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Pumpkin Spice Coconut Cookies

4 Nov

I made it to the other side of midterms week alive and mostly unscathed. I had a good 60% reduction in homework over the weekend, so I took full advantage of it! In the past weeks, my only “me” time has been working out at JTS. So what do I do with a whole day without studying? More exercise, naturally. I went falling  hiking, even though I don’t have the correct shoes for it, especially in the snow. I had a blast. It was much needed.

Yes, I'm laughing so hard my eyes are hardly open.

Yes, I’m laughing so hard my eyes are barely open.

If you follow me on facebook, you might have seen my purchase of a certain coconut product that came in the mail- Nikki’s pumpkin spiced donut coconut butter. It’s amazing on any fruit or baked good. Or…on a spoon. With some Enjoy Life chocolate chips. Yep, I went there. I would recreate this wonderful coconut butter myself, but my food processor just isn’t sharp enough nor powerful enough to make coconut butter. I’ve made plain coconut butter three times, and those will be the last until I can upgrade my processor. It should not take 60 minutes and a ton of melted coconut oil added to make it the right consistency.

Maybe the world has gotten a little too obsessed with pumpkin-flavoring-everything. I spotted these in Fred Meyer the other day. While I’m a don’t-knock-it-till-you-try it kind of person, I am  just going to say no to pumpkin and potatoes. Plus I don’t eat chips anyhow.

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No thanks.

My fridge had run out of sweet snacks for my husband to put into his lunch. I hadn’t noticed; so he kindly asked me to make my chocolate coconut no-bake cookies and I eventually got around to obliging a few days later in between the hectic whirring around the city and formidable study-homework-test-report-study-homework tornado. Staring at the recipe on my fridge, spatula in hand, I thought about the almond butter and what I could substitute in for it. I have gotten in the habit of smothering bananas/apples in it right before I take off for biology class, and therefore wanted to preserve what I could for that bad, delicious addiction.

It was like one of those cartoonish lightbulb- epiphany moments. Pumpkin spiced cookies! It’d be so easy. And it was. These are even better than the originals.

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  • 2 cups dried, unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup raw, local honey
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup Nikki’s pumpkin spice donut coconut butter, softened**
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla
  1. Measure out your softened coconut butter and have it ready.
  2. Put honey, pumpkin spice, cocoa powder, and oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Watch it as you bring mixture to a boil for 1 minute, stirring with a spatula to prevent burning..
  4. Immediately remove from heat.  Stir in the coconut butter and vanilla.
  5. Stir in shredded coconut until everything is coated evenly.
  6. To get the shape of my cookies, I used a spatula to press a little of the mixture into a small Tupperware and packing it firmly. Then add a little more and pack it  in more. Because of the coconut oil, it’ll fall right out onto a parchment lined baking sheet. I have found that this shape crumbles less when bitten into.
  7. Alternatively, you can simply scoop out spoonfuls onto the parchment paper.
  8. Toss into the fridge until set- a few hours at most. Once that happens you can transfer them into a container and store in the fridge. Serve cold.

**Softened coconut butter and an extra 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin spice may be substituted.

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Have you seen any weird or wondrous pumpkin spiced anything lately?

Real Food Lunches

23 Oct

Hey guys. I’m “back.” I’m recovering from my second illness in a month and trying my darndest to remember how the citric acid cycle in cellular respiration works, along with molecular shape and VSEPR theory. So much fun, I tell ya.

lunches

You may recall my nervousness at the beginning of the school year. I was worried about keeping up with packing a nourishing, satisfying lunch for my daughter to take to kindergarten. Thirty-some-odd packed lunches later, I’m over my initial apprehensiveness. These past seven weeks have been a trial-and-error/ learn as I go period. Now I fret less and even take less time preparing everyday.

What I’ve learned thus far: (in bullet format, because I’m all about bullet format lately (hooray lab reports!))

