Monthly Archives: October 2013

Grainless Pumpkin Bread

Pie pumpkins (aka sugar pumpkins – the small ones) recently went on sale for a dollar apiece at Kroger, so I grabbed one on a whim and decided I’d figure out something warm and autumnal to do with it later. Last night was “later” and the end result was a moist, delicious, you’d-never-know-it’s-grain-free pumpkin bread (honestly I can’t believe how moist it turned out). Perfect with chili, stew, or as a grain-free dish to pass at Thanksgiving.

You could use canned pumpkin for this bread if you wish. I used one small pie pumpkin, which yielded just the right amount of flesh for the recipe. I did not squeeze the liquid out of the flesh. I did stick it in a bowl in the fridge for about a day, simply because I got sidetracked by something else and had to postpone making the bread, I don’t think this affected it much though.

I loosely adapted this recipe based on a grain-free pumpkin bread recipe from Wellness Mama. I have a coconut-sensitive child so I have to adjust recipes calling for coconut flour, and I’m very happy with how this one turned out. As a bonus, bean flour is considerably cheaper than coconut flour. I’m also eager to try this bread with bananas instead of pumpkin.

Grainless Pumpkin Bread

1-1 ½ cups pumpkin (fresh or canned)

4 eggs

¼ cup olive oil, coconut oil, or softened butter

½ cup garbanzo bean flour (or coconut or other flour of your choice)

¼ cup ground almond/almond flour

½ cup brown sugar (or ¼ cup honey)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1-2 Tablespoons milk, added a little at a time

Preheat oven to 400 and butter an 8×8” pan or a muffin tin

If you are using fresh pumpkin, cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the guts, poke holes in it, and place flesh-side down on a microwave safe dish. Microwave for ten minutes. Alternately, place on an oven-safe dish and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until fork tender. Allow to cool then scrape the pumpkin flesh off the skin. Use a potato masher or food processor to mash the flesh.

Add all ingredients except milk to the pumpkin and mix well. Batter should be thick and not runny, but pourable. Add the milk slowly so that you don’t overthin the batter. Pour into pan or muffin tin and bake 20-25 minutes for bread, and 13-15 minutes for muffins. Bread is done when it’s springy and no longer wet on top. Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting.

Grain-Free Pizza Crust

I can honestly say the only food I truly miss since going grain free is pizza. Oh pizza, how I loved you. Your hot, melty, cheesy goodness filling my mouth with an explosion of familiar, comforting yumminess. The ease of laying you out in front of the whole family and hearing no one say “ewww”. The excruciating pain you put me in that night I ended up in the ER…oh…wait, yeah, that’s why I stopped eating you….

I was so disappointed I couldn’t have pizza anymore. But then – THEN I read about a wonderful thing: grain-free pizza! The heavens parted, the angels sang, and I rolled up my sleeves.

The first recipe I tried was a cauliflower pizza crust, with minor success. It was yummy, but couldn’t be picked up in the hand like a regular piece of pizza (granted, this was likely due to my ineptitude at making it). The gluten-free kid and I ate it but the other kids wouldn’t touch it.

In my quest for a more “pizza-like” experience, I decided to modify an existing recipe from the book Internal Bliss. The original recipe calls for hazelnut flour, which is $13/lb. at my local Whole Foods, thus defeating the idea of eating grain free on a budget for regular people. Instead I used garbanzo bean flour, a veritable bargain at $3/lb. (recipe below).

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The result was surprisingly good. It was crispy, slightly nutty, and could be held in the hand like normal pizza. Even my extremely picky teenage boy liked it, and this child thinks everything other than Hot Pockets and ramen noodles “tastes weird”.

I do think next time I will substitute a little ground almond for part of the bean flour, just to mitigate the strong flavor a bit and lighten up the texture of the pizza crust. If you don’t have a coconut-sensitive person in the house as I do, you could try part coconut flour instead (and let me know how it works out!).

