This Year’s Cool Kitchen Gifts

Obviously one of the big changes that comes with a Paleo lifestyle is the increased time spent in the kitchen each week.  Fortunately, many of my family, friends and neighbors recognized this a great opportunity to give me some helpful kitchen tools and gadgets I can’t wait to use.

This year I got:

  • A beautiful kitchen towel embroidered with “Our Daily Bacon” from one of our neighbors that frequents the blog.  She’s been helping her husband with his blood sugar by preparing more Paleo meals, and E.J. and I are thrilled to be a part of that positive change
  • New cutting board, silicone cupcake & loaf pans from my sweet son
  • A really nice assortment of natural salts and a cooking class from our friends Kenny & Elaine
  • A great new Paleo Chocolate Lovers cookbook from friends Steve and Anita
  • New kitchen shears, an All-Clad dish towel, a strawberry corer, and an herb grinder/chopper from my mom

I also received gifts of beautiful and soft scarves, earrings, and other accessories that I now tend to wear more often because of the weight loss – it seems like I’m always cold in stores and restaurants now.  Also got a some great workout socks and a workout shirt for my morning runs.

I feel so very blessed to be surrounded by such a supportive circle of family and friends!

Merry Christmas, Paleo Peeps!

Merry Christmas, to all of my blog followers, and everyone who is struggling like I am to maintain some kind of food impulse control amid the avalanche of decadent foods that are readily available this time of year.

I apologize for the long delays between posts.  During the holidays, E.J. and I have so many events and activities planned every weekend, so prep cooking is a quick and easy affair, full of easy go-to favorites from my Favorite Recipes page, and smoked & grilled meats.

For the big holiday weekend, I actually put together 2 big meals and mixed in some new winners I’m happy to share.

IMG_2268.JPGFor Christmas Eve, my brother came into town, and we feasted on a couple of stuffed chickens from Hebert’s specialty meats along with baked sweet potatoes and balsamic glazed Brussels sprouts.  But before that, I wanted to give E.J. a sweet breakfast indulgence he hasn’t enjoyed since we started with Paleo in 2015: cinnamon rolls.  I found 2 different approaches to the dish – one from A Girl Worth Saving that uses mostly tapioca flour and a dough similar to our favorite pizza crust, and one from Paleo Grubs that uses a more standard almond flour dough.   Rather than choose, I decided to try both and take a queue from my mom’s old Czech cinnamon roll recipe for the filling: a combo of shredded granny smith apples, pecans and honey.  For the icing, I actually used the one from this Instructables recipe that uses maple sugar – one of my new favorite baking ingredients.  The resulting rolls were both good in their own ways – the tapioca one stayed together better and could be eaten without a plate, though the dough was a bit chewy.  The one with almond flour had a lovely light flavor but crumbled too much to eat without a fork.  I’d recommend either of them.

Then on Christmas Day, our friends Kenny and Elaine joined us for the big meal, and we had plenty of tasty Paleo options on the table for the diet conscious and everyone else.

  • Nitrate-free, hormone-free honey ham from H-E-B – Not 100% compliant, but definitely the best option we could find
  • Roast Duck – This method for roasting duck works fabulously – we ended up with a juicy, crispy duck with a lovely flavor.  For the glaze, I used the one in this recipe from Paleo Table. It was fantastic.
  • Stuffed Mushrooms – This is the same one we did from Thanksgiving – they really are tasty
  • Cinnamon Pecan Roasted Butternut Squash – This was ok, though not as sweet as I thought it would be.
  • Mashed Sweet Potato
  • Prosciutto-wrapped Asparagus – super simple, but very fancy.  I used purple asparagus for an extra flare
  • Sweet Potato Rolls – These dinner rolls from Paleo Cupboard use mashed sweet potato, which gives a pinkish hue to the roll, but makes it pretty tasty
  • Cranberry Sauce – same one from Thanksgiving (it’s that good)
  • Balsamic Glazed Beets – these are always a winner.
  • Deviled Eggs

All in all, another successful holiday spread.  I hope you all enjoyed your holiday meals as much as I did.  We’re already enjoying the leftovers and likely will for the rest of the week.  E.J. and I have the week off, so we’re planning some adventures that I hope to share with you all later.

And just so we’re being honest, even with our paleo food choices this week, E.J. and I are still up a few pounds simply because of volume of food we’re consuming.  We know it’ll come off again when we get back to a normal routine in January, but in the meantime, we’re just going to keep trying to make the best choices and keep up our running routines every couple of days.

Holiday Baking

One of my absolutely favorite holiday traditions is baking Christmas cookies in the first few weeks after Thanksgiving.   I have 3-4 cookies I always make, and then if I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll throw a new one in there, just to make it interesting.  Unfortunately none of my traditional cookie recipes are Paleo, so last year I simply didn’t do much holiday baking to avoid temptation… but that was officially a crappy solution.  It took away one of my favorite traditions, and that made me sad…

And I refuse to be sad during my favorite time of the year.  So this year, I’m back to holiday baking, Paleo style!

Here are some of the goodies I made:

  • Banana Bread – This is E.J’s favorite holiday treat.  I’ve always made mini-loaves to give away and one big one for E.J. to enjoy for breakfasts.  This time, it was so good I did it twice.  Both loaves were moist and delicious – every bit as good as the original
  • Almond Butter Bars – the original treat I was going for was my mom’s Peanut Butter Squares recipe, and these are a great substitute.  This is officially the easiest Paleo dessert recipe ever, and is easily whipped up in 10 minutes or less.
  • Gingersnap Cookies – Ok, so have you ever bought one of those tins from World Market that they have at Christmas time?  I absolutely adore those gingersnaps and wanted a paleo equivalent.  I think these are as good, if not better than the originals.  This recipe is absolutely perfect and gives you the perfect wafery crisp that you’re looking for.
  • Almond Biscotti – I used almond extract instead of the lemon and these turned out OK, but weren’t the best of the bunch.  I think they needed more extract or sugar or both… they just seemed a little bland.
  • Cran-Orange Macaroons – I had some leftover cranberries from Thanksgiving and some of those mini-orange cuties, so voila!  I think the time in the oven is a little long, as mine came out with fully toasted coconut instead of lightly toasted, but otherwise they taste really good.
  • Sand Tarts (Wedding Cookies) & Orange Spritz Cookies – these are two traditional family recipes that I have from my mom which I really wanted to recreate.  The first time I tried it by subbing out ingredients and then adjusting for texture at the end.  Oddly enough, they both turned out PERFECT the first time…. Which sucks, because now I have to figure out what I did so I can recreate them.  In general I substituted palm shortening for vegetable shortening, maple sugar for granulated, and for a standard 2 cups of flour I used 1 1/2 cups of almond flour, 1/2 cup coconut flour and 2 tbsp arrowroot combined together.   I’m still trying to prove this out, but it’s really close.

Have you experimented with any Paleo holiday treats?  I’m always looking for new ones!!