Chocolate Chip Cookie Balls Made From Coconut Flour

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Yesterday was a long day. Dane and I were both pretty exhausted and I, being indecisive as always, was debating what exactly to cook for dinner right up until dinner time. On top of that, I had a late lunch, so when dinner time rolled around I wasn’t even hungry at all. Dane however was starving, and even though I wasn’t hungry, I’d been wanting something chocolatey and sweet for a few days. So, while Dane snacked around in the fridge, I procrastinated making dinner….by making cookies.

Dane ended up doing most of the work though, because he really wanted to help me…

Now is confession time: I love love baking and cooking in the kitchen. It is relaxing to me, a time of quiet solitude to combine ingredients, colors, and textures, and making something healthy, and tasteful. I love working on a meal, then when its finished it all gets taken out to the table and people, whether its just Dane, or Dane and some guests, delight over it. Cooking is a fulfilling and creative outlet for me. The thing is…I like to do it alone. When other people “help” me, it usually stresses me out: whether its their not knowing what to do, questioning what I’m doing and how, or just making loud exclamations and noises. Anyway, I know that I get annoyed, grumpy, and stressed WAY too easily, so this time I really wanted to accept Danes help and try to keep myself calm…he wanted to spend time together after our long day, relaxing in the kitchen, and of course I wanted to spend time together too.

This might have been one of our most successful collaborations in the kitchen ever. I only got a little bit annoyed, and then got over it really quickly. Dane stood by the mixer, measuring and adding the ingredients while I read off the recipe and brought the ingredients to him. Then he rolled the first half of the batch onto the cookie sheet while I cleaned, until, being a perfectionist, he was driven crazy by rolling these perfect little balls of dough and we switched tasks. While they baked, Dane seared some meat on the stove (Dane is the BEST at searing meat) and I threw together a salad. By the time the cookies were done, dinner was done, so we went out to our back porch and ate, then came inside and watched a (really disappointing  movie over cookies and milk. At least the cookies were awesome. And the evening was slow and relaxing, in the company of each other- just what we needed.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Balls

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup pure honey
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 3/4 cup dairy & soy free chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F
In a mixer or a large bowl, add the eggs and mix, then add the coconut oil, honey, and almond extract and mix again.
Then add the dry ingredients: coconut flour, shredded coconut, and choco chips.
Roll the dough into tablespoon sized balls and place on a prepared baking sheet.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until slightly golden brown.
Remove from oven, cool, and enjoy with dairy free milk alternative (we had it with flaxmilk)

ps-the recipe was adapted from here

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6 Cartons of Strawberries

Yesterday I found myself with 6 cartons of strawberries in the fridge.

On Monday, I wanted to juice some beets that I had, but I hate the taste of beets, so I wanted to juice lots of strawberries with it to cover the flavor. They were buy one get one free so I took two. Tuesday they were a dollar. I never buy strawberries cuz they’re pretty pricey, but on this rare occasion, I bought.. four more cartons. Hence Wednesday=6 cartons strawberries

So yesterday, I got home from work and set out to find some strawberry related recipes, so as to not let the strawberries go to waste. With only Dane and me, 6 cartons of strawberries weren’t just going to disappear overnight, (or before they went bad) without some help. I went a bit crazy. I made strawberry popsicles, strawberry scones, strawberry macaroons ..and then for dinner we had salmon, and strawberry salad.

The salad was amazing.  I don’t usually like salads with fruit in them, they’ve never been my thing. I was really skeptical of this recipe, but hey, I had like a million strawberries to use up, so I decided to try it out. It turned out to be probably the BEST salad I’d ever had. I’m not even really a salad person, but Dane and I were both really really happy with how this one turned out.

The other really exciting part of this salad was that this was the first time our garden had grown enough that that I didn’t have to go to the store for the mixed greens, I just went outside and picked them! The mix included spinach, three kinds of kale, and two kinds of chard. This small delight was so fulfilling.

I was missing some ingredients and added a few from the original recipe I was somewhat following, so below is my adaptation.

Strawberry Season Salad

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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups mix salad greens of your choice
  • 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 5 (or however many you prefer) strawberries, leaves removed and sliced
  • 1/2 of a 15 oz can black beans
  • 1 avacado
  • 1/4 cup sheep cheese grated or cut
  • 2 tbs flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup soy free veganaise
  • 1 tbs red wine vinager
  • 3 drops stevia concentrate

Directions:

Put water in a small pan over the stove and bring to a boil. Add quinoa, put on low heat and simmer for 10 to 15 min. When it’s done, put it in the fridge to cool.

