Thursday, June 14, 2012

Leila's Sandwich Cookies


These tasty and adorable cookies came from a wonderful partnership between my sweet seven-year-old daughter and myself. She dreamed up the kind of cookie she wanted to make, and together we brainstormed about what the recipe should include. We set aside time for a "Mommy date" on the weekend to work on them, and all week the anticipation was killing her. When the time finally came, we had such a good time working on this project together. ("Mommy dates" are important to me and my daughters, since they don't get a lot of quality time with me due to their brother's special needs.)  So, not only are the cookies in the shape of a heart - by her request, of course! - but they really do come from the heart. There's a lot of love in this recipe. Happily, they turned out pretty amazing on our first try. Must have been that extra love we threw in!


The cookie ended up being a cross between a sugar cookie and shortbread, with a delicate texture and almond flavor. After the dough spent an hour in the fridge, we were able to roll them out and cut them into shapes. We used plenty of tapioca flour to keep the dough from sticking to everything. They were not difficult to make and are very allergen-friendly...not to mention grain-free and refined sugar-free! (Okay, for all you detail-oriented people out there, the recipe is: grain free, wheat free, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, corn free, and ALMOST nut-free - just substitute the almond extract with vanilla or coconut extract and it's completely nut free.) You can fill them with anything you like. I happened to have some homemade raspberry jam on hand, but you could fill them with just about any kind of preserves, frosting, or sweetened nut- or seed-butter spread.

Leila's Sandwich Cookies

1 1/2 tablespoons ground chia seeds (preferably white, but black work too)
3 tablespoons water
1 cup coconut flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup shortening or butter (we use Spectrum shortening)
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon alcohol-free almond extract (replace with more vanilla extract, or coconut, if you are avoiding nuts)
8 drops Vanilla Creme Stevia

1. Mix the chia seeds plus 3 tablespoons water together and set aside. (This is your egg replacer.)
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut flour, salt, baking soda and set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer, cream together the shortening and the honey. Add vanilla extract, almond extract (if using), stevia, and chia mixture.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and mix until well combined.
5. Form the dough into a patty, wrap in parchment paper, and refridgerate at least one hour or until firm.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dust your counter and your rolling pin with tapioca flour (arrowroot would probably work just as well).
7. Roll dough fairly thin - ours was only about 1/4 inch thick.
8. Bake for about 8 minutes or until edges begin to turn golden brown.
9. Let the cookies cool for ten minutes or so, then spread with the filling of your choice.

Enjoy (and don't forget to throw in the extra LOVE, baby)!!!



Linking up to Allergy Free Wednesdays

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mexican Haystacks


The night I developed this recipe, I had no intentions of coming up with an end product that would be good enough to blog about. But once my family and I had tasted it, I knew I HAD to share it with you! It was one of those happy accidents that was born out of desperation...that desperation we've all felt (and perhaps feel on a daily basis)..."What in the WORLD am I making for dinner tonight?" We all know the familiar feeling of panic. I created this easy recipe based on what I had on hand, and it turned out so...darn...good...I just had to photograph it and tell you about it. It was also very simple to make!


My inspiration for this dish was a memory of how the church I grew up in would often have luncheons and serve what they called "haystacks". I don't even remember what all went into this dish, but the base was always rice, with chicken on top in a Hawaiian-inspired sauce (if I'm remembering correctly). Then, there were all kinds of additional toppings available, like pineapple, fresh tomatoes, raisins, and a bunch of other stuff you could stack on top of your "haystack". I decided to try a version of my own that celebrated Mexican flavors instead of Hawaiian, but it still has that tasty combination of spicy and sweet. It's also a healthier version with brown rice, low-fat ground turkey, and a yummy salsa-based sauce that doesn't contain sugar (as most Hawaiian sauces do).


The kids and I ate dinner before my husband did, as he was out doing some yard work. When I first tasted it, I said, "Wow! This is like a party in my mouth!" Later, when my husband came in and ate his, the first thing he said - no joke - was "Wow! This is a party in my mouth!" Great minds think alike, I guess?!

So I present to you my version of the haystacks of my youth, Mexican Haystacks. You start with a base of cilantro rice, which is simply fresh cilantro stirred into brown rice. Next, add a layer of tender ground turkey that has been browned, then simmered with onions, garlic, and salsa to make it full of flavor. Then, top with the fun stuff: smooth avocado, crunchy red pepper, and sweet, juicy mango. Last, a few sprinkles of fresh cilantro on top, and voila! Or perhaps I should say...ole!

Mexican Haystacks

RICE
2 cups uncooked brown rice
1 bunch fresh cilantro

MEAT
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
4 cups salsa (I used Kirkland organic salsa from Costco)

TOPPINGS
1-2 avocados, chopped
1-2 red peppers, chopped
1-2 ripe mangoes, chopped
fresh cilantro for garnish

Start your brown rice in a pot on the stove, or in a rice maker. Next, add ground turkey and chopped onion to a large saute pan. Add garlic powder and salt and pepper. When the turkey is browned, add 4 cups of salsa. Bring the salsa to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, chop the cilantro, pepper, avocado, and mango. When the rice is done, simply stir in almost all of the fresh cilantro, leaving just enough to garnish each dish.

I served each person with the rice and meat already on the plate, and everybody had fun adding their own toppings. Kids always like to feel that they "made" their own dinner!

I'd recommend serving this with a nice big green salad on the side.

*Also, the recipe above made enough for our family of five to have leftovers the next day. If you are cooking for a smaller family, just chop one avocado, pepper, and mango. You can also make less rice and only 1 lb. of turkey. If you do this, reduce the salsa used to only 2-3 cups.

Enjoy, mi amigos! :-)

linking up to Allergy-Free Wednesdays!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

a personal update (or, my crash course in autism)


me and my sweet boy

The neurologist couldn't keep his eyes off my son. "The change in him is remarkable!" he said. 

