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Hi, I'm Michelle! I'm a 25-year-old health-conscious foodie living in Southeast Virginia with my husband, Edgar, our baby boy, Isaac, and our chihuahua-mutt, Maggie! I'm just trying to live and eat as well as I can.

3 Phase Paleo by the Paleo Parents!

Halfway there – 21 Day Sugar Detox

Ed and I are already halfway through our 21 Day Sugar Detox! This round has brought a few different challenges than the first did, as well as some new opportunities. You know how necessity is the mother of invention? Well, it’s something like that. Here’s how things are going so far:

Weight loss: I’ve lost what was left of my pregnancy pounds and then some. However, I met that on day 2 of the detox, so it probably had more to do with my pre-existing eating patterns.

Detox symptoms: Ed didn’t appear to have any negative reactions, but I suffered some cold/flu symptoms last week. I didn’t experience this during my first round. My best guess for this is that the first round was with the ebook guidelines, which suggested an additional starchy carb for EACH MEAL for the nursing modification, while the current guidelines only suggests a starchy carb at least once a day. I don’t have an intellectual problem with eating more starches (I normally have a moderate carb diet already), but since Ed isn’t on an energy modification, it’s usually easier just to steam up some cauliflower for both of us instead of preparing a starch source for myself in addition to everything. Thus, I’ve been eating lower carb than I normally do.

Positive reactions: Ed’s moods have improved and we’ve both been better at eating more vegetables.

Cheats?: Of course. Last week Ed ate a jelly donut at work without thinking, and when he forgot his lunch today he ate at Taco Bell, later noting that everything tasted very processed and super-sweet. My cheats have really been “bending” of the rules. For example, 2 pieces of approved fruit instead of 1, a full 16 oz of kombucha instead of 8, or level 1 approved rice at the Thai restaurant even though I’m following level 2. Today I ran out of green-tipped bananas and supplemented with my frozen overripe bananas. THAT tasted REALLY sweet! Other than that, I think the biggest cheat was the Thai restaurant. We both ordered red curry and stuck with rice, but I’m positive the sauce had sugar in it. Ah well.

Food I’m missing: Chocolate. Wooo boy.

Best detox meal: PIZZA. I made this cauliflower crust and loaded it with peppers, spinach, mushrooms, olives, Italian sausage, tomato sauce, and a FULL POUND of whole milk mozzarella. It was so beautiful I instagrammed it, and Ed said it was better than Dominos or Pizza Hut!

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Worst recipe: I’m working on a tortilla recipe. It’s still in the fail box in my mind, but I’m not giving up!

Best recipe adaptation: Alton Brown’s Shepherd’s Pie. I’ve used this recipe for my Shepherd’s Pie for years since the flavors are so spot-on, so when I was inspired to make a 21DSD-friendly meat pie, I went back to this recipe for guidance. In the end I made quite a few changes. Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb, so technically this would be closer to a Cottage Pie since I used beef. I also wanted to make my meat stretch, so I added diced mushrooms and … chicken livers! I’ve been meaning to get more organ meats into my diet, and grinding livers and adding it to ground beef is both nutritious and economical, and it makes no difference in taste. I changes a few other ingredients to be more detox-friendly, and I did make two different toppings for Ed and myself–a cauli-mash topping for him and a Japanese sweet potato topping for me!

 

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 Shepherd’s (Cottage) Pie  - (Gluten Free, Grain Free, Paleo, Primal, 21DSD, WAPF)
Adapted from Alton Brown
Serves 6

*For sweet potato topping:

2 lbs Japanese sweet potato
2 tbsp butter, ghee, tallow, or lard
1/4 cup milk type drink of your choice
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk

For cauliflower topping:

1 head cauliflower
1/4 cup chicken or beef stock
2 tbsp butter, ghee, tallow, or lard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 egg yolk

For the filling:

