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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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