Dragonfruit Dream Smoothie (vegan + gluten free)

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Ever since I did the Medical Medium’s 3-6-9 Liver Rescue Detox a few months ago I have been obsessed with dragonfruit. I love it for its mild berry-like flavor, its potent antioxidant content, its liver-supportive properties and honestly, most of all, its gorgeous color! To beat the heat over the weekend I made up this fruity smoothie and we loved the combo so much that I had to share. It’s a refreshing mix of sweet + tart, it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber and it’s anti-inflammatory to boot. Yes, please!

INGREDIENTS

1 packet frozen purple dragonfruit (you can also use fresh if available)

1 cup frozen mango

1/2 cup frozen strawberries 

1/2-1 inch chunk ginger

Squeeze of fresh lime

1/2 cup water

DIRECTIONS

Break apart the dragonfruit in the packet before emptying contents into your blender cup. Add the remaining ingredients and puree on high until smooth. Add more water to help it blend, if needed. Pour into your favorite cup and enjoy! Serves 2-4.

Banana Walnut Bread (gluten free & vegan)

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I had a major craving for banana bread the other day, but didn’t have a recipe that I love so I checked out my go-to site for gluten free baked goods, Sarah Bakes Gluten Free. I didn’t have all of the ingredients that her recipe calls for so I did a little experiment with what I had on hand, made a few adjustments and voilå- it worked! I used Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour because that’s all I had in my pantry. I also used organic vegetable shortening to keep the bread as light in texture as possible- not always so easy when baking both gluten free and vegan. Unlike most gluten free breads, my recipe does not call for xanthan gum which can be irritating to the gut and cause bloating and stomach upset. I enjoyed a couple pieces with some Irish butter and it really hit the spot!

P.S. While this recipe is both gluten free and vegan, I wouldn’t say that it’s 100% healthy. It’s definitely healthier than traditional recipes which call for refined sugar, but I recommend enjoying it as a treat- in moderation and after you’ve already balanced your blood sugar with a proper meal.

INGREDIENTS

Dry Ingredients:

1 1/4 c brown rice flour

3/4 c tapioca starch

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients:

1/2 c coconut sugar

2 tsp vanilla

3 medium bananas, mashed

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 tbsp water

1/4 c coconut milk drink, room temp

1/4 c organic vegetable shortening, melted

Stir in at the very end:

1/2 c walnuts, chopped

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 square Pyrex baking dish with parchment paper.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl, breaking up any clumps.

Stir wet ingredients together in a large bowl until smooth.

Pour dry ingredients into wet mixture and stir until combined.

Stir in walnuts.

Pour into 8x8 glass baking dish lined w parchment. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the top is slightly cracked and lightly browned.

Allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing.

Store in an airtight container.

Perfect Balsamic Vinaigrette (gluten free, vegan)

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One of my favorite ways to make sure that I get enough veggies everyday is by keeping a big box of pre-washed salad greens in my fridge (arugula and baby kale are our go-to’s) along with a jar of yummy homemade dressing. I made this (perfect) balsamic vinaigrette last week and I have been loving it drizzled over a bed of greens, chopped cucumber, red bell peppers, fresh cilantro (my favorite) and organic turkey. Sometimes I throw some organic Kingdom white cheddar on there too if I’m feeling bold (I buy it at Costco). This dressing is tangy, slightly sweet and whips up in the blender in a matter of seconds. Enjoy it on both raw and cooked veggies, tossed with garbanzos and fresh herbs, or as a marinade for meat or tofu.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 clove garlic

1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt

1 tsp fresh lemon zest

5 turns of the pepper mill 

DIRECTIONS

Place all ingredients into the blender and process until completely smooth. Store in a tightly covered glass jar in the fridge.

Liver Lovin' Quinoa Salad

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Refreshing and light, you’ll love this summer salad and so will your liver! Cucumber, artichoke, parsley, arugula and lemon boast impressive liver cleansing properties and are delicious to boot. The red bell pepper adds crunch and brightness, and fluffy quinoa brings it all together into a yummy, easy to pack dish that is perfect for sharing at a BBQ or taking to work for lunch. Add chickpeas, diced roasted chicken or feta cheese for a protein boost. Kalamata olives and cherry tomatoes would be fun additions as well. Here’s to summertime ~ Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

1 cup dry quinoa

1 1/4 cup Japanese cucumber, diced small 

1 cup red bell pepper, diced small

1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts in water, drained completely and quartered

1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

2 large handfuls of baby arugula


Dressing:

2 tbsp EVOO

Juice of one medium lemon

Zest of one medium lemon

1/4-1/2 tsp Himalayan pink salt (I used 1/2 tsp to really bring out the flavors)

A few turns of the pepper mill

One small-medium garlic clove, Microplaned or crushed

DIRECTIONS

  1. Rinse and drain the quinoa. Add quinoa to a medium saucepan with 1 3/4 cup water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover. Let cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork and transfer to a flat dish to cool.

  2. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare your veggies and make the dressing.

  3. Once the quinoa has cooled, place the quinoa and all of the veggies EXCEPT for the arugula into a large mixing bowl and toss to mix. Drizzle about 3/4 of the dressing over the quinoa and veggies and mix until combined.

  4. Add the arugula and toss gently to coat.

  5. Do a taste test and add more dressing if desired.

  6. Best served at room temperature, but straight out of the fridge works too!

Note: If you add chicken or chickpeas, you’ll need to add more salt and maybe more dressing otherwise your proteins will be bland.


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Garlicky Chickpeas with Artichokes & Greens (gluten free, dairy free)

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I’ve been making a version of this dish for many years, and what goes into it often depends on my mood and truthfully, whatever ingredients I have on hand. Before we had kids Ben and I would eat it over pasta with lots of freshly grated parmesan, and then we ditched the cheese and pasta and it became our favorite thing to take to the beach when we moved to Hawaii. Lately It’s been one of my go-to dishes for potlucks, and a couple of weekends ago I think it reached a new level when I was making it to take to a friend’s house and discovered that I only had one can of chickpeas (gasp!). So I tossed in quartered artichoke hearts and I have to say that the addition of those liver-healthy nuggets inspired some pretty amazing mouth-sounds from the hostess. True to form I used kale as my greens and added plenty of chopped up bacon, but you can use any hearty green or even spinach and omit the bacon to make this 100% plant based. I usually employ canned organic chickpeas for this recipe because it’s often a last minute deal, but feel free to use homemade beans instead. Either way, I hope you try it and love it!

