“Hunter’s Pie”

Well, last week we got a stomach virus. So that was fun.

20161215_194725Anyway, Hubby got a deer this year, so we’ve been spending time processing and eating it. The roasts have been amazing, but I’ve been hesitant to make anything with the ground meat. I had this weird idea that ground venison wouldn’t taste so great so I kept putting it off.

I did a little experiment to see if shepherd’s pie would translate well with ground venison. I made a few adjustments to the recipe and it turned out pretty delicious so I’m sharing it with you guys! I’m really glad it turned out well because we have a lot of ground venison, so it’s nice to know that this is one option that’s palatable. Hamling even had two helpings!

Hunter's Pie

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print
5-6 medium potatoes, cubed
3-4 Tbs butter (or other oil)
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup broth
1 cup frozen corn
salt and pepper to taste

1 lb ground venison
4 slices of bacon
1 Tbs butter (or other oil)
1/2 medium onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup broth

  1. Fry bacon in a 3 qt oven-friendly dutch oven until crispy.
  2. While the bacon is frying, start boiling the potatoes. Boil them for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove the bacon and place on a plate. Melt the butter in the bacon grease and add the diced veggies. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the venison, spices and garlic and cook until the meat is fully brown.
  4. If using fresh green veggies, add them with the broth. Bring to a simmer, cover, and turn to low.
  5. Preheat oven to 420°F
  6. Simmer the meat and veggies for as long as it takes to preheat the oven.
  7. At this point the potatoes should be done. Drain the potatoes, return to the pan and add the remaining ingredients. Mash until smooth.
  8. Crumble the bacon and set aside.
  9. When the oven is preheated add frozen corn and bacon to the filling and spread the mashed potatoes over top. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes start to get golden. Let sit for 15 minutes and then serve.
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Sweet Potato Pudding.

Well, here we are again. It’s Saturday. Oops.

Last night our little chicken died, we’re not sure what was wrong with her. She has always looked a little sickly, but I thought she had been looking better recently until she spent all day in the coop yesterday. Hubby opened the coop this morning and took care of her body. It’s a little sad, but life goes on.

On that note, today I’m sharing a recipe for a vegan pudding.

20161006_125006I love sweet potatoes and recently I’ve been buying them in bags (rather than loose) because Hamlette is really liking solid foods – she has 6 teeth already! I follow a paleo page on Facebook and they shared a recipe for sweet potato chocolate pudding I’d been wanting to try, but I couldn’t find it so I picked the first one I googled. I made that recipe but I didn’t like the texture at all so I tried mixing in some coconut milk. The coconut milk did the trick: the grainy mousse turned into a nice, smooth pudding.

Sweet Potato Chocolate Pudding

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
2-3 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 Tbs coconut oil
1 Tbs sweetener of choice
1 tsp vanilla
1/4-3/4 cup full fat coconut milk

  1. Bake the sweet potatoes for an hour at 350°F. Cool and peel the sweet potatoes.
  2. Blend everything but the coconut milk until smooth. At this point it will look a lot like a mousse.
  3. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a bowl and stir in the coconut milk until you reach a good consistency.
  4. Serve.

Notes

  • If making ahead, bring the pudding back to room temperature before eating: it firms up in the fridge and becomes less pudding-y
  • You could use melted cocoa butter instead of coconut oil for a richer flavor.

Salad Anatomy 101.

20160831_195731 I know it’s sort of late in the season to be writing about salads, but we’ve been eating a ton of them lately in an effort to be budget friendly. So I thought I’d share some tips for making a salad worth being a main course.

Mix greens.
I buy a head each of organic red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, and romaine. I take them home, rinse them off, chop them up, and mix them well in a large bowl. This usually lasts me for a week and a half or more, depending on hubby’s work schedule. But, how do you keep your lettuce from browning? you ask. Storing chopped lettuce in a mason jar with a standard canning lid set (not a plastic lid) and a paper towel on the bottom really works. The lettuce will stay fresh for as long as 2 weeks.

I don’t recommend adding spinach greens to your salad raw because of their high oxalate content which prevents absorption of calcium. Beet greens are a bit problematic as well. If you have a yard that you don’t treat with chemicals, you can grab some dandelion greens for your salad. I wouldn’t recommend buying them: they cost almost $3 for a small bunch where I am, and that seems like a ridiculous price to pay for something that grows everywhere. Just be sure to pick leaves from plants that haven’t bolted yet (started growing a flower) so you’re greens aren’t overly bitter.