We were back at the doctor a full seven months after the last visit. During that time, I had changed Caleb's diet radically and eliminated gluten, wheat, yeast, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, sugar, artificial flavors/colors/sweeteners.

As the doctor is shaking his head, marveling at what he sees in Caleb's behavior, he asks, "Do you have any video of him from before the diet change? Because he would make a great case study for the medical board! He is proof that diet change can improve autistic behaviors."

Our neurologist is a believer in the role that diet can play in the treatment of autism, but the medical board of his hospital is not. They are definitely behind the times, and he felt that Caleb's improvement was so remarkable that it would be good for them to learn about his case! During that same appointment, he confirmed what I already suspected, which was (finally) an official diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (still unspecified at this time). He also agreed that Mitochondrial Dysfunction was a very likely root cause of the autism and we are pursuing further lab testing at this time. 

Originally, I had embarked on this new "diet" as a way to determine if I had food sensitivities. I had just a shred of hope that things could get better for me (you can read more about my journey here). I also had hope that it might make a difference for my son, Caleb. I had heard that many children with autism, ADHD, and various other disorders, benefited from a diet that was free of gluten and dairy products. Oh. My. Word. Not only did I start losing weight and feeling amazing, but my son started to come alive. He came out of his "fog" and was so much more alert and interactive with everyone around him. He began to have more energy and was able to do things physically that he couldn't do before. 

A few more months into this diet change, I began to devote myself to research regarding Caleb and his condition. I had a suspicion that he might have autism, but I felt I needed to educate myself more on what autism was. I began to read everything I could find online. I checked out a few books from the library, and had a conversation with Lexie of Lexie's Kitchen, and read some articles from various medical journals...and my whole world changed. 

Caleb with Grandma (one of his favorite people!)

Not only did I feel that at least SOME of what Caleb had could be explained by autism, but I felt there was a good chance of a further diagnosis for him of mitochondrial dysfunction (when all the cells of his body don't produce enough energy, causing delays and malfunctions in many of his major organ systems). Then, I began to learn about the ramifications of these diseases. I don't want to completely overwhelm you, but in the last two or three months of research, I have uncovered some startling facts. I learned that:

1 .These conditions are caused and/or made worse by environmental triggers. This could be a myriad of things...exposure to pesticides, dangerous gases (like car exhaust), the nasty ingredients in vaccines, constant exposure to allergens, pesticides, etc. We are talking about children whose immune systems are weaker to start with, and when they get exposed to something that is really not good for any of us - it can start a downward spiral. For some children, this happens while still in the womb. For others, it happens when they get immunized or there is a combination of exposures to various environmental pollutants. I am over-simplifying a bit - but it's been quite eye-opening to digest the amount of information there is on it. This is a childhood epidemic that CAN be reversed. I wish that when I was pregnant I had known what I do now...my pregnancies would have looked TOTALLY different, and in fact, my lifestyle before even becoming pregnant would have looked different, too.

2. Children with autism - and ADHD and allergies and OCD - can "recover". There is hope! It takes a huge commitment on the part of the family, but it can be done. Most traditional doctors don't have the answers for this, though - they rely heavily on drugs (as they were taught to in medical school) - while experiential evidence has shown that diet changes, environmental changes, and various bio-medical treatments give the greatest results. Most typical MD's are out of the loop because they are busy with their practices and aren't able to keep up with all the latest research...not to mention that autism has been affecting children at such an alarming rate it's been difficult for them to keep up.  So it's an emerging field that requires a fair amount of research on the part of the parents. But it's SO worth it! 

He's not strong enough to walk, so he's figured out another way to get around...scooting on his bottom!

Here are a few of the recent changes I have made: 
- This is the biggie: I implemented an elimination diet...no gluten, wheat, yeast, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, sugar, artificial flavors/sweeteners/colors; and several other things have been excluded based upon my observations of how they affect Caleb's behavior
- I buy organic food only 
- I got rid of my non-stick pans and replaced them with stainless steel (non-stick pans are coated with teflon, which is a known carcinogen that is both food-born and air-born)
- I replaced his PJ's with organic ones (regular pj's are coated with a flame retardant that is extremely harmful for most kids, but especially those with autism and allergies)
- I replaced the kids' soaps, lotions, shampoos, and toothpaste with organic ones
- We stopped using the microwave (it's said that every microwave leaks electro-magnetic radiation, harms food, and converts substances cooked in it to dangerous organ-toxic and carcinogenic products)
- We stopped using plastic dishes in the kitchen (even BPA-free ones) - using only glass, ceramic, or stainless steel instead
- We're using filtered water for not just drinking, but cooking with as well
- We are considering possibly moving out into the country, where the air is cleaner and we can grow more of our own organic food.

This list may seem to some like I have gone off my rocker and become a totally paranoid mama. Though I confess there are days I feel like that (!), those who have known me a long time can attest to the fact that I was never a person who cared about these sorts of thing before. That's what knowledge does to you. When you discover that there are things that you thought were perfectly harmless, making your child sick, you start to feel a little sick yourself. It's taken me weeks, months, to process what I am learning...and I'm still processing. But, after you pick yourself up off the floor, you realize that some of the knowledge you've gained can be converted to power. In the same way that all these things contribute to my child's illness, removing them and replacing them with healthier options can actually help in healing my son. So, while it is very overwhelming, it's also very empowering. I don't have a son with an illness for which there is NO help. Granted, you will find medical professionals who will tell you that. But it's not true. I've read too many hope-filled stories of mothers helping their children to recover from autism. 

