Candied Pecans

Raw Pecans
After over a year of adopting a Paleo lifestyle, I still struggle with sugar cravings. Granted, I don’t indulge myself like I used to – cookies, snacks and candies don’t have a place on my pantry shelves any more. Sometimes though, you just need a little something to curb the craving and it will pass.

These little pecan gems do just the trick. They are crunchy, slightly sweet, and full of warm spicy flavor. They remind me of pecan pie – without all of the guilt. You can adjust the seasonings to your liking, but keep in mind, after they bake, the spices will mellow. Keep a container of these in your desk drawer so when the 2 o’clock craving hits, you have something handy that you won’t regret later.

Spices
Yield: 4 cups

Ingredients
4 cups pecan halves
3 ea. egg whites
1/2 cup honey, slightly warmed
1 T. cinnamon
2 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground cloves
1 t. salt

Method
1. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
2. Set aside pecans in a large bowl.
3. Whisk together the whites and honey in a small bowl, just to combine.
4. Add all of the spices and salt, whisking again to combine.
5. Pour the egg white mixture over the pecans and toss to coat completely.
6. Spread the pecans out evenly on the parchment-lined sheet pan.
7. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, checking often to ensure they don’t burn. They will still be slightly tacky to the touch, but will have a fully roasted color.
8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, they will no longer be tacky to the touch. Store in an airtight container.

Candied Pecans

Paleo Parmesan Herb Croutons

The last recipe for Paleo Almond Flour Bread has inspired a number of bread-based recipes. If you end up with a couple of left-over slices (I’m not sure why you would – but hey, it could happen), these croutons are a great way to use up the extras and they keep for quite a while.

Mix and match your favorite herbs and spices to create a unique flavor blend.
Mix and match your favorite herbs and spices to create a unique flavor blend.

The best part about these crunchy little nuggets is that they are easily customized to your own preferences. I use an array of herbs and spices, as well as a generous helping of parmesan. If you don’t like something, leave it out. It is best to use dried herbs, as fresh won’t hold up well in the heat of the oven. You’ll want to choose flavors that are bold and will stand up to the robust flavor of the parmesan.

The oil and cheese can also be customized to your preferences.
The oil and cheese can also be customized to your preferences.

We are lucky enough to have a friend who presses olives into olive oil every year in Italy. We get a single bottle from him and make it last as long as we can. This oil is fantastic unheated and simply drizzled over a salad. It’s also fantastic with these croutons. Because they aren’t in the oven for an exceptionally long amount of time (only about 20 minutes), the olive flavor still peeks through.

You’ll want to be sure to toast the croutons for enough time to get a nice crunchy exterior. Don’t be afraid of a little color – that’s where you get the deep flavor! If you end up with extra herb/spice mix, not to worry, just tuck it away in a zip-top bag and use it next time.

Ingredients:
1 t. salt
1 t. onion powder
1 t. granulated garlic
1 t. mustard powder
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried rosemary
1 t. dired oregano
1 t. paprika
1 t. ground pepper
1 oz. parmesan, grated or shaved (depending on your preference)
2 T. oil (olive, avocado, etc.)
1 loaf Paleo Almond Flour Bread, cut into cubes

Method:
1. Preheat your oven to 375ºF. Line a baking pan with a silpat mat or parchment.
2. Combine all the herbs and spices in a small bowl, stir to combine.
3. Toss the oil and bread cubes together in a large bowl, coating the bread completely.
4. Sprinkle the herb/spice mixture over the bread and toss to coat. Reserve any extra mixture for another use.
5. Spread cubes on prepared baking pan in an even, single layer.
6. Sprinkle parmesan to on top to lightly coat.
7. Bake for 20 minutes, tossing once half-way through, until toasted and crispy.
8. Allow to cool completely on the pan.
9. Store in an airtight container.

IMG_1239

Paleo Chicken Pot Pie

IMG_0934 (2)

My mother and sister make, quite possibly, the World’s best pot pie. The crust is tender and flaky, the gravy is thick and creamy, and the chicken is always juicy. It is packed full of flavor and you can never quite seem to get enough. This recipe is a derivation on their original and I dare say, comes pretty close in terms of flavor. Surprisingly, the almond flour crust is a fantastic substitute for the gluten version. It crisps up nicely, but definitely needs a quick egg wash to achieve a deep caramelized color.