Meanwhile, mix the veganaise, vinager, and stevia in a small bowl and set aside.

Wash salad greens and other vegetables. Sprinkle the black beans, strawberries, and goat cheese over the greens. Add the quinoa. Add the remaining ingredients.

Pour the dressing over it and mix briefly.

Serve and enjoy!

Serves 1-3

Gluten in my…toothpaste?!

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Yesterday I bought some new toothpaste that told me on its packaging that it was gluten free. My first thought was, does toothpaste normally have gluten?? And once again I was blown away by the mass amount of gluten that is found in the most random products. So this blog post is all about my shift that began a few months ago, to not only having a gluten free diet, but also using completely gluten free products.

After going gluten free last May, I immediately felt better within the first few days. Yet, better, I soon realized, was still not quite “good”…whatever that meant. After a few years of feeling sick all the time (migraines, bloating, fatigue, apathy, joint pain, hair thinning, etc, on a daily basis) I had forgotten what it felt like to feel “good.” So it was only when I started to feel better, that I really began searching for every possible way to eat the way I needed to, with the goal of eventually feeling good.

Over the next several months (and this process still continues to this day) I did tons of research, following blogs, reading articles, figuring out what nutrients I was deficient in, taking supplements, making and remaking recipes, trying new ingredients, comparing and contrasting, etc. Surprise after surprise came as I realized just how many things had gluten in them, explaining to me yet again, why I was still feeling sick. For example, I once ate some Hawaian bbq beef, only to realize after taking several bites, that the sauce had teriyaki in it, which has soy sauce in it, which has wheat in it… even though I tried to throw it up, I was sick for the next two weeks. Similarly, my mom always is super excited for me to make Pad Thai and Thai Coconut Curry Soup when I go visit, and one of these times I randomly checked the ingredients to one of the sauces I’d always used, only to see it contained wheat as well! As my researched continued I realized the importance of not eating food that has been contaminated by wheat. So, Dane and I designated the left slot on the toaster for his bread, and the right side for mine. This also began my habit of meticulously wiping down the counter after someone has cut bread, had a cookie, or any gluten containing ingredient that had the possibility if leaving crumbs behind. Also, Dane can’t kiss me after he’s eaten anything containing wheat until he brushes his teeth and has had a lot of water. With each of these gradual changes, I’d say that overall, I’ve steadily been feeling better over the months (especially after the juice cleanse I did in March, which I wrote about here.)

I think a very important factor most recently in my improving health however, has been using gluten free hair and body products. I came across an article (which I now can’t remember the source of unfortunately..) that discussed the presence of gluten in hair and body products. Lots of shampoos, bodywash, lotions, and so on contain gluten ingredients, especially the ones that advertise added proteins, or being volumizing. A lot of shampoos, lotions, and conditioners are not even clearly marked as containing gluten because it is in the fragrances, or the vaguely marked, “other natural ingredients” (or in the case of food, “other natural flavors”). The same day as having read this article ironically, I’d just picked up some organic shampoo from Target. I thought, organic, natural, awesome, but upon reading the ingredients I saw it contained wheat protein as one of the key ingredients…so that was returned. I also read in various places that a lot of powdered make ups have gluten in oat or wheat form. Some supplements and pills even use gluten as a filler or binder. Although its still up in the air the extent to which a gluten intolerant person will be affected by using lotions or shampoo containing wheat, up to 60% of the gluten applied to your skin can be absorbed by the skin and get into the bloodstream. That big of a risk was too much for me, especially since I have celiac disease, I’m not just intolerant. I began a search for healthy, natural, gluten free products. Since the switch, my skin has had better coloring and cleared up a lot, my scalp and hair have not been itchy at all, and overall I have more energy, less headaches, and less stomach aches. I can’t prove that all of this is related, but I do know that everything we put on or in our bodies affect us. So below, I am going to share with you some of what I found.

I contacted Leanne Vogal, author of one of my favorite blogs, Healthful Pursuit. She pointed me to the site for this brand, Green Beaver. They have a line of gluten free products, such as gluten free shampoo and conditioner. I have not tried it, but she recommended it, so I do plan on trying it eventually.

The first shampoo I ended up trying was the Natural Shampoo from Original Sprout. I happened to see it at a small natural foods store, and it was clearly marked on the front as free of parabens, nanoparticles, lavender, tea tree, petroleum oils, musk, propylena, glycol, sulfates, gluten, soy, or dairy. It was a bit pricey (as most gluten free products are, unfortunately) but since I was the only one using it, it lasted me well over a month. I only had to use a small bit (and I have thick hair) and my hair was really clean (but not overly dry). It also had a very enjoyable, clean, subtle scent to it.

