As part of the Build a Better Me Healthy Blogging Challenge, I have been trying my best to cut down on carbs in my diet (including baked goods and chocolate– though I have to admit, I haven’t been doing so well on the chocolate front!)
Carbs and Gluten
Besides cutting down on carbs, I’m also exploring the world of gluten-free food. While I do not have Celiac Disease (as many who go gluten-free do) I do feel like I might have a mild intolerance to wheat flour. This is an important distinction because those who are dealing Celiac have an autoimmune disease, not a food allergy, sensitivity or intolerance.
Fresh Veggies and. . .Chocolate?
We already eat plenty of fresh organic veggies in our household and pretty strictly use whole foods ingredients, but when it comes to sweets — I have a serious problem. That’s why this new low carb, gluten-free lifestyle has been hard for me.
I have absolutely no problem tucking into a big salad — some homemade soup like curried carrot apple ginger, broccoli mint or butternut squash or eating broiled salmon topped with sautéed zucchini, tomato and mushroom and served with quinoa couscous and a large helping of wilted kale salad or roasted broccoli. This IS food I love.
But afterward, I crave something sweet and preferably chocolatey. Let me be clear here– I know chocolate is chock full of great stuff for you and packed with amazing health benefits but NOT when it comes loaded with sugar. So, I’d been making do with homemade hot chocolate, using Dutch cocoa, unsweetened soy, almond or coconut milk and a drizzle of honey.
But I was dying for snack– one besides a handful of almonds and a clementine. Something with a bite or chew or a crunch but something that felt distinctly naughty but most especially– chocolate-y.
Then Paleo People Granola showed up at my door — four bags of it, to be precise.
The Wait is Over
First, I should say, I’m NOT a granola person (no matter how many veggies I eat.) I like bacon and butter and chocolate– real chocolate — not those lame carob chips they stick into granola. Most granolas annoy me– they’re either too sugary sweet or they taste like cardboard. I enjoy a handful of trail mix from time to time– but it has to be the good stuff (no peanuts or raisins.) I prefer trail mixes with cashews, almonds, cranberries, cherries and of course, chocolate. But granola — Ugh! No way!
But then, the Paleo People offered to sponsor the VP bloggers in our efforts by sending us some granola. At first, I begged off, saying “Sorry, I’m going gluten-free,” but then Theresa at Food Hunter’s Guide said, “Perfect– it’s gluten-free.”
“Hmph” — no more excuse– I was in.
When I opened the box from Paleo People I was greeted with four 5 oz bags of granola. It arrived at 3pm — right between lunch and dinner. I was dying for a snack.
What flavors did they send? The requisite apple something, something with bananas (I hate those crusty banana chips!)– cappuccino (hmmm, interesting) What? Wait? What?! Cacao Nut — Cacao means chocolate. I tore into the bag — something was better than nothing. I popped a piece in my mouth, waiting for the cringe factor but then . . . bliss.
It was crunchy but not too crunchy, chewy but not raisin-y sweet and there was plenty of sweet and chocolate but not in a heavy corn syrupy way. This was awesome. This was the most awesome granola I’d ever tasted.
About this time the hubby barged in wanting to know what I gotten.
“Granola,” I answered between bites.
“Oh,” he said and turned to walk back out of the kitchen.
“No wait, it’s good. Come here, try the apple or the banana one.”
No way was he getting my chocolate.
I tore open the Cappuccino Crunch, while he eased open the Apple Crisp. The cappuccino was okay but it was no chocolate — maybe I’d gotten the only yummy bag in the bunch — but then, he smiled.
“Man, this stuff is good.”
“Yeah, try some,” he held the bag out for me.
“Ok, but that will be your bag because you’re not getting any of my chocolate . . . Well, you can have a taste.”
The Apple Crisp was great for apple — I mean, the only apple I usually like is one from a tree– not in pies or cobblers and especially not in granola– but I liked this and he LOVED it.
We both adored the Banana Nut Crunch — just yummy banana flavor — none of the crusty enamel breaking, hard chips of banana.
Neither of us liked the Cappuccino but that’s probably because it tasted like Folgers to us and NOT cappuccino. But if you’re the kind of person who likes Americanos, I bet you’ll love this one.
The hubs was in love with the apple and I could not bear to part with my chocolate (though we both did attempt sharing with our son — who favored the banana.) All was right with the world.
Anyway, Paleo People saved me — just when I needed a fix, they swooped in with their delish granola treats and made it all better. I could do this low carb, gluten-free thing (at least until the granola gave out!)
(Psst! Paleo People, if you’re listening: Send MORE granola!!)
Paleo People Giveaway
If you’re going gluten-free or are one of the many people taking part in a Paleo Diet — you’ll LOVE Paleo People but even if you’re completely unfettered by issues with carbs or gluten, I think you’ll find Paleo People Granola to be a nutritious and healthful way to snack.
Paleo People Granola is filled with “the good stuff” like:
Nuts: almonds, brazil nuts, pecans and walnuts
Fruit: raisins, apples, bananas
Seeds: flax, sunflower and pumpkin
Other good tasting, good-for-you goodies: coconut oil, cacao nibs, honey, coconut and spices.
*Wanna WIN a four pack of Paleo People for yourself? Just comment below for your chance to win.*
Winner will be chosen at random.
*Wanna increase your chances of winning? Visit the Paleo People Host Page at Food Hunters Guide to Cuisine and find out how to enter to win on all participating Virtual Potluck Blogs.*
This product was sent free for review but as always, the opinions are my own.
WINNER: Marnely Rodriguez-Murray is the winner of the Paleo People giveaway entering for her best friend, who is pregnant! Congratulations Marnely and ultimately, Joella!
Today is the day — it’s the first day, of the first event, for Virtual Potluck.
Don’t know what a Virtual Potluck is?
It’s good times, good friends and plenty of good food (or at least recipes), shared — potluck stylie (to borrow from Jamie Oliver‘s lexicon. Luv Jamie!)
The quick and dirty on us and our events is this — 100 became 20 then narrowed to 13 and finally settled at a dozen — how appropos!
A dozen passionate food bloggers linking up a network of posts, tastes and Tweets just for YOU! (Want the long version — check out the link up top for the complete Virtual Potluck story.)
Today’s event features a variety of recipes, recommendations and chit chat about Abrams Books cookbooks. To get in on all the fun visit the host page (Donna Currie of Cookistry) for today’s VP event. It will link you to each and every participating blog and give you sneak peak at what they’ll sharing with you today.
Join us at the Virtual Potluck!
But wait! That’s not all. Like every good party — it’s not just about the food, it’s about the mingling. So join us on Twitter hashtag #virtualpotluck throughout the day to whet your appetite, get your recipe card filled and your drink refreshed!
Head on over and meet my friends ~ I’ll be happy to make the introductions.
See you at the potluck!
Growing up, I was never much into squash of any kind. My mom seemed to favor zucchini and occasionally, yellow crookneck squash. She was passionate about fried zucchini (as was my middle sister) but I hated it! I didn’t mind the breading but when I got to the center and was met with the taste of squishy, squashy bitterness — ugh, I just had to pass. I remember, many a time, just eating the breading and then tucking the squash into a napkin, smooshing it smaller with each new piece added, in order to hide enough, that my mom would let me leave the dinner table. (I did something similar with the eggplant in another of my mother’s favorite dishes — eggplant parmigiana. Ick.)
The Picky Eater
Flash forward to today. I am a mom now, of a picky and precocious 3 year old. He is a child who loved his veggies before this last year — though, he was never too much into the green lettucy stuff. He used to love eating such a variety of good-for-him foods like broccoli, carrots, peas, corn, avocados, beans and sweet potatoes.
In fact, for a while we thought he was going to be a natural vegetarian because he wouldn’t eat meat (except for nitrate-free hot dogs.) But, alas those days are over and my pediatrician says it’s fairly normal for toddlers to give up the “bitterness” of veggies at this age, opting for the sweetness of fruits instead. (More TRIVIA: It has to do with our cave man survival instinct and the fact that, were we in the wild, our little ones might pluck something poisonous from a bush or vine and pop it into their mouths. Which means, at this stage in life, they are naturally averse to bitter flavors for their own protection.)
To top it all off, as much as I want him to eat his veggies, when he finally agrees to eat some (through sheer bribery or threats) I can’t stand seeing that look on his face when he’s chewing something he really hates. I know it all too well, the feeling like you might just throw up a little in your mouth. It’s at this point, I usually whisk the plate away and thank him for at least trying whatever it was.
As I wait this stage out, I can’t seem to sit idly by and give up on him getting good nutrition. I fret about it and I find ways to sneak vegetables (and even some fruits) into the handful of foods he seems hell bent on eating each and every day. Noodles, it turns out, are the king of foods (along with pizza, burritos, and tuna sandwiches) and I strike a balance by giving him whole grain brown rice noodles and Barilla’s Plus line of noodles that are full of a variety of whole grains and legumes, as well as Omega 3’s (and no they are not sponsoring my blog or paying me in any way to tout them — I just like ’em!)
So imagine my glee, when one of my favorite food bloggers (and one of my Virtual Potluck cohorts) FarmgirlGourmet posted her recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash & Brie Mac & Cheese with Smoky Bacon. It was as if the heavens had opened up and shined their golden butternutty light down upon my pasta. Yes! A new way to sneak a super healthful veg (TRIVIA: though considered veg in cooking, in actuality it’s a fruit) into my little one’s diet — and it comes on the holy grail of food for him — the noodle!
Creamy butternut mac and cheese
The dish is sweet, creamy and cheesy and was a big hit at our house. I highly recommend you head on over to her blog for that recipe and the other bountiful ways in which she has been using up the butternut squash from her garden. We ate it for dinner and lunch the next day and it only used up half of a roasted butternut squash and half of the brie and cream cheese I’d purchased, so I decided to use those ingredients again for lunch the following day for soup, baguette with brie, and a wilted kale salad.
A little bistro flair at home
This bright idea was great for mom and dad (felt like upscale bistro fare for a weekday lunch) but the kiddo was not buying into the soup (he only likes — you guessed it — noodle soup!) — which is why, I boiled up some more noodles and ladeled on some of the soup, topping it with cheddar cheese for a quick and dirty version of FarmGirl’s mac.) We paired this with some fresh strawberries for a well-rounded meal that any toddler will adore.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
- 1/2 an oven roasted butternut squash (approximately 1 to 1 1/2 pds)
- 4 oz of cream cheese
- 3 to 4 cups chicken broth (depending on consistency you like)
- 1 small onion diced carmelized in a saute pan with 1Tbsp butter
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne powder (to taste and heat you desire)
Saute the onion in butter, caramelizing it lightly. Pour into blender or food processor. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of it’s skin and into the blender, adding enough liquid to allow it to begin blending (you may need to do this in batches depending on blender or processor size.) Add the cream cheese and continue to blend, adding the additional broth as needed until the soup is smooth, creamy and the desired thickness you prefer. Then pour into a deep saucepan heating it on low, as you season to taste with cayenne and salt and pepper.
Makes 4 to 6 heaping bowls of soup. Serve with toasty baguette (we like Trader Joe’s parbaked whole grain baguette) and the wilted kale salad below for a warming taste of fall this holiday season.
Accoutrements, or in plainspeak -- sides
Super Simple Wilted Kale Salad with Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1 bunch regular, lacinto or red kale
- 1/2 to 3/4 tsp sea salt (depending on your tastes)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (you can change the vinegar to match your meal — apple works well with the squash here)
- 1/8 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano + extra for topping
Clean and destem your kale, patting it dry (with paper towels.) Cut or rip the cleaned kale into bite sized pieces or ribbons. Add olive oil and salt. Next take your freshly washed and dried hands and work the salt into the kale by grabbing handfuls and kneading the kale tightly in your fist. Continuing throughout the entire bowl of kale. After it’s all mixed and the kale has significantly reduced in size (a few minutes) add apple cider vinegar to the mix and toss. Then, let it rest for 10 to 20 minutes as you prep other items for your meal, this allows the kale to wilt, softening the leaves for easy eating and toning down the bitterness. Add freshly grated parmesan reggiano and pepper to taste, tossing to mix. Serve topped with more freshly grated parmesan reggiano.
We love this with any kind of soup or as a side dish with chicken or beef. You can also use this recipe and add it to roasted yukon gold or new potatoes tossed with a little tahini and lemon for an out of this world hearty, warm salad.