1 tbsp butter, ghee, tallow, or lard
1 small chopped onion
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced small
1/2 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb liver, finely diced either by hand or food processor, or ground (I used chicken, but I have it on good authority that lamb liver is great as well)
2 tbsp arrowroot flour**
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup beef or chicken stock
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp fish sauce (Red Boat brand is sugar free and therefore 21DSD-friendly)
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

If using sweet potato, peel and chop your sweet potatoes into medium chunks. In a large pot, add the chopped potatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to boil and allow to cook until potatoes pierce easily with a fork. Using either a potato masher, a food processor, or hand mixer, mash or puree the potatoes roughly. Allow to cool a bit. Add the butter, milk, salt, and egg yolk and continue to mash or puree until smooth. Some small chunks are fine.

If using cauliflower, roughly chop the cauliflower, discarding the steams and leaves. In a large or saucepan, add the stock and cauliflower and cover with a lid. Bring to boil, then lower temperature to a strong simmer. Cook until cauliflower easily pierces with a fork. Drain liquid and allow to cool a bit. Add butter, salt, pepper, and egg yolk, and puree or mash with a food processor, potato masher, or hand mixer.

Set a large saute pan over medium/medium-high heat and add butter. When melted, add onions, carrots, and mushrooms and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, for several minutes until the onions soften and become fragrant. Add ground beef and liver and allow to cook, again stirring occasionally until meat is fully cooked and incorporated. Sprinkle the arrowroot flour, salt, and pepper over top of the meat. Stir to mix into the meat, and allow to cook for several more minutes. Add the stock, tomato paste, fish sauce, rosemary, and thyme and allow to cook until the sauce has thickened somewhat, which should take about 5 more minutes. Mix in the peas and remove the pan from the heat.

In a casserole dish, pour the meat filling and then pour the topping atop the filling, using a spatula or back of a spoon to spread the topping evenly, smoothing out the edges to create something of a seal for the juices.

Place casserole dish in the oven and allow to bake for about 25-35 minutes, until topping is lightly browned. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

*Sweet potatoes are only appropriate for the energy modifications during the 21 Day Sugar Detox.

**Arrowroot flour is OK during the 21 Day Sugar Detox when used in sauce-thickening applications such as this one.

 

 

The 21-Day Sugar Detox

Tomorrow I start the 21-Day Sugar Detox.

This isn’t my first rodeo with the 21DSD. I was riding high on the sugar train at the end of my pregnancy and in my early postpartum weeks. So at one month postpartum, my sister, Katie, and I embarked on our first sugar detox. The hardcopy book wasn’t released yet, and we both used the ebook form for level 1, using the nursing modification for myself.

As difficult as the detox was at times, I rather enjoyed the “clean eating reset.” It forced me to meal plan again and actually eat real meals instead of snacking. And I did find it effective in curbing my sugar binge.

Today, I find myself living in Virginia (Yeah. Military life for ya), finally settled in our new home, and entering a new year with zero expectations of what’s to come. I’m already within two pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight, through a combination of breastfeeding and eating mostly primal, and my sugar cravings aren’t really that strong (though all I want is lots of dark chocolate!). But I have fallen back into the habit of not really preparing well-rounded meals for myself , so it’s time for another reset. I’m taking this challenge at level 2 this time, though still with the energy modifications for nursing.

I’ll update progress on this round here, and probably share some recipes or meal ideas. Here we go!

Introducing…

Isaac James Rollins

Born 7/28/2013 

7 lbs 5 oz

20.5 inches long

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Sunday, the 28th, at 37 weeks, 4 days pregnant, I slept in due to a killer sinus headache. When I finally got up at 1:30, my parents were congregating in the living room and I joined them to chat, and also began to talk to Edgar over text. I shared with all of them that I had a “feeling” that the baby was coming this week. Part of my reasoning was that while I hadn’t had any Braxton Hicks, I had felt mild menstrual-like cramps very occasionally throughout my third trimester, and I had been feeling them every night for the past week. I wondered, “could this be my body’s version of prodromal labor?” and started getting this feeling I may not even last through the weekend, though I didn’t share that specific detail with my parents or Edgar, not wanting to alarm them.