20160903_124044Multiple sources of protein.
I try to have meat of some form on my salads if I’m making one for dinner. I’ll put less meat or no meat at all on lunchtime salads because I usually want a lighter meal for lunch.
Other than meat I like to add different kinds of sprouted beans. You can use whatever kind of beans you like; they don’t necessarily need to be sprouted. I sprout mine for better nutrient absorption, and I like the way they taste, but it’s totally optional. A bonus with using cooked and cooled beans is that you get some resistant starch with your salad, which helps your digestion.
Soaked and dried nuts are also a great addition to salads because they add a delightful crunch.

Something raw other than the greens.
Think sliced tomatoes, shredded carrots, avocados, etc. If you’re struggling with thyroid issues, avoid eating raw cruciferous veggies.

Fermented veggies or pickled veggies.
I like to top my salads with some purple cabbage cortido, because it’s delicious (even though I hate sauerkraut) and crunchy. It also adds a delightful tang to your salad. If I don’t have any on hand I like to chop up some pickles, pickled okra is good as well, or artichoke hearts. Olives are also delicious.

Sprouted seeds.
I love putting sprouted and dried sunflower seeds on top of my salad. This is something I picked up from my awesome mother-in-law. She makes incredible salads.

Dressing.
I find that sometimes I don’t even need dressing if I’ve put enough stuff on the salad, but my go-to dressing recipe is below (this is a good dressing if you’re fighting a candida overgrowth):

Lemon Salad Dressing

  • Servings: 2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup filtered water
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

  1. Combine all ingredients in a jar. Shake well. Serve.

Really, the possibilities are endless. These are just some suggestions based on things that I have found to take a salad from good to great.

What do you usually put on your salads?

Super Awesome Secret #1!

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You should know something: nut butters are amazingly easy to make.

All you need is a food processor and some nuts. You can get fancy by adding sweeteners or different kinds of oil, but most nuts turn into nut butter of their own accord when they’ve been ground finely enough. This goes for coconut as well.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the jars of coconut butter, or coconut cream you can buy in the store, but they’re pretty pricey most of the time. It’s much more economical to buy unsweetened shredded coconut and process it yourself. One pound will get you about a pint of coconut butter.

Here’s what you do:
Pour the shredded coconut into a food processor. Process until smooth.

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You’re welcome.

Chocolate Mousse.

IMG_0858I used to hate avocados. There. I said it. I feel like avocados are a strange food to dislike. Then again, my aunt doesn’t like chocolate, so I guess I’m not the only weirdo. Anyway, I don’t know what happened exactly, but after I had Hamling I loved avocados (and onions for some reason). I finally understood how my parents could just eat them with a spoon.

Now, after Hamlette, I cannot have enough avocado in my life. If there is something that has avocado in it or on it, I am far more likely to eat it than anything else put in front of me.

I also can’t get enough chocolate. Chocolate is the most amazing thing, it makes me happy to eat. Particularly truffles. AlterEco makes the best dark chocolate truffles I have ever had (from a store).

So here’s a recipe that is pretty much the best. But wait, avocados and chocolate? How could that possibly be good?

Oh, trust me, it is so good!IMG_0859

This also makes an excellent frosting or cake filling. This is the best paleo, vegan chocolate frosting you will ever make. On top of that, you pretty much can’t mess it up. It’s too easy to mess up. Which is great news for me because I fail at frosting on a regular basis.

Paleo, Vegan Chocolate Mousse

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy peasy
  • Print
2 ripe avocados
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Place avocados, cocoa powder, maple syrup and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth.
  2. Taste. If it isn’t sweet enough, add more syrup, or a spoonful of honey.

Store for up to 3 days in the fridge. If you make this ahead the vanilla will bloom as it sits in the fridge and it will be extra delicious.

No-Bake Vegan Mini “Cheesecake”

IMG_0726I’m generally not a fan of vegan things because, in my opinion, the vegan diet is unsustainable health wise. I think it’s an awesome reset diet, but not something that should be practiced long-term, and certainly not something you should be doing while pregnant. But that’s just my opinion. The reason I made these this Christmas is there are people in my family who have a hard time with dairy and eggs. I wanted to make a cheesecake, but I wanted everyone to be able to eat it. I had made a cashew-based “cheesecake” before with decent results, so I found a different recipe and modified it a bit.

