Thursday, March 31, 2016

What To Do With A Bunch Of Celery

I got a huge amount of celery the other day. I also had a huge amount of carrots, but more celery than anything else. Additionally, I had a moderate amount of tomatoes and a small amount of onions, and that was pretty much it in terms of vegetables.
I wanted to make a nice meal that was very much based on what I had in the house, and then I decided to challenge myself- how many different ways can I actually make celery, to serve in one meal?

In the end, I made a meal with 9 different celery dishes, and I'm awfully proud of how much variety I managed with that one vegetable! And nearly all paleo, other than the peanut sauce for the salad, though to make that paleo I could have done it with almond butter instead.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Healthy Dessert and Treat Recipe Roundup- Sweetened By Fruit Only- Most Paleo and Vegan!

I love desserts. In fact, they're some of my favorite types of foods, which is a big part of why I have an issue with the concept of SWYPO- the banning of healthy recreations of junky foods. By having a large variety of healthy dessert recipes to choose from, I am not tempted by unhealthy desserts, even though I used to be addicted to them.

My friend, Julie, is doing a sugar detox, and is off all added sweeteners, other than fruit and fruit based sweeteners, and was looking for ideas for desserts that fit those requirements, so she doesn't break and go back to eating sugar. She inspired me to compile this list of dessert recipes, all sweetened with fruit only, no white sugar or coconut sugar or honey or jaggery or stevia or fake sugars- either naturally sweet recipes, or sweetened with dates or date syrup, or apple juice concentrate. And all delicious!

These recipes are all gluten free, and the vast majority are also Paleo and vegan. I've marked which is which, so you only need to open the recipes that are relevant to you. (I am pretty sure all the recipes marked Paleo are also GAPS legal, and most are SCD legal too.)

Hope you enjoy these deliciously tasty treats!

Healthy Dessert and Treat Recipe Roundup- Sweetened By Fruit Only- Most Paleo and Vegan

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Carrot Cornbread Muffins Recipe- Protein Heavy, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free

I've taken my son, Ike, off dairy recently. I did it in the past because I thought I noticed a behavioral difference, but then I wasn't sure anymore, and it was a lot of work, so I let him eat dairy again. But in the past month things were getting quite challenging with him, constant intense meltdowns, so I decided to trial taking him off dairy again. And the meltdowns pretty much stopped. (And the one day I let him have dairy- intense meltdown.)
So its pretty much final- he's off dairy, in addition to being off gluten.

But as much as it is challenging for him to give up things he likes such as cheese and milk and yogurts, I've been finding it most challenging, constantly needing to figure out dairy free proteins for him to eat, when he hates fish and beans and isn't a fan of lentils. The hardest part for me is figuring out breakfasts, not being able to rely on cereal and milk as a crutch when I don't have the energy to cook.

I decided to try to bake muffins for the kids to have for breakfast, and freeze them in advance. Because I want them as breakfasts, I wanted to fill them with as much nutrition as possible, making sure they had veggies in them, as well as a complete protein. I was going to use chickpea flour for this, but I was out, and noticed that I had some red lentil flour sitting on the shelf unused, so decided to try that out. I also added whole tahini for calcium, more protein, and healthy fats.
I was thinking of making these egg free, with ground flax seed or ground chia seeds instead of egg, but since it is meant for breakfast, I don't mind the nutritional addition of the eggs.
While mine are gluten free, you can make them with regular wheat flour instead of these interesting gluten free flours- they just won't be a complete protein.

I didn't taste these because they contain some ingredients that irritate my body, but my kids and husband all enjoyed them.

This made 22 larger muffins. I will be whipping up another batch of these soon because my family seems to demolish almost half a batch in just one meal.

Carrot Cornbread Muffins Recipe- Protein Heavy, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hitting The Jackpot When Grocery Shopping

Sometimes you have grocery shops that are so so, and then some shops, like my last one, things just go so beautifully that you almost feel like you hit the jackpot.

I went out with specific items in mind that I needed- I had large quantities of limited varieties of produce in my house, and my house was mostly stocked, so my list of absolute needs on my shopping trip was not much. My husband didn't see why I'd want to go out shopping for such limited amounts of things- why not just go to the neighborhood (expensive) grocery store for those few things, but I didn't mind going out of my way to hopefully save money. The biggest thing though was that I didn't want to spend so much, and I know I do get tempted when I'm at the grocery store, to buy more than what I'd entered the shop intending to buy...