Then, while sitting there, my water broke.

Not a little bit. A LOT. Niagra Falls, a LOT. And it didn’t stop!

I jumped up and just stood there, on the laminate floor, sort of in shock, until I could gather myself to call Edgar (with whom I was still engaged in text conversation) to tell him my water broke and he needed to do whatever he needed to do to get clearance to come down here ASAP. Then I called my doula. As luck would have it, ALL THREE of her AUGUST clients went into labor the SAME WEEKEND. In fact, she was with one client at the time, who also had her water break (by the way, water breaking before the onset of labor only happens in about 10-12% of births, despite what the movies show!), and that client was also delivering at Harris, where I was to be delivering. She told me she didn’t expect me to give birth until the next morning and to keep her informed and she’d send a backup doula my way and try to share time between us. Then I called L&D to let them know I’d be coming in soon.

Since I tested Group B Strep negative and my fluid was clear, we took our time getting out the door. We secured a flight for Edgar, which would be coming in at 10pm, and gathered our things. I blew up Facebook with a status update. Two hours later as we were heading out the door, I started feeling more cramping that came and went. I knew this was really early labor and I still couldn’t time them, though halfway to the hospital, in the car, I could.

I checked into maternal observation at about 4:30, and my contractions were about two minutes apart, 30 seconds long, and still pretty mild. As luck would have it, all of L&D AND maternal observation was full! There was a running joke that there was something in the air, because just about every woman in there came in because her water broke (remember that 10-12% statistic? Hah!). I sat (on a bunch of towels) in the waiting room with my parents for about an hour before I was brought back. By that time my contractions were still 2 minutes apart and a full minute in length, and slightly stronger.

The nurse checked me and got really confused. She wasn’t sure what she was feeling, but she said it didn’t feel right. She sent for the midwife, who was at first thinking she was feeling the wrong cervix (I have uterine didelphys-double uterus with double cervix), so she checked me herself. Nope, something wasn’t right. That wasn’t a head they were feeling. The brought me to another room where they did an ultrasound and they found that my baby had somehow turned into the transverse position with his legs in some funky yoga move. One foot was tucked behind him while the other was folded in front, tucked into my pelvis, against my cervix… with the umbilical cord. Game over. With his position and the threat of a cord prolapse, there was only one way this child could come out safely, and that was a c-section.

It took a little while to process, but my doula, who managed to take a break from her other client to spend time with me, reminded me that this was one of those few instances we discussed in our childbirth classes where a cesarean was absolutely necessary. She also reminded me that it’s a very good thing that Isaac “picked his own birthday,” and that every contraction I was feeling was not in vain–they were stimulating catecholamines, amino acids that are beneficial to his immunity. I found peace in that. My next concern was that Edgar was now on a plane somewhere on a four-hour flight en route to Texas, and the chances of him arriving before the birth were now next to nil. 

It took an hour and a half to prep me for surgery. In the meantime my contractions got much stronger and started to piggyback (I learned later this often happens with malpresenting babies). My mom and doula worked with me through just about every contraction, massaging my legs, blunting the sharpness of the pain.

I was wheeled into surgery a little after 8, and at 8:31, he was here. My mom took pictures while my doula rubbed my forehead and exclaimed, “your uterus is SO COOL!” Haha! 

He had a lot of fluid in his lungs, so they had to suction him out pretty quickly, so delayed cord clamping and immediate skin-to-skin wasn’t exactly an option, but they brought me to him as soon as he was breathing and wiped down. I held him on my chest while my midwife sutured up my incisions. He was beautiful. He looked just like Edgar except that he had my lips!

I was wheeled back into L&D to recover for a little bit, and my dad arrived with Edgar in tow at about 10:45. 

