In the Kitchen, Recipes

Lemon Squares – Grain-free & dairy-free

I have been experimenting with baked goods, and outside of the actual GAPS cookbook there are not a lot of recipes that are “legal” for our food plan. I’ve tried muffins and they are a little on the dry side, and don’t feel like a treat, although they are great snacks. I won’t even go in to the whole bread debacle (I have given up bread, it’s not gonna happen). Lemon squares were one of my favorite things growing up, and I hoped that without the need for baking soda I could tweak my recipe to be legal. After several attempts.. Mission accomplished.

Lemon Squares

CRUST
2 cups blanched almond flour*
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoon ghee OR virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil (melted)**
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (gluten-free, organic)
1 pastured egg

TOPPING
1/4 cup virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil (or pastured butter if tolerated)
1/4 cup raw honey
3 large eggs
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I like to use Meyer lemons) Usually about 3-4 lemons.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease a 9×13″ baking dish with ghee or coconut oil.
  3. To make the crust, combine almond flour and salt in a Food processor and pulse briefly. Add ghee, egg and vanilla extract and pulse until mixture forms a ball. Press the dough into prepared baking dish. The crust will be only on the bottom, it will not extend up the sides.
  4. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until lightly golden.
  5. While crust bakes, make the topping. In a blender combine the coconut oil (or butter), honey, eggs and lemon juice. Blend on high until smooth. Remove crust from oven and pour topping over hot crust.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the topping is golden.
  7. Cool in baking dish for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 2 hours to set.
  8. Cut into bars and serve.

OPTIONAL
I have added a raspberry puree to these for a slightly more tart version and it was delicious. It’s a great option when raspberries are in season.

RASPBERRY PUREE

1 package of raspberries
2 tablespoons raw honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Puree raspberries in a blender until smooth.
  2. Pour through a medium-fine strainer to remove the seeds.
  3. Discard the seeds and place the raspberries into a saucepan over medium heat.
  4. Add honey and vanilla extract. Stir and raise heat to medium-high to bring mixture to a rolling boil stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the honey.
  5. Remove pan from heat and place in refrigerator for 10 minutes.
  6. After you have poured the lemon topping into hot crust, pour raspberry puree into the lemon mixture. It should keep mostly separate so drizzle all over. Continue steps above for baking.

*Honeyville has the best almond flour. Bob’s Red Mill is too coarse and leaves a grainy texture in baked goods. Honeyville is less expensive too, so order it online and store it in your fridge.
**Coconut Oil is solid at room temperature most of the time. My grandma brought back a jar from Arizona and it had completely melted. It has not solidified again, and I am using it for baking as it is so easy to pour into measuring cups and incorporate. It is the Spectrum brand, so I am not sure if it is always liquid or if this was just a fluke.

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In the Kitchen, Journal

Eggs. Where do I start?

For the purpose of this discussion I have to start with the chicken, no matter which came first, because how the hen is treated and fed affects the eggs. There are a ridiculous amount of egg options in the grocery store. Large, Extra Large, Jumbo, Organic, All Natural, Free-Range, Cage-Free, Omega-3 fortified, Soy-Free, Pastured, Vegetarian (huh? Ya.. I’m going to get to that). How do you know if you are getting a good egg? For those of us on a real food plan eggs are an essential protein, source of choline (a nutrient similar to B-Vitamins that works in tandem with folate, and keeps our livers from accumulating fat and has some links to developing brain function.) and vitamin D, among other benefits for your eyes, hair, brain and cardiovascular system. Good quality eggs are required. If you are not fortunate enough to be keep your own flock of chickens (or know someone who does) what kind should you buy? I’m going to break down the labels since it seems that consistency in labeling (or truth in labeling) is not in our immediate future.

Free Range vs. Cage Free

To almost any person with even a good dollop of common sense and elementary grasp of english language  you would think that these two terms are interchangeable. You would also probably imagine happy chickens on a wide open field or perhaps even in a quaint barnyard happily scratching away at the dirt. However, there is a slight difference in the terms and neither situation is what you would imagine. Cage-free generally means that the birds are not confined in a cage, but are confined in a barn or a warehouse with no access to the outside. Free-Range signifies that the birds do have “access” to an outdoor area adjacent to the barn or warehouse. Usually they are concrete or dirt pads, and the birds are fed inside so they rarely venture outside. The duration of time they are given access and quality of the outdoor area is not regulated. There is no oversight or audits to check either free-range or cage free conditions.