And I plan to add our story to that list.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed...Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are bing renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." - II Corinthians 4:7-8, 16-17

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Kitchen Sink" Quinoa Salad


 I named this quinoa salad after the kitchen sink, because you can literally add just about anything but the kitchen sink and it will still be yummy. (Okay, any VEGETABLE, for all of you ultra-detailed people!) We had a surprising string of summer-like weather here in the Pacific Northwest this weekend, and suddenly I didn't want to make the kitchen any hotter than it already was by using the oven. This salad was cool and refreshing, while still being really satisfying. My family loved it and the kids were asking for seconds and thirds! Which is good, because this recipe makes LOTS of salad...enough for my family of five to have for dinner, plus some leftovers for lunch the next day. (If you'd like a more modest amount for a smaller family, simply cook half the recommended quinoa.) Have fun with this one and add whatever fresh veggies you have on hand...make it your own! If I'd had zucchini or summer squash, or fresh tomatoes, I definitely would have thrown those in. We ate this as our main dish last night, but it would also be a lovely addition to a picnic or barbecue! It's reminiscent of a pasta salad but oh-so-much-healthier and even more satisfying. (Oh, and I just tasted it again today...I can now vouch for the fact that it's even BETTER the second day!!)


Kitchen Sink Quinoa Salad

SALAD
about 4 cups cooked quinoa*, cooled
1 sweet bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow), chopped
1-3 heads broccoli, chopped into florets
1 cucumber, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 cup kalamata olives
any other veggies of choice (fresh tomatoes, carrots, or celery would all be delicious)

DRESSING
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dried basil (fresh basil would be even better!)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

*How to cook quinoa:
1. Rinse well, just like you rinse rice. This means you add water to the pot with the quinoa, move your fingers around in the pot several times till the water is a bit cloudy, pour the excess water off, then add more water and repeat. You could do this for 3 or 4 minutes!
2. Add 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa. For this recipe, I add 4 cups of water to 2 cups of quinoa. (After rinsing the quinoa repeatedly, however, I estimated that there was already about 1 cup of water in the pot, so I only added 3 cups of water to the pan.)
3. Bring water and quinoa to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
4. Remove lid, fluff quinoa with a fork, and let it sit for about five minutes.
 5. To cool it quickly for quinoa salad (since I never seem to think far enough ahead for nice cold quinoa salad) spread it in a shallow baking dish and put it in the freezer while you prepare your vegetables and dressing. In a perfect world, the quinoa would be made and chilled before you start dinner prep. But who lives in a perfect world?

Chop your veggies. Add them to the quinoa. (I've been saving glass jars that some of my foods come in and they make great dressing jars!) Add all the dressing ingredients to a small glass jar and then shake it up - much faster and more efficient than trying to whisk your ingredients together. Anyway, pour it over the salad...mix it all up...and enjoy! The colder the better, so you can easily make this salad ahead of time and serve chilled. Yummers!


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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Moist & Rich Nut Butter Brownies (or Cookies)


**edited to add: when I first posted this recipe I neglected to include the coconut flour in the ingredients! I've added it now and I hope no one runs off and bakes this recipe without that little bit of coconut flour!**

I interrupt these healthy messages to bring you something decadent. Something moist, rich, and dark. Something that manages to be full of flavor, but not full of refined sugar or grains. And, of course, it's gluten free, dairy free, egg free, grain free, corn free, and soy free.

In fact, what I bring to you today is a recipe that is so versatile it will make cookies OR brownies...your choice! The first time I made this recipe, I used creamy almond butter as my nut butter of choice, and made cookies. The cookies were extremely moist and cake-like, and I thought...hey! These would make great brownies! The second time I made the recipe, I used chunky peanut butter instead. The brownies were still moist, but had a lovely added texture of crunchy peanut bits. This recipe would work just as well with Sunbutter or another nut butter, I'm sure. I found the almond butter was mild enough it took a "back seat" to the flavors of the cocoa, molasses, and banana...but the peanut butter held its own and made it more of a Peanut Butter Brownie.  Also, I made these without chocolate chips, because I didn't have any on hand, and trust me - they were plenty decadent. However, chocolate chips would be a lovely addition that would really put these over the top! This is about the simplest brownie recipe ever. So - experiment - have fun with this - and let me know what you think!

***Disclaimer: Many of you know I have been on a weight loss journey. I went a few months with NO sugar/sweeteners of any kind, before I started to allow myself to have treats in VERY small doses again. I have to be constantly vigilant with myself to not over-do things, because I have a killer sweet tooth. What I am learning is that IN MODERATION, it's okay to have a treat every once in a while. But now that I am more aware of the addictive qualities of sugar and other sweeteners - not to mention the impact on my general health and well-being - I am very intentional about limiting myself. I'm not always perfect at this...in fact, I've had a migraine for a few days now thanks to these brownies, because I do NOT do chocolate well (always seem to conveniently forget that fact, until a migraine reminds me). So, even though these brownies are relatively "healthy" compared to a lot of other options out there, they are still a treat to be enjoyed in moderation if you tolerate chocolate. But if you are on a weight loss journey yourself, it's perhaps best to skip these until you feel you can trust yourself again.***

Nut Butter Brownies
grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, corn-free, soy-free

1/2 cup dark cocoa
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if you are using peanut butter w/ salt in it)
1 cup almond butter/peanut butter/nut butter of choice
2 small mashed bananas
3 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (optional) (I recommend Enjoy Life brand for allergies)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Mash bananas and add nut butter and molasses to them...then add wet ingredients to dry and mix well (add chocolate chips if you are using). Batter will be very thick. For cookies, place rounded spoonfuls on a cookie sheet and gently press down with fingertips, then bake for 10-12 minutes. For brownies, spread into a 9"x9" pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

The first time I made these, I used creamy almond butter and made them into moist, delicious cookies. Yum!


Linking up to Allergy Free Wednesdays!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Eat Your Greens...and Enjoy Them! (That's an order!)


When I began making an effort to get healthy, I would hear about greens and how good they were for you and how they were super foods and yada yada yada (I probably rolled my eyes, too). I had no idea what "greens" were or how to cook them. Not only that, but the thought of eating warm, wet, slimy greens was...shall we say...less than appealing.  But as with so many different foods throughout this process, I've discovered just how good that green stuff can be! 