The Crust

Ingredients

3 cups almond flour
2 large eggs
4 T. cold butter, cubed
1/2 t. salt
1 t. honey

Method

1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.
2. Pulse until the butter is distributed and the dough forms a ball, about 15 pulses.
3. Separate into 3 pieces, wrapping one tightly in plastic wrap. Combine the remaining two pieces and wrap in plastic wrap.
4. Refrigerate until firm.
5. Roll out the larger piece to fit your pie plate, making sure to leave a little extra overhang for combining with the top piece. Refrigerate until firm.
6. Reserve the smaller piece for the top of your pie.

IMG_0937

The Filling

Ingredients

2 large carrots, peeled & diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 T. butter
1 T. dried thyme
1 T. dried rosemary
2.5 T. tapioca flour
.25 cups almond milk
1.5 cups chicken broth
.5 cups heavy cream
12 oz. cooked, shredded chicken
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 egg, well-whisked (for egg wash)

Method

1. Bring a small pot of water to boil. Boil the carrots until al dente, 5 minutes.
2. In a large pot, sauté the onion, celery, butter, thyme and rosemary. Cook until the onions are translucent.
3. Create a slurry with the tapioca flour and almond milk, making sure to fully dissolve the flour.
4. Slowly add the broth and heavy cream to the pot.
5. Bring to a boil and stream in the tapioca slurry.
6. Once the gravy has reached the desired consistency, take off the heat. You can always add more tapioca slurry if you want the sauce thicker.
7. Fold the chicken and carrots into the gravy.
8. Pour the mixture into your prepared pie crust, making sure not to overfill.
9. Roll out your reserved dough to slightly larger than the diameter of your pie pan. Place on top and crimp together with the edges of the bottom crust.
10. Brush the top and edges with egg wash. Freeze for at least 30 minutes.
11. Bake at 350°F for 45-60 minutes, or until brown on top. It will take longer if the pie is completely frozen.
12. Cool for 20 minutes, to set the crust.

IMG_0929 (3)

Paleo Fudgy Brownies

IMG_0912 (2)

It seems that the only thing I’ve been craving lately is chocolate. I’ll take it any way I can get it – in coffee, in a cookie, even in savory sauces. This weekend I couldn’t get my mind off the delicious brownies that were sold in my old café. They were gooey, rich and had just the right crunch on the top. These are the caveman version with walnuts, chunks of bittersweet chocolate, and an intense chocolate punch worthy of the Paleo Fudgy Brownie name.

Ingredients

11 oz. maple syrup
2.25 oz. cocoa
8 oz. sunflower butter
1 T. vanilla
3/4 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
1 large egg, whisked
4 oz. walnuts
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate chunks

Method

1. Preheat oven to 325°F and coat an 8″ square pan with avocado oil (any oil will do).
2. Warm up the maple syrup in a saucepot on high heat, just until it bubbles.
3. Reduce the heat to low and add the cocoa in 3 batches, whisking it in completely before adding the next portion.
4. Whisk in the sunflower butter, combining until homogenous.
5. Turn off the heat, then add the vanilla, baking powder, salt, and egg. Whisk until combined.
6. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chunks.
7. Pour unto prepared pan and spread evenly.
8. Bake 35-45 minutes, or until the top is set and it is somewhat firm to the touch. Don’t overbake it if you like fudgy brownies!
9. Let cool and for the best results, cut with a disposable knife (or a knife coated with oil, so the crumbs won’t stick).

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_0867 (2)

The foundation for this cookie recipe is actually from a peanut butter cookie recipe that my grandmother used to make. It was about as simple as they come: 1 cup peanut butter (only Jif, of course), 1 cup sugar, 1 egg. Mix it, scoop it, fork it, bake it. They were delightful. As a pastry chef, I used this recipe (with a few additions) as my go-to recipe when I needed something simple, gluten-free and delicious.

I originally hoped to mimic the recipe with almond butter and make an equally delicious nutty cookie. After the first attempt, I was disappointed in the flat, lifeless results from my freshly ground Whole Foods almond butter. On a whim, I threw in some almond flour and chocolate chips. The result? Quite possibly one of the most delicious chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever tasted. It has a hint of almond flavor, but it really tastes like an old-fashioned chocolate chip cookie. The crumb is delicate, the flavors well-developed, and finishes with just a hint of honey. Best of all? It’s still nearly as simple as my Grams’ original.

IMG_0863 (4)

Yield: 24 medium cookies (1.5 oz. each)

13 oz. almond butter
4 oz. honey
3 oz. almond flour
2 oz. coconut palm sugar
2 ea. large eggs
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips (or chunks)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Combine everything except the chocolate chips in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly to combine.
3. Stir in chocolate chips, distributing evenly.
4. Portion into 1.5 oz. balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (or Silpat), spacing evenly apart (they will spread slightly). Flatten a smidge.
5. Bake for 15 minutes, or just until the sides are set and golden brown. Cool on a rack.

