Tales from a Cookbook Junkie

CookbooksSarah’s Rap: Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve loved to pore over cookbooks. I read recipes like some do magazine articles and usually head to the cookbook section in a bookstore before anything else, despite my already overflowing shelf of cooking and baking manuals. I don’t usually watch sitcoms, but sit me in front of the Food Network, Cupcake War or some other foodie cooking show and I’m sucked in. Or at least I used to be. Now that I can’t eat many of the things they are cooking on those shows, and frankly often don’t want to, I find them less appealing. Despite the fact that I started a Paleo diet because that was all I could eat, I actually prefer to fill my body with healthy foods. I love the way it make me feel and firmly believe that a daily diet full of fresh veggies, fruits, nuts and healthy meats and fish is the best way to nurture both the body and the mind.

Over the last seven years, my shelf full of high-sugar, grain- and dairy-filled cookbooks has transformed to be chock full of Paleo, anti-inflammatory, gluten-free, and grilling cookbooks. Wherever I look, stores are selling books and cookbooks on these topics as well as Clean Eating, Whole 30, the Mediterranean diet, the Ketogenic diet, and more. Every body is different, so a Paleo diet might not be the right choice for everyone, but there is no mistaking that cutting out sugar, gluten, corn and unhealthy oils can improve anyone’s health. There are so many great options out there for people who want to change their way of eating to one that will improve or promote better health. Continue reading

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Roasted Celeriac, Carrots and Zucchini

Sarah’s Rap: I LOVE roasted vegetables. I’m not exaggerating. When I was a kid I told my sister I loved lima beans, so she told me if I loved them so much I should marry them. I have a distinct memory of waltzing with the pan of lima beans while Melissa hummed the wedding march. Well, these days, I’d do the same with roasted veggies! When I am on vacation and I can’t find a restaurant that serves them, I have serious withdrawals and that’s the first thing I make when I return. I just went camping over the weekend and took some of the below recipe along with me in the cooler. I warmed them up on the camp stove until sizzling and enjoyed them on a bed of lettuce with a grilled bison burger. It was delicious! I don’t think I’ve met a roasted veggie that doesn’t pair well with whatever meat I happen to be having for dinner. Continue reading

Scrumptious Paleo Pancakes

Sarah’s Rap: As promised in my last post for Fluffy Gluten-Free Pancakes, here is a Paleo version for those like me that cannot eat any grains. I played with different flours and found that a combination of almond and cassava flours made the best texture and flavor. Just like their GF cousin, these are also very thick and fluffy.  As you can see, I like to pair one of these flapjacks with a pastured fried egg, nitrate-free bacon and veggies of some sort. Mmm mmm, and the best part – no need to wait for breakfast. This makes a delicious dinner as well!

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Paleo Banana Muffins / Bread

Sarah’s Rap: Apparently I’m in a mood to bake this week (which is definitely not an unusual phenomenon), so thought I’d share another of my go-to recipes with you. I recently wrote a post about my Paleo Blueberry Muffins, which I have baked at least 4 times over the last two weeks, sharing it with friends and family. I even made a batch and baked it in a 13×9″ cake pan and it turned out fabulous! Another favorite in our household is my Paleo Banana Muffin and Bread recipe.

I was typing it up today to send to Melissa at her request, as I made it the other day for her while I’m here visiting. Yup, you heard me right! The Sister Rap sisters are reunited for the first time in almost a year. I’m so thankful to be visiting while she has her post-mastectomy reconstructive surgery and my mom is also having a surgery. Otherwise I’d be a country apart, fretting. Now that I’m here, I do what I always do when I want to take care of someone – I bake for them!  Continue reading

 Paleo Blueberry Muffins

BlueberriesSarah’s Rap: I adore blueberry muffins, particularly warm from the oven when the blueberries burst when you bite them.  In this Paleo version, almond flour and coconut oil come together with eggs, sweet dates, wild blueberries and vanilla to form a luscious treat for the senses. My kids, who are extremely picky about texture, vote “thumbs-up” on this recipe.  I made a batch the other day so that my kids would have a healthy snack alternative after school. My son informed me this morning that he ate 5 yesterday! Five! I consider that a success in the mom-approved snack department! Once I finished patting myself on the back, I realized that I may need to put these under lock and key. Although these are chock full of healthy ingredients, that’s quite a few almonds to consume in one day, even for an active twelve year old. 🙂

“I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill” ~ Fats Domino

I’ve included two optional crumb topping recipes that can be put on these muffins before baking. A gluten-free (non-Paleo) topping that includes oats and maple sugar and a Paleo topping made with coconut sugar, chopped pecans and cinnamon. Pick your poison, do half-and-half or skip the toppings all-together and enjoy the pure unadulterated goodness of freshly baked blueberry muffins without any guilt!

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Weeknight Paleo Bison Stir-fry

Sarah’s Rap: As promised, here is recipe #2 in my exploration of beef alternatives. This one uses bison, which is the closest taste to beef that you’ll get. This is one meat that I’ve cooked with often as my family has often preferred it to ground beef.

Recipe #1 in the “Where’s the Beef” series, Elk Burger Extraordinaire yields a rich and satisfying dinner, however I can admit that it requires multiple pans and coordination for all those yummy toppings. That is usually the type of cooking I save for a weekend as my weeknight cooking time is fairly limited if I want to eat dinner at a decent time. My second meal to share with you is therefore an easy one as it can be prepared in a single pan. I steamed vegetables on the side of mine so I used two pans, but there’s no reason you can’t just throw smaller-cut veggies right into the mix with the cauliflower and saute them instead.

This recipe is very flexible. Feel free to add seasonings and greens of your choice. Throw shredded carrots in the mix instead of on the side, add some grated ginger with the garlic or even throw in some diced avocado when it’s all done and you’re ready to plate it up. Mmm, I’m making myself hungry again, so without further ado… here’s my recipe for Bison Stir-fry. I hope you enjoy it!

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Book Review: “Better Than Before”

better-than-before-2Sarah’s Rap: When Melissa and I embarked on our month of posts related to forming and keeping good habits, Melissa recommended this book to me: “Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life” by Gretchen Rubin. At first I wondered how someone could make a whole book about forming habits. Don’t I just commit to making them and try my hardest to stick with it? Well, I trust Melissa’s book reviews as she’s never steered me wrong and I found another of Gretchen’s books  (“The Happiness Project”) packed full of helpful advice, so I gave it a try.

This book is chock full of great research on a variety of topics which impact our abilities to form habits and keep them, including personalities, motivators, scheduling strategies, accountability, monitoring, challenges and more. I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in forming new healthy habits. By understanding more about the habit-forming beast, we can more easily tame it! Continue reading

Traveling with Food Restrictions

Sarah’s Rap: Before my health problems, and the resulting restrictive diet, all my vacations revolved around food. Nothing made me happier than finding a local culinary delight and my sightseeing agenda was always scheduled around the location of restaurants I’d set my heart on. I’d pride myself on finding the places where the locals ate and was usually rewarded with food that was out of this world. Glorious mushroom pasta and rice gelato in Italy, tempting tempura and okonomiyaki in Tokyo and to-die-for doughnuts in Manhattan…Ah, those were the days!

Now that my diet is restricted to meat, vegetables, berries, limited nuts and healthy fats, travelling has become a little challenging. Eating potatoes, dairy, sugar, grains, alcohol, most fruits and legumes makes me miserable – tired, achy, itchy, bloated, irritable and blurry-eyed. Travel is one of  my passions in life, so I’ve decided to not let my dietary limitations keep me home. Instead, I’ve developed a few survival mechanisms for travelling that have made my last few trips bearable.

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