I wish someone would have taken me by the hand and given me a tour of the "greens" section of the grocery store. I didn't like feeling like I didn't know what I was doing...but everybody's gotta start somewhere, I guess. Obviously these are not the only "greens" out there, but I thought I'd just list my top three favorites with photos and a simple recipe that will work for any one of them. 


My husband is a huge fan of kale - that's his favorite. I, however, am a big fan of swiss chard and collard greens. I find their flavor to be a bit more mellow and mild than kale when they've been sauteed. I tell you, I eat them this way and I feel like it's practically dessert. Here's my simple recipe:


Melt-In-Your-Mouth Greens

2 tablespoons olive oil
one onion, chopped
two bunches of greens (kale, collard greens, or chard - or a combination of each)  
two large cloves (or three little ones) garlic, minced
1 cup chicken stock (or water, if you don't have any stock on hand)
salt + pepper to taste

First, heat olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Add the chopped onions and saute them until translucent. While onions are cooking, I prepare the greens by slicing the leaves off their center stems (the stem is fibrous and difficult to chew) and then chopping them into pieces (roughly a couple of inches square). Once the onions have become nearly translucent, add the greens to the pan. Add the chopped garlic and salt (I usually throw in a couple of pinches, probably about half a teaspoon worth?) and pepper (probably about 1/4 teaspoon). Saute the greens for a couple of minutes until they look "wilted". Then, add the chicken stock or water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until the greens are nice and tender. Enjoy!


This is my Swiss chard in the pan last night, after I had sauteed them for a couple of minutes, but before I simmered them. (They got eaten so fast by my hungry family, I didn't get a chance to take a picture when they were finished.) They will lose much of their lovely green color during the cooking process, but don't let their wilted appearance at the end fool you...not only are they the most nutrient-dense food you can possibly serve your family, but they also happen to be delicious! I've been completely converted.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Healthy, Allergy-Friendly Cooking - you CAN do it!

I made this for Easter - the Raw Cashew Raspberry Dreamcake from My New Roots (although I used strawberries) - it was my first non-dairy cheesecake-making experience and it turned out pretty good!
There has been so much going on in my life lately, I hardly know where to begin. There has been much cooking and very little picture-taking of said cooking. There have been many trials (and a few failed attempts) as I attempt to master healthy, allergen-free baking. There have been new recipes tried...and enjoyed (though some more than others)...and new recipes created. But I don't have photos for you yet or anything written down, mostly because I've been  experiencing a weird phenomena recently that is new to me: people have actually been making my recipes.

I'll stop for a moment to let that sink in. Oh, we're not talking LOTS of people...but a few people have ventured outside their comfort zone and taken a chance on one of MY recipes. This both encourages me and scares me. It encourages me to keep on cooking, experimenting, photographing, writing. It scares the heck outta me because I don't want to put just any ol' recipe on this blog...I only want the GOOD ones. Nay, even the GREAT ones. So I can't tell you how many recipes I've created in the last few weeks that still need tweaking before they are good enough for you.

I made these Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies as a treat for the kids a couple of weeks ago - they were flour-less, full of protein, free of refined sugar, and delicious!
The thing I would say to anyone who is new to any kind of cooking, but particularly of the newly-healthy variety, is: DON'T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES. So you don't know exactly how to cook that crazy-looking vegetable you bought on a whim or that came from your CSA. Just TRY. (Roasting almost always works!) Be prepared to make mistakes, because that's how you learn. I am trying to believe this as I write it, because it's not easy stuff for a perfectionist. But this whole world of healthy cooking...and especially gluten-free, vegan, corn-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free baking...is so new to me that it would just be weird if I knew how to do everything perfectly, right out of the gate. And there's a big learning curve.


But there's also a big payoff: health. I had to remind myself of the payoff just the other day as I spent a Really Long Time making homemade gluten-free, yeast-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, corn-free cinnamon rolls for our Easter breakfast. I found myself remembering fondly the days that on a special holiday I would just pop open a can of those pre-made, refridgerated cinnamon rolls, plop them into a pan, bake them and then pretend I had slaved for hours over them. I shared out loud my happy memory of those days with my husband, who thankfully offered a different perspective: "Yes, but it turns out, those were KILLING us!" Perhaps a little melodramatic, but still a lot of truth to it. Our diet before six months ago was full of that garbage that was at the very least making us sick, chunky, and miserable, if not also slowly killing us.

We had these Yeast-Free, Vegan Cinnamon Rolls for our Easter breakfast - seriously yummy! (and easy on my tummy!)

So this Easter weekend, things were a little different. Here's an example of what our Easter meals used to look like:

- Ham (full of nitrates and nitrites, which are nasty preservatives, and who knows what else)
- egg/bread/sausage/cheese casserole
- cinnamon rolls (from a can)
- cheesy hash brown casserole
- perhaps that green bean casserole (gotta have a veggie, right?)
- coconut cake/cupcakes
- bottled sparkling cider

And this year's menu:

- Fresh, organic Herb Turkey
- Huge organic green salad with home made balsamic vinaigrette dressing
- Roasted organic asparagus
- Mashed sweet potatoes (mashed with coconut milk)
- Raw Lemon Tart (to die for)
- Raw Strawberry Dreamcake
- Sparkling strawberry punch (made with pureed strawberries, agave, and sparkling water)

And ya know what? Other than that moment of weakness where I really missed the convenience of the refridgerated, canned variety of cinnamon rolls...I didn't miss a thing from last year's menu. Really, truly. It's totally possible to re-train your taste buds (and that of your family.) to fall in love with green, healthy, and fresh. And this meal didn't make me feel terrible...it made me feel great. That is really rewarding and makes all the extra effort worth it!

