I love Instagram! Don’t know why I stayed away from it for so long! I am loving meeting different food bloggers and seeing their inspiring creations! Am I inspired? Nope, I am floored! Gosh, so much talent out there and so many young kiddos creating such cool stuff. One of my favorite things in the morning (whilst waking up in bed) is to quickly check out the insta posts to get inspiration for my morning breakfast smoothie. These days along with smoothies, a new healthy deliciousness has been trending – ‘nice creams’! He He, ‘nice cream’ sounds a bit shady but it is nothing but a healthy version of ‘ice-cream’ which uses only fruits and other vegan ingredients. Most recipes use frozen bananas to get the ‘nice cream’ texture. And then with that as the base, you can add different fruits – frozen or otherwise of your choice and blend everything to a creamy, smooth ‘nice cream’ texture 🙂 Oh so yum!
So these days mixed berries nice cream is my favorite afternoon snack to satisfy my sweet cravings! I make sure I keep a few slices of bananas in the freezer at all times so i am adequately prepared to meet my cravings 🙂 The other morning I woke up to see a couple nice cream posts and oh, boy I started craving for one right away. So I decided to make a smoothie ‘nice cream’ for breakfast. A couple dashes of coconut milk gave it the perfect smoothie/nice cream texture. I made a separate blueberry compote to give it some additional richness and sophistication 🙂 Hey, you’ve gotta love your breakfast!
Hope you get inspired by this post to come up with some lovely creations of your own. Please do share with me! Btw, looks like spring is almost here! Yay!
Mixed berries blended with frozen bananas and a dash of coconut milk to create this healthy and delicious 'nice cream' with a topping of blueberry sauce/compote
For the nice cream:
1 banana, peeled, sliced and frozen for 3 hours or more
1 cup mixed berries (I used combination of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries - if using frozen, thaw them to room temperature)
2 tablespoons coconut cream or thick coconut milk
½ cup water
For the blueberry compote(sauce):
½ cup blueberries, frozen or fresh
¼ cup water
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp tapioca starch mixed in 2 tbsp water to form a slurry
In a small cooking pot, add the blueberries, water, salt and maple syrup and cook for about 4-5 mins until the blueberries turn soft. Add the tapioca slurry and mix on low heat for another 2-3 minutes till you get a thick sauce. Turn heat off and transfer sauce to a container.
Blend all the ingredients under 'nice cream' in a high speed blender until you get a creamy smooth consistency (should be like slightly thawed ice-cream)
Take a tall glass or jar. Add some blueberry sauce on the bottom. Add 'nice cream' on top and drizzle more sauce on top. Top with berries!
Healthy snacks are a big thing for me. I am constantly trying to make snacks that are nutritious and wholesome and that will satisfy two growing kids. One of whom is a teenager! The hunger pangs start as soon as they get home from school although I make it a point to pack a healthy lunch and a snack for them. So the pantry is constantly being raided. I make them a healthy fruit smoothie and then try to stock up on lots of fruits so that they can eat those first before loading up on the crackers, bread etc. I bake most weekends so that I can create goodies with less sugar or even make them sugar free (by using honey or maple syrup). That way there is always a stock of something homemade and healthy for that huge mid-day hunger attack!
Last week I decided to make something with oats since I had a huge bag of them leftover in my pantry. Before I started on a Paleo diet 3 months ago, I used to eat oats regularly for my breakfast. And after I stopped eating them it was lying there unused since my husband is sensitive to oats and the kids just didn’t want to change from their regular cereal. So I was determined to use them up – I was thinking of making just some granola like I posted before. But then suddenly I remembered seeing some recipes of oats bars on pinterest. So I looked for those recipes and I ended up making a version of my own based on what I had on hand – I added pecans for nuts since that was the only nut I had in my pantry that day and used peanut butter for the base. I also used the food processor to puree the dates and to coarsely chop the nuts and the oats since I knew that would give them a better texture. I have been making a version of these bars – My healthy breakfast bars for quite sometime now and I always felt like chopping the nuts in a food processor gives the bars a better texture.
My experiment was very successful – thanks to all the other bloggers out there with their different recipes which makes it easier to innovate and come up with your own version. The kids as well as the hubby love these bars and considering these are much easier to make than my old version, I know these are going to be a ‘regular’ in my house going forward 🙂
Healthy 'breakfast bars' or 'anytime snack' with oats and nuts; No Baking needed!
