Sunday, January 25, 2015

Almond meal pancakes (low carb, dairy free, wheat-free)

We love pancakes but not all the carbs (and bloat) that go along with it. We made these pancakes last weekend, and we've been making them in double batches since!

A double batch yields 20 pancakes, and Darin and I quickly reheat these in the microwave for 1-1.5 minutes, top it off with some blueberries or sliced bananas, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Delicious and filling... and even quick enough for a pre-work breakfast. Since we each eat 2 pancakes daily, it's enough to have for the 5 business days before work... perfect.

Ingredients (for a single batch)

  • 1-1/2 cups almond flour (for homemade almond flour, see here)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk, light coconut milk, or milk (we use unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil or butter, melted (we use butter)
  • Toppings- Blueberries, sliced banana, pure maple syrup

  1. Preheat saute pan or griddle on medium heat. Lightly grease with cooking spray.
  2. While the pan heats up, mix the dry ingredients (almond flour through baking powder) in a medium bowl. Loosen any clumps.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the eggs, milk, and oil/melted butter. Mix until eggs are incorporated well.
  4. Add the liquid into the dry mixture, and mix well.
  5. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour the batter into the saute pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until bubbles form and edges are cooked. Flip and cook for 2-3 minutes on until underside is lightly browned. Repeat with remaining batter.
  6. Serve with desired toppings.
Yield: 10 pancakes

Source: Adapted from Wheat Belly Cookbook

How to... make almond flour/almond meal

Homemade almond meal (using whole almonds)

Almond meal is a great alternative (and lower carb) for flour for pancakes. You can buy almond meal/flour at your local grocery store ($$$), Trader Joe's ($$), or you can make it at home if you have a Vitamix (or similar high-powered blender).

Cost analysis of pre-made almond meal/flour
  1. Bob's Red Mill almond meal/flour ($11 for 16-oz bag; $3.66/cup)- I can find these at my local grocery store in the "organic/natural" section. The texture is more like flour (less gritty/mealy), and thus you'll need more to fill 1 cup. Great for making light pastries, like macarons
  2. Trader Joe's almond meal ($5.99 for 16-oz; $2/cup)- More gritty texture and thus less meal is needed to fill 1 cup. Great for pancakes
End result- TJ's is half as much as Bob's Red Mill; good option if you don't have a high-powdered blender to make your own (which is cheaper) 

Cost analysis of homemade almond meal/flour
Disclaimer- Will need high-powered blender like a Vitamix
  1. TJ's raw blanched slivered almonds ($3.99 for 8-oz bag; $2/cup almond meal)
  2. Costco whole almonds ($15.99 for 3# bag- made 14 cups almond meal; $1.14/cup almond meal)
End result: Whole almonds cost half as much as using TJ's slivered almonds. If you're going to take the (very little) time to make homemade almond meal, just buy whole almonds instead

so.. how do you make homemade almond meal/flour?

  • 1 cup whole or slivered almonds
  • High-powered blender (like Vitamix or Blendtec)

  1. Measure 1 cup of almonds.
  2. Add to your blender, and blend on high (speed 10) for 20-30 seconds.

  • Do not use more than 1 cup of almonds- this helps to keep an even texture
  • Do not blend more than 20-30 sec on high- too much time will turn this into almond butter
  • Use this recipe to make these delicious and easy almond meal pancakes (which are dairy free, wheat free, and low carb)

Source: Detoxinista

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Blackened Chicken with Cilantro Lime Quinoa

This was another easy weeknight dish that was easy and flavorful. We especially loved the cilantro lime quinoa!

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 tsp paprika
  • ¼ rounded tsp salt
  • ¼ rounded tsp pepper
  • ¼ rounded tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ rounded tsp onion powder
  • ¼ rounded tsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp olive oil


  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • Juice and zest from (1) lime
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped

  • Topping- Guacamole or Avocado cream sauce (recipe below)

  1. Combine all the dry seasonings in a small bowl. Mix them together and then season both sides of each chicken breast.
  2. Add the teaspoon of olive oil to a large pan or skillet. Heat the olive oil for a minute over medium/high heat. Add the chicken breasts to the pan. Cook for seven minutes on each side with the lid on.
  3. Add the chicken stock and quinoa to a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on, until all the stock has been absorbed.
  4. After the chicken breasts have cooked all the way through, remove them from the pan and let them rest for seven minutes before slicing them.
  5. Add the warm quinoa to a large bowl. Toss in the lime zest, lime juice, salt and pepper, and chopped cilantro. Mix to combine.
  6. Serve the sliced chicken breast on top of the quinoa. If you find the blackened seasoning too spicy, you can add a quick and easy avocado cream sauce to cool it down (or guacamole- yum!).
Avocado cream sauce:
Just place the flesh from an avocado along with 2 Tbsp of Greek yogurt in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Source: Adapted from Sarcastic Cooking

Paprika Chicken Thighs with Brussels Sprouts

This is, quite possibly, one of my favorite dishes I've made in a long time. The lemon adds a refreshing taste to the smoky paprika, and I loved the brussel sprouts. This dish took longer than what I would normally make on a weeknight, but it was so worth it.... and props that it is also healthy and it's all cooked in 1 dish! We paired this with seasoned black beans and cooked quinoa to round out this delicious meal.

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (or quartered if large)
  • 4 small shallots, quartered
  • 1 lemon, sliced, ends removed
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika, sweet or hot
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 4 large or 8 small bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds), skin removed and removed of visible fat (used boneless, skinless chicken thighs)


  1. Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 450°F.
  2. Combine Brussels sprouts, shallots and lemon with 2 Tbsp oil and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper on a large rimmed baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the minced garlic and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Add the paprika, thyme leaves, and the remaining 1 Tbsp oil and 1/4 tsp pepper in a small bowl. 
  4. Rub the paste all over chicken. Nestle the chicken into the Brussels sprouts.
  5. Roast on the lower rack until the Brussels sprouts are tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken without touching bone registers 165°F, 20 to 25 minutes.

Source: Adapted from Eating Well

Pioneer Woman's Pizza Sauce

I started making my own homemade pizza sauces because I could control the ingredients, it was easy, and it just tasted so much better than what you could buy at the grocery store.

I've always used this version on my blog- it's got a robust flavor, it's healthy, and it's easy! I love the chunks of diced tomatoes, but sometimes, I just want a smooth consistency. I also don't like fennel (at all), so I found this recipe by Pioneer Woman and it was a success. The crushed tomatoes give this the smooth texture I was looking for, and I adapted it to add some crushed red pepper since we like a little heat. This also freezes beautifully, so make a batch and freeze some for later.

  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, finely shopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • (3) 15-oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of sugar (I did a few pinches)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3-4 tsp dried basil (or 8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped finely)

  1. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil into a hot pan over medium heat. 
  2. Throw in the garlic and chopped onions and give them a stir. Cook until the onions are soft, 10-15 minutes. 
  3. Add the chicken broth, whisking to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Cook until the liquid reduces by half (this took 8-10 minutes)
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes and crushed red pepper, and stir to combine. 
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste and pinches of sugar. 
  6. Add the dried oregano and basil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 60 minutes.
  7. If freeze, freeze in 1/2-1 cup plastic containers. Allow it to come to room temperature, and then place them into the freezer.

Source: Adapted from Pioneer Woman

My favorite green smoothie drink

I had been wavering for year whether a Vitamix would be something I would use. I've read countless reviews, and every reviewer adores their Vitamix. This year for Christmas, I was gifted a Vitamix 750 blender. Even when I opened this gift, I was excited but thought it was too big and truly wondered how much I'd use it.

I talked to Darin about returning it, but he convinced me to keep it.... and let me tell you, I am SO HAPPY with it. I especially love this blender for its preset options. Smoothies? Just select the smoothie option- you put all your items in the blender, place the cap on top, and start it. Then you can literally walk away b/c the blender has a sensor that will turn off automatically when it has reached smoothie consistency. Another preset option is their self-clean option- you just add water into the blender, add a few drops of dishwasher detergent, cap it off, and it cleans itself.

I am not a sweet smoothie person- I like more "earthy", less sweet versions. I have tried so many recipes out there- some with Greek yogurt, others with just almond milk, some has fruit, others just had vegetables. I was hesitant to try this one- lettuce and celery? Banana, pear, and lemon?  I also didn't have half the ingredients on the list and I didn't really want to buy the produce if I didn't know I'd like it.... but it's a combination I hadn't tried before so I gave it a shot. It was refreshing, delicious (not celery/lettuce taste), and filling. I absolutely loved it!


  • 1 banana (very unripe)
  • 1 large pear or green apple
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 cup very cold water

  1. Add all ingredients into the blender. Blend until desired consistency (or use the smoothie preset option). Enjoy!

Yield: 2 servings

Source: Cella Jane

Just like Wendy's Chili

I love chili, and one of my favorite chilis (ever) is the chili from Wendy's. It's so tasty- even in the summer. There are a ton of "just like Wendy's chili" recipes on the web, and I've tried several times to re-create it to no avail. Pretty disappointing to buy all the ingredients to have it taste nothing like the original.

Darin and I had spent a relaxing and fun weekend downtown see The Tenderloins on tour, and we decided to take advantage of getting a hotel downtown by going out to brunch near the vicinity. We chose Annabel's (terrific brunch place!), and while we waited (for an hour), Darin and I were looking for Wendy's chili wannabe recipes. He chose this one, and what do you know? We both said this is as close to Wendy's chili as we'll ever have! A total winner, and quite possibly our favorite chili to date.

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs ground beef (I used 73% lean ground beef)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped fine
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • (3) 15-oz cans stewed tomatoes
  • 10-oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • (2) 8-oz cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • (2) 1.25-oz packages of chili seasoning packets (I used 1 mild and 1 hot)
  • 14-oz can of kidney beans, undrained
  • 14-oz can of pinto beans, undrained (I used spicy chili beans)
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar

  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Press ground beef into the hot oil to form 1 large patty; let the bottom brown for 8-10 minutes. 
  2. Stir and break the ground beef into crumbles and cook until no longer pink (about 5 more minutes).
  3. Stir in celery, onion, and bell pepper into the ground beef and cook until onion is translucent (15-20 minutes). 
  4. While the vegetables cook down, pour the stewed tomatoes into a large bowl. Break apart the large chunks of tomatoes. 
  5. Once the vegetables are softened, add the stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, chili seasoning packets, and beans. 
  6. Add dash of salt and black pepper. Mix all ingredients well.
  7. Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce to low and allow it to simmer for 1 hour. (We allowed it to simmer on low "2.5" setting for 2 hours.)
  8. Mix white vinegar into the chili.

Source: Adapted from All Recipes

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Mike's Hanky Panky Dip

Hanky Panky dip is one of my favorite dips at parties, especially when you can keep it warm in a slow cooker.

Every year the week before Christmas, we have an annual Christmas Potluck where my co-workers sign up to bring food for the week. And let me tell you, there is a lot of food brought and eaten that week.

Mike brought his version of Hanky Panky Dip, and it was delicious! He made a large batch (his recipe is below), and I made a smaller version for us for New Year's Eve (my version is below as well). My previous version just uses sausage, but his version uses both ground beef and sausage. I love both, and wanted to share with you his version.
This is Darin, giving his thumbs up

Mike's Hanky Panky Dip
Feeds a large crowd

  • 3 rolls spicy breakfast sausage roll (he uses Bob Evans spicy sausage roll- red package)
  • 2# ground beef
  • (2) 32-oz blocks Velveeta Cheese, cubed
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 loaves cocktail/party bread (pumpernickel, light rye), toasted
Mike's Hanky Panky Dip (scaled down version)
  • 1 roll Bob Evans spicy breakfast sausage roll (red package)
  • 1# ground beef
  • 1/2 of 32-oz block Velveeta cheese, cubed
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper (healthy dash)
  • Ground red/cayenne pepper (healthy dash)
  • Milk
  • 1-2 loaves cocktail/party bread (pumpernickel, light rye), toasted
  1. Brown the sausage and beef in a large skillet. Drain fat.
  2. Over medium-low heat, add the cubed Velveeta cheese, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper. Allow the cheese to melt slowly. (Do not turn the heat on high; it is horrible scorched!)
  3. Add ground cayenne pepper to taste. 
  4. Add milk to desired consistency- add 1-2 Tbsp at a time and stir.
  5. Serve on toasted party bread, and enjoy!
Source: Co-worker Mike
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