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My BIG FAT Grain Free Life: November 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Delicious Chicken Stock

I'd like to do a few soup recipes in the upcoming weeks, but wanted to begin by going back to the foundation of soup - the stock.

There was a time in my life when I thought chicken stock meant being armed with a sturdy can opener and a large quantity of cans labeled "chicken broth" neatly stacked in my pantry.  I had no idea people actually made their own "broth" or "stock" for chicken soup.  Well, I have seen the light!  

If you've never made your own chicken stock, and the thought of it makes you roll your eyes, please, PLEASE - try it.  Once you do, you will not be able to go back to the dark side.  Yes, I said it.  

Now listen, I'm not trying to be self righteous here.  I realize we're busy as moms.  But truly (would I lie to you?) chicken stock is so easy, requires little to no oversight as it cooks, and tastes delicious.  It's at least worth a try.  I usually make a batch or two of chicken stock and then freeze it so it's on hand any time I want to throw a quick soup together.

There IS a difference in the taste of things made from scratch and things poured out of a can.  It's true.  The last time I made chicken no-noodle soup, my son kept slurping up the broth and saying, "This broth tastes soooo good.  I just want to drink it."  Who needs more proof than that?

Delicious Chicken Stock 


1 whole organic chicken (skin removed - at least most of it)
1-2 leeks, green and white parts
1 onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
4 carrots, peeled and cut in thirds or fourths
3-4 cloves garlic
5 bay leaves
small handful of fresh thyme, rinsed and left whole
5 whole peppercorns (optional)


Wash the leeks:  slice down the middle of the leeks lengthwise and cut into chunks.  Toss leeks in a clean bowl or sink of water and wash off the dirt.  

Smash garlic:  Take garlic cloves and smash with the flat side of a large knife.  This should break the skin off and make it easy to peel.  Leave whole.

In the largest stock pot you have, throw in the chicken, leeks, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns.  Fill pot with water to about an inch or two above the chicken.

Turn the heat on medium high.  You want to see about one or two bubbles breaking the surface and then turn the heat down to low.  You don't want to over boil this stock -   slow and steady is the way to a flavorful stock.  Turn the timer on for one hour.

Once the timer is up, carefully lift out the chicken and place in a bowl.  Keep pot on stove.  When cool enough to handle (I never let it cool) cut or pull the breast meat and big chunks of the dark meat off the bone and reserve to use in soup or another recipe.  Leave some of the meat on the bones.

Place the chicken bones back into the stock pot and continue cooking on low to medium low heat for another two to three hours.

What you're looking for:  The bones after the first hour will probably all still be intact.  Between the second and third hour of cooking, the bones should break apart.  This is what you want.  There's flavor in them bones!

Once the stock is finished cooking, over a large strainer or sieve placed into another pot or large bowl, strain the stock.  Press down on veggies to get as much of the goodness and flavor out of them as possible.  Discard veggies and bones.

Allow stock to cool and freeze, refrigerate, or use immediately in soup.

NOTE:  I use this same recipe for Turkey Soup the weekend after Thanksgiving.  We're having it for dinner tonight, in fact...

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cranberry Sauce (refined sugar free)

It's the day before Thanksgiving, so what am I doing?  The same thing you probably are - COOKING (whilst listening to Christmas music).


It's one of my favorite holidays.  We always have a crowd of friends, family and lots of food.  And my motto is "the more the merrier" on all three counts. 

One of our longtime Thanksgiving guests is a sweet lady who ALWAYS brings the cranberry sauce.  After all these years, she doesn't even have to ask what to bring because the answer is always the same - cranberry sauce!!  She makes it herself from a recipe we got long ago from another friend.  It's just not Thanksgiving without her cranberry sauce.  (Have I stressed this enough?)

Well, this year, our friend is NOT bringing the cranberry sauce because she is at home sick with a terrible cold.  I guess we'll have to excuse her.  After all, an 86-year-old is allowed to stay home sick once in a awhile...even though we will miss her company AND the cranberry sauce. (My girlie said she is "so fun" and the kids will miss playing card games with her.)

