doing GAPS! Who would have ever thought that my kids would beg me for butternut squash anything on a regular basis? Not me, but here we are!

So, let’s get started!
This recipe only has two ingredients. The recipe is not so much in the ingredients however, it is in the method.
It does help to have a dehydrator to make it easier to make these chips, but an oven works too.

Butternut Squash Chips


Ingredients:


1 Butternut squash, preferably one with a long, straight neck
Ghee, or frying oil of choice

Equipment: Potato peeler, Mandoline or other slicer (you need something that produces thin, even slices,) a dehydrator (or oven,) and means to deep or pan fry, kitchen tongs.

Method:

Slice the butternut squash just where it begins to bulge outwards.
That is where the seeds usually start. We want to use the top part for chips.


You can also use the bottom part for chips, however, they will end up being thin-ish half moon shapes.  I generally hollow out the bottom part and place it in the freezer. Once I have collected a few, I defrost and stuff them with meat and veggies for dinner. Not only does it taste delicious, it also looks really cute, prepared in it’s own little butternut squash bowl!

   

Peel the top part of the squash. You generally have to go over the same spot a couple of times to get to the bright orange flesh, with no whitish skin left, or the green veins that sometimes run under the skin.


Slice on a mandoline. I have tried several different thicknesses and personally I prefer 1/8 of an inch. They don’t take too long to dry and they still make a pretty sturdy chip.
You can go a little thinner or a little thicker, but I really wouldn’t go thicker than 1/4 inch, as the puffing up later will be impeded if the chip is too thick.


 
  

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and in batches, boil the squash slices. About 2 minutes per batch.
They should still be pretty firm when you pull them out and by no means cooked through. I use kitchen tongs to pull them out and they still stand up really well to that grabbing pressure. If they fall apart on you, you are cooking them for too long. We really just want to blanch them!
I usually blanch them in 4-5 batches. Make sure that you put them into the boiling water one by one, so none of them stick together going in!


Once blanched, layer them onto the trays of your dehydrator. I tend to wait until they have cooled down just enough for me to touch all the slices, then layer them in there. Process according to your dehydrator instructions until completely dry. Some will curl up, some won’t - it’s all good.

You can also lay them out in a single layer on cookie sheets and dry them on the lowest setting of your oven.


And this is what they will look like once done. Completely dry, somewhat hard, but in a leathery kind of way.
Now, the magic happens.
I have no photos of the actual frying process. There is a reason for that!
The reason is .... you need to be FAST. As in, split seconds fast, so there’s no way I could photograph and not have the chips burn.

I generally fry mine in a small pan with about an inch or so of ghee in it. You can use other oils or fats too. It all works.


Heat your fat to about 350-375 F.

Now, fry them, one by one. Yes, don’t be tempted to dump them all in, I guarantee you they will all burn as you can’t get them out fast enough.


So, one by one, using kitchen tongues again, place a dehydrated chip in the hot fat, almost instantly flip it around to the other side and them take it out. I am literally talking about a second on each side.
But in that second, magic happens. You will see the chip puff up, sometimes it will uncurl, and it will turn to a deep orange. Sometimes the color doesn’t look like it changed much, but it will continue cooking even after you pulled it out, so DO pull it out. They will turn into an orangey brown once they cool.


Place on a kitchen towel to drain the excess oil/fat.


Keep doing this, one by one.


If you leave them in to get really brown, they are still crispy, but the more “burnt” they become, the more bitter they will taste, and that’s not what we want. So, one second each side, remember?
See the difference in the photo below. The left one went too far, the right one is what you’re aiming for !


Below you can see how the chip changes from dehydrated state to fried state. See those lovely bubbles? That’s the crunch factor!

    
Dehydrated squash slice.                                     Fried chip from dehydrated slice.

And there you have it. I like to give a light shake of Herbamare over them and enjoy, either by themselves or with dips, salsa, as nachos, etc.


Yes,  these are a bit of work! But the good news is that because they are dehydrated, you don’t have to do ALL of the above every time you make them. You can make large batches of dehydrated slices and store them in an air tight container and fry them up pretty quickly whenever you want them!
And butternut squash season is coming, so they will be a lot cheaper too. Well worth stocking up on!


I generally store the dehydrated slices in an air-tight jar and then fry up as many as we will eat. However, if you are going to store the fried chips longer, make sure they're in an air-tight container or bag, otherwise they will lose some of their crunch!

