Paleo Carrot Banana Muffins

Some recipes just work.Maybe it's because you are comfortable with the ingredients, or the results satisfy your taste buds in some kind of a primal way that is rarely achieved, or maybe you were in a good mood the first time you tried it.  Whatever the reason or reasons, some recipes strike the right chord and become instant favorites.

This is one of those recipes. You don't have to be paleo to love these gems. Non-paleo friends love them and gluten-free friends really love them, maybe because so many baked goods labeled gluten-free taste similar to what cardboard or sawdust would taste like so people are wary of the term. Baby Girl found the recipe on Paleo Plan but when I went to access the link, I saw they were actually from Elana's Pantry, and when I went to her site, Elena says she was inspired by Heidi at another site.  I'm sure the inspiration goes on.  I wasn't inspired to change them at all.  I thought they were just right.

The muffins entered our kitchen because our new paleo eaters wanted something different for breakfast. They are sweet, but not too sweet, and contain no refined sugar.  They feel hearty but not in the way that a bran muffin leaves you feeling like you ate a brick. When Baby Girl found the recipe, she took to it with a passion.  She made the muffins over and over and over.  She made them to take on road trips.  She took them to the beach.  And, of course, she kept a stash in the freezer for whenever she needed a quick breakfast.  They never lasted long when she made them, so she made them a lot.

Then Baby Girl went back to school and I had no one to make my muffins for me. Can you picture my sad face? They are easy to make so that is no reason to complain.  I just miss my Baby Girl so I allow myself time to wