Healthy Fats – Choosing Them and Using Them

Since I’ve been on this gluten and refined sugar free eating lifestyle, I’ve been doing a lot of research. I’ve also added fat back into my life, specifically coconut oil and olive oil, a little sesame oil, and of course the fat in things like butter and meats. These make foods a lot more filling and satisfying.

From what I’ve read, I’m convinced that part of what is making people obese is avoiding fats (which the body needs), and replacing it with processed foods and grains (which often have sugar added to make up for the lack of fat.) In fact, it seems that you can correlate the current spike in obesity with the beginning of the lowfat/high grain craze.

Now of course all foods should be consumed in moderation, and this goes for fats as well as everything else. But I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve learned about oils that have worked for me.

  • Canola Oil: From what I have read, this heavily touted “healthy” oil is anything but. First of all, it’s heavily genetically engineered. Personally I try to avoid foods that are science projects. After all, that’s what has caused such harm with wheat, and new research is finding that our heavily genetically modified corn crop caused MASSIVE tumors in rats. No thank you! Then add to this how it’s produced: they use solvents to extract it (and these are still present in the end product), deodorize it (which causes most of the Omega 3’s to become rancid) and hydrogenate it (turning it into trans fats). There is still science to be done to determine the safety of canola oil, but it’s certainly not one I choose to use.
  • Olive Oil: Olive oil is a great choice for cooking, and one that I use often. It’s important to note, however, that not all olive oil is the same. Apparently in Italy, olive oil is one of the biggest rackets going. MANY brands of olive oil are cut with cheaper oils (including canola), and then sold as pure olive oil. This post describes more about this. When I did the “fridge test” described in the post, I was shocked to discover that the “good quality” olive oil I thought I was buying turned cloudy! I took Mark’s advice and looked for olive oil produced closer to home. I found a California olive oil that I love, and I was SHOCKED at how different…and delicious…it tastes! Really fruity.
  • Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is a new love of mine, and one I discovered when researching this new lifestyle. It’s been used forever and is super healthy for you. The flavor is slightly sweet, and does not give off a strong coconut flavor. Depending on the temperature you live in, it may be solid or liquid (but it’s a simple thing to liquify it by microwaving it or putting it over low heat for a couple minutes on the stove.) I love the flavor that vegetables and meat take on when cooked in coconut oil, and it’s a fabulous oil for baking. Do note, however, that you have to keep the temperature fairly low when cooking with coconut oil on the stove. Medium heat is about the highest you can go, or it smokes terribly. Also note that it’s NOT great for pan greasing. I find that it doesn’t provide a non-stick coating as well as olive oil or butter do. I buy my coconut oil online at Amazon with free shipping, because it’s most cost effective.
  • Sesame Oil: I’ve actually used sesame oil for years because I live in an Asian household, and it’s a staple for creating authentic Asian flavors. However it also seems that there are a whole host of health benefits to this oil. You can read about them here. I usually use Sesame Oil in small quantities, because the flavor is quite strong. But it adds a wonderful nutty flavor to dishes that my family loves. Here’s the brand my family buys at the Asian Market. It’s also available on Amazon.
  • Butter: If you want buttery flavor, please use the real stuff and not a science experiment (i.e. skip the margarine!). I absolutely love the flavor of grass-fed organic butter. It melts well, lends an amazing flavor to dishes, and simply can’t be replaced by substitutes. We don’t use a ton of butter in our dishes (often just using it for finishing a dish) but it’s a great fat to have on hand. And your body needs a certain amount of saturated fat. What causes heart disease etc. is inflammation in the body. And inflammation is caused by…you guessed it…the white stuff: flour, sugar, etc.

I have to tell you that since we’ve added fat back into our diets, food just feels more satisfying. Plus it’s filling. I’m dropping weight without really trying, but I’m never hungry! It seems like my body just knows it’s getting the right foods now, and fat is a part of that.

What fats do you include in your cooking? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

Favorite Gluten-Free Recipe Roundup

Chicken, Bacon, Dates and beet greens. Total yum! A recipe I’ll share next week!