This Raw Lemon Tart was a BIG hit at our Easter dinner!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Turkey Veggie Sliders with Avocado Aioli

Turkey Veggie Sliders with Avocado Aioli on Whole Grain Flatbread

So lately we've been eating a lot of vegetarian meals. Partly because it's healthy, but mostly because we don't have any money. Here's what we've learned: contrary to popular American opinion, you WON'T die when you remove meat from a meal. You actually CAN make a filling, tasty, enjoyable meal without meat. Not only that, but it's easy on your family's digestive systems and very easy on the wallet. What more could you ask for?

Okay, so now that I've sold you on eating more vegetarian meals (making a big assumption here, but...whatever) this is a meal that features MEAT. Which is probably part of why it was such a BIG hit with my family last night. This is the first time in five months that we've had a "burger" so it seemed very luxurious. Add to that the fact that I baked Whole Grain Flatbread from the Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen for the "buns" and my family was beside themselves. I whipped up the bread and stuck it in the oven first...and while it baked, assembled my "sliders".

Since we can't eat mayo (even Vegennaise) or ketchup in our house, I had to come up with something to spread on the buns so they wouldn't be dry. This Avocado "Aioli" was just the ticket! It was the finishing touch that really made the sandwich. I topped it with leftover grated carrot which added a nice color and texture. I used dark turkey meat, because that's what I had available...but you could make this even more healthy using all-white turkey meat. Ground chicken would work fine, too. This is a "burger" you can feel good about serving to your family!

Turkey Sliders with Avocado Aioli

FOR SLIDERS:
1 lb ground turkey
1 cup shredded carrots (reserve 1/2 cup for sandwich topping)
2 tablespoons dried minced onion
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Preheat grill or grill pan. Mix above ingredients together, reserving half the grated carrots for topping the sliders. (I use my hands for this part). Use an ice cream scoop to form about eight or nine equally-sized portions on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Then, use your hands to loosely form into patties. At this point, I sprinkled a bit more salt & pepper on the surface of the patties. When the grill is nice and hot, grill the patties. Cook each side for 4-5 minutes...don't flip until you've got  nice grill marks and the patty releases easily from the pan. While patties are cooking, make up your aioli.

FOR AIOLI:
2 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice

Place ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. You may need to adjust the salt or garlic powder according to your tastes.

Spread Avocado Aioli on your Whole Grain Flat Bread, gluten-free bread or wrap of your choice. (These would also be excellent wrapped in lettuce if you are avoiding breads.) Top with more aioli and grated carrots, then serve with a green salad to aid with digestion. For an extra treat, serve with roasted sweet potato "fries".

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts - our new french fries!

image source: White On Rice Couple
There have been so many foods that our family has eliminated lately, and I often get asked, "What DO you eat?" The answer is simple: we eat a whole lot of fabulous veggies that we never even knew existed before. And when the food you do eat tastes amazing, it's easier to not miss the things you can't have anymore (whether it's due to allergies or simply making healthier choices).

These brussels sprouts are my family's new french fries. I'm not even kidding. Who knew that something green and round (and sugar-free) could be so tasty? Who knew that something so good for you could be so delicious? I just discovered Roasted Brussels Sprouts a few months ago. Life-changing, people! We no longer eat French fries, but have found these to be just as tasty and just as addicting. I usually can't help popping a couple (okay, quite a few!) in my mouth as I am putting the final touches on dinner. They are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside...uh-huh, with just the right amount of saltiness. So good.

Here is Ina Garten's extremely simple recipe. The only thing I would add to her directions is that once I cut off the brown end, I also slice the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise. This makes them a more manageable size, both for me and the little mouths in the house.

And those outer leaves that fall off the brussels sprouts and get all dark brown...THOSE are the best part! They get really crispy and delicious. Most of them don't make it to the table because Momma's gotta sample first. :-) Just doing my part to make sure everything's tasty enough for my fam!

And just for fun, here's another recipe I haven't tried yet but plan to - Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic...so simple but probably SO tasty. Anything is good with balsamic!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Special Blueberry Sauce

my Blueberry Sauce over Lexie's Saturday Pancakes

It's become tradition on birthdays around here to serve pancakes with my special Blueberry Sauce for breakfast. This week was my son's birthday, and pancakes are one of the few foods that are soft enough for him to eat without them being pureed first. So he LOVES pancakes and feels like such a big boy eating them! I decided to try the Saturday Pancakes from Lexie's Kitchen (my new favorite blog/recipe site, by the way!). It was one of those times where I didn't have some of the ingredients her recipe called for, so I substituted, and substituted some more...and they were STILL awesome!

(I'm hoping to try them again EXACTLY the way her recipe is written...I just need to buy some Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose flour or make my own AP flour based on Lexie's recipe. My only concern is that I've noticed lately that beans are hard for me to digest, and Bob's AP GF flour is partially comprised of two bean flours, so...we'll see how that goes. But it's worth a shot! I used a combination of GF oat flour and a little coconut flour as a substitute. It was a lovely flavor but I think I could get them even lighter and fluffier with a different flour - oat flour can be heavy.)

Anyway, this blueberry sauce is livened up with fresh orange juice and orange zest, a hint of cinnamon and a bit of agave to sweeten. That's it! Pretty simple but oh-so-delish. This is awesome on pancakes or waffles, but would also be amazing on ice cream or yogurt.


Special Blueberry Sauce

4 cups frozen blueberries*
1 tablespoon arrowroot starch
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. orange zest (lemon zest works too!)
Juice of one large orange (about ½ cup orange juice)
1-2 tablespoons agave nectar (can sweeten to taste, or use Stevia drops)

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and stir together. Heat blueberry mixture to boiling, stirring frequently. Reduce to simmer for about two minutes. (Simmer a little longer if you prefer a thicker sauce.)

