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Chunky Monkey Muffins

February 2, 2014

Chunky Monkey Muffins (Grain/Gluten-free) | This is so Good...Dessert is a rare occasion in our household.  Pre-paleo, I used to bake fairly often, but once we went gluten-free, I sort of lost interest in baking.  Plus, to be honest, dessert should be a once in a while TREAT!  If you peruse our Recipe Index, you will see a whopping 9 recipes (now 10!).

Not sure why, but I really felt like a good banana bread this morning.  I had an over-ripe banana sitting in the fridge, and a hankering for some chocolate.  Oh yes…Chunky Monkey Muffins!  After a quick Google and Pinterest search, I decided I wasn’t pleased with any of the gluten-free recipes that popped up.  Too much added sugar or they used coconut flour/oil or butter/ghee, which I absolutely love, but cannot have right now due to some recent allergy testing.  Time to get creative.  I gift to you my take on Chunky Monkey Muffins.

Chunky Monkey Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 over-ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 green-tipped banana, sliced into 24 coins
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) blanched almond flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips (The only brand I have found that are Gluten/Soy/Dairy-free.)
  • 12 walnut halves (preferably soaked)

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

Line a muffin tin with 12 parchment liners.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the mashed banana, the eggs, and the vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix together the almond flour, sea salt, and baking soda.  Dump the dry ingredients into the wet and add the apple cider vinegar.  Stir to completely combine.  You might have a few banana chunks, but don’t leave any almond flour lumps.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Divide the batter among the 12 muffin liners, it will fill each one about 1/2 way.  Now it’s time to get fancy!  Nestle 2 banana coins onto the top of each muffin, pressing them into the batter a little bit.  Then snap each walnut half into 2 pieces and tuck them in around the banana coins.  Pretty, right?!

Chunky Monkey Muffins (Grain/Gluten-free) | This is so Good...

Place the muffin tin into your preheated oven and bake for 18-22 minutes.  The muffins are done when they are lightly browned and only give slightly to touch.  Remove from the oven and let them rest in the muffin tin for 30 minutes.  Then remove to a cooling rack.  When ready to devour, grab a cup of hot tea, some coffee, or a tall glass of almond milk and dig in!!

Chunky Monkey Muffins (Grain/Gluten-free) | This is so Good...

Enjoy!!

P.S.  I would recommend storing any leftover muffins (haha!) in the fridge.  Although they are quite tasty straight from the fridge, a few minutes in the toaster oven makes them super delicious!!

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Ćevapčići (Serbian Kebabs)

January 16, 2014

Ćevapčići.001If you’ve followed me for awhile, you know that I credit a lot of my culinary abilities to my Mom and the beautiful Polish women that make up her side of our family.  In this post, I want to pay tribute to a more recent influence – my Serbian in-laws.  As an Amerikanka, I was formally welcomed into this family 12 years ago, although I’ve known most of them for 19 years or more.  I’ve learned a few things in that time.  I’ll stick to the kitchen lessons here *wink*!

First, any and all gatherings revolve around food.  And lots of it.  If you unexpectedly stop by to say “Hi”, food will magically appear and you will be required to eat before you leave.

Second, you will never eat enough to satisfy your hostess.  The food is so delicious, you will stuff yourself to the point of developing a food baby.  But… “Are you sure you don’t want more, you didn’t eat very much?”

Third, three to four different meats should be served.  This way there is something to please everyone!

Fourth, leftovers are a must!  This always makes my day – who doesn’t want to come home from work knowing that the cooking is done for you!  I seriously count down the hours left in the work day when I know there is Manga (beef stew) waiting for me at home!!

So, this post is in honor of my Mother-in-law, Janet, and all the other awesome Serbians that I call family!

The first time I tried Ćevapčići was on a Mediterranean cruise that Alex and I took in 2008.  One of our ports was Dubrovnik, Croatia.  We wandered the streets and stopped to eat at a little hole in the wall.  Alex was so excited to see Ćevapčići on the menu.  He had last had them when he traveled to Yugoslavia with his family as a middle schooler.  We ordered them and I fell in love!  They were so tasty.  I promised to learn to make them as soon as we returned home.  Unfortunately, I never got around to it – until now!  It may have taken awhile, but these are just as good as I remember them.  They could not be simpler to throw together and are great grilled or baked in the oven if you do not have access to a grill.

