Paleo Bacon Veggie Muffins

OCTI try to get some kind of veggie into my breakfast every day, but it can be a challenge sometimes to cook and still be at work at a reasonable hour. I’ve noticed lately that I’m setting my alarm for later but still pressing the snooze button once or twice, generally creating a frenzy to get out of the house each morning. I know good and well that I feel so much better if I just get up without hitting snooze, but who can resist this animal all snuggly in the morning??cultivatedwellbeing.com (7)

“Be prepared or prepare to fail!”

Weekend Prep: One of my favorite ways to prepare for the week ahead is to make a solidly healthy breakfast over the weekend that will last through the weekdays. That way, I can just grab it from the fridge and either gently heat it or just eat it cold, and I’ll be guaranteed a good start to the day. There are quite a few ways to accomplish a quick morning breakfast, but for me, it really needs to hit a few key points. 

  1. It needs to include a vegetable (I count sweet potatoes as a veggie when I make this delicious bread!)
  2. It needs to have a healthy dose of protein and good fats
  3. It needs to be delicious
  4. It needs to not be cold cereal

Not so hard, right? I’ll often make a veggie-packed frittata or a green smoothie to serve this purpose, but sometimes it’s fun to switch it up. That’s where these muffins come in. Without a doubt, they hit all the points, especially the delicious one.

Why not cold cereal you ask?

Well for one, I don’t like it. But more importantly, with the exception of very high quality organic, gluten-free granola (which I do like but still don’t eat for breakfast because it’s pretty high in carbs), cereal is garbage. It’s either made of wheat, soy, corn or rice so heavily processed that it turns to sugar in your body basically immediately — yes, even the “whole grain” stuff does this.

A little-acknowledged fact in the world of boxed and packaged foods is that whole grain flour is no longer a whole grain. It’s a flour. Whole wheat/oat/rice/WHATEVER flour has almost the same glycemic load as white flour, and when it’s extruded into little “o’s” or flakes or whatever shape you like, the proteins are denatured, and the whole grain ingredient is no longer healthy in any sense of the word. Plus boxed cereals almost always have too much added sugar, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup, and most people eat cereal with milk, which contains even more sugar. Good quality granola and other homemade cereals (one of which I will share with you soon!) are exceptions to this rule because they don’t contain grain flours or excessive added sugar. Instead, they either contain whole oats or (in the case of the one I’ll be sharing with you soon!) a pseudocereal that big agriculture hasn’t had a chance to mess with. 

Ok, now that I’ve stepped off my soapbox that has basically nothing to do with the recipe I’m about to share … 

I mentioned grain flours as no longer being a whole grain, but I didn’t mention anything about alternative/paleo flours. These muffins contain almond meal and coconut flour — neither is a grain, and both have a low glycemic load, so they don’t apply to the “WHATEVER” category in my list above.

Paleo Bacon Veggie Muffins

I love eating these muffins for breakfast not only because they’re grain-free, full of veggies, healthy fats, and protein, but also because they are fabulously delicious. Plus they contain the building blocks of serotonin that I talked about on Tuesday’s post about Gut Health and Mood: tryptophan coupled with just a little bit of healthy carbs

These little cuties got two thumbs up from Loren, and we ate them every morning this week. Just one muffin keeps me full until lunch, although different people have different appetites. (My rail of a husband sometimes has a snack around 11 after eating one of these …)

