Star Anise Shortbread {Paleo}

Sometimes, you do crazy things to get a job.

Several years ago, I was feeling slightly disillusioned with the non-profit sector (which I had worked in for over a decade at that point) and really wanted to try something new.  I had mad administrative skills but I wanted to be in an environment where my skills were appreciated without the pressure of saving the world.  Okay, maybe that’s a TAD melodramatic.  But just a tad.

When an opportunity came for me to work for my favorite doctor, I jumped at the chance.  It was the single best professional decision I’ve ever made.  In this job, my confidence was restored, my skill set broadened, and my body healed right along with my heart.  It was the best kind of job.

When we decided to leave our city and have a new adventure in the Pacific North West, I was heart broken to leave my favorite job and my favorite doctor.  I had a glowing recommendation to carry with me along with my new skill set and healthy body.

After working in a job I wasn’t thrilled about for a few months, I began looking for other positions.  My friend and also my former boss connected me with a doctor who was looking for administrative help.  I was determined to woo him.

I went to his office.  I dropped off my resume with a batch of paleo shortbread cookies.

Three weeks later, I had a new job.  Coincidence?  I think not.

While I would love to think that I earned that job all on my own, I’m pretty sure these nifty little shortbread cookies had something to do with it.  Yep, I said NIFTY.  Because shortbread is classic and can handle words like “nifty” and “neato” and “groovy”.

I can’t guarantee your future employers will love these as much as I do. However, I can guarantee that, unless they have a nut or egg allergy, they will adore these treats.  And you probably will, too.

(If you are looking to cut back on sugar, you can substitute erythritol 1:1 in this recipe.)

shortbread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (or butter)
  • 1 cup coconut sugar or erythritol
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp anise extract or 1 tsp finely ground star anise
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, erythritol, and baking powder (and ground star anise if you use it)
  2. Combine egg, coconut oil, extracts, and stevia
  3. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and form into a log shape
  4. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for at least five hours (I chilled mine overnight and it was great)
  5. Once chilled, slice dough and place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle a TEENY bit of sea salt over the top.
  6. Bake at 325 degrees for 12-17 minutes, until just slightly browned around the edges.
  7. Allow to rest for a few minutes on the baking sheet. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving.

Have you ever done anything unorthodox to get a job?  What was it?  I want to know!

Your Favorite Paleo Cookie Monster,
Carrie

 

Not Your Mom’s Lasagna {Gluten Free)

LasagnaMany many years ago, I lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I moved there for a specialized school program.

I loved it.

I lived in old, adorable, slightly crusty houses with my best friends.  Original hardwood floors, seven layers of wallpaper that we determined MUST come off the walls before we could settle there, and yards perfect for laying down under the stars. Once a month, we had Family Dinner.  We invited our circle of friends, (and their friends) to come over, enjoy a simple meal, and hang out.  It usually ended with candles, guitars, original music by our crazy talented friends, lots of ridiculous jokes, and sometimes riding out a tornado warning in our ultra-creepy basement.

We were lucky.  Our group of friends just WORKED.  Compared to many of my other friends’ college experiences, our group of friends experienced very little drama.  Even from the beginning, we were determined to have fun and do great things and live like bohemians.  And we did. Kind of.

15 years later, we are still friends.  We lost a few friends early on, gained a few spouses, a couple of kids and dogs, and somehow all ended up on the West Coast within just a few hours of each other.  It became clear to us when we landed here that we are no longer friends.

We are a tribe.

In the interest of transparency, we work each other’s nerves sometimes.  We bicker occasionally.  We get angry and shut each other out.  We drift and pull apart.

But we always come back together.

House buying, baby making, parents passing, marriage failing, business thriving, seasons changing…all of it. When it all comes together or falls to pieces, we are usually the first ones to know and always the safest place to land.

A couple of years ago, one of our tribespeople was offered the use of a beach house.  We filled up the house for a long weekend in July.  Last year, we did it again.  And this year I’m writing this post from the same house.

The long Tribe weekend is vital for me.  I can’t speak for the rest of them, but I can say that for myself, I NEED it.  Each family takes a turn cooking dinner, and we eat and drink and laugh and relax after a long day of beach-combing and hiking.

We are lucky.

Empty Dish
My tribe.

 

This year, I chose one of my family’s favorite dishes: lasagna.  This year has seen some really dramatic circumstances in our tribe, and we needed to feel hugged from the inside out.  What better to do that with than noodles and sauce and cheese?  NOTHING, that’s what.

And even though this is exactly like your mom’s lasagna, she didn’t make it.  I DID. And I’m a mom.  So maybe I should rename this post “I’m A Mom Now Lasagna”?

