Creamy Avocado Zoodles {Paleo Vegan Raw}

My friend, Feather, is hilarious.  She’s also kind of a genius.

We met when our babies were still safe little blueberries, growing fast in our bellies.  I offered Feather my drink tickets at my husband’s office Christmas party.  She declined, telling me she was pregnant.  Then I got (too) excited and exclaimed “Me, too!” and thus a friendship was born. And then our babies were born shortly after.

Our kids, E and Rosebud, were born exactly one week apart and Feather and I have been able to support and love each other on every part of this parenting journey.  We are often grateful that our babies conspired to bring us together, because everyone knows babies are magic and can totally do that.  E and Rosebud knew we would need each other.  They were right.  Because Magic.

One day, when our babies were about 6 months old, Feather texted me about a new product she had purchased called the “Vegetti”.  We giggled and turned into 14 year-olds immediately, and then spent an afternoon volleying inappropriate jokes back and forth between diaper changes and bottle feedings.  Because new moms need lots of distraction and laughter, even if it involves bathroom humor.  Maybe especially if it does.

Of course, I had to buy a Vegetti immediately. The Vegetti is a vegetable spiralizer and uses fresh vegetables, like carrots and zucchini, to make noodles.  I experimented and played with it, and came up with a really yummy dish (and several more jokes) that satisfied me for several hours. It also provided a big boost of healthy fat and nutrient dense veggies, which I desperately needed.  It was a fast, healthy lunch, and with a handful of cashews or some uncured ham, it was a complete meal for me.

AvocadoZoodles

*If you don’t have a spiralizer or don’t want to invest in one, you can use a carrot peeler and make wider noodles. It will work just as well, and create a slightly different texture.  You can also add some shredded parmesan to add depth and a hint of buttery flavor.

Ingredients:
  • 1 large zucchini, spiralized, shredded or peeled
  • 1 medium avocado
  • 8-10 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3-4 leaves of fresh basil, chopped or ribboned
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • sea salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Put noodles and basil in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Mash avocado, adding salt and pepper and lemon juice.
  3. Add mashed avocado to the zucchini, and mix thoroughly.
  4. Add tomatoes and stir until they are coated in avocado and well incorporated.
  5. Serve immediately with fresh cracked pepper and a little extra basil on top.

Feather and I are still making jokes, supporting each other in the middle of our crazy times, and raising our babies together.  We even had a mommy getaway last year and Cannon Beach gave us this amazing moment because it somehow knew we needed it. Or maybe our babies knew we needed it and arranged it with their Baby Magic. Who knows?  But we definitely loved our wine and beach sunset. Kind of like you will love the zoodles.

CannonBeachFeatherandCarrie

Vegging and Vegetti-ing,
Carrie

 

Smokey Bacon Jalapeño Carbonara {Cappello’s Pasta Giveaway}


CappellosImage

 Today’s meal has been provided by the generous sponsorship of Cappello’s Gluten  Free Pasta.

 

I saw this pasta winking at me from the freezer section at Natural Grocers a few months ago. It called to me.  It asked me to take it home and work some paleo pasta magic.  I ignored it, though.  I kept rolling down the aisle, but the pasta stayed with me.

Fast forward to March in Los Angeles.  I stopped by the Cappello’s booth at a trade show to sample their products, and fell in love instantly.  The pasta was fresh, tender, and flavorful.  It was also filling and gave me great little energy boost.

After leaving Cappello’s booth, I started scheming immediately about what I would put on the pasta.  Of course, pasta carbonara was first on my list.

I fell in love with pasta carbonara in Venice, Itlay, where my best friends and I packed around a tiny table in a tiny restaurant off  a tiny alley where the waiter didn’t know English and we didn’t know Italian but we all knew food and wine and he brought us his favorite dishes and bottles.  We ate for hours.  Tasting, sampling, sharing, exclaiming, laughing, drinking, pantomiming with our Venetian waiter, and eventually, closing the restaurant down.

Of the 12 (!) dishes we sampled that night, the pasta carbonara has stayed with me a decade later. That, and our fun walk back to the hotel in the chilly December air feeling carefree, and totally high on good food and wine and lifelong friendship.  Because Italy.