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Paleo Bacon Veggie Muffins
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. 12 strips organic uncured, sugar-free bacon
  2. 1/4 large red onion
  3. 6 ribs purple kale
  4. 3 or 4 scallions
  5. 12 pastured eggs
  6. 1/2 cup coconut milk
  7. 1/4 cup coconut flour
  8. 1/4 cup almond meal
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. 1/4 tsp black pepper
Instructions
  1. preheat oven to 375
  2. cut 12 strips of organic bacon in half and place each one criss-crossed into a muffin tin
  3. cook bacon in oven for 10 minute
  4. while the bacon is cooking, dice onion, chop purple kale and scallions
  5. when the bacon is done, carefully remove from the oven
  6. pour about 3/4 of the bacon grease into a jar to use for later and the rest into a warm skillet or fry pan
  7. set bacon aside
  8. saute onions, kale, scallions until the onions are translucent (3 to 5 minutes) and turn off the heat
  9. in a large mixing bowl, crack eggs, and beat with coconut milk, coconut flour, almond flour, salt, and black pepper, making sure to get rid of all of the clumps
  10. once all ingredients are mixed into a smooth batter, add the vegetable mixture and stir to incorporate
  11. pour the veggie batter into each bacon-lined muffin tin until the batter is evenly distributed
  12. bake on 375 for 12-15 minutes or until the center is done
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Spring Sugar Snap Pea Salad |Cultivated Wellbeing

I’ve had a very busy week running around 4 work sites and propagating health and wellness information to the masses of employees at my day-job. It’s wellness fair season, which means I’m halfway through two weeks of back-to-back events.

Cra-zy.

This time of year might be the most exciting but it’s also the most stressful, which means that eating well and sleeping as much as possible are the objectives to meet for my life outside of work. (I successfully slept 10 hours a night all three nights of this long weekend, by the way. I’d call that a SUCCESS!) I will not be getting sick or wearing myself thin. Not while I’m telling everyone else how to be healthy all day. This week’s recipe is one of sheer joy for me to share with you, and it hits the spot where “eating well” is concerned — especially if your definition of “eating well” involves a delicious requirement just as much as a healthy requirement. Both are equally important. sugar snap pea recipe

I’ve recently started listening to an NPR show called Splendid Table, which alluded to a variation upon what I’m about to share, and (like always), I encourage you to be creatively inspired to make this recipe your own. I’ll give you some suggestions at the end to spark your imagination. I served this dish at a backyard BBQ last weekend, and even guests who weren’t all that into sugar snap peas went back for seconds and thirds. We had zero leftovers, much to my disappointment. (I LOVE leftovers!) It really is mind-blowingly good.

Sugar Snap Pea Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs snap peas
  • 2 lbs red grapes
  • 1 large red shallot sliced
  • 1/4 medium sweet yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 to 6 chopped green onions
  • 6 to 10 sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/3-1/5 lb pecorino romano, coarsely grated
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • Dressing: 1/3 cup EVO and 1 tbs raw apple cider vinegar mixed well
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Snap off the tough ends of the sugar snaps where necessary. I just use scissors and do a few at a time. It saves time and prevents accidental pea mutilation.
  2. Rinse the peas and grapes and drain very thoroughly. I let them sit in a colander for a few minutes and then toss a few paper towels into it to soak up the extra.
  3. In a large bowl with room to toss, add all ingredients (dressing last) and toss

This dish is absolutely fabulous, because it marries the natural sweetness of the peas and grapes with the salty umami of the pecorino romano. And the fresh herbs give a boost of not only flavor complexity but trace minerals and antioxidants too! Healthy and delicious — it’s heaven in your mouth! Seriously. sugar snap pea recipe

Sugar Snap Pea Recipe Variations

A few variations I can’t wait to try that might help get your juices flowing in your own kitchen:

  • swapping peaches, nectarines, or a berry combo for the grapes (UPDATE! Just did this with white nectarines for another BBQ this weekend and the whole salad was gone before the last guest arrived!)
  • swapping out other potent hard cheeses for the romano like parmesan or asiago
  • trying a Mexican cheese, lime, and a TON of cilantro with the peas only, or maybe even with peas and mandarin oranges
  • adding garlic to the onion mix or swapping it for the shallots
  • trading chopped pecans for the slivered almonds

The possibilities are endless here! I encourage you to choose your own adventure with this sugar snap pea recipe — and then share your results with me below! I’d love to hear about it!

