VBS Goes Primal

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It turns out that pretty much very church on the planet uses the same VBS theme each year.  Are you looking for a business opportunity?  It seems as though someone should come up with a competing company, as there is apparently only one choice!  Because of that, I’ve had the pleasure of discussing VBS snacks with people from six different churches around the country recently…and they all offered zero in the way of nutrition.  I heard everything from candy to chicken nuggets to cookies to crackers.  How many f these snacks will sustain kids through the whole morning?  None.

Last year I played around with the whole “primal” snack thing, and got a decent response–for the most part, the kids didn’t notice that the snacks were any different.  This year I decided to go the whole way to primal, with one caveat: some corn chex in the trail mix.  That is the only place where I haven’t yet found an affordable filler.  Maybe next year I’ll have it figured out.  Anyway, our menu this year went as such:

Monday: Smoothie Popsicles/Applesauce Popsicles

Tuesday: Trail Mix

Wednesday: Ants on a Log (with sunflower butter and/or cream cheese)

Thursday: Fresh Sorbet

Friday: Vanilla-Scented Coconut Pancakes with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

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Smoothie Popsicles

I’m going to be honest–I didn’t measure when I did these, but I have a rough estimate of ingredients.  These and the sorbet basically require a good blender (Vitamix or higher).

1# strawberries

1 banana

1 avocado

1 C unsweetened coconut milk

2 Tbsp flax meal

1.- Whiz it in the blender.

2.- Pour it into Dixie cups.  Stick in a popsicle stick (they will stand up).

3.- Freeze.

These take a LOT of freezer space when you make them for large numbers of kids.  We would put 24 on a tray, then stack a second tray of 24 on top.

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Trail Mix

These two pictures look alike, but because of allergies, they were not.  We had separate snacks each day for the big kids (4 and up) and the little kids (2-3).  This way, I was able to cover all allergies in the group with just one snack.

Big Kids

Corn Chex

Raisins

Cashews

Unsweetened Grated Coconut

Pumpkin Seeds

Dark Chocolate (90%+)

Littles

Corn Check

Unsweetened Grated Coconut

Raisins

Dairy-Free Chocolate Chips

Raw Sunflower Kernels

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Ants on a Log

These should be pretty self-explanatory.  I don’t have a picture of the cream cheese version, but they were exactly the same, just with cream cheese.

Celery

Sunflower Butter

Cream Cheese

Raisins

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Sorbet

This recipe MUST have a good blender.  You will break the motor on a $50 blender in about two seconds trying to make this.

1# frozen strawberries

1# frozen pineapple

1 avocado

1/2 frozen banana

1 tsp honey

1 C unsweetened coconut milk

2 Tbsp flax meal

1.- Layer the liquid and soft items first–coconut milk, honey, avocado, flax meal.  Add in the frozen fruit.  Turn on the blender and slowly rev it up to high.  Use your tamp to shove everything down to the bottom and within a little bit, you’ll have four lumps form on top.

2.- When it’s the consistency of ice cream, you stop the blender and eat it.

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Vanilla-Scented Coconut Pancakes with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

One recipe makes 15-20 pancakes, depending on their size

8 eggs

1/4 C melted butter

1/2 C coconut milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp honey

1/2 C coconut flour

Pinch of salt

1 tsp banking soda

1.- In blender, mix eggs on medium-low until frothy (takes about 60-90 seconds).  Add in butter, vanilla, coconut milk, and honey while continuing to mix.  Add in dry ingredients and mix until well-combined and lumps are gone.

2.- Let rest for 15 minutes–it will thicken.  If it gets too thick, add in more coconut milk or water.

3.- Heat griddle to medium and grease appropriately.  Cook pancakes.  Coconut flour cooks a little differently, so just watch them and make sure you don’t turn them too early.

4.- Serve with whatever on top.  We chose strawberries and sugar-free whipped cream

 

German Chocolate Doughnuts with Chocolate Ricotta Frosting (Keto and Primal)

German Chocolate Doughnuts

This coming weekend will be Isak’s first time going to a birthday party since going sugar-free and (most recently) grain-free.  I don’t want to always bring him his “own” treats, but I also don’t want to undo all of the hard work we’ve done, blowing it out of the water with birthday food.  Fortunately, it’s a morning party, so the likelihood of cake was going to be low.  I asked the girl’s mom what kind of food would be there, and she said they’d have fruit, so score on that one!  But she also said that at the party (which is an art party), they would be decorating doughnuts.  I told her I would come up with a doughnut and bring it for Isak with some whipped cream so he could “decorate” too.