INGREDIENTS:

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

One 14 oz can garbanzo beans rinsed and drained (go for organic and look for a BPA free can) or about 2 cups cooked

4 large cloves garlic, minced

Zest of one lemon

1/4 -1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (to taste)

2-3 big handfuls chopped kale, collards, or spinach

6-8 slices of nitrate & nitrite free bacon, cooked until crispy and chopped (omit for plant based)

1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, water drained and hearts quartered

1/4 cup each of chopped fresh cilantro and fresh parsley

Juice of one lemon

1/2 tsp-1 tsp Himalayan pink salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the garbanzo beans and the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until the garlic is fragrant but not burned.

Add the lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and chopped greens and saute until the greens have wilted.

Stir in the artichoke hearts and bacon and toss gently to combine, allowing the artichoke hearts to warm through. Turn off the heat.

Add the fresh herbs, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Toss gently to combine and do a taste test. Add more extra virgin olive oil if it’s too tart or too dry. Adjust the salt or red pepper flakes if you want more of a punch. This recipe is really delicious and packs a ton of flavor, so if you’re not feeling it then make whatever alterations you need to really love it! Serve warm or at room temperature.

Grannies, Beets & Lacinato Kale Salad (vegan, paleo)

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One of my favorite things about the summer season is getting together with family and friends, and all of the delicious food that goes along with it!  I love having a few go-to salads in my back pocket for picnics and barbeques that I know I can execute perfectly, even at the last minute.  This Beet, Kale, and Granny Smith Apple Salad features crisp, fresh flavors that are just perfect for a hot summer day.  Roasting the beets really brings out their sweetness, and my tangy Honey Mustard Dressing ties everything together into perfect harmony.  You can easily make this ahead of time by prepping each component separately a day or two in advance, and then just toss everything together right before serving.

INGREDIENTS:

Honey Mustard Dressing:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 tbsp Dijon or stone ground mustard

3 tsp honey

1/4 tsp salt- more or less to taste

5 turns of the pepper mill

1/2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender, or whisk by hand, and set aside.  This dressing can be made several days in advance, and stored in an airtight container or mason jar in the fridge.

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For the salad:

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, for roasting the beets

1/4 tsp sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 large or 2 small red beets, peeled and thinly sliced into 1/4 inch thick half rounds

1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 bunch of Lacinato kale or green curly kale, ribs removed

1/4 cup Honey Mustard Dressing

Start by tossing your sliced beets in the extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and a little freshly ground black pepper.  Make sure each piece is well coated, then arrange the beets in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  If you are using a large beet, you may want to cut the half moons into quarters, so that the pieces aren't too big. Roast the beets at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until fork-tender.  Remove from the oven, and let cool while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.

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Whether you are using Lacinato kale, or regular curly kale, you’ll want to first rinse the leaves well, checking for any little critters that might be hiding on the back of the stalks.  Shake off the excess water, then remove the tough ribs.  Discard the ribs, roughly the chop the leaves into bite sized pieces, and place the cut kale in a large mixing bowl.  If you have a lot of excess water left on the kale, you can pass it through a salad spinner or use a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to remove the water.

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Drizzle the kale with 1/4 cup of your prepared dressing, then get your hands in there and gently massage the leaves to break down the tough fibers.  Add in the chopped apple, toss to combine, then add in the cooled roasted beets, and toss again, making sure that the beets and apples are well coated with the dressing.  You can add more dressing to the mix if necessary.

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Do a taste test, and add more dressing, lemon juice, or seasoning if needed.  Enjoy immediately, or cover tightly, and store in the fridge for later.  If you want to make this salad a day ahead of time, I recommend tossing the cut apples in a little bit of lemon juice to prevent them from browning.  To preserve the crispness of the kale and the apples, I would prep and store each component separately, then assemble the salad right before serving, to prevent the kale from getting soggy.

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I hope you love this salad as much as I do!

With Aloha,

Fauzia

Fauzia’s Everything’s Good Energy Bars (vegan, paleo)

I love these bars for so many reasons.  They are healthy and delicious, and full of fiber, protein, healthy fats, minerals, and dark CHOCOLATE!  I call them Everything's Good Bars because everything in them is good for you, and they serve as a little reminder that life is good.  These guilt-free gems take less than 10 minutes to whip up, and make a perfect breakfast on the go, or a nutritious snack for anytime of the day. Feel free to switch up the ingredients to suit your personal taste. Walnuts, ground flax seeds, dried cranberries, unsalted pistachios, and sunflower seeds would be great additions.

INGREDIENTS

8 large Medjool dates, pitted

1/2 cup raw pecans

1/2 cup almond flour, or 1/2 cup raw almonds

1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds

2 tbsp chia seeds

1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 tbsp unrefined coconut oil

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/3 cup 63% or higher dark chocolate chips (add these at the very end)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Line a standard loaf pan with parchment or waxed paper, leaving an excess on at least 2 sides so that you can lift the set bars out of the dish before slicing.

2. Place all ingredients except for the chocolate chips in a standard size food processor (mini food processors aren’t big enough for this recipe, and a blender doesn’t quite do the job).

3. Turn on and process for about 3 minutes, until it starts to come together to form a dough.If you are using whole nuts like almonds or pistachios, I recommend running those through the food processor alone to chop them up before adding the rest of the ingredients. 

4. Add in the dark chocolate chips, and pulse 3 times to incorporate, but don’t over mix.

5. Turn the mixture out into the lined dish, and press the dough down gently with your fingers until it is mostly uniform and even.

6. Gently press a clean paper towel on the top of the dough to absorb the excess coconut oil that has collected on the top of the pressed mixture.