Heart-Healthy Nutty Turmeric Chicken Salad

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I love chicken salad for so many reasons. One, it’s a great way to use chicken breast, which I otherwise find to be the most boring part of a chicken. Two, it’s a super flexible and very hard to mess up — you can take a chicken salad recipe in nearly any culinary direction your heart fancies. Three, it keeps well in the fridge for advanced meal prep that doesn’t have to be reheated. Four, it can be served on any number of different vehicles including bread, salad, bell peppers, or avocado. Four, it leaves room for creativity in the kitchen and isn’t dependent upon measurements of basically any kind. You just keep adding until you like the way it looks, tastes, and feels. That’s my kind of recipe!

I’ve written a few posts about the benefits of bone broth and how to make it, one of which touts the amazing acne-curing effect I experienced after drinking it every day for 2 weeks. I mostly use chicken (or poultry) bones in my broth, and the secret to success for my newly zit-free face is to always have bone broth on hand, which means making it in bulk and freezing it. Bulk bone broth (say that three times fast!) requires collecting the bones of the chickens my husband and I eat, buying organic turkey necks and chicken backs at the butcher (super cheap!), and almost always throwing a whole raw chicken into the pot.

The trick is to get two uses from the whole chicken, and that’s where this chicken salad comes in!

While I try to keep the broth cooking on the stove top for at least 12 hours, I aim to remove the meat from the whole chicken after 6 to 8 hours (before it gets boiled to death) so that I can use it for chicken salad or some other delicious purpose. I’ve also been known to purchase a roasted chicken from the grocery store, serve the legs and wings for dinner, and make a batch of chicken salad with the roasted breasts. One thing to note when saving the carcass of a roasted chicken: lots of the gelatin ends up on the bottom of the little plastic tray. You want all that, so scrape that into your freezer bag with your bones.

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YUM!

Now onto this awesome chicken salad recipe!

Heart Healthy Nutty Turmeric Chicken Salad

You might be asking what makes this particular chicken salad recipe ‘heart healthy.’ Well I’ll tell you! First, I cut the store-bought mayo which typically contains factory eggs and industrial oils (both of which are inflammatory foods and not great for heart health) and replaced it with high-protein Greek yogurt or a homemade mayo. Then I add in celery, parsley, turmeric, and cherries, all of which are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich foods that are great for maintaining healthy cardiovascular function. (This can also be said of garlic and onions — I use dried powders here so that effect is minimal, but you can use fresh if you have the time to chop them up!) Next there’s the array of nuts and seeds, which also reduces inflammation in addition to containing healthy fats, fiber, and a nice satisfying crunch. Pair this awesome recipe with a big salad, a bell pepper, or a healthy whole grain or paleo bread and you’ve got yourself one heart-healthy powerhouse!

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Ingredients:

  1. 4 cooked chicken breasts
  2. 3 tbs Dijon mustard
  3. 2-3 tbs Greek yogurt (or homemade mayo)
  4. 2 tbs dried cherries or currants
  5. 2 or 3 stalks celery, chopped
  6. 7-10 sprigs fresh parsley
  7. 2 tbs almond slivers
  8. 2 tbs pecan pieces
  9. 2 tbs sunflower seeds
  10. 1 tsp kelp powder/granules/flakes
  11. 1 tsp seasoned salt or REAL salt
  12. 1/2-1 tsp turmeric
  13. 1/2 tsp black pepper
  14. 1/4 tsp onion powder
  15. 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Using two forks, start shredding the chicken breasts lightly
  2. Add in the wet ingredients (mustard and yogurt) and all seasonings (9-14) and begin to incorporate as you continue to shred
  3. Add all other ingredients and incorporate

1chixsaladsteps

As I said before, the beauty of this recipe is in its flexibility. I provided measurements for you as a guide, but this is the type of thing you can eyeball and adjust according to your own preferences. Do you like a drier chicken salad (I do, as this recipe reflects), or do you prefer it to be a little more creamy? If you like it creamy, add more mustard and yogurt. You can also take it in a new direction entirely by changing the mustard from something spicy to something sweet, by, replacing the turmeric with curry, by swapping the garlic and onion powders for other dried spices like tarragon and fennel seed. The possibilities are endless! Don’t be shy, make this recipe your own!