1 cup pecans or walnuts (or any other nuts)
1½ cups rolled oats (NOT quick cooking)
1 cup dates, pitted
2 tbsp hot water
¼ cup maple syrup or honey
¼ cup unsalted organic peanut butter (or almond butter)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 deg F.
In a large baking tray lined with parchment paper, spread the oats and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes. Transfer the oats to a plate.
To the same tray add the pecans or walnuts (or other nuts if raw) and toast for about 5 minutes.
In a food processor or chopper, pulse the oats and the nuts together for about 20-30 seconds until the nuts get crushed (big chunks) and oats also get chopped a bit. Keep aside.
In a food processor, add the dates along with the hot water and blend until you get a thick pasty consistency.
In a cooking pot, add this date mixture, the maple syrup(or honey), salt and the peanut butter (or almond butter) and heat for about 2-3 minutes until everything blends together. Transfer this mixture to a large mixing bowl.
Add the vanilla extract and the oats and the nuts mixture. Mix well using a large wooden spoon/spatula.
Dump this mixture into a square brownie pan lined with parchment paper with an overhang. Pat the mixture using the back of a small bowl (or use another sheet of parchment to press on the top).
Place pan in the freezer for an hour (or refrigerator for about 2 hours)
Take out the pan from the freezer/refrigerator and slide the parchment with the bar onto a cutting board and cut the block into bars of desired size using a large knife.
You can toast the oats and nuts in a pan on the stove too instead of toasting them in the oven. Once set, bars can be stored at room temperature (65-75 deg F) for about 5 days or in the refrigerator for unto 2 weeks.
When salads are your whole meal, you want to pack a lot of punch in it. At least I do. Most days for lunch I will have some left over protein from dinner the previous night – usually some fish or chicken and then I just eat that along with some lettuce and celery. I don’t even bother chopping the lettuce or celery since – hey what does it matter, my teeth can do that 🙂
But somedays I get motivated. To create something fancier. Fancy meaning not as in ‘gourmet’ or ‘classy restaurant’. Fancy as in ‘whatever makes me happy’ 🙂 I had been making broth with chicken legs the previous day and had added some kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass to the pot along with my usual spices of whole black pepper and bay leaves. The broth came out very tasty and the chicken legs gave out a lot of meat which I saved up for my salad. Now as I opened the container of the chicken pieces, the smell of kaffir lime and lemongrass was still lingering and reeled my senses. hmm…I got transported to ‘Thai’ world or Thai..land rather!
So I decided to just continue with that theme and make a flavorful and colorful salad out of it.! I guess I was thinking of the ‘Thai Larb gai’ (which I totally love!) although what I ended up with was not similar to that although you could say that some things were common like the lemongrass and lime flavor.
For my dressing, I just decided to mix Lemon juice, ginger and honey which further accentuated the already ‘flavorful’ chicken. And Avocados and pomegranate went in to do their ‘colorful’ bit! And voila, within 15 mins I had this beautiful looking and fantastic smelling chicken salad looking at me. Last minute I decided to quickly make some instant pickled onions and throw them as a garnish! The salad was just perfect! It seemed like a large plate but oh the flavors were so good I just couldn’t stop eating and cleaned up the entire plate!
I have been ‘refined sugar’ free for more than a year now and tell you what…I don’t miss it at all! In fact I feel so awful that I was eating all that unnecessary refined sugar all these years. Once you go completely sugar free you will start reaching out for the natural sugars as in fruits, dried fruits and other natural products like honey and maple syrup. And the best thing is that the natural products do not give you a sugar rush plus they all provide beneficial nutrients to your body in addition to just sweetness.
But sometimes you do crave for sweets because you crave for that texture. For example even though I have not felt deprived for the most part, I sometimes have this craving for Indian sweets like coconut barfi (fudge) or coconut ladoo (sweetened balls)! That’s when I began to experiment. I made date, almond and coconut rolls which are absolutely delicious and are now a permanent snack in my home – my son just loves them! My Date nut truffles are also equally amazing and so decadent they feel like an absolute treat! I also made a dates and Nut Barfi (fudge) with dates, almonds and walnuts and that is again absolutely delicious with the gooey fudge texture.