7. Place in the freezer for an 30 minutes to an hour for a quick set, or in the fridge for 2 or more hours. 

8. Remove the entire bar slab by pulling up the sides of the parchment or waxed paper.Place on a cutting board and use a large knife to cut into bars or squares, and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, although I doubt they will last that long!  They are best served cold, especially in a warm climate.  Keep them close to a cold pack while you're out and about, and you'll be set.

Cannellini, Bacon & Veggie Soup (gluten free, dairy free)

I made this super yummy soup last night for dinner, and I thought I would take a photo of it and share the recipe before I polish off the leftovers for breakfast this morning (I'm eating as I write!).  The boys and I met up with some friends at the beach yesterday while Ben stayed home for some downtime, and as we were driving home at 5 pm I had no idea what we were going to have for dinner.  I remembered that I had recently bought a couple of cans of cannellini beans, and that we still had weekend bacon in the fridge plus leftover fresh rosemary from Thanksgiving, and a big mason jar of homemade chicken stock waiting to be used up.  It seemed like the beginnings of a great soup, and since it's been "chilly" here lately, it just seemed appropriate to make something warm and comforting to eat.  It's healthy, hearty, and full of that umami flavor that I just love.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we did, and if you have any leftovers, it really is a delicious way to start the day.

INGREDIENTS

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced

5 stalks organic celery, diced

3 medium organic carrots, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

5 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 small orange flesh sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes

3 cups organic chicken stock

1 cup water

1 cup finely chopped organic Lacinato kale

1 tsp dried thyme

2 cans organic cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well

6 slices thick nitrate-free bacon, cooked until crispy, then chopped

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

1-2 tsp Himalayan pink salt

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium low heat and saute onions until they start to brown.

  2. Add the celery, carrots, garlic, rosemary, and sweet potato and saute for another 5-7 minutes.

  3. Add the chicken stock, water, kale, and dried thyme. Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

  4. Stir in the cannellini beans, bacon, and Italian parsley. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the veggies are fork tender, but don't over cook. You don't want everything to end up super mushy.

  5. Add 1 tsp Himalayan pink salt, and check for seasoning. Add more salt if needed. I used 2 tsp total, but it will depend on how salty your chicken broth is to begin with. Add a little black pepper at this point, if you'd like.

  6. Ladle into soup bowls, and enjoy! This would be delicious with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese on top, if you eat dairy.

Chicken, Artichoke & Kalamata Casserole (low carb, gluten free)

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Happy new year!  I hope you enjoyed the holidays and that you're off to a healthy 2017.  We stayed home over the boys' winter break, just relaxing, playing, and Ben and I even got to sleep in a few times!

Although the holidays often go hand in hand with overindulgence, I thought I had been pretty good about not veering too far off of my usual eating plan.  Then last week I realized that I was always craving carbs, and my belly just looked and felt way bigger than it should.  Why? Because I had been eating more starches and sugar than usual, which make me so bloated that sometimes I look 5 months pregnant by the end of the day.  This is not normal!

I've been working with a functional diagnostic nutritionist for the last 6 months, and various testing revealed several gut abnormalities, which was not surprising at all.  I have struggled with digestion since I was 9 years old (I'm 40 now), and even though I know how to keep my stomach problems at bay, I've yet to fully heal my gut.  I've made major strides in the last 6 months, though, so I've been able to be a little more liberal with what I eat. Rice, brown rice noodles, gluten free pizza, chocolate Kind bars... these are all yummy treats for me, and once in a while is okay, but I had gotten to the point where I was eating one of them almost every day over the holidays.   And that resulted in a big old bloated belly.

So last week I decided it was time to make a change and kick my carb cravings to the curb.  I committed to doing a very low carb diet for 2 weeks to get rid of the bloat, cravings, and maybe even burn some belly fat (that's where it loves to accumulate on my body). The first 3 or 4 days were not that fun, but now on day 7 I'm feeling pretty good.  I've figured out how much healthy fat, protein, and veggies I need to feel satiated, and unlike the more extreme low carb diets, I am still eating organic berries and a little banana here and there, to keep my energy levels balanced.  I was amazed to see that after a couple of days, my bloating reduced by 50%, and by day 5, my carb cravings had really subsided.  I'm not saying that this is going to be my long term food plan, or that it'll heal my gut, but it's helping me get back to a healthier way of eating.  When the two weeks are up, I'll add in more fruit, low starch veggies like carrots, beets and winter squash, and some high quality extra dark chocolate as a treat.

It has also provided some insight into the extent of my starch intolerance.  I've discovered that I can tolerate moderate amounts of dairy in the form of organic butter and full fat cheese better than I can handle starches like rice and sweet potatoes. This validates my suspicion that I might have SIBO- Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth, which is what makes me so darn bloated when I eat starches.  A healthy small intestine doesn't have a lot of bacteria, but in the case of SIBO, the overgrown bacteria go haywire when you eat starches, and other fermentable carbohydrates.  They start digesting the food before your body gets a chance to, which can result in abdominal bloating, distention, gas, pain, belching, and other IBS symptoms.  I won't know for sure if I have SIBO until I do the testing for it in a month or so, which is my next and possibly most important step in healing my gut.  Is it weird that I can't wait to find out?  I'll keep you posted!

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this absolutely delicious chicken and veggie casserole.  It's creamy and comforting with a little kick, and I could eat it all day long.  I hope you enjoy it!

INGREDIENTS

serves 6

1 medium onion, diced

5-6 cloves garlic, minced

3 1/2 cups finely chopped cauliflower (about half a medium head)

3 tbsp Irish butter

2 small zucchini, cut into 3/4 inch cubes

2 cups cooked chicken thighs, chopped or shredded into bite size pieces

1 cup chopped artichoke hearts, about 8 (I used canned, but frozen works too)

2 cups grated organic white cheddar (I used Kingdom cheddar from Costco)

1/2 cup organic crème fraiche

2 tsp sea salt, more or less to taste

Black pepper to taste

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

3/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

10-20 dashes of Tabasco, more or less to taste

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DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium low heat, then add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add in the garlic and cauliflower, and 1/2 tsp salt, and continue to sauté until the cauliflower is just fork tender.  Add the zucchini and sauté for another 3 minutes or so.  Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.  Give it a taste to check for seasonings, and make any necessary adjustments.  Grease a large casserole dish with butter (ceramic or Pyrex works best), then pour in the chicken and vegetable mixture.  Smooth out the top, then bake for about 30-35 minutes until golden and bubbly.  To keep this dish low carb, serve with a green salad or sauteed greens.  