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Several days later my midwife chatted with us about what she, the surgeon, and the other midwives think happened. Isaac had been faithfully in the vertex position every week, even up to my last midwife appointment two days before delivery. It’s possible that after my water broke, my second, non-pregnant uterus put pressure on the other one and encouraged him to flip with each contraction. Another thought is that the force of my membranes breaking “flushed” him into transverse. We can’t really know for sure, but that if my membranes break prematurely next time, she advises I come to the hospital right away.

She also spoke very positively of my candidacy for a VBAC, telling me that they had done a low transverse incision (most common these days) and double-layer stitched my uterus (not very common these days) to preserve its strength as much as possible. She also said that my pregnant uterus was very healthy-looking. On the other hand, she told me that my second uterus looked “rudimentary” and probably wouldn’t sustain a healthy pregnancy in the off-chance I was even able to get pregnant in that side. This isn’t exactly news to me, but it’s good to have a bit extra information about my second uterus.

While I am going to have to wait a bit longer for my natural birth, I am blessed with the healthy little boy I have now. 

Sons are a heritage from the Lord; children a reward from Him.
Psalm 127:3

He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.
Psalm 113:9

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(All photos taken by Katie Sanders Photography)

The Uncertainty Bubble

It’s been six months since my last post, and life it completely different. In six months:

* Edgar has begun and completed training at Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI. Here’s the thing–he’s still there. Due to some medical clearance complications, he is in student pool while we wade through all the protocols to get his clearance, commission, and orders. It’s been a trip, I tell ya what! And we still don’t know when he’ll get to leave.

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(Following the OCS graduation ceremony in Newport, RI)

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(Ed gifted me some newborn N-Dubs! N-Dubs of course referring to NWUs, Navy Working Uniform)

* I have moved us out of our house in Plainview. Most of our earthly belongings currently reside in a POD in Lubbock, while I have been camping out in my parents’ house in Fort Worth since May. 

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(I moved out of our house the day before the 28th week of my pregnancy)

* I’m currently 36 weeks pregnant. This pregnancy has exceeded everyone’s expectations and has had zero complications. Definitely a blessing amidst all of life’s uncertainty right now! I was told I may not make it to 34 weeks. 34 weeks came and went. I was told I may go into preterm labor. I’ll be “full term” in 3 days and my body hasn’t done anything out of the ordinary. I was told my baby may have growth restriction. My uterus has done nothing but accommodate and has been measuring LARGE with a still-quite-active baby. I was told there’s a good chance he (yes, HE!) would be breech. He was head-down until a few days before my 32 week ultrasound when he decided to somersault on me. After a weekend of inversions and frozen veggie compresses, he flipped back to vertex and has been that way ever since.

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(Baby BOY at 22w5d. He looks just like his daddy!)

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(My most recent belly shot. 36 weeks!)

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(My sister did some beautiful maternity shots for me several weeks back! She’s on Facebook. Check her out!)

I’ve been living in a bubble of uncertainty for quite some time now. Nothing really has gone “as expected.” We were expecting Edgar to graduate, come back to Plainview one last time, and move with me to Pensacola where we would set up house and prepare for our new baby, together, in the comfort of our own home. Now,  there is a makeshift nursery set up in the corner of my sister’s room, and I’ve been sharing a bed with her. We aren’t sure if Edgar will be able to make it down in time for the birth, and we have no idea when we will be able to move, and at this point we’re not even sure where we are going. 

This sort of uncertainty would devastate some people. I will admit it’s hard, and there are times where we feel more hopeless than faithful. But I also remember that it is in these moments that God teaches me His most important lessons. It has been my experience that the best decisions in life have happened when I really had no choice but to trust Him. It is also in these times that God has spoken through my husband’s sense of intuition to teach me that I can’t depend on “evidence” all the time. God will get us through. He always has. He always does. That is His promise.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength Philippians 4:12-13

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

 

What change a year has brought

 

2012 was a year of subtle, but important change. I didn’t change jobs or do anything drastic like that, like I had in 2011. 2012 was quiet and subdued for the most part, it was a year of preparation for what is to come in 2013.