Friday, March 25, 2016

Quinoa Mushroom and Greens Risotto Recipe- Vegan

I'm having vegan guests over for a meal and I wanted to serve them something tasty and fancier, and I was trying to figure out delicious dishes to make, so decided to whip up some quinoa risotto (among other things). This isn't officially risotto, which is traditionally made with short grain rice and cheese, more risotto style, and a nice change from the standard quinoa recipes.
Added bonus? I threw in some wild greens- sow thistle specifically- to add some more flavor and nutrition and depth. The result? A dish that is wonderful and cheap, seeing as I have a lot of quinoa in my house already that my kids aren't the biggest fan of, so its just sitting there unused. It also wasn't a lot of work to make either.
Biggest down side? Risotto isn't the most photogenic dish, but at least the taste makes it all worth it.

You can use whatever wild greens or store bought greens you want for this, just blanche any bitter greens before adding them so that they don't make the dish bitter.

My recipe was loosely based on this one.

Quinoa Mushroom and Wild Green Risotto Recipe- Vegan

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Homemade Beef Pepperoni Style Summer Sausage Recipe- Paleo, Nitrate Free

I've been doing a lot of reading lately of various recipes from around the world, and came across quite a few that called for sausage. I'd love to be able to make my own healthy sausage- (all the bought sausage locally contains msg as well as other ingredients I'd like to avoid), and not breakfast sausage, but the standard sausage in a sausage shape and texture.
However, as I was looking for sausage recipes, such as homemade salami, I realized I had a few issues standing in my way.
-I didn't know where I could get sausage casings.
-I didn't know where I could get curing salt.
-I don't have the facilities to hang my sausage to dry for weeks at the right temperature, even if I solved the other two issues.

And so, some people suggested that I look into summer sausage recipes- they aren't typically aged, but can be dried, and I saw quite a few summer sausage recipes made in the oven- and some were even made without any sausage casings.
I decided to try to make mine without curing salt, which essentially is nitrates and salt- I'm not actually opposed to nitrates because of what I read about on Chris Kresser's site- my reason for skipping them is purely a question of logistics and availability.

For my first summer sausage, I decided to go with pepperoni style, since my kids had asked me to make pizza (gluten free and dairy free) and I thought homemade pepperoni would be the perfect way to add protein to the meal. My boys absolutely loved it. I really enjoyed it as well, but have ideas how to make it even better next time.

My recipe was a mash up of a bunch of different recipes and techniques I found on the web so I can't credit one specific place for it. I don't know how long this will stay fresh- I used half the recipe, two of the sausages, for one meal, and froze the other two for future use.

Though there's no casing on this, because of how it dries it sort of feels like it does have a casing.

I didn't grind my seeds, but next time I make this I will, since the seeds got in the way when I was slicing it, and made it less aesthetic. Additionally, I was rushed to finish this in time for my pizza so I didn't marinate it first- next time I will marinate it for 12-24 hours before cooking, so that it will taste even better.

Homemade Beef Pepperoni Style Summer Sausage Recipe- Paleo, Nitrate Free

Eat Healthy Gluten Free Food On A Budget

Gluten free items can get pricey, but for some people they are necessary. Here's some tips, by reader Sam Rimini, about how to eat gluten free on a budget. Thanks for the ideas!

Trying to live without gluten on a budget can be challenging. It often seems as if the prices for gluten free foods are intentionally increased, as if to discourage health conscious shoppers on a budget. With so many of us struggling to find ways to eat healthy and stretch our dollar, these helpful tips will keep you fit, while remaining within your budget.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Pasta Con Le Sarde Recipe- Sicilian Pasta with Sardines and Wild Fennel- Paleo and Cheapskate Versions

In many ways I like to think I'm a creative cook, but there are some flavors that I would never dream of pairing together- I don't come up with creative flavor combinations, and am often afraid of experimenting with new flavor combinations, because what if it comes out bad.
However, I like learning about cuisines from different countries and when I try out international recipes, often they're with combinations of flavors that are so different and unusual for me, but wonderful.

This recipe, pasta con le sarde, is a traditional Sicilian recipe that I discovered when trying to figure out what to do with my abundant supply of wild fennel. Pasta with wild fennel I was already familiar with, though I typically made it with meat, and I knew wild fennel tasted good with fish, but the combination of all three, together with raisins and white wine? Now that was a new one, and sounded really strange to me at first, but I decided to give it a try first before writing it off.

And it really was wonderful- tasted great, looked pretty, wasn't too difficult to make, and was Paleo. Of course you can make it the standard way- with pasta instead of spiralized zucchini- and bread crumbs instead of almond meal- but it tasted wonderful paleo and was very satisfying. The original recipe called for a combination of currants and raisins but I stuck with raisins because they're cheaper and I also had them at home already, bought in bulk, and it called for saffron which I left out because of the cost, and I subbed pine nuts with cashews since I didn't have any foraged pine nuts on hand and cashews are cheaper than pine nuts when bought.