This is the first recipe I tried.  It was originally just a plain, coconut-flour cupcake.  I decided to add some actual coconut and some cocoa to it, as Isak loves coconut and all things chocolate.  Then I made a ganache with butter, cocoa, and erythritol, but it didn’t mix correctly for some reason.  I added some ricotta, mixed it on high, and it whipped up like a fluffy frosting!  I haven’t give them to anyone who still eats sugar yet, so I don’t know what they taste like to “lay people.”  But…I know that Isak chowed down three of them today…so apparently they’re a hit.  If you like coconut and chocolate together, they’re AMAZING!

German Chocolate Doughnuts with Chocolate Ricotta Frosting (Keto and Primal)

Makes 10 Doughnuts

Nutrition per doughnut including the frosting: 223 calories, 20.4 g fat (14.7 saturated), 4.9 g fiber (3 net carbs), 5.5 g protein

1/3 C coconut flour

1/3 C unsweetened coconut flakes

1/4 C cocoa powder

3 lg eggs

1/3 C coconut oil, melted

1/4 C heavy cream

3 Tbsp erythritol

2 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp liquid stevia

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1.- Preheat oven to 350.  Grease doughnut pan with coconut oil.

2.- Add all ingredients to large bowl.  Mix on high until completely blended.

3.- Pour dough into doughnut pan or mini-bundt pan.

4.- Bake 15-20 minutes.

 

Frosting

3 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp heavy cream

1/4 C whole-milk ricotta

2-3 Tbsp cocoa powder

1-2 Tbsp erythritol

1/4 tsp vanilla

3-6 drops liquid stevia

1.- In microwave-safe bowl, add butter, cream, cocoa powder, erythritol, vanilla, and stevia.  Microwave until liquefied.

2.- Remove from microwave and beat on medium-low for about a minute.  Add ricotta and whip on high for another minute or so.

3.- Spread onto cooled doughnuts.

 

Chicken Curry Meatballs with Smokey Bacon Cream (Keto and Whole30)

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I’m pretty sure that these could be made with any meat, but today, I made them with chicken.  They had a fantastic flavor!  And the sauce?  All bets are off.  I’m going to make the sauce to put on pretty much everything.  I mean…bacon…coconut milk…where can you go wrong?

Full disclosure: these meatballs are pretty dense.  They’ll be small, but they pack a mad nutritional punch.  Per meatball, you’re looking at 11.2 grams of fat with half of it being saturated, 2.5 grams of carbs with just over half of that as fiber, 9 grams of protein, and the addition of chia seeds and ground flax meal.  That combined with the bacon fat and coconut milk…I ate three of them and was finished for the night.  They would also be good in a lettuce wrap, but tonight we ate them by their lonesome.

Buon appetito!

Chicken Curry Meatballs with Smokey Bacon Coconut Cream (Keto and Whole30)

20 servings

Nutrition per serving: 138 calories, 11.2 g fat (5.6 g saturated), 2.5 g carbs (1.3 g fiber, 1.2 g net carbs), 0.3 g sugar, 8.9 g protein

1# ground chicken

3 Tbsp coconut flour

2 Tbsp chia seeds

2 Tbsp ground flax meal

1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 ground turmeric

4 tsp curry powder, divided

1 tsp red curry paste

Salt

1 C canned full-fat coconut milk

6 oz bacon, chopped

Coconut oil

1.-In large bowl, mix chicken, coconut flour, chia seeds, ground flax meal, egg and yolk, garlic, spices, and 2 tsp curry paste in a bowl.  Mix until well combined.  Form into 20 small meatballs and chill for at least 30 minutes.

2.-Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy.  Remove and set aside.  Remove all but 1 Tbsp bacon grease.  To the bacon grease, add 1 Tbsp coconut oil.  When hot, add meatballs and brown for 30-40 seconds on each side.  Add coconut milk and 2 tsp curry paste.  Mix the paste into the sauce and cover pan.  When the coconut milk comes to a simmer, turn the heat down to medium-low and let cook for 6-8 more minutes.  Remove lid and stir to coat the meatballs with sauce.

3.-Serve with chopped basil or cilantro.  You could also serve this over cauli-rice.

Lebanese Majoun (Paleo)

Lebanese Majoun

There is a snack/dessert-type ball that is sold on basically every street corner in Morocco.  Seriously, you can buy them everywhere.  It’s called majoun.  It’s the most popular way to eat marijuana–or other assorted drugs.  With a 3-year old in the house (and with it being illegal, expensive, and generally not conducive to the lifestyle I currently have), I don’t make these with marijuana in them.  I know, shocking right?  But they are seriously delicious without the weed.  IDK, if that’s a deal-breaker for you, dump in the weed to your heart’s content.

