Monday, June 13, 2011

Paleo Lemon Bars (Gluten-Free)

Paleo lemon bars gluten-free dairy-free

Thank you to George over at Civilized Caveman Cooking for turning me on to these awesome lemon bars, made Paleo style.  I'm now on Week 3 of primal (i.e. grain-free) eating, losing weight, firming up, and feeling great!  It's nice to know that even cavemen and cavewomen can still enjoy some baked goods, once a while.  These lemon bars hit the spot!  My reluctant caveman husband just "Mmm... mmm... mmm"ed his way through a slice.  I'm savoring some myself, while sharing my tweaks to this recipe with you.

Due to shipping delays, I had to make do with ingredients on hand, and made a few substitutions.  I thought the crust was looking a little wet, so I added 1/3 cup of organic coconut flour (essentially, ground up dried coconut).  That worked like a charm! I also started the lemon topping the night before, and let it set in the fridge overnight, and made the crust the next day.  Here's how I made our super-lemony lemon bars:

For the lemon topping:

6 organic eggs
1 cup freshly-squeezed organic lemon juice (about seven lemons)
1/2 cup local honey
1/2 cup coconut oil (measured in solid state)

For the crust:

1 cup raw whole almonds
1 cup raw whole pecans
1/3 cup organic coconut flour
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (or butter, or ghee)
1/4 cup local honey
2 organic eggs

To make the filling:

Slow and steady warming, and continued whisking -- that's the key here for a thick, smooth, silky topping, and not lemon-flavored scrambled eggs.

- Whisk the eggs, honey, and lemon juice in a cold sauce pan
- Turn heat on medium, and continue to whisk 
- As mixture warms, add the coconut oil
- Continue to whisk, allowing mixture to reduce and thicken
- When the mixture starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low, and whisk for two more minutes
- Remove from heat, and allow to cool to room temperature, before transferring to a lidded container, to chill in the refrigerator.  Lemon topping can be made a day in advance.

To make the crust:

To get that nice crumbly texture, pulse the nuts in your food processor, to ensure some chunks and pieces.

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (I used 375 degrees F in a convection oven)
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the honey, melted coconut oil, and eggs
- Chop the nuts in a food processor on pulse setting, to achieve a crumbly, mealy texture (not powder)
- Add the chopped nuts and coconut flour to the wet ingredients
- Grease a 9"x9" baking dish with light layer of coconut oil
- Spread an even layer of the nut mixture in the baking dish
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, until nuts are golden brown, and edges are crisp
- Allow crust to cool to room temperature before layering on lemon topping
- Serve chilled
These are seriously delicious!  Our first flourless dessert is a success!  Seriously, you won't even notice those missing whole (and not so whole) grains.  I plan to make a few different versions of this delectable treat; raspberry and lemon, cranberry and lemon, and I can't be a resident of the Florida Keys without making a Key Lime flavor sometime ;)



Friday, June 10, 2011

Easy Last-Minute Paleo Dinner: Garlicky Steamed Mussels

Ah, I love seafood.  I also love quick, easy, healthy meals.  After a busy week, and a quick run through the grocery store on the way home, I came home with two pounds of delicious, fresh mussels!

It took a few minutes, but I finally convinced the lady at the seafood counter that yes, I wanted the plastic bag open.  She looked at me like I was crazy, but it's important to remember that unlike a lot of the seafood in that chilled case, mussels are alive, and they need to breathe.  Mussels can live out of sea water for a short period of time, and they can survive in the fridge, but they do need air. An experienced seafood monger will pick through bulk shipments of mussels, and throw out any with broken shells, or ones that are sealed shut.  Live, happy mussels have their shells open.  When touched/jostled, they will close up to protect themselves.  It's the live ones that open back up.  They should also have a clean, briny smell.  Those are the ones you want to enjoy.

Mussels are super easy to prepare, and fast!  Dinner is on the table in mere minutes.  No salt needed: mussels bring their own distinct briny goodness to the dish.  Here's how to do it:

2 pounds fresh mussels
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 handful cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup white wine or chicken broth
1 clove crushed garlic
a few grinds of fresh ground black pepper

To prepare:

Preheat a heavy-bottomed lidded pan/dutch oven on medium.

Gently rinse the mussels in a colander under cool water.  (Do not submerge these saltwater creatures in fresh water, or they will die.)

Coat the bottom of the pan with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Sweat the onions until translucent. Toss in cherry tomatoes, and cook for another minute.