Obviously this grain-free pizza crust will not work for those on a paleo or low-carb diet. I use beans sparingly, but don’t mind having them for a once-in-a-while treat like pizza.

garbanzobeancrust2

Grain-Free Garbanzo Bean Pizza Crust

2 cups garbanzo bean (chick pea) flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

2 large eggs

1 Tbsp. olive oil (or oil of your choice)

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 cup water, give or take

a handful ground almonds or almond flour (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 and generously grease a pizza pan or sheet tray. Combine the bean flour, eggs, oil, garlic powder, and salt. Add the water a drizzle at a time until the dough comes together, forming a sticky ball. Sprinkle the ground almond onto the pan (it acts just like cornmeal, creating a stick-free surface for the pizza crust). Use your fingers to press the dough ball into the desired shape, working from the center of the pizza dough outward. This recipe makes about a 12″ crust. Bake for 5-8 minutes (longer if you want it crispier), add sauce, cheese, and toppings and bake for a few more minutes until toppings are hot and cheese is melted.

Do you have a favorite grain-free pizza crust? Please share links and ideas in the comments!

Grain-Free Chicken Soup & Dessert

chickensoup

One of my new favorite grain-free meals is homemade chicken soup – perfect for the ever-cooler days! The kids and I often slow roast a whole chicken in the oven just to eat off of, so after cleaning all the meat off the next day I just drop the carcass in a couple quarts of water with a cut up onion, carrots, and celery, plus sea salt and pepper, and boil for a few hours (then allow to cool and strain, obvee).

The flavor in the resulting stock is amazing, but if you don’t have time to do this (and there were many years when I had babies in diapers and didn’t have time to bathe myself much less make homemade stock!) you can certainly use store-bought.

You can either freeze or refrigerate the stock, then when ready to assemble the soup:

  • saute a chopped onion in butter or olive oil – when it’s just about soft and ready, add a bit of chopped garlic (I use precut in a huge jar from Costco)
  • slice carrots, zucchini, and celery – the trick to this being a *souper* fast soup is to use a mandolin or the slicing side of a cheese grater; this makes the carrots thin so they cook lightning fast (plus they then resemble the texture of noodles a bit)
  • let the veggies simmer in the stock for a few minutes before adding the chicken, so that they have a chance to soften up a bit
  • add the chopped chicken and any additional seasoning – I throw in a few bay leaves and taste at this point to see if more salt and pepper are needed
  • simmer for 20-30 minutes to let the flavors join – then enjoy!

I also sometimes add a can of diced tomatoes, and next time I’m going to toss in a can of white beans for additional protein and bulk.

Add the sides of your choice for a satisfying meal – a salad, potatoes in some form, a lovely winter squash, grain-free muffins, the possibilities are limitless.

pbchchbars

Next I tried these flourless peanut butter chocolate chip blondies from The Detoxinista. The batter is insanely simple to put together. As promised when I started this blog, you’re getting pictures of my real unfancy food from my real unfancy kitchen, and that includes the (too frequent) times that I overcook things. My kids have have a long history of exclaiming “Mom! You didn’t burn it!” when I set before them a meal that isn’t dry with a suspiciously dark hue.

So here is what happens when you overcook these bars. If they look like mine, you left them in too long. I did mine about 20 minutes; I think next time I’ll set the timer to check them at 15 minutes. Still, they were delicious – with a cakey, caramel-ish taste – and even the grain-eating little trolls in my house kept stealing them when my back was turned.

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So, we have a keeper with these (especially if I don’t burn them again), for those occasional times that I miss the decadence of a dessert bar (I don’t do rich sugary things too much anymore, lest my body get any ideas about jumping back on the cravey-train). The next project is attempting to convert them to chocolate, as my 18 year old tells me “blonde brownies are always such a huge disappointment”. LOL. I will update on the results of those efforts.

Share your sinfully indulgent grain-free dessert ideas in the comments!

