Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Guide to Soaking Nuts and Seeds


I, like most people, enjoy eating nuts and seeds.  They make a great, portable snack and play a big role in Paleo treats and baked goods.  What you may not be aware of, however, is that seeds and nuts contain antinutrients that wreak havoc in our intestines and digestive systems.  Grains, beans, and legumes also contain these antinutrients and are one of the reasons they are not included in the Paleo lifestyle.

I first learned about the benefits of soaking nuts and seeds from Sally Fallon's book, Nourishing Traditions.  She explains in the book how soaking nuts and seeds in a saltwater solution is crucial in removing the antinutrients present in them, particularly the phytates and enzyme inhibitors.  Both of these things greatly take away from the nutritional value of these foods. 

Soaking nuts and seeds removes and/or reduces the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, making them more nutritious and easier to digest.  Specifically, soaking initiates the sprouting process, which in turn, neutralizes enzyme inhibitors and removes phytates that are found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes. Before my family and I adopted the Paleo lifestyle, we soaked and sprouted all of our grains and beans as well.  If you do eat grains, I strongly urge you to soak and sprout them before consuming. 

But why do we want to get rid of phytates and enzyme inhibitors?  Let's start with phytates first.  Phytates do our bodies harm by blocking the absorption of minerals, like magnesium, calcium, iron, and most of all, zinc.  Phytic acid binds to these minerals, therefore preventing them from being absorbed in the intestine.  I think it goes without saying that these minerals are essential not only for strong bones and teeth, but for overall health as well.  A deficiency in any of these minerals causes a myriad of health problems, making the removal of phytic acid a necessary and critical step.

Now on to the enzyme inhibitors.  Nuts and seeds all contain enzyme inhibitors.  Nature made them this way for a reason.  Enzymes are unstable and therefore need to be kept in the seed until conditions are right, to prevent the seed from germinating prematurely.  Soaking in water sends a signal to the seed that it is time to sprout and grow into a plant.  When this happens, the enzyme inhibitors are neutralized and the beneficial enzymes, ones that are bioavailable to us, are produced.

When we eat nuts and seeds that have not been properly soaked, we are ingesting these enzyme inhibitors which then interfere with the absorption of proteins.  This leads to gastric distress and a deficiency in amino acids.  That's bad news.  It is for these reasons that properly soaked nuts and seeds are so much easier for our bodies to digest. 

Now that you know why you should soak your nuts and seeds, your next thought is probably, "But I don't have time to be soaking my nuts and seeds before eating them."  Let me tell you from personal experience, soaking nuts and seeds won't take but a moment of your time.  The actual soaking and dehydrating times, are both inactive preparations, meaning you won't have to lift a finger, in fact, you don't even have to be home while these take place! 

I know your days are busy enough as they are, and thankfully, properly soaking your nuts and seeds requires little else than a bit of forethought.  I will cover the various soaking times below, but basically all soaking entails is placing your seeds and nuts in a bowl covered with warm, filtered saltwater, and then allowing them to soak.  That's it.  Easy peasy. 

Dehydrating your soaked nuts is optional but I highly recommend it for a number of reasons.  One, as long as you dehydrate below 125 degrees, your nuts will remain raw and all their beneficial enzymes and minerals will be preserved.  Second, dehydrating the nuts returns them to their crispy state which is required for many recipes.  And last, but definitely not least, making "crispy nuts", as Sally Fallon calls them, (and how I refer to them in my recipes) taste delicious!  I think the flavor and texture are both greatly improved after soaking and dehydrating.  Besides, not many of us prefer to eat soft, wet, soggy nuts (wow, just read that back, I promise you this blog is G-rated).  Nuts and seeds are meant to be crunchy, it's part of their appeal, and dehydrating them returns them to this desired state while preserving the nutrients present in them. 

