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.

 

Perfect Chocolate Cake – a ‘healthier’ version (dairy free, refined sugar free)

I have probably said this before and will say it again – “Chocolate makes the world go around!” And there is something about ‘chocolate cake’ that makes everyone drool! And when it comes to both my children, they usually look for only one word in the dessert menu – yeah you guessed it – chocolate! Anything ‘chocolatey’ will fly with them! As you know, I usually try to bake ‘healthier’ versions of desserts and I mostly love to include fruits in my desserts. I also like to bake with either less sugar or using better alternatives like maple syrup or honey), try to avoid dairy (or use grassfed butter) and also use healthy ingredients like coconut oil and coconut milk.

Vital Proteins HomeBaking sweet treats at home helps to assure the quality of the ingredients and avoid unnecessary chemicals, colors and preservatives. I very rarely bake decadent treats like this one and reserve them only for special occasions like our birthdays. I believe having an occasional treat (essentially 3-4 times in a year) is not only ok but that it is also essential for a balanced approach so that you don’t feel deprived. I like to enforce the 80-20 rule at home where you eat healthy 80% of the time. Of course, if you have a chronic disease like diabetes or cardiovascular disease and or have an autoimmune condition like me, you need to try and avoid these completely for a period of time.

Anyways, for my son’s birthday this year, I decided to bake a ‘healthier’, slightly modified version of Ina Garten’s Perfect Chocolate Cake by replacing butter, refined sugar and milk with coconut oil, coconut sugar and coconut milk. For the eggs too, I used farm fresh pastured eggs. In the frosting too, I used honey and coconut sugar. And for the entire cake, I used fresh 100% cacao powder. Pleased to report that all these changes meant a really decadent, moist cake that was so over the top delicious that all of our friends at the birthday party were raving about it some even asking for seconds! No wonder I couldn’t even get good pictures of the cake:)

But let me assure you that this cake is going to be a keeper. With everyone praising the cake so much, even I was tempted to have a small bite and gosh, it was ‘heavenly, melt-in-the-mouth delicious’! I was actually feeling sorry that I tasted it since it made it harder for me to control myself from having anymore! And next time, I will try making this gluten free.

Please do try this recipe and I am sure you will thank me!

Perfect Chocolate Cake - a 'healthier' version (dairy free, refined sugar free)
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12
 
A decadent, moist chocolate cake covered with a delicious chocolate frosting baked using healthier ingredients like coconut oil, coconut sugar, coconut milk and honey.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups coconut sugar
  • ¾ cup 100% cacao powder (I used OMG brand)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ½ cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 large eggs(I used farm fresh, pastured) - taken out of the refrigerator one hour before so they can be at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder(optional)
For the frosting:
  • 1 cup coconut oil(semisolid not completely melted)
  • ⅓ cup coconut cream (from top of a coconut milk can)
  • ⅔ cup raw cacao powder
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar(powdered finely)
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg F. Grease a large 10 inch springform pan (or 2 smaller pans) and dust lightly with flour.
  2. In a large tray or a sheet of parchment paper, add all the dry ingredients - all purpose flour, coconut sugar, cacao powder, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt. Mix them well using a spatula. Keep this aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer), add the coconut milk,melted coconut oil,vanilla and the eggs and beat using electric mixer until blended. Now slowly add the dry ingredient mix slowly in batches and continue to mix to blend everything well.
  4. Add the boiling water and coffee and mix again till well blended.
  5. Pour the batter into the pan (or pans) and bake at 350 deg F (or 175 deg F) for about 40-45 mins. Check after 35 mins. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean. Remove immediately from oven and cool for about 30 mins before removing from pan.
  6. If using large pan, you will need to cut the cake horizontally to from two layers.
  7. For making frosting, add all frosting ingredients in a small bowl and mix using an electric mixer until creamy.
  8. Frost between the layers and on the outside.!
Notes
Make sure the eggs are at room temperature before you add them to the coconut oil and coconut milk mixture. If they are cold, the coconut oil will solidify! It happened with me. So in the event that this happens, don't worry - just place the bowl in a larger bowl with hot water and wait for about 10-15 mins until the coconut oil comes back to room temperature again.