For my American Paleo-ized version, I wanted to infuse robust flavor and play on the richness of the eggs and tenderness of the pasta.  It’s kind of like mac and cheese, but for adults.

CarbonaraPlate

Although I took many liberties in creating this recipe and veered far from that original carbonara in Venice, the integrity and heart behind the dish is still there.  When I shared this with friends, every single person was blown away and could NOT STOP EATING IT.  If you’re a home cook, this is probably the highest compliment anyone can give you.

So, I give you Smokey Bacon Jalapeño Carbonara.  It’s a little bit Italian, a little bit American, and a whole lot of comfort.

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces of pasta (I used Cappello’s paleo fettucini noodles)
  • 8 pieces thick cut bacon, diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 3/4 cups very finely grated parmesan cheese (if you want to be totally paleo here, skip this and add 1-2 extra egg yolks)
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 medium jalapeños
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, ribboned

Directions:

  1. Fry the bacon until just barely crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside.  Drain most of the grease, but leave a little for frying the onions and garlic.
  2. Return the pan to stove. Cook onions and garlic on medium heat until golden brown, and set aside.
  3. While the onions and garlic are cooking, roast the jalapeños under the broiler, turning often until soft and slightly blistered.  De-stem and scrape out seeds (unless you want more spice, then leave some seeds in) and dice the roasted jalapeño.
  4. In a bowl, mix together eggs, parmesan, and salt and pepper until incorporated.
  5. Take freshly cooked pasta (still piping hot) and place in a large bowl.  While pasta is still steaming hot, slowly pour in the egg mixture while continuously stirring the pasta. The sauce will thicken up (the eggs are cooking!) and coat the pasta. If it gets too thick, pour a little pasta water into the bowl until you reach the desired consistency.
  6. Halfway through drizzling in the egg mixture, add all the other ingredients.  Bacon, jalapeño, garlic, onions, salt and pepper. Continue mixing and adding the egg mixture.
  7. Top with fresh basil, lots of fresh cracked pepper and serve immediately.

You will thank yourself for making this.  Seriously.
CarbonaraCloseUp

Oh, and do you want to try a box of Cappello’s pasta on us?  Enter to win the giveaway now with the rafflecopter and we will announce the winner on Tuesday, May 5th.

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Buena Suerte,

Carrie

Crêpes Florentine {Grain-Free}

Crepe CloseThis is a story about Paris.

In my early 20’s, I did some short-term non-profit work in Kenya.  I had an option of extending my layover in London for $20 for up to two weeks.  I jumped at the opportunity to do a little backpacking and fulfill a lifelong dream to visit Europe.  I took the Chunnel from London to Paris and couldn’t wait to fall in love with the City of Lights.

Except it was broad daylight and I was lost and carrying a 50lb pack with all of my worldly possessions in it.  After wandering and backtracking and asking directions from the disapproving locals, I found my hostel after an hour.  I nearly cried with relief.

The neighborhood was…sketchy.  Close to the Moulin Rouge, it had a fascinating mix of people, mostly tourists, drug addicts, and aggressively struggling artists.  I was terrified and charmed at once.

I checked into the hostel which matched the neighborhood.  It was filthy, but I was in Paris.  Paris is dirty, right?  Like every other big city in the world.  I paid a few extra bucks for bed linens, threw my stuff in my room, and took off to explore the city in the early summer light.

I found the subway with no problem this time.  I boarded and felt my heart leap as we came above ground and I had my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.  I might have gotten choked up seeing the great steel structure.  I had dreamed of Paris since I was a little girl.  And my dream was coming true.

I got off the subway at the nearest stop to the Eiffel Tower.  I made a beeline for it, overwhelmed with the grandness of it.  It was everything I dreamed it would be.

I spotted a man with a small crêpe stand, and ordered a Nutella crêpe. It was the most revolutionary thing I had ever eaten. Then I ordered a savory crêpe with spinach and ham and brie.  It was the second best thing I had ever eaten.  I took my crêpes and a bottle of water to the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower and laid back.  I watched people come and go, everyone full of laughter and early summer sparkle.  Then I grabbed another Nutella crêpe on my way back to the train.

