Slow Cooker White Bean, Turkey, and Pumpkin Chili

Saturday night, I returned to Nashville from a week-long visit to see family and friends in Oregon. It was a wonderful time filled with laughter, tears, good food, good coffee (Tennessee should take notes!), friends, family, tattoos, kitties, snow-capped mountains, hugs, and all the things my heart needed. There was also . . . um . . . gluten. I was doing great–until my uncle made a batch of Parkerhouse rolls. I ate a warm roll fresh from the oven that night, slathered in butter and requiring a great deal of finger licking and savoring, and then I promptly stayed awake all night long. It was worth it though. It also signaled the beginning of what I referred to as Thanksgiving: the Glutening. All bets were off. I ate gravy, pumpkin pie, and more. I felt, uh, not awesome. And I knew that the gluten festival needed to come to an end once I got back to Nashville. I wanted to make something hearty and comforting and different and also wanted to use my new slow cooker. I finally landed on this seemingly strange combo of pumpkin, turkey, and beans.

This recipe was my jumping-off point, but I made quite a few changes, primarily to the seasoning and spices, which were way too light-handed for my taste (and any recipe that doesn’t include a mention of salt as part of the actual cooking process is inherently flawed as far as I’m concerned). Without the additional spices and salt and pepper, it would have been very bland. I’m also not shooting for any skinny-fy-ing and prefer to cook only with coconut oil or butter and full-fat, unmodified cheese, etc., so I made tweaks there as well. The base recipe was an AWESOME place to start though.

Wouldn’t it be neat if I had taken pictures? Yeah, that. I forgot. But you can look at the pics from the inspiration link above if you’re can’t imagine what pumpkin chili would look like.

A few notes:

  • I used a 3.5-quart slow cooker, and it was very full. Like I was a little nervous about a Mt. Vesuvius situation around 5:30pm.
  • Total prep time to brown meat, dice and sauté onion, etc., was only 15 minutes. You could easily do this in the morning before heading to work (a requirement if there is any hope for me on a work morning). You could also do prep the night before, refrigerate the meat and onions, and add everything to the slow cooker in the morning. You’d probably want to increase your cook time a little in that case.
  • I cooked on high because I didn’t get my rear in gear earlier in the day. I’m assuming lower and slower would only add to the flavor.
  • Tropical Traditions expeller-pressed coconut oil is THE BEST coconut oil I’ve come across. I initially bought it from my naturopath and haven’t found anything that comes close in quality or price. It has a neutral flavor that doesn’t interfere with savory dishes (it doesn’t taste or smell like coconut at all!). I buy it by the gallon.
  • I prefer to brown the meat and sauté the onion in a stainless pan so I can get some good browned bits for deglazing. You just can’t replicate that in a nonstick pan.
  • (Could I micromanage your cooking process any further? Holy bossy boots.)

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 T coconut oil (or more!)
  • 2 lb ground turkey (I used ground turkey with dark meat–it’s cheaper, more flavorful, and will help put some meat on my bones. You’re welcome to use 99% lean white meat only if you prefer OR leftover Thanksgiving turkey.)
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 t cumin
  • 2-3 t chili powder, to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1/4 t cayenne (more or less, depending on whether you’d like it spicy)
  • 2 15-oz cans white northern, navy, or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 4.5-oz can chopped green chiles
  • 2 c chicken stock (homemade is best! low-sodium if you’re purchasing off the shelf)
  • cheddar cheese, shredded, for topping (optional)
  • sour cream for topping (optional)
  • cilantro and/or scallions, chopped, for topping (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat a large, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat, and add first tablespoon of coconut oil (feel free to add more than 1 tablespoon. I probably used 4 tablespoons total because I want to get as much coconut oil in my meals as possible). Add ground turkey and salt and pepper, and cook until done, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon. Add to slow cooker.
  2. Add second tablespoon of coconut oil to pan, then onions. Sauté  3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cumin, and sauté another minute. Pour a small amount of chicken stock in pan to deglaze the pan, and pour contents into slow cooker.
  3. Add beans, pumpkin puree, green chiles, stock, chili powder, oregano, and bay leaves. Stir to combine ingredients. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
  4. Remove bay leaves and adjust seasoning to taste before serving.
  5. Top with optional cheese, sour cream (or Greek yogurt), and cilantro/scallions.

