Roasted Strawberry Paleo Pancakes

The weather here in the Pacific Northwest is finally starting to become bearable. After many months of rain and dreary days, we have had some pretty consistent sunshine and 70ºF temperatures. With that comes trips to the market and an abundance of gorgeous produce. When we lived in Southern California, we took readily available produce for granted. I can remember my parents’ friends giving us boxes full of avocados and citrus – we struggled to find a way to eat it all before it went bad. In Seattle, you walk into the grocery store and avocados are $2.50 each! Needless to say, we take advantage of the warmer months and indulge in as many fruits and vegetables as we can find.

Yesterday we scored a half flat of some of the most gorgeous strawberries I have ever seen. A photo doesn’t do them justice, but I tried:

When you see strawberries this red and juicy, buy as many as you can eat.
When you see strawberries this red and juicy, buy as many as you can eat.

Most people don’t know that the trick to finding the best berries is to look for the smallest of the bunch. The smaller the berry, the more intense the flavor (assuming it was picked ripe). Additionally, you can macerate or roast the fruit to bring out even more robust flavors. I couldn’t think of a better way to devour these gems than to toss them with a sprinkle of coconut palm sugar, roast them off, and use them as a topping for almond flour pancakes.

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Roasted Strawberry Compote
1 pound ripe strawberries
Sprinkle coconut palm sugar
Dash salt

Method:
1. Preheat your oven to 400ºF. You’ll need a silpat-lined sheet pan (or line it with parchment).
2. Trim the tops off the strawberries. You can slightly rinse them beforehand, but it’s best to gently wipe them with a damp paper towel to avoid excessive moisture.
3. Cut the berries in half, or quarters if they are larger than a single bite when cut in half.
4. Toss the strawberries with a bit of coconut palm sugar and a dash of salt. The amount of sugar you use will depend on the ripeness and sugar content of the berry. Don’t overdo it – you’ll regret it. Let the natural flavors of the fruit shine.
5. Spread the berries on the silpat and roast for 10 minutes, or until the juices start running and you can smell the berries.
6. Cool to room temperature.

My recipe for almond flour pancakes can be found here. The end result is especially delicious if you throw a few dark chocolate chunks into the batter after you scoop it into the pan. It’s the best way to get away with eating chocolate for breakfast.

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

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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.

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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.