It was 9:00pm and still light outside.  I made my way back to my hostel, suddenly feeling very vulnerable.  I held my head high, looked straight ahead, and expertly ignored the calls for attention and invitations to share cigarettes with French men.  I got to the hostel with a sigh of relief and headed up to my room.

I opened the door.  A tiny mouse scattered across the floor.  It was charming in an odd way. I mean, it was very Parisian, right?  I made my bed, took a shower, and headed downstairs to see what was happening in the bar/lounge.  I made some friends, shared a cheap bottle of wine, and then went back to my room to sleep.

Except I did not sleep.

I pulled my sheets back and there were…unwanted bed mates.  I wish I could say they were bedbugs, but they were much larger and horrifying.  I swatted them out of my bed (remember, I had just been in Africa so it was NBD), and pulled out my can of African bug repellent.  I opened the window to ventilate the room and tried to settle in.

My sleep was uneasy, to say the least. Noise and lights and music from the street drifted into my room and I felt like I was actually in the middle of the revelry. People on the fire escape outside my room were drinking and singing. It was too hot and poisonous to close the window, though.

I finally nodded off around 3:00, only to be woken up by a cat chasing a very large rat around my room.  They had both entered through my open window. I watched the cat catch the rat, incapacitated it, and then took his leave through the window.  Then it was just me and a slowly dying rat in my pest-infested hostel room at 6:30 am.

It was a sign.

I got up, showered again, packed all of my gear, and checked out.  I spent the morning searching for a decent place to stay, and in the process offended every Parisian ever with my questions and unintelligible French. All the good hostels had been booked well in advance.  I ate another fantastic crêpe by the Eiffel Tower and then booked an overnight train to Prague.  While I loved the tower and crêpes, I couldn’t leave Paris fast enough.

I’ve been back to Paris a few times since then.  Each experience was progressively better, but besides the food, art, and architecture, I never was able to surrender my heart to the city.

I still have a strong affinity for crêpes, though.  They’re hard to master, but I certainly try even with my food intolerances.  I gave this recipe a go, and I love the simplicity and versatility of it.  The crêpes themselves are simple, and so is the filling.  This particular crêpe lands somewhere between a Florentine and Lorraine, so I created a hybrid.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Crepe Big

Ingredients for Crêpes:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon

Directions for Crêpes:

  1. Blend all of the ingredients together in a blender or magic bullet until smooth.
  2. Tap the batter on the counter to release some of the bubbles. (I’m too impatient to wait for them to settle on their own!)
  3. In a lightly greased sautee pan on medium low heat, pour batter into pan. Rotate the pan quickly to spread batter out before it cooks too much.  You want the crepe to be thin and even.
  4. Flip when crepe is firm and the batter is no longer shiny on top.  Once flipped, the crêpe will cook very quickly, (30 seconds).

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 1 slice of ham, cut into postage stamp sized pieces
  • 1 handful of raw spinach
  • 1 small slice of brie

Directions for Filling:

  1. Heat up ham in a skillet (I use the crepe skillet)
  2. Add the spinach and just wilt it a bit.  It should be warm but not slimy.
  3. Put filling in an open crepe, and top with brie.
  4. Crack a little fresh pepper over it, and if you have it, a garlic mustard aioli.
  5. Fold up like a burrito, leaving one end open.  Serve immediately.

CrepeFilled

This is street food at it’s finest.  It’s so yummy and easy.  I love this for breakfast, especially because you get your greens in.  You can make the crepes in advance and use them for sandwich wraps, or make it sweet and add a little honey and vanilla to the batter and stuff with hazelnut chocolate spread.  You could make them thicker and call it a pancake.  The options are endless!i

This is as  close to Paris as I ever want to be again.  Italy, on the other hand…

Ouî Ouî,
Carrie

 

 

The Dirty Side of Clean Eating

By now you’ve probably read this article, or something like it.  I’ve been digesting it (hah!) and looking at my own eating habits and drawing my own (unprofessional but informed) opinions.

Here’s my conclusion:

I am not orthorexic.

Whew!  Now let’s get on with the rest of the post.

*Disclaimer – This is the closest you’ll ever get to “before” and “after” photos on this blog.  And you’ll notice I left out my body.  It’s on purpose.  Pay attention to the eyes, because that’s where the story takes place.