  • Ask what they want. After the first few weeks of choosing for her, I started to let my daughter decide what to eat. Surprisingly, she asked for the same things she had already been eating. I would simply add one or two things to make it a more complete lunch.
  • This or that. For tough food categories, I give her the choice between what we have. She’s old enough to understand that this is what available; so she has to pick out of what there is. Example: Jerky, tuna, or turkey?
  • Some kids like a lot of variety. My daughter is not one of those. She is ok with having only a few things in rotation, as you’ll see in the pictures below. She does get plenty of variety in her breakfast, snack, and dinner though.
  • Finger foods are fun. We don’t consume many finger foods at dinner anymore (ex. pizza;) so having things like cherry tomatoes, olives, and raw veggies to pick up with her hands are so cool. At least to my five (and a half) year old.
  • It’s ok to introduce new foods during the school year. I’ve had a pep talk or two about how new foods might not taste very good the first or second time. It might take a lot of small tries to learn to like something new. (FYI- it’s worked.)
  • Buy a thermos. I didn’t get one until my daughter didn’t eat something “because it was cold” a few times. Twelve bucks at Target later, she was happily wolfing down hot meatballs and spaghetti squash at school.
  • Before we bought the thermos, she was only carrying her cute LunchBots bento box and a water bottle. After the thermos purchase, we got little bag on clearance to stash everything in. Thank goodness it’s machine washable.
  • Usually she gets water to drink. On the occasion that I do pack her juice or milk, I throw in an ice pack, which wouldn’t have worked without the aforementioned lunch bag.
  • Store bought “lunch” type meat is either priced high or high in preservatives and flavors. Added flavors really irk me, whether “natural” or artificial. To me, that says “whatever meat we’re feeding you is so crappy that we had to add other crap to make you think it tastes good.” While I have bought some Applegate sliced meats here or there, we have made a lot of the others and saved a ridiculous amount of money, not to mention peace of mind knowing exactly what I’m feeding my child.

On to the pictures! These are the real lunches I’ve packed, and my daughter has eaten.

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If you’re more into lists than pictures, here’s a breakdown of these real food lunches:

Meats/Mains

  • Homemade jerky
  • Tuna sushi
  • Scotch eggs (sausage wrapped boiled egg)
  • Homemade chicken nuggets (breading is mainly shredded coconut)
  • Pepperoni
  • Salami
  • Homemade sliced smoked turkey
  • Turkey/ham/roast beef wrapped peppers
  • Paleo zuppa toscana soup
  • Bacon
  • Cucumber tuna sandwiches
  • Meatballs, sauce, spaghetti squash

Vegetables

  • Sliced peppers
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Broccoli
  • Homemade sweet potato chips
  • Olives
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Celery (ants on a log- with almond butter and raisins)
  • Kale (usually wrapped in meat)

Fruit

  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Plum
  • Raisins
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Mango
  • Orange
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Dried pineapple
  • Creamsicle gummies
  • Strawberry gummies

Nuts/Seeds/Treats/Other

  • Trail mix
  • Cinnamon Almonds
  • Raw nuts and seeds- almonds, pecans, pepitas, sesame seeds
  • Justin’s maple almond butter
  • Honey yogurt (our yogurt is from a local farm. It contains whole, un-homogenized milk, cultures, and honey)
  • Pumpkin yogurt (honey yogurt + pumpkin + spice)
  • Pumpkin chia pudding
  • Paleo apple cider muffins
  • Pumpkin spice coconut cookie
  • Kerrygold cheese
  • Raw pumpkin pie bar
  • SB&J bar
  • Paleo pumpkin muffin

There you have it. Real food lunches- easy. But wait! What about that one thing in the picture? How did I make it? What’s the recipe? Don’t be shy- ask in the comments below and you shall receive.

But wait! There’s more! I will be updating this post at least once a week with MORE lunches and ideas! That’s right, this very post right here will continue to grow. So if you run out of ideas or are just looking for something a little different, hop on over and you’ll be glad you did.