 

In May, Edgar completed his double-major in Business and Music, and began a journey toward a commission in the U.S. Navy. Shortly after my last post, he received his professional recommendation, then his final select letter, then official swore in a few weeks ago. He will be leaving in a few short weeks to begin his training as a Naval officer.

Around that same time, we discovered another equally exciting pieces of news, which has turned our world upside down in the best way possible:

 

 

Baby Rollins has been given an estimated due date of 8/14/13, though given my double uterus, could be expected to come in July!

This is why I haven’t posted lately. I have been sick between the flu and morning sickness and relentless fatigue, but this week I am working to push forward through the progesterone-induced fog and get this house ready for our impending move, and revive my writing.

Sometime soon, I will go into a bit more detail of the changes I went through before getting pregnant (hint: it involves a lot of eggs and butterfat). For me, conceiving without medication or struggle, while having PCOS, was a big deal, and it deserves its own post.

 

What major change has the last year brought for you?

Soft Molasses Spice Cookies

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One of the great things about cooking and baking is that there is a limitless combination of ingredients I can use to create something delicious. I particular enjoy trying out new ingredients and using them in simple applications. My most recently ventures haven’t been yet posted on this blog. I’m not sure yet if I’m ready to share chili made with beef heart and enchiladas made with chicken liver!

In time, perhaps, but for now, I will share with you these cookies, made with a lovely grain from Ethiopia that does not oft get attention, except in certain gluten free circles. The grain is called teff, and its most authentic use is in the Ethiopian fermented flatbread called injera. It’s a very small grain, and it seems to melt into the items it is baked in. The silky flour has a mysterious, dark flavor that pairs perfectly with molasses and spice, which inspired this lightly-sweetened, warm holiday cookie.

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Soft Molasses Spice Cookies, Gluten Free
Adapted from Primal Palate
Makes about 15 cookies

1 cup (105 g) blanched almond meal/flour
3/4 cup  (95g) teff flour
1/4 cup (25 g) arrowroot flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
2 tbsp maple syrup 
1 tsp vanilla
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, except for powdered sugar.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the wet ingredients and mix until smooth. Then add in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. The dough will seems a bit like a soft taffy.

Pour some powdered sugar into a small bowl. Roll some dough into a 1/2 oz ball and toss in powdered sugar, covering the entire ball. Dust off excess powdered sugar and place on a greased or lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, leaving at least an inch of space between each cookie.

Bake 15 minutes.

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This post is in contribution to the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, hosted by Meal Planning Magic. Check out all these other great blogs!

Winter Squash & Chestnut Soup

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Today, on the very first day of October, I turned off my air conditioner and opened my windows. There’s a slight chill in the air and I’m breathing it all in deep.

It’s really starting to feel like fall here. I spotted several yellow spots on varying trees. I can probably wear long sleeves without (too much) problem. At night, I wear sweatshirts when I go outside, and we even had a fire in our fireplace a few nights ago. My Netflix movie came in today. Sleepy Hollow.

I’m so ready for this.

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I’ve been eating a lot of soup lately. It makes for a really fun fall lunch, and it makes sure that I consume more homemade bone broth. Some people can drink the stuff like water. I can’t. But in soup (or pot roast), flavorful stock is the secret to umami-filled meal.

The (other) secret to this soup is the presence of chestnuts. Chestnuts aren’t (quite) in season here yet. Plainview won’t see them until December, but my hometown of Fort Worth will probably have them by Thanksgiving. I just happened to stock up on some last Christmas, peel them, and freeze them for recipes this year. Today I decided to fish them out and use them is this delicious autumnal soup. You can use jarred chestnuts. I’ve seen those year-round in several higher-end grocery stores (Market Street, Sprouts, Central Market, etc.).

