Paleo Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffin Recipe

I usually post all my recipes over on MakingItPaleo.com, but I wanted to share a pic of this one here as well. Paleo banana coconut chocolate chip muffins. I’ve been Paleo for almost a year and once in a while, I crave a baked good (or a pizza but that’s a post for another time).

Paleo Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins

Check out the recipe here.

Starting Paleo: A Beginner’s Guide

As many of you know, I’ve been living Paleo since May when my husband put me on a diet. Yup, you read that right. And it’s the best thing I’ve done. I feel good (healthy and more energy) and I look good (not trying to be snotty but I lost 14 lbs) and it just feels like the right thing to do.

Trust me, it was NOT easy for me to start it, especially as a life long carb lover. I once tried Atkins and lasted three hours.

I get a lot of people asking how to start, so this post is for you!

The Basics

  • Eat organic, grass-fed meats. Nuts. Veggies and fruits. Eggs (not dairy even though they are in the dairy section…but they come from chickens, not cows)
  • Do not eat anything processed. Dairy. Legumes (which includes peanuts). Grains.

Visiting the farm where we get our grass-fed beef

Follow the right people on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest

This may be the right time to hide Paula Dean, or all the Cupcake Bakers you follow. It’s not that you love them any less, but you just need to focus. Some of my favorite people to follow are:

  • Just Eat Real Food – I’m obsessed with this page. It’s not 100% Paleo but typically follows a Paleo/Primal philosophy and posts amazing recipes from other sites, as well as articles and research. It’s my favorite research. TIP: When you see a good recipe, click into the link and follow to where it originated….then Pin it to Pinterest.
  • Twitter – It’s tough to navigate the good vs the bad on Twitter sometimes. I’d like my Paleo Twitter list to grow so please offer suggestions. I love @robbwolf – this is the main Paleo guy that my husband follows and reads. Unfortunately you find a lot of heavy-duty cross-fit or body-building people who also eat Paleo…but I think it’s tough to find the right people to follow that “jive” with you.
  • Pinterest - I used to think Pinterest was making me fat, but I’ve realized you can also find really healthy, good for you recipes here.

Get a cookbook or two 

I bought Everyday Paleo by Stacey Fragoso and The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain to kick things off. I needed inspiration to start cooking and didn’t know where to find it. There are some great recipes in these books, but after a few weeks, I found that I didn’t really need them any longer…I was able to just cook things up from on my own, or learn to use “normal” recipes and replace non-paleo ingredients. I refer to the Just Eat Real Food Facebook most often now for inspiration. I also bought Paleo Indulgences and it’s awesome to test out some “baked” goods and other “cheat” foods.

Throw Away the Bad Stuff

I know this is a lot easier said than done, but I’ve done it and so can you. Throw away the processed stuff. I know this is hard if you have kids who love snacks. But as much as you can, get rid of the stuff that you snack on. Get ride of the pastas and the rice. The cookies, the crackers. Even the “healthy” things like quinoa…GONE. I had a lot of boxes of unopened food that I delivered to the local food bank.

Shop and Stock Your Kitchen

I’ve written about how to shop Paleo. It’s important when you start Paleo to have a kitchen stocked with fruits and veggies and real food. Some of the key things to get include:

  • Organic chicken
  • Organic grass-fed beef
  • Nuts like almonds and pecans
  • Organic fruits and veggies. If you are trying to lose weight, don’t load up on sweet potatoes or bananas, but if you are doing it for the health value, they are fine. I’ve found having a lot of celery, carrots and peppers around to slice and snack on are great for when I’m wanting a crunchy snack (when I used to reach for chips!).

Snacks from our Paleo 4th of July Party

Beware of the so-called healthy stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Regardless of where you shop, you need to follow my guidelines for shopping Paleo. Even in the organic stores, you basically shop the perimeter of the store, unless your store has an organic section in the middle. All the stuff in the center of the store is likely processed and therefore not Paleo.

I’ve actually become a huge fan of Trader Joe’s through this process as they have great organic chicken and fruits and veggies. Even for the processed stuff I still buy for my carb-loving 3 1/2 year old, I’ve migrated away from all the “big brands” and over to Trader Joe’s. No more Cheerios, Rice Krispies, etc. (because they contain GMO’s) and we now buy all the Trader Joe’s products which do not contain GMO’s. The little one loves their version of Cheese-Its, Graham Crackers, cereals and more. (The GMO discussion is for another post…information overload! But google it if you wish.).

Make It a Family Lifestyle Change

If you are the only one in your house committed to Paleo, it will be difficult. That’s why I say get rid of the temptations. And don’t let age factors inhibit you. My youngest daughter who is almost 18 months is actually about 90% paleo…except for the oatmeal she loves and cereal bars we snack on. My older daughter, the 3 1/2 year-old carb loader is another story, but one day….