So two weeks ago my cravings for texture meant I had to experiment again since I am on the Autoimmune protocol diet and so I cannot do nuts either. So I scratched my brains and scanned the available items for me in my pantry and apricots and dates were the winners!. I really wanted something that had a texture like a coconut ladoo and so that made me come up with these apricot coconut balls. Oh boy, the texture of these balls are amazing. The coconut flour just gives it the soft but dense texture that I was craving for! And that’s not all – it gets even better! OK so all you need for this recipe are just 3 ingredients! Yes! Dried Apricots, Dates and coconut flour. And Shredded Coconut to roll them in.
And yes you do need a food processor. These balls came together in less than 15 minutes though from start to finish. The first time I made it, I had made a very small experimental batch and I could make around 8 balls and they were all gone in 2 days! And that was just me eating all of them! SO then of course I had to make them again. And again. You see I had to perfect the recipe too so I could share with you guys 🙂
I used lemon zest the first time to get an additional burst of flavor and that gave a wonderful freshness to the balls. The second time I tried cardamom powder so that I could get the taste to be very close to the Indian coconut ladoo. I loved that too. SO you can pick your flavor. Maybe you will come up with some additional ideas. Even if you don’t add anything the apricots give it enough flavor already. If you are 100% AIP compliant then you cannot do cardamom. Over the past one month I have been able to add all my spices (Indian) back to my diet without much complaints. So I am ecstatic. And completely blissful when I eat these apricot coconutties!
I think you can guess from the title of my post that I was struggling to come up with a proper name for this creation 🙂 It started with me coming across a caribbean mango cucumber chow recipe on a recipe forum. My sensory buds tingled at the mention of mango. And with cilantro and lime thrown in? Wow, even more mouthwatering stuff.
So that was the inspiration for my salad. So I got myself a mango two weeks ago – yes mangoes have started making an arrival here in our grocers! And note I said ‘ got myself a mango’, which meant that I was NOT willing to share this with anyone else at home. Yes I mean it. When it comes to mangoes, I become an infant …’Its mine!” OK OK so my family left me alone. They had the infinite wisdom that once mangoes start making more of an appearance especially at the Indian grocers, mom would get a crate of them and at that point she will be willing to share some with us.
So the recipe I had seen was fairly simple – onion, garlic, green chillies, lime juice and …Culantro. Yes no typo there, it is Culantro. I looked it up and it says that culantro or shado beni is a special herb grown in the caribbean. It is supposedly slightly different from Culantro or shado beni but cilantro is a close substitute. I am definitely very interested in laying my hands on this herb! Please let me know if any of you know where I can get it in the US?
Continuing with my salad, I added diced avocado, cucumber and mango together. For the caribbean chow, you pound together the onion, garlic, chillies and culantro and add this to the mango/cucumber pieces. Toss with salt and pepper and you are good to go! So I did this and then decided to add some chaat masala since the green chili and cilantro mixture along with lime was so reminiscent of the chaat we used to have back in the streets of Mumbai. So I added some chaat masala – the salad started tasting so good and I continued to sprinkle more and more of the chaat masala till I felt that it was just perfect – ‘You could eat the whole bowl’ kind of perfect! Yum!
After that day I started getting mangoes every week and I have made this salad at least three times in the past two weeks!. This last time I made it, i also added cooked beets and sweet potatoes to it. Tasted wondrous and a perfect side dish to my pan fried salmon.
Chaat masala btw is a blend of several different spices and has a dominant sour/tangy flavor from the dry mango powder and the black salt (pink salt) but it has a little bit of heat also from the other spices and cayenne pepper. I always buy store bought chaat masala but here’s a recipe for it if you would like to see the ingredients – Chaat masala recipe
A tangy and sweet tropical salad consisting of cucumber, avocados and mango deliciously spiced with cilantro, garlic, lemon juice and chaat masala
½ cup cilantro
1 garlic clove
¼ red onion
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
½ ripe mango, cut into medium size chunks
½ cucumber, peeled and diced
½ boiled potato (or sweet potato), diced
½ of a medium beet cooked (optional), diced
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp chaat masala
In a mortar or pestle or a small food processor, add the cilantro, garlic, red onion and the lemon juice. Blend well until you get a chunky kind of paste. Keep aside.
In a large bowl, add the avocado, cucumber, mango, potato (or sweet potato) and beet (if adding). Add the cilantro mixture to this. Add the salt, pepper and the chaat masala. Toss well to mix the spices well with the vegetables and fruits. Serve fresh!
For Paleo version, Use sweet potato instead of potato For AIP version, Use sweet potato instead of potato and Skip chaat masala