I also used acorn squash for this, but other winter squash varieties like pumpkin, butternut, or kabocha would work perfectly as well!

 

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Winter Squash & Chestnut Soup
Serves 2-4

1 tbsp butter or coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 tsp salt (if using storebought broth, stick with one teaspoon and go up from there)
1 cup peeled chestnuts
3/4-1 lb winter squash flesh, cubed
3 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup filtered water
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp fresh thyme
Yogurt, sour cream, or heavy cream for topping (optional)
Salted, toasted squash seeds for topping (optional)

Over medium-low heat, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Once melted, add onion and salt and allow onion to soften, stirring occasionally.

Add chestnuts, winter squash, and garlic to the saucepan. Continue to cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add broth, water, black pepper, coriander, and allspice together in the pot. Stir and cover with a lid. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

Turn off heat and add in fresh thyme. Carefully transfer contents of the saucepan to a blender or food processor. On low-speed, blend until smooth, approximately 3 minutes.

Pour or ladle into bowls and serve as is or topped with yogurt/sour cream/heavy cream and squash seeds.

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12 Weeks of Christmas Treats 2012

 

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Here begins the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats for 2012! Remember when I participated last year? Well it’s time again! Hard to believe it’s really twelve weeks until Christmas!

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I decided to try something new this year. Last year most of my entries for the blog hop were gluten free (the red velvet cheesecake brownies being the lone exception). This year, I will continue to make all my entries gluten free, but I will also be experimenting with some grain-free options. They are certainly not low-carb in most cases, and keep in mind, treats are treats and I will treat them as such. I make no presumption that these are “healthy,” though I do choose to use real food ingredients and keep dietary limitations in mind. When it all comes down to it, these are for pure enjoyment and seasonal celebration. As they should be!

Now let’s get on to it!

To start things off this year, we’ve got to head right into the pumpkin. And for the record, making these cupcakes required the last of my first stash of canned pumpkin for the season. One of the things I love about pumpkin is that it’s essentially pumpkin season four months out of the year. These translate well from fall right into Christmas time! The fact that I eat pumpkin year-round is entirely beside the point…

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Grain-Free Pumpkin Cupcakes

Adapted from Elana’s Pantry
Makes 1 dozen

1.5 cups raw almonds
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
3 tbsp applesauce
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp molasses
1 cup pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or combination of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor or high speed blender, combine the almonds, arrowroot, salt, and baking soda together until you get as fine of a meal as possible without turning it into weirdly seasoned almond butter. Then add all the rest of the ingredients and process for an additional 2-5 minutes. This will help smooth the mixture.

Fill a cupcake pan lined with papers with the batter, filling each cup about 2/3 full.

Bake for 20-22 minutes. I bake these for a bit longer than I do flour-based cupcakes. This helps the protein structure set a bit better, I think.

Allow to cool completely before frosting. I’ve learned that almond flour-based baked goods tend to taste better the longer they are out of the oven.

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Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick butter
1/2 package of cream cheese
1 lb powdered sugar (normal powdered sugar contained cornstarch, making this not grain-free. However, organic varieties sometimes use arrowroot in lieu of cornstarch. Or you can blend your own granulated/turbinado/coconut sugar for makeshift powdered sugar)
1 tsp vanilla

In a mixer, whip butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until soft and smooth. Then slowly add the powdered sugar until all is incorporated. Smear or pipe onto cooled cupcakes!

 

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Here are my submissions to last year’s blog hop!

Oatmeal-Apple Cookies
Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies
Nutella Cookies
Gingerbread truffles
Aztec Brownie
Orange-Cranberry Scones
Chai Cupcakes

 

 And check out all these other lovely blogs!



Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Hard Cider

 

Growing up, I didn’t eat a variety of vegetables. Most of my green vegetable consumption consisted of iceberg lettuce smothered in ranch dressing or green beans out of a can sprinkled with salt. Oh, and steamed broccoli was my side dish of choice going out. I just wasn’t exposed to much.