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts red sauce (for my recipe using fresh tomatoes, click here for the Green Child Magazine article)
  • 1 box uncooked, gluten free lasagna noodles (I prefer Tinkiyada brand)
  • 24 oz shredded mozzerella
  • 12 whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 lb ground beef, browned

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, brown ground beef.  Transfer beef to paper towel lined plate.
  2. Pour a tablespoon of the ground beef drippings into your large glass casserole dish, and use it to grease the sides and bottom of pan. Discard the rest of the drippings.
  3. Heat sauce slowly until warm in skillet, and add meat.
  4. In your large, greased casserole dish, layer noodles, sauce, ricotta, then mozzarella IN THIS ORDER. You should have three layers.
  5. Sprinkle parmesan on top, cover with foil, and bake at 400 for 90 minutes.
  6. Remove foil, and broil the top of the lasagna for 2 minutes on high.
  7. Serve immediately with salad and box of your best wine.

You already feel hugged from the inside, don’t you? I do.  Well, maybe that’s because I just ate two helpings of it.  But whatever.  The Tribe liked it and that’s the thing that matters.  But since you’re a part of our extended tribe, I’m pretty sure you will, too.

I can't be sure, but I think they liked it.
I can’t be sure, but I think they liked it.

Still Saucy,
Carrie

PS ~ In case you missed it, here’s a screen cap of the red sauce recipe I made for Green Child Mag.

GreenChildSauce

 

 

 

 

 

Cauliflower Fried Rice {Grain Free}

CauliflowerRiceCornerI’m always looking for ways to get more vegetables.

You guys.  IT IS HARD.

While I don’t hate grains, (in fact, I adore them), I know my body doesn’t do well with a carbohydrate-heavy diet and I tend to feel uncomfortably full and bloated after eating them.  I also truly believe in a veggie-based diet, especially because I struggle with PCOS and endometriosis.  I have to keep my babymaker in good shape, and the best and first line of health for me is nutrition.  It’s part of an overall commitment to health and hormone balance.

When I can replace grains with veggies, I do. When I can replace grains and not miss them even a little bit, I absolutely do.

I’ve perused Pinterest and have seen the fried rice recipes with cauliflower.  I usually dismissed them because it’s typically so much prep work to get cauliflower to taste like something awesome. But with the fried cauliflower “rice”, it was a total breeze.

Are you ready for my secret weapon?

grater

Yep, a cheese grater.

I’ve tried a food processor, blender, knife tricks, and dicing or mashing after steaming.  The cheese grater, though, was so easy to use (albeit messy).  I just plunked the grater in a deep bowl,  trimmed and quartered the head of cauliflower, then grated away.

Easy.

The final result? A flavorful, slightly spicy dish that is wonderful as a standalone and completely filling and satisfying.  I didn’t miss the rice even a little.

CauliflowerRiceFull

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and grated
  • 1 12 oz bag of frozen mixed veggies (I prefer the California Blend)
  • 1 12 oz bag of frozen cut green beans
  • 12 oz of cooked protein of your choice (optional, but leftover meat works great!)
  • 1 head of garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • Bragg’s Amino Acids, Tamrari, or organic soy sauce (I prefer Bragg’s)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp Avocado oil, ghee, or another high smoking point oil
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, add frozen veggies and a tablespoon (or more) of Bragg’s.  If you want some extra spice, add red pepper flakes. Cook on medium high, stirring every five minutes until they are steaming hot.
  2. While vegetables are cooking, sauté onion in a large skillet or wok in 2 tablespoons of oil until translucent.  Add garlic and ginger and cook until soft and slightly golden.
  3. Add grated cauliflower to the garlic, onion, and ginger.  Add remaining oil, two tablespoons of Bragg’s, and mix thoroughly. Allow cauliflower to cook until tender.
  4. Once cauliflower is tender, push it to the sides, creating a hole in the middle of the pan.  A three inch circle of the pan should be exposed.  Crack eggs into the exposed circle, scrambling with a fork or spatula continuously.  The egg will cook into the cauliflower, and that’s okay.
  5. Once your eggs are scrambled, add protein and veggies (minus any liquid), to the cauliflower and mix thoroughly.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

I’m eating this today for lunch as leftovers.  It tastes so good without heating, but reheats like a dream in a skillet on the stove top.

This veggie thing.  It’s not THAT hard.
Carrie

 

Strawberry Shortcake {Paleo and Vegan}

Remember Strawberry Shortcake? She was one of my childhood favorites, along with Shera, My Little Ponies, GI Joe, Star Wars, and Care Bears.  There was something so enticing about the faint chemical strawberry scent of her hair, her massive bobbleheadedness, and magical world where everything smelled and tasted delicious.  My friend had a Strawberry Shortcake bedspread and sheets and I was so envious.  I wanted to dream of Berry Bitty City and play with Strawberry and all of her friends, and I was pretty sure I could only do that if I was lulled to sleep under all those magical sheets and blankets.

vintage-strawberry-shortcake-cute-31000

I didn’t realize for a long time (really, way too long) that Strawberry Shortcake was a real thing.  I don’t even remember having actual strawberries until we moved to Texas when I was in elementary school.  And I definitely don’t remember eating strawberry shortcake until I was in second grade at the school Field Day.

That shortcake was…not amazing.  It was made with the store bought spongy, yellow mini-cakes baked into little flat-top basins to hold the strawberries and whipped cream.  The strawberries were glazed and tasted like my Strawberry Shortcake doll smelled. A spoonful of Cool Whip completed the dish and it was…not my favorite thing I’d ever had.  I really wanted it to be.