Hints:

1. I like an extra-chewy cookie, so I slam my pan on the countertop after taking the cookies out of the oven. This makes for a somewhat fudgy consistency that melts in your mouth.
2. You can also refrigerate (or even freeze) these little gems and bake them fresh. If you freeze the dough, be sure to let them defrost before you bake.

Paleo Pumpkin Pie

Our recent switch to a Paleo lifestyle has been admittedly easier than I thought it would be. I have had a few cravings, but nothing that couldn’t be curbed with a hard boiled egg or a piece of fruit. However, it recently hit me that my beloved, delicious, spicy pumpkin pie was no longer on my list of “acceptable” foods for Thanksgiving! My heart started beating faster, my leg started to twitch, and for the first time since we embarked on this journey, I seriously considered sneaking something into the house that I knew we shouldn’t be eating.

Luckily for us (and our waistlines, triglycerides, and blood sugars), I have a knack for baking and I was pretty sure that I could come up with a delicious version of a pumpkin pie that would fit the bill for our Paleo diet. Initially, I thought it would be pretty easy. Obviously the crust would be the most challenging aspect due to the wheat flour it needed, but the custard itself shouldn’t be too tricky. After 5 attempts, I hit the jackpot and created what I think is a pretty stellar substitute for the pumpkin pie I grew up loving.

The recipe below includes teff flour. I have done a lot of research trying to find out if it is acceptable on a Paleo diet. As of today, I have found no definitive answer. Some say it isn’t, because it is technically a grass. Others say it is, because it is essentially gluten free, doesn’t have as much phytic acid (which makes minerals nearly useless when eaten), and it is loaded with nutrients. It is a staple in the Ethiopian community and is often eaten fermented into flatbreads (which makes it even better for you). With that said, it was the best option for a pie crust that gives good flavor, great mouthfeel, and stood up to the pumpkin custard. While I wouldn’t suggest inhaling pounds of teff every day, I would also say that everything can be eaten in moderation. Even though you’ll probably want to devour this entire pie…

The crust bakes up beautifully and has a great texture that you don't get with almond flour.
The crust bakes up beautifully and has a great texture that you don’t get with almond flour – it resembles the texture of a graham cracker crust.
The secret to a great pumpkin pie is baking it as a custard - low and slow.
The secret to a great pumpkin pie is baking it as a custard – low and slow.

The Crust

Ingredients:

2 cups teff flour
1/2 cup macadamia oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 t. salt

Method:

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix thoroughly to combine.
2. Press the mixture into a 9″ pie plate, making sure to press all the way to the top of the sides. It is important to get an even thickness throughout.
3. Freeze completely.
4. Pre-heat your oven to 350°F. Bake the crust for approximately 35 minutes. Start checking it early to prevent over-baking. It should be firm to the touch, and will have lightened in color.
5. Chill the crust until your custard mixture is ready.

The Custard

Ingredients:

6 ea. large eggs
15 oz. pumpkin puree (canned is fine)
2/3 cup almond milk, unsweetened
2/3 cup heavy cream
5 oz. coconut palm sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1.5 t. ground cinnamon
1.5 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground cloves
1 t. ground nutmeg
3/4 t. salt

Method:

1. Pre-heat your oven to 300°F.
2. Combine the eggs and pumpkin puree in a large bowl. Whisk thoroughly to combine.
3. Add the almond milk, cream and coconut palm sugar. Continue whisking to completely incorporate the milks.
4. Finally, add the vanilla, all the spices and the salt. Combine.
5. Pour into your pre-baked crust and set into a baking dish (big enough to hold some water).
6. Place the baking dish into your pre-heated oven and fill half-way with hot water.
7. Bake until the custard is set in the middle, about 2 hours. If it still jiggles in the middle, it may need longer. Start checking it after an hour and a half. If it over-bakes, there will be a noticeable crack in the center after it cools.
8. Let cool to room temperature, then finish chilling in the refrigerator to ensure a complete set.

A Few Notes:

– You can use any lightly flavored oil in the crust, including melted butter or ghee.
– Honey can be substituted for the coconut palm sugar, but it will be significantly sweeter. Reduce the measurement to 4 oz.
– It is always best to freshly grate your nutmeg for the best flavor. If you are using pre-ground nutmeg, increase the measurement to 1.5 t. per 9″ pie.