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.

 

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.

 

Chocolate Bark with Strawberries and Pistachios

dsc_0137dsc_0140Happy New Year folks! Let’s start the New Year with something sweet and delicious!  Which also looks very pretty!  Yeah I made this chocolate bark for our New Year’s Eve party and everyone both adults and kids loved it.!

And the best part is – its a breeze to make! All you have to do is melt some chocolate and spread it thin on a tray. Slice up some strawberries and some pistachios and place them on top. Melt some more dark chocolate and drizzle on top.  Refrigerate for a couple hours to set and then cut it up into pieces or barks 🙂 Now isn’t this just what you need? Best part is since the bark is very thin, you are technically not going to be eating too many calories (unless of course you gobble up all of it 🙂 ) It’s a great party pleaser too and oh so easy to make 🙂

dsc_0138Wishing all of you folks a wonderful new year that is filled with everything your heart desires. May all your wishes and dreams come true and may you be blessed with good health and happiness.  May peace prevail everywhere.

Isaiah 40:31

“but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

new_years_blessing

Chocolate Bark with Strawberries and Pistachios

  • Servings: Makes about 12-16 small pieces
  • Time: 15 minutes preparation time and 60 minutes refrigeration time
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

3 Milk Chocolate bars , 4.4 ounce bars (about 360 grams)

1 Dark Chocolate bar – 70% cocoa, about 2 ounces (180 grams)

4-6 strawberries, sliced thinly

1/2 cup pistachios, shelled and chopped

Method:

Take a small baking tray (12 inches by 9 inches) and line it with parchment paper. Keep aside.

In a microwave safe bowl, place the milk chocolate bars and  melt the chocolate by heating bowl between 1-2 minutes in 30 second intervals. Meaning heat first for 30 seconds, get it out, stir with a spatula and again put it back in microwave and heat for another 30 seconds. Do this 3-4 times or until the chocolate is almost melted and then just stir with a spatula to form a smooth creamy liquid.

Immediately pour this melted chocolate onto the tray and spread slowly using the back of a spoon to spread the chocolate over entire length of tray or atleast 3/4 th the length of the tray.

Place the strawberry slices and the pistachios randomly over the chocolate.

Next melt the dark chocolate similarly in the microwave and drizzle it slowly over the tray.

Place tray in refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

When you get it out, the bark will come off easily from the parchment. Cut into thin slices/barks and enjoy! Refrigerate until serving time!

dsc_0137

Christmas Cake (Dry Fruit and Nut Cake)

dsc_1726-1Now this is a cake that I have been meaning to make for ever. I have looked at several recipes over the past few years and saved a few too. But somehow not got around baking it.

Growing up in Mumbai, Plum Cake was a common pantry item. Yes I am serious – you would find store bought Plum cake anytime in our kitchen. It was probably related to my dad’s love for this cake I guess. As a result, whenever we had unexpected guests, they were promptly served some plum cake with tea 🙂  We sisters for some reason over the years began to not like this cake as much – I think it was  a consequence of it being available 12 months of the year I guess 🙂 But now after several years, memories of the moist cake filled with the delicious flavors of dried plums soaked in rum, made me want to try baking it. Plus the fact that I could load it with a ton of healthy ingredients – dried fruits and nuts made it even more attractive.

Early this year I came across a wonderful recipe on Pinterest which specifically had the recipe for Kerala Christmas Cake.  Looking over the recipe and seeing the huge amount of dry fruits it asked for , I knew this was the one I wanted to make. I also made a note that I would replace the all purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour.  However, in our mad baking frenzy yesterday, I forgot to use whole wheat flour. I did use a wide mix of dry fruits – dried plums(prunes), dates,dried figs,dried cherries, dark raisins and dried cranberries.  img_0014I soaked the dry fruits only 24 hours in advance vs the 1 month in advance that the recipe called for.  I also did not use rum as the recipe called for but used a dash of cherry flavored brandy that I had lying around in my pantry along with some apple juice. I also reduced the quantity of sugar since I was adding so much dried fruit. My kids don’t like too strong orange flavor so I replaced the orange marmalade in the recipe with honey. And just used a dash of orange juice to give a citrusy flavor. Finally I also added pumpkin spice since everyone in my family loves that particular blend of spices.

dsc_1745-1The mixing of the batter was some work and I am glad I had my kiddos helping me. The egg yolks and whites have to be beaten separately etc.  All the hard work paid off and the cake came out simply fabulous.  So flavorful and moist.  And so so rich and delicious. ! The only one downside was that I had not chopped the dry fruits very fine so it was hard to get thin slices of the cake. But that’s after all not such a bad problem to have I guess 🙂

This recipe makes two large cakes and we are bringing these to our Christmas gathering with friends. I am sure these will be devoured in no time!  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

dsc_1728-1

Christmas Cake (Dry Fruit and Nut Cake)