Start Strong and then Understand It’s Okay to Cheat Once in a While

I started of 100% Paleo for about 6 weeks. I had to…it was the only way. In that time, I lost about 10 pounds and felt healthier. It truly became a lifestyle, not a diet. Then, once in a while, I allow myself to cheat. Usually 2-3 times per week. At first, I felt like I couldn’t wait to cheat…and now, I realize some of the foods I want to cheat with make me feel awful.

About three months into Paleo, my kids were staying with their grandparents and my husband and I had the night and next morning to ourselves. We went out to breakfast where I ordered my favorite, coconut french toast. I felt like death after I ate it. It wasn’t food poisoning, but rather the gluten. Since being on Paleo, I’ve noticed I have a gluten intolerance, yet if I cheat with dairy, there are not issues or repercussions.

Some of my favorite cheats include ice cream, pizza and Mexican food.

Don’t be THAT Dinner Guest

Paleo isn’t a binding set of rules that if you break them, you’ll be damned. If we go to friends house and they decide to order pizza for dinner, I eat it. If they cook and serve rice or pasta with dinner, I try to load up on the meat and veggies and then skip the processed carbs. But guess what…at this point eight months in, if I want it, I eat it. I notice though I don’t WANT to eat the bad stuff nearly as much….it’s truly become a lifestyle.

GOOD LUCK!!!!

I am by no means an expert on this. I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist. I’ve been on the Paleo journey for eight months and I’ve seen results. 

Making It Paleo: New Year’s Eve Extravaganza

We went all out for our New Year’s Eve party this year. We celebrated New Year’s Eve with some great friends, and my sister-in-law who was visiting from Seattle. We had an amazing Paleo’ish party to ring in the new year.

THE MENU:

Appetizers:

  • Buffalo cauliflower – my sister-in-law made this following a recipe she found here. We didn’t want to use rice flour so tried almond flour and it was good. Later in the week, we tested with coconut flour (yuck) and also tried without any flour and it was just as good! I can’t lie though, I had to dip in some blue cheese dressing :)
  • Assorted raw veggies
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Nuts

Entrees:

  • Corn and crab chowder – dairy and gluten-free! (while I know corn isn’t Paleo, this chowder is too delish not to eat!)
  • Filet Mignon on the grill cooked just perfectly medium
  • Green beans in marinara sauce (beans aren’t Paleo but there are a few little cheats in here). My friend made the marinara herself and it was delicious. I didn’t miss the pasta!
  • Green salad with carrots and tomatoes

Drinks/Desserts:

  • Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting - these were good…these were really good!!! Even my little picky eater ate one.
  • Coconut milk creme brulee - the flavor was great but it didn’t set as firm as I’d have liked it…I’d be willing to test it out again though and try to set for longer.
  • Eggnog - the flavor of the eggnog was good…but I could do just a smaller portion next time. Maybe a shot? We also added a LOT of rum to it…maybe too much :)

THE OUTFIT:

Yeah, I’m never one to turn down a chance to dress up! And if you know me at all, whether IRL or via the blog, you’re probably not surprised at all that I’m wearing my leather leggings. They are a staple in my wardrobe this winter and I’d wear them every day if I could. I paired them with a black sweater with sequin shoulder trim, a black studded cross body bag, black booties, a leopard print scarf and a sock bun! Sweater from Forever21. (similar here and here). Leather leggings from Forever21(similar here and here). Leopard print scarf from TJMaxx (similar here). Studded bag from H&M (similar here and here). Shoes are Christian Louboutin. 

FRIENDS & FAMILY

It was awesome to celebrate with some close friends and my sister-in-law.

AND THE BEST PART….

The party started at 3pm and we were on our way home before 8pm!!!

Happy New Year and best wishes for the most amazing 2013!

 

Celebrate National Smores Day with Smores Pops

Friday, August 10th is National Smores Day. So let’s celebrate. Watch how I take a modern twist on the traditional favorite treat!

This is a fun treat to make with kids too. Here is  a recipe for another variety of marshmallow pops:

http://www.tinysophisticate.com/tinybites/recipes/?recipe_id=6028444

Enjoy!

Recipe: Mexican Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

I am making an effort to not only “pin” recipes, but to actually cook them. I know pinning them is fewer calories, but really, what fun is that?

I found this recipe for Southwestern Stuffed Spaghetti Squash and thought it looked delicious. The recipe was originally from BevCooks and I’ve since found some other great recipes on her site. Check it out.

I decided to make some changes to the recipe. I support vegetarians but I need some meat in my meal so I added ground turkey.

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey (beef or chicken would work well too)
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • hot sauce to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly torn cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400.