I highly recommend this recipe to anyone. Anyone that doesn't hate fish, anise flavor, or cooked fruit in savory dishes, that is. While this calls for sardines, I am sure it would be just as wonderful with tuna instead of sardines. And if you don't have anchovies you can leave them out.

If you don't have wild fennel, you can use fennel fronds from store bought fennel.

Pasta Con Le Sarde Recipe- Sicilian Pasta with Sardines and Wild Fennel- Paleo and Cheapskate Versions

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Missing Making Maple Syrup With My Family

This little bottle, evoking lots of nostalgia
I use a variety of natural sweeteners in my household, but one of them, I only bought 3 times since I've been married, because it pains me to pay as much as we do for it locally, when it is something we pretty much got for free growing up.
Maple syrup.

Oh man, how I miss that stuff.

When late winter/early spring time comes around, I start being nostalgic about my old home in North East Ohio, and the maple sugaring we did as a family.

People ask me at my foraging classes how long I've been a forager, and that answer is varied, because while I foraged intensely only in the last 5 years, I did go on "Weed walks" as a kid in the Allegheny Mountains in upstate New York when we would go camping there in the summer, and learned about things like jewelweed and their edible seeds (which tasted like walnuts) and their poison ivy healing properties. But even before that, I remember picking mulberries and blackberries when riding my bike to swimming lessons.

However, my earliest memory of foraging type things was something we did as a family over 20 years ago- maybe when I was 6 or 7 years old (it was so long ago that I had to ask my dad exactly when it was that we started it)- tapping maple trees to make maple syrup.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Autism, ABA Therapy, and My Next Step?

Usually when I write a blog post, it is because I want to share something that is important to me, that I discovered, something that I think will help other people. But this post isn't going to be anything like my standard posts. Instead of it being my sharing with you, it is my asking advice on a topic that I am not as well informed as I would like to be.
And though I have various Facebook groups that I'm in, ones that I joined to learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, now that it has been confirmed that my son, Ike, is, indeed, on the spectrum, I would rather ask my blog readers what you think, as you've been following my parenting journey for the past few years, where I've explained my viewpoint and parenting style and decisions, and I feel my readership is a community of largely likeminded individuals.

The question, specifically, is about my next step regarding my son's Autism journey.

If you didn't read already my post about how I explained to my children about my son's Autism, I recommend you read it first before reading the rest of this post, as it elaborates more about where I am coming from in terms of mindset.

In the past few weeks I've been thinking a lot about what I want for my son, now that I have an official diagnosis.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Homemade Panna Cotta Recipe- Paleo and Allergy Friendly Options, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Vegan Option

Cashew milk panna cotta topped with homemade chocolate sauce drizzle, redbud flowers,
and garnished with clementine segments and coconut flakes

I mentioned the other day that I bought 2.2 lbs of gelatin in bulk- I never expected I'd put it to use this quickly!

My neighbor is coming over for lunch tomorrow, and I wanted to make a tasty dessert to serve after the meal, but I had a bit of a dilemma. You see, my neighbor is allergic to nuts and many raw fruit- the very things that I typically use to make my desserts, since I don't eat dairy, gluten, grains, egg, or white sugar. Coming up with a dessert that everyone at the table would be able to eat was a challenge, and a friend recommended coconut milk panna cotta, and sent me the link to this recipe.
I'd never heard of panna cotta before, but it sounded terrific- its an Italian milk or cream based jello, essentially, and it could be flavored a variety of ways.
I made some homemade coconut milk to make panna cotta... and then found out that my guest might also be allergic to coconut, but isn't to cashews, so then made some cashew milk.
Because of that, I ended making two versions of this same dish- one with cashew milk, and one with coconut milk. One sweetened with maple syrup, one with white sugar. Both different, both delicious.
I recommend this dessert to anyone- since it can be made with whatever milk you can use/have available, and with whatever sweetener you like- and can be made vegan with agar agar- according to this site, replace the gelatin with 1 teaspoon powdered agar, and instead of heating the milk until it steams as in step two, bring it to a boil and let it boil, mixing constantly, for 30 seconds.

I've seen panna cotta made with fennel, which inspires me to make some wild fennel infused panna cotta next time. It also inspired me to top my panna cotta with foraged edible sweet and sour redbud flowers.

 To make your panna cotta fancier and even tastier, top with chopped up fruit, edible flowers, nuts or shredded coconut, or drizzle with syrup. I made homemade chocolate syrup to drizzle on ours.

Coconut milk panna cotta topped with redbud flowers and garnished with chocolate sauce.