To make the kale and carrot salad in the photo, follow the recipe for my Lemony Kale & Apple Salad, but use one grated large carrot instead of the apple.  Bon apetit!

Spicy Turkey Boats (paleo)

 We met some friends down at Waikiki a few weeks ago to share a dinner picnic and watch the Friday night fireworks, and these yummy, easy-to-pack turkey boats were my contribution to the spread.  I gathered up ingredients from my fridge and spice cabinet that I thought would go well together, and I have to say that the mix I came up with turned out to be one of my favorite things I've ever made. Bold statement, but it's true!  The citrusy notes of the lemon and coriander pairs nicely with the smokey cumin and bacon, and the ground turkey and kale provides a nutrient dense, mild background that really lets all of the flavors shine.  A final touch of spicy sweet sriracha gives just the right amount of kick, and the whole thing is so tasty that I could eat this for days. We spooned generous portions onto crisp romaine "boats" for a high protein, low carb starter, but it would be equally delicious paired with roasted root vegetables, your favorite gluten free grain, or on top of a salad of leafy greens and chopped crunchy veggies.

INGREDIENTS 

3 tbsp EVOO

1 pound organic ground turkey

1/2 large onion, diced

5 large cloves garlic

1.5 tsp coriander

1 tsp cumin

Zest of one lemon

1.5 tsp Himalayan salt

4 strips bacon cooked crisp then finely chopped

1 tbsp sriracha

Juice of 1.5 lemons (or 1 if it's very juicy)

4 large stalks of curly green kale, ribs removed and leaves chopped small

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Romaine heart leaves, washed and dried

DIRECTIONS 

In a Dutch oven or large skillet, brown the onions in the olive oil over medium heat, stirring frequently.  Add the turkey and garlic and cook until the turkey is no longer pink, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon so that it crumbles. Add in the coriander, cumin, salt, lemon zest, bacon, and kale, and cook until the kale has completely wilted.  Turn off the heat and stir in the Sriracha, lemon juice and cilantro.  Check for seasoning and add more salt, lemon juice, or Sriracha if needed.  Let the mixture cool a bit before spooning it onto the lettuce boats. Enjoy!

Double Chocolate Pecan Cookies (vegan, paleo) And a cute gift idea!

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Happy National Cookie Day 2015!

In honor of National Cookie Day and all of the holiday baking that's happening right now, I wanted to share my newest recipe with you all.  These Double Chocolate Pecan Cookies are rich, decadent, perfectly chocolatey and they happen to be loaded with healthy fats and fiber, too!   A little crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, they feature ground pecans in place of flour, maple syrup instead of refined sugar and they get their richness from coconut butter.  The ingredients are quite different from traditional cookies, but they are just as delicious and I find them to be far more satisfying.  They are a fantastic way to treat yourself to something sweet this holiday season without that feeling of total sugar overload.

And if you are looking for a fun gift idea for friends and family, why not make an extra batch (or three!) to give away?  Once your cookies have completely cooled you can stack them in these adorable jelly jars, and seal them off with some cute fabric and a handwritten label.  I don't know anyone who doesn't love receiving a handmade, from-the-heart gift during the holidays- I know I certainly do!

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Prep time: 20 minutes  Bake time: 8 minutes  Yields: about 20 cookies

INGREDIENTS

1 cup ground pecans, lightly packed

2 tbsp tapioca starch

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp fine sea salt

1/4 cup coconut butter or coconut manna (not coconut oil)

3 tbsp maple syrup, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips

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DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Grind your pecans in a food processor or dry container of a Vitamix.  It doesn't need to be ground as fine as flour, and some little chunks are fine.  Set aside.

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In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the tapioca starch, cocoa powder, baking soda, and sea salt.  Stir in the ground pecans and mix well.  I like to use a fork or whisk for this step.

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In a separate bowl, mix the maple syrup, coconut butter, and vanilla until smooth.  Be sure to stir the coconut butter before measuring it out, and also make sure that your maple syrup is at room temperature.  If your mixture is a little chunky, you can warm it up by setting the bowl in a larger bowl of hot water, or by placing it in the microwave for about 20 seconds.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Use a round tablespoon measure to scoop out your dough.  Use your fingers to pack the dough into the measuring spoon, then gently nudge it out of the spoon and onto the baking sheet.

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Use your fingers or palm to gently flatten the cookies.  If some of the chocolate chips try to escape (they always do with this recipe), just tuck them back into the dough or press them onto the tops of the cookies. If you are planning to package your cookies in jelly jars, you'll want the cookies to be no more than 2 inches in diameter.

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Bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees, then let them cool completely on the pan.  The bottoms should be slightly golden brown, but not burnt.  My gas oven does the job in 8 minutes- if yours runs a little below temperature then you might want to leave them in for 9 minutes.

Enjoy!

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Chai Spiced Pumpkin Custard (vegan, paleo)

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If you have been craving something pumpkin and spice, but don't fancy yourself a baker, or just want to try something new, then this recipe is for you.  My Chai Spiced Pumpkin Custard is rich, creamy, perfectly sweet and spicy, and it's filled with lots of fiber and healthy fats so you can feel great about indulging in this decadent treat.  It's also incredibly simple to make.  You just blend the ingredients and then pour into ramekins and let it set up in the fridge.  No cooking, no fuss!  My boys absolutely love this custard, and it's something that I am happy to give to them at any time of day.  Whether you are looking for a new healthy dessert option for your family, or planning an autumnal meal for guests, I hope you enjoy this pumpkin deliciousness as much as we do.