Anyhoo, on a whim, I decided to try my hand at a version of "the sauce" while using no refined sugar.  It's extremely easy to make.  Let me know if you try it -

Cranberry Sauce (refined sugar free) 

4 cups fresh whole cranberries, rinsed
1 1/2 cups apple cider (made from apples only - no sugar added)
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (must be pure)
juice of 1 large orange
zest of the same orange
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Place everything in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Turn heat down and keep simmering until it thickens.  (30-40 minutes?  Not too sure - I'm juggling Thanksgiving recipes over here...)  It will thicken more as it cools.

Allow to cool and refrigerate. 

That's it!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Streusel Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (grain free, gluten free, refined sugar free, dairy free)

Years ago, I came across a recipe for Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Pecan and Marshmallow Streusel from Tyler Florence of The Food Network that instantly became a Thanksgiving family tradition.  

I just revamped it tonight subbing quinoa flakes for the all-purpose flour and coconut sugar for the light brown sugar.  It came out of the oven a winner.  I hope you think so too.

As an aside, quinoa is not a grain but a seed and though it is not SCD "legal", I find we are able to tolerate it well at this stage of our intestinal health.


Streusel Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (grain free, gluten free, refined sugar free)


8-10 small sweet potatoes
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup quinoa flakes (can be found at health food stores)
1/4 cup blanched almond flour (I use Honeyville)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup ghee, room temperature


Preheat oven to 400F.  Scrub sweet potatoes and prick with a fork.  Bake in oven on parchment-lined baking pan until cooked through (45 minutes to one hour).

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine coconut sugar, quinoa flakes, almond flour, cinnamon, salt and pecans.  Add ghee by tablespoonfuls and mix with a fork until well combined.

When sweet potatoes have finished baking, make a slice in the top lengthwise and push ends together to open.  Stuff lots of the streusel topping inside.  Bake again for 10-15 minutes or until getting brown and bubbly. (Watch carefully so pecans don't burn.)

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Chocolate Ganache (grain free, dairy free, refined sugar free)

This Pumpkin Spice Cake has become a family favorite of ours, especially of our girlie (for whom we began the grain free and mostly SCD lifestyle). We've served it to friends and family and have gotten rave reviews so far.

I began baking this cake in a traditional aluminum bundt pan which took about 55-60 minutes to bake. I am trying to replace aluminum baking pans one by one, so I recently bought a Princess House bundt pan from Replacements, Ltd.  I've found this pan bakes up a cake in 35-45 minutes, so please adjust your baking time accordingly.

My first exposure to grain free baking came through Kelly Brozyna of The Spunky Coconut - author of two wonderful cookbooks, The Spunky Coconut Cookbook and The Spunky Coconut Grain Free Baked Goods and Desserts.  This is my version of a grain free cake using cooked white navy beans in place of flour.

As far as the ganache goes - it's a long story and I won't bore you to death.  Here's the shortened version:  In preparation for Thanksgiving, I have tried - to no avail (yet) - to perfect my beloved pecan pie recipe with adjustments to accomodate our diet.  What have I learned?  It's difficult to substitute one cup of brown sugar and one cup of maple syrup with healthy ingredients without it tasting....well, different. I've lived in the south long enough to know that pecan pie needs to be saweet - sticky saweet - syrupy saweet.  I'll keep at the drawing board in hopes of perfecting it by Christmas - but I'm not making any promises. 

Anyhoo, I make a chocolate sauce to serve with my pecan pie....because... well, we like gilding lilies around here.  The original recipe is one part melted chocolate mixed with one part heavy cream.  On a whim, I thought I'd try my hand at making it dairy free (in the hopes it would make the failed attempts at pecan pie taste better).  At least we came up with one winner!   (phew)

I hope you enjoy! 

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Chocolate Ganache (grain free, dairy free, refined sugar free) 

3 cups cooked white navy beans (soaked 24 hours, cooked about 2 hours and drained)
6 jumbo eggs
1 cup honey
3 tablespoons vanilla
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup coconut oil 

3/4 cup blanched almond flour (I use Honeyville)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For Ganache:
1 1/2 cups Enjoy Life chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups cashew milk 

Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease and flour bundt pan. (I use almond flour.)  

In food processor, process beans, eggs, honey, vanilla, apple cider vinegar and coconut oil.  Scrape sides and process again until smooth. 

Meanwhile, in separate bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.   

Add dry ingredients to wet and pulse to combine.  Scrape down and pulse again. 

