My Thankfulness Note and a Recipe for Pumpkin Donut holes (Paleo, AIP, Vegan)

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 :

  1. Snuggle playfully with my kids in bed
  2. Climb up and down the stairs freely without pain or fatigue
  3. 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!”

Sharing this post at the Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable hosted by Phoenix Helix.

Pumpkin Donut holes (Paleo, AIP, Vegan)
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Paleo
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-3
 
Delicious and soft grain free and dairy free pumpkin donut holes baked in mini muffin pans
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar
  • ¼ cup thick pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • Pinch sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice (use ¼ tsp cinnamon powder for AIP)
  • ½ cup plus 2 tbsp coconut flour
  • coconut sugar for sprinkling on top
Instructions
  1. Add the melted coconut oil, coconut sugar and the pumpkin puree into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the baking soda, salt and the pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon powder). Mix well.
  3. Then slowly add the coconut flour little by little till you can form a dough.
  4. Divide the dough into small balls - about 11-12.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 deg F (180 deg C). Place the balls onto the mini muffin or cake pop pans.
  6. Bake for 10 mins. Then flip the donut holes gently and bake for another 4-5 mins.
  7. Take pans out of the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.
  8. Roll the donut holes gently over coconut sugar.
Notes
These donut holes have to be baked in a mini muffin or a cake pop pan. Deep frying these will not work as they will disintegrate completely.

 

Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies || Coconut flour Brownies (Paleo)

 

  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 🙂

The below recipe is adapted from ‘Paleo Chocolate Brownies’ from Empowered Sustenance.

Better Body Foods - coconut Flour

4.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies (Paleo)
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert, Snacks
Cuisine: American, Fusion
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
A delicious and moist brownie made with coconut flour, cocoa and pumpkin puree and topped with dairy free chocolate chips
Ingredients
  • 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)
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs and beat using a hand-held electric blender. (You could use a stand mixer too).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Notes
Check for doneness beginning at 18 mins since you don't want to overbake them.

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Pumpkin Banana Bread (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Paleo)

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!

Pumpkin Banana Bread (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Paleo)
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American, Fusion, Paleo
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12
 
A scrumptious and healthy version of Pumpkin bread that is grain free, dairy free and refined sugar free, made using coconut flour
Ingredients
  • 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)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Notes
You can omit the walnuts and keep this cake totally nut free.

 

Cashew Masala Milk || Cashew Masala Latte (Vegan, Paleo, Refined Sugar 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!

4.0 from 1 reviews
Cashew Masala Milk (Vegan, Paleo)
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert, Beverage
Cuisine: Indian, Fusion
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
A healthy version of the traditional indian drink made with cashew nuts, dates and fragrant spices
Ingredients
  • 20 cashew nuts, soaked in hot water for 2 hours (or overnight for 6-8 hours)
  • 4 dates
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • ⅛th teaspoon saffron (4-5 strands)
  • ¼ tsp cardamom powder (by crushing green cardamom pods)
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1-2 drops of rose extract/essence
  • 1 tbsp crushed pistachios (optional)
Instructions
  1. Drain water from the soaked cashews. Place in blender/food processor jar. Add the dates and half of the warm water. Blend until smooth. Add the rest of the water and the coconut milk and blend again.
  2. Add the saffron, cardamom and nutmeg and rose. Mix well using a spoon. Transfer to two serving bowls/glasses. Add the crushed pistachios on top.
  3. You can serve as is or chilled.
Notes
I don't add crushed pistachios since I am sensitive to pistachios but it gives it additional flavor

Kaju Barfi with honey || Refined sugar free Kaju Katli || Cashew Nut Fudge

Happy Diwali to all those who celebrate! I have two ‘Diwali special’ recipes for you and both of them have cashew nuts as the main ingredient. And both the recipes are extremely simple and easy! But most importantly the end products are absolutely delicious!

The first one I will share in this post is the recipe for sugar free Kaju Katli! Bet you can feel my excitement! Having gone refined sugar free since last two years, Kaju Katli had gone out of my life too sadly 🙁 But I had been meaning to experiment making Kaju Katli using honey and finally for this Diwali I was able to try it. And pleased to inform you that it was a super duper success! Yipee!

My son loves Kaju Katli. in fact that is the ONLY Indian sweet that he will eat! So when he came home from school I told him there was Kaju Katli in the fridge. He quickly went to grab it and had a bite. ‘Hmm… very good mom!’ he said. I said to him – “And guess what?” .  He immediately responded knowing how much I detest refined white sugar, “You must have not added sugar…so, what did you add?” .

I smiled and replied ‘Honey, I just added some honey!” 🙂 Also added rose flavor instead of cardamom. That coupled with the natural floral tint of the honey made this Kaju Katli absolutely fragrant and delectable. It was the perfect offering for a Diwali Pooja.

And guess what else was perfect? Fresh flowers! Yes this year the weather has been so warm until this week that my garden has still been blooming.This is so unusual for us to have flowers in our garden for Diwali!  Don’t you love it when that happens? I consider it as a gift from the heavens!

Have a Happy Diwali and stay blessed! And look out for my next post which also has cashews in it!

Kaju Barfi with honey || Refined sugar free Kaju Katli ||
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert, Healthy Dessert
Cuisine: Indian, Fusion
 
A healthy and delectable version of the traditional Cashew nut barfi or Kaju Katli made with cashew nuts and honey and infused with a rose flavor.
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups cashew nuts whole
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1-2 drops of rose extract
Instructions
  1. In a skillet or a frying pan, dry roast the cashew nuts on a low flame for about 5 mins stirring continuously to avoid burning. The cashew nuts should only slightly change color (with some light brown spots). Turn heat off.
  2. Transfer the roasted cashew nuts to a food processor and pulse for about 10-20 secs until you get a coarse powder. Take care not too grind too much or you might get lumpy cashew butter. Keep aside.
  3. In a medium size cooking pot, add the honey and the water. Heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Immediately add the ground cashew powder and mix using a spoon or spatula until all the powder is mixed well with the honey and you get a wet pasty mixture. Turn heat off.
  4. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on the kitchen counter(or a large tray). Dump the hot cashew mixture onto the parchment paper.
  5. Take another parchment paper sheet and place it over the mixture to cover it. Now use a rolling pin to flatten the mixture from all sides.
  6. Now place this flattened spread out mixture along with the parchment paper onto a tray and keep in the freezer for about 30 mins (or refrigerator for 1 hour).
  7. After the mixture has turned firm, remove from the freezer (or refrigerator) and cut into diamonds or squares.
  8. Keep the Kaju Katli pieces in the refrigerator until serving.
Notes
Roast the cashew nuts on low heat so that they don't turn brown in color. Store the kaju Barfis in the refrigerator since they become sticky at room temperature.
You can try using maple syrup for honey too although I haven't tried it yet.