Serve warm over pancakes or waffles…also delicious over yogurt, ice cream, or vegan cheesecake. Enjoy! J

*Note: This sauce works fine with fresh blueberries, but they do break down a lot faster and there aren’t many whole blueberries by the end. If you use fresh, follow the directions above but throw in another handful or two of blueberries at almost the very end, that way you’ll still have some whole berries in your sauce.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wonderfully Made

my boy loves his music!
I've been doing a lot of research lately on a possible diagnosis and treatments for my son Caleb. Without getting into specifics (because I don't have a lot of them yet) he most likely has something that is chronic and yet could improve over time, if treated aggressively enough. This will require even more time, money, and resources than I've already been putting in with all of his therapies and testing. I go through seasons in my life where I feel the weight of his needs more than others, and I suppose this is one of them. I read a couple of articles last week that I could really relate to, as both were written by parents of kids with special needs. I felt that their words actually expressed my feelings far better than I could.

7 Things You Don't Know About a Special Needs Parent

Five Things You Should Know About a Special Needs Family

I'm not even sure why I'm sharing these articles, except that this stuff is just on my mind and heart this week. My little boy turns 3 tomorrow, and I can't wait to celebrate him! Because as much as he wears me out...as much as my heart breaks for him sometimes...as much as I wish things were different for him...he is a PRECIOUS and PERFECT gift from God. His presence in our family continues to teach us and make us better people. His sisters are more compassionate, loving, and accepting of all kinds of children, thanks to their brother. They are his biggest cheerleaders (and sometimes biggest enablers!). And me...well, in the last three years, I've grown a whole lot more patience. I've grown in my ability to perservere. I'm more compassionate towards others. I'm much more aware of my own weakness and utter dependence on the Lord...which, in a strange way, has made me much stronger.

I've been working today on a birthday gift for Caleb. He won't really understand that it's his birthday, and honestly, he won't care whether he receives a gift or not. Which is okay, really, because it turns out...he's the one who gives us gifts every day. When he smiles through his discomfort...when he hugs me through his pain or fear...when his very presence in our family is making us more like Jesus. Oh, trust me...I've got a long ways to go. But occasionally I am reminded, in the midst of doing yet another mundane, repetitive task for my son, that in reality...I'm doing it for Jesus. And the more I serve Caleb in humility, the more I identify with Christ and become like him.

I have this verse posted above Caleb's changing table:


Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Col. 3:23-24



And I have this verse posted above my kitchen sink:

...but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. - I Cor. 15:57-58


And this one, I have memorized on Caleb's behalf:


I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
   your works are wonderful, 
   I know that full well. - Psalm 139:14



Happy birthday, my sweet Caleb! I am so glad God decided to place you in our family. I know I'm not perfect, but I continue to pray that I will be a good steward of the blessing that is you. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Healthy Kid's Lunches

image: gamene (flikr)
I've had a lot of friends ask me lately, "So, what do you feed your kids for lunch?" This seems to be a big stumbling block for families that want to eat healthy. Dinners are simple enough to prepare in a healthy manner; but what about the kids that are used to getting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, bag of Doritos, and a few Oreos in their lunch? How do you transition to more healthy alternatives?

I started slowly. When I first began my elimination diet, it was just for myself and Caleb. Caleb still can't eat solid foods, so I simply puree our healthy dinner leftovers from the night before and serve those up for his lunch. But for my girls...one is school-age and the other will be in kindergarten in just a few months (sob)...I began by switching to all-natural, no-sugar-added peanut butter. Then, I purchased organic jam. Several months before the elimination diet, I had stopped buying honey and was using agave instead, and thankfully one of my girls was already a big fan of peanut-butter and agave sandwiches. Then, I made a big batch of my own strawberry jam, without pectin and sweetened only with agave. The next step in the transformation of the sandwich was that I stopped buying bread for a while. My kids didn't mind rice cakes, so there was a period of about four weeks where they didn't have bread at all, only rice cakes with peanut butter on them. I filled a tiny jelly jar with peanut butter, and sent my daughter with a little spoon so she could add the peanut butter to the rice cake herself when she got to lunch. This helped prevent a soggy, messy rice cake!

After about a month with no bread, I re-introduced bread by purchasing this gluten-free brand. It is almost impossible to find a gluten-free bread that does not have eggs, soy, or corn in it. This brand checked all the right boxes. After not having bread for a while, the girls thought it was great and I used it for a month or so to make their sandwiches.

Then, this week I tried this sandwich bread recipe. Yum!! It was easy enough to make, and one loaf has lasted about a week, so I'm planning on making this bread for their sandwiches from here on out. (I have yet to find a good gluten-free, organic sliced turkey for sandwiches or wraps; if you know of one, please tell me!)

Okay, enough about sandwiches. This is not our only option for a healthy lunch! As I mentioned before, rice cakes are good with some kind of nut butter or seed butter, and agave or jam. They are also good with hummus or some other kind of bean dip spread on them.

Our other stand-by for lunches is hummus & veggies for dipping. I use this recipe from The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen. I make it just like her recipe, except instead of 1 teaspoon of cumin, I add 1 tablespoon of cumin. I made it this way the first time as a mistake and loved it so much I do it every time now, on purpose! The great thing about hummus is that it's very filling, and you can get a lot of healthy veggies into your kids when you provide veggies for dipping. My kids' favorite veggies to dip are carrots, broccoli, and red or green bell peppers. But anything goes! I also love dipping celery and fresh, crunchy green beans in hummus.

One healthy alternative is wraps. However, I can't find a store-bought wrap that I like. I may have to break down and make my own home made but I am really dreading that. Just seems like a lot of work! I've tried using lettuce for wraps...I think I never use quite enough so it falls apart too easily. I recently heard about using collard greens as your wrap...that sounds kind of cool...I think I'll try it soon, maybe with some hummus and bell pepper slices inside.

