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One Year Wheat-Free! A List of 45 Things I Have Learned Along the Way!

One Year Wheat-Free! A List of 45 Things I Have Learned Along the Way!

That’s right! It’s been one full year that my entire family has been eating wheat-free! Thanks to a friend who introduced me to the concept, and thank you to Dr. Davis, author of “Wheat Belly”, my life has changed for the better! A little later on today I will post an article I am writing about some of the biggest health benefits my family has experienced, but for now I want to post a list of 45 things I have learned during the past 365 days.

Before I do that, I’d like to thank YOU, my readers, who have helped to make this year an amazing one for me. Writing and blogging was completely new to me when I posted my first blurb last March, and it’s been a journey of sharing and learning that I could not have anticipated. So whether you are subscribed to my blog, post comments and banter with me about food, have shared your personal story, or just read quietly and scan the recipes, I am thankful you have been a part of it!

As of this morning:

  • I have 305 people following my blog!
  • I’ve had 74,807 page visits!
  • This is my 96th post!
  • I’ve had visitors from 124 countries!

So to continue with the numbers… here is a list of:
45 Things I Have Learned This Year

  1. It’s not always easy to go against the grain (pun intended :)) but it IS worth it.
  2. My family is awesome, and I am very grateful that we all do this together!
  3. Wheat is a toxic, manipulated substance, and NOT a food fit for human consumption.
  4. Large corporations do NOT have your best interests in mind, so be proactive and educate yourself.
  5. Wheat Belly, Primal, and Paleo ways of eating have more in common than not.
  6. When in doubt, eat food without labels.
  7. Stay away from the Gluten-free aisle at the grocery store; it’s a Carbohydrate Hell Hole.
  8. Just because the USDA or the FDA approves something, does NOT mean it’s healthy.
  9. Men seem to lose weight more quickly on this diet (any diet?) than women.
  10. Brussels sprouts are an awesome food, and I am very sorry I hated them my whole life.
  11. The scale is a tool, not a God. Remember to use a tape measure too.
  12. It takes time for your body image to catch up with reality when you’ve lost weight.
  13. Almond flour is awesome, but for those trying to lose weight, moderation is the key.
  14. The friends I’ve made online who also eat grain-free are an invaluable source of support and information, and I am very thankful to know them!
  15. Conventional wisdom regarding nutrition is deeply flawed; many dieticians are brainwashed and many doctors care nothing at all about nutrition.
  16. I enjoy writing and blogging and think it’s one of the best things I have ever done!
  17. Weight loss doesn’t usually occur in straight line, and plateaus can be valuable for learning how to maintain.
  18. One size does not fit all; we need to tweak and experiment and be open-minded.
  19. Dark chocolate is one of the best things in the whole world. (OK I already knew that one ;))
  20. There will be people who are hungry for the message, so share freely.
  21. There will be people who need the message most who are not open to it. Move on.
  22. Learning the language of the body is an art, and it takes time to fully interpret what it has to say.
  23. Don’t be surprised if wheat isn’t the only thing that you need to eliminate to feel your best.
  24. Headaches and joint pain are NOT caused by a deficiency of Motrin.
  25. Chronic inflammation is the cause of MOST chronic complaints, and it’s mainly caused by diet.
  26. You will have good days and bad days, congratulate yourself and forgive yourself.
  27. What works for a friend may or may not work for you. We all arrive at today with different health backgrounds and genetics.
  28. There is wheat in places you would never think to look; avoiding all packages is best.
  29. There is no natural sweetener that tastes like sugar to me, but some do a decent job.
  30. My Ninja blender kicks butt and I use it nearly every day.
  31. Zucchini “noodles” are awesome.
  32. Sometimes losing weight makes wrinkles appear… smile so that they blend in!
  33. We go through more eggs now than I ever thought possible.
  34. Cholesterol is no more responsible for heart disease than a Band-Aid is responsible for the burn it covers.
  35. Coconut oil is one of the most versatile substances! For sautéing, for baking, for skin, for hair… it rocks.
  36. Avocadoes and cauliflower are able to be virtually neutral and can be used in ways I never thought of before.
  37. Having an ice cream maker is a GREAT thing.
  38. Thrift stores and consignment shops are a valuable source for clothing when you are dropping sizes and don’t want to spend a fortune.
  39. Giving up wheat didn’t cure my resistance to exercise (gasp!) I guess this year I will work on that!
  40. Enjoying dining out is possible, just be careful and ask a lot of questions. Most servers have no clue.
  41. It’s best to focus on all the great things you CAN eat, rather than what you can’t.
  42. Most recipes can be tweaked to be wheat-free and low-carb if you are creative enough.
  43. Parmesan cheese and almond flour as a “breading” is yummier than Panko ever was.
  44. Even dogs do better on a grain-free diet.
  45. There are some people who will think you are completely insane. That’s more than OK! 😀

I know I missed a bunch… so what would YOU add to this list?