This week I’ve been exploring some new recipes from some of my favorite food bloggers. All of them are gluten and refined-sugar free. I wanted to share some of these fantastic recipes with you today. Enjoy!

  • Slow-Cooked Coconut Ginger Pork: The juice this dish produces in the crockpot will blow your mind. It is so succulent. About 30 minutes before it was done cooking, I threw in some baby spinach and sliced carrots which added a nice nutritional punch, plus some color. If you do grains, you could serve it over rice. Otherwise serve it in a bowl. You’ll want to drink the liquid for sure!
  • Rosemary Spaghetti Squash Egg Nests: I’m realizing that I have quite a few vegetables I’ve avoided over the years because of some less than pleasant early experiences with them as a child. Spaghetti squash was one of them. However when I saw this recipe from the Urban Poser, I knew I needed to give it another chance. I am SO glad I did. This is awesome, and quite filling. One is more than enough to fill you. Next time I make it I’ll prepare the nests ahead of time, and then I can cook them with the egg inside when I’m ready, and I can keep the yolks gooey (they cooked solid before the nests were done.) This makes a great breakfast or even dinner.
  • Red Chicken Coconut Curry: OK, this one is one of mine. But it’s a meal that comes together SO quickly, that I had to include it. In 20 minutes, dinner is done!
  • Blueberry Pumpkin Pie Protein Shake: It’s pumpkin pie in a glass. No lie. I’m not even all that big a fan of pumpkin pie, but I LOVE this shake. And the best part is that it leaves me full and totally energized all morning.
  • Coconut Cream Pie Larabar Recipe: I’m a big fan of Kind bars, and typically prefer them to Larabars. But when I was in the grocery store this week I was starving and saw these in the checkout line so I picked one up. TOTAL yum! Because I don’t love the price on any of these bars I quickly looked up a recipe on how to make them at home. This one is great.
  • Cinnamon Bun Muffins: This is the first recipe I ever made from the Elana’s Pantry food blog, and it’s still one of my favorites. (I replace the agave with 100% pure maple syrup.) Make them. You can thank me later!

Do you have some favorite gluten and refined-sugar free recipes? Please share them in the comments!

Roasted Beets and Beet Greens with Dates and Goat Cheese Recipe (Paleo, Vegetarian, Gluten Free)

Do you have a vegetable you’re afraid of? Something you had an unfortunate experience with early on that completely turned you off to the whole institution? There are only a select few like that for me, and beets were near the top of the list.

If memory serves, I’m fairly certain the beets I was exposed to were pickled beets out of a can. I loathed them.

But recently I’ve been seeing more and more recipes with beets, and the nutritional benefits are huge. And I do believe that any vegetable can taste good if cooked properly. So I decided this weekend to pick up a bunch of organic beets, and give it a go.

Beets and their greens

I scrubbed them clean, cut off the greens (and reserved them in a glass of water), and cut them down to a relatively uniform size.

Next I put them in a foil pack with some olive oil, salt and pepper.

I sealed up the edges of the foil and roasted them in a 375 degree F oven for about 45 minutes. Basically, you roast them until you can easily spear them with a fork.

Once they’re done, let them cool enough to handle and then slide the skins off. I didn’t take a picture of this step (because my hands were full of purple beet juice!)

When you’re done, you’ll have a lovely plate of roasted beets. You can eat them like this, or use them in recipes like the Roasted Beets and Beet Greens with Dates and Goat Cheese recipe I’m sharing with you today.

Roasted Beets and Beet Greens with Dates and Goat Cheese
Serves 2 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 2 roasted beets, sliced
  • 1 bunch beet greens, stemmed and chopped into 3-inch pieces
  • 8 dates, sliced
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • 1 oz goat cheese

Here’s What To Do:

  1. Heat some olive oil over low heat in a frying pan. Add the sliced onion and saute about 5 minutes until carmelized and soft.
  2. Add the roasted beet slices, beet greens, and sliced dates, and cook until greens are wilted.
  3. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  4. Remove from heat and add goat cheese. Stir gently.
  5. Serve.