Alex enjoying Ćevapčići on a little side street in Drobrovnic.

Alex enjoying Ćevapčići on a little side street in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

My Yugoslavian family and friends will agree that this photo reminds you of dinner at Baba's house!

My Yugoslavian family and friends will agree that this photo reminds you of dinner at Baba’s house!

Ćevapčići (Serbian Kebabs)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of ground pastured pork
  • 1 pound of ground grass-fed lamb
  • 1 pound of ground grass-fed beef
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 of a yellow onion, finely diced

What to do:

If you are baking the Ćevapčići, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with foil.  If you are grilling them, pre-heat you grill on high or as you would for grilling burgers.

In a very large mixing bowl, combine all of the above ingredients and mix well with your hands.  Make sure the spices are evenly distributed and the meats are well mixed.

Now you need to shape the Ćevapčići.  Grab a few Tablespoons of the meat mixture and roll it in your hands to form a small sausage.  They should be a little under an inch thick and about 3 inches long.  You will be rolling them for awhile, so recruit a helper if you can!  Place the formed Ćevapčići on the baking sheets with an inch or two of space between them or place them on a platter if grilling.

Place the baking sheets in the oven for 10-14 minutes, or until the Ćevapčići are cooked through and lightly browned on the outside.  If grilling, it will only take a few minutes per side for them to be cooked through, so watch them carefully.

Serve with the veggie of your choosing (we like steamed broccoli doused in butter) or a big salad with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers topped with olive oil and vinegar.  If you are lucky enough to be able to track down some Ajvar (roasted red pepper relish), serve it along side the Ćevapčići and you will taste pure happiness!  Special thanks to my awesome mother-in-law for providing us with homemade Ajvar!

Sooo good!!!

Sooo good!!!

Enjoy!!

This recipe was shared at Raia’s Recipes (Savoring Saturdays) and Food Renegade (Fight Back Friday).

Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding

November 5, 2013

Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding | This is so Good...Looking for a quick treat?  This pudding goes together in no time and after just a few hours of “rest” time, it’s ready to eat.

I have just recently started to experiment with Chia seeds.  I have seen mixed reviews in the real food world as to whether or not they are a good addition to the diet.  Mark Sisson writes about them here, here, and here.  Diane Sanfilippo writes about them here.  I 100% agree that they should be viewed as an occasional treat IF you tolerate them well.  If you are dealing with digestive upset, then avoid them!  I am also wary of any claims that a food is a superfood.  What does that even mean and who decided it?  I do believe that there are foods that rank much higher in nutritional value then others (grass-fed liver verses a grocery store donut – anyone, anyone?), but don’t recommend buying into the superfood hype.  With that said, one of the big claims surrounding Chia seeds is that they are a good source of Omega 3.  They are high in ALA, which unfortunately, humans do not have the mechanism to efficiently convert to useable DHA/EPA.  So please don’t rely on Chia (or Flax for that matter) to get your daily dose of Omega 3.

BUT, I wanted to experiment a little with Chia seeds because they do this crazy little transformation into gelatinous puff balls (think tapioca) when submerged in liquid.  In this post, Food Renegade shows you how to make an egg substitute with Chia seeds – kinda cool.  Alex and I seemed to tolerate the Chia seeds with no ill effects, so I may use them occasionally in future recipes.

Here’s the recipe for the pumpkin pudding and a great way to use up that homemade pumpkin puree!

Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk (from the can, not coconut milk beverage in a carton)
  • 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup Chia seeds

What to do:

In a large mixing bowl, add all of the above ingredients except the Chia seeds.  Whisk well to thoroughly combine.  Once combined, stir in the Chia seeds and refrigerate.  After a hour or two, stir the pudding again.  If it is looking a little too thick for your liking, add a little more coconut milk or some water (just a few Tablespoons).  Place back in the fridge for an hour or more (it will be good the next day too).

Serve with a dusting of cinnamon or chopped pecans!