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Gretchen’s Green Goddess and Carrot Ginger Dressings {Gluten-free, Low-carb}

Gretchen’s Green Goddess and Carrot Ginger Dressings {Gluten-free, Low-carb}
Green Goddess and Fresh Cucumbers

Green Goddess and Fresh Cucumbers

Making your own dressings is a much simpler endeavor than many people realize.You not only have absolute control over your ingredients which assures that there won’t be any allergens or unwanted additives, it’s also 100% better tasting and you can tweak it to your own personal tastes! Most will last a week in the fridge, and if you eat as many salads and veggies as we do, you’ll get through it in plenty of time!

GREEN GODDESS: Traditional Green Goddess dressing is actually not made with avocados, but when you have something as green, creamy and full of nutritional goodness as an avocado is, why not include it! This dressing is pretty zingy from the green onion and garlic, so if you prefer something a little calmer, just use less. My son is a huge fan of ranch dressing, and he LOVES this one. I used fresh parsley as the herb because that’s what I had on hand, but when my herb garden is flourishing this summer, I would also add tarragon, chives, or perhaps even make a version with Basil, as the Barefoot Contessa has done here, though I would still add my beloved avocado 😉 And speaking of ingredients, I’ve discovered that not all sour cream is created equally (or healthfully!) Many have a long list of ingredients which include additives. The commercial brand I buy is Daisy, which contains only Grade A cultured cream. Yay, Daisy!! They get an A+ from me, and they get my business!!

Gretchen’s Green Goddess Dressing

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 C mayonnaise
  • 1/2 C sour cream
  • 2 tsp anchovy paste
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 C chopped green onions (white and light green parts)
  • 1/2 C chopped fresh parsley (or blend of herbs such as tarragon, basil)
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/4 C half and half if needed for consistency

Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor and process until smooth. Store in refrigerator in airtight container up to one week. Makes about 2 cups. (10g net carb per batch, 1.25g net carb per 1/4C)

Green Goddess, Carrot Ginger and Simple Salad

Green Goddess, Carrot Ginger and Simple Salad

CARROT GINGER: Most of us who have been to sushi or hibachi restaurants have tried their simple iceberg salad with a Carrot Ginger dressing (most likely eaten with chopsticks!). I’ve always enjoyed the color and spirited flavors, and decided to give this one a try as well. I did steam the carrots slightly to make them easier to blend in my Ninja, but if your machine is powerful enough, you could just use them raw. I don’t think this is an exact replica of the dressing, but we sure enjoyed it last night on a simple salad to accompany a Broccoli Beef stir fry! I use light olive oil in this recipe because extra virgin olive oil has a much stronger taste that I do not prefer with the other flavors. Of course, use whichever olive oil you like. I prefer to get the flavor from a little bit of sesame oil… just be aware, sesame oil has a very strong flavor, and a little goes a long ways!

Carrot Ginger Dressing

  • 3/4 C chopped carrot, lightly steamed
  • 1/2 C onion, diced
  • 2 Tb fresh ginger, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1/2 light olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 5Tb rice vinegar
  • 1Tb tamari
  • 1/2 tsp sweetener (optional, I used Truvia)
  • 2Tb lemon juice

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Store in airtight container in refrigerator up to one week. Makes about 1.5 cups. (22g net carb for batch, about 1g net carb per Tb.) 

Carrot Ginger Dressing

Carrot Ginger Dressing

 

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Fast Lunch! Spinach Patty with Sauteed Greens… Happy Spring! (even with all this Michigan snow)

Spinach Patty and Sauteed Greens

Spinach Patty and Sauteed Greens

What says **Spring** more than fresh greens? Well, green grass might be nice, but since all we have in Michigan is snow, this green-based lunch will have to do for now 😉

Swiss chard and baby bok choy

Swiss chard and baby bok choy

 

I LOVE growing greens in my garden, though I admit I am still learning what they like best to thrive. These greens are from the supermarket (I was lucky enough to find organic on sale, less expensive than regular produce prices… be sure to look at the organic section, don’t assume it’s *always* pricier!)