You could serve this with all sorts of sides–GF tortilla chips or corn tortillas, rice, quinoa, a baked potato. I ate a big bowl of it all on its own last night, with a little sour cream and cilantro, and it was fantastic. I froze half of the leftovers and put half in the fridge. For one little ol’ me, this recipe will translate into six or seven meals.

Enjoy!

Slow Your Roll Recipe: Ranch Pork Chops

If you read my adventures in slow cooking crazy, you’ll know I’m on a serious slow cooker roll. I thought I’d share my recipes so you can slow your roll too!

I was skeptical of this recipe. I pulled it straight from Pinterest and was a little worried I may end up with a total pin fail (like something from Pintester or Pinterest You Are Drunk), but they were actually pretty good. Plus they were so easy, I’d be hard pressed not to put them into my rotation! I may experiment with adding some hearty root veggies into the pot with the pork chops this fall when they are in season–parsnips and carrots would be awfully good with these.

My one recommendation is not to let these cook too long. I put them into the crock pot frozen at about 7:30 and didn’t get home until 7 last night. My crock pot has a swap to warm feature after a time you set, but just being in the for 12 hours really dried these babies out! The first time I made them, they cooked for 6 hours and were perfectly juicy and tasty.

Ranch Pork Chops

  • Pork chops (I recommend nice thick chops)
  • Ranch packet
  • Cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can water

IN THE BAG: Combine all ingredients.

TO COOK: Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours (depending on thickness of the chops) in slow cooker. Serve with a salad and stir-fried or roasted veggies. I had mine with oven roasted butternut squash and stir-fried broccoli and onion.

Slow Your Roll Recipe FAIL: Coconut Ginger Chicken and Veggies

If you read my adventures in slow cooking crazy, you’ll know I’m on a serious slow cooker roll. I thought I’d share my recipes so you can slow your roll too!

This recipe comes from Aimee at Simple Bites. It’s one of the more complicated slow cooker recipes I used, but the comments on the blog were so positive, I thought it was probably worth it. I modified it to work with my freezer bag system, but otherwise I didn’t change a thing. However, what came out was kind of bland. It was still edible, but I wasn’t psyched to eat it–which is a shame because it smelled AMAZING. There are a few things I may have done wrong here: I couldn’t find fresh ginger, so I used dried ginger, and my curry wasn’t of the best quality. (I also skipped the cornstarch since I’m corn-free, so my sauce was a little thin but I was expecting that and leaving out cornstarch doesn’t affect flavor). I’m also starting to wonder if freezing my recipes dilutes the flavors. I may add extra herbs and try this one again since it smelled and looked so delicious.

Any suggestions on how to up the flavor factor in this recipe?

The good news is that this recipe makes a LOT of food, so it’s a lot of bang for your buck.   Husband and I each ate 2 servings as is. Then I chopped up the rest (2 additional servings) and turned it into curried fried rice with plenty of Sriracha chili sauce and gf soy sauce for some flavor and kick. That took care of both of us for dinner and I had enough left over for a big lunch the next day.

 

 

 

Slow Cooker Coconut Ginger Chicken and Veggies

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 inch cube of ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 small sweet onion, peeled, quartered
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts), cut into four
  • 2 cans coconut milk, not shaken
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup peas or frozen vegetables of your choice

For the spice blend

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt

IN THE BAG: Combine ingredients from the spice blend together and set aside. In a mini food processor, combine garlic, ginger and onion and pulse until it forms a paste. In a deep sauté pan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil and melt butter. Add pureed aromatics and stir well. Cook for a few minutes, then add spice blend. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Move aromatics to one side of the pan and add chicken pieces to the pan. Cook chicken slightly on all sides, using a sturdy wooden spoon to move it around the pan. It should get thoroughly coated with the spice mixture. Open the cans of coconut milk and remove the cream from the top using a soup spoon. You should have about 1 cup. Pour the coconut milk over the chicken and with both cans, it should just barely cover the chicken. Let cool and then store in freezer bag. In a smaller bag within the larger bag, store coconut cream whisked thoroughly.

TO COOK: Cook on low for 4 hours. Add coconut cream and stir well. Add frozen peas or other vegetables of your choice. Cook for another half an hour or until you deem the chicken cooked and the vegetables hot.

Slow Your Roll Recipe: Chicken Caesar Sandwiches (or Salads!)

If you read my adventures in slow cooking crazy, you’ll know I’m on a serious slow cooker roll. I thought I’d share my recipes so you can slow your roll too!