Soaking Times

Pecans & Walnuts  

  • 4 cups raw pecans or walnuts
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • warm, filtered water (enough to cover)

Soak overnight, or a minimum of 7 hours, and up to 24.
Rinse and dehydrate at 105-125 degrees for 12-24 hours or until crisp, turning occasionally.
  • 4 cups almonds
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • warm, filtered water (enough to cover)
Soak overnight or a minimum of 7 hours, and up to 24.  Rinse and sprinkle with salt/chili powder/honey/or other flavorings if desired and dehydrate at 105-125 degrees for 12-24 hours or until crisp, turning occasionally.
Macadamia Nuts
  • 4 cups raw macadamia nuts
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • warm, filtered water (enough to cover)
Soak overnight or a minimum of 7 hours, and up to 24. 
Rinse and dehydrate at 105-125 for 12-24 hours or until crisp, turning occasionally.
Pine Nuts & Hazelnuts
  • 4 cups pine nuts or hazelnuts
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • warm, filtered water (enough to cover)
Soak overnight or a minimum of 7 hours and up to 24.
Rinse and dehydrate at 105-125 degrees for 12-24 hours or until crisp, turning occasionally.
Pumpkin seeds
  • 4 cups pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • warm, filtered water (enough to cover)
Soak overnight or a minimum of 7 hours, and up to 24.
Rinse (or not, they're good salty) and dehydrate for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally.  If desired, sprinkle with salt or cayenne pepper before placing in dehydrator.

Sunflower Seeds
  •  4 cups sunflower seeds
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • warm, filtered water (enough to cover)
Soak for 7 hours.  Rinse and sprinkle with salt if desired and dehydrate at 105-125 degrees for 12-24 hours, or until crisp, turning occasionally.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Plantain Pie Pancakes

 I love using plantains.  They are incredibly versatile, lending themselves beautifully to crackers, waffles, and yes, pancakes.  I also love that they provide my boys with the starchy, complex carbs their growing bodies need, and they're perfect as a post workout snack for me. 
I am fortunate that my boys are great eaters.  Transitioning to the Paleo lifestyle wasn't an issue for them at all.  But let's be real, they're not begging for liver and onions for breakfast.  They're kids for crying out loud, a Kindergartener and a toddler to be exact, and they love pancakes!  I appreciate something other than eggs, meat, and veggies for breakfast every once in awhile as well.  I feel confident serving these pancakes for breakfast because they possess all the nutritional qualities I'm looking for in a meal.  Quality protein, healthy fats, complex carbs, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant rich spices, and delicious flavor.  Yep, these puppies have it all. 
Judging by the lovely orange hue, it looks like the chicken on the right ate a few more bugs than his friend on the left :)
 These are one of my go-to staples for breakfast.  They come together in a flash, and I always have the ingredients on hand, plus my boys are crazy for them.  There are a few Paleo pancake recipes that we enjoy, but I especially like these because they utilize a starchy fruit as their main ingredient, and not a nut flour.  It's not that I'm against using nut flours, in fact, I cook with them all the time.  But when I find a healthier alternative for a dish that we regularly eat, I'm definitely partial to it.
The addition of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg make these pancakes even more delectable.  These warm, festive spices come together to give you that unmistakable autumnal flavor. Nothing says fall more than these comforting spices.  Hence the name, Plantain Pie Pancakes.  These pancakes are divine smothered in butter and maple syrup, and they cook up super fluffy too.  After tasting these, you won't miss their gluten laden counterparts one bit.
These pancakes freeze well so I love making a big batch and storing the leftovers in the freezer.  They are perfect for those rushed mornings we have all too often in this house.  Just pop them straight from the freezer into the toaster and you'll have a great breakfast on the table in no time!



Plantain Pie Pancakes
1 ripe plantain, fully yellowed
2 eggs, preferably pastured
2-4 Tbs coconut flour*
1 Tbs coconut oil, plus more for the pan
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground ginger
pinch of sea salt
Score plantain lengthwise on all sides and then cut off both ends.  Peel off skin and slice plantain into rounds. 
Place cut plantains along with the rest of the ingredients into a food processor, and blend until fully combined and smooth.
Let batter sit for 2-3 minutes, allowing the coconut flour to soak up some of the liquid.  At this point, you will be able to determine if you need to add more flour or not.
Heat griddle over low heat.  Melt a few tablespoons of coconut oil on the griddle and using a measuring cup, pour a scant 1/4 c of pancake mixture onto hot griddle.  I like to make my pancakes small,  silver dollar size.  They are easier to flip this way and just look so darn cute! 
Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown on one side.  Flip and cook an additional 2-3 minutes, or until golden on both sides. 
Serve immediately with copious amounts of grass fed butter and pure maple syrup and enjoy!
*The amount of coconut flour you use will vary, depending on the size and ripeness of your plantain.  I always start with two heaping tablespoons, and add more as needed.  You are looking for a semi-thick pancake batter, similar to the consistency of brownie batter.  Not enough coconut flour, and your mixture will be too thin, leaving you pancakes that taste great, but are missing their fluffiness.  Too much coconut flour on the other hand, they will be too thick, and will take forever to cook through. If you do happen to add too much flour, fear not, this can be easily rectified by adding some more coconut oil, or even some coconut milk.   