The Verdict: This was a lovely dish that convinced even this non-beet eater that beets can taste good. I think the sweetness of the dates and carmelized onions worked perfectly with the beets and greens, and the goat cheese added a perfect note to the overall dish. Thanks to this, I would make beets again!

What’s your favorite way to enjoy beets? Would love to learn about your favorite recipes in the comments below!

Sweet Potato Black Bean Hash (vegetarian, gluten free)

Canned corned beef hash…Yuck!

When I think of the word “hash” I hearken back to pink stuff that came out of a can with teeny tiny cubes of what I think were potatoes that my mother used to serve with eggs. Yeah…this isn’t that.

I love sweet potatoes. They’re delicious all by themselves. But they are also fantastic as a base for this delicious breakfast dish (that actually could be served at any time of day.)

I also have a bit of a problem when it comes to black beans. We buy cans of black beans by the case (yes I know I could do it with dry beans in my crockpot, but I haven’t gotten myself together enough to do that and properly store them.) I love that they are an amazing protein source that all of my kids will eat and be happy about it.

So it was a natural thing to bring sweet potatoes and black beans together for this dish. Then in keeping with my desire to add as many veggies to each dish as possible I threw some more in. The result was an absolutely beautiful (and totally delicious) hash that I think you’ll love. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Black Bean Hash
Serves 1-2

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1 baked sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup torn baby spinach leaves
  • 1 Tbsp pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

Here’s What To Do:

  1. Melt the coconut oil over medium heat in a large frying pan.
  2. Add the chopped onion and bell pepper. Cook and stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until fairly soft.
  3. Add the cubed sweet potato to the pan, and cook 2 minutes.
  4. Add the black beans to the pan, and cook 2 minutes more.
  5. Turn off the heat, and add the spinach leaves. Stir until JUST wilted.
  6. Place on plate, and sprinkle with pepitas.
  7. If desired, top with a fried egg.

 

Red Chicken Coconut Curry (Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free)

I originally  gave up bread and refined sugar to lose weight. (Then I started reading…darn the internet!) Since this was (at least originally) primarily about weight loss (and then maintenance) for me, I keep a close eye on the scale. And I find I do best when I make vegetables the foundational element in my diet. Now this doesn’t mean eating salad all the time. But it does mean that I try to incorporate vegetables in all 3 meals a day. In doing so, I get more nutrition, and I find that my weight remains stable.

But wait! you may be saying. Veggies for breakfast? Really? Yep. There are 2 primary ways I do it.

  1. Eggs and Omelettes. This is the easy one. Our favorite omelet is mushrooms, asparagus, spinach, and some cheese. Sometimes I’ll throw in tomatoes.
  2. Smoothies. I giggle inside a little when my son automatically reaches for the baby spinach in the fridge when making his own smoothies. Fruit-based smoothies can include spinach and carrots and, if you use blueberries, you’ll never know they’re there!

I’ve also been known to do a soup for breakfast of broth and veggies. You can throw in rice, protein of your choice, or drizzle in a scrambled egg. If you like things spicy, adding some kimchi is delicious too (and you won’t be able to eat too fast, which ensures you’ll stop when you’re full.)

Here’s a quick and easy recipe full of veggies that my husband RAVED about when I made it. (And don’t let the word “curry” scare you. It’s not spicy at all!) His exact words were “It’s so buttery!” And there’s no butter in it at all!