Eventually, I outgrew my love of Strawberry Shortcake and her friends and mostly avoided the dessert for many years after that.  It wasn’t until college that I tried it again at a swanky resturant at the urging of my best friend.

Holy moly.

It was one of the most mind-blowingly delicious things I had ever tasted.  The shortcake was more like a biscuit, and everything was fresh and texturally spot on.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve spent ten years trying to recreate that shortcake.

This is the closest I’ve come.  I didn’t realize until I eliminated gluten from my diet that the shortcake I had tried so hard to replicate most likely was made using almond flour.  Once I unlocked that piece, the rest was a breeze.

Strawberry Shortcake

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2 cups blanched almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 eggs*
  • 3/4 cup butter, cold and cubed, or melted coconut or avocado oil
  • 1 scant cup cassava flour (wheat flour can be substituted)
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey, or other sweetener
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Combine the almond flour, cassava flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Add butter to the flour mixture and cut into flour until the butter is in tiny pieces.
  3. In a small bowl, combine eggs, vanilla extract, apple cider vinegar, and honey.  Whisk until fully incorporated.
  4. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until barely combined.
  5. Spoon mixture onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, or bake in lined muffin tins.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Pile with strawberries and whipped topping of your choice.

*If you want to make this egg-free, go for it!  To replace two eggs, I used 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds, 3 Tbsp water, 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar.

Now that I know what strawberry shortcake can be, I’ll never go back.  I still miss my Strawberry Shortcake doll, though, and secretly wish for a daughter so I can justify buying all the Strawberry Swag.

Strawberrylicious,
Carrie

 

 

 

Kale Waldorf Salad

 This is my Gram.
YoungGram

She was a total fox, right?

She was full of snap and sparkle.  She had a sharp tongue and quick wit.  She lived a wild life before leaving this world at the ripe age of 91. In her younger years, she smooched plenty of cute boys, danced until dawn with a young Merv Griffin, Aaron Spelling, and Errol Flynn in San Francisco during WWII. She survived a near fatal car accident that resulted in a broken back, and a million other crazy things that would amaze you.  In her later years, Gram kicked a life-long addiction to alcohol, became the belle of her church singles group when she was in her 70’s after my grandfather passed away, and loved riding on the back of her church friends’ motorcycles in her leather Harley vest and boots. She was a complicated, outspoken, generous and amazing lady. I loved Gram then, and I love her still, brambles and all.

Gram was a devoted veggie lover. I’ve actually never seen anyone eat more vegetables without juicing them.  She ate a big salad for lunch every single day, and always ate salad at dinner, too.  And then she ate more veggies on the side.  She obsessed over vegetables, and salads in particular.  I’m certain her consumption of vegetables will be remembered for decades to come.

A few years ago, I found myself preparing a meal for most of my extended family for a small reception after Gram’s memorial service.  And since salad was her very favorite food group, I had to honor her, right?

Since 90% of the prep had to be done the night before, I needed to find something that could withstand overnight storage.  I needed to pull it out of the fridge and get it on the table in 10 minutes.  It also had to be something that I could eat and that my family would want to eat.  (Sometimes, we don’t always like the same things.  Shocking, I know.)

Kale definitely fit the bill. I knew that my mom would really like it, since she is my Gram’s daughter.  I knew my brother would probably try it, even though he really dislikes kale, just because he trusts my cooking.  I also have a previous track record of helping him overcome aversions to certain foods, like brussels sprouts.  My dad is ridiculously easy to please.  My cousin and his wife are mostly vegetarian, and are fairly food-adventurous.  As for the rest of the family, they would either try it to be nice, or discreetly move on to the chicken salad and veggie tray.

But all those reasons aside, I knew Gram would love this dish and enjoy every bite. I hummed her favorite 40’s songs while I prepped, and smiled when I served it in her favorite wooden salad bowl.

waldorf

Ingredients:

2 bunches of kale, de-stemmed and cut into ribbons

2 cruncy apples, sliced into little quarter-moon pieces (I prefer honey crisp or pink lady)

1/2 cup dried unsweetened blueberries or currants

1/2 cup pine nuts

3 Tbsp (heaping) stone ground mustard

1 Tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tsp basalmic vinegar

1/2 small lemon

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a VERY LARGE BOWL, place your prepared kale, apples, mustard, vinegars, mustard and lemon juice then mix well.
  2. Add dried blueberries, pine nuts and nutmeg
  3. Mix everything together using your hands and gently squeeze until kale starts to reduce slightly in volume.
  4. Taste it.  What does it need?  Pepper?  More nutmeg?  More baslamic vinegar?  Add it.
  5. Transfer to a sealed container and store in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Making food that connects me to the people I love long after they’ve passed is a way for me to actively keep who they were to me alive and tangible, even through a dish as simple as a salad.  The power of food is incredible.  Thank you for letting me share it with you.

CarrieGram

Veggie Lover for Life,
Carrie