Pour into prepared pan and tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles. 

Bake according to above instructions and your baking pan. 

To make ganache:  
In a  double boiler, melt chocolate chips.  Add cashew milk and stir constantly until well mixed and smooth.  (Mixture will start off with "flecks" of chocolate and then become smooth.) 

Remove top of double boiler and allow to cool.  Mixture will thicken some as it cools.   

Leftovers can be refrigerated and end up becoming a thick frosting-like ganache.  It can be reheated at this point or whisked and used as a frosting.  (As soon as I can come up with a decent grain free vanilla cake, I'm going to frost it with this....mmmmmm.)


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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Spiced Butternut Squash with Dried Cranberries and Toasted Pecans

This recipe was inspired by a trip to the deli at my local Whole Foods.  They had Thanksgiving-inspired side dishes arranged in their deli cases calling my name.  This butternut squash was one of them.  

I simply had to try my hand at recreating it.  I think it would be a wonderful side dish at the holidays but is easy enough to make any day of the week.  

Spiced Butternut Squash with Dried Cranberries and Toasted Pecans


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4-5 cups cubed butternut squash

1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup toasted pecan pieces


Preheat oven to 450F.  (I like to preheat a large cast iron skillet in the oven so it sears the squash.) 

Toss butternut squash with olive oil in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, mix together all of the spices.  Pour the spices on the butternut and toss to coat.

Place spice-coated squash in preheated skillet.  Roast for about15 minutes.  Remove from oven and place squash in a large bowl.  Add cranberries and toasted pecans and mix well.  

Taste.  Adjust olive oil and seasonings to suit your taste. 


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Monday, November 14, 2011

Black Bean Chili

This black bean chili is hearty and flavorful without being too spicy.  It's also easy to prepare and can be changed around to suit your tastes.  For instance, should you prefer a vegetarian version, just forgo the meat and, if you like, add chopped bell peppers, celery and carrots in its place.  Back in our pre-grain-free days, I sliced fresh corn off the cob and added it to this recipe.  Truth be told - this time around we didn't even miss it.  

Black beans are obviously the staple in this chili.  However, not everyone can digest this bean, especially during an episode of intestinal inflammation.  We have strictly been using white navy beans for the last 6-8 months, as they are easier to digest.  Since we have seen such an improvement in our daughter, I thought it time to venture out and try black beans.  She tolerated them beautifully but waiting until she was out of intestinal distress and then soaking the beans 24 hours was essential.  If you are unsure of your ability to handle them, just substitute cooked white navy beans for safety.

This past weekend this recipe won a chili cook off at our church's fall festival.  I had no idea it was a contest but just thought we were signing up to add a pot of chili to the dinner...true story!  And to our friend, Andy, who is "not competitive" - there's always next year.  ;^) 

I love this chili topped with scallions, chopped avocado and SCD yogurt.  Though SCD yogurt contains no lactose and the casein is denatured, not everyone can tolerate it, especially at first (my daughter) but if you can (I do fine on it), it's a delicious substitute for sour cream.  I hope you enjoy!

Black Bean Chili


2 (14 oz.) packages black beans, picked over and rinsed
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peel removed

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, diced
1 lb. ground beef (hormone free is always best)
1 lb. Italian chicken sausage, casing removed (I use Publix Greenwise brand) 

Spice Blend:
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 recipes roasted tomatoes, diced (optional but highly recommended)
2 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes (I love San Marzano if possible)
6-8 cups chicken broth (homemade or Imagine brand) or water


Prepare beans:  Soak beans 24 hours covered in water by a few inches.  Drain, then place in large pot and cover with fresh water by another few inches.  Drop in the smashed garlic.  Bring beans to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.  Cook 2-3 hours or until beans are soft.  Drain and set aside.

Heat the same stock pot the beans were cooked in (why wash another pot?), to medium.  Add olive oil, then saute diced onion until soft.  

Meanwhile, mix the spice blend together in a small bowl.

Add ground beef and sausage to the onion and stir, breaking sausage apart with a wooden spoon as it cooks.  Add spice blend and stir for about 30 seconds.

Add cooked beans, roasted tomatoes, crushed toamtoes and chicken broth or water and stir to combine.  Simmer on low at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. 