 

 

Spinach patties cooling

Spinach patties cooling

So this lunch is not only pretty, it was super-quick! Yesterday I made a batch of the spinach balls that I posted on St. Patrick’s Day (omitted the bacon and reduced butter by half this time) and I made some of them into patties. (Patties were my husband’s idea! We thought they might make nice buns, but even though sturdy, they were a bit  heavy for that.) So today, I was looking at some of the pretty greens in my fridge, and thought that a quick saute of baby bok choy and a couple leaves of swiss chard (in coconut oil and a splash of vinegar) would be a perfect complement to the patty with a little melted cheese, tomato and gomasio!

It was delicious! I’m thinking that I’ll make this for dinner soon, keeping it light with a few shrimp or a bit of fish.

Spinach Patty and Greens!

Spinach Patty and Greens!

 

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St. Patty’s Day Trifle with Dark Chocolate Cake, Mint Avocado Cream and Whipped Cream {Gluten-free and Low-carb}

 Gluten-free and Low-carb

Chocolate Mint Trifle… Gluten-free and Low-carb

 

How pretty is this?! Simple too 🙂 I used my Dark Chocolate Cake as a base, added some yummy mint avocado cream filling and whipped cream…. Layered in a simple glass container, it was perfect for a festive gathering with friends!

Chocolate Mint Trifle {GF and LC}

  • 1 recipe of Dark Chocolate Cake
  • 1 C whipping cream, whipped and sweetened to taste (I used Truvia)
  • 2 avocados, ripe and soft
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3Tb coconut oil (I used Nutiva)
  • 1/3C whipping cream
  • 1/4C Truvia (or sweetener to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint oil (or to taste)

Directions: Prepare chocolate cake recipe per directions. (I added the nuts and chocolate chips to the top instead of mixing inside, hoping for a better presentation.) Let cool. Make whipped cream in the bowl of a stand blender (or with hand mixer), sweeten to taste and chill. Combine avocados, cream cheese, coconut oil, 1/3C whipping cream, 1/4C Truvia and peppermint oil in a blender or food processor until very smooth. (I used my Ninja.) Chill.
When all elements are cooled completely, layer into a clear glass dish as desired. I started with cake on the bottom (just break it into pieces to fill the space), topped with avocado mint cream, whipped cream, cake, avocado, whipped cream and topped with cake.

Avocado Mint Cream Filling

Avocado Mint Cream Filling

Low-carb Dark Chocolate Cake with Nut and Chocolate Chips

Low-carb Dark Chocolate Cake with Nut and Chocolate Chips

Layers of chocolate cake, avocado cream and whipped cream

Layers of chocolate cake, avocado cream and whipped cream

 

 

 

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Spinach Balls for St. Patty’s Day {Gluten-free, Low-carb}

Spinach Balls for St. Patty’s Day {Gluten-free, Low-carb}
Gluten-free Spinach Balls

Gluten-free Spinach Balls, a great appetizer for St. Patrick’s Day or any time!

I’m coming up on my one-year anniversary of being totally wheat-free, but it was last year at a dear friend’s annual St. Patrick’s Day party that I first heard a story from a mutual friend about how how her health and life had been transformed by getting rid of “gluten.”

Gluten??? I didn’t even know what it was… except that I had seen it sold in the baking sections of grocery stores, and I knew it was sometimes added into flours to make better bread. Hmmmm.

She told me how her headaches were gone, her general wellness had improved, she dropped weight, had less hunger, and basically just felt fantastic! I was intrigued to say the least. I had been fighting chronic headaches since my teens, so if there was ANY chance that getting rid of this mysterious GLUTEN could make me feel better, I was 100% open to it. This year, I was able to give her a big hug and tell her that our conversation last year had changed my LIFE, the lives of my guys, and that I had even started a food and health blog which was helping to spread the word to even MORE people! She was touched and happy to have made a real difference. I know just how she feels because I have that warm feeling with every comment I get from readers who let me know that they appreciate this blog!

At last year’s shindig, she browsed the fantastic spread of food, looking for options that were gluten-free. I had brought my traditional spinach balls (made with stuffing mix), and she obviously couldn’t eat those. She settled on some cheese, veggies and dip, and some of the corned beef and vegetables, but the vast majority of foods that people had brought to share were off-limits.

This year I was deciding what to take, and decided to MODIFY my spinach balls to make them gluten-free and low-carb! (I adapted this base recipe.) I replaced the stuffing mix with some extra cheese, smashed pork rinds and a little coconut flour… Success!! They disappeared just as quickly as the original version, and satisfied the growing number of people who were gluten-free! Last year there were a couple people who did not eat gluten… this year there were probably 6 of us, and on top of that, our friends who still eat wheat had taken our needs into consideration and had made some things that were safe as well. What progress!! In addition to the corned beef and cabbage provided by our most fabulous hosts and dear friends, there were the spinach balls, a chocolate cake mint trifle (that I will be posting next 🙂 ), peanut butter cookies, bacon-wrapped BBQ water chestnuts, a variety of cheeses including an amazing Irish goat cheese with herbs, spinach artichoke dip, shrimp cocktail, and a variety of crackers. While not everything was low-carb, it was still fair game for a party in my opinion, and I enjoyed a bit of everything!