 

Banana Cereal

25 Sep

I used to have a serious relationship with Honey Bunches of Oats. We were the best of friends. I was never disappointed in my HBOO. HBOO was always there for me, always crisp and crunchy and honeyed. But then I don’t think HBOO liked me as well. I started spending more time and using bigger bowls with HBOO, but all I got in return was the need for bigger pants. How dare you HBOO! I loved and appreciated your multi-textured, just-sweet-enough loveliness, and that’s how you treat me!? So I said goodbye to HBOO. It was a tearful day. But I don’t regret it, not one bit.

You could call this cereal or granola. We use it both ways. The recipe is rather versatile, as long as the ending quantity isn’t more because this will completely fill a regular cookie sheet. Omit the chocolate and just use more coconut; or use less of either of those and throw in some chopped nuts. Sunbutter could replace the almond butter. Heck, I might even try replacing the banana with pumpkin someday. The size of the chunks depends on how you intend to eat it. I leave mine in bigger chunks so my husband can munch on it at work; and if I want some in a little bowl with almond milk, I just use my spoon to break it up a bit.

About the bananas- dried bananas can be crunchy or soft. I personally can’t find crunchy dried bananas with nothing added to them. I buy my dried bananas in bulk at Marlene’s (big surprise, I know.) I was intrigued the first time I saw them because they’re dried whole. And let me tell show you, they don’t look the most appealing.
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They smell like banana bread and are mushy, chewy, and moist. I throw them into my little Ninja one at a time to chop them up. It does not make them look any more appetizing. In fact, once it’s chopped, it resembles wet dog food…
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But I can look passed this stage of the cereal, because I know in the end it’s delicious and better looking by the time it’s over with.

Hemp seeds (aka hemp hearts, shelled/hulled) were new to me when I first read this particular recipe. They’re a complete protein, which means they contain the proper proportion of amino acids for our bodies to absorb/digest. You can absorb it all on its own without the need to eat it with something else to get the maximum effect; which I think is fantastic. It’s also a great source of fiber and vitamins. Nutrient dense foods have a special place in my heart. I haven’t tried liver yet though… Anyways back to the seeds. Where’s the first place I look for them? In bulk. And they were there, right under my nose the whole time. I’d never given them any close scrutiny because the bin looked to contain some sort of foreign grain.
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I’m glad my family and I are always up for trying new things, because I’m so glad I discovered this recipe. I can dump some almond milk over it and eat it like cereal and not have to wonder what bad side effects I’ll be dealing with. So go try this, you won’t regret it.
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Banana Cereal
Recipe inspired by Our Paleo Life
Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond butter (or other nut/seed butter)
  • 1 Egg
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup hemp seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened dried banana (about five whole) chopped
  • 1/4 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Instructions
Preheat to 325F.
Line a large baking pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Anything else will stick!
Combine the almond butter, egg, and honey in a large bowl and stir until incorporated.
Add in the vanilla, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Stir again.
Add in the rest and stir again.
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It’ll be goopy like cookie dough.
Dump the mixture onto the parchment-lined sheet and break up with a spoon or spatula to the size you’d like.
Bake for 25 minutes, flipping twice to brown it evenly. I like to use my biggest metal spatula to get the job done quickly. Plus some of the melted chocolate sticks to it during the flipping- bonus taste!
Keep an eye on it to prevent burning.
Let it cool completely, it will harden as it cools-depending on the size of your chunks and crunchiness of your bananas.
Store an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.
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Creamsicle Gummies

9 Sep

Oh goodness gracious. Today is the day my daughter started kindergarten. I’m sitting in my quiet house, all awkward. By myself. She will be gone most of the day and I don’t know what to do with myself. Before he left, my husband asked me what my plans were for the day. I told him I’d probably work on developing a nervous tick by 2 pm.