Several years ago, I went hardcore paleo.  I made a huge shift in my diet because as it turns out, eating sugar, most grains and processed foods when you have PCOS can be detrimental to your health.

This picture was taken a month before I changed my eating habits.  Turns out, a steady diet of fried chicken and Milky Ways made me feel like sh*t.
This picture was taken a month before I changed my eating habits. Turns out, a steady diet of fried chicken and Milky Ways made me feel like sh*t.

I made a change to help heal my body, balance my hormones and reduce inflammation. I also wanted to lose weight, and possibly boost my fertility. After two years on the paleo diet, I felt amazing.  In fact, I felt better at 32 than I did at 22.  It was a very positive change for me, and I felt committed to continuing the lifestyle.

I felt GREAT here, about two months before I became pregnant.  Having my best girls with me didn't hurt either.
I felt GREAT here, about two months before I became pregnant. Having my best girls with me didn’t hurt either.

When I became pregnant, my body revolted.  Food was torturous.  I was puking 10 times a day and stepping foot in the kitchen caused me to retch uncontrollably.  I agonized over giving up my paleo ways, even though 1/2 a croissant and a few sips of a latte were the only thing I could keep down for several weeks.  A woman who I greatly respected and admired in my professional life saw me eat a bite of croissant one day at work. I was down 17 lbs from my pre-pregnancy weight, and struggled to keep even a little food in my stomach.  She scolded me in front of my co-workers and within earshot of clients and impassionately proclaimed, “Your baby doesn’t need carbs!”.  That was it. My wake up call. MY BABY NEEDED CARBS. And so did I if we were going to get through this pregnancy.

After that point, I gave exactly zero f*cks about eating grains.  As it turned out, my body needed grains to make milk for my son and I continued to eat them with abandon and without an ounce of guilt.  I tuned out the women who openly spoke to me about my food choices and weight (both positively and negatively) during pregnancy and after.  Their opinions weren’t helpful to me either way.

Clearly, grains made us both horrendously sick and miserable and dead. OR WE WERE ABSOLUTELY GREAT.
Clearly, grains made us both horrendously sick and miserable and gross. OR WE ARE ABSOLUTELY HAPPY AND COMPLETELY OKAY.

A formerly vegan friend told me a story about when she decided to no longer be a vegan.  She was part of her local herbivore community and found great support there. After five years of vigilant veganism, she broadened her daily menu to include animal protein. She agonized over it, but her body needed more than plants to survive. She told her vegan community.  Some were accepting and wished her well.  Others were not.   Sentiments like, “I’m sorry your body craves the flesh of dead animals” and “How can you sleep at night?” and “Enjoy eating that chicken’s period” were volleyed back at her.

WTF.

We can all tune into what feels good in our bodies. And what feels good isn’t necessarily what is good, but only you are qualified to make that distinction. I am an advocate of eating whatever food makes you feel good.  Not what other people tell you to eat, or Dr. Oz,  or your grandma, or The Internet, or Big Ag.  And especially not what judgy people with no professional experience tell you to eat.

We eat “clean” at our house.  We eat properly raised animal proteins.  We eat mostly organic produce when we can afford it, and get creative in order to make that possible.  We eat grains in moderation and avoid wheat and refined sugar altogether.  We feel better when we make conscious decisions about what we fuel our bodies with.  We eat junk food occasionally and have seasons where we eat it way too much.  Then we feel terrible and go back to our clean eating because it works for us.  We are nicer, kinder, less stressed, and our bodies function better when we are consistent with our right-for-us food choices.

Orthorexia exists.  I’m certain it is a real disorder that affects people in profound ways, and I’ve seen it in my industry and in my community.  I came (too) close to it.  I struggled with an eating disorder during my teens and early 20’s, so I’m extra vigilant about not making food my religion.

With that said, there’s another side to this story.

Please don’t mistake eating what makes your body feel good with a disorder.  Unless you are a doctor  or licensed mental health professional, you have no business judging people’s food choices.

And for the rest of us?

Eat with awareness.