Grain-Free Meals for the Rest of Us

As I said in my first post, this blog is about the grain-free journey for regular people; people who don’t grow all their own food, for whom all organic, all perfectly controversy-free, laboriously and expensively obtained and prepared food is not always an achievable goal (especially if you’re a single parent like me). Now that we’re all on the same page – here are some of the grain-free meals the kids and I have tried recently.

roastveggieshomemadechips

  • Bottom round roast (on sale), slow-roasted in the oven
  • Broccoli and radishes (also on sale) coated in olive oil (bought by the half-gallon from Costco), salt, pepper, and garlic powder, roasted in the oven on 375 for about 20 minutes – the radishes get mild and sweet, superyum!
  • Homemade potato chips fried in olive oil (this was quite an insanely messy and torturous project and I’m not sure I’ll do it again, but they were yummy and the kids gobbled them up)

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  • Chili – mine is pretty simple: saute onions and garlic in olive oil, dump in a couple different kinds of beans, a big can of crushed tomatoes, a couple tablespoons tomato paste, some water according to the consistency you want, and spices (I use chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper)
  • Homemade grain-free crackers from this recipe. These were a bit of a project but nowhere near the time consumption and traumatic mess level of the homemade chips. And they were yummy. Because they’re made of nuts, they probably shouldn’t be an every day indulgence but they are great for when you miss that crunch of “normal” wheat- and preservative-filled boxed crackers. After the first day I used the toaster oven to crunch them back up again.

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  • Cowboy stew from the GAPS cookbook Internal Bliss – the stew was delicious and filling and would be very flexible if you wanted to swap different veggies or meat for the ones in the recipe. I dropped some fresh parsley and sour cream on top to make it all purty-like.
  • Butter lettuce with store-bought dressing (yes, I’m still hooked on store-bought salad dressing – this is on my list of personal malfunctions to reprogram in my brain)
  • Tiny potato with butter and salsa – the little bit of bulk really helps the meal stick for a while and staves of feelings of “deprivation”.

More random grain-free meals for regular folk yet to come.

What are your favorite easy and filling go-to meals sans grains? Share in the comments.

10 Healthy Foods for the Grain-Free Kitchen

bananas

Organic bananas

I consider bananas a staple in my grain-free diet. Not only are they filling and under 100 calories, but bananas pack a nutritional punch with B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, fiber, even a gram of protein. If you have milk in the house (cow’s, coconut, almond, whatever) – perfect smoothie by itself or as a base. I specify organic bananas because they are usually only 10-15 cents more per pound than regular.

Carrots

Organic carrots

Carrots are versatile, filling, delicious, and one cup provides your entire RDA of vitamin A. Carrots also give you carbohydrates, particularly helpful if you’re going for a grain-free but not low-carb diet. Carrots give you lots of soluble and insoluble fiber as well, helping to eliminate the need for those “healthy fiber-filled whole grains”. Carrots are also a good organic buy because they are very close in price to – sometimes even cheaper than – regular carrots.

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Sunflower seeds

I love sunflower seeds because they are a perfect grain-free replacement for croutons on a big, yummy salad. Sunflower seeds are rich in iron, fiber, magnesium and B6 – you just want to limit them to a handful as there are 200 calories in a mere ¼ cup, and they can contain a lot of sodium if not raw and/or unsalted.

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Eggs

What really needs to be said here? Eggs are awesome. Fried, poached, omelets, quiche, hard-boiled, deviled, not to mention that in grain-free baked goods eggs are often a vital binder. For help sorting out what kind are best for you, Lisa at 100 Days of Real Food has a handy chart explaining egg labels and exactly what they mean.

olive-oil-and-olives

Olive oil

Ahhh olive oil! I love it. Nearly anything can be sauteed to delicious perfection in it, and it has a high heat tolerance for frying as well. Homemade salad dressing just begs for a good olive oil. On top of the taste benefits, olive oil contains MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids, considered healthy for their cholesterol-lowering effects), antioxidants, and can even be used in skin and hair care.