Notes:

Since this is a little labor intensive, I did of course experiment with seemingly simpler ways. None of them worked out.
Here is what I’ve tried:
  • I tried them fresh and fried, total flop. Literally. Nothing crispy about them at all!
  • I tried them fresh (without the dehydrating step) both blanched and not blanched. Also didn’t work out. Except for making them paper thin ... but those don't hold up to much and they were quite hard to get to the right crispness without completely burning them. And no puffing up either.
  • Tried them just soaked in water and then dehydrated and fried - got crispy and a little bit puffy but they also had an oddly bitter flavor, which I really didn’t care for!


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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Chicken Broccoli Casserole (GAPS, SCD, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb)

One of our favorite GAPS casseroles! It’s pretty quick and easy and my kids LOVE this one!

 

 

 

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

 

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, cooked (rotisserie chicken, or cooked chicken from making stock)

1 onion, chopped

24 oz. organic Broccoli (fresh or frozen)

3/4 cup Honeyville Almond Flour
1 1/2 tsp Herbamare or sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder
1/4 cup nutritional yeast ( I use Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast)
1/3 cup  Mayonnaise (I use homemade)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs, preferably pastured
1 tbsp. pickle juice (or 2 tsp of lemon juice)
1/3 cup coconut milk ( I use  Natural Value Coconut Milk)

 

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Steam broccoli florets,  take the meat off the chicken and place in a large bowl.  Add the broccoli.

In a separate bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients.

Pour over the chicken and broccoli and mix until everything is well covered.

Pour into a greased baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and it’s set.

Enjoy!

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Easy Chicken Nuggets (With Many Variations) - GAPS friendly, Paleo, Grain Free, Gluten Free, Low Carb

We love these little un-breaded nuggets around here. They are tasty and dip-able, they freeze well and they warm up great in the toaster oven. They are also really tasty cold, straight out of the fridge or lunch box.
You can also make them into larger patties and enjoy them as a burger!

Feel free to half the recipe below - it makes a LOT of nuggets. I tend to cook for several meals at once and freeze, so I don’t have to make the effort as often!

They are easy to make and you don’t have to deal with breading them. You could also just bake these in the oven, but we love them pan fried with a little ghee around here, as they get a nice little crust around them, which just adds to the deliciousness!

Unfortunately my digital camera card is currently inaccessible, so this post is without food photos today, but I will either take new ones the next time I make these, or get them off the card one way or another!

 

Easy Chicken Nuggets

Makes about 55-60 chicken nuggets

Ingredients:

3 large eggs, preferably pastured

3 tbsp. coconut flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill Organic coconut flour)

3 tbsp. almond flour (I use Honeyville almond flour)

4 lbs. of ground chicken (or ground turkey) - they also work with pork or a mix of the three

2 tbsp. ghee - mayonnaise or coconut oil work too!

  • Seasonings of choice. I usually use the following:

1 tbsp.  Herbamare or sea salt

1 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg or mace

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

 

Ghee or oil/fat of choice for cooking the nuggets.

 

Preparation:

In a large bowl, combine eggs, coconut flour, almond flour and seasonings (salt, herbs, onion powder, paprika, cumin, etc.) The resulting paste should be about the consistency of soaked bread crumbs. If it's too dry, add a little water. Then mix in the ghee (you can also use left-over mayo.)

Add the ground meat and with your hands, combine everything well.

Take about 1 tbsp. sized balls of the meat mix, flatten them a little to make a nugget shape and fry them in batches in a frying pan with 1 tbsp. of ghee or oil of choice until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Fry them up in batches and don’t crowd the pan!

Serve with gaps friendly ketchup ;)

 

Notes and Variations:

- You can omit the coconut flour, even thought that will change the texture a little.

- You can also omit the almond flour and use either all coconut flour or another nut or seeds flour - again the texture will be slightly different though.

- They can be baked or even deep fried in some healthy oil!  Bake in a pre-heated 375 F oven for 20 minutes, or until done.

- For buffalo chicken nuggets,  add 1 tbsp. of Frank’s Original  Hot Sauce to the meat mix. Bake or fry the nuggets. Mix 1/3 cup of Frank’s Original  Hot Sauce and 1/4 cup of melted butter or ghee and heat until just warm and combined. 
After you baked your chicken nuggets for 15 minutes (or fried them in a pan to almost done), dip the nuggets into the butter/hot sauce mix and either place back on your baking sheet or back in the pan. Bake for another 5 minutes, or if frying in a pan, give them another minute or so on each side.