Organic vs. All Natural

Unless you know something I don’t I have yet to come across an unnatural egg. This in my opinion is a ridiculous label. Certified Organic eggs are uncaged and have access to the outdoors (again, the amount, duration and quality is not regulated).  The hens are fed an all organic, vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides. Organic eggs are usually the best quality eggs in a market. If you are buying from a local farmer however the eggs may be a better quality even if they are not “certified” organic. Certification takes money and many small farmers do not want the hassle. Farmers markets are usually the best place to find farm fresh eggs. You can get a good idea of how the hens are living by talking to the farmer.

Omega 3 & Vegetarian Fed & Soy-Free

Eggs are natural sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, but with the recent trend in consuming more Omega 3’s the industry has started supplementing the chicken feed with omega 3’s through the use of fish oil, alfalfa meal, algae, flax-seed and soy. I don’t see too many cartons that will tell you exactly what they are supplementing, but I believe that soy is used most often. Vegetarian fed means their feed does not contain any animal by-products, which eliminates things like chicken feathers and feces, but also takes away bugs! Last time I checked chickens were not vegetarians. They love to eat worms, grubs and the occasional reptile they come across. The basis for any quality meat or egg product is did the animal eat food that it would have in the wild? Chickens eat bugs.. stop forcing them to be vegetarians. Soy-Free eggs are from chickens that have not been fed any soy or soy derivatives. There have been studies showing that when a chicken is fed soy it is present in egg and the tissue of the bird and that is transferred to us when we eat them. The controversy surrounding the prevalent use of soy and the side effects are a post for another day. I avoid soy like the plague.

Pastured or Grass Fed

These are the best eggs to buy if you can find them, and they are hard to find! These birds do not live in crowded barns and fed an unnatural (for them) diet. They have truly free range of a grassy area where they are allowed to eat BUGS, and other natural behaviors. These may not be certified organic, but chances are that if the birds are in a pasture environment they are not being given any antibiotics or pesticides. There is quite of bit of research showing the nutritional benefits of pastured eggs being much higher than other types of eggs. Higher levels of vitamins A, B12, E, folic acid, beta-carotene and essential fatty acids were found in naturally pastured eggs.

Summary

From best to worst. Combinations of any are to be expected.

1. Pastured
2. Soy Free
3. Organic
4. Free-Range
5. Cage Free

My Egg Reviews

Since there is no reliable classification of store-bought eggs you have to do your own testing and reviews. I grew up eating eggs from my grandparents backyard, and my own when we once had a small flock of hens. The one thing you notice immediately is the color of the yolk. Farm fresh eggs have a rich golden orange color to the yolks. Many eggs you find in the store have a pale almost yellowish cast to them. The strength of the shell was another indicator that it came from a healthy chicken. Using these test factors I’ve tried every brand of eggs at my local Sprouts Farmers Market, Mother’s Market and Trader Joe’s.

 Vital Farms Pasture-Raised Organic Eggs.
These are by far the best eggs I have ever tasted. They even come with pictures of the hens in the pasture along with the company’s policies and a description of the treatment of their birds. I had been buying the Chino Valley Ranchers Soy Free Eggs at Mother’s Market, but they were out of stock and bought these instead. They were $6.99/dozen. A little pricey considering we can easily go through 4 dozen eggs per week at our house. I was surprised at the rich flavor, and it passed my two tests for yolk color and shell strength. I will be keeping these on hand for breakfast eggs, but I will use less expensive eggs for mixing in to baking recipes.

 Chino Valley Ranchers Organic Omega-3 Soy Free Eggs
These are my second choice for eggs, but I am having a difficult time finding them at the moment since Mother’s has stopped carrying them. The feed is soy free meaning that the eggs are also soy free. The yolk color on this is fair. I believe that these hens are in a cage-free environment (big barn/warehouse structure).

 Organic Valley Organic Cage Free Eggs “rich in flax seed”
When I can’t get to the Mother’s Market these are my eggs of choice. Because it says rich in flax I assume that they are giving flax instead of soy for omega-3 support. And since they are organic the hens do have some outdoor access. This company does have pretty strict rules for their products and they seem to care about what they are producing. These are the darkest yolks that I’ve gotten from the store in this category of eggs. This is the kind I buy most often, they are priced around $4.49-4.99/dozen.

The Sprouts and Trader Joe’s brand of organic, free-range eggs are just ok. The Trader Joe’s brand has very pale yolks and weak shells. The WORST eggs I have purchased so far have been the Archer Farms brand from Target. They didn’t taste very good at all, and when I used them in baking my finished goods had a strong sulphuric egg flavor. I would not buy those again.

I realize this has been an insanely long post about eggs. You’re welcome. All joking aside I hope some part of this was helpful.