SONY DSC

Kale

I used to stay away from kale because being a very mediocre cook, kale intimidated me to no end. Then I heard about kale chips, and I had to try making them. Super easy, delicious, even kids like them! Sauteed in balsamic vinegar and garlic, kale makes a yummy side dish. The real bonus with kale is that it’s high in iron, vitamin K, antioxidants, fiber, and it’s anti-inflammatory. Kale is affordable, to boot!

yogurt

Yogurt (Greek and regular)

Plain full-fat yogurt is my go-to for smoothies, or easy breakfast with some fruit and a drizzle of honey. High in protein and of course a great source of gut-healthy active cultures (probiotics, essentially), yogurt is rich and creamy, even a great substitute for that ice cream craving.

Baked-Sweet-Potato

Potatoes (sweet or regular)

Not everyone agrees on eating potatoes on a grain-free diet, and certainly not those trying to cut out all white starches. I find that being able to have a small potato or a few chips really gives me that little bit of satisfaction I sometimes need when missing the bulk of bread products with a soup or meat. Sweet potatoes are a good healthy choice for those who don’t want white starch – they provide you with iron, fiber, folate (superior to artificial “folic acid”), and more than twice the RDA of vitamin A.

spaghettisquash

Spaghetti squash

Spaghetti squash is a true gift to the grain-free diet. It’s super yummy baked with just (real) butter, or butter and brown sugar, and can even serve as a passable noodle substitute for under your favorite pasta sauce. Spaghetti squash contains multiple nutrients and minerals like selenium, copper, and zinc, but one of the biggest benefits to the grain-free diet is that it only has 42 calories per cup, thus offering an enormous calorie savings over pasta.

nuts

Nuts

While the nut debate rages back and forth in the grain-free and paleo communities, I adhere to a simple philosophy – moderation is key. Our ancestors certainly would have foraged nuts, but they wouldn’t have been getting them by the bucketful as we can in a supermarket. Added to a trail mix with dried fruits, or eaten by the small handful once in a while as a protein pick-me-up, nuts can be a healthy inclusion in the grain-free diet. Eaten with restraint, nuts give you heart-healthy fats, brain-healthy omega-3s, protein, and fiber (gee, that whole “must eat whole grains for the fiber” argument is shrinking by the minute, isn’t it?). Just watch your intake if you use a lot of nut flours in baking, as nuts do contain phytates just like grains do.

What are your favorite grain-free, nutrition-packed foods? Share in the comments.

What’s for Grain-Free Breakfast?

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A brief word on breakfast

Friends have asked me what I eat for breakfast if I don’t eat cereal, toast, muffins, pancakes or…you get the gist. Truth be told, smoothies are my favorite breakfast and actually have been for a long while – before I ever started eating grain free. So, what’s in my smoothie? Typically a combo of  several of the following:

  • milk (either cow’s – which I’m trying to eliminate, almond, or coconut)
  • coconut water
  • frozen strawberries
  • frozen pineapple (just a few chunks – too many and the smoothie gets too grainy and bitter)
  • banana (ALWAYS banana – in my opinion it’s the one ingredient that eliminates the need for added sugar)
  • raspberries – fresh or frozen
  • greek or regular plain-flavored yogurt
  • a splash of orange juice
  • chia or flax seeds
  • kale or spinach (only occasionally at this point, since my blender doesn’t completely puree the bits – the fruit really does mask the flavor for the most part)
  • peaches or whatever other fruit happens to be in season
  • a drizzle of honey if you prefer a sweeter taste

chia

What else?

  • yogurt with fruit or preserves and seeds/nuts
  • eggs – boiled, fried, scrambled, poached (I have a microwave poacher that we adore), omelets!!!
  • meat – bacon (I bake mine in the oven – SUPER easy), sausage, ham, buy on sale!
  • fruit and cheese (go all French-like on your breakfast, why not??)
  • apples and peanut butter (I still eat peanuts at this point – use almond or other butter if you don’t)
  • hash browns (I openly admit I get the frozen patties, they’re cheap, easy peasy in the toaster oven, and the kids love ’em – I have other hash brown prep ideas I’ll be sharing in a future post)

Being a major noob in the grain-free kitchen, I haven’t experimented much yet with alternative flours, so here’s a great list of more complex grain-free breakfast recipes on The Home Life and Me blog.