- If you are really looking for a breaded chicken nugget, prepare the meat mix as above, then mix the following in a bowl for your nugget coating:

Once you shaped your nuggets, gently roll them in the breading mix and ensure they are evenly coated. Place them on a silpad or parchment paper and bake as instructed above. The “breaded” variety is better baked than pan fried.
You can use the buffalo sauce instructions on the breaded nuggets too.

 

Can’t find ground chicken or can’t find the kind of chicken you would like to use, ground?


Grind your own!

I grind mine with the meat grinder attachment of my kitchen aid.  I use this one.
However,  you can also grind chicken in your food processor.

 

Here is how!

  • If you are starting with fresh chicken, cut it into one inch cubes and place them on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper. Make sure the meat is not touching each other. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  • If you are starting with frozen chicken, let it thaw just a little bit, then slice into one inch cubes with a large knife. I find that chicken is often sliced much easier while still somewhat frozen!
  • We need the meat to be semi-frozen, as it will enable the food processor to chop more evenly, otherwise you end up with chicken mush.
  • Now fill the food processor about half full and  PULSE the meat cubes until you have about the consistency of ground meat. 
    Really, PULSE, don’t let it run!  And make sure you work in small batches.
  • Pick out any larger remaining pieces and pulse those again.
  • Either use straight away or, if you started with fresh chicken, freeze for future use.


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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Honey Sweetened Lemon Curd - The Quick And Easy Way (Dairy-Free, Refined Sugar Free, GAPS legal)

Do you love lemon curd? I do! And it can be such a nourishing treat, if you use the right ingredients!
Ah, but wait - it’s a pain to make. All the separating and stirring  and then you have to strain it, so you don’t have all the little bits of egg that seem to inevitably occur. And even if you’re willing to do all that,  you’re still left with all the egg whites in your fridge.
Not any more! Even though, you could make the GAPS legal nut thins with the left-over egg whites, but then what would you do with the left-over egg whites from your homemade mayo? *grin*
But I digress.
Below is a recipe that uses the whole egg and a method that has your lemon curd done with no bits, no straining and no separating of anything in about 10 minutes beginning to end. Well, maybe 15 minutes if you take a while squeezing those lemons!
And it is honey sweetened to boot!
Here we go!

Quick and Easy Lemon Curd


Ingredients:

  • 4 medium sized, preferably pastured, eggs
  • 1/4 cup of grass-fed butter (room temperature) or  organic expeller pressed coconut oil (this has no coconut flavor - if you use regular coconut oil it will have a coconut flavor)
  • 1/3 cup raw honey
  • 2 tsp lemon peel from organic lemon (or 1 tsp of organic lemon peel powder)
  • 1/3 cup  of freshly squeezed organic lemon juice (bottled works too, in a pinch)

Preparation:

Add to a blender the eggs, the room temperature coconut oil or butter, if using, add the honey and the lemon peel. Quickly mix together for a couple of seconds, just until combined.
Add the lemon juice and give it a good whirl for a few second on high,  until well combined. The color will become a little lighter. But it really just takes a few seconds.

NOTE: When the mixture first comes out of the blender it will look all curdled and separated. Don’t worry about it. It will come together into a silky smooth curd once it gets warmed up. I promise!
Don’t worry about any foam you might have on top as you are heating up your curd - once it all gets warmed through, the foam will go away too.

Pour the mixture into a saucepan (I love using these ceramic coated saucepans - nothing sticks and clean up is WAY easy) and on medium high heat, under constant stirring, cook the mixture until it thickens.
Don’t walk away! This can happen quickly, and really, do keep stirring!
Once it thickens up, that is it! Perfectly smooth lemon curd.

Take it off the heat, fill curd into jars, let it cool, then place in the fridge! It will get a little more solid in the fridge.
Enjoy your silky smooth lemon curd!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Going GAPS

Hello friends! It’s been a long time again!

It has been quite the summer for us, busy, busy, busy! But school is back and my now 3rd-graders (*gasp*) are getting back into their day-to-day school rhythm.
Which means, I get to go back to some kind of rhythm myself, too!

Lot’s has happened around here, not least of all a somewhat major change in eating protocol. Anna, my daughter, and I are currently following the GAPS protocol, which is not the easiest to do. But we are hoping for great improvements along the way and settling into our new plan.
Amazingly enough, Anna decided all by herself that she wanted to join me and we’ve since eased our way into it all through full GAPS. We have yet to do the intro at a later date, but for now we are on the full GAPS protocol.


Not familiar with GAPS? You can find out more here and here.