This recipe is awesome for football nights–it makes awesome sandwiches that can be eaten on the couch in front of the game. I got this recipe from the lovely Kristy at Sweet Treats & More, who adapted it from Betty Crocker. It’s totally delish and really different than most slow cooker meals–Kristy knows what she’s doing, y’all! It was so good that I forgot to take a picture of it. I think I inhaled it rather than actually chewing…whoops! Anyway, this picture comes from Sweet Treats & More. I’ll post an update with my photo next time I make this. We had plenty of leftovers and the recipe listed below made us 5 gluten-free sandwiches (the Udi’s bread I use is on the smaller side) and 2 salads topped with chicken. That’s a ton of bang for your buck!

Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 bottle of your favorite Caesar Dressing (I used Brianna’s Asiago Caesar)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • Buns or bread

IN THE BAG: Chicken. In a smaller bag within larger bag include parsley, cheese, salt, and pepper.

TO COOK: Place chicken in a slow cooker, cover and cook on low heat for 6-7 hours. Remove chicken from cooker using a slotted spoon.  Place on a cutting board and pull chicken into shreds. Place chicken back in the cooker and pour dressing, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and pepper over the top.  Stir until mixed evenly. Cover and cook on high heat for 30-35 minutes or until mixture is hot. Serve on top of salad or as sandwich filling with potato chips and a side salad.

Worst Blogger Evar. With a Side of Asparagus Salad.

Hello, strangers! A combination of crazy-hectic work schedule, deadlines, personal overcommitment, losing my darn cat (and then finding him!), tiredness, and lack of inspiration has added up to me not cooking much or blogging here the last couple weeks (or even staying up to date on what my fellow GFGs have posted). Sorry! No more sleepless nights of wondering where I’ve been.

I did manage to pull together a meal for Easter Sunday. I googled “Easter menu items” and cobbled together a last-minute mishmash of make-ahead dishes and what sounded easiest and tastiest at the moment and would allow for the longest Easter afternoon nap possible. The meal wasn’t a slam dunk. Oh well. At least I made an effort. And EVERYTHING would have been gluten-free if I hadn’t screwed up the pie (I don’t have time to tell that story). The menu consisted of:

  • ham: Meh. I put a glaze on it. It was still kinda gross. I’m not a huge ham fan anyway.
  • potato salad: based on this recipe but with some significant tweaks. YUM. Anything with potatoes makes me very happy. Note to self: raw onions have given you heartburn for all of the 30+ years you can remember. Why did you put them in this lovely potato salad–and then suffer for the next 48 hours?
  • shrimp shooters: marinated in olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, cilantro, and some other stuff. Dang good.
  • banana custard pie: which I managed to ruin by trying to make trying to make gluten-free . . . and then subsequently made not gluten-free because I ran out of ingredients.

  • asparagus, walnut, and feta salad: based on this recipe. I kindly overcooked the asparagus. If I hadn’t? This would have been my favorite component of the meal.

So I’m going to share a recipe with you that I ruined but that I still loved and that I hope you’ll make and not ruin. Makes perfect sense.

Asparagus, Walnut, and Feta Salad

based on this recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2-2 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus
  • 1/4 small purple onion, thinly sliced wedges
  • 4-6 ounces crumbled feta (goat cheese feta if you can find it) or goat cheese

Instructions

  1. Bake walnuts in a shallow pan at 350°, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes or until toasted; set aside.
  2. Combine oil and next 5 ingredients; cover and chill.
  3. Bend asparagus until it snaps. Cut the remainder up to the same height to remove woody stems (if you’re being frugal, save those stems for soup). Submerge asparagus in salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes, until crisp-tender and still bright green. {No longer! I’m serious! You turn away to watch three minutes of a car chase on Fast Five and you will have ruined your dang asparagus.} Immediately plunge asparagus into ice bath to stop the cooking process; drain and pat dry.
  4. Re-whisk vinaigrette if needed and pour over cooled asparagus. Sprinkle walnuts, onion, and cheese over the top. Allow to sit at room temp for 30 minutes before serving.

So the asparagus portion of the salad was kinda crappy because of the overcooking, but this dish will definitely be on repeat for me. I loved the vinaigrette and the combo of flavors. I wisely sliced the onion in thin slices rather than dicing so I could easily remove the heartburn-causing monsters from my dish (I wasn’t so smart with the potato salad). Asparagus is looking lovely in the market right now. I hope you’ll give this recipe a whirl!

