Paleo Chicken Pot Pie

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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.

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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.

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Paleo Fudgy Brownies

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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

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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.

Unmeasurable

It was a blistery Tuesday morning. My husband and I had scheduled an appointment in his office at Microsoft for our annual “Know Your Numbers” exam – a free service that checks your weight, BMI, body fat %, as well as cholesterol, glucose levels, and triglycerides. Basically a time for Microsoft to find out how healthy their employees are and adjust insurance coverage under the guise of offering a great service to their employees. We’ll take it.

Nerves were getting the best of me, as I knew that my diet and lack of exercise wasn’t going to do me any favors in terms of the results they would record for me. I was sure my husband would give me the standard lecture, “We need to change our diet, go vegan, get rid of carbs and dairy. When you are gone, I never eat sweets.” I wasn’t in the mood to hear any of it.

After a painless flu shot (and apparently a somewhat painful one for him), we were poked, prodded, measured and weighed. Our respective “consultants” quickly wrote down our numbers and sent us on our way to coaching. We joined one another with none other than a 110-lb (soaking wet) woman who was the picture of good health. I was ready for the lecture, ready for my husband to give me “the look”. Then I saw his results.

I was shocked. His cholesterol was so high it couldn’t be measured. His triglycerides were somewhere above 650 – that was the highest number they could report. A healthy result would have been somewhere below 150.

My numbers weren’t much better, but at this point, I had just been hit with a ton of bricks. I had no idea my husband’s health was this serious – or at least I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact. I’m a chef, I like to prepare delicious, flavorful, comforting foods for my friends and family, regardless of the impact they might have on one’s health.

As a chef, I am an artist. Food is my medium. Unfortunately, it doesn't always equate to something that nourishes my body.
As a chef, I am an artist. Food is my medium. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always equate to something that nourishes my body.

In the middle of that drab conference room, I knew immediately that we had to make some serious changes. Our NUCCA chiropractor, Dr. Sean Fryer, had consistently attempted to get us to jump on the Paleo boat. I thought he was nuts (pun intended). He once told a friend of mine that eating bread was as bad for her health as smoking cigarettes – she’s a pastry chef. That didn’t go over well.

On that rainy Seattle morning, as a couple we decided that our health, our happiness, and the future of our family was more important than any pan dulce, pasta primavera, or slice of pumpkin pie. Our eyes had been opened and we couldn’t deny it any longer – we were actively killing ourselves with food. As a chef, I was embarrassed. I have devoted my life to nourishing people through food, and I wasn’t even taking care of my own family.

This blog will follow our journey through adopting a Paleo lifestyle. We will slip-up, we will make mistakes, and we will fall off the wagon – but we will get back on. I hope that we can help just one person make better choices, live longer, and be healthier.