Saturday, May 30, 2015

Book Review: Paleo Eats by Kelly Bejelly

     I can't go to the bookstore without grabbing an arm-load of the latest Paleo cookbooks and sitting down in the toy section while my kids look around and play. I usually discard about half of them because the recipes don't look appealing or are easily reproduced without spending upwards of $20. The other half I spend drooling over, but I usually discard several for being too expensive for the amount of recipes I would use. But every now and then, I find a book that I know I can't leave the store without getting. Kelly Bejelly's Paleo Eats is that book! Plus, her name is Kelly Bejelly, and that's just fun to say.

     If you're just starting out and trying to convert to Paleo, but are worried about missing some of your favorite comfort foods, this is the book for you.  Kelly's story is compelling. She talks about her struggles with prediabetes, depression, and panic attacks, followed by some very practical and good advise on converting to the Paleo lifestyle and what to stock in your kitchen.

     The chapter entitled "The Basic" is full of homemade condiments, including a delicious teriyaki sauce and strawberry jam. There's even a powdered sugar recipe that we've used on homemade mashmallows.

     Chapter 2 is all about breads, wraps, and pastries. Her pizza crust is to die for and has become our go to recipe for pizza/movie nights. We also love her grain-free wraps for ever thing from burritos to crepes to gyros. And when I can't avoid my craving to sloppy joes, I can't resist what we have lovingly termed "Bejelly buns," but she calls just plain hamburger buns.

     Chapter 3 is Breakfast, and her coconut cinnamon cereal is so good that I had to go to her website and try out her other cereals. The best part about the coconut cinnamon cereal, though is that it's nut-free, as well.

     Chapter 4 features the main events, and Kelly aims to please not just the Paleo, but the non-Paleo and the picky with recipes like Chicken Katsu, Chicken Parmesan, Southern Fried Chicken, Chicken Enchilada Cassarole, and Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs, just to name a few. And a word on her Chicken Parmesan: it is phenomenal! It's crusted in pork rinds! It'll make you cry it's so good!

     Chapter 5 is all about sides and salads. I have yet to try many of these, but they look delicious, including: cranberry sauce, creamy cucumer dill salad (which I totally need to make since we have a garden full of fresh cucumbers), hush puppies, onion rings, dressing, green been cassarole, grits (which is where I got my inspiration for my grits recipe), and many more.

     Chapter 7 is Drinks, and I really want to try the strawberry milk.

     What? Did I forget chapter 6? No. I saved the best for last. Chapter 6 is my reason for buying this book. It's the desserts chapter. While the peach cobbler, almond butter sandwich cookies, banana cream pie, and apple pie ice cream are to die for, I got this book for the cream-filled chocolate cupcakes, or as I like to call them: the Little Kelly Snack Cakes.

     This book also offers a Paleo baking tutorial at the end. It covers the different non-grain flours and talks about flour substitutions and troubleshooting. And for those new to cooking at all, there's even a glossary of basic cooking terms, cooking equivalens and conversions, and non-Paleo to Paleo substitutions. To round things out, Kelly has including a few of your favorite websites on Paleo, Autoimmune Paleo (AIP), recipes, shopping, pantry, and tools.

     So if you're looking for just the right book to get you started, or you have a craving for a Paleo-friendly version of some of your favorite comfort foods, this is a great book to invest in!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Not Peanut Butter Cheese Crackers

     I grew up on packages of crackers. My dad would buy me a pack, along with a good deal of candy when I went with him to get his hair cut. I would get a couple of packs when I went fishing with my dad. My mom would give me money for the vending machine at the court house when I went with her to work, and I would get a pack and a soda. Sometimes I really crave those orange nightmarish treats. The taste of the fake cheese, the junk peanut butter, and the amazing amount of salt just screams to my soul, but they make my stomach scream back at me in misery. So I tried to remake it Paleo, and I think it's pretty dang good. You can decrease the salt, but these are a special, occasional treat. The best part is how quick and easy you can whip these up.

1 cup almond flour
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. olive oil or coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp. sea salt + for sprinkling
4 tsp. nutritional yeast flakes
1-2 Tbs. almond butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Lay out two sheets of parchment paper.

3. Combine all ingredients in small bowl. If too soft, add 1 Tbs. of almond flour at a time until firm dough that can hold its shape forms.

4. Form dough into ball and place on one sheet of parchment paper. Press dough with palm of hand to flatten. Cover with second sheet of parchment paper. Roll out thin with rolling pin. You want it to be cracker thin, so it will crisp better.