Roast squash on a baking sheet for 50 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes while you cook the filling.

Quick note, chopping onion makes me cry like a little baby so I threw the onion and jalapeno into my cuisinart and chopped it up.

Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add the ground turkey and cook through.

Add cumin, oregano and 1 tablespoon of chili powder. Add some salt and pepper too. Add onion, garlic, jalapeno pepper and red bell pepper. Saute 3 minutes. Add the beans, corn and cilantro. Then squeeze in the lime. Stir to combine.

*I actually forgot the cilantro but still taste great. I’m sure will taste better next time when I use it though.

Cut open the spaghetti squash. Scoop out the seeds, then use a fork to scrape the squash to look like spaghetti. Add squash into skillet with filling and stir to combine.

Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. I added in another tablespoon of chili powder and some hot sauce at this point. Fill the hallowed out spaghetti squash with the filling and top with cheese.

Broil the stuffed spaghetti squash until the cheese melts.

I had a lot left over and put it over a mixed green salad the next day. Yummy!

Enjoy!

Super Bowl Party Food Ideas

Still wondering what to do for your Super Bowl party?

Here are some ideas.

Boston vs New York Theme

It’s a huge rivalry in sports, specifically baseball and football. And each city is known for it’s amazing food. So celebrate a little of both cities with a food showdown. Pair some of each city’s best against each other:

  • New England clam chowder vs Manhattan clam chowder
  • Whoopie pies vs NY Cheesecake
  • Lobster rolls vs Pastrami
  • Lobster pie vs pizza pie
  • Boston cream pie vs black & white cookie
  • Donuts vs bagels

Typical Tailgate Foods

Go with what people are used to and like, but keep it simple:

A Healthier Option

You can enjoy some of your favorites but healthier versions of them:

Total Comfort Foods:
Some other ideas:
  • All things mini
  • Pizzas – make your own (chop up all the toppings and lay out in little dishes. let everyone make their own!)
  • Appetizers & desserts

Enjoy the game everyone….and GO PATRIOTS!!!!

Halloween Food

I had so much fun at our first annual Halloween party and wanted to share some menu ideas with you.  Here was the menu:

If you can’t tell, I love Ina Garten from Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa. Her recipes are always amazing. I didn’t have any appetizers, I just had all the food out and ready when guests arrived. I put the soup and meatballs in crock pots to serve, the mac n cheese were in the pans they cooked in and the grilled cheese was served on a three-tiered platter.

roasting butternut squash, apples and onions for soup

soup

For the “fancy” grilled cheese…I just got a little creative. I consulted the bakery department of my local supermarket and bought some “fancy” bread that I sliced myself. The bakery department will slice if for you, and I regret not taking them upon their offer. Then I just filled the sandwiches with all sorts of fun items:

  • Monterey Jack Cheese w/ Bacon
  • Tomato, Mozzarella & Pesto
  • Ham & Cheese
  • Pear, Brie Cheese & Chocolate Chips
  • Tomato & Bacon

The bread slices were large so I was able to cut each sandwich into fourths. 

I took the easy way out with the Swedish meatballs and used a box spice mix, then followed this recipe for the gravy.

Let’s face it though…the desserts are the most important part of any Halloween party!

For drinks, I served creme soda and root beer for a little bit of nostalgia, along with water, coffee and tea. Guests brought some beer and wine, and one even brought some awesome Proseco! I bought some fun Halloween straws as well!

I love striped paper straws

I had a lot of mac n cheese left over, and a good amount of sweets which I packaged up in little bags and brought to my daughters’ teachers at school. Overall, it was a fun party and can’t wait to do it again next year.

Weekly Recipes

I’ve decided to start a new weekly post that includes some new recipes I’ve tried or created during the past week. I’m always on the hunt for new things to try, so hopefully you find this helpful and some of my items make it on your family menu!

Turkey Burgers

  • 1-2 TBs tomato paste
  • 2 tsp garlic
  • 2 tspns dijon mustard
  • 1 TB brown sugar
  • Worcestershire (enough to water down a little and allow mixture to mix into ground meat)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1lb turkey meat

Mix all ingredients except turkey meat in a medium size bowl. Add in turkey meat and mix (don’t overmix). Form patties, grill & enjoy :)

Zucchini Parmesan Crisps

Linguine with Avocado & Arugula PestoAn Amazing Recipe from Giada DeLaurentis

Artichokes with Lemon Honey Aioli

  • 4 artichokes
  • 3 lemon
  • 4 TB olive oil mayo
  • 2 tspns chopped garlic
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 TB honey
  • Salt and Pepper

I took inspiration from a Giada DeLaurentis recipe but went off on my own, especially for the aioli. Using kitchen scissors, remove the thorns from the tips of the artichoke leaves. Cut the artichoke stems to 1/2-inch long. Cut each artichoke into 8 wedges and, using a paring knife, remove the fuzzy choke. Place the artichokes in a large pan with 8 cups of water. Add  juice of 2 lemon, and throw in the lemon wedges. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and steam until the artichoke hearts are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Remove artichokes with tongs.