Prep time: 10 minutes       Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup full fat coconut milk, from the can (I used the Thai Kitchen brand)

2/3 cup + 2 tbsp pureed pumpkin

1/3 cup coconut butter or coconut manna (not coconut oil), room temperature

3 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp chai masala* (purchase at a health food store or Indian grocery, or check out my recipe here)

pinch of fine sea salt

*You can use a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice in place of the chai masala, or make your own spice mix by blending 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp clove, 1/8 tsp cardamom, 1/8 tsp of nutmeg and a pinch of black pepper (all ground).  Mix well, then measure out 1 teaspoon for your recipe.

DIRECTIONS:

Place 6 small ramekins or serving bowls on a tray, and set aside.  My ramekins can hold 1/2 cup each, but I filled them with about 1/3 cup of custard to create 6 servings.

If your coconut butter or coconut manna has separated in the jar, you'll need to stir it before adding it to your recipe.  To do this, close the lid tightly and place the jar in a bowl of hot water to allow it to soften for about 5 minutes, then carefully stir until the coconut solids and the coconut oil are completely blended.

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Place all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and blend with a hand immersion blender until the salt has dissolved and the custard is completely smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can puree the mixture in a standard blender until smooth.

Pour about 1/3 cup of your prepared custard into each ramekin.  I used a measuring cup with a spout to achieve a clean pour.

Place your filled cups in the fridge, and allow the custard to set up for at least 4 hours.  Cover with plastic wrap once it has set, to keep it fresh.  It's best eaten within a few days, although I doubt it'll last that long!

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Turkey & Veggie Scramble (paleo, aip-friendly, egg-free)

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We all know that breakfast is our most important meal of the day.  I personally do best when I eat a protein-rich, nutrient-dense dish in the morning, but my dietary restrictions and major egg allergy can make that a challenging task.  I have been trying to branch out with the types of animal protein that I eat lately, and I recently discovered that ground turkey is tasty, despite my dislike of the roasted version at Thanksgiving.  Yesterday evening I came up with this yummy Turkey & Veggie Scramble while Ben and the boys were riding bikes and scooters at the park, and although it was last night's dinner, this colorful dish has become my new favorite breakfast option.

The mild turkey took on the earthy flavors of the turmeric and coriander beautifully, and the sauteed onion, celery and carrots provided both sweet and savory notes that are pleasing to even the pickiest of palates. The boys enjoyed their scrambles without any added condiments, but Ben and I garnished our bowls with zesty scallions, hot sauce, and a squeeze of lemon, and it was really delicious.  As an added bonus, it actually looks just like scrambled eggs, thanks to the deep golden hue of the turmeric.  I happily ate the leftovers for breakfast this morning, with all the toppings, alongside a mug of rich black tea.

I used carrots in this dish to appease my little ones, but any mix of vegetables would be great.  I think next time I might use a dark leafy green like kale or collards, and chopped broccoli or cauliflower florets in place of the carrots.  Like eggs, ground turkey provides the perfect backdrop for getting creative with whatever you might have in your kitchen.  If you are looking for some new breakfast inspiration, I hope you'll try this out!

INGREDIENTS:

3 tbsp ghee or virgin coconut oil

1/2 medium yellow or white onion, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

3 large carrots, peeled and diced

1 1/4 pounds ground turkey (I use ground turkey breast, but any type is fine)

3/4 tsp ground turmeric

3/4 tsp ground coriander (omit for AIP)

1 1/4 tsp granulated garlic (or 2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced)

1 1/4 tsp Hawaiian red salt or pink Himalayan salt (use more or less depending on your personal preference)

Zest of one lemon

Juice of one lemon

1-2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil (optional)

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Chopped scallions (for garnish)

Lemon wedges

Sriracha*, or your favorite hot sauce for garnish (omit for AIP)

*I found a natural brand of Sriracha at my neighborhood grocery store that doesn't contain any nasty preservatives or MSG. It's always good to read labels to know exactly what you are putting in your body!  

DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat ghee or oil in a large skillet over medium low heat.

2. Add diced onion, celery, carrots, and a pinch of salt, and saute until the veggies are tender and just starting to brown.  If you are using fresh garlic, add it here.

3. Add ground turkey, break it up with a wooden spoon, and cook until the turkey is halfway cooked through, crumbling the meat as you go.

4. Sprinkle the turmeric, coriander, granulated garlic, and lemon zest over the meat and veggies, and continue to cook the mix until the turkey is no longer pink.

5. Stir in the salt and lemon juice, turn the heat down to low, cover the skillet and let it simmer for another 5 minutes.

6. Stir in the chopped cilantro, and do a taste test.  This is where you may want to add another tablespoon or two of ghee or coconut oil.  Ground turkey breast is almost completely fat free, so I needed to add a couple of tablespoons of ghee to the dish to make it flavorful and satisfying.  Don't be afraid of cooking with healthy fats!  They do a body good.

7. Spoon your Turkey & Veggie Scramble into bowls, and garnish with the fresh scallions, a drizzle of your favorite hot sauce, and a squeeze of lemon, if you wish.

Enjoy!

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Aromatic Chicken & Carrots (paleo, AIP)

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Dinner just doesn't get easier than this when you're in the mood for a hearty, made-from-scratch meal.  Five main ingredients and 15 minutes of prep time will give you a mouth-watering, healthy supper that is kid friendly and perfect for any time of the year.  At 4 pm today, I had no idea what I was going to make for dinner, but luckily both my fridge and freezer are well stocked thanks to last week's trip to Costco, and today's jaunt to the grocery store and farmers market.  For tonight's meal I was inspired by the gorgeous, vibrant organic rainbow carrots that I got from the store. They must be in season right now because they are so crisp and fresh, despite having been flown (or shipped!) over from California.  I always have organic chicken thighs in the freezer, and lemons in the produce drawer, so I pulled out some shallots that I got from the farmers market, and tied it all together with the aromatic rosemary that grows so eagerly in our backyard.  After simmering on the stove top for about an hour, the result was a yummy, comforting dish that was perfect for this cool and rainy Sunday evening.

INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp ghee, divided

5 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into quarters

1 lb rainbow carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks

2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary

zest of a large lemon

1 tsp Himalayan pink salt

freshly ground pepper, to taste (omit for AIP)

1 tbsp lemon juice, set aside

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee over medium heat in a large Dutch oven, or heavy enameled pot with a tight fitting lid.

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Add the shallots and sautee over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes until they are just golden brown, being careful to not let them burn.

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Add in the chicken, carrots, rosemary, lemon zest, salt, and black pepper.  Give everything a good stir, bring to a strong simmer, tuck the rosemary sprigs under the chicken and carrots, then cover and turn the heat down to the lowest setting.

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Let simmer for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, or until the carrots are fork tender, and the chicken starts to fall apart.  Remove the tough rosemary stems.

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Right before serving, stir in the remaining tablespoon of ghee, the lemon juice, and add more salt and/or pepper if needed.  Garnish with fresh parsley, and enjoy!

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Strawberry Lime “Jello” (AIP, paleo)

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Ruby red and perfectly tangy, these fruit-filled jewels are a healthy upgrade from the sugar-filled, artificially flavored and colored jello that we all grew up with.  I have been playing around lately with different fruits and flavor profiles, but I have to say that this combination of strawberries and fresh lime is my favorite, and it's just heavenly.  If the thought of jello makes you want to run the other way, I dare you to try these!  The texture is kind of like sorbet in a square, and the mix of strawberries and lime reminds me so much of the fruity daquiris that my parents used to make in the summertime when I was little, minus the rum of course (my dad would always make a non-alcoholic batch for us kids).

In addition to the strawberries, lime, and a touch of honey, my fruit snacks are made with wholesome grass fed gelatin.  Gelatin is a superfood that is loved for its anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, gut healing, joint rebuilding, and beautifying properties.  It's also incredibly protein-rich, in that each tablespoon delivers 6 grams of protein, so it really is a staple for those of us who don't eat nuts, legumes, or dairy, but want a protein-rich source other than meat or fish.  I try to consume a little bit of gelatin a few times per week, whether its in the form of homemade jello, via bone broth, or through a couple of tablespoons of collagen in my smoothie (collagen is the precursor to gelatin, and unlike gelatin, it dissolves in cold water).  Gelatin is also said to be a sleep aid, so I find these squares to be a perfect bedtime snack, and I have personally found that it does help deliver sound sleep!  You can read more about the health benefits of gelatin here.

Health benefits aside, my taste testers all agree that this Strawberry Lime “Jello” is just plain yummy.  We never tire of eating it in my house, and it’s even become our favorite snack to take to the beach- I just nestle the squares into a plastic storage container, and then sandwich the container between two ice packs in the cooler or insulated bag.  The cubes hold up really well until we are ready to feast.

INGREDIENTS:

4 heaping cups frozen organic strawberries, thawed *

1/3-1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (use more or less depending on your taste)

1/4 cup grass fed gelatin (I use the Great Lakes brand, the red can)

2 tbsp honey

*feel free to use fresh strawberries if you wish, just be sure to hull them before putting them in the blender

DIRECTIONS

1. Place the strawberries in a large, shallow baking dish, and allow them to defrost either at room temperature, or by placing them in a warm oven until defrosted.  Once the berries are soft, puree them in a high speed blender or food processor, along with the lime juice.  You should end up with about 3 cups of puree.

2. Pour the pureed fruit back into the shallow baking dish, then sprinkle the gelatin over the top, to allow it to "bloom" for about 10 minutes.  This important step softens the gelatin, preventing it from sticking together in hard clumps when it is heated.  Once the 10 minutes have passed, stir the pureed fruit and gelatin well to combine.

3. Pour your mixture into a medium saucepan, and heat the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly until the gelatin has completely melted and everything is smooth.  You should not have any white, gelatinous clumps.

4. Remove the fruit and gelatin mixture from the heat, and stir in the honey until everything is well incorporated.  Do a taste test to see if you would like to add more lime juice or more honey.  Remember that the outcome will taste less sweet once it is cold.

5. Pour the mixture into an 8x8 ceramic or Pyrex baking dish, then place the dish in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, until it has set completely.

6. Cut your jello into squares, and enjoy!  I like to store my cut jello in a plastic or Pyrex storage container in the fridge, where it will stay fresh for a week, although ours never lasts that long.

Easy Salmon Salad (paleo, AIP)

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Happy Aloha Friday, everyone!

Most weekdays, Felix and I have our little routine of going out in the morning for a playdate or a trip to our neighborhood park, and I usually sprinkle some errands in there too.  Today, I had a follow up appointment with my opthamologist to check in about some ongoing eye irritation I've been dealing with.  Unfortunately, it hasn't resolved yet, but we're working on it.  We headed to the park afterwards for some hide and seek, playground time, and bubble blowing, and when we got home I fed Felix a quick lunch of marinated chickpeas, green peas, and green beans- all leftovers from yesterday's dinner.  While I got him down for his nap I thought about what I was going to eat for lunch, and decided on one of my old standby's: Salmon Salad.  I've been making this probably once a week lately, and today's batch turned out so delicious that I just had to share.

It's a simple, but tasty recipe that you can easily make your own by using whatever you have in the fridge.  If you don't like salmon, try using tuna fish instead, or even shredded cooked chicken.  Fresh parsley, arugula, or even spinach make a great substitute for the cilantro, and if you have capers or green olives in your fridge or pantry, chop some up and add them to the mix.  Kalamatas would be yummy in this salad too.  I ate my salmon on a bed of raw kale because I had some already washed and ready to go in the fridge, but you can pile it on top of any greens that you'd like.  It would also be great over a heap of diced cucumber or shredded carrots and beets.  For a satisfying crunch, I included a side of plantain chips, and polished it all off with a few squares of my homemade strawberry lime fruit snacks.  Healthy and satisfying!

