I baked a thing

Yeah, I know, it’s been a while. And I really shouldn’t be blogging at all considering I’m attempting NaNoWriMo and have hit the wall at 33k words. But anyway: yay procrastination.

So, call me hormonal, but I just felt like I needed to bake a chocolate paleo thing. Generally speaking, I’ve stopped making these kinds of foods because whilst they’re technically within the confines of paleo, they’re still full of (coconut) sugar and chocolate. They’re going to make you fat. It’s just that they’ll make you smug fat. There’s a difference, apparently. Usually speaking, if I need a chocolate hit I’ll just have a few squares (ok, an entire bar) of 85% chocolate. But not today.

Today I decided to make Paleo Dark & Salty Caramel Pots, from The Paleo Cupboard. Except without the pots (I used ramekins). And I didn’t make the whipped cream because a) I wasn’t arsed and b) I didn’t have enough coconut milk. Also, see a).

Obviously, we had to pretend to be adults and eat our dinner first, and since I bothered to take a photo let’s talk about it. We had sea bass, sweet potato chips and green veg. I ususally do a pretty mean sea bass where I cook it 90% through, skin-side down, then flip it over at the last minute to reveal lovely crispy skin, but today I either left it on too long or my griddle pan has lost its stick, because the skin peeled off. Still, it tasted it pretty good. But yes, it was ugly.

At least the chips were good. (I tossed them in a little bit of coconut oil and sprinkled with salt and dried rosemary, then baked for 20 mins at 200°C.)

Back to the chocolate pots.

The ingredients for the cake part of the dessert were all pretty standard except for one thing: palm shortening. Does anyone else think that sounds like a secretary from the 80s? Just me? Anyway. I didn’t have any, nor have I have ever seen it sold anywhere, plus I’ve been lead to believe that palm-anything is bad for orangutans, so I just substituted it with butter.

Actually, come to think of it, this must have been where I went wrong. I used salted butter. And there was definitely too much salt in the cake. And a weird, unexplained aftertaste. Hmmm. I probably should have used ghee. Or done more research. But anyway.

So then there was the salted caramel sauce. GOOD GOD THIS STUFF WAS AMAZING. Sorry for shouting. But yes, unbelievably delicious. From here on in I proclaim that this will be my go-to sauce for paleo desserts. It would taste INSANE with these brownies. Oh God, I’m sweating.

Ahem.

So, whilst the cake wasn’t that great (probably my fault rather than the recipe), I’m still glad I did it. Because, the sauce. THE SAUCE.

Yeah.

Advertisements

Whole 30 – the end

I’m sure you’ve all been wondering how I got on with my first attempt at Whole 30. No? Well I’m going to tell you anyway. I’ll be honest, I did very, very well for three weeks, and then I hit my third weekend and cracked. I had a glass of red wine. So, I guess that counts as a failed Whole 30 but a reasonable Whole 21.

In any case, I don’t feel too bad about it. The thing is, once I cracked the door open with the wine I never really got it shut again. So the wine led to the odd dark chocolate that I got with my Butlers coffee. And then I might have thrown some honey onto my coconut pancakes (although I did leave the honey out of the recipe, it still works). But in general I’ve still been eating really well and I’m very happy I did it.

Here’s what I learnt:
– If you’re trying to control your sugar cravings then you’ve got to go easy on the fruit. Better yet, avoid it altogether because, for me anyway, it tends to set me off on a sugar spiral where I just want more sweet things. That said, sometimes a bowl of berries as dessert does the job and you feel like you’ve had a treat. Just don’t do what I did and put balsamic vinegar on them. Yeugh.

IMG_0502

Oh sure, it looks pretty…

– To eat really well (and be paleo compatible) it’s almost impossible to eat out at restaurants. This is great for saving money but sometimes it’s unavoidable and you’re never sure what’s hidden in things. As a rule you might as well suspect that sugar and flour are in everything, because they tend to be. But it can make you feel like a bit of a killjoy, always ordering the salad or the omelette. Anyway, life goes on. What I did for the last few weeks was meet people at non-meal times and just ordered black coffees.

– I’m totally over dairy. In the last few days I’ve started including a bit of grated cheese in my omelette again and the odd splash of double cream in my coffee, but frankly I could take it or leave it. I still make huge batches of ghee once a month, not because it’s technically non-dairy, but because it’s a great fat to cook with. It has a high smoking point and it goes well with everything. Some things just don’t go well with coconut oil, plus it’s expensive, so it’s nice to have an alternative.