The next shampoo that I purchased was from Dessert Essence, who’s products are marked on the back as 100% vegan and wheat/gluten free (as well as biodegradable and cruelty free). I bought the coconut shampoo for normal to dry hair, because I love the smell of coconut. So far, this is a great product as well, and a bit less pricey than the former. I bought mine at Whole Foods, but I’ve seen it at Sprout’s and some grocery stores as well.

The conditioner that I bought, and was really pleased with was Beautiful Curls, leave-in conditioner. This conditioner if marked on the back as wheat, soy and gluten free, vegan, biodegradable, mineral oil free, and synthetic fragrance free. I was quite skeptical of a leave in conditioner, fearing a greasy or “gelled” look. The conditioner was actually great though, my hair didn’t look like I’d gelled it, or like I hadn’t washed it in weeks. This also detangled my ridiculous hair that dreads so easily, far better than most of the conditioners I’d tried before. Not to mention…it smells amazing. After this bottle runs out though, I plan on trying to Dessert Essence conditioner to compare.

From the very beginning of my search I also began looking for gluten free make up. After a lot of searching, I decided to go with Bare Minerals. I’m still not sure if this is the best or the most natural of products out there, but I went with it because I’d used it years before and really enjoyed it, and they have a list on their website of all their gluten free products. I started with this starter kit and so far I’ve been really pleased and my skin has cleared up. I still plan on doing research on the best make up however. Someday I’m also going to try some of these natural make up recipes from the blog “Wellness Mama” found here.

Last but not least, as mentioned at the beginning of this post, I just (accidently) switched to gluten free toothpaste. It is Desert Essence Natural Tea Tree Oil Toothpaste. I have no idea if I’d previously used gluten containing toothpaste, but it does make sense, if it was used as a filler. I’d purchased this one because I’d been intending for a while to find a healthy toothpaste option. The Desert Essence toothpaste is also SLS and fluoride free, so that was the initial attraction. I’d also chosen this toothpaste because it contains tea tree and essential oils that work well for people with sensitive teeth, such as my husband, containing healing properties. So this switch was an advantage for both of us.

That’s all for now. I will update this post as I try new things and review them. This slow shift to healthier living in all aspects of my life has been an exciting process. It began in resentment at my food allergies, and has slowly shifted to a more holistic view of nutrition. What we take in affects our mood, health, appearance and attitude. We are made up of body, soul, mind, spirit and so on. It has been amazing to see the actual change in my own personal life in very tangible ways, through living a clean and natural lifestyle. It is well worth all the meticulous planning, research, and planning, in fact, I’m at a point now where I am passionate about nutrition, and enjoy the topic immensely, and I no longer think of it as the terrible and unfair burden that I saw it as at the beginning of it all.

Salad Fudge Brownies

The words salad and brownies in the title of the same recipe probably sounds like the most disgusting thing you ever heard. Nevertheless, bear with me… the reality is that these brownies are actually not that different from a salad, and they still taste mostly like brownies! Hence the name. Among the primary ingredients are things like black beans, romaine lettuce or spinach, hemp hearts, and almonds. It’s weird, you eat them for desert, and then realize that you just ate another serving of vegetables.

What’s more, they are quite allergy friendly: refined sugar free, dairy free, soy free, gluten free, egg free, and optionally nut free, making them a great option for people with restricted dietary needs (such as myself). .I hope that despite you’re (understandable) skepticism, you might be inspired to give this recipe a try!

How these brownies came into being: One of the first recipes that I made with immediate success after going gluten/soy/dairy free were these “Fudge-Tastic Brownies” found here. It was through this recipe that I realized weird ingredients can make some good brownies. Not only good brownies, but good for you brownies. After that I started experimenting with different brownie recipes, such as this spinach brownie recipe found here. The recipe below is one I kind of put together, adapted from those two recipes, with a few extra things I threw in that I had on hand. They’re pretty delicious, my husband and sister approved (and ate them all, just kidding).