Don't forget to oil the sides of your molds- I didn't, which caused some of mine to break...

Of course, with the right plating, even broken panna cotta can look purposeful and fancy, so even if yours does break upon removal from the mold, it is still salvageable.

Homemade Panna Cotta Recipe- Paleo and Allergy Friendly Options, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Vegan Option

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Homemade Salad Dressing Recipe Made With Wild Edibles- Paleo, Vegan

3 types of wild condiments- salad dressing in the middle, pesto and peanut butter dipping sauces on either side.

I love making food for other people, so I decided to offer boxes of prepared healthy and delicious foraged foods to people who came to my foraging class today.

It was beautiful weather and we learned about so many plants...

And people really enjoyed the boxed lunches. I had vegan chickpea quiche filled with wild greens, buckwheat crackers seasoned with wild spices, pesto made with wild greens, wild greens filled spring rolls with a peanut butter dipping sauce, and a salad with a tasty salad dressing, made of mostly wild ingredients.

People asked me to please share my wild salad dressing recipe with them, so I figured- why not post it here so all my readers could share.
I have also included alternatives to use if you don't have these wild ingredients available to you.
Hope you like it as much as everyone else did.

Homemade Salad Dressing Recipe Made With Wild Edibles- Paleo, Vegan

Monday, March 7, 2016

Latest Food Shopping- Spending Money to Save Money

Some of what I spent my money on
For someone who decided that this coming month I plan on lowering my grocery bill, its a little bit disconcerting to see how much money I've already spent in the month of March, and its only 7 days into the month. So far, the total I've spent on food since March 1 is $372, and last month I spent $496 total for the month, so if I want to lower my grocery bills, I have less than $124 dollars left for the month before I meet last month's total, and 24 days left.

But then I have to remind myself that you can't be short sighted when you want to save money, that looking at the long term is certainly more important. Sometimes, in order to save money in the long run, you have to spend more in the short term.

So why did I spend so much money just in the past 7 days?

To save money.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Foraged Mallow Leaves Stuffed With Wild Greens Recipe- Paleo, Gluten Free, Allergy Friendly, Low Carb

When I was foraging the other day, I came across this patch of gigantic mallow leaves- which seemed perfect for stuffing. I had to leave the house the next day for many hours to teach a foraging class in a far off city, and stuffed mallow leaves seemed like the perfect travel food, and a great example to show my class of what can be done with wild edibles.
I was thinking what I should stuff my mallow leaves with- I am trying to eat paleo (even though chocolate is my downfall) so I didn't want to stuff it with the traditional rice, and I had ground chicken breast already defrosted, as well as a fridge filled with other foraged greens, so that was my inspiration. Ground chicken and wild greens and carrots, vegetables, and using the mucilage from the chopped mallow to help bind it (along with the ground chicken) without any need for egg (I don't do so well with egg). They didn't take so long to make, contrary to what you'd think, and they came out terrifically- moist enough even without any grains, because of all the veggies inside, and very packed with flavor because of the varied ingredients- the fennel and wild onions are amazing.
At the class where I showed these off as examples of what you can do with wild foods, people were remarking how wonderfully they smelled- but I can guarantee, the flavor is even better.
You can make this recipe just as easily with hollyhocks in place of the mallow leaves- they are cousins and can be used interchangeably, with similar properties.

If you don't have wild greens, you can make these by stuffing any large leaves, like grape leaves or cabbage, and you can use scallions in place of the onions, and I think you can use dill in place of the fennel, but it might be too strong with that much dill, so maybe just use 1 cup of dill. And if you don't have mallow, you can use other greens, like spinach or kale or chard, but then you might want to add an egg or some ground flax seeds to help it bind more.
And if you don't have pink peppercorns, feel free to use black pepper or leave out.

Foraged Mallow Leaves Stuffed With Wild Greens Recipe- Paleo, Gluten Free, Allergy Friendly, Low Carb

My First Gluten Free Experience- Gluten Free Barbecue Parties

I've been gluten free for so long that sometimes I forget that for some people gluten free is so foreign to them that they might not know what to do. And then I get reminded by posts like this one, by Tanya K, that not everyone knows what it means to do something gluten free.