Which means a LOT of my time is spent in the kitchen. And even though I pretty much made most of our food from scratch as it was before, now it is EVERYTHING, and because only half of the family is on GAPS, it also means double cooking a lot of the time, even though I try to keep that to a minimum by just supplementing side dishes for the boys. For me, it is of course still more restrictive, as I am still having major issue with dairy, which is one of the reasons I opted for the “reset button” for my digestion and health that is the GAPS diet.

While delving into this whole new world of  dos and don’ts, I have also slowly started to come up with and/or revise old recipes to fit our current eating plan.

So, if you are on the GAPS/ SCD or paleo  journey too (many times GAPS specific recipes will also work for low-carbers (replacing the honey) and people who live gluten-free,) you are in luck, as you may find a whole new and ever expanding section of recipes on my site, suitable for those ways of eating.

I will start posting some of the new recipes over the next few days!

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Monday, June 2, 2014

On Peaks And Valleys

Yes, I am still alive! I know, I’ve been gone for a while.

And that leads me right into the topic I want to put out there today.

Whenever you read about successful blogging by the experts anywhere, they tell you that one of the KEY things is to blog regularly. Lots of reasons why and they are all good reasons.

Yet, so many bloggers I know blog in spurts. Does it make me want to read their blogs any less? No, not really, in fact sometimes I find the blogs that give me a great big blog post every single day a bit much, because I will inevitably fall behind.

 

I am very much a “spurt blogger” too. For weeks, even months, I want to share everything on my blog. I find the time, I take the photos, it all flows nicely. And then I inevitably enter a phase where it’s jut not happening. Usually, something else needs more of my attention, or I am just simply “blogged out” for a bit.
I used to have a lot of guilt about this. After all, I wasn’t doing it right.  I was letting my readers down. And it’s not like I don’t have anything to share - I just couldn’t quite get “my act together” to just keep doing it. Surely I would lose every single reader I ever had if I just quit blogging for a month.

Especially if I did that on a semi-regular basis.

 

But lately, it has occurred to me that first of all, the guilt doesn’t help anybody, least of all me. In fact, if there’s guilt in the way, chances are that blog post are even less likely to happen again, because well, it’s just no fun! Who needs that heaviness?

Second of all, it’s part of who I am. Be it on the blog, be it in my art, be it in real life. I work, play, paint, blog, be an extrovert/introvert in spurts. And I thoroughly enjoy it!


And then I need to retreat a little. Find my center again. Refuel. I enjoy the quiet then. I enjoy focusing on something else for a bit. I enjoy my own company for a bit.


I’m not talking completely exhausting myself, crashing and then needing to retreat to recuperate and “save” myself. Even though, that’s been more my tendency in my earlier years. These days my peaks and valleys are more rolling than spiking. *grin*

 


What I am saying is, that I have realized that this is, as much as anything else, who I am.

I am a spurt blogger.

I am an introvert with extrovert spurts or an extrovert with introvert spurts and I need  both.

 


For many years I always thought I should be finding the balance between the two at all times. Like, if I were to do a “spot check” on my life at any given time, I should be able to see balance (slightly more or less) between aspects of my life at all times.

And, not surprisingly, I always failed. Then I would beat myself up about not being able to find the balance, etc.

 

I have come to realize that when I am on fire, when I am inspired, when I am in the thralls of creation - there is no such thing as balance. Not in those moments or phases. The balance will come again, but it’s not there in those moments and phases of creation and change!

I have also realized that this doesn’t mean I am “unbalanced” either.

Much like on an old fashioned scale, when you add weight to one side (or take it away for that matter,) there will be a temporary imbalance as the side that’s being added to will swing to one side. Until you balance it out with the other side. It’s how it works.  And it’s a good thing.

 

Perfect balance at all times would be standstill. And life, the universe and we as human beings - we just don’t do perfect balance/ standstill for any length of time!


And by realizing, accepting, and honoring that I have found much more joy in my life - with both the “peaks” and the “valleys.”  Neither is good or bad. They both just are.

And I mean really honoring that. Intellectually we all know that there can’t be balance at all times. This is nothing new.

 

But to really truly internalize that and enjoy the swinging to the left and to the right of the proverbial scale, and enjoying visiting each side AND the swinging in between, to embrace the chaos that can ensue in the process -  that took a little more work for me!

Embracing the chaos and trusting that it will all work out in the end - that’s not only a true act of letting go of control, but of trust and receiving. Not something that comes easily to me. But I am getting better!

In all areas of my life.

 

And yes, that also means that there may be blog posts every other day for several months. And then there might be nothing. For a month. Or two.

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