 

Roasted (Soaked and Sprouted) Pumpkin Seeds Three Ways – Sea Salt and Butter, Maple and Cinnamon, and Honey Chipotle

October 27, 2013

Maple Cinnamon Pumpkin Seeds | This is so Good...So you have decided to tackle roasting a pie pumpkin or maybe you just carved your Halloween pumpkin and decided to save the seeds.  What next?  Roast them for a delicious treat!  My recipe involves soaking and sprouting the seeds to degrade the phytic acid (an anti-nutrient that prevents the absorption of healthful vitamins and minerals found in the seeds), making them easier to digest.  I also go through this process with any nuts we consume.  Please refer to my Crispy Nuts post for more information.  Nourished Kitchen also has a great blog post on soaking and sprouting pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin seeds offer a bounty of good stuff – iron,  magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and zinc.  Soaking and sprouting is very easy and so worth it to be able to derive the maximum benefit from this delicious food.

I want to send a special thanks to my friend, Karen, for inspiring me to finally save and roast my pumpkin seeds!

Roasted (Soaked and Sprouted) Pumpkin Seeds Three Ways – Sea Salt and Butter, Maple and Cinnamon, and Honey Chipotle

Ingredients for soaking and sprouting the seeds:

  • Cleaned and rinsed pumpkin seeds
  • Sea salt
  • Filtered water

To clean your seeds, place the pumpkin innards in a large bowl of water.  Shake the stringy pumpkin guts around in the water and pull out any stubborn seeds.  Pumpkin seeds will float and the flesh will fall to the bottom of the water.  Scoop out the seeds and rinse them well in a strainer.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds | This is so Good...

Place the seeds in a large bowl.  For every cup of pumpkin seeds you have, add one teaspoon of sea salt.  Cover the seeds with filtered water and stir them to dissolve the sea salt.  Lightly cover the bowl with a plate or towel and place in the corner of your kitchen where it will not be in your way.  Let it sit for 24 hours and then strain and rinse again.  Lightly dry them with a towel, no worries if they are still pretty wet.  All of these recipes will work just fine with wet seeds.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and line rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Ingredients for Sea Salt and Butter Pumpkin Seeds:

  • 1 cup soaked and sprouted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter
  • A few pinches of sea salt

Ingredients for Maple and Cinnamon Pumpkin Seeds:

  • 1 cup soaked and sprouted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • a pinch each of sea salt, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves

Ingredients for Honey Chipotle Pumpkin Seeds:

  • 1 cup soaked and sprouted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • a pinch of sea salt

What to do:

Combine the all the ingredients, except the pumpkin seeds, for the flavor of your choosing in a large bowl.  Then toss in the pumpkin seeds and mix until well coated.  Spread them on the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven for 10 minutes.  Take them out and stir them around.  Place them back in the oven for another 10 minutes.  Check the seeds.  If they are crisp and slightly browned, they are done.  If not, stir again and place back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes or until they are nicely toasted.

Honey Chipotle Pumpkin Seeds | This is so Good...Let them cool and them enjoy!

How to Roast a Pie Pumpkin for Puree

October 27, 2013
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It’s fall, my favorite season in Michigan!!  That means it’s the start of Comfort Food Season – yay!  Time to give the slow cooker residence on the kitchen counter for the next six months and fire up the oven for slow roasting large hunks of meat and baking cinnamon spiced (gluten-free) treats.  Yes, this is my happy place.

How to roast a pie pumpkin for puree.001So I know there are thousands of tutorials on roasting pie pumpkins for puree.  Why am I throwing another one out there?  Hmm…why not?  This method works for me and better yet, it’s really easy!  Equipment required is minimal and pretty basic – a sheet pan, parchment paper, a large knife and cutting board, a spoon, an oven, and a food processor or heavy duty blender.  The food processor may not be in everyones kitchen, but don’t fret, I will give you other options!

So, another question – why not just use canned pumpkin?  Answer – go ahead, I do it all the time!  I happen to have a friend who’s niece planted a gigantic organic garden this year and had 7 beautiful pie pumpkins she sent my way.  Not one to turn away fresh, local, organic produce, I took on the task of preserving some of this beautiful harvest.  There are pros and cons to canned verses fresh pumpkin puree.  Pluses for canned include:  ready to go when you are, most recipes are written for canned puree, no prep work.  Negatives for canned include:  possible BPA from the canning process, organic may not be available.  Positives for homemade pumpkin puree:  you did it yourself (Woot, woot!  Pat on the back.), you know where it came from and how it was prepared, you get pumpkin seeds for roasting (BONUS!).  Cons for homemade puree:  it takes more time then using a can opener, the puree will be a little wetter then canned and may not be a perfect substitute in baking recipes, you have to store it in the freezer which takes up space and means you must defrost before use (Ugh!  Planning ahead – not one of my strong points).  So, if you want to take the time to do this, great.  If not, no worries, just make sure you have an functioning can opener.