  • If you feel more energetic after eating something, take notice.
  • If something you eat makes you feel guilty, take notice.
  • If you feel more satisfied when you eat certain foods, take notice.
  • If you are terrified to eat something when you’re not certain of the source, and you don’t have a legit allergy or intolerance, take notice.
  • If you eat a certain way because someone told you to and it doesn’t line up with your values or current needs, take notice.
  • If your body feels inflamed, painful, or achy after eating something, take notice.
  • If you eat in secret, take notice.
  • If you feel shame around food, take notice.
  • If people shame you about what you are eating, take notice. (And tell them to mind their own damn business.)

It’s easy to make a judgment and slap a label on disordered eating.  Tabloids and busybodies do it all the time. It’s also easy to judge people based on physical appearance. And guess what?  Those are acts of emotional brutality.  Unless it is personally causing you harm or bringing serious harm to a minor or elderly person, knock it off.  It’s not your business what somebody looks like or what they eat.  Leave that up to trained professionals.

I’m returning to my paleo ways for a while because it works for me again at this stage in my life.  But we are going to Texas next month and you’d better believe I’m going to murder some chips and queso and maybe a taco or two. I will feel zero guilt about it.

This is me, now. Feeling good and totally loved by this hottie who has only kind words for my body.
This is me, now. Feeling healthy and energetic and totally loved by this hottie who has only kind words for my body.

We are more than our bodies.  We are more than a number on the scale.  We are more than our food.

Love,
Carrie

 

 

Quinoa Fritters with Coconut Honey Butter

This post is made possible by the generous sponsorship of Bob’s Red Mill.

We are strictly gluten-free at our house because of my son’s FPIES, (which is a fancy acronym for Allergic to Practically Everything).  Luckily, E can handle quinoa like a champ. I’m always looking for food all of our friends and family can enjoy so our kid grows up eating the same food as everyone else at our table. Traditional breakfast foods are the most challenging dishes to make to please a crowd.

Enter my BFF, Quinoa.

Quinoa is one of those universal foods that, when prepared correctly, is unbelievably satisfying. These fritters (I would call them pancakes except these are much more flavorful and delightfully crispy) are total crowd pleasers.  Even though I plan food as much as possible around E’s dietary restrictions, I also love to challenge myself and find new ways to make really tasty food that doesn’t feel restrictive in any way.  The quinoa fritters totally fit that bill.

Quinoa Fritters

I also have a hard time getting enough fat into my toddler’s diet, so I look for unique ways to incorporate fats into my dishes.  This coconut honey butter is totally edible as a stand-alone, if that’s what you’re into.

CoconutHoneyButter

Ingredients for Fritters:

  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill organic quinoa flour
  • 1/2 cup milk (plant or animal)
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 2 Tbsp melted coconut oil or butter
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey or other equivalent sweetener (optional)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • tiny pinch of salt

Directions For Fritters:

  1. Whisk baking soda, cinnamon and quinoa flour together in a bowl.
  2. Add wet ingredients and combine thoroughly.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil or butter in a skillet on medium heat.
  4. When skillet is hot, spoon batter into skillet and spread out with the back of the spoon into a thin round shape. Flip when the edges begin to cook and the center begins to bubble ever so slightly. It should only take a minute or two to finish cooking.
  5. Press the pancake with the spatula to see if it is finished cooking.  If it is mushy in the middle, it needs more time.  If it is firm, it’s ready to eat.

Ingredients for Coconut Honey Butter:

  • 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (I prefer Kerrygold)
  • 1-2 Tbsp raw honey

Directions for Coconut Honey Butter:

  1. Remove butter from refrigerator and bring to room temp. (Butter should be very soft.)
  2. In a small sauce pan, melt coconut oil but do not make it hot.  Heat it just enough to liquify it. Remove from heat.
  3. Whisk honey into coconut oil, and then whisk together with room temperature butter. (I prefer to use an electric hand mixer, but a hand mixer would work fine.)
  4. Spread over a saran wrapped plate or small cookie sheet, and freeze until firm, (or spread immediately).
  5. Cut into small squares and melt over piping hot fritters.

You can add anything you want into this batter.  I think pieces of cooked, thick cut bacon would be fabulous in this recipe.  Blueberries, and even zucchini or pieces of banana would be super tasty.  Or, better yet, add bananas and bacon and you’ll have a scrumptious breakfast feast.  But whatever you do, you can make it your own.

Quinoa’s Biggest Fan,
Carrie