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Chocolate Spiced Walnut Butter

Chocolate Spiced Walnut Butter

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Ah, fall. Finding its way down the block, leaves fluttering by with big gusts of strangely warm wind. Hey, I’ll take it. Now that we’re in November, even as it isn’t icy cold yet (thank you, Minnesota), I’m still drawn more and more to warming, cozy foods. Quarts of chicken stock? Check. A large sheet tray of roasted sweet potatoes? Oh, behave. Naturally, a freshly ground walnut butter is next in line, right? Sure.

Today’s flavors are inspired by “Mexican” hot chocolate, or at least, the general idea as found in the United States today. Chocolate, chiles, cinnamon and a healthy pinch of sea salt for good measure, all throw in the food processor with toasted and still warm walnuts. It really isn’t too bad, if I do say so myself.

Chocolate Spiced Walnut Butter
1.5 cups walnuts
1/4 cup coconut oil (if you have a high powered blender, you may omit or use less coconut oil)
up to 1/4 cup sweetener of your choice (raw honey, maple syrup or even a few dates thrown in would do the trick)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more or less depending on how spicy you’d like this to be!)

In a medium saute pan over medium heat, gently toast the walnuts, stirring frequently so they don’t burn, about 5 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly. In a food processor or blender (or, high powered blender, you lucky creature), combine all ingredients (omitting or using less coconut oil if you have that high powered blender). Allow to process until your desired consistency, scraping the edges of the processor or blender as needed–roughly 3 minutes or so. Take a spoonful now and revel in your creation. Makes about 1 cup of walnut butter.

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Stone Fruit Compotes

Stone Fruit Compotes

compotetrio1000from left to right: nectarine & chile, pear & thyme, peach & ginger

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…oh, and pear, too! According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, eating stewed stone fruit is a very good healthy (and delicious) endeavor this fall. Amy K Acupuncture discusses the details in her newest blog post, Acupuncture Tips for Staying Healthy this Fall. Amy and I created three recipes for you to try out this fall; pear and thyme, nectarine and chile, and peach and ginger. All of these are warming to your body in their own way. And aside from the fruit, it’s likely you have the majority of the ingredients in your cupboards! Perhaps now is the time to go out, grab a stone fruit or two and get compote-y!

Pear Thyme Compote
3 pears, seeds removed
juice from ½ a lemon
1 teaspoon dried thyme (1 tablespoon if using fresh herb)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon water
zest from ½ a lemon (add after cooking)

Peach Ginger Compote
3 large peaches, pitted
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons water

Nectarine Chile Compote
3 nectarines, pitted
1 teaspoon fresh red chili, seeds removed and diced
pinch of clove powder
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder (add after cooking)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (add after cooking)

Choose the recipe you wish to use, then chop your fruit into one inch cubes and combine all following ingredients (except those stating they should be added after cooking). Cook in a medium pot with the lid on over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. After, remove the lid and continue to cook the fruit as it softens for about another 10 minutes; use a masher to work the compote into the texture you desire. Depending on the ripeness of your fruit, the total cooking time can be between 20 to 30 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and add in any final ingredients, per the recipe. Allow to cool slightly, then serve however you see fit. These compotes work in both savory and sweet dishes, such as dolloped onto bowlfuls of yogurt, served alongside grilled or roasted meats, stirred into porridge, or simply a few big spoonfuls straight. Each recipe serves 6-8.

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Banana Ice Cream with Salted Bacon Fudge Sauce

Banana Ice Cream with Salted Bacon Fudge Sauce

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Because. Because because. Because it is summer, because it is hot and humid, because you’ve been freezing those too-brown bananas and saving the fat after cooking bacon, right? Phew!

Banana Ice Cream
3 bananas, frozen, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a food processor, combine all ingredients. Pulse a few times then allow to blend until smooth. You may need to stop the processor and push down the ice cream around the edges a few times as well.

Salted Bacon Fudge Sauce
1/4 cup 70% (or higher) dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut milk
2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a double-boiler (a small bowl set over a small pot with few inches of water boiling but not touching the bottom of the bowl), melt the chocolate while stirring gently. Once melted, add the rest of the ingredients and continue stirring until all ingredients are well incorporated. Allow to cool for a minute or so while plating (or… or bowling, really) your ice cream. Generously pour the salted fudge sauce over each bowlful. And of course, crumbled crispy bacon bits and banana chips are utterly implied as toppings for this dessert. Who do you think I am? Serves 2. Make it romantic.