These desserts are pretty amazing, because even vegan food can be amazing if you know what you’re doing. To top that off, they’re also really easy to make. All you need is a food processor and a little time.

Vegan Mini Cheesecake

  • Servings: 12-18
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Crust:
1 cup pitted dates, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes and drained
1 cup soaked and dried almonds
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste)
Filling:
1 1/2 cups “raw” cashew pieces
Juice of 1 medium-sized lemon
Generous 1/2 cup coconut cream
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
Ganache:
Equal parts coconut cream and semi-sweet chocolate chips.

  1. Soak almonds in salt water overnight. Drain and dry in a 170 °F oven until crispy (about 8 hours).
  2. Pour boiling water over the cashew pieces and let soak for 1 hour.
  3. Process almonds and cinnamon in food processor until you have a very coarse meal and add the drained dates. Process until a loose dough forms. Add dates or almonds as needed to adjust the consistency. As a general rule, start with more almonds/less dates and add dates if the dough is too dry.
  4. Grease a muffin pan (and a half, there will be extra batter) or line with paper liners. The paper liners are easier to remove, but greasing works reasonably well, just make sure your muffin pans fit in your freezer.
  5. Pack about 1/2 tablespoon of the crust into the bottom of the muffin cups. A spoon works really well for this.
  6. Rinse the food processor bowl and add the drained cashew pieces. Process until they start to form a dough.
  7. Add the lemon juice and process until smooth. Repeat with each ingredient, one at a time. This helps the texture of the final product. If you add everything at once you have a greater chance that the cheesecakes will be mealy rather than smooth.
  8. Pour into muffin cups, leaving some room on top.
  9. In a small saucepan add the coconut cream and heat until barely hot. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate chips. Stir until smooth. Using a small spoon (I used a sugar spoon, or a baby food spoon works as well) portion the ganache onto the cakes. Swirl with a toothpick.
  10. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for a minimum of 4 hours in the freezer (8 in the fridge, overnight is even better). If you just greased your muffin tins (no paper liners) you need to freeze these for removal. To remove the frozen cakes, just slide a butter knife in the edge and pop them out. If some of the crust stays behind, scrape it out and re-squish it to the bottom of the cake.
  11. Enjoy!

I used what was left of my coconut cream from the can I bought for the ganache: the solid contents of the can were slightly more than what I needed for the filling. I just weighed it on my kitchen scale. If I remember correctly I had about 1.6 ounces of cream. That was the perfect amount for all of the cakes and a little extra for me to enjoy after I was finished making them.

For this recipe, do not mix the coconut cream with the water in the can. Only use the solid part. If you shake your can and it sounds like the entire thing is liquid, pop it in the fridge while the almonds are soaking/drying (at least overnight) and it will separate nicely.

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This recipe is adapted from here.

Paleo Bacon Meatballs.

IMG_0278These meatballs are amazing. The one thing that’s not so amazing is that you need a food processor with a shredding blade attachment to make them. You could give them a shot with super finely chopped bacon too, but shredding the bacon makes them awesome. Another thing you could use is a meat grinder. I saw one at the thrift store the last time I went, now I’m kicking myself for not grabbing it.

Every time I host something I think of making these. Depending on what the event is, it’s more than likely these delicious morsels will make an appearance. As a bonus you can stick them on toothpicks with lettuce and a cherry tomato for something resembling a bun-less burger. I bet you could wow guests if you turned these into actual burgers too. I’m going to try that after the wee one’s birthday party.

Bacon Meatballs

1 pound ground beef (preferably grass-fed)
1 pound nitrate-free bacon (or largest package you can find)
1 egg
1 Tablespoon chili powder (mild if serving to children)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cherry tomatoes and lettuce for garnish

  1. Set up your food processor with the shredding disc and shred the bacon. Do not separate the bacon slices: put the whole brick of bacon through at once.
  2. Mix the shredded bacon and ground beef. Add the egg and spices and mix thoroughly.
  3. Use a cookie dropper to drop meatballs onto a preheated pan and cook for 3 minutes before turning them over with tongs. Cook another 3-5 minutes, or until you cut the largest one in half and there is no pink.
  4. If you’re making a lot of these preheat your oven to 350° and bake portioned meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Coconut Macaroons.