This is a great post for beginners to the gluten free scene, to know how to be able to host people that are gluten free. Just one more thing that this post didn't cover- be careful with cross contamination. Because people often cook straight gluten on barbecue grills, and people don't generally clean grills spotless between each barbecue, unless you're using a brand new grill, make sure to clean off your grill very well so there isn't gluten caked on to it which will contaminate all your gluten free items you're putting on the grill.
Also, from experience, people are totally oblivious when it comes to cross contamination- I've been to a barbecue where people toasted their buns after the gluten free food was made, and then put them in the container with the cooked gluten free food, making it all contaminated with gluten and unable to be eaten. And people smear condiments on their gluten free bread with a knife, then stick the knives back into the condiments, contaminating them. So I highly suggest that, especially if you're making a barbecue for a non gluten free aware crowd, to keep it entirely gluten free, because otherwise mix ups are pretty much inevitable, and that's just a recipe for trouble.
If you aren't going to make the entire thing gluten free, first clean the grill well and cook all the gluten free foods first, and only after that, cook the gluten foods. And keep separate containers/serving bowls aside (and clearly labeled that it is just) for the gluten free guests, so that there is no worry about those things being cross contaminated.

I love barbeque parties. First, it is easy to prepare, and secondly, the whole drawn round the table can enjoy food and nature. My friends and family are glad to help me in organizing and afterwards making a feast of foods cooked by me. But this time the BBQ party was special for me. We invited Tommy, the old friend of my husband and Elisabeth, his girl-friend. Both of them are gluten-free consumers. They met each other on online dating site. During conversation taken place in a dating chat room they found out that gluten intolerance is the disorder that stuck them both. That was the starting point of their love story.

Since I have not had any experience in preparing gluten free foods, I had to gain an insight and plan our gluten free BBQ party. I decided not to make separate dishes for us and for gluten-free guests. It was a challenge for me to try something new and obtain new skills. Here are some precautions to be taken:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Grocery Tracking Challenge for February- and Lessons Learned

Some of our very cheap groceries this month.

In the past, I meticulously tracked our grocery expenses, down to the last detail, so I could figure out how much we're spending on groceries and in what area, and then use that to decide if I wanted to make any changes in our grocery budget. Since then, my life has gotten too hectic to be able to write down every last line on every last receipt, but our grocery bills have gone up because of my going Paleo. Therefore, when I saw some local friends deciding to do a tracking challenge in January, I joined them, and calculated how much I spent- $555 for the month of January. I didn't write down any specifics- just which store and how much at each store. For cooking mostly Paleo, and having a decent amount of convenience foods, I thought that was pretty decent, but I still wanted to make my grocery bills lower.

In February, I decided to be more specific about tracking my groceries, and this time, instead of writing down how much I spent on every single item at every single shop, I wrote down what store it was in, the date I shopped, how much it was, and what I purchased there (but not how much each item was, just a list so i got an idea of what the shops were like). While it doesn't tell me the exact break down of how much I spent on each individual item, it does give me a general picture of my shopping habits, which I can then analyze and decide if I'd like to change things.

But before I get down to specifics, I need to say that the entire shop month's groceries were $496.72, which is already ~$60 less than last month, and really terrific for a month in which I ate predominantly Paleo, didn't cook many (if any) cheap legume based meals for the rest of the family, used a decent amount of convenience foods, and also included an expensive shop for our birthday dinner- $87.77 of the total amount.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Explaining To My Kids About My Son's Autism Diagnosis

Ike with Annelise and Rose-
please excuse the red eye
I have been involving you readers on my parenting journey nearly since it started, especially when it comes to schooling my children, and some things came up that make an impact on our lives as a family and future decisions that we will be making, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Since birth, I realized there was something different about my son, Ike. He's the son that initiated my gluten free journey, since gluten seemed to have a big effect on him behaviorally. He's always been very intense. Bright, but intense. And he's had some learning issues that have affected his ability to understand the local language.

I long suspected that there was something more about him, and had strong suspicions as to what, and on Thursday, I had him evaluated by a professional, and he was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism, what formerly would have been labeled as Asperger's Syndrome, but was relabeled in the DSM-V.

Understanding that these is this specific issue with my son has already been helpful for me in relating to him, and explaining to my eldest son, Lee, about why my son is acting the way he is, which has already helped stop some fights between the kids before they even started.

I think its important for people to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and what makes them tick, which is why I explained about my son's Autism to my older kids. I tried to phrase it in a way that my sons wouldn't feel there was anything wrong with them, just different, and that different isn't bad, it just is different. Because of this, I talked to my kids using the terminology- neurotypical and non neurotypical- average brain vs non average brain. And I started off by talking about the concept of gifted kids, since that is something my kids are aware of, since all my kids are gifted (as well as myself), with the pluses and minuses involved.

I was really proud of how my talk went with them, how much they understood it, and themselves, and each other after their talk, so I wanted to share it with you too. I didn't talk so much about learning disabilities other than Autism, simply because the time wasn't right, but plan on discussing it with them at a later point.

Here's how I explained it to them.