What did you make for Easter dinner? Any flops? Standouts? Please tell me I’m not the only one who made something that didn’t turn out AT ALL.

Smoothies . . . Do Something Good for You Today

The thought of changing your entire diet—and in effect, your life—might seem just a tad overwhelming. It’s possible you’re busy. Extra time and extra money may not be overflowing your days at the moment. Though I tend to be a draw-a-line-in-the-sand kind of girl, I know that doesn’t work for everyone. When I changed my diet, I picked a day and went for it. And I try to stick to it about 85 to 90 percent of the time, which makes it doable for me.

That may not be the case for you. And if it’s not, that is okay. Instead of changing everything, try changing something. I posted earlier about taking my parents loads of gluten-free foods. They appreciate it, and they’re eating it, but now doesn’t happen to be the best time for them to try to be totally gluten free. Daddy is in the middle of chemo, and we’re grateful that he’s been able to eat on a regular schedule. So what that his chicken and noodles aren’t gluten free? (I haven’t updated on that in awhile, but we are really thankful that the rest of his results were good news. Though chemotherapy is very difficult, and we still need a lot of prayer, I’m happy to report that the chemo is working. Praise God.)

If you are not in a place to change everything, I’d encourage you to change something. Add some healthy snacks to your diet. Start exercising a day or two a week. Baby steps are okay. One of my favorite good-things-I-do-for-myself has been my morning smoothie. Molly and Jen got me into this habit, and it’s fairly fast, very filling, and really delicious.

Last week I went to a smoothie class with my friend Tina. It was great, and I learned a lot from Krista.

She shared a lot of super-healthy recipes that I’m going to share with you, but first, I thought tell you about one of my personal favorites:

My Pretty Pink Smoothie
• Frozen pineapple (Trader Joe’s: $1.79 a bag)
• Frozen organic raspberries (Trader Joe’s: $2.79 a bag)
• Fresh strawberries (It’s Florida’s strawberry season right now; do take advantage of the glorious berries in harvest. The ones at Costco are the size of small apples!)
• Blue Diamond Almond Coconut Milk

I will try to be better about amounts as I have a tendency to throw things in whatever I’m making. This is hard to mess up, and it also depends on how many servings you want. I tend to make myself one giant serving for breakfast.

You’ll need a blender or food processor. I use equal parts of raspberries and pineapple and then add four to five large strawberries. I throw the frozen fruit in my processor before my morning walk or shower, and then when I’m done it’s thawed enough to blend pretty quickly. Add the strawberries and start with a couple splashes of almond-coconut milk. Blend, and depending on how thick or smooth you like your smoothie, continue to add milk until you reach your desired consistency. Pour or scoop and voila! You’ll have a great breakfast in the most perfectly bright shade of pink.


To boost the health content, also consider adding one of the following:

Ground flax
Protein powder (Krista recommends Garden of Life Vegan Protein)
Spirulina powder (Krista recommends Pure Hawaiin)

Here are a couple of Krista’s super-food smoothies:

Krista’s Yummy Goodness
• 1 cup liquid (almond, coconut, or rice milk or water)
• 2 scoops protein powder (vegan or whey): Kenzi’s disclaimer: this was a little too chalky for my taste; I would prefer one scoop.
• 1 Tbsp flax seed or chia seed
• 1 cup frozen or fresh spinach
• 1 banana
• Handful of frozen fruits of your choice

Spirulina Green Smoothie
• ½ cup frozen mixed berries (Costco has large bags of organic froze berries that work perfectly for this.)
• ¼ cup of orange juice (Did you know you really need to buy orange juice from the U.S.? Check labels as imported juice can actually contain some levels of arsenic)
• 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
• 1 Tbsp Spirulina powder.
• 1 banana (optional)

I hope you enjoy! I’d love to hear some of the good things you do for you.

Chewy Granola Bars

love Smitten Kitchen. I have been reading her for years and have made many of her recipes, all of which have been amazing. I’m especially charmed and inspired because she creates all of these lovely dishes in a postage stamp–sized NYC kitchen (and her previous kitchen didn’t even have a dishwasher *shudder*).

I had to stop reading for a while though. Because of the BREAD. Like the most recent post, for instance. I may be committed to a mostly gluten-free lifestyle right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t lose my marbles at the thought of a crusty ciabatta roll or whipping up a loaf of no-knead bread, which used to be a staple in my kitchen. For now, that’s not happening.