Turn heat up on medium high.  Stir in crushed garlic and black pepper.

Add mussels and white wine/broth, and cover tightly with lid.

After two minutes, switch off the heat.  After three more minutes, carefully open the lid, and check to see if all the mussels have opened.  If not, cover and let sit for a few more minutes, until the majority of the mussels have opened.

Gently toss the mussels, throwing out any that haven't opened, and serve immediately with the broth.  
I gently pull the halves of the shell apart, loosen the mussel from the bottom shell, leaving the little inedible stem in place, scoop up a little of the broth, and down the hatch!  Have a big plate ready to catch all of your empty shells.

Although we usually prepare extra portions when making dinner, cooked mussels don't work too well as leftovers.  Only buy/make as much as you'll eat in one sitting.  Enjoy with a nice fresh side salad, for a quick, easy, any-night dinner.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Getting Healthy By Going Grain-Free: The Paleo Solution - Eat Like A Caveman

The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet
In the words of a famous gecko, "it's so simple, even a caveman can do it".  

Years ago, we began our organic journey, when we found out we were expecting our little girl.  That quickly evolved into making smarter ecological choices for everything we buy and use, and I know we are healthier for it.  There are so many helpful resources nowadays, to make it easy going green and choosing organic.  Still, I have to thank another source for our family's most recent lifestyle change: my beloved dogs and cats.

After much research, I recently switched our fur babies over to grain-free food.  Our pets' wild ancestors certainly did not sit down to meals of ground corn and bowls of wheat, and more and more pet food manufacturers are acknowledging this.  While reading into the health reasons for pets to go grain-free, I couldn't help but wonder why we human beings are eating grain, too?  That's when I picked up a copy of The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet, the New York Times Bestseller by Robb Wolf.

Once in a while, a book makes your eyes open wide, and makes you question everything you thought you knew.  The Paleo Solution certainly did this, and turned my whole view of diet and nutrition upside-down.  My friends and family already know how much I detest the food giant Monsanto.  I firmly believe evil food conglomerates, the pharmaceutical industry, and crooked politicians are all in cahoots, poisoning our environment and us, taking advantage of hard-working farmers, and squashing those who do try to do things right.  I was so pleased to find someone else who feels the same way, in author Robb Wolf.

We've all grown up with the belief that we need to eat grain (whole grain at that) to be healthy.  Every little pyramid and diagram that has been put in front of us has included this as a recommended "food group".  Robb Wolf, who comes from a bio-chemist background, prior to being a health and fitness consultant, is quick to present data, showing just how little nutrition is in grain.  Our ancestors lived for thousands of years without agriculture; living as hunter-gatherers.  Our diets consisted of meat, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.  It wasn't until wide-scale farming of grain began, that anthropologists began seeing evidence of health problems in the remains of our ancestors.   

Bringing the story up to modern-day, Robb Wolf paints a detailed picture, showing how the ingestion of grain causes chain reactions in our bodies, throwing everything off-kilter, from our cholesterol, insulin levels, and most visibly, our waistlines.  I myself have retiree parents, and my mother in particular has been plagued her whole adult life with cholesterol issues, high blood pressure, and in recent years, osteoporosis.  The whole time I was reading Robb Wolf's explanations, I kept picturing my own mother.  Mom, you and I are going to sit down and have a long chat about Paleo eating, when we come visit.  We want you off your medications and with us for a long, long time.

So, it's been a week since I began my Paleo eating shift; focusing my meals on lots of vegetables, roasted meats, broiled wild-caught seafood, and snacking on fresh fruit and nuts.  The result?  I feel fantastic!  No more midday slump at the office, my skin looks clearer, and I can visibly see myself getting leaner!  You know where your own "problem spots" are, and I can tell you, mine are shrinking before my eyes!  WOOHOO!  This switch has honestly been very easy.  The meals are surprisingly filling, and keep me full for a longer period of time.  I haven't missed the cookies, bread, or pasta.  As a bonus: Paleo meals are so incredibly easy to prepare, which is fantastic for this busy working mom.  Just steam/roast/sautee some vegetables, while broiling/roasting some meat, and voila!  Dinner is served!  I could seriously get used to this.

So, my apologies to the grain industry: you've lost a customer.  To the pharmaceutial industry: I won't be following in my family's footsteps, and you can keep your high cholesterol/blood-pressure/diabetes medications.  I'm off to say hello to a healthy, long life, and my pre-pregnancy clothes ;)

Thank you, Robb Wolf, and the Paleo Solution!

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