I always provide a side of fresh fruit and try to add a side of fresh veggies to any sandwich or rice cake. Sometimes a handful of dry roasted almonds or dried fruits too. I make sure to keep things fresh by occasionally adding a homemade treat of some kind. Adding home made treats is more of the exception than the rule, but I never want my kids to feel deprived. I just make sure to trade the unhealthy junk food for treats that are packed with as much nutrition as possible. At the very least, when I send them a home made treat, I know it is free of gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy and usually refined sugar. It's also organic. These little changes add up and make a difference, I'm convinced of that now.

I am still learning and developing in the area of making healthy lunches for my kiddos. They are SO much better than they used to be, but I'd still like to see them have more variety. I'd like to see them enjoy almond butter as much as they do peanut butter. I'd like to see my daughter get comfortable with bringing soup in a thermos, for example. By next school year I'd definitely like to get a few more things in the repertoire. But, my kiddos are still young, and I know that if I keep working on it and don't give up, they'll soon be eating healthier than most adults I know. (In fact, my daughter says that the cafeteria duty teacher looks to see what my daughter has in her lunch every day, so she can copy it for her own children!)

Here are some other helpful resources for healthy lunch tips and ideas:

Back to School Lunches for Healthier Kids
Recipe Round-Up: Ideas for Packing a Healthy School Lunch
Healthy School Lunch Ideas for Kids
Packing a Healthy School Lunch

I had a friend (whose children are now adults) commend me recently for teaching my children young to eat right. She was very honest with me and said that's something that she dropped the ball on when her kids were little, and now as a family they all struggle with being overweight and unhealthy. She said she  would go to McDonald's whenever the kids wanted to. There just weren't any boundaries for food, and now she's got some regrets in that department.

The fact is, we aren't raising little children...we are raising future adults. Let's give them the tools they need now to make wise decisions later! Here's the thing: it might take a little bit of extra time to prepare a lunch that's not based on pre-packaged foods. But I firmly believe that taking the time (and it doesn't have to be a LOT of time!) to pack foods full of fresh, natural goodness is an important part of nurturing our children. Many of us are aware that we need to be nourishing our children emotionally with lots of love, hugs, and quality time, but sometimes we forget that nourishing their little bodies is just as important. We have a chance now to help shape our children's health for the future...let's do it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Purple Mash (a Healthy Mashed Potato Substitute)

Let's face it, cauliflower is not always that exciting. But it's a super food, so I keep trying to figure out ways to incorporate it into our diet. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I spotted purple cauliflower at Whole Foods. I told her it would be an "adventure" to cook it...and she was totally into it! Here's how to make purple mash that kids will actually like:

1. Buy PURPLE cauliflower (they have orange, too! and of course white will work)

 2. Chop and steam it

3. Blend and mash it...add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Add a few tablespoons of the milk of your choice to make it more creamy.

4. Enjoy your healthy PURPLE MASH!!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Bread Experiment - gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, corn-free


I eliminated yeast from my diet last October and have not tried to bring it back...until now. You see, my girls still like to have sandwiches for lunch, and because they are on a very similar diet to my own, I've been buying those bricks that masquerade as loaves of gluten-free bread in the freezer section of the grocery store. (And they cost almost as much as a gold brick.) Well, this weekend we happened to run out of bread and money at the same time, so I decided to finally attempt the recipe I had purchased the ingredients for months ago but had yet to make:  this Everyday Sandwich Bread that is gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, corn-free and soy-free. I was literally scared to try it, mainly because it does have yeast in it. I don't have much experience baking with yeast and for some reason that intimidated me to my core. I had to  have one of those out-loud pep talks with myself just to get up the guts to try it...mainly because of my fear of failure! Finally my husband - ever the voice of reason - reminded me that the worst that could happen is I'd have to throw it away and start over. Oh...so you mean...the sky won't fall on me? Okay.

So I made it.

And Oh. My. Word. I mean, seriously. I have not had bread since October. So, you might imagine I was going nuts as I could smell this bread baking in my own house. Then I pull it out of the oven and it. is. perfect.


So, I decided at that moment: "Hmm, today seems like a really good day to re-introduce yeast into my diet and see if my body has an intolerance to it." (After doing an elimination diet, if you choose to try and re-introduce a food into your system, you eat it three days in a row.)

I HIGHLY ENJOYED this delicious bread.

My body, alas, did not.

Oh, the PAIN. I finally (after only two days of eating a little of this bread) had to wave the white flag and surrender. Yeast is not for me. Sigh. Double sigh. Triple sigh. Because this bread is GOOD.

But honestly, there is a part of me that's okay with it. You know why? Bread was a food that I always over-indulged on in the past. Knowing what I do now about the little fact that it was making me so ILL kind of helps with my self-control. I mean, I need to have self-control anyway, but...I have a history of not regulating myself when it comes to portion control. You want a piece of bread? Great! You want three or four pieces? Okay! With butter and cinnamon and sugar on top? Why not! But now, I can officially scratch "yeast" off the list of foods that are okay for me to eat.

So while I wipe away a little tear (figuratively), I also do a little happy dance. Because yeast is a slippery slope that leads to bread, which leads to lots of bread, which leads to being sick and overweight and miserable.

And I don't want to go there again.

P.S. And since baking this bread for my family earned me their coveted "best mother on the planet" title, I will now have to torture myself by making the afore-mentioned bread once a week for my children. Ah, a mother's love. Wish me luck. ;-)

P.P.S. please like Whole & Free on Facebook! :-)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rosewater Cardamom Cupcakes

Edible butterflies from Sugar Robot 
We need to have a moment of silence, because this is probably the last recipe in quite some time that I will be posting that contains refined sugar in it. Caleb and I are back on a strict no-sugar regime indefinitely. Actually, perhaps a shout of joy is more appropriate, because when I truly avoid sugar for a long period of time, I lose my food cravings. I lose those highs and lows that come from having sugar in my system. Best of all, I lose the emotional crashes that come along with it...I've learned that I easily feel depressed and anxious when I've been eating sugar.

