With everyone being in holiday baking mood, distractions are everywhere. Folks like me who have successfully managed to stay on track for the entire past year on a strict paleo, modified AIP diet, however, still struggle when it comes to the holidays. Yeah for me personally, its not the ‘eating’ part that I miss as much as the ‘baking’ process itself. beautiful desserts are really too tempting! I want to make them too! And I have made my share of these tempting desserts in the past too! Now I am determined to make ‘healthier’ versions of all the holiday desserts/ goodies and hope that they look and taste as good too! I have shortlisted some recipe ideas that I will be experimenting and testing the next few days. Today I tried the first of those and happy to report that it turned out to be a very successful and fulfilling experiment!
So there was this post that I saw on pinterest which was some kind of decadent chocolate balls which had a lot of healthful ingredients. So I pinned it for later. (Actually thought that I had pinned it but didn’t actually pin it). So when I sat down last night to pull out the post, I couldn’t find that recipe on any of my boards. Then I began searching for chocolate balls and all kinds of drool worthy pics showed up. But none of them was the one I had seen before. As I continued looking through scores of different recipes – a lot of them were vegan or raw, however several had almonds or almond butter or coconut butter etc. Since cashew nuts are the only nuts that I have been able to re-introduce successfully, I would need to modify all the recipes. And since the one that I had seen earlier also had almonds, I decided to finally abandon my search and just create my own recipe, which I knew wouldn’t be hard since I have made similarly textured ‘raw’ treats before like apricot coconut balls, date almond truffles.
So some dates, cashew nuts, coconut flour, cocoa or carob powder are all you need for making these delectable treats. The addition of vanilla extract makes them so, so fabulously delicious! You gotta give yourself this treat! This is what I call a nourishing treat – for both the body and the soul! Yum! I have decided to call them ‘Chocolate bliss balls’ 🙂
In a food processor, grind the cashew nuts into an almost fine powder by pulsing in 3, 10 sec intervals. Transfer the powdered cashew nuts to a bowl.
To the same food processor, add the soaked dates along with 2 tbsp of the soaked water. Also add the cocoa or carob powder and the vanilla extract. Process to a pasty consistency.
At this point, you can do one of two things: Method 1: Transfer this paste to the bowl with the powdered cashews and add the coconut flour too and mix using your hands to form a smooth dough. OR Method 2: To the food processor, add the powdered cashew nuts and pulse again to incorporate the cashew powder. And then add the coconut flour in parts and pulse again till you get a smooth dough.
Grease your palms with coconut oil and divide the dough into 10-12 balls. Smooth them into shape using your palms.
Lay the balls on a tray lined with parchment paper. refrigerate for 2 hours or freeze for 30 mins.
Once set, the balls can be stored either in the refrigerator or at room temperature (as long as it is below 70 F)
If you do not want to add coconut flour, you could replace that with more cashew nut powder. To make it AIP, you could also replace cashew nuts with coconut flour although the texture and the taste will be slightly different.
OK so this is going to be a long post. If you would just like the recipe, scroll to the bottom!
Thanksgiving is one festival which I really look forward to! I think I like it even better than Christmas. Of course the food is one big attraction. However, more important than that is the fact that it forces you to look back, reflect and urges you to be thankful. As they say ‘There is always something to be thankful for’ and what a true statement that is!
For me personally this past year has given me many things to be thankful about. Last November, my RA was at its worst since my diagnosis in 2015. I had tried medications first only to give them up a few months later because of terrible side effects. Then I tried naturopathy, ayurveda and homeopathy. But nothing helped and last November I found myself in front of a new rheumatologist. Reviewing my blood test reports and by examining my joints, he suggested that I go on Rituxan infusions. Rituxan is a very potent chemo drug that is also used to treat RA but can cause serious, even potentially fatal, side effects. Being a pharmacist, I knew about this and so asked the doctor if he could prescribe something else instead and suggested a combination of meds instead. He reluctantly agreed but did not paint an encouraging picture for me.
I did not want to accept the doctor’s prognosis of my disease and decided to think positive. I kept searching the internet for stories of individuals who had turned their RA and other autoimmune diseases around by diet and lifestyle change. I found myself a new naturopath who introduced me to the AIP diet. I started on both- the meds as well as the diet in December of last year. And I prayed. A lot. I wrote down a list of all the things/tasks that I was not able to do then. And then on top of the list I wrote : I will get back to doing these things again…I know I will. The top 3 items on the list were :
Snuggle playfully with my kids in bed
Climb up and down the stairs freely without pain or fatigue
Wear a jacket easily without my shoulders hurting
I prayed with a faith that I never had before. Reading the Bible regularly with a friend helped me to get into that frame of mind. I did not allow for negative and depressive thoughts to linger on my mind. I kept telling myself that I refuse to accept this pain and disability and will do whatever it takes to get better. Doing the AIP diet was one of the ‘whatever it takes’! It was tough to be on AIP. I was already gluten free , dairy free and legume free by then. But on AIP I had to give up my beloved rice too! And that was tough. The first month was very, very hard. But I persisted. The desire to get better was so overpowering that I was willing to do anything. Yes, whatever it takes.