– I’m pretty impressed with myself that I didn’t drink for three weeks, and it’s no particular surprise that it’s the wine that got me in the end. I’m no heavy drinker by any standards, but when it gets to Friday night and I’ve made an awesome dinner like burgers in portobello mushroom “buns”, it just feels more festive to wash it down with some wine. I’m going on holiday next week and can only imagine the damage I’m going to inflict on my liver, so I’m feeling rather virtuous that I gave it a break for the guts of a month.

So that’s it. I reckon I’ll probably attempt Whole 30 again at some stage. While I was doing it I felt very smug indeed, and isn’t that what life’s about? No? Anyway. Next time I’ll try and steer clear of the wine. It’s all my husband’s fault for buying it anyway. Let’s blame him.

The omelette

IMG_0320.JPG

I think people get intimidated by omelettes. No? Maybe it was just me. For YEARS (this was back when I used to pretend that porridge was healthy and/or filled me up till lunch) I was convinced I couldn’t make an omelette. I remembered my mother saying something about moving the outside bits in towards the centre as they cooked but this just screwed me up more. They always ended up scrambled.

So you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re meant to hassle omelettes into life, but in my experience? Not so much. I don’t do it the French way (whisking on high heat – too labour intensive for me, it’s the morning and I haven’t made coffee yet), I do it like this:

Serves 2 adults and 1 toddler who’s already had breakfast but always wants whatever I’m having.

Method
1. Whisk 6 eggs in a bowl.
2. Melt some ghee or butter in a DECENT non-stick frying pan on a medium heat.
3. Pour in the eggs and go off and do something else. Fix your make-up, you’ve got tide marks on your cheek.
4. When it’s about 80% cooked, you can start fiddling. Try and run the uncooked egg off to the side or under the cooked bits.
5. Don’t wait till it’s totally solid, it’ll go rubbery.
6. Add salt (Maldon salt flakes changed my life and my cooking btw) and pepper.
7. Add some ham and spinach or whatever’s hanging out in the fridge.
8. Fold the omelette in two, then divide between two plates.
9. Consume.
10. You’re welcome.

Whole 30 – Day 7

I’m finally in the zone where I feel good, my tummy is flat, bloating is gone, and my appetite has lowered to the point where hunger comes on so slowly that I can get to 4pm and suddenly realise I’ve forgotten to eat lunch. Not that I don’t want to eat, I love food, and I usually eat three meals a day and a handful of nuts when required, but it happened today that I went 7 hours after my morning omelette before I realised I was hungry. That, if nothing else, demonstrates that I am well and truly off the bloodsugar rollercoaster. Thank you Jaysus.

It’s nice to be at this point because the beginning of the week was slow and sluggish and I was tired and headachy. I guess that’s proof that my diet needed cleaning up; my body was definitely in withdrawal for something and I reckon it was sugar (honey, bananas etc, not cane sugar).

I suspect I’ve lost a pound or two but I haven’t weighed myself because a) you’re not supposed to focus on weight while on Whole 30 and b) I’m not particularly interested in the scales anymore. I just want to feel good and eat well. Whatever happens alongside that is fine with me.

Whole 30 – Day 3

I started Whole 30 on Saturday. And what did I do on Friday? I ate pizza and went out on the piss. Standard issue. No, I don’t feel bad about it and yes, it was worth it.

So, in case you were wondering what Whole 30 consists of, you’d best read about it here. If you’re more partial to cliff notes, here’s my basic summary: you eat whole, unprocessed foods, mostly in their natural state. You avoid inflammatory foods and anything with sugar in it. It looks a bit like this:

EAT:
– Meat, fish and shellfish
– Vegetables (including potatoes)
– Eggs
– Nuts and seeds
– Fruit

DON’T EAT:
– Added sugar or processed foods
– Grains
– Legumes, soy products, peanuts
– Dairy
– Alcohol

There is also an emphasis on getting enough sleep. This is something I’m really bad at as I’m a total night owl and unfortunately my 2 year old daughter is not. She wakes up around 7am on a good day and because I rarely go to bed before midnight it can be slightly torturous upon waking. I’m going to aim for 11pm this week and see if it makes a difference to my energy levels.

I’m also trying to up my water intake. For about two years now I’ve drunk lemon juice and warm water first thing in the morning. It’s a good start, but once I hit the (black) coffee at 11am I tend to let myself get dehydrated because I’m running around after the pooch and toddler. That’s a fairly shite excuse, though, so I’m hoping I can improve on this in the next month.