And then come back here and tell me about how it went!1chixsaladname

Coconut-crusted Delicata Squash

coconutdelicata1I love winter squash. It can go sweet or savory, light or heavy, creamy or chunky. I love that I can buy winter squash on a whim with no plan, and it can sit on the counter for weeks until I’m ready to use it, remaining just as fresh as it was the day I bought it. With all its versatility, I could find a use for winter squash at every meal — if only I had the time to prepare it.

I fell in love way back in college when I found myself eating at the first home-grown restaurant I’d ever been to. Eastside Cafe (in Austin, TX) grew its own produce right outside the back doors of the building (and I hear now they have chickens!). I’ll never forget this dish — baked acorn squash with a sesame ginger glaze — it was like dessert as a side dish. At the time, I had never even heard of acorn squash, much less did I have any confidence whatsoever that I’d be able to replicate something resembling this dish at home.

Fast forward 10 years and here I am, still in love with winter squash and trying new healthy recipes with the different varieties all the time. (Check out this super thorough round up of all the winter squashes and the easiest and best ways to prepare them.) 

I have to be honest though. Sometimes preparing winter squash can feel like a lot of effort — pumpkins can be hard to cut through, butternut squash takes forever to cut and peel (and it rolls all over the cutting board), and you always have to clean out the seeds, which can be a mess. But this year, I discovered a new variety of winter squash: the beautifully easy-to-work-with delicata squash provides all the wonderful pleasures of a winter squash with virtually zero hassle. No need to peel, easy to slice open long-ways and chop into pieces, and easy to clean by simply scraping a spoon down the center — I love this squash! You can do a lot with it, although before this exciting creation, I’d only tried a simple roast in the oven.

coconutdelicata5

In 5 easy steps, I give you a healthy recipe for a side dish that will impress your palate and that of the guests you host: slice, scrape, chop, season, toss, roast, DONE!
coconutdelicata3 Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized delicata squash
  • 2 tbs EVO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 3 tbs finely grated dried unsweetened coconut
  • 2 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp pinch red pepper flake
  • 1/2 tsp ground pink Himalayan salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Cut the squash in half long-ways and scoop out the seeds
  3. Slice 1/2-inch thick pieces all the way down (it make sense to cut the smaller ends thicker and the larger ends thinner for even cooking, so that they’re all about the same mass and bake evenly)
  4. In a large zip-lock freezer bag, toss squash and all other ingredients until well-coated (make sure there are no holes in the bag … you’ll be sad if there are)
  5. Lay squash flat on baking surface (I used a ceramic baking dish, but I’m not sure if it makes a difference)
  6. Bake on 400 for 30 minutes. No need to turn them over
  7. Enjoy — and eat the peel, it’s good for you! (more fiber, more phytonutrients)coconutdelicata2

Grain-Free Crab Cakes with Spicy Olive Dipping Sauce

dungenesscrab

It’s Dungeness crab season! Since moving to California, nearly every Thanksgiving has included Dungeness crab alongside the turkey and casseroles. We’ve also hosted at least one crab feast nearly every year as well — sometimes 2 or 3. The season lasts through the winter, and this year, we tripled the celebration — 2 birthdays and a crab feast, all on the same day. Yum!

Growing up in Texas and then moving to Maryland, I’m very well-versed in blue crab. I can pick them and dunk them into butter (or ghee) all day long, never tiring, never getting full. It’s heaven. 🙂 But since moving to California, I’ve discovered the blue crab’s boss — DUNGENESS CRAB! Nearly every bit as delicious, with 5 times the meat in chambers 5 times the size, these monsters are far more bang for your buck. You can eat every single leg (not so on the blue crab unless they’re exceptionally big), and even the joints have little morsels of goodness. Perfect for a party if someone is new to crab picking, and perfect for the hungry!