For the dipping sauce, combine mayo, garlic, juice of 1/2 lemon, honey and salt and pepper in a bowl. Keep chilled in refrigerator until time to eat.

Spinach Salad with All Sorts of Goodies

  • Thin cut chicken breast (I just like it thin but you can use regular, tenders, whatever you like….also works well with salmon)
  • Cooked edamame
  • Cooked sweet corn
  • Cooked quinoa
  • Chopped pieces of buffalo mozzarella
  • Spinach
  • Walnuts
  • Balsamic vinaigrette (I use straight balsamic vinegar but use dressing of choice)

Sorry there are no measurement here. A lot of the ingredients I made in large quantities on the weekend for snacks, lunches, etc. during the week. My daughter loves the veggies and quinoa and my husband and I add these ingredients to salads daily. 

Lay a decently thick layer of spinach on a plate (or in a bowl…my husband eats this out of a huge mixing bowl!). Layer some quinoa, edamame and corn on top. Add some diced up chicken, mozzarella and walnuts. Top with your favorite dressing.

Lemon Ricotta Waffles w/ Lemon Blueberry Compote Syrup

Okay, my measurements here are not great…so bear with me. I use Krusteaz pancake/belgian waffle mix. I know, I know…I usually complain that a real recipe doesn’t start with anything from a box but oh well. I make as directed on box, usually 2 cups of mix to 1 1/2 cup cold water. Then I add in about 3/4 cup ricotta cheese. If I need a little more mix, just add a little at a time to achieve right consistency. Add the rind and juice of one lemon. Cook waffles as usual. For compote, in a saucepan, heat frozen blueberries, juice and rind of one lemon, 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract and some maple syrup until thickened and reduced. Serve compote over waffles. YUM!

Never show up empty-handed to visit new parents

Rule #1 when visiting new parents: Never show up empty-handed! If you are a parent, you probably remember the craziness of the first few days and weeks home with your new bundle of joy. Or maybe you don’t remember because you were sleep deprived.

Even if you are visiting new parents and they say they don’t need anything, don’t listen. I’m sure there is something you can think of to bring them that will be helpful. Our friends had a baby boy last week and we scheduled time to visit them over the holiday weekend. We asked if they minded us coming in the morning and we’d bring breakfast. The time worked for them…and definitely worked for us and our 2-year-old’s nap schedule. And I’m guessing not too many other people ask to visit for the morning shift.

I made lasagna the day before visiting them. I made it in loaf pans, which 1) is a lot easier to store in the refrigerator or freezer, 2) quicker to reheat and 3) better for portions, especially if for two people. I also brought along frozen garlic bread for them to enjoy with the lasagna. And I’m not one to ignore dessert, so I made a chocolate truffle dessert of sorts, layering chocolate pudding, whipped cream, chocolate cake and crumbled chocolate cookies in a canning jar to make a nice little single serving dessert (of course I brought along 6 of them).

Dessert in single serving canning jars

That wasn’t all. Since we visited in the morning, we also asked if we could bring along breakfast. Who is going to turn down breakfast right? Here was the menu:

  • Nutella banana french toast (with syrup!)
  • Lemon ricotta waffles with blueberry lemon syrup
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Bacon
  • OJ

  We didn’t just bring the food, we brought everything. In visiting, I didn’t want to inconvenience the new parents by asking where this bowl or pan was and creating a disaster. I brought bowls, pans, PAM, spatulas, whisks…everything that we needed. I premade the sandwich part of the french toast, nutella and banana between two pieces of bread and put in a large zip lock bag. I mixed the eggs, milk and vanilla and brought in tupperware. I premixed the waffle batter and brought in a large tupperware. I mixed the blueberry topping and brought in a pan to cook and reduce. I mixed the eggs for scrambled eggs and put into an empty half-gallon milk carton. I cooked the bacon to just shy of being done. I brought with me and then put in microwave for 30 seconds to finish off and it was done. And we made sure not to forget maple syrup and orange juice.

It took a little time in their kitchen to finishing preparing all the eats, but most importantly, we didn’t leave a mess and everyone had full bellies!

Oh, and most importantly, the new baby is absolutely adorable…he was so happy and didn’t make a peep while the new Mommy and new Daddy enjoyed breakfast. My husband and I got to hold him and our 2-year-old was very excited to see him…a good sign since we are expecting a new little bundle in a month!

So just remember, whether you bring food, coffee, treats or flowers, never visit new parents empty-handed!