INGREDIENTS:

1 6 oz can of wild Alaskan salmon, juices intact (I use the one from Costco)

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

scant 1/4 cup chopped scallions

juice of 1 lemon, reserving 1 tbsp for the kale

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tbsp for the kale

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt or sea salt, more or less to taste

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

2-3 cups raw kale, washed, dried, and cut into bite size pieces

optional: 1-2 tbsp chopped capers or 3 tbsp chopped olives

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a medium sized storage container, mix the can of wild salmon (including the juices), cilantro, scallions, lemon juice, olive oil, turmeric, salt, and capers or olives if you are including them.  Set aside.

2. Place the kale in a salad bowl (I use a larger plate-bowl), drizzle the reserved 1 tbsp of lemon juice and 1 tbsp olive oil on top, and then gently massage the kale to break down the tough fibers and distribute the dressing evenly.

3. Put a hefty scoop of the salmon salad on top of your kale (I use about half of the prepared salmon mix), then drizzle everything with 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.

4. Enjoy your Easy Salmon Salad as is, or with a side of your favorite crunchy chips!

These are my favorite chips.  If you live in Honolulu, you can find them at Kokua Market.  I've also seen them on Amazon, and Inka Chips are another brand that I like, but they aren't as light and airy as the Turbana brand:

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And here's a pic of Felix from a little trip to the beach this past Monday morning.  He loves to get wrapped up in a towel and eat snacks.  I think that day we snacked on frozen blueberries and homemade strawberry lime fruit snacks:

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That's all for now.  Have a really wonderful weekend!

Aloha,

Fauzia

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Blackstrap Molasses Spiced Cookies (paleo, nut-free, egg-free, AIP)

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I've been suffering from major cookie cravings lately, and I finally did something about it after a fun morning at the Bishop Museum last week.  I wanted to create something that is healthy, relatively low sugar, and AIP (autoimmune protocol) compliant, while still satisfying my inner cookie monster.  This was the first batch that I tried, and I'm happy to report that the recipe turned out perfectly.  I love it when that happens!  Dense and chewy with the right balance of sweetness and spice, these molasses cookies are exactly what I was hoping for.  They get their dark color from mineral-rich blackstrap molasses, a rich source of iron, potassium, and calcium, and it has less sugar cup for cup than other sweeteners like cane sugar, coconut sugar, honey, and maple syrup.  To achieve a chewy texture, I added grass fed gelatin to the mix.  Besides helping the cookies hold their shape, gelatin has a multitude of health promoting qualities that you can read about here, and I love it for its ability to heal the gut, boost immunity, and nourish hair, skin, and nails.  If you like ginger cookies, I hope you'll try these out.  They are warming, comforting, and thanks to their dense texture, they go perfectly with a glass of your favorite milk!

Makes about one dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp coconut flour

1/4 cup tapioca flour (aka tapioca starch)

1 1/2 tbsp gelatin (I use Great Lakes brand, the red can)

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp fine sea salt

1/4 cup virgin coconut oil, melted and cooled

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses

1 tsp pure vanilla extract (alcohol-free for those following AIP)

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients, making sure there are no lumps.  Make a well in the center of the bowl, then add the coconut oil and the blackstrap molasses.  For easiest measuring of the molasses, first measure out the coconut oil, then use the same measuring cup to measure the molasses.  The molasses will slide right out of the cup instead of sticking to the sides.  Mix everything together well- the dough will thicken as you continue to mix for 30-60 seconds.  Use a tablespoon measure to scoop the dough, and drop it onto the lined baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie.  Use your fingers to gently flatten the cookies, then bake for 8-9 minutes until the edges are slightly brown and crisp (it'll be hard to see because the dough itself is so dark, but if you trust your nose, you'll be able to smell that the cookies are done).

Before baking:

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After baking:

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Allow your cookies to cool on the pan before snacking.  They store well in an airtight container at room temperature, if you have any leftover.  I made a batch yesterday afternoon, and my boys just enjoyed a few as an after school snack with mugs of rice milk for dunking.

I hope you like them too!

~ Fauzia

My monkies eating cookies before bed last weekend:

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SALTED DARK CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY CUPS (vegan)

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Love is in the air, my friends. And with Valentine's Day just a couple of days away, I couldn't help but to feel inspired to come up with a new chocolatey treat to share with my loved ones (including you!). I dreamt up this simple, yet indulgent recipe as I was falling asleep last night... Salted Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cups.  Irresistibly cute, divinely delicious, and so easy to make that you'll feel like a culinary super star when you're done, and your recipients will love you forever.  Mission accomplished!

You don't need any fancy equipment or hard-to-find ingredients to make these tasty, three-ingredient chocolates.  In fact, everything you need can be found at your neighborhood grocery store.  If you don't have a mini muffin pan, don't fret- you can just place the paper cups on a baking sheet or tray, and since you'll be doubling them, they will hold up just fine.

Makes 16 chocolate cups

INGREDIENTS:

8 oz high quality bittersweet dairy-free dark chocolate (at least 60% cacao)

Scant 1/4 cup of raspberry preserves, room temperature

Himalayan pink salt, fleur de sel, or Celtic sea salt (I used a Himalayan pink salt grinder from Costco that I ground on a medium setting)

32 mini muffin cups

DIRECTIONS:

Line a mini muffin pan with your muffin cups, placing two cups in each so that they are doubled up.  Locate a teaspoon measure and a quarter teaspoon measure- you'll need them to measure out your chocolate and raspberry preserves.

Note: The larger measuring spoon pictured below is actually a tablespoon measure, which is why it looks so much bigger than the teaspoon measure that you have in your kitchen.  I just want to clarify that you are, in fact, using a TEASPOON measure for the chocolate and NOT a big old tablespoon!

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Roughly chop the chocolate into smallish chunks, to make for quicker melting. Place 2/3 of the chocolate in a microwave proof bowl and set the remaining 1/3 aside.