Due to an awesome deal we got through our friends at Cassis Catering, we went a little overboard on our crab order, and ended up with 2 extra enormous crabs. This is where these beautiful crab cakes come in!grainfreecrabcake1

Crab Cake Ingredients:

  • cooked meat from 2 whole Dungeness crabs (We boiled ours with onion, garlic, Old Bay, bay leaves, lots of salt (more than you might think), cracked red pepper, and lemon juice. We also had corn, carrots, and potatoes boiling in with them for the party)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 to 3 green onions, chopped into thin slices
  • 1 to 1.5 tbs dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs coconut flour
  • 1 tbs ground flaxseed
  • 1 tsp Old Bay
  • 1/4 tsp celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  • (optional) red pepper flake to taste
  • sea salt to taste

Directions: Add all ingredients in medium mixing bowl and incorporate with fork, taking care not to completely shred the crab (I prefer large chunks of crab meat instead of shredding it into mush. In my mind, you aren’t searching for the crab amid tons of breading in a good crab cake. The crab is front and center.)

grainfreecrabcake

Spicy Olive Dipping Sauce:

  • 4 tbs mayo (I was too lazy to make my own, but would recommend it if you’re going strict paleo)
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp wasabi powder or paste
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 2 tbs chopped green olives
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • pinch of garlic powder

Directions: Whisk all ingredients except olives until well incorporated and smooth, then stir in olives.

Enjoy!

grainfreecrabcake2

 

Black Sesame Cabbage Cups

Poor Loren (my husband) spent his entire 33rd birthday traveling. We started the morning with a drive to the airport, had a layover in LA, arrived at the airport shuttle, which took us to a train, which dropped us at a bus stop so that we could walk 4 blocks home from there.

truetthurst

Then he got in his car to drive 30 minutes away to take a test for his new certification at work. He didn’t get home until late. What a day! Feeling terrible for him, I decided to make something special for dinner the following evening. And in declaring this week his birthday week, I opened up a nice bottle of wine from our new wine club at Truett Hurst. This 2011 Zinfandel was delicious and the perfect complement to the lamb in our meal.

For dinner, unless we’ve had a particularly grueling day at the gym, I try to keep our meals limited to meat, veggies, and fat, leaving out complex carbs, since it’s so close to bed time and we won’t have time to use them up. When I make dinner this way, the only way Loren will stay full is if I load up on the fats. For this meal, I didn’t drain off the lamb fat before throwing in the veggies, but that’s up to you. I also used high quality palm oil (sustainably harvested), a healthy saturated fat, to sauté the onions before adding in the meat. (This is the palm oil I like.)

As for the black sesame seeds, these little nutrition powerhouses boast a healthy dose of calcium and magnesium, as well as a lot of other valuable trace minerals (check out more at Livestrong.com). I added these in mostly for flavor, but also for the relaxing quality that magnesium can have on our muscles and our minds. The wine helped with that too. 🙂

We’re really lucky to live where we do with access to wonderful farmers’ markets that feature local ranchers selling the meat of happy animals. I say “happy animals” as a tribute to my favorite high school teacher in Houston, TX. She was a lacto ovo vegetarian (not an easy thing to be in Texas back then) who insisted that she only ate eggs from happy chickens, which, at 18, we all thought was equally hilarious and ridiculous.

14 years later, I know what that means — do the animals roam freely? Are they given a diet they were meant to eat? Are they healthy and vibrant? Are they free of hormones and antibiotics? Do they spend time in the sun every day?

This meal is made with ground meat from a happy lamb, and that makes me happy too. It’s full of plenty of healthy fats, as pastured animals have the proper ratio of omega 6 to omega 3s in their body fat (feedlot animals have far too much inflammatory omega 6).