I made them this time with sesame seeds to coat the outside–you could also use grated coconut or ground pistachios if you wanted to.  Also, you can make them with any one (or combination of) of these dried fruits: raisins, pitted medjool dates, or figs.  All three of them work well.  I’ve found that they turn out the sweetest with the dates, but some people think they’re sweeter with raisins.

Seven Spice

Finally, these are traditionally made with Ras el Hanout; however, I didn’t feel like making any…so I changed it up with Lebanese Seven Spice.  You probably won’t find this in the regular grocery store, but I found it at the Arabic grocery store here.  On the flip side, you will find 9000 variations of a recipe for it if you want to make it yourself.  The exact spices will vary based on what part of Lebanon the recipe-writer is from.

Anyway, these are delicious dessert balls that happen to have the added bonus of giving you excellent energy!

Lebanese Majoun (Paleo)

Makes 25-30 balls

1 pound blanched almonds (or smoked natural almonds)

1/2 pound walnuts

1 to 1 1/4 pounds dried fruit (raisins, pitted medjool dates, or figs)

1 C raw, unfiltered honey

1/2 C Kerrygold butter

2 tsp Lebanese Seven Spice

2 tsp ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

2/3 – 3/4 C sesame seed (or grated coconut or ground pistachios)

 

1.- Pulse almonds, walnuts, and dried fruit in food processor until it forms a coarse, sticky mixture.  It’ll easily ball up.

2.- In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Add in honey, seven spice, ginger, and cinnamon.  Stir well.

3.- Add in nut and fruit mixture and stir until completely combined.  Take off heat and cool for 10-ish minutes.  Using gloves (or hands), form into balls, roll in sesame seeds, and place on a lined baking sheet to cool.

* I place the whole baking sheet in the fridge to cool for a couple hours and then remove the balls to an airtight container.  Store in the fridge for optimal longevity, though these won’t last long.  (Oh, and try one when they’re still warm–they’re AMAZE-BALLS)

Cashew Chicken with Broccoli (Paleo)

Cashew Chicken with Broccoli

As I’ve just come off of hiatus, I’ve been looking over my blog.  It seems from my archives that the only other time I’ve taken a break was was June.  Apparently June is my blog-vacation month!  The night that I made this, I felt like cashew chicken…but I also felt like beef with broccoli.  Basically, I felt like having some sort of Asian-style food.  I decided to combine the two and make cashew chicken served with broccoli.  It turned out really well!  Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), the broccoli paired wonderfully with the chicken.  We don’t eat rice very often, and that is what’s usually served with pretty much every Asian meal.  We’ve tried “cauli-rice” a few times, and it just doesn’t do it for me.  I use cauliflower for just about everything…but rice is not one of those things.

So load it up with veggies and voila!  Problem solved!

Cashew Chicken with Broccoli (Paleo)

Serves 4-5

1/4 C arrowroot starch

1/2 tsp pepper

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cubed

1 Tbsp coconut oil

3 Tbsp coconut aminos

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 Tbsp palm sugar

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced

1/2 C cashews

4 C broccoli florets

sliced scallions to garnish

 

1.-  Mix starch and pepper in a plastic resealable bag with chicken.  Seal and toss to coat.

2.-  Melt coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken in 2-3 batches and cook each for 5 minutes.  Remove chicken from pan to slow cooker.

3.- In small bowl, mix aminos, vinegar, paste, sugar, garlic, and ginger.  Pour over chicken and stir to coat.  Cover and cook on low 3-4 hours.

4.-  20 minutes before done, put broccoli florets in a microwave-safe container with 2-3 Tbsp water.  Loosely cover and microwave for 5-8 minutes (until mostly steamed but not too soft).  Drain and add to slow cooker with chicken.  Allow to cook for 10-20 minutes so flavors can mix.

5.-  Stir in cashews and top with sliced scallions to serve.

Steelhead Trout with Citrus Coconut Cream (Whole30 Compliant)

Steelhead Trout with Citrus Coconut Cream

We have been crazy busy around here lately!  My husband and I both read the book THE LIFE CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP and we fell in love with the entire concept.  She tells you to go through the whole process in one or two days; however, with a 3 year old, that is nearly impossible.  We went through the entire purging process in one weekend, then spent the next couple weeks putting things back together.  We got rid of at least 40% of our stuff.  Soak that in: at least 40% of our stuff.  What would you do if you got rid of almost half of your things?  Most people I’ve spoken to have said, “oh that’s awesome!  But I could never do that.”  I promise, you can.  And it’s liberating.  You breathe easier, you move easier, and everything becomes more fun.  If you are considering doing something similar to this, just do it.  Take the plunge and don’t look back.