Monday, September 16, 2013

Sriracha Buttered Shrimp

Sriracha and butter?!?  Are there any other two words in the English language that are capable of conjuring up such feelings of pure bliss?  Okay, I take that back.  Maybe bacon and... well, pretty much anything.  Or dark chocolate and just about anything.  All right, so, there are a few other combinations that can instantly make your salivary glands go into overdrive, but sriracha and butter is definitely at the top of that list. 


In our house, hot sauce is king.  Hubs and I love it, and pretty much put it on everything.  The classic bottle with the rooster on it has been a longstanding fixture on the shelves of our fridge, along with a bevvy of other taste bud tingling concoctions.  Since going Paleo, though, we have phased out all products with preservatives. Which meant we had to find some healthier alternatives and at lightning speed.  If there's one condiment we can't live without, it's hot sauce, in one delicious form or another. 

My fermented chili sauce has pretty much replaced all of our Cholula's, Sambal's, and Tabasco's, but I still longed for that complex flavor that only Sriracha  embodies.  Then Nom Nom Paleo, in all of her infinite Paleo godliness shared her recipe for Paleo Sriracha, and all was right in my little world.  Can you say sriracha mayo, anyone?  Yes, please!  Finally, a homemade, not to mention easy sauce, worthy enough to bear the name sriracha.  Oh ya, sriracha buttered shrimp was about to go down.

Let's face it, real food takes time and preparation.  A lot of time and prep.  That's precisely why I love easy dishes with a few simple ingredients that I can whip together in no time.  And more often than not, simplicity equates to downright deliciousness.  Between dropping kids at school, running errands, carting them between their extracurricular activities, and trying to start a business, time is a precious commodity in these parts, one that I don't have nearly enough of. 

Shrimp makes my life easier because they literally cook up in  minutes.  Plus, as an added bonus, this recipe only requires six ingredients.  Six.  Doesn't get much easier than that.  Well, okay maybe one ingredient is easier.  Or two.  But honestly, six ingredients, most of which you have in your kitchen right now, is pretty darn good if you ask me.  Not only are these shrimp quick and easy, they are absolutely scrumptious when cooked right and bathed in this awesomely sinful sauce.

I used wild Argentinan red shrimp from Trader Joe's for this dish, but any shrimp will do, just make sure it's wild.  I'll spare you the long-winded lecture, but farmed raised shrimp are one of the dirtiest foods out there.  Trust me, it is well worth the price to splurge on wild shrimp.  What I especially like about these suckers from TJ's is their flavor is slightly reminiscent of lobster, and for about a quarter of the price!  Ah yes, sriracha and butter slathered on lobster-esque shrimp makes for one happy mama.  And as we all know...when mama's happy, everyone's happy.

Sriracha Buttered Shrimp


1 lb wild shrimp
4 Tbs grass fed butter
2-4 Tbs Paleo Sriracha, or store bought (depending how much heat you like)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 Tbs parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste


Whip butter and sriracha together and add to pan over medium heat. 

Add garlic in and sauté for a minute. 

Add shrimp, and cook 2-3 minutes per side until opaque. 

Remove from heat, add lemon juice and sprinkle on parsley.  Season with salt and pepper and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Simple as that!

If you stop by Nom Nom Paleo and try her awesome sriracha sauce, please leave her a comment and let her know I sent you!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce

One of the greatest things about living a Paleo lifestyle, besides the obvious health benefits, is the opportunity it has afforded me to try new, delicious foods that I otherwise would have shied away from.  Before going Paleo, my family had never tried many of the foods we now enjoy, like plantains, liver, bone broth, and grass fed beef.  I literally felt like I had tapped into a virtual culinary goldmine once I discovered all the foods we had been missing out on.  The squash family was one of most grossly underused and under appreciated vegetables in our house.  We rarely ate squash and if we did, it was the most generic of them all, zucchini.  We now have acorn, butternut, delicata, and spaghetti squashes on a regular basis and I am in love with these gems!