5. Carefully remove top layer of parchment from dough. Place parchment paper with dough on cookie sheet. Sprinkle top of crackers with salt. Cut dough into rows and columbs about 1-1/2" X 1-1/2" to 2" X 2".

6. Bake crackers for 7 minutes, the turn pan around and bake an additional 7 minutes. This should keep the crackers from cooking unevenly or burning on one side.

7. Allow crackers to cool before snapping apart and spreading with almond butter.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Benefits of Blueberries

     I love blueberries, and around this time of year, I actually crave them. But you can eat blueberries all year long because you can find amazing blueberries in the freezer section of the grocery store.

     Blueberries are packed full of nutrients, antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. These gems also just make you feel better, and can improve your mood. If you weren't sold on them already, they also have a detoxifying effect on the body, and just three servings a week can reduce a woman's risk of a heart attack by 33%.

     This time of year, when the blueberries are fresh and at their peak, I love to put them in salads or eat them plain as a snack. The frozen variety can be added to any number of smoothie recipes. Or you can always try my delicious Lemon Blueberry Muffins which are grain-free, dairy-free, and nut-free.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy Mother's Day (Spa Day)

The beautiful children who make my Mother's Day possible.
     I just want to say how awesome my family is. I'll be working tomorrow on Mother's Day, but I won't even mind because of how awesome my husband and children have made me feel.  On Thursday, they took me out for a night on the town. This morning, Ray made me flourless pancakes. Then today, my daughter gave me a spa day.

     I know there are a lot of people who love to go to the spa. I would probably be one of them, if I could afford it, but having a spa day at home is so fun and relaxing, and you can do it, too.

     We started with cucumber water. Lydia went to the garden and picked a fresh cucumber, but you can buy one for the occasion. We peeled it, cut it up, and poured cold, filtered water into the glasses with the cucumber. You could even add some mint. This water is super refreshing and detoxifying.

     Then we scrubbed our faces with a scrub made from honey and cinnamon that a friend gave me. But you could use that leftover oatmeal in the cabinet that you're not eating now that you're Paleo. I keep mine around for a gentle scrub, plus it's great for calming itchy skin in the summer when everything is biting, stinging, or burning.

     We used a commercially available peel-off honey mask because I love peeling my face off like a monster on spa days. It's soothing and fun and leaves your face feeling really soft and nourished. While we waited for the mask to dry, we painted our nails, so they could dry, too. Then it was time to relax and dry.

     After the mask was peeled off, it was time for a relaxing bubble bath, followed by a coffee grounds scrub, which is wonderful for enlivening skin, detoxing, and helping to get rid of cellulite. All you have to do is mix about 1/4 to 1/2 coffee grounds with water to make a paste and use it all over (with the exception of neck and face). I suggest doing this in the shower because it can get really messy. Then rinse it off. The natural oils in he coffee leave your skin so smooth and moisturized that you won't need lotion afterwards, and you'll smell delicious.

     Our big finally was a pedicure and foot treatment, complete with foot scrub, pumice stone, toe nail polish, and lotion. All this, and I never had to leave the comfort of my own home. I got to stay with my loving family all day. Plus we got to make some delicious Paleo chocolate-dipped strawberries.

     So to all the mom's out there, Happy Mother's Day. I hope you have a great day full of happiness and joy. Give me a thought, since I'll be a work. And enjoy your children. They're the ones who made this day possible.

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries with a Twist

     I love chocolate-dipped strawberries. I've had many over the course of my life. I've eaten them at weddings, showers, and parties. A beloved like-family member even made Ray and me some to take on our honeymoon, but they were eaten by a pack of rabid dingoes, posing as wedding guests. Most of them have been made with the type of chocolate that comes in coins marked for melting, but that stuff is terrible for you. These have real dark chocolate and a hint of something else. If you don't love them, I don't think there's any help for you. :)

2 pounds of organic strawberries, gently washed and dried
1 1/2 cups soy-free, dairy-free dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup of either nut butter or coconut butter

1. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet near your work station to lay strawberries on. Place washed and dried strawberries at work station. If strawberries are not completely dry, the water on them will seize the chocolate, and there is no coming back from that.

2. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate chips using the low setting for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat until chocolate is melted. Be very careful because chocolate can burn very easily, and there is nothing to do for it but to start over.

3. Once chocolate is melted, stir in nut butter or coconut butter.

4. Dip each strawberry into the melted chocolate. Place dipped strawberry onto parchment paper. Let set for 30 minutes.

5. Transfer to the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Peel the strawberries from the parchment paper.

6. Serve or arrange in a pretty box for a delicious gift.