Now, on to the food!  I had never tried (or cooked, obviously) steelhead trout.  I wanted to get some salmon, but when I made this, the decent salmon (not even the good stuff) was around $30 per pound.  I pretty much don’t buy anything that’s $30 per pound…so that was out.  I was talking to the seafood guy and he suggested the steelhead trout.  In case you didn’t know this, it’s a fantastic substitution for salmon (and usually less than half the price–I got it for $10 per pound)!  It has a similar cook, texture, and flavor.  I’m planning on working with it a lot more in the near future!

Steelhead Trout with Citrus Coconut Cream (Whole30 Compliant)

Serves 2-3

1 pound steelhead trout fillet

salt and pepper

1/3 C onion, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

zest and juice of 2 limes

2/3 C coconut milk

2 tsp basil

1 Tbsp Kerrygold

 

1.-  Preheat oven to 350.  Put fish in shallow baking dish and season both sides with salt and pepper.

2.-  Heat medium skillet over medium heat.  Add Kerrygold, garlic, and onion.  Saute 3-5 minutes.

3.-  Add lime zest, juice, and coconut milk.  Bring to boil.  Turn off heat and stir in basil.  Pour over fish fillets and bake 10-20 minutes.

Balsamic Honey Roasted Pork (Paleo)

Balsamic Honey Pork Roast

According to my husband, this recipe is money.  I have to agree–this is probably my favorite sauce I’ve ever made for a meat.  It’s sweet, it’s tangy, it’s savory…it makes you want to eat it off of a spoon.  No joke.  The pork roast was partially frozen when I put it in the slow cooker.  I cooked it for about seven hours until the internal temperature hit 145, and at that point the meat was practically falling off the bone.  Delicious.

If you want to sear this before putting it in the slow cooker, you can; however, it turns out perfectly without that step, so unless you really want to add an extra step, there’s no need to sear it before adding to the slow cooker.  You could cook this on high if you really wanted to make it in a shorter time frame, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Just pick a day when you have the time to do this low and slow.  You’ll thank me later on, I promise.

Balsamic Honey Roasted Pork (Paleo)

Serves 4 (if you’re lucky)

2-4 pound bone-in Boston butt pork roast

salt and pepper

1/4 C balsamic vinegar

1/4 C honey

1/4 C ground mustard (not dry mustard, ground prepared mustard)

2 Tbsp coconut aminos

2 Tbsp Kerrygold, divided

2 Tbsp maple syrup

2 tsp arrowroot starch

 

1.- Salt and pepper the pork roast.  Place in slow cooker and turn on low.

2.- In a small bowl, whisk balsamic vinegar, honey, ground mustard, and coconut aminos until well blended.  Pour over top of roast.  Put Kerrygold pieces on top of roast.  Cook on low for 5-8 hours (depending on the size of the roast).  Remove roast and allow to rest.

3.- Mix arrowroot with a little water until smooth.  Pour into the slow cooker bowl with the leftover sauce and juices.  Add in maple syrup.  Whisk until slightly thickened and combined.  Add salt and pepper if desired.  If the arrowroot makes it too thick, add in a little coconut aminos and stir.  Slice pork thin and serve with sauce.

Chicken Marsala (Paleo)

Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala is typically made with breaded chicken and cornstarch, making it off the paleo list.  I love the taste of it though, so I reworked it to be a paleo-friendly recipe.  If you avoid wine, there really isn’t a good way to make this without…so you probably won’t want to make this recipe.  If you’re okay with a bit of wine, then get the ingredients for this and make it soon!  A note about using arrowroot powder: you use it in a similar manner to cornstarch.  I usually make a slurry with it before adding it to hot liquids, but you don’t need quite as much water as you do with cornstarch.  I add close to equal amounts of arrowroot and cold water, whisk them together, and then add them to the liquid.  I usually choose arrowroot when cooking with hot liquids because tapioca can sometimes get a little slimy.  Just FYI, HA!

This dish would typically be served over rice or pasta, but obviously those options are out when it comes to paleo.  I served this over a potato/cauliflower/parsnip mash and it was delicious.  You could pretty much do whatever mixture of vegetables that you wanted to–those are just the three that I had some spare of on hand.  I’ve also done mixtures of sweet potato and cauliflower, turnip and potato, and parsnip, carrot, and cauliflower.  I love me some mash!