Salad Brownies

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Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup date puree (this can be made by soaking 12 or so large dates depending on the size, in water for 1 hr, then draining and putting it in a blender/food processor until smooth)
  • a 15 oz can black beans (best unsalted, if you can find it)
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped romaine lettuce (I have also used spinach as well with success, so I suspect any green lettucy vegetable would work)
  • 2 tbs hemp hearts (optional)
  • I cup almond meal, packed*
  • 2 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 4 tbs pure honey
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or other milk alternative of choice)
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp gluten free baking powder (I use Clabber Girl, found at most grocery stores)
  • 1/2 tsp gluten free baking soda (I use Bob Mill’s, found at grocery stores, or Sprout’s and Whole Foods)

*To make a nut free option, another alternative flour could be used such as coconut flour instead of the almond meal, or a gluten free flour mix such as here.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F

Place the romaine in food processor and blend until broken up.

Add date puree and black beans and pulse until mixed (it does not have to be so mixed as to look like a puree at this point).

Add hemp hearts and almond meal and pulse for about 20 seconds.

Scrape the sides of the food processor with a scrape spatula and add coconut oil and honey. Process again, until it becomes smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary.

At this point your brownies will look like a pretty ugly greenish brownish mush, but don’t loose hope just yet. Add the cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and coconut milk. Mix again until smooth.

Place in an 8×8 baking dish, lined with parchment paper or oiled with coconut oil.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until slightly browned.

Optional: once baked, while it’s still hot, spread dairy/soy free chocolate chips (can be purchased at Target or Sprout’s) or chunks (I’ve used Trader Joe’s Belgian Dark Chocolate and chopped it into chunks) and set back in the oven for a minute or so. Take out and spread the melted chocolate chips around with a spatula that has been greased with coconut oil (so the chocolate doesn’t stick to it as much.) Cool for a half hour or so, cut and serve, or refrigerate overnight and serve cold.

Notes: This brownie tastes great warm, but I actually prefer it cold, the next day, after it’s sat in the fridge overnight. Totally a personal preference though. Hope you enjoy!

Makes about 9 brownies

Roasted Asparagus Coconut Cream Soup

 

I LOVE asparagus.

Drizzle it in olive oil, stick it in the oven for 15 min or so-delisioso. However, one afternoon on my what-to-make-for-dinner hunt, I was very intrigued browsing through my “recipes” bookmarks on my laptop when I saw this recipe.

We had a bunch of asparagus on hand that Dane’s mom had given us from the Farmer’s Market which needed to be used up soon. We had just had asparagus with some rice a few days previously, so I didn’t want to do my usual, drizzle-with-olive-oil-stick-it-in-the-oven dish. So it was definitely time to try out this recipe.

I am notorious for never following recipes perfectly, but it actually turned out amazingly delicious this time! We had it with some toasted gluten free Udi’s bread I’d picked up from Trader Joe’s (by far, the BEST gluten free sandwich bread I’ve tried to date), drizzled with olive oil which was a perfect combination. (We also happened to eat it with some green bell pepper dipped in hummus…just cuz..) The flavor of the soup was so delicate and smooth. Dane and I kept commenting on how we felt like we were eating at a fancy restaurant in Europe or something, because of the light taste and lovely appearance of the soup.

Best of all, we had leftovers!

So here I am going to share with you some photos and the recipe as I made it.

Grilled Asparagus Coconut Cream Soup

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Ingredients:

  • 1 quart of low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, skinned and cut
  • 4 stalks of green onion (scallion)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbs coconut aminos or soy sauce (I used this gluten free soy sauce, found in most grocery stores or here.)
  • 1/2 of 15oz canned coconut milk or cream
  • pepper to garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Place the garlic and onion chunks on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or oiled with coconut oil to prevent sticking. Roll/toss them around to coat them with the olive oil and add some pepper. Put them in the oven for 15 min.

Repeat with the asparagus and chopped green onion on a second cookie sheet, coating with oil the same way. Place in oven for 5-8 minutes until the asparagus is soft. Remove both cookie sheets from the oven and cool for a bit.

While it cools, place the chicken broth in a large soup pot on the stove on medium heat. Add all the vegetables, except the asparagus tips, to the chicken broth. Heat to a simmer.

Take out the veggies (using a spoon with holes in it, or tongs) and a bit of the broth (to help the blending) and place into a blender or food processor until it is somewhat like a puree, but still with small chunks (don’t blend till completely smooth). Place the blended vegetables back in the broth and mix with spoon.

Add the coconut milk and the soy sauce, stirring again with the spoon. Lastly, add the asparagus tips, and add bit more black pepper.

Serve with bread and enjoy!