Thank goodness not all of Smitten Kitchen’s recipes involve bread. Last week, a friend on Facebook linked to this recipe and mentioned that the smell of the baking bars was intoxicating. That’s enough of an endorsement for me. I’ve been looking for a portable breakfast/snack option other than ordering boxes of Kind bars from Amazon (the cheapest avenue I’ve found). I like most of the Kind bars (although they’re a little on the sweet side for me), and I need a grab-and-go option to have in my purse at all times and for busy most nearly all weekday mornings, when I can’t manage to make myself a real breakfast on my way out the door. When my stomach wakes up sometime after 9:00 a.m., I’m always reaching for a Kind bar in my desk drawer.

I decided to whip up a batch of these granola bars on Friday night, with some tweaks. They are insanely good. I think it’s time to cancel that recurring order on Amazon. Seriously. They are chewy, dense (in a good way), and have a nice crunch if you leave nuts in larger pieces or whole. I plan to keep fussing with the recipe and to have these on hand at all times. If I prepare a batch every couple weeks and freeze individually wrapped bars, I should be covered. The options for add-ins are endless too. (Don’t worry, coworkers. I’ll be bringing a few to the office tomorrow for your feedback.) The biggest change I made is subbing the refined sugars. If you want to use regular sugar and corn syrup, you can get the amounts over at Smitten Kitchen’s website by clicking the link below.

Chewy GF Granola Bars

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 2/3 c quick-cooking rolled oats (if gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free oats*)
  • 1/2 c Sucanat
  • 1/3 c oat flour (if gluten-free, be sure to use GF oat flour) (OR 1/3 cup oats, processed in a food processor or blender until finely ground)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 2–3 c dried fruits and nuts**
  • 1/3 c almond butter (or another nut butter)
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 6–8 T melted butter (or melted coconut oil, which I plan to try next time)
  • 1/4 c agave
  • 1/8–1/4 c honey
  • 1 T water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan {I used a small rectangular jelly roll pan} with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan {I rubbed the parchment with coconut oil}.
  2. Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners, almond butter, and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing firmly to ensure the bars are molded to the shape of the pan.
  3. Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges {I baked for the full 40 minutes}. Don’t be afraid to get a little color on the top as well. The bars will seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan; they’ll set once completely cool.
  4. Cool the bars completely in the pan on a cooling rack. This part is no joke. I got a little ahead of myself and tried to slide the parchment out onto the cooling rack after about 30 minutes. Too soon! Some of the center bars ended up a little cracked and crumbly. I ended up letting them cool on the counter overnight, in the pan, lightly draped with a tea towel.
  5. Once cool, slide the parchment with bars out onto a cutting board, and use a large knife to cut the bars into squares. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or waxed paper, or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. I’m hoping they also freeze well.

*Note that any links I’ve provided are for bulk amounts on Amazon. You likely aren’t looking to purchase twelve bags of Sucanat; I just want you to see what product I’m using. (Be aware that you will find many of these products to be much more cost effective if you purchase through Amazon or other online retailers. If you have the luxury of buying in bulk or splitting a bulk purchase with friends, I highly recommend it. And if you have Amazon Prime, the deal gets even sweeter.) Most of these are available at Whole Foods or any grocery store with a decent health food section.

**Suggestions for nut/seed/fruit mixture: dried cranberries, apricots, dates, pecans, chia seeds, flax meal, sunflower seeds, coconut, walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, pepitas, dried apples, or even chocolate chips. I didn’t measure carefully for this batch, and I don’t think it really matters. I just started pouring items into a liquid measuring cup until it hit 3 cups. My mix for this batch (amounts approximate): 1/2 c sunflower seeds, 3/4 c dried cranberries, 1/2 c pumpkin seeds, 3/4 c whole raw almonds, 2 T chia seeds, sprinkle of finely shredded unsweetened coconut on one half (I was afraid I wouldn’t like the coconut…but I did! Weird).

Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

These are inspired by Chocolate-Covered Katie’s Healthy Deep-Dish Cookie Pie. I’ve made some tweaks to her recipe and halved it (it’s just not smart for me to have more than this amount in my house at a given time!). These are incredibly gooey and delicious and a total sneak for people who are leery of “weird, healthy food” (I get this line a lot at my own house). I’ve taken them to work and to a party. Everyone who tried tried them said they never would have guessed that the primary ingredients are garbanzo beans and oatmeal.