So that’s it. My meals have been pretty standard so far. I slow-cooked a nice pork shoulder on Saturday, so I’ve had that a couple of times in lettuce roll-ups. I’ve got a load of courgettes in the fridge so I’ll probably eat a lot of zoodles for the next few days.

20140804-142328-51808571.jpg
Garlicky meatballs with zoodles in a homemade marinara sauce.

That’s about it. If I eat anything particularly sexy in the next few days I’ll be sure to photograph it and stick it on Instagram. Make sure to follow me on there if you’re not already.

Peace out, paleo on. Snort.

The ultimate paleo banana bread

20140728-224850-82130556.jpg

Ok now, listen up, because on August 2nd I’ve decided that I’m going to start a Whole30. That means no processed foods of any kind, no sugars or honey, no dairy, and absolutely no more bastardised paleo foods (such as banana bread). For 30 whole days I’m just going to eat meat, fish, vegetables and small amounts of fruit and nuts. And no booze.

NO BOOZE?!

No booze.

So before I dive into that, I need to give you my recipe for banana bread, because a) it’s definitely not Whole30 approved, and b) I have tried them ALL, with varying results, and this is the one that makes my heart sing. The thing with paleo banana breads is that when they’re bad, they’re so dry they suck the spit right out of your mouth, but when they’re good, they’re moist and delicious and ah-mazing. This one is almost more chocolate than banana, but you can still kid yourself that you’re eating a healthy fruit thing, right? Who cares anyway, it’s a treat that’s sweet but is grain- and dairy-free. I have fed this to non-paleo people at 3am when they’re angry and drunk and they have practically wept with the deliciousness.

By the way, all the recipes that I tried used American measurements so that’s what I’m working with here. You’re just going to have to go with the cups thing – yes I know it’s annoying – or use an online converter.

Ingredients
Dry ingredients
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
Optional: 1 tbsp of chia seeds (because I put them in everything)

Wet ingredients
3 eggs
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup melted ghee (or butter)

Method
1. Preheat oven to 160°C, grease a loaf tin with butter and line with baking parchment.
2. Combine all the dry ingredients (coconut flour, ground almonds, cocoa powder, bicarb of soda, salt, chia seeds (if using) in a large bowl and remove any lumps with a fork.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, honey and vanilla. Add the mashed bananas and mix well. Then add the melted butter and stir.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
5. Pour into loaf tin and bake for 45 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Banana chia pancakes

20140717-084451-31491802.jpg

I’ve been flirting with the overpriced packet of chia seeds in the supermarket for months, but I’d always stopped myself from buying them because of the extortionate price tag. And it is, undoubtedly, expensive stuff, probably because it’s so trendy at the moment. Chia seeds are high in fibre, high in omega 3s, high in protein, as well as being low carb, so I guess they’ve earned their title of superfood. In any case, I kept reading about them and finally got so curious that I had to try them out for myself, so I stumped the €8 for a pack and then got home to face the conundrum of what the hell to do with them.

I started by throwing spoonfuls of them into dinners at random. They’re fairly tasteless so easy enough to disguise. But then I had a bit of an epiphany and decided to add them into my toddler’s paleo pancakes and it worked a treat. She gobbles them up like a starving orphan and I get to feel intensely smug about myself for 20 minutes before she resumes her task of pushing my buttons and wrecking my house.

So here’s the recipe. You can play with the quantities yourself until you get a consistency you like. I don’t always add the ground almonds and it still works well, but it gives them a more pancakey texture if you use it.

Makes 3-4 pancakes
Ingredients
1/2 ripe banana
1 egg
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsps ground almonds

Method
1. Mash the banana, then beat in the egg and chia seeds.
2. Melt some ghee (or butter) in a frying pan on a medium heat.
3. Ladle in some mixture and cook on both sides.

Stuff I eat – in pictures

Ever wondered what us paleo cave-lurkers actually eat on a daily basis? Fear not, I have it in picture form, so, you know, not too much reading. You’re welcome.

20140710-212306-76986006.jpg

Lunch: Chicken salad with broccoli and Newman’s Own Italian dressing. I used to banjax myself trying (and failing) to make decent dressings but I just don’t seem to possess the skill, so why make when you can buy? This one has no hidden nasties and you know, charity and stuff.