Let’s go!

How to Roast a Pie Pumpkin for Puree

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Depending on the size of your pumpkins, you may be able to fit 2-4 halves on a sheet at a time.

Wash any dirt off of the pumpkins and dry them really well, so they are not slippery.  Time to cut.

Make sure you have a flat, solid surface to work on (a large cutting board will do the trick) and a SHARP knife.  Don’t mess around with a dull knife.  It will make this job way harder and increase the likelihood of chopping off your fingers.

How to Roast a PIe Pumpkin for Puree | This is so Good...

Start by inserting the sharp point of your knife into the pumpkin flesh right next to the stem.  I like to hold the stem for stability.  Make sure your non-cutting hand is out of the way.  Repeat this while cutting – “I will not cut my hand, I will not cut my hand, …”

How to Roast a Pie Pumpkin for Puree | This is so Good...

After slicing down one side of the pumpkin, use the stem as a handle and rotate the pumpkin to it’s side to continue your cut.

How to Roast a Pie Pumpkin for Puree | This is so Good...

Hopefully you now have two pumpkin halves and ten intact digits.

How to Roast a Pie Pumpkin for Puree | This is so Good...

Time to loose the stem.  Place pumpkin cut side down.  Grab onto the stem with a towel, and snap it off.  Hopefully, you will be smarter then I am and will move your very sharp knife away from your hand.

How to Roast a Pie Pumpkin for Puree | This is so Good...

Now, if you choose to take advantage of the bonus pumpkin seeds, this is the time to grab a few extra pieces of equipment.  You will need a strainer and two large bowls.

Using a metal spoon, scrape out the pumpkin seeds and stringy flesh.  Do not let your perfectionist side make an appearance – some leftover innards are no big deal.  In other words, the insides of the pumpkin can be messy and have string attached, just get the seeds out of there.  If you are saving your seeds, place the innards in a bowl to tackle once the squash is roasting.  See my Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Tutorial.

How to Roast a Pie Pumpkin for Puree | This is so Good...

Place the pumpkin halves cut side down on the parchment lined baking sheets and put them into the oven for 45 minutes to one hour.  To determine how long to bake them, gently poke them at 45 minutes, if the flesh gives a little through the skin, you are good.  If it is still hard, give it more time.  Once you have determined that the pumpkin halves are soft enough, remove the sheet pans from the oven and flip the halves over so the cut side is now facing up.  Roast them for an additional 15 minutes.  This will help to dry them out a little.  After 15 minutes, remove the sheet pans from the oven and let the pumpkins rest until they are cool enough to handle.  If any water has accumulated in the center of the pumpkins, just pour it out or scoop it out with a spoon.

DSC00671

If using a food processor or blender, scrap out the pumpkin flesh and place it into your device.  Puree until smooth.  This may take a few minutes and a little prodding.  If it just won’t puree, you can add a tiny bit of water to get this going.  If you do not have a food processor or high speed blender, you can scrap the puree into a bowl and mash it up with a potato masher, a fork, or your hands.  It won’t be as smooth, but it is still delicious and will work just fine in most recipes.

How to Roast a Pie Pumpkin for Puree | This is so Good...

Decide what quantity you want to store the puree in.  I did several one cup servings and some two cup servings.  Label your freezer bags, measure, and fill.  Seal the bags, removing the air and freeze flat to take up as little space as possible.

You did it!  You now have pumpkin puree to enjoy throughout Comfort Food Season!

Some ideas for using your delicious, homemade pumpkin puree:

Pumpkin Cheddar Biscuits

Roasted Poblano and Pumpkin Chili

Pumpkin Sausage Soup

Roasted Pumpkin Chestnut Soup

Mango Lime ‘n Coconut Gummies

August 13, 2013

Mango Lime 'n Coconut Gummies.001Mangoes have to be the BEST fruit on earth!  If there is something tastier, I haven’t found it yet.  A few years ago, after our trip to Cabo San Lucas, I posted “How to make a mango (or any fruit for that matter ) taste even better!”  If you have not tried it – do it.  Know what else goes great with mangos?  COCONUT!!!  Let’s put it all together for a tasty and healthful treat.