I love a good macaroon, especially one with chocolate involved. I didn’t always love making them, though. I’ve never been a fan of whipping egg whites, so when my awesome sister-in-law told me you didn’t have to whip egg whites to make macaroons I was pretty stoked. I found a recipe online that I liked and I’ve been tinkering with it for a while. Here is the recipe I’ve settled on:

Coconut MacaroonsIMG_0682

8 egg whites
4-5 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the egg whites, maple syrup, butter, vanilla and salt in a large bowl. Add 3 cups of the coconut and mix. Add in coconut 1/2 cup at a time until the mixture begins to stick together. For macaroons that are less rich add in coconut until the mixture is more dry than wet. Fold in chocolate chips if using.
  3. Using a cookie scoop (or two spoons) plop the macaroons onto the parchment paper. They shouldn’t spread at all, so spacing is less important, just make sure they’re not touching.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until the tops become golden brown, rotating sheet halfway through.
  5. Cool on the sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Almond Butter.

IMG_0677I will never buy almond butter from the store again, or any kind of nut butter for that matter. Nut butters are so easy to make in a food processor and making your own saves you a fairly significant amount of money. Especially if you buy your nuts on sale in bulk.

I picked up almonds while at Natural Grocers and I noticed that they have raw Spanish almonds. They were nearly $14 a pound so I didn’t buy them, but it’s nice to know that I can buy raw almonds that are actually raw.

Almond Butter

4 cups raw almonds
Non-iodized sea salt
Water to soak
.5-1 ounce cocoa butter, melted (roughly 1-2 Tablespoons)
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
pinch of salt

  1. Place the almonds in a bowl and shake a moderate amount of non-iodized salt on top. Cover the almonds with water, making sure there is at least an inch of extra water on top. Let sit for 12 hours.
  2. Drain the almonds, place on a jellyroll pan (or other dish with sides) and dry in the oven on the lowest temperature setting for 12-24 hours, until they are no longer soggy when you bite them. You’ll be able to tell.
  3. Put the dry almonds in a food processor with an S blade and turn it on. Process for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Depending on the consistency of the resulting almond butter add in the .5-1 ounce of cocoa butter and coconut oil while the food processor is running.
  5. Enjoy.

Paleo. Is it Really the Diet of Our Ancestors?

I am reading two fantastic books right now. Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel and A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tony Sandage. Both of these books focus on what our ancestors ate (and both are fantastic so far). According to these two authors and at least one person on the internet grains have been a part of our diet for a long, long time. So, what does this mean for the paleo diet? Is it a fraud? Not necessarily. Though our paleolithic ancestors most likely ate grain, they ate it in a far, far different way than we eat it now.

Grain helped humans shift from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a more settled way of life. Something that allowed people, for the first time, to have free time. This fostered all kinds of advances in society and technology like writing and even bureaucracy (lol). The catch here is that grain was always consumed sprouted and fermented. Beer was a staple foodstuff even being used as currency. According to ancient documents the workers who built the pyramids in Egypt were paid with beer and sometimes bread. That has nothing to do with paleolithic humans, but it’s a really interesting factoid.

Sprouting and fermenting grains unlocks the nutrients they contain which are otherwise unavailable to our bodies. Whole grains are the worst offenders in this case as they contain all of the phytic acid and lectins. This includes nuts. So that paleo nut butter? You’re not getting everything that the nutrition label says it has to offer. You’re not even really eating it the way a paleolithic person would have eaten it.

Luckily, sprouting and fermenting grain is super easy, it just takes some time. In my opinion grains that have been sprouted/fermented taste much better so I am quite happy to ferment them or sprout them. I haven’t combined the two methods yet, but I will. I’m also very strongly considering investing in a grain mill.

All of that being said, I am of the opinion that the paleo diet is another fad diet. I say that with an immense amount of respect for the diet itself because it helped me turn hypothyroidism around and improve my health in general. There are merits to “eating like a caveman” for sure, but I think it’s a bit hasty to cut out all grains for the rest of your life because a diet that claims to be what our ancestors ate told you to. The important thing to know is how to properly prepare grains to gain the most benefit from them and the least harm.

It just goes to show you: in this day and age you really, really, have to sift through all of the information available to find the truth. Yes, humans were hunter-gatherers exclusively for a long, long time. But the cultivation of grain increased our intellect and gave us a more stable life. Are grains the villain they’ve been made out to be? Absolutely, in the form that we are consuming them. But once they are properly prepared, grains are not the enemy.