Taste and adjust seasonings.  This chili freezes well.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Creamy Pumpkin Custard with Toasted Pecans (dairy free, gluten free, grain free and refined sugar free)

Pumpkin pie is, in my humble opinion, a perfect ending to a delightful Thanksgiving Day.  I'm all about traditions, so early on in our marriage, I set out to find some favorite holiday recipes destined to become traditional fare.

One of the recipes that made it to family tradition status is Williams-Sonoma's Creamy Pumpkin Pie.  It's our absolute favorite because of the wonderful flavor and creamy consistency.  However, it's creaminess is attributed to the fact that it's loaded with dairy.  With dietary changes afoot, it was a must on my list of family traditions to revamp.

I believe in admitting our failures, so here goes -  I can't work out a grain free pie crust to save my big fat grain free life!  BUT - I did discover that the pumpkin pie filling could be recreated with the same creamy goodness of Williams-Sonoma's and have absolutely NO DAIRY!  Thus, I present to you Creamy Pumpkin Custard with Toasted Pecans served in cute little individual ramekins.

My girlie especially flipped for this recipe and couldn't get enough of it.  We've added it to our Thanksgiving repertoire and are looking forward to enjoying it in just a few weeks.  We hope you enjoy it too!

Creamy Pumpkin Custard with Toasted Pecans (dairy free, gluten free, grain free and refined sugar free)


3 cups cooked pureed pumpkin (I use Libby's)
4 jumbo eggs + 1 egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice + one pinch
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves + one pinch
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup honey

1 (13 oz.) can coconut milk (I prefer Thai Kitchen brand - regular, not light)

toasted pecans, chopped


Preheat oven to 350F.  In a small bowl, mix all of the spices (salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves).  

Place pumpkin, eggs, spice mixture, vanilla, coconut sugar and honey into the work bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Scrape sides of bowl, pulse to combine again, then pour into large bowl.

Pour coconut milk into a separate small bowl and whisk until smooth.  Gently stir coconut milk into pumpkin mixture and combine well.

Fill ramekins, mugs, or oven safe tea cups with custard. Place filled cups into a 9x13 pan (it might take two, depending on size of cups) and place pan carefully on oven rack.  Pour hot water (just under boiling point) into the pan so it comes up the sides of the ramekins or cups. Be careful!!

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until set but a little wiggly in center.  Carefully remove ramekins from water bath and allow to cool completely.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  When ready to serve, top with toasted pecans.  

**This custard can be made a few days ahead.


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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Date Nut Balls (grain free, dairy free, refined sugar free)

(clockwise from top:  chocolate, plain, cinnamon sugar, and unsweetened coconut)
I've been looking for a healthy snack that my kidlings can just pop into their mouths when they're tummies are growling.  Something I could make ahead and keep in the fridge, that would also be good for them.

I came across this recipe accidentally.  I was actually attempting to make a pumpkin pie crust using these ingredients.  The crust didn't bake up well, but I took some of the leftover unbaked dough, rolled it into balls and tested it out on my kids.  It was a total hit!  They also enjoyed rolling the balls into different toppings.  

Date Nut Balls (grain free, dairy free, refined sugar free) 


1 cup hazelnuts
2 cups blanched almond flour (I use Honeyville)
1 1/2 cups pitted dates, coarsely chopped (soaked in water if dry then drained)
4 tablespoon cold ghee
1/4 teaspoon sea salt


Add hazelnuts to a food processor and pulse until chopped.  Add all other ingredients and pulse until mixture looks like small crumbs.

Test mixture by giving a small handful a squeeze and seeing if it holds together.  If so, it's ready.  If not, add a little more ghee or even vanilla extract (1-2 teaspoons).

To make into balls, I use a mini melon scooper with a spring-loaded handle.  Pack the scooper and empty into hand.  Give a squeeze and then shape into ball with fingers.  Give a little roll. 

You can enjoy these as-is or with the following variations: 

Rum Balls:  Add a few tablespoons of rum to the mixture. 

Coconut:  Roll in unsweetened coconut. 

Cinnamon-Sugar:  Mix 2 tablespoons of cinnamon with 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar.  Roll balls in mixture. 

Chocolate:  For dark chocolate lovers - roll balls in cacao powder.  OR - mix some coconut sugar in with the cacao powder to sweeten it up a bit.

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