We use a lot of gelatin around here.  I discussed the benefits of gelatin in a previous post – The Best Homemade Stock.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, my stock doesn’t gel.  That’s where a good grass fed gelatin powder comes in handy.  We always have a few containers on hand.  The beauty of powdered gelatin is that it is tasteless, so it can be added to so many dishes for an added boost of protein, gut healing benefits, and connective tissue repair purposes.

A few weeks ago, Alex and I picked a ton of organic blueberries, so I was trying out a bunch of new recipes.  I saw Diane Sanfilippo’s recipe for Sweet and Sour Gummy Gelatin Snacks (Blueberry version).  They were an instant hit in this house – I highly recommend trying them the next time you get your hands of some organic blueberries.  I started doing a little internet sleuthing and found several other similar recipes.  Seems like the formula for a good gummy is 2 to 2 1/2 cups of liquid to 6 Tablespoons of gelatin.  Okay, time to play!!!

Mango Lime n’ Coconut Gummies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of mango, diced small
  • 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk (from a can, not coconut milk beverage from a carton)
  • 6 Tablespoons grass fed, powdered gelatin
  • zest of one lime

What to do:

In a high powered blender or a Magic Bullet, combine the mango, lime juice, and coconut milk.  Make sure you let it go until all of the mango is pureed and the ingredients are well blended.

Heat a small sauce pan over medium heat and add the mango mixture.  you want to heat the mixture, not boil it.  Slowly add the 6 Tablespoons of gelatin to the mango mixture, one Tablespoon at a time.  Make sure the gelatin is completely incorporated and no lumps remain.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the lime zest.

Pour the mixture into a 7×11 or 8×8 baking dish.  I recommend using glass or ceramic.  I have not tried to make these in a metal pan.  You could also use some cute silicon candy or ice molds if you want to get fancy!  You do not need to grease your pan.

Place the pan in the fridge for several hours, allowing the mixture to set.  When you are ready to serve them, you can cut them up into little squares, but you get bonus points for making cute shapes with cookie cutters (plus I’m told by Alex that they taste better when cut into shapes and he doesn’t lie).

Enjoy!!

Recipe inspired by Diane Sanfilippo’s recipe for Sweet and Sour Gummy Gelatin Snacks (Blueberry version).

This post is linked to Party Wave Wednesday at HolisticSquid.com!

Blueberry Crisp (Gluten-free)

July 31, 2013

Blueberry Crisp | This Is So GoodHere’s some more blueberry goodness for you!

Crisps and cobblers are some of my all time favorite desserts.  Since going gluten-free four years ago, I don’t think I’ve made more than a few.  I wasn’t ever really happy with the results.  They never tasted like the gluten laden desserts of my past.  Over time, my tastes have changed as well.  I don’t often crave desserts, a good piece of fruit or a sweet potato usually satisfies me.  That’s why this Blueberry Crisp is perfect!  Just enough crunchy “granola”-like topping that allows the natural sweetness of the blueberries to shine thorough!

Blueberry Crisp

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of fresh blueberries or thawed frozen blueberries
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon arrowroot
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup of blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons finely shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of coconut oil, slightly softened but not melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, arrowroot, and a pinch of sea salt.  Set aside while you prepare the crisp topping.

In a separate bowl, combine the almond flour through the 1/4 teaspoon sea salt.  Use a pastry cutter or a large fork to combine the crisp topping.  It should look like small pebbles and be pretty crumbly.

Pour the blueberry mixture into a 9 inch pie plate or similar size baking dish.  Evenly sprinkle the crisp topping over the berries and place the dish in the oven for 30 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned and the blueberry juice is bubbling up over the topping.

I think crisps are best served warm or at room temperature.  To re-heat the next day (if it lasts that long), pop it back in the oven at about 200 degrees for 5-10 minutes.

Enjoy!!

This recipe was shared at Party Wave Wednesday at HolisticSquid.com!