Serves 4-6

Why Health? Going Gluten Free

This post was taken from a column I wrote in February 2013 for my school’s newspaper, found here: http://thebeggarblade.com/lifestyle/2013/02/08/why-i-write-about-health/

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,” Psalms 63:5. The Bible has much to teach on the subject of food, and how human beings, especially Christians, are to interact with it. Throughout Ecclesiastes, the message is clear that food is God’s gift to man, for his enjoyment (Ecclesiastes 3:13). Though I had been interested in health for years, it was when I came to Providence that I began to learn the scriptural teachings about food through Dr. Swanson’s Bible classes. Food theology, shown in Scripture, is by far, the most important foundation for my interest in health.

Last semester I began a column about nutritious eating, but before I continue with it, I would like to explain how I became interested in health and nutrition.

In middle school, I became interested in food for healing, homeopathic medicine, as opposed to antibiotics and chemical medicine. In high school I went through phases of fascination over the prospect of unprocessed foods, smoothies, raw foods, fasting, and occasionally vegetarianism.

Despite my interest and somewhat serious efforts, healthy living never seemed to work for me. Particularly in my first three years at Providence, my health grew steadily worse. I was at the point where no matter what I ate I would feel ill, so for the sake of managing school, I would often go whole days of classes eating little to nothing until evening.

At the same time, I was always exhausted, had almost daily migraines, and was overwhelmed in apathy. I began to care less about school, my greatest passions such as art, relationships with people, and even theology and Scripture. This was because when one’s body is not being fed proper nutrients, one’s mental health is drastically affected.

In summer 2012, I came home for a short visit and my mom was appalled by my appearance and health. She resisted my obstinacy and prejudice against doctors, and I found myself sitting in the dreaded doctor’s office later that week. After a lot of questions and blood testing, I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Previous blood tests in high school had shown that my body was intolerant of soy and dairy, so I was frustrated to find gluten added to the list.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that is incurable; every time I consume gluten, my intestinal lining attacks and destroys itself, making my body unable to absorb any nutrients from food. The only treatment for celiac is to completely cut off gluten from the diet. Untreated, the disease leads to severe malnutrition, which leads to many other illnesses.

Besides being the main ingredient in bread and cookies, gluten is found in many sauces (i.e. soy sauce, teriyaki sauce), most gravy, flavorings, soups (as a thickener), green naked juice (wheat grass), a lot of granola bars, cereal, and more. I was exasperated by this new list of restrictions.

As I struggled with my own health while studying nutrition over the years, simultaneously I struggled with the idea of dualism between the body and mind. Dualism teaches that the spiritual realm is superior to the material world. In extreme dualism, the physical is evil and the metaphysical is good. My own life seemed to support this idea because even as my mind thrived, my body was always a stumbling block, no matter how healthy I tried to be.

In anger, I would go to the extreme of not caring about my body (namely, by not eating), and in those times, I often felt better, sometimes I even felt a high by how much better I felt in contrast to my norm. Yet my struggle with food contradicted everything I was learning in Bible classes to be true about food. As mentioned earlier, Ecclesiastes particularly teaches that food is a source of nourishment and gift from God for enjoyment. Learning this was convicting but only added to my confusion. My first reaction after learning about my celiac disease was stronger feelings that my body was my enemy, at war with me, and dualism was true.

Yet, when the body is thriving in the way it was created, this dualistic idea is no longer adequate. The first few days of going gluten free, I felt like I had been freed. When you are sick for so long, you forget what it feels like to be well. Not to have a stomach ache or a migraine becomes a thing of the past, that you know exists but is no longer in your experiential memory.

The effects of going gluten free to my body and mind were immediate. My dualistic tendency was challenged as I could think again, when so long I had been living in a fog. The crippling feeling of dread and sickness that came along with eating lessened. Though it takes one to two years for the adult body with celiac to completely heal after the necessary dietary changes, the difference I felt already was well worth saying goodbye to all my favorite gluten containing foods.

I believe in eating well. I am interested in learning about food nutrition and what foods best feed the brain, the heart, your blood, and so on. If a diet is perfectly balanced (along with exercise and ideally, good sleeping patterns), the human body can intake all the necessary nutrients required for a strong immunity, healthy body, and therefore mind. Personally, as I continue to heal from the affects of celiac, studying nutrition for healing is interesting and I find, effective.

For that reason, I consulted the editor, Marissa Branson, on writing a health column for the Beggar Blade. I hope that my readers will continue following these articles as I share the new things I learn. My hope is to write on things that will be applicable to you as you manage the precarious balance between success in studies, and taking care of your body that God has graciously given.

3 John 1:2 states, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” This is only one example of many passages in Scripture that reveal to us that it is God’s will that the people he created thrive in the body and the mind, as distinct but united parts of the human being.