 

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But then I went away for college and all that changed. I ate asparagus, zucchini, artichokes, spinach. So many new foods and so many new preparations! I’m pretty sure I grew up thinking that I disliked vegetables, but now I firmly believe that one much taste a food in a variety of different preparations before concluding you actually dislike the food itself. One vegetable I think many dislike is the Brussels sprout. I don’t blame people for disliking it. It’s bitter and smells a little like gym sock, especially when steamed. But I don’t steam my Brussels sprouts. No, the tiny cabbage has become one of my favorite cruciferous vegetables (steamed broccoli with melted butter and salt still wins), but I either roast or braise mine! And when you pair Brussels sprouts with the salty savoriness of bacon and sweet tang of hard cider, you’ve got a great fall side dish! And just in time for the weather to turn cold. Smile

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Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Hard Cider

Serves 2-4

1 lb Brussels sprouts
3 large shallots, sliced
3 large rashers of bacon, chopped
1/2 bottle of hard cider
salt & pepper to taste

Heat a pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and sliced shallots and allow the bacon fat to render out and the shallots to become soft and fragrant.

In the meantime, using a knife or a slicing blade on a food processor, slice the Brussels sprouts into shreds.

When the shallots are soft and bacon fat fairly well rendered out, turn the heat up to medium-high and add the shredded sprouts. Saute for several minutes at this higher heat. When the sprouts are bright green (after about 3-5 minutes), pour in the hard cider, stir, and allow to cook down until there isn’t any cider pooling in the pan (a few more minutes). Salt and pepper to taste.

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Is there any food you disliked growing up but learned to love?

Fall Bucket List

Have you ever made a fall bucket list? I feel like I make one every year, whether I write it down or not. Fall is, of course, my favorite season. I am so obsessed with fall that I have an organized section on my video shelf that I understand to be “fall mood movies.” I eat pumpkin year-round, and I daydream about what to do the coming fall once January hits every year.

Last year, my bucket list consisted of things like, visit a corn maze (check), drink pumpkin ale (check—but still don’t like beer), and read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the Legend of Rip Van Winkle (started but didn’t finish. Is it just me or is Washington Irving painfully wordy?!). Some things, though, did not get finished and were moved to this year’s list. In this case, apple picking!

This past weekend, John and I visited our local apple orchard (Apple Country Orchards) for their annual Apple Butter Festival (sadly, Edgar had to work and could not join us). It was really just a small arts and crafts festival, but the real fun was walking through the orchards, bag or bucket in hand, picking your own apples (which can be done any day, really).

 

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The weather was perfect! We had a small cool front move through the panhandle that day, which provided a lovely, breezy snap in the air that truly invites feelings of early fall.

 

One of the things I learned on this trip was to not be so hard on myself that we have apple tree in our back yard, and even though many apples grew from them, bugs and/or birds got to them the MOMENT they were ripe, so a good percentage of them aren’t any good. Walking through the orchard made me realize that this is completely normal!

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We tried to make sure we got a good variety of apples. Apple Country Orchards raises a variety of trees so that at any given time of the year, SOMETHING is in season.

 

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In the end, we came home with ten pounds of apples between us, plus some raw apple cider (which I may or may not attempt to ferment into hard cider. It’s on my fall bucket list for this year!), and apple butter. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of apples we obtained, John and I spend yesterday evening baking up apple chips, baked stuffed apples, and Martha Stewart’s Apple-Butternut Squash soup.

This soup is pretty fantastic. It has a little spiciness that warms the back of your throat in the most comforting way possible. I won’t type out the recipe here since I followed the original pretty much to the letter, so I’ll just refer you to this link. I highly recommend you try it this fall.

 

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All these recipes and we still have 45 apples left! Do you have any suggestions for apple recipes? Also, what is on your fall bucket list?