Chicken Marsala (Paleo)

Serves 3-4

1 pound chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2″ thickness (or just get chicken breast cutlets)

salt and pepper

olive oil

1/2 pound sliced mushrooms

2 Tbsp butter

1/2 C Marsala wine

1/4 C chicken stock

1/4 C dry white wine

2 Tbsp coconut milk (or heavy cream for primal, if wanted)

2 Tbsp arrowroot starch

2 Tbsp cold water

 

1.- Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat and fry each piece of chicken 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove to plate and tent with foil.

2.- Reduce heat to medium.  Add butter and mushrooms to the pan.  Cook mushrooms for about 5 minutes, give or take.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add Marsala, wine, chicken stock, and coconut milk.

3.- Once warmed through, add arrowroot slurry to liquid.  Cook 3-4 minutes to reduce slightly.  Pour mushrooms and sauce over chicken to serve.

Beef with Broccoli (Paleo)

Beef and Broccoli

I grew up in Southwest Missouri where the only Asian food available is “Springfield-style.”  What does that mean?  Trashy.  Meat and vegetables either battered and deep-fried or covered in high fructose corn syrup-flavored MSG sauce.  It was TASTY!  Okay, so it probably tasted better at 3 in the morning when drunk, but whatever.  Just consider it the Taco Bell version of Asian food.  Let me just say this: if I could find a good primal version of cream cheese puffs (for those of you playing the home game, those are crab rangoon sans the crab), I would literally be in heaven.  Yes, LITERALLY.  There are certain foods that are excellent vehicles for cream cheese: ham, bagels, deep-fried wontons.

Anyway, all of this boils down to just one thing: sometimes I want some trashy (tasting) Asian food.  So I made some in a paleo version.  I know, I know, this is right at the line of SWYPO…but I’m not making it every day or anything, or even once a week.  But now I have a recipe (that actually tastes good) for when I have that craving!

Beef with Broccoli (paleo)

Serves 3-4

1.5-2 pounds flank steak, sliced thin and cut into 2″ pieces

1 C beef BONE BROTH

2/3 C coconut aminos

1/3 C honey

1 Tbsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp minced garlic

1/4 C tapioca starch + 2 Tbsp water

4 C broccoli florets

 

1.- Grease inside of slow cooker.  Add steak, broth, aminos, honey, sesame oil, and garlic.  Cook on low for 4-5 hours.

2.- In small bowl, whisk tapioca starch and water until combined.  Add to slow cooker and stir.  Cover and cook an additional 25-30 minutes.

3.- Put broccoli in a large tupperware container and add about 1/2″ water.  Place lid, askew, on top of container and microwave for 4 minutes.  Drain and stir broccoli into slow cooker with the beef.  Mix and heat through a bit.  Serve immediately.

Pulled Pork with Apple Chutney (Whole30 Compliant)

Pulled Pork

I was at the store last week and found an awesome looking pork butt roast (bone-in) for an equally awesome price.  No, we don’t get all of our meat locally, but we try to get as much as possible.  This was exceptional though–I got an almost 3-pound roast for less than $5.  Can’t beat that!  I decided to braise it all day in the slow cooker and mix it with an apple-tomato chutney, rather than the traditional barbecue sauce.  Sound good?  That’s because it was!

The lovely-looking butter lettuce leaves made a great vehicle for the pulled pork.  And speaking of pulling pork, have you learned the easiest way to pull pork yet?  Remove any bones, cut into big hunks, and toss into a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Turn it on and within a couple minutes: pork is pulled.  Voila!

Pulled Pork with Apple Chutney (Whole30 Compliant)

Serves 4-5

2-3 pound pork butt roast

salt and pepper

1 Tbsp coconut oil

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

4 C broth

2 bay leaves

2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

pinch of cinnamon

pinch of salt

2 Tbsp tomato paste

6 slices bacon, cooked to crispy and chopped

 

1.- Heat coconut oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Salt and pepper both sides of the pork butt roast.  When pan is hot, brown meat on all sides until a crust starts to form (about 2-3 minutes per side).  Place roast in slow cooker and cover with onions, broth, and bay leaves.  Cook on low for 5-7 hours (or on high for 3-4 hours).  Remove pork (and any bones), pull, reserve broth, and return pork to slow cooker on the “warm” setting with 1/4 to 1/2 C of reserved broth.

2.- Meanwhile…add apples, cinnamon, salt, and 1/4 C of reserved broth to a medium saucepan, covered.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and let simmer until apples are soft.  Once soft, remove lid and allow most of the remaining liquid to cook off (2-3 minutes).  Remove from heat and mash with a potato masher (or in a blender/food processor).  Stir in tomato paste and bacon, and season more if needed.

3.- Pour apple mixture into slow cooker with pulled pork, mix well, and allow to heat through if needed.  Serve alone or on lettuce.  Garnish with sliced green onions, if desired.