In the end I’m all about simple. The kids usually grab cereal or sometimes even potato chips (shhh). I’m usually up late working, and my stomach is a bit skitchy in the morning, so when I get up I want to cram some quick ‘n easy energy into my body. More often than not that means a smoothie, but I am looking forward to trying out some different recipes especially with the holidays coming.

A friend just loaned me the GAPS cookbook Internal Bliss, so I will be sharing the results of some of those dishes in the coming weeks.

Share your favorite grain-free breakfast with me in the comments!

To Graze or Not to Graze?

photo courtesy CC license via http://www.flickr.com/photos/10126935@N05/
photo courtesy CC license via http://www.flickr.com/photos/10126935@N05/

I can’t talk about my grain-free journey without talking about grazing. Grazing has received a lot of attention over the past several years, both positive and negative. In the past few years the idea of spreading food intake out to several times over the course of the day has taken some hits, with some “experts” even accusing the eating pattern of causing diabetes and rotten teeth!

Despite the sensationalist headline, the real truth of the problem is buried halfway through the linked article:

“Indeed, rather than stabilising blood sugar levels, snacking on sugary, high-carbohydrate foods is more likely to make them fluctuate wildly – which can make you feel more, rather than less hungry”…..”If you eat cake or biscuits, the high sugar content causes you to release too much insulin and your blood sugar ends up lower than it was before you ate, as your body tries to compensate for the sudden sugar intake.”

Well, DUH?! This, in my opinion, is the crux of the grazing issue. People typically don’t grab a piece of cheese or some nuts and an apple, they grab a sugary granola bar, crackers, or a bagel – and the difference in the effect on blood sugar is enormous.

That said, some people may do better on a few larger meals, and the most important thing is to individualize based on your own results and instincts, as fitness guru Jonny Bowden discusses here.

Esteemed pediatrician and author Dr. William Sears also has some thoughts on grazing that are worth the read, including touching on his experience with colon cancer.

Still, in my (albeit limited thus far) experience with eliminating grains, I think we may be barking up the wrong tree. Grazing may very well wreak havoc on blood sugar and weight control – depending upon your food choices. We already know that grains, especially wheat, cause blood sugar to spike.

There’s also the problem of the way our grains are produced now compared to 100+ years ago.

It’s not surprising, then, that apparently eating grains has an equivalent effect on your blood sugar as drinking a can of Pepsi.

So what do I do? My approach is simple: I follow my body’s cues. When I was eating a lot of breads and starches I had constant blood sugar spikes and crashes, followed by cravings, which led me to more starches starting the cycle all over again. Therefore, I couldn’t trust that these hunger attacks and cravings were the result of my body truly needing fuel, it was just a vicious roller coaster created by the ups and downs of the insulin cycle.

photo courtesy CC license via http://www.flickr.com/photos/toofarnorth/
photo courtesy CC license via http://www.flickr.com/photos/toofarnorth/

Since going grain free there are many times I forget to eat, and if I do get hungry it’s very mild, just a little physical reminder saying “hey, let’s grab a slice of cheese or a piece of fruit”. I do get hungry around lunch and dinner times, but I am satisfied by way less food. I would say I eat 6-8 times a day, with two of those usually being small “normal” meals and the rest being snacks or small appetizer type servings of food – almost all “real food”.

Although I don’t restrict myself intentionally with sweets or any food outside of grains, I find that I just don’t really need or want them often. I have not eliminated sugar – it would take a lot of kicking, dragging, and screaming to take away the sugar and cream in my coffee! 🙂

Getting back to the point, I think a grazing pattern, at least for part of the day anyway, is frequently a natural result of kicking grains because the body doesn’t get into that craving cycle. There are other benefits of grazing, but if three squares works for you, by all means carry on! This is just my experience with the grain-free journey so far.  Please share yours in the comments!