Wow, with an endorsement like that, no one's going to WANT to try this next recipe!  Yikes.

For those that are still reading...I made these delicious cupcakes for my birthday party last weekend (yes, I threw my own birthday party...eh, it's a long story!) and have had several people ask for the recipe. So here ya go!

It took several tries to get this recipe just right, primarily because both cardamom and rosewater pack a BIG punch. Use a light hand with the rosewater!


Rosewater Cardamom Cupcakes
free of gluten, wheat, yeast, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, nuts



2 cups gluten-free oat flour
¾  cup organic evaporated cane juice (sugar)
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup coconut flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. fine sea salt
¼ tsp. cardamom
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2-3 drops rosewater (no more than 1/8 tsp)
1 cup vanilla coconut milk


_______________________________________
Frosting:
½ cup Spectrum shortening
2 cups organic powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2-3 drops rosewater
2 Tb. Coconut milk (add more if you want lighter frosting, less if you want it thick and dense)


1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Cute ones only, please! J
2.       Mix oat flour, sugar, coconut flour, baking soda, salt, and cardamom together in one bowl with a whisk.
3.       Mix oil, vinegar, and rosewater together in another bowl.
4.       Add oil mixture and coconut milk to the dry ingredients and blend well.
5.       Pour into lined muffin tins, fill about halfway full. I use an ice cream scoop for this…it is the most amazing tool for cupcake & muffin batter…I don’t know what I did without it!
6.       Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until the top springs back to the touch.
7.       Let them cool in the pan for a minute or two, then transfer to a wire rack to cool the rest of the way.
8.       To make the frosting: soften the shortening a bit first if necessary. Cream the shortening in the mixer, than add powdered sugar, vanilla, rosewater, and milk. Here’s where I do some tasting and testing as I go…some days it needs more milk, some days more powdered sugar. **Note: Rosewater is POTENT STUFF. I can’t tell you how many times I made this recipe with too much rosewater. A little goes a long way. When it’s just the right amount, you get a delicate, flowery flavor that is so unique.  


Linking up to gluten-free easily's Gluten Free Support Group

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Baked Oatmeal Casserole (gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free)


So we have oatmeal a LOT at our house. I primarily eat either oatmeal or a smoothie for breakfast every single day. The kids eat a lot of homemade granola (made with - you guessed it - oats) and oatmeal with various fruits added in. It was surprisingly easy to ween them off of brown sugar in their oatmeal, which is how they had always eaten it before. Kids are really pretty adaptable...more than we give them credit for, I think!

But every once in a while, we need an oatmeal dish that seems "special". For instance, I made this ahead of time on Christmas Eve and then baked it on Christmas morning. It was quick, easy, and healthier than the cinnamon-rolls-from-a-can of our past. But still delicious!

This oatmeal casserole is technically sugar-free...it is sweetened with agave. Agave does still raise a person's blood sugar, but it is a slow-release sweetener that only enters that bloodstream a little at a time, therefore making it ideal for diabetics or those who have a low tolerance for sugar. Since pears are quite sweet and raisins have an extremely high sugar content, this usually turns out almost too sweet for me (even though it's only sweetened with agave). For a diabetic, or someone who can't tolerate high sugar levels even in fruit, I would try substituting strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries for the pears...then try substituting dried blueberries or cranberries for the raisins. It would still be equally as delicious, I'm sure!


Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Casserole
gluten free, dairy free, egg free, wheat free, yeast free, nut free, sugar free

3 1/2 cups coconut milk (or milk of choice)
2 tablespoons Spectrum shortening (or butter/margarine substitute)
2 cups gluten-free old-fashioned oats
2-3 small pears or apples, peeled and chopped
2/3 cup raisins (or dried fruit of choice)
2 tablespoons agave
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, brink the coconut milk and shortening to a boil. Slowly stir in the oats. Stir in the pears/apples, raisins, agave, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt. Cook mixture, stirring constantly for one minute. Pour the mixture into your dish (I used one a bit smaller than a 9x13). Bake uncovered for fifteen minutes. Serve warm with extra milk on the side.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Goodwin Granola


 My family LOVES this granola. They cannot get enough of it. It’s SO much cheaper and SO much healthier than even the healthiest of store-bought breakfast cereals. Go ahead – try and find a cereal in the store that your kids will eat that doesn’t have sugar added to it. (And news flash: evaporated cane juice is still sugar…just a little less refined than normal sugar.) Today I tried omitting the chocolate chips (to make it completely sugar-free) and added two tablespoons of vanilla protein powder to make it extra filling...and it was delicious! (If you don't have or use protein powder at your house, not to worry...it's just as fabulous without.)

What I have found is that you get a more crunchy granola when you use chunky peanut butter, and I would imagine the same would go for chunky almond (or other nut) butter. When I use creamy almond butter (which I actually prefer) it has a sweeter taste, but it's not quite as crunchy. You can also add any other dried fruit of choice in place of the raisins if you wish...you might want to wait until the granola is cooked and then add the fruit at the end. Make it how you want it and have fun with it (and try to resist...er...snacking on it!).



Goodwin Granola
Gluten-free, casein-free, egg-free, can be sugar-free and nut-free, yeast-free, vegan

2 cups GF old-fashioned oats
¼ cup flaxseed
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup raisins
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
¼ cup sliced or chopped almonds (optional)
¼ cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips (optional)
½ cup almond butter (or other nut/seed butter of choice)
½ cup agave
5 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon GF vanilla extract
                                                                                                                                                                              
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Heat almond butter, agave, and coconut oil together in a saucepan on low heat, just until melted and combined. Stir in the vanilla and remove from heat. Pour over granola mixture and spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes. The granola will get more dry and crispy as it cools. Break it up into smaller chunks and store in an airtight container. I think it will keep up to a couple of weeks, but since it always gets eaten within a couple of days at our house, I wouldn’t know!