{Note: this is no Pioneer Woman or Smitten Kitchen, so don’t get all fired up about the possibility of beautiful step-by-step photos. Or high-quality photos of any kind for that matter. I will just tell you right now that most photos on my recipes are likely to be taken with my iPhone in my dimly lit and windowless kitchen. I’m sorry. I hope that will change down the road. I promise you that I won’t post a recipe unless I truly believe it’s fantastic. Hopefully that will be enough to make you consider giving it a try, lousy photo or not.}

Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

  • 1 can unseasoned white beans or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed {I used garbanzos}
  • 1/2 cup quick oats or certified-gf quick oats
  • 3 medjool dates {don’t forget to take out the pits!}
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c Sucanat and 1/3 c agave
  • 1 1/2 T canola oil {I plan to use coconut oil for the next batch, as it’s much healthier}
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips {if you’re feeling frisky, why not try a blend of the two?}
  1. Blend everything except the chips very well in the food processor. {Be aware that your mixture won’t smell very good at this point. It will smell like beans with vanilla, which is, well, weird. Never fear! I swear that once you bake the bars, you’ll never remember that the base is beans.}
  2. Stir in chips, and pour into a small oiled pan (I used a small pie plate; a double batch fits nicely in a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish).
  3. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Cut yourself a mammoth slice and enjoy! Once they have cooled, I store them in the fridge. When hot, these would be fabulous with your ice cream of choice (dairy or non-dairy) and chocolate sauce. This morning, the cooled cookie bars had a melt-in-my-mouth fudgy consistency. Divine. And I didn’t even feel guilty about eating one for breakfast.

I plan to play with this recipe as a base for breakfast bars with add-ins of dried fruit, chopped nuts, and coconut flakes. I think a big batch would freeze well individually wrapped and would make a great breakfast go-to on rushed mornings. I’ll keep you posted.

Gluten-Free Groupie

I’m kind of the “groupie” of these gluten-free gluttons. (Fellow editors—that ridiculous alliteration is for you.) I don’t personally have an illness or other issue that spurred me to make this lifestyle change, but my parents have had a host of major issues, so healthy eating and wellness have always been somewhat of a priority for me.

When Jen began this journey, I was very inspired and intrigued by what she was doing and how it was affecting her life. In addition, I share an office with Molly, who has to be gluten-free because of Celiac. Then Lisa changed her diet as well. And it seemed to be impacting everyone in really positive ways. The three big things we try to avoid are: Gluten. Sugar. Dairy.

My mom, who has struggled with autoimmune disease (lupus/mixed-connective tissue disease), thyroid disease, and food allergies (corn, food dyes, preservatives) was on a similar diet about fourteen years ago. It helped her quite a bit at the time, but then she began to plateau and eventually threw in the towel. This particular diet was extremely restrictive, and living in the middle-of-nowhere Midwest, there weren’t a lot of options for her to buy healthy, alternative foods. I grew up in the land of corn, wheat, and beans.

In addition, my dad is now battling lymphoma for the second time. He’s also had sarcoidosis and he deals with an extreme case of adhesions (scar tissue) in his intestinal tract.

Both of my parents have limiting diets as it is, but since we’ve began this journey, I have been overwhelmed with information on how important it is to avoid gluten if you have autoimmune disease or thyroid disease, and even lymphomas. (I don’t fully understand this article, but here was a big takeaway:
“There is evidence that strict adherence to a gluten-free diet long term will reduce the incidence of lymphoma.” http://www.nutramed.com/celiac/celiacrefcancer.htm)

We’re still in the very stressful and frightening waiting-for-results phase and the first round of chemo for my daddy, so I have begun to shower my parents in prayer. And gluten-free foods.

As they don’t have access to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco, or sadly even a Kroger or a Publix, I have brought healthy, natural, organic, and gluten-free foods and treats to them. A few things I’m already in love with:

Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix
Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice Pasta
1 2 3 Gluten Free Pan Bars
Blue Diamond Nut Thins

I tell you, even though I don’t have any of these diseases, I just feel better without gluten. I don’t often get that full, bloated feeling, and sometimes—before this recent lymphoma diagnosis—I would find myself in the best mood for no apparent reason. There were days you couldn’t smack the smile off my face. And I’ve lost twelve pounds.

I have had to keep reminding myself that I began this lifestyle change for the well-being of my body . . . however, I also did it to lose fourteen pounds. In less than two months, I’ve already lost twelve of them.