Spaghetti squash had never really excited me before I ditched the grains.  When you are eating gluten filled pasta dishes, you're not usually on the hunt for a substitute.  It's been almost two years since my family and I adopted the Paleo lifestyle, and I am perfectly content without breads, pastas, and the like.  I got over those cravings fairly quickly, and now can honestly say I rarely, if ever think about having any carb type foods.  BUT, my husband likes his pastas, breads, and pancakes, so I decided it was high time to give spaghetti squash a whirl.  Plus, since my boys usually eat my world famous meat sauce on top of Portobello mushrooms, I knew they would appreciate a more noodle like vessel on which to enjoy it.  And I'm not gonna lie, the thought of having "spaghetti" sounded pretty darn good to me too.

Sometimes trying to recreate popular foods using a healthier alternative, like trying to sub squash for pasta, can fail epically.  Other times, like making coconut flour pancakes, or almond flour pizza crust, the alternatives actually far surpass their gluten laden counterparts in both taste and texture.  Now I'm not going to sit here and tell you that spaghetti squash is exactly like pasta.  Obviously it's not.  But it vastly exceeded my expectations.  I am not only absolutely in love with it, but once again found myself asking the question, "how did I live so long without trying this??"

I cut the squash in half and roasted it for about 45 minutes.  When it cooled slightly, I scraped the inside with a fork, and low and behold, I had noodles!  I tossed mine with some grass fed butter, and a generous amount of s & p and got ready to try a bite.  If I was going on looks alone, I was sure to be utterly disappointed.  The "noodles" looked bland, and their almost translucent color made them appear watery.  To my surprise, the result was quite the opposite.  One bite and I knew this was going to open up a whole new dimension to our meals.  Immediately my mind wandered to shrimp scampi, chicken fettuccini, and hubby's favorite; carbonara.  The squash was delicious just as it was, simply dressed with butter and salt and pepper, and was about to be made even better with the addition of my rockin' meat sauce. 


I was going to score some major points tonight, once my carb loving hubby had a taste of this masterpiece!  My boys, 5 and 2, were also very pleased with dinner tonight. My oldest has been eating Paleo since he was about 3 and 1/2, so he vaguely remembers pasta.  The only time he's even asked about pasta was recently when a friend at school told him their favorite dish was mac and cheese and he wanted to know if he had ever had it.  My youngest has never had grains, so he had nothing to compare this dish too, and he loves a good tomato sauce, so needless to say he was thrilled with his "spaghetti" and kept asking for "mo, mo."

Chock another one up to good 'ol Paleo for introducing me to a food I otherwise probably would have died without ever trying.  Coming from a recovering picky eater, this is huge.  I am genuinely excited and eternally grateful for the veritable smorgasbord of new flavors and foods that Paleo has exposed me to.  Question is, what new food is next?


Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce


1 medium spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
1 bell pepper, chopped ( I used yellow, but red or orange would work too!)
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5 0z) can of tomato sauce
1 (14.5 0z) can of crushed tomatoes
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 c fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing squash
2 Tbs fat of choice (bacon, olive oil, ghee...  I used bacon fat)
butter (optional)


For the squash:

Preheat oven to 375.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise with a sharp knife. I like to go all the way around on both sides, leaving the stem for last.

 Scoop out and discard the seeds (a measuring spoon with a sharp edge on it works well!)  You can also roast the seeds like pumpkin seeds if you wish.

Brush halves with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place cut side down on a roasting pan or baking sheet.

Roast for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until a easily pierced with a fork.

Remove squash from the oven and allow it to cool until it can be handled, about 4-5 minutes.   Scrape the flesh from the squash into "noodles" with a fork and place in a bowl.  If some of the strands clump together, simply separate them with your hands.

Season squash noodles with butter and a bit more salt and pepper, if desired.  Top with meat sauce and dig in!

For the meat sauce:

Brown sausage in a cast iron skillet until browned and cooked through.  Set aside.