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In the Kitchen, Recipes

Jambalaya

I modified Rachael Ray’s Everything Jambalaya recipe to fit our food plan. I’m not sure if this still counts as jambalaya if it doesn’t have rice or pasta. If you need something to soak it up I imagine that spaghetti squash might be a good option. All of my ingredients are organic, nitrate-free and free range, uncured or wild caught. I have added langostino lobster in sometimes as well.The time is all in the prep for this dish.

Jambalaya

2 tbsp butter/ghee/coconut oil
1 lb boneless chicken, cubed (can be white or dark meat, with skin or without)
1 lb Applegate chicken andouille sausage (uncured, nitrate free, organic) sliced
1 lb raw, medium shrimp, deveined and peeled
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 pinches cayenne pepper (if you use my chili powder recipe then reserve the extra cayenne for your tastes, the chili powder alone is a lot of kick).
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp poultry seasoning
2-3 tbsp nut flour (almond or coconut)
1 140z can diced tomatoes in juice
2 cups homemade chicken stock or broth
Celtic sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Chopped scallions and fresh thyme for garnish, optional

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a skillet over medium heat add butter to pan. Add chicken until brown, about 3 minutes. Add sausage and cook for 2 minutes. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, bay leaf and cayenne and/or chili powder. Cook for another 5 minutes
  2. Sprinkle flour and cook 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes, broth, cumin and poultry seasoning. Bring to boil.
  3. Add shrimp. Simmer 5 minutes until shrimp is pink and firm.
  4. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with salt, pepper, scallions and thyme as desired.

Total time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4
Level: Easy 

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In the Kitchen, Recipes

Chili Recipe – GAPS friendly, Gluten & Dairy Free

I get asked all the time for my chili recipe. It’s the bomb, but I was sworn to secrecy by the person who gave it to me. However, since switching to the Page Food Plan and moving into the GAPS diet I’ve had to make some slight adjustments to the recipe and therefore see no reason I can’t share the modified recipe. The new version is equally delicious and is totally ok with our diet. Feel free to mix it up for your own use. Be forewarned that this makes an enormous amount of chili, you can freeze half and still feed the whole neighborhood. (Not really, but close). I have tried to “cut it in half” but it doesn’t taste the same. I think a big batch is part of the magic. Prep time is therefore quite a while. I prep all my veggies before I start cooking anything.

Then I make my own chili powder

Chili 

4 lbs of ground meat 
1 lbs bell peppers, chopped – Usually 3-4 large peppers.
1 1/2 lbs onions, chopped – Usually 3-4 med-large onions.
2 heads garlic, finely minced
5 cups diced tomatoes, drained – Usually two 28oz cans of tomatoes.
8-10 carrots, diced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
2 tbsp salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Saute bell peppers, onion, garlic and parsley in 1 1/2 tbsp butter until soft and fragrant.
  2. Saute meats in 1/2 cup butter until browned. Do not drain.
  3. Add vegetables and remaining ingredients.
  4. Bring to boil and simmer for 3-4 hours.
  5. Top with diced onions and serve.

Notes:
Meat: I like to use organic grass fed-beef and ground lamb, typically in equal amounts or 3 lbs beef to 1 lbs lamb. Nitrate-free, organic, free-range turkey or chicken works well too. Pick 2 types of meat to use.
Bell Peppers: Any color, I like using 1 of each color, because it looks pretty.
Onions: Again, any color you prefer. I typically use yellow or brown. 
Tomatoes: I use canned organic tomatoes in juice. I don’t have the time to steam, peel and dice whole tomatoes.
Parsley: I have substituted parsley flakes in the past, but fresh is better.
Butter: I use unsalted, pastured butter. Pastured meaning from cows that are grass-fed. The package should say 100% grass-fed otherwise it was probably finished in a feed lot with grain/corn.

But there’s no beans in this chili!! Nope, there’s not. We don’t eat beans. I’ve substituted carrots for beans instead. You can add beans, subtract carrots, you can even add a head of broccoli. (I like the broccoli in it, but none of the boys did).

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In the Kitchen, Recipes

Chili Powder Recipe

I use this in Taco Seasoning and in my chili. It’s got a nice kick (said from someone who’s not BIG on spicy food), feel free to use less cayenne if it’s too hot for you. I’m of course only using organic spices with no additional additives. I mix up two batches at once and store in my cupboard in an air tight container. It makes a little over 1/3 cups.

Chili Powder

3 tsp paprika
6 tsp ground cumin
6 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp oregano
3 tsp cayenne pepper

Total Time: Less than 5 minutes
Yields: Between 1/3 and 1/2 cups, Approximately 7 Tablespoons

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