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Microwave the chocolate in 30 second spurts until it has just melted. This should take only about a minute to 90 seconds total. You don't want the chocolate to get too hot.  Add in the remaining chopped chocolate and stir until all of the chunks are melted and the chocolate is smooth.  If you need to zap it for another 15 seconds in the microwave, that's fine.

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Using your teaspoon measure, scoop up one rounded teaspoon of the melted chocolate and pour it into the first muffin cup, using your finger to empty the spoon.  Repeat this step for all of the remaining cups, then gently jostle the pan to even out the chocolate and place the filled cups in the fridge for about 20 minutes, until the chocolate has set.

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Remove the filled cups from the fridge and spoon a quarter teaspoon of raspberry preserves onto the middle of each chocolate filled cup.

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Use the teaspoon measure to spoon another rounded teaspoon of melted chocolate on top of the raspberry preserves.  Gently jostle the pan again to even out the chocolate.

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Sprinkle the top of each chocolate cup with a generous pinch of salt.  Use more or less depending on your taste.  I've found that a more generous sprinkling of salt really helps to balance the sweetness of the chocolate, and to bring out the flavors of the chocolate and raspberry.

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Place the filled cups back into the fridge to properly set up for about 3 hours or so.  Once they are set you can remove them from the muffin pan and store them in an airtight container in the fridge until you're ready to enjoy them yourself, or share them with others.  I prefer these straight from the fridge for the best flavor and texture.  They will get melty and smooshy if left out at room temperature for too long, especially if you live in a warm climate.

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Happy Valentine's Day, friends!  I love you and love you.

XO

Fauzia

Sneaky Veggie & Beef Soup (paleo)

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We all know that some kids are better at eating their vegetables than others. Well, If you happen to have a picky eater in your house, then this recipe is for you.  Why do I call it Sneaky Veggie and Beef Soup?  Because I sneak 3 stalks of celery, one whole red bell pepper, and 3 packed cups of hearty kale leaves in this dish, but all of the vegetables are blended into a purée before cooking, so nobody would ever know!  With the fresh, familiar flavors of tangy lime, smokey cumin, and sweet red bell pepper, this sneaky soup sure pleased all three of my guys at dinner last night, and Nikhil (my fussy one) had no clue that he was eating green vegetables.

To make a meal out of it, I served our soup over jasmine rice that I spiced with a quarter teaspoon each of turmeric and cinnamon, and my two year old gobbled up his first serving and quickly went in for seconds.  If you can tolerate dairy (lucky you!), I'd bet that a dollop of sour cream would be a divine accompaniment. And if you are eating Paleo or grain free as I am these days, you could enjoy this delicious soup alone, with slices of ripe avocado, or with some roasted squash or sweet potatoes.  No matter how you decide to enjoy your Sneaky Soup, I hope you and your family loves it as much as mine!

INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 pound grass fed ground beef*

1/4 cup dried onion or 1/2 cup fresh yellow or white onion, finely diced (I used dried onion because that's all that I had in the house.  Be sure it's dried onion flakes, and not onion powder.)

1 large red bell pepper, seeds removed, roughly chopped

3 large stalks celery, roughly chopped

3 packed cups kale leaves

4 cloves garlic, peeled

2 cups chicken broth**

1.5 tbsp ground cumin

1/2-1 tsp sea salt (depends on your preference and how salty your broth is)

1 tbsp fresh lime juice

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

* If you don't care for beef, ground turkey would be a great substitute.

**If you use reduced sodium broth, you'll most likely need to add extra salt at the end to achieve the right flavor.

DIRECTIONS:

Pour 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a large soup pot and heat over a medium setting.  Add in the dried onion or fresh onion plus your ground beef, and begin to break the beef apart with a wooden spoon.  Continue cooking the beef over medium-low heat, crumbling the meat as much as possible, and stirring everything to allow the onions to cook through until at least translucent, if you used fresh onions.  If you used dried onions, they will do their thing and turn a little golden brown.

While the beef and onions are cooking, prepare your vegetables:  Place the red bell pepper, celery, garlic, and chicken broth in your blender cup, and process until everything is blended into a smooth puree.  Add in the kale leaves, and blend again until the kale is pureed (you could try adding all of the veggies on the first try, but kale is pretty bulky so it might not all fit). You'll have a somewhat frothy, watery, strange looking liquid, but don't worry- this will all cook down and turn into a beautiful soup.

Once the beef and onion have cooked through, add the pureed veggies and broth mixture, ground cumin and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt to the pot.  Give everything a good stir, and then bring it to a boil.  Once you've reached a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and let it cook uncovered for about 20-30 minutes until the liquid has reduced and you're left with a rich, somewhat thick soup.  The consistency of the soup will be almost as thick as chili, but definitely "soupier."

Once you've reached a consistency that you're happy with, turn off the heat and stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and fresh lime juice.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.  Enjoy!

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Tangy Coconut Date Dip (vegan, paleo, AIP)

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Today we threw a good old fashioned birthday party for Nikhil and Felix, who are both January born.  The party was in the afternoon between lunch and dinner, so I put together an array of healthy and yummy snacks that all happened to be vegan, and gluten-free of course.  This Coconut Date Dip is a little treat that I whipped up on Friday afternoon with ingredients I already had in my fridge and pantry.  I served it with Granny Smith apple slices and it was a big hit at the party, especially amongst the parents.  Sweet and tangy with complex notes of warm ginger and cinnamon, it boasts a great texture that would also work well as a spread for toast or crackers, paired with strawberries or pear, or just straight from the spoon for an energizing, fiber-filled bite.  I'm not sure if my boys had a chance to try out this snack today (they were too busy having a blast with all of their pals), but I'm guessing they'd love it.  I think I'll offer it up with crackers tomorrow after school. We'll see what they say!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup dried unsweetened coconut

10 Medjool dates, pitted

3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice or calamansi or sour orange juice

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup water

Pinch of fine sea salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor fitted with an "S" blade, and blend until a thick paste has formed.  If your Medjool dates are a bit dry or tough, you can soften them up  by soaking them in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes before adding to the food processor.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.  For best taste and texture, let your dip come to room temperature before serving.

Enjoy!

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