Red Chicken Coconut Curry

Red Chicken Coconut Curry
This made enough for lunch for 2 adults.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. raw chicken, cut into strips or bite-sized pieces
  • Salt & pepper (or all purpose seasoning of choice)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • coconut oil
  • 1/2 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp red curry paste (have I mentioned yet how addicted I am to this stuff?)
  • 1 cup cauliflower florettes
  • 1/2 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup prepared brown rice
  • 1 big handful spinach

Here’s What To Do

  1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, or seasoning blend of your choice.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat.
  3. Press the garlic clove into the oil.
  4. Add the chicken slices and cook until browned on each side.
  5. Add the cauliflower and carrots, and cook for 3 minutes.
  6. Add the coconut milk and red curry paste, and stir gently until well combined.
  7. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Add brown rice and cook for another minute.
  9. Remove from heat and stir in spinach. Stir until just wilted.
  10. Serve!

How do you incorporate veggies into your meals? Please share in the comments!

Healthy Chocolate Truffles (Gluten Free and Refined Sugar Free)

You know how sometimes you just need some chocolate?

And not that virtuous square of dark chocolate. I mean some creamy, delicious chocolate that rolls around in your mouth and tastes like heaven? If you know what I’m talking about, then this post is for you.

One of the important things with a lifestyle change like giving up wheat and refined sugar is having some go-to snacks stashed away for emergencies. I keep a container of raw mixed nuts and seeds with freeze-dried strawberries that I mix up available for snacking when I’m starving (it ALWAYS fills me.)

But when I need something a bit more decadent, like when I’m enjoying a glass of red wine before bed in the evening, I reach for these babies. These are my healthy creamy chocolate truffles, and there’s not a drop of refined sugar in them. Instead, they’re sweetened by pitted dates, and pack a nutritional punch of protein and antioxidants. Yummy AND good for you? You bet!

I roll them in coconut, but you can use more cacao powder, nuts, or whatever you desire. I hope you love them as much as I do!

Healthy Chocolate Truffles (Gluten Free and Refined Sugar Free)

Ingredients

  • 10 pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened almond butter
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut

Here’s What To Do:

  1. In your blender or food processor, combine dates, cacao powder, almond butter and coconut oil on low speed until dates are fully pulverized and the mixture is creamy.
  2. Place coconut in a small bowl.
  3. Scoop chocolate mixture out by teaspoonfuls and roll in coconut to form truffles.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until firm.
  5. Scoop out any remaining chocolate truffle mixture with your spatula and lick until the blender is clean! 🙂 (Watch your fingers!)

Would love to hear how you like these! 

What wheat and refined sugar-free snacks do you keep on hand?

Gluten and Refined Sugar Free Banana Nut Cacao Pancakes (Paleo)

Banana Nut Cacao Pancakes

My kids are back to school, which means I’m getting up before the sun to make breakfast and be sure my kids get a good start to the day. Like a lot of parents, I wrack my brain to try to come up with tasty, high protein options that are easy to make when the coffee is still kicking in, and that the kids will actually eat. The bonus is when the breakfast is something I can eat too (no wheat or refined sugar.)

Well this recipe totally fits that bill. The inspiration came from Marla Sarris, who guest posted about Paleo breakfasts over at The Mogul Mom. This recipe is a variation on that theme. These were a HUGE hit in my house.

Plus the ingredient list isn’t complicated. You can use cocoa powder if you don’t have raw cacao. (And the cacao provides a nice shot of antioxidants.) And you can omit the liquid stevia all together. You can make them with almond butter, peanut butter, or any nut butter of your choice.

Banana Nut Cacao Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 heaping Tbsp nut butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp cacao or cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 5 drops vanilla stevia (optional, to taste)
  • Coconut oil or butter, for frying

Here’s What To Do:

  1. In a blender, combine bananas, nut butter, eggs, cacao powder, cinnamon, and stevia until well mixed.
  2. Heat a little coconut oil or butter in a large pan over medium heat.
  3. Pour batter on heated pan. I made silver dollar sized pancakes, but you can make them larger as you prefer. These cook quickly so as soon as the edges seem cooked, flip and cook a minute longer.
  4. Remove from heat and serve. If you use the stevia, they are sweet enough on their own, and you can just serve with fruit.

Next time we make these, I’m going to try them with pumpkin instead of bananas, omit the cacao, and use pumpkin pie spice. I’ll let you know how they turn out.