Monday, March 25, 2013

You Think I'm Nuts? You Might Be Right

Insomnia sucks. I've been battling it for over two years. In that time I've had maybe a handful of nights when I slept through the night. I have no trouble getting to sleep (because I'm so exhausted), but at 2 or 3 am my brain goes into hyper-drive and the weirdest thoughts come out to play, pinging around in my brain like quarks in a particle accelerator.

This morning what I woke to was my brain having a conversation with itself. "What if, " it postulated, "you did a mash-up of The Hunger Games and The Dating Game?" "Yes," it answered, " you could have a group of teenagers fighting to the death for a chance to go out with..... Justin Bieber!"

So while weary me is just wanting to go back to sleep, my brain is planning out what The Hungry Dating Game would look like.

The volunteers (I'm unsure on the number - one from each state? an even dozen? ) would stand on their platforms around the cornucopia, eyeing the loot and eyeing each other. Would it be smarter to run, or should they dash in to get the goodies. And which to choose? The hair dryer? The eyeshadow palette? The curling iron (a lethal weapon, if you can find an outlet)? A safe bet would be the Prada backpack. It's bound to have some mascara that can be used to stab someone in the eye.

I'm unsure how the actual games would play out. There would doubtless be some horrific scenes of broken nails and hair pulling. But when the final cannon sounded, there would be one victor. And poor Justin Bieber would have to go out with a mass murderer. But, that's why his bodyguards make the big bucks, right?

Eventually I fell back to sleep, waking groggy and disoriented several hours later. At which point I'm bored with bed and get up to go do the Sudoku on the computer. And think about breakfast.

All week long we have eggs for breakfast. If you're a fat-o-phobe, it might give you heart palpitations to learn that I have 2-3 eggs fried in coconut oil every day, topped with butter. My son, when he's hungry will have 4, sometimes making them into an omelette with cheese. But he gets bored with eggs. So on the weekends I try to do something different. Today I'm going to make waffles. Lovely waffles with coconut flour and lots of eggs, so they're high in protein and won't give a blood sugar spike, followed by a carb coma. I'm going to make an extra big batch so that we can have leftovers (hopefully). Left-overs in waffle land mean (gasp!) sandwiches for lunch! My husband, the sandwich-o-phile, will be so happy.

Coconut Flour Waffles
 - adapted from Health, Home, and Happiness

1/2 cup melted coconut oil, butter, or ghee
1/2 cup coconut flour, sifted or sieved
12 eggs
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract (read the label to make sure there's no added sugar)
1/2 salt
1 Tbsp gelatin

1- Preheat waffle iron. Grease it generously with coconut oil.

2- Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Allow the batter to rest for 10 minutes. It will thicken as it rests.

3- Pour batter onto the iron, using a spoon or small cup appropriate to the size of your waffle iron. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown.

4- Serve with lots of butter and whatever else you choose. If you want to save some for lunchtime sandwiches, allow them to cool draped over the handle of a wooden spoon so they don't get soggy.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Taco Rack Winner!

And the winner of the Taco Rack giveaway is.......Kelly!

Please get back to me by Monday with your contact information so we can get your Taco Rack shipped out to you.

Congratulations, Kelly, and happy tacoing!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Taco Bliss Giveaway

It blows my mind that someone invented the folding chair. I mean, I can barely get the things opened, and someone, looking at a regular chair one day said, "Hmm, if I could fold this up, it would take up way less storage space." And then they made it happen.

Inventors are amazing. When I'm irked by something, I whine and complain about it. If I do think up a solution, it's so impractical it's laughable. Case in point: getting stuck behind a semi going 35 mph on a freeway onramp. Frustration! Solution? Transporters. Like in Star Trek. Why don't we have them??

Clearly I do not have an inventor's brain. And inventor is someone who looks at a problem and then thinks through the steps to a solution. And then takes those steps to improve their life and the lives of countless others.

A friend of mine, Nicolas, is a fanatic about Mexican food. His deep and abiding passion in life is tacos. And Elvis. But that's another post. Back to the tacos. He loves tacos, but was always frustrated with them. Taco shells that shatter when you bite into them? Lame. It's eating taco salad with your hands. 