My naturopath also asked me to exercise which was again tough to begin with. My knees and shoulders were so painful and sore that even just climbing onto the elliptical was tough. But I did it in baby steps. The first few days I went to the gym and just sat on the stationary bike and eyed the elliptical building up my mental stamina. And finally one day I had the courage to try it. Slowly with each passing day I got better and I did more and more.
If you have been reading my posts this past year, you would have seen how these changes along with my decision to quit my job early on this year helped me to get better. Last month my blood reports were all in the normal range. Of course I am still on meds but my rheumatologist is also surprised at my recovery. So there is something to be said about holistic healing. I am able to do more than half of the things on my wish list now. And I am hopeful that very soon I will be able to do all of them.
So you see, I have so much to be thankful for. I thank the Lord for making me change my perspective – to go from being depressed and full of self-pity to feeling overwhelmingly positive. I am thankful for having the support of my wonderful family – my loving husband, children, sisters and dad. Also my close friends who made me retain my sanity in those difficult times. Most importantly, I am so thankful that I no longer have to balk away when my daughter comes running up to me to give me a tight hug! God, I am so, so thankful.
OK so now for these pumpkin donut holes that are completely grain free and dairy free. So I make these regular pumpkin munchkins for my munchkins and thought why don’t I try making these with coconut flour? Was fairly easy to make the dough. But then as soon as I put them in hot oil to deep fry, guess what? Oh no!.. they totally disintegrated! Yes completely! I almost gave up on having any pumpkin munchkins for myself but decided to bake these using my mini muffin / cake pop pans.
Boy, was I glad I did that! These babies amazingly resisted breaking apart when inside those tiny moulds and came out perfect. They are still quite soft to handle but hey, they are absolutely delicious!
So this recipe is another thing to be thankful for this year! And what better than to share with all of you guys!
Psalm 107“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”
I wonder who discovered brownies and whether it was an accidental discovery? Was it a cake batter not rising adequately or a cookie batter becoming a bit runny? Well, we will never know for sure. But when I googled this question, it seems that in 1906, a cookbook author, Fanny Farmer adapted her chocolate cookie recipe to a bar cookie baked in a rectangular pan and this was published in the Boston Cooking School Cookbook1. Well, whoever discovered this cross between a cookie and a cake, definitely raised the bar (pun intended 🙂 ) on ‘snacking’ ! Can you imagine what kids’ school events, bake sales, other fund raising events and office parties would be without the ‘much coveted brownies’ ?
When I see folks going for the boxed brownie mix, it really saddens me! Ugh! I have a funny recipe related to this. So my very first month at work here in the US (many many moons ago :)), our departmental assistant baked these delicious brownies that were so perfect – a bit dense from outside but when you bit into it they were really gooey and so chocolatey. I was impressed. That was my first time eating a brownie ever! (yeah since in the late 1990s until I left India, brownies were not available there, alas!). Since I loved baking, I immediately asked this assistant if she would share her recipe with me. She just looked at me and said ‘Oh I just add 3 eggs instead of two’. I felt a little surprised by that response but more than that I felt embarrassed in front of my other colleagues that I wasn’t even aware of the general brownie recipe which everyone seemed to know about! Well, it was only later that a friend told me that most folks generally use a boxed mix! what a tragedy! What is funny is that I don’t even think that using the boxed mix saves any time! So why add a few dozen chemicals into your body unnecessarily?
Anyways, sorry for that detour there! Getting back to homemade brownies, I have a few recipes that I have regularly used in the past. And then in the past couple years, I have been trying to bake healthier versions of brownies. One of them is the Black Bean Brownies. My kids absolutely love this one. So of late I have been meaning to try paleo brownies and I had pinned a few recipes. Finally this past weekend I got a chance as we were having a get together with our friends and I had signed up to bring dessert! So I chose a recipe that used coconut flour instead of almond flour since one of the kids was allergic to nuts. As I began ready to bake, I realized that I was out of maple syrup and so I replaced maple syrup with coconut sugar. And then as I was wondering if the consistency of the brownie would get affected because of this change, my oven timer went off and I realized that I had just finished roasting a pumpkin. So you can guess what happened next! Yes, some pumpkin puree went into my brownie batter 🙂
Pleased to report that four kids cleaned up this batch in a matter of minutes! And since I knew what went in these delicious and moist brownies, I did not mind it all 🙂
A delicious and moist brownie made with coconut flour, cocoa and pumpkin puree and topped with dairy free chocolate chips
½ cup minus 2 tbsp coconut flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
3 eggs, at room temperature
½ cup coconut sugar
¼ cup thick pumpkin puree, packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ cup dairy free chocolate chips(optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 deg F (180 deg C) and grease a 8 by 8 in baking dish using coconut oil. Line with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs and beat using a hand-held electric blender. (You could use a stand mixer too).