Add 2 Tbs of fat back into skillet and set to medium heat.  Add onions, peppers, zucchini, and garlic, and cook until softened. 

Add tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, dried seasonings, bay leaf, and salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

When sauce is finished cooking, turn off heat, remove bay leaf, and add fresh basil and parsley, cooked sausage and 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt & pepper if needed.  Mix well and pour this delicious sauce over spaghetti squash noodles or anything else your little heart desires!


Friday, September 6, 2013

Spicy Poblano Burgers

Turkey burgers?!?  Say what?  Before all you burger purists out there in cyberspace start to persecute me, let the record show we are normally beef burger loyalists.  This burger blasphemy came about because my mama was visiting and she doesn't eat red meat (gasp)!  Now, I am usually not a huge fan of turkey burgers because they have very little fat, which translates to lack of flavor and juiciness.  The key to making a delectable turkey burger worthy of winning a place in your dinner rotation rests on a few things. 

First off, you don't want to overwork the meat or overcook the patties.  Second, you have to impart as much flavor as possible into those patties before cooking.  It also helps to prepare the patties at least a few hours in advance, to not only let the patties set up nicely, but to allow the flavors to fully penetrate the meat.


It's no secret that my family and I are big fans of Mexican cuisine.  I could probably eat it everyday without tiring of it.  So when I was faced with the task of making turkey burgers that wouldn't incite sighs and complaints from my beef loving spouse, I knew I had to add a spicy, southwest flair to them. 

I picked up beautiful, plump poblano peppers at the Farmer's Market this week and knew instantly I would be roasting those beauties and adorning my burgers with these flavorful peppers.  Roasted poblanos add a wonderful depth of flavor to these burgers, and complement all the southwest flavors perfectly.  Topped with avocado, and served with my Spicy Southwest Slaw, this is a seriously scrumptious dinner, and while it will never replace a juicy beef burger, it definitely deserves a repeat performance at our dinner table.

My family follows the Paleo lifestyle, which means we don't consume grains, so our burgers are served in a lettuce wrap, or simply eaten with a knife and fork.  If you are craving some kind of bread, this recipe for Paleo hamburger buns looks divine, but I have yet to try it. If you do make these, leave me a comment and let me know how they turned out! And if you follow a Paleo diet, but include dairy, these Oopsie rolls are easy and delicious.  Surprisingly enough, my husband misses bread more than my two boys.  I find that I don't even crave it anymore, although I do enjoy Paleo baked goods, 'cause sometimes you just need something "bready"!

Spicy Poblano Turkey Burgers

1 lb ground turkey meat
4 roasted poblano peppers
1/4 red onion, diced
3 Tbs cilantro, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Optional, but highly recommended add-ons:

avocado or guacamole
sliced red onion
chipotle mayo


For the peppers:

There are a couple different ways to roast poblano peppers.  In the oven, turn your broiler to high.  Place whole pepper on a baking sheet and roast for about 10-15, turning the pepper every few minutes, until the whole thing is blistered. 

On the stovetop, place pepper directly on a burner set to medium.  Turn frequently, until the entire skin of the pepper is blackened and blistered.

Whichever method you choose, the next step is the same.  After the pepper is roasted, place it in a paper bag and fold down the top.  This allows the hot pepper to steam, and makes removing the skin a breeze.  Once the pepper has cooled in the bag, remove it and rub off the skin with your fingers or a paper towel.  It should come off effortlessly.

Cut off the stem and remove the ribs and seeds.  Cut in half or put the whole darn thing on top of your burger!

For the burger:

Put ground turkey in a large bowl and add chopped red onion, cilantro, and all the seasonings.

Form 4 patties, taking care not to overwork the meat.

Cover and place in refrigerator for at least an hour, all day if you can manage it!

Preheat a grill pan on medium-high.  I rubbed a little bacon fat on mine, to prevent sticking because bacon fat rules!  Cook patties 4-5 minutes per side, or until browned and cooked through.

Top with roasted poblano peppers, and any other add-ons you desire!  I used lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, and guacamole on mine, hubby added a slice of pepperjack cheese (cause he's a Paleo rebel like that)!

Serve alongside a hefty side of my Spicy Southwest Slaw and I promise you'll be a turkey burger convert like us!