Black Sesame Cabbage Cups

cabbagecups3

Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 2 lbs ground lamb
  • 2 tbs red palm oil or ghee for sautéing
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 big bunch of broccolini, chopped
  • 3 small bunches tatsoi or a few fistsful baby spinach
  • 12 large raw leaves green cabbage (for the cups)
  • 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbs lemon pepper to taste
  • red pepper flake to taste
  • REAL or sea salt to taste
  • OPTIONAL 1/2 tsp sesame oil (for drizzling)
  • OPTIONAL hard cheese for grating over the top
Directions
  1. Warm your skillet over medium heat
  2. Once hot, add 2 tbs palm oil or ghee
  3. Add in diced onions and let them sweat for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly (you don’t want them to get brown, just translucent. Turn down the fire if you need to to avoid burning them)
  4. Once the onions are translucent, add in ground lamb and the minced garlic
  5. brown the meat completely, allowing the water to evaporate before adding veggies
  6. Add broccolini only, and cook until it softens slightly
  7. Add in salt, spices, and black sesame seeds
  8. Once the broccolini is just about as tender as you like it, add in the tatsoi just to wilt it. You want all the veggies to retain their vibrant green color.
  9. To serve, place 3 large cabbage cups on your plate and fill to the brim with the mixture from the pan. Drizzle a bit of sesame oil and top with your favorite dry cheese (we used Pecorino Romano)

cabbagecups2

Grain-free Chocolate Maple Pecan Pie

Editor’s note: I’ve since rewritten this recipe and also created a Maple Bourbon Pecan pie too. Check out the updated Chocolate Pecan Pie recipe here.


 

As avid rock climbers who take every opportunity to get out to climbing destinations, we have basically resigned to rarely having Thanksgiving ON Thanksgiving Day ever again — this year, the plan is to head out to Bishop for some sport climbing and bouldering — so I figured I might as well make a pecan pie now. I mean, what’s a fall season without a pecan pie? (I’m from Texas, by the way. The answer is “no fall at all.” I also make one around Christmas time 🙂 ). I made this pie the same night I made the Spaghetti Squash Bacon Quiche — pie crust night!

Grain-Free Pie Crust:

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs palm shortening like this (affiliate link)
  • a few pinches salt

Mix almond flour and salt first in a food processor, then add egg and palm shortening. Mix until it forms a dough. Form crust in an 8 inch pie dish and set aside.

For the filling: This recipe is pretty sugar-tastic, so I won’t pretend that this pie is the most healthy dessert there is to eat — it’s not. It’s a treat for a couple of times a year. I will say though, that we’re using maple syrup and coconut sugar instead of corn syrup and brown or white sugar like most pecan pie recipes call for. It’s still sugar, don’t get me wrong. But it’s non-GMO, it’s lower-glycemic (at least the coconut sugar is), and both are less processed than the traditional sugars called for in pecan pie. I opted for topping half the pie with chocolate chips, because I wanted to satisfy every craving I could imagine having. And let’s be honest, two people are eating this pie, and one of them is me, so I might as well do exactly what I want to do.

coconut sugar takes some major stirring to dissolve, so make sure it’s all liquified before you pour your mixture into the pie crust

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tbs melted ghee
  • 1 1/4 cups pecan pieces or halves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs soy-free, non-GMO mini chocolate chips (If you want to skip the chocolate, add in another 1/2 cup coconut sugar)

 

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (rack should be low in the oven)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, adding in the maple syrup, coconut sugar, ghee, and vanilla
  3. Stir in pecans
  4. Pour into raw pie crust
  5. Cover the exposed crust with foil to make sure it doesn’t burn
  6. Bake at 350°F for 30 to 35 minutes, based on your oven

It’s a personal goal of mine to try to make a pecan pie as good as my grandmother Josie using more ideal ingredients (like the sugars I listed above). I’d say that this one is pretty darn close.

 

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