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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Here’s the kicker about labeling the way you eat to align with a certain dietary prescription… at some point it could very likely stop making sense. All of a sudden, your label needs these little asides and qualifiers. And when you don’t eat something that fits neatly into the equation, then there’s the whole mental piece. And there’s a social piece. And of course, the physical piece. My context is this: I am currently egg-free, nut-free and (for the most part. Ah, there go the qualifiers again!) dairy-free. For a few weeks I was coffee-free and chocolate-free. What a blissful period! And then came my life, in full swing. I think I’m currently grooving on dietary individuality and the liberation from claiming… anything. And this isn’t to kick any method of eating to the ground, oh no. I think growth and knowledge both stem from identifying the foods you eat, negative, neutral and positive. I could go down the rabbit hole of thoughts and feelings on exclusion and inclusion, long-term and short-term regarding food choices. I’ll save that for anyone willing to listen.

Anyway! For all ye looking for a baking project that is dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free (though not technically grain-free), soy-free and nut-free, this is for you. It can be vegan, and definitely vegetarian. It’s not really paleo (hello, oats). It’s almost primal (hello, oats?). It’s really quite tasty.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

1/2 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
1 cup ground oats (certified gluten-free if you need)
1 tablespoon psyllium seed husks (find in the spice and bulk at your local co-op)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup bananas, mashed
1/2 cup honey (or maple syrup. Feel free to lower the amount of sweetener if you prefer)
1/4 cup coconut oil (or fat of your choice; butter also works!)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup chocolate chips (of any sort; if you’re truly dairy-free, then a brand that respects that. Also, these are optional. Also, you could put in a 1/2 cup of whatever floats your boat! Chopped nuts, seeds, berries…)

Preheat oven to 375. Grease your muffin tray (or line with muffin cups). Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix all wet ingredients. Pour wet into the dry and gently stir until just combined. Add chocolate chips if using. Allow to sit for a few minutes to let the psyllium seed husk do it’s thang (read: it’s like, pure fiber, so it’s sucking up all the wet ingredients! Also, keep this in mind when you decide to eat more than just a few!) Dollop muffin batter into your prepared muffin tin, then bake for 18 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

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Fresh Ginger Applesauce

Fresh Ginger Applesauce

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Mealy, spotty and beat up apples. I won’t tell you how much money I shelled out for a bag of organic apples only to be disappointed by the poor taste and texture. Bummer yuck! Anyway, little brother (well, little is ironic seeing as how he’s 6’5″) suggested applesauce and this Sunday I did just that. Oh, how it had much too long since I’d made applesauce! Can I call up all the local co-ops and ask for their worst apples? Could I get them free if they have a worm or two in ’em? Because bad apples make the best applesauce.

Fresh Ginger Applesauce
3 pounds apples, peeled cored and chopped into big hunks
1 cup water
3 inches fresh ginger, finely grated
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a large stock pot over medium heat, add the apples and water. Cover and allow to simmer and soften for about 30 minutes. Mash in the pot with a potato masher or immersion blender, or allow to cool a bit and blend to a smooth puree in a food processor or blender. Allow to cool completely. Meanwhile, squeeze the grated ginger into a bowl. Combine the ginger juice and vanilla extract into the room temperature applesauce. Now, for the spoon. Serves 6-8.

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Five Spice Butternut Squash

Five Spice Butternut Squash

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It really is amazing; in almost every recipe I post I end up writing about the weather. Add this one to the list, then. The warm and invigorating pureed squash still fits the winter bill, and the lard is in there for a reason (though, no fear… it will be still be delicious no matter which fat you choose if lard isn’t an option). I, for one, have felt the effects of this dark winter. With every day that brings one more bright minute to the evening, I feel my spirits lift. I realize my priorities have fallen to the wayside, and hey–I need to practice what I preach. Translation: I’m going to eat my vitamin D (copious, fat-soluable amounts found within the precious lard!) while standing outside in the sunny snow with as much skin as I can possibly bare, because I think my body is telling me that D is nowhere to be found and it’s been getting me down. Another reason I have affectionately nicknamed my rendered lard liquid sunshine. It’s golden.

Five Spice Butternut Squash
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds scooped out and chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon five spice powder (recipe below)
3 tablespoons lard (or fat of your choice–butter, coconut oil, palm oil, heck, even bacon fat)
1.5 teaspoons sea salt
additional black pepper/cayenne to taste (optional)

Fill a large pot with a few inches of water. If using a steam basket, place in the pot and dump all the squash cubes on top. If not, place squash cubes directly into the water–you’re trying to steam, not boil, so the least amount of water directly on the squash is best. Cook, covered, over medium-high heat, until the squash is very soft, about ten minutes. Transfer squash to a food processor and add the remaining ingredients. Blend until quite smooth. Serve with additional spices and heat sources on top. Serves 4-6 as a side.

Five Spice Powder
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
5 star anise or 2 teaspoons anise seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons whole black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cloves or 4 whole cloves.

Combine all ingredients in a spice (or cleaned out coffee) grinder. Blend to a fine powder. Makes more than the recipe above calls for, so store in a cool cupboard with your growing collection of spices!