Gluten-free Spinach Balls

  • Ready to steam in mircowave

    Ready to steam in microwave

    20oz frozen spinach

  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2Tb coconut flour, sifted
  • 1C Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1C mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 2C plain pork rinds, well-chopped
  • 3/4C butter, melted
  • 1/4C fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Draining excess water

    Draining excess water

    1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 lb Cooked crumbled bacon

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place spinach, onion and garlic in a microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cook at full power for about 6 minutes or until the spinach is cooked and onions and garlic is steamed. (Carefully remove plastic wrap to prevent steam burns.)

Spinach mixture

Spinach mixture

Remove excess water from spinach by pressing through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon or with your hands if cool enough. Alternately, you could wrap spinach mixture in good quality paper towels and “wring out”  the excess juice. After spinach is drained, combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl, making sure to thoroughly mix together. Make balls 3/4″ to 1″ in size, placing on cookie sheet to bake. Bake approximately 10-12 minutes or until firm and lightly browned at bottom edges.

Ready to cook

Ready to cook on silicone cooking mat

All done!

All done! My son is already asking for me to make these again, when I WON’T be taking them to a party 🙂

 

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Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Spinach, Mushrooms and Goat Cheese, Wrapped in Bacon {Gluten-free, Low-carb}

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Spinach, Mushrooms and Goat Cheese, Wrapped in Bacon {Gluten-free, Low-carb}
Bacon-wrapped stuffed chicken

Bacon-wrapped stuffed chicken

I don’t know if low-carb, grain-free eating gets much better than this! Beautiful skinless, boneless chicken breasts stuffed with soft chevrie goat cheese, spinach, mushrooms, walnuts and wrapped in bacon… ohmygosh! And to top it off, it’s easy-peasy 🙂 I enjoy recipes that use ingredients that I typically have on hand, or that can be modified easily.

This was a meal that I shared just with my husband on a weekend night at home while our son was spending time with friends, so we used ingredients we really enjoy like mushroom and spinach. (Yay, kitchen time together!)…I think next time I make this for all of us, I will let my son decide what to put inside his, so that he can enjoy as well. Why does pepperoni, tomato, basil and mozzarella come to mind?! 😉   Good for 2 of us, I also think that it would be great for a primal-ish dinner party, or even cut up in sections as an appetizer.

Normally, I do keep the skin *on* my chicken as a source of healthy fats, but in this case, I was happy to go without in exchange for some bacon-y goodness!! The filling was easy and could be tweaked in many ways to your own personal tastes (and pantry). I took several pictures along the way to show the process, but to be honest, the recipe amounts will just be a guess, as I made it up as I went along (as usual.) In other words, stuff it with whatever you want! The amount of stuffing you need will vary by the size of the chicken breast, so keep that in mind if you need to add a little more. The minced pork rinds are a great substitute for bread crumbs as a binder in stuffing recipes.

 

Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Wrapped in Bacon (serves 2-4)

Spinach Filling

Spinach, garlic, mushrooms, onion, and walnuts for the filling

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (butterflied open)
  • coconut oil or butter
  • 1/2 C frozen chopped spinach
  • 1/2 small onion, diced (1/4C or so)
  • 3 mushrooms, sliced thinly (used crimini, baby bellas)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4C pork rinds, finely chopped
  • 1/4C chopped walnuts
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3oz soft goat cheese such as chevrie
  • 6-8 slices raw bacon
Spinach Filling

Chicken breasts: butterflied and filled.

Directions: Preheat oven to 400. Prepare filling ingredients: I put the frozen spinach and chopped onion in a microwave-safe bowl, salt lightly, cover with wrap and microwave on high for about 5 minutes and then drain, but you can saute if you choose not to use a microwave (I just like the gentle sweetness of the onions steamed this way, and I can multi-task.) Meanwhile, saute the mushrooms and garlic in butter or coconut oil until done. Add the cooked spinach and onion, heat through, add the walnuts and pork rinds to complete the stuffing.