And really, what is the heart of Mexican food? The reason we love to go to Mexican restaurants? I mean, besides the margaritas. The cheese, of course! Melted, gooey cheese. The more the better!  Where in a typical homemade taco is that ooey gooey delight? You don't get it. By the time you sprinkle your cheese over your cooked meat, the meat is too cold to melt the cheese. Fail!

Such were the ruminations of Nicolas as he worked on a job at a factory that used a laser to cut steel. The light bulb moment hit. Aha! Cut steel into a shape that would hold a taco and then you could bake the taco, melt the cheese, and have peace on earth in our time! Well, maybe not that last one, but you could definitely have a happier dinner table.

Nicolas send me a Taco Rack, his invention, to try and I was super impressed with the craftsmanship (made in America!). It's sturdy stainless steel, so it's good for a lifetime. It's dishwasher safe, which makes it a win in my house. And, bonus, it comes apart to store flat in a drawer! I love that!

I took my Taco Rack to my sister's house to make tacos. (She eats grains, plus her house is way cleaner than mine.) We tried both corn and flour shells, prebaking to crisp, filling with cooked, grass-fed ground beef and cheese, and then baking to make the cheese melt and the heart sing. OMG, what a difference a baking makes. When I packed up to head home my niece was happily chomping one one of them.

At home, I made the GAPS version. My daughter helped me to dream these up and I named them. They're like little canoes of food. Made from zucchinis. Zucanoes. What do you think?

Zucanoes (GAPS-friendly)

Italian sausage
sour cream

Start with smaller zucchinis. You can't use the end of season baseball bats here because they need to fit on the Taco Rack. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Cut a V-shaped wedge out of the top of the zucchini, leaving the ends alone. If you cut all the way through, they'll leak. Save your wedges for soup, stir-fries, or to eat with dip. With a spoon, scrape out the seeds. Discard the seeds.

Put the Taco Rack on the cookie sheet and place the zucchinis on the taco rack. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 min. (The bake time depends on the size of the zucchinis. You want them crisp/tender)

Cook Italian sausage and stuff the zucchinis 2/3 full with sausage. Sprinkle generously with grated GAPS-legal cheese. Return to the oven and bake till the cheese is nicely melted.

Remove from the oven, top with your choice of fresh toppings. I used chopped tomatoes and drizzled sour cream over them. They were amazingly good! 

Now, to reward you for making it to the bottom of the post, a giveaway!

Because he is kind and generous, Nicolas offered to share the joy of oven-baked tacos with one of my US readers. Leave a comment below to be entered in the giveaway drawing. If you mention the Taco Rack giveaway with a link on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, come back and leave another comment letting me know that for extra entries. I'll do a drawing on Friday and let you know who the lucky winner is!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Bit O' The Green

When I was in 8th grade my Jr. High announced a contest in March. The first person to bring a 4 leaf clover into the office would win a bag of gold. When I heard this, I smiled, knowing the gold was mine. Am I unusually lucky? Not really. But what I did have was a front lawn full of 4 leaf clovers.

As a child, when I'd first learned that finding a 4 leaf clover was supposed to be very lucky, I'd started the habit of looking through the clover whenever I was sitting in the grass. And I found that a particular patch in my front yard always had an abundance of 4 leaf clovers. Finding one for the contest should be a snap.

So, it looked like that bag of gold had my name written all over it. Except for one minor detail. Me. Remember one of my major character flaws is procrastination? Yeah. They announced the contest on March 1st, winner to be announced on March 17th, St. Patrick's Day. Did I race home that day and scour the lawn for the winning clover? No. I forgot. Hey, I had homework and stuff! It's not like I'm a total loser and just watched Gilligan's Island or something.

An announcement 2 days before the event reminded me and I groaned, knowing that most likely someone else had already stepped into the winner's circle. But, I had to at least participate. So that afternoon I found my clover and the next morning I turned it into the school office.

There was a stomp scheduled for St. Patrick's Day. I don't know how prevalent that term was, so let me clarify. A stomp was an informal dance, held in the school gym, with records played. No one invited a date or anything. All the students just came and danced. Or, like me, stood against the wall and watched others dance.