Add the coconut flour, cocoa, coconut sugar and the melted coconut oil. Continue mixing and then add the pumpkin puree, vanilla, salt and baking soda. Mix till well blended. The mix will be a bit thick and not too runny which is ok.
Dump mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top if adding. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes before cutting into squares.
Check for doneness beginning at 18 mins since you don't want to overbake them.
DISCLOSURE: This post may contain one or more affiliate links. Sometimes when you click a product link on this blog , it’s an affiliate link. This means that if you decide to buy it, I get a small commission. Your price stays the same, and your purchase supports this blog at the same time.
Finally we can say that fall has arrived in New England. This year the weather has been highly unusual with us seeing really high temperatures even in September. I bet that confused the trees and they forgot that their leaves needed to change color 🙂 I had been quite disappointed until now since the lovely and spectacular foliage that we usually are so blessed to witness, was not to be seen.
But that was until last week and now this week suddenly we started seeing colors everywhere. All of a sudden, driving the kids around town for their activities seems so pleasurable! I will occasionally also stop the car and take pictures, which results in the kids letting out sighs and protests 🙂 But I don’t care – I have got to get those pics!
After fall photography, fall baking was next on my list. My neighbor gave us a giant pumpkin that they grew in their backyard! It was so huge that I had to ask my husband’s help to cut into 4 pieces which then I roasted in the oven to get the puree. I also reserved the seeds as I normally do and toasted them too. Read my post on how to roast a pumpkin and on how to toast the seeds here.
I usually bake a pumpkin bread which is always loved by the kids. This year I wanted to try and make a healthier version and so I searched for paleo versions of pumpkin bread. I found a recipe that looked good from ‘DoyouevenPaleo’ – Paleo Pumpkin Banana bread. I liked that since I had a very ripe banana that I wanted to use 🙂 But that recipe had almond flour and since I did not have that, I wanted to try making it using coconut flour. So I modified the recipe and tried it using coconut flour also adding some coconut oil to ensure the cake came out moist and not dry. I added some walnuts for crunch factor since my husband loves nuts. But you can easily omit that and make this a nut free cake. Since I am writing this post, you can see that my experiment was a success! The kids and my husband said it was delicious. Since it has eggs, I did not try it – I am wary of reintroducing eggs. Perhaps next year! Anyways, glad the recipe turned out good. So now I can make this regularly for the kids since I have about 6 packs of pumpkin puree in the freezer!
A scrumptious and healthy version of Pumpkin bread that is grain free, dairy free and refined sugar free, made using coconut flour
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 ripe bananas, mashed
4 large eggs
¼ cup maple syrup
1½ cup coconut flour
½ cup tapioca flour
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tsp pumpkin spice
½ tsp allspice
½ cup walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large mixing bowl, add the pumpkin puree, mashed banana, eggs, maple syrup, and mix until smooth using an electric mixer (or you can use a stand mixer). Add the coconut flour, tapioca flour, coconut oil, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix using mixer to blend well together. Add the walnuts and mix gently.
Line a 9" x 5" loaf pan with parchment paper and pour in the batter. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
You can omit the walnuts and keep this cake totally nut free.
Masala Milk is a traditional Indian drink made using milk blended with nuts, spices and flavors. I am not sure which part of India this drink originated from. In Maharashtra, during Kojagiri Poornima, it is a ritual to serve Masala doodh (Milk) after watching the full bright moon. Many people fast on this day and make this Masala Doodh and keep the milk in a container directly under the Moonlight as a prasad and get blessings from the Moon God. I always enjoyed having this drink as a child since we had lots of Maharashtrian neighbors growing up and we girls would always have a blast on Kojagiri Poornima. Drinking this milk was the best part for me 🙂
Now that I avoid dairy, I decided to come up with a vegan version of this milk, which was not difficult at all. I just used cashew nut and coconut milk to be the ‘milk’ source and additionally I also used dates to be the sweetener so no other sugar was necessary! So I have a really healthy version of this traditional drink and this is one delicious drink that makes you feel special! I indulged myself with this drink on one hot lazy afternoon last week as I stayed indoors enjoying the view from our sunroom. I felt like royalty -It was just perfect 🙂
As we celebrate Diwali over the next few days, this would be a great drink to serve to your guests!