Wrapping in bacon

Wrapping in bacon

Lay out each butterflied chicken breast, salt and pepper to taste. Use 1/4 of the cheese on each breast, placing it near the center. Top each with 1/2 the stuffing mixture and the remaining cheese (if you have too much stuffing, don’t use it all.). Carefully fold each breast in half, keeping the stuffing in place with your fingers. Carefully wrap each breast in bacon strips, one at a time, spiraling around, making sure to cover all the stuffing. Bake on a cookie sheet (I used a silicone mat on mine) for about 20-25 minutes, (flipped chicken halfway through bake time.) I then broiled the tops for about 3 minutes per side to ensure bacon was cooked completely, but you may find that baking alone is fine.

 

In the pictures shown, I have a side salad of fresh spinach, tomatoes, swiss cheese topped with a simple vinaigrette of 2Tb warm bacon fat, 2Tb balsamic vinegar and 1Tb orange juice with a touch of tarragon, salt and pepper.

Stuffed chicken wrapped in bacon, and simple spinach salad.

 

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Low-carb Dark Chocolate Nut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting {Grain-free, Gluten-free, Low-carb}

Low-carb Dark Chocolate Nut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting {Grain-free, Gluten-free, Low-carb}
Low-carb chocolate nut cake with cream cheese frosting

Low-carb chocolate nut cake with cream cheese frosting

 

This recipe has been awhile in the tweaking stage, but I think I’ve got a winner now 🙂

I do love dark chocolate. I always have, but perhaps even more so since ditching the wheat and going low-carb… as dark chocolate is one of the few sweet indulgences I still make in my healthy lifestyle. This cake is moist, rich, tasty, low in carbs and delicious enough to have for special occasions, while being simple enough to prepare for no reason at all!

 

Grain-free, low-carbers, Rejoice! 16 pieces will give you:

  • About 3g net carbs per slice without chocolate chips
    (4.25g with cream cheese frosting )
  • About 6g net carbs with chocolate chips
    (7.25 with cream cheese frosting)

The recipe is one that I evolved from my Pumpkin Maple Spice Muffins (which are truly awesome by the way, if you haven’t tried them yet!) The nut butter and pumpkin puree in the batter seem to really add to the moistness. I threw in some walnuts and a few chocolate chips, which made it even yummier, but those are optional of course. These would also work great as cupcakes or muffins, but I rarely make cake, so am happy having a slice with my coffee this morning 😀 While this was yummy when fresh, I find it’s much better when it’s been refrigerated overnight, as the frosting firms up and the cake takes on a fudge-y richness. It reminds me of the zucchini fudge cake my mom used to make back in the wheating days 😉

Low-carb Chocolate Nut Cake

Adding wet ingredients into dry

Adding wet ingredients into dry

Dry Ingredients:

  • 2 C almond flour
  • 2 Tb coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C dark cocoa powder
  • 6 Tb Truvia or other sweetener to taste
Prepared pan

Prepared pan

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 C nut butter (I have used both cashew and almond butters)
  • 1/4 C mayonnaise
  • 1/4 C sour cream
  • 2/3 C pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 C half-n-half, coconut milk or almond milk
  • 1/4 C melted butter or coconut oil
  • 1 Tb vanilla extract
Smooth batter on top

Smooth batter on top

Add-Ins:

  • 1/2 C dark chocolate chips (I used 60% cocoa Ghirardelli)
  • 1 C chopped walnuts, pecans or nuts of your choice

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake pan or cupcake pan with liners. (Note: I used a 10″ springform pan, greased with butter, the bottom lined with a parchment round, and dusted with gluten-free flour to prevent sticking.) In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients; set aside. In a medium bowl, beat eggs, and add other wet ingredients one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add wet ingredients into dry, and combine completely.

Cooling before frosting

Cooling before frosting

Stir in nuts and chocolate chips if using them. Fill cake pan with batter, taking care to smooth out the top a bit, as this batter is not self-leveling. Bake for a total of 35-45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through bake time to ensure even cooking. Remove to rack to cool. If splitting one cake into 2 layers as I have done, cool completely before attempting to cut cake. Frost with Cream Cheese frosting or serve plain.

 

 

Rich, thick cream cheese frosting

Rich, thick cream cheese frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 3/4 C butter, softened
  • 1/4 C Truvia or other sweetener to taste
  • 2 blocks cream cheese, softened (16 oz total)
  • 1 Tb vanilla extract
  • 1-2 Tb half-n-half or cream if needed

Directions: In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat butter until lightened. Add sweetener and beat until well mixed and light. Add cream cheese, one block at a time, beating completely to ensure a fluffy frosting. Mix in 1Tb vanilla if desired. Add liquid if needed for desired consistency, and mix well. Be sure cake is cooled completely before frosting.

Very moist, rich and filling!

Very moist, rich and filling!

 

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