So there I was, in the traditional wallflower stance, checking out the cute guys dancing with the cute girls, when the principal took the microphone to announce the winner of the contest. He said that there had been several entries (dejected sigh, shoulders sagging), but most were dried and pressed, only one had been fresh (perking up), and the winner was (eager look).....ME!

I was thrilled to win, but super embarrassed to have the whole student body looking at me. I wormed my way through the crowd to receive my sack of gold and found that the school district's budget did not run to 14 karat giveaways, but did include milk chocolate coins wrapped in gold-toned foil. As I tried to edge back to my wall spot, it seemed like the whole student body wanted a coin. So, embracing my inner lady of largess, I flung handfuls of coins up into the air and had the fun of watching everyone scramble to get a coin.

Now here is the point where I would normally segue to a St. Patrick's day recipe, preferably one that had the tie-in of chocolate. And I did have that. Really. I made cookies that turned green. Without food coloring. They were amazing. I was using a recipe that called for almond butter, which I did not have. But I did have sunflower seed butter, so I used that. And the funky thing about sunflower seed butter is that when you put it into a batter, it starts to get a greenish tinge. And the longer it's exposed to air, the greener it gets. The first tray of cookies was not nearly as green as the last tray. And as the baked cookies sat in a container on the counter, they ripened into an almost emerald green.

I was amazed at the color and knew I had to blog them for St. Patrick's Day. There was just one problem. Remember that character flaw? Yeah, procrastination. We ate all the cookies before I got around to taking pictures. Sorry!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Snack Time

There are a lot of things that I did with my older kids that I shudder about now, particularly what I fed them. Besides always (and I mean ALWAYS) having the cookie jar full, and making plenty of homemade cakes, pies, and breads, I also succumbed to the pleas for snack food from the grocery store.  I bought Otter Pops, Twinkies, and Frosted Flakes. Particular favorites were chips, gummy candies, and granola bars. (I felt pretty righteous about the granola bars. Until I read the labels.)

Now that we're doing the gut-healing GAPS diet, all of those snack choices are out the window. My cookie jar is in storage, as is the bread machine, and I'd  gnaw my left hand off at the wrist rather than buy candy to feed my son. So, what do I do when my child is in a growth spurt and haunts the kitchen, cheeks sucked in to indicate imminent starvation? The question asked daily is "What can I eat?"

Fruit, while a fresh, whole food, isn't a snacking option right now. My son is still not able to handle sugars well. Adding just a bit to his diet negatively affects his behavior and cognitive abilities. We won't even talk about what happened when he ate his sister's homemade brown sugar/ honey facial scrub that was sitting on the counter. That was not a good day.

So when he asked for something besides eggs the other day, I asked if he'd like squash. A year ago if you'd asked him that, he would have screwed up his face to indicate repulsion, possibly feigning retching. This time he said in a cheerful voice, "Yes, please!"

I had on hand a Kabucha squash. I'm very fond of them. They are sweet (unless you're comparing them to a Snicker's bar) and are great baked and in stir fries and soups.  You might need to go to an Asian market to find one; they are used in a lot of Asian dishes.

I cut it in half, vertically, scooped out the guts, cut it into slices, peeled the slices (this is optional. You can eat the skin, but if you have a family member with texture issues, I recommend not skipping this step.). Then I cut the slices into chunks.

I heated my large cast iron skilled over medium heat and added a generous amount of coconut oil. Truly generous, like a politician with taxpayers' money, about 3 Tbsp or more.  When a small piece of squash tossed in the pan made small bubbles come up around it (and if you you don't have enough oil to see bubbles, you don't have enough oil!), I added the rest of the squash and stirred it, coating all the pieces with oil. Then I took my cinnamon shaker and coated them so they looked like they'd taken a dirt bath in cinnamon. If you like sweet/ salty as a combination, toss some salt in there, too.

Stir the chunks every couple of minutes, adding more cinnamon and oil as necessary.

When the squash is fork tender, scoop it into a bowl and add a BIG pat of butter. Not just any butter. Beautiful butter from grass-fed cows. Which is now available at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and Costco under the Kerrygold label. Woo hoo! Butter is amazing stuff and makes everything taste better. Besides all it's other healthy properties, it provides satiety, that feeling of fullness. Just what a hungry boy needs!