20140710-212305-76985083.jpg

Lunch: Panfried salmon with zoodles, red pepper, chilli and garlic. Zoodles are awesome. If you’re Irish and balk at Americanisms, then please, feel free to call them coodles (courgette noodles). But whatever. They’re basically just grated courgettes that are stir fried for a minute or two. They’re super quick, delicious, and my toddler can’t tell the difference between them and the ones made from wheat. Then again, she’s only two. Here’s a recipe from one of my favourite paleo food sites.

20140710-212303-76983964.jpg

Lunch: Chicken soup made from bone broth. I added leftover roast chicken, red pepper, carrots, celery, onion and a sprinkling of chilli flakes. Yum.

20140710-212304-76984293.jpg

Dinner: Stuffed aubergine with pork mince, garlic, chilli, tomato and spices, served with rocket salad. I made this up as I went along and it was astoundingly tasty. If only I’d written down the recipe. Ho hum.

20140710-212307-76987096.jpg

Dinner: Homemade bolognese on cabbage “pasta”, which is thinly sliced white cabbage, boiled for about 5 minutes and then seasoned. It’s great for bulking out saucy (oooh, saucy) dishes without adding any weird flavours. I first came across it on this site

20140710-212307-76987434.jpg

Dinner: Slow cooked beef rogan josh served with pak choi and cauliflower rice. Cauliflower rice is so easy to make – just finely grate some cauliflower, fry it in ghee for a few minutes and then add seasoning. Simples. 

20140710-212307-76987915.jpg

Dinner: Thai green chicken curry with red pepper, green beans and cabbage pasta.

So there you have it. If you think you might require a near-ish daily visual of the food going into my belly, be sure to follow me on Instagram. It’s food for the eyes and eyes for the food. Wow, that was almost profound without being remotely profound. If only it was profane.

Bone broth

Bone broth. Sounds gross, doesn’t it? It’s one of those weird paleo things that I read about a year ago, but instead of exploring it I just made a face and got back to my ironing. That’s a joke, I never iron.

Anyway, since I’m at the height of my paleo smugness at the moment, I thought I’d save up some chicken carcasses and make a batch. I’m not going to drone on about the health benefits here. There are plenty of good articles that will tell you why it’s so awesome, and I’d only be plagarising anyway, so I’ll just say this: it’s really, really good for you. Need a little more? Ok, off the top of my head, it’s supposed to heal your gut, it’s great for joints, and it contains all sorts of minerals and amino acids that you wouldn’t otherwise get.

So I made some. I dutifully shoved the remnants of several chicken dinners into the slow cooker, covered them in water, plus a random selection of dying veg and herbs, and then left it for 20 hours. I’m not sure I’ll get the smell of not-quite chicken soup out of my soft furnishings ever again, but so be it.

Anyway, I gave a bowl of it to my hungover husband today and he loved it. I tried some myself and was surprised by its rich, almost syrupy texture. But it’s still a broth, so it’s light. It kind of tastes like stock (as you’d expect), but it has a much meatier flavour. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t be rushing to down pints of it. But then again, this is a health thing, not a taste thing, so I’ve decided I’ll use it as a base for some really awesome chicken soup. If it comes out well I’ll probably blog about it. If not, well, go on about your business, nothing to see here.

Paleo Chocolate Cake

20140702-195933-71973463.jpg

My husband has a thing about chocolate desserts. He considers anything that’s not chocolate strange and unnecessary. So when he turned 33 during the week I knew I had to make him a cake. A chocolate cake. And because we’re deep in paleo mode at the moment, well, you get the idea.

The only other paleo dessert I’ve ever dabbled in is chocolate brownies. They’re good, but they use up an entire jar of almond butter which, at almost €4 a jar, is pretty expensive. Plus, you know, it’s not cake. So, being the dutiful wife that I am, I searched the interweb and found this recipe and decided to give it a shot. I had to source a few weird ingredients (coconut palm sugar, I’m looking at you), but I eventually managed to scrounge everything together from a few different health food shops.

It took three hours of hardcore baking, but I’ve got to tell you, it was completely worth it. This is a rich, chocolatey, decadent cake. It is moist and delicious and I can honestly say that it’s one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever eaten. And I’m not just saying that because it’s relatively healthy. Yes, it’s gluten free, dairy free and uses naturally-derived sugars, but it is goddamn tasty and I’d definitely recommend giving it a go. So do it and eat it and delight in your own amazingness. You’ll find the recipe here.

20140702-195934-71974159.jpg20140702-195933-71973806.jpg20140702-195932-71972776.jpg