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Almond Flour

Almond Flour

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Homemade almond flour… sounds like intense kitchen work, right? Intensely satisfying! Intensely easy! Intensely inexpensive! How’s that for intense? Though I will say I think the only intense thing about almond flour, or any flour, is the ease in which one may eat it. So, take care of your little stomachs, and if you are sensitive like me, perhaps stray away from nut flours. But try this once, or twice, and know that you wield the ability to make any nut or seed flour you choose.

Almond Flour
2 cups almonds, soaked at least 8 hours in 4 cups water

If using your oven, preheat to 200. If using your dehydrator, get it out from under the shoes in your closet. Drain and rinse soaked almonds. Proceed to make almond milk. Save the strained almond pulp in your dishcloth. On either a baking tray or dehydrator tray evenly distribute the pulp. If using your oven, turn off and allow the almond meal to sit and dry out over night. If using the dehydrator, set to 145 degrees and let dry for 4-8 hours, or over night. Regrind in a food processor for a fine texture, then store in an airtight container in a cool cupboard or your freezer. Makes approximately 1.5-2 cups of almond flour.

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Almond Milk

Almond Milk

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It takes just a little planning, baby. Feel free to be crunchy, hip, healthy, indulgent, cost-effective, nuts, it’s up to you. All I know is that making nut and seed milk is easy breezy.

Almond Milk
2 cups raw almonds (or any nut or seed you desire)
4 cups water (for soaking)
8 cups water (for blending, preferably filtered)
sweetener such as honey or maple syrup (optional, and amounts will depend on your desired level of sweetness)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

In a large bowl, combine almonds and water. Allow to sit for 8 hours or overnight. Drain soaking water, rinse the almonds, then place one cup of almonds in the blender (you’ll do this in two batches). Add 4 cups filtered water. Blend on high (with your hand keeping the lid on your blender!) for two minutes. Place a clean dishcloth or cheesecloth over the rinsed and clean large bowl and pour the blended almond water in. Slowly gather the edges of the cloth and begin to twist, only allowing the strained liquid into the bowl. Remove the nut pulp and reserve to make almond flour. Repeat this process with your second cup of soaked almonds and remaining 4 cups of water. Taste, and add the optional sweetener and vanilla extract. Though you very well may need to skip that step, this stuff is darn tasty in its solitude. Makes 8 cups.

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Bananas Foster Bread

Bananas Foster Bread

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Until this loaf, I considered banana bread without chocolate chips or chocolate of some kind complete blasphemy. And really, they do go so well together. And really, I will always enjoys a little choco-banana blend. And really, why change something that’s so right? Making a dire situation a wee bit sweeter, the lack of chocolate in my house fostered some non-theobromined creativity… so never fear… browned butter sauce is here! And quite frankly, it’s alluding to some darn fine Bananas Foster, if I do say so myself. Now your dear banana bread is dunkable. In the kind, kind words of some well known life philosophers… how do you treat yo self?

Bananas Foster Bread
3 large and very ripe bananas
1/3 cup butter (or coconut oil), melted
4 eggs
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom of a medium=sized load pan with parchment paper. Combine bananas, melted butter and eggs in a food processor (or by hand for delicious texture) for a smooth batter. Once combined, add remaining ingredients and blend until combined. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes, covering with foil for the last 10 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan, then remove, slice and prepare to pour generously:

Browned Butter Run Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey (or maple syrup)
2 tablespoons rum (or whiskey. I used whiskey, but rum is classic for those Fosters)

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Allow to melt, while stirring gently, until the butter smells nutty and has browned slightly. Add in the honey and rum while continuing to stir and cook for another minute until sticky and saucy. You may light this sauce on fire.

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Herbal Gummies

Herbal Gummies

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Another sweet post. While I often try to let the vegetable, meat or whatever it is I’m posting about show its own beauty, I feel I must pump gelatin up a bit. If I told you eating some of these directly benefits the elasticity of your skin (re: cellulite, though I’m a fan of people loving the stretch mark-y, dimply skin they’re in), strength of your hair, nails and teeth and reduces inflammation of painful, achy joints, would you pop a few penguins down? If I told you it heals your intestinal tract and aides your body in healing its wounds, would you come make a batch with me?

Herbal Gummies
Adapted from Balanced Bites’s Practical Paleo

2 cups water
1.5 tablespoons grass-fed gelatin
2 bags herbal tea of your choice (try rooibas, hibiscus, or berry for starters)
1.5 tablespoons honey (or sweetener of your choice, you can also add less)

Bring one cup of water up to a boil. Meanwhile, pour the tablespoon of gelatin over the remaining unheated water. Steep the bags of tea in the hot water for 3-4 minutes, remove bags and combine the hot and cold water. Add honey and mix all ingredients. Pour into a shallow dish, ice cube trays or mold(s) of your choice and allow to set up in the fridge for approximately 1 hour. Serves 4.

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