  • Servings: Makes 2 large round 8-9 inch cakes
  • Time: 60 minutes preparation time and 60 minutes baking time
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

Recipe adapted from Lifescoops

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 Cup  – granulated Sugar plus 1 tbsp water
    5 Cups – Dry Fruits(I used mix of dark Raisins, dried Cranberries, dried Cherries, dried Figs, Prunes and Dates)
    1 Cup – Water
    1/4 Cup – Cherry flavored brandy
  • 1/4 cup apple juice

    Ingredients for Cake
    2 1/2 Cups- All Purpose Flour (Maida)
    1 ½ Tsp – Baking powder
    ½ Tsp – Baking Soda
    1/2 Tsp – sea salt
    1 /2 tsp – Allspice
    1/2 Tsp – Cinnamon
    1 Tsp – Pumpkin spice
    —-
    2 and 3/4 sticks (approx 310 gms) – unsalted Butter
    2 cups- granulated Sugar or raw cane sugar
    5 – Egg Yolks
    —-
    1 Tsp- Vanilla essence
    3Tbsp – Honey
    2 tbsp orange juice
    —-
    5 – Egg Whites

    —-
    1 Cup – Chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Directions

Soaking the dried fruits:

  • At least a day or two in advance,  soak the dry fruits. (You can do weeks in advance too)
  • Finely chop the dry fruits and keep aside. In a non-stick sauce pan, add the 2/3 cups sugar along with the tbsp of water and let it heat on medium so that it starts to caramelize. Once the sugar caramelizes or turns into brown color (will take about 10-12 minutes), stir occasionally to mix the sugar to avoid burning. Once all the sugar is caramelized – i.e. turned into brown liquid, take the sauce pan off the heat and carefully add the 1 cup water little by little. Be very careful to avoid splashes as the caramelized sugar would be extremely hot. Stir well.
  • Now Add the chopped dry fruits and reheat mixture until it starts boiling.
  • Take it off the heat and add 1/4 Cup Brandy and 1/4 cup apple juice
  • Let the mixture cool completely; cover the container and keep at room temperature until you bake the cake.

Baking the Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350F/ 175C
  • Grease 2 cake pans (I used an angel pan and a round 8 inch pan) and line it with parchment paper. Lightly brush with butter. Keep aside.
  • Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices and keep it aside.
  • Mix the butter and sugar together in  stand mixer (or an electric mixer) and add the egg yolk one by one until everything is incorporated.
  • Add the soaked dry fruits along with any liquid and mix.
  • Stir in the flour mixture in batches and mix.
  • Add Vanilla extract, honey, Orange juice
  • In a big bowl, beat the egg white using an electric mixer until they form stiff peaks(for about 5 minutes).
  • Fold the egg whites into the cake batter slowly little at a time.
  • Pour the cake batter into prepared pans and bake for 1 hour or until the inserted toothpick comes out clean.

dsc_1728-1dsc_1741-1

dsc_1745-1

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

dsc_1704-1OK you will not see me baking such treats often. But hey its the holidays! And then what do you do when they come and tell you so excitedly ‘ Mom, you have got to make this cookie – can you guess what is in it? ‘ Hmm…let’s see chocolate chips? ‘ ‘ yes of course, but then what else?’  Me thinks ‘Nuts maybe?’  ‘No mom, you are going in the right direction’ ‘ OK OK why don’t you just tell me?’  ‘Mom, this is insane – there is an Oreo cookie stuffed inside a chocolate chip cookie!, what an awesome creation, isn’t it?, you’ve got to make it for Christmas!’

Oh God, yeah truly awesome calories that’s for sure.! Anyways those cute eyes flickering with so much excitement made me give in. In case you are wondering, that wasn’t my 10 yr old daughter but my 16 year old son! One of his high schooler friends had evidently made one of these cookies and shared with him and his friends.

dsc_1702-1So along with my Christmas Cake baking, which I have been planning to bake this year , we went about baking these ‘ginormouslyamazing’ cookies 🙂 Of course, both of them helped which was great!

So I got the recipe from Tablespoon.com and we baked a couple dozen of these cookies in less than 2 hours. The recipe for the dough was perfect and we carefully placed a cookie dough layer on top and bottom of each oreo cookie and sealed the edges to result in cute, fat cookie dough lumps that baked to become these gigantic stuffed cookies.  For once a year, they are alright to have I guess plus they will be sharing the love with their neighborhood friends so technically my kids will only be eating a couple of these 🙂

Btw the cute small plates in the pics are what my daughter got for me from her class auction! So sweet of her isn’t it? Another reason I guess why I give in to their occasional demand for not-so-healthy treats 🙂 See the 2 hands dunking the cookies in the milk. Aww..I wish my babies weren’t growing up so fast!

dsc_1705-1

dsc_1705-1For the recipe, please click link below : 

http://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/oreo-stuffed-chocolate-chip-cookies/0a222ab7-125d-4310-9a3d-d737e14a4d48

dsc_1704-1