I, at least, started my morning off right with a great 6 am tabata. It felt fantastic.
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And because there was a birthday, we had this finisher that left me shaky. I haven’t done that many burpees in a row in I don’t know how long. With as much as I was sweating throughout, it was a cleansing experience; especially after a sugary dessert last night.
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I read about the benefits of gelatin from many different paleo/health bloggers and knew I wanted to give their recommended brand a try sooner or later. Well I finally took the $19 plunge and I’m ever so glad I did.  I’ve been putting a teaspoon in my coffee in the morning and tea in the evening; and whether by mere coincidence or the gelatin actually had a noticeable effect so quickly– my nails stopped breaking and have actually grown passed the ends of my fingers for the first time in two months. Plus, I’ve been munching on these gummies ever since I made them less than two days ago.

Squishy

Squishy

What I like about these:

  • Taste. Yum, creamsicle!
  • Balance- fat, protein, and carbs.
  • Collagen! Read about that in the link above.
  • Super simple.
  • Filling.
  • No artificial coloring, flavoring, or preservatives like the store-bought counterparts.

The little squares I cut the gummies into are so filling that I’m hoping this batch lasts a little longer than most of the snack foods I make. I’m not going to go into the science of absorption of protein, carbs, and fat together (I’m too busy drumming my fingers waiting for it to be 3 so I can go sit in the parking lot for 20 minutes waiting for my daughter to get out of her first day of kindergarten) but just know that having a great balance in one bite is an extra bonus on top of great flavor.

The pre-set flavor of the gummies is not a good indicator of the finished flavor. It might seem like a lot of honey or vanilla, but all the flavors mellow after it has set and is solid. My advice is to make the recipe as is first, and then tweek it to your liking after you taste a finished batch.

Creamsicle Gummies

Recipe tweeked from Tiffany of The Coconut Mama

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream (separated cream on top of a refrigerated can of coconut milk)
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup gelatin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Directions

  • Heat juice and cream over medium heat in a saucepan.
  • Pour gelatin over liquid. Whisk gelatin into mixture.
  • Add honey and salt and continue to stir until the gelatin dissolves.
  • Bring the mixture to a light boil, stirring constantly. This could take several minutes, depending on your burner and pan.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
  • Let cool 5-8ish minutes, stirring a few times.
  • Pour mixture into a 8×8 square pan. Cover pan and refrigerate until gummy snacks are set, about 4 hours or overnight.
  • Cut into small squares and store in air tight container in the fridge.

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As successful as these were, I’ve added some fun shaped, silicone molds to my wishlist. They would be so cute in star, heart, or bear shapes, don’t you think?

Are there any snacks that you buy that you wish you knew how to make at home? Tell me in the comments below and I might give it a try!

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds & Trail Mix

3 Sep

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It’s back to school time around my neck of the woods. My daughter will be starting kindergarten in less than a week; and while I may have a calm exterior, internally I’m fighting the urge to freak out. I know my social butterfly 5 year old will love kindergarten. She went to half-day preschool last year at a public school, so many things won’t be new or scary to her. What I’m not  freaking out about is me. This is the beginning of a decade of making school lunches, driving, more driving, and coordinating my classes to work with whatever school or extracurricular activities that interest her.  I have a resolute stance that yes, I can handle it all like a champ. But then I have this meek, inner doubt trying to squeak out, are you sure you can keep up with it all? 

Last year was a breeze. My husband was off of work due to an injury, and was available for driving, meal making, and keeping up with housekeeping. I had few classes on campus, and therefore a highly flexible schedule. My daughter was in school for 3 hours, and ate all her meals at home. This year, my husband is back to working full(and over-)time, I have many hours where I have to be on campus for classes, and my daughter will have to eat lunch at school for the first time ever. That means I’m the main meal maker, including portable lunches for both my husband and daughter. 

Needless to say, I’ve been preparing for weeks. Influencing posts by Michelle of Nom Nom Paleo persuaded me to purchase a LunchBot for my daughter to use. It comes in the mail tomorrow and I think I’m more excited than she is. Michelle has some great lunch ideas that I’m sure I”ll refer to when I get tired of making my go-to lunches. 

A challenge I’ve recently faced is making foods that are easy to eat while driving, because my husband’s career isn’t always accommodating with a lunch hour at a table or with access to a kitchen. Beyond raw, cut vegetables (that are always included in his lunch box whether he chooses to put them in or I lovingly slip them in after I notice he hasn’t packed enough) I wanted to make something that is closer to a balanced snack that is fantastically delicious, to the point of looking forward to eating it. Something with fat, protein, and sweet goodness. In comes trail mix to save the day! I spent some time in my favorite place (Marlene’s bulk cooler) and scooped baggies full of the good stuff. 

For the sweetness part, I perused a list of real snacks compiled by Katie of Girl Meets Nourishment and immediately wanted to give the cinnamon roasted almonds a try. The original poster uses pure cane sugar, which I don’t use. I did have a bunch of coconut sugar though, and honestly I had no idea if it would work as a substitute for this particular recipe; but I was willing to sacrifice having sticky nuts if it didn’t turn out right. I figured if it could become granulated/crystallized once, I could do it again. 

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

  • 1 1/2 cups roasted almonds (if using raw, you can roast them beforehand for 10 minutes at 350°)
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 2 TB water

In a big skillet, add all your ingredients except the almonds. Mix it all together until if forms a paste.

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Add the almonds and stir to coat. 

Place the skillet on a burner over medium, and stir. Stir, stir….constantly for 7-10 minutes. 

This is what stirring looks like, in case you didn't know...

This is what stirring looks like, in case you didn’t know…

Don’t walk away from them, you have to keep stirring and watching them like a hawk. After a while, the mixture will begin to solidify.

Keep stirring until the sugar crystallizes onto the nuts.

Immediately remove from the heat and pour onto some parchment to cool.

Hardened coconut sugar

Hardened coconut sugar

They are perfect on their own. Maybe a little too perfect. Without restraint, I’m sure I could have eaten the ENTIRE batch in one day. To prevent myself from eating handfuls of them at a time (besides that first one, of course) I put them into my fantastic trail mix. 

 

Yum Nom Mmmm Nummy

Yum Nom Mmmm Nummy

Trail Mix

  • Cinnamon roasted almonds
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Raisins 
  • Goji berries
  • Coconut flakes
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

Use whatever proportions you like. You know you’re going to pick out your favorite ones anyways.

 

What do you pack in your kids school lunch or your own lunch?

 

SB&J

27 Aug

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Since easing my (bread loving) five year old into paleo, the one thing she still asks for on a regular basis is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. After a few weeks of explaining that we don’t even have bread in the house to make a pb&j, she has started to ask, “did you buy bread yet?” It’s difficult for her to grasp/remember that we’re not eating peanuts OR bread anymore.  Having never liked peanut butter, it’s hard for me to empathize with her craving for this lunch time treat. She does enjoy almond butter, which is a great for me since I don’t have to convince her to like other nut butters. She even saved up a dollar of her earned money to buy a squeeze packet of Justin’s maple almond butter.

Then one day Taylor Made It Paleo posted these pb&j bars (which don’t really have peanut butter in them, but sunflower seed butter and cashews) and I thought I’d give them a try to help my daughter transition easier. I’m going to call them SB&J bars-sun butter and jelly- because that seems more logical to me.

Despite all I’ve heard and read about how great they are, I’d never bought or tried Chia seeds before. I knew exactly where to find them though, so I picked some up in the bulk section of Marlene’s. Kinda off topic-that little cooler room in the back of the store filled with nuts, seeds, dried fruit and all sorts of natural goodies is one of my happy places. Does it make me crazy that I could joyfully spend an hour a week in that little room? Probably. But I’m ok with that.

Anyways, back to the bars. The SB&J ones, not the kind with alcohol and single creepy guys. The crust was super easy and much like many other paleo snacks/desserts that use dates and nuts. The jam middle layer is so super simple and amazing that I wonder why I don’t make my own jam this way. In my opinion, reduction > pectin. (Oh yeah, I threw in some Tuesday morning math symbols. You are welcome.)
As for how they turned out, not only did my daughter love them, but my husband’s first response was, “Do you have enough ingredients to make more? I could eat one of these in my lunch everyday.” I’d call it a win.

SB&J Bars
Courtesy of Taylor Made It Paleo

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp coconut cream
10 dates, pitted
1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter
pinch of salt

Directions:
Place blueberries and honey in a small saucepan over med-high and bring to a low boil.
Turn heat down to medium-low, and continue to cook while mashing blueberries, and stirring frequently to prevent burning.
Add chia seeds and coconut cream and continue to cook/stir until you get a jam-like consistency (about 20-25 minutes).

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Thick and jam-like

Put mixture in the fridge to cool while you make your crust.
In a food processor, combine dates, cashews, sunflower seed butter, and salt until all ingredients are well incorporated.

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Separate mixture into two “equal” parts. They’re just as awesome if one layer is a little thicker, so unless you’re a perfectionist, don’t fret too much about it.
Line a small bread pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper for easy removal.
For the crust, take one half and press down into the bread pan using a spatula to compress.
Remove jam from fridge and spread evenly over the crust.
Crumble the rest of the crust mixture over the top of the jam and press down to evenly form top layer.
Place in the fridge for 30-40 minutes before using the plastic wrap to remove it from the pan and cutting.

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Coconut Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

12 Aug

As a kid, I hated coconut. The smell, taste, and texture did not appeal to me in the least. Now? Now I can’t get enough of the stuff. If coconut wasn’t so healthy, it’d be a problem. Thankfully, it’s a freaking awesome food to be in love with. As Sarah Ballantyne of The Paleo Mom explains:

Unlike most tree nuts, coconut does not contain omega six fatty acids.  Instead, coconut is rich in Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), a very special “short”-chain saturated fat (unlike the longer saturated fatty acids typically found in animal fat).  MCTs do not require bile salts for digestion.  They diffuse passively from the intestines into the blood and do not require modification before being used as energy for your cells.  They are metabolized very easily and, because they are a fat and not a sugar, they can be used by your cells for energy without a spike in your insulin. Also, because MCTs are a saturated fat, they do not oxidize easily or produce free-radicals.

Like I said, coconut is amazing. I use extra-virgin coconut oil in cooking and baking, unsweetened shredded coconut in sweet and savory dishes, coconut flour in both goodies and main dishes, coconut cream concentrate 10 different ways, and coconut milk in a million different ways. I even have been known to mix my protein powder with some coconut water for post-workout goodness.

I found this recipe when searching for grab-and-go snacks for family paleo camping. Things I like about these cookies- ridiculously quick to throw together, doesn’t use a ton of cocoa powder but still has a chocolatey flavor, and my kids and husband love them. The one downside is that heating up raw honey cooks out all the goodness of being raw, but what can you do?

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Coconut Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

 

2 cups dried, unsweetened, shredded coconut

1/3 cup raw, local honey

1 ½ tablespoon cocoa powder (or cocao powder for extra goodness)

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

1/3 cup almond butter

1 teaspoon real vanilla

  1. Measure out your almond butter to have it ready.
  2. Put honey, cocoa powder, and oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Watch it as you bring mixture to a boil for 1 minute, stirring with a spatula to prevent burning. It’ll bubble like a weird brown science experiment.
  4. Immediately remove from heat.  Stir in the almond butter and vanilla.
  5. Stir in coconut until everything is coated.
  6. To get the shape of my cookies, I used a spatula to press a little of the mixture into a small Tupperware and packing it firmly. Then add a little more and pack it  in more. Because of the coconut oil, it’ll fall right out onto a parchment lined baking sheet. I have found that this shape crumbles less when bitten into.
  7. Alternatively, you can simply scoop out spoonfuls onto the parchment paper.
  8. Toss into the fridge until set- a few hours at most. Once that happens you can transfer them into a container and store in the fridge. (If camping, keep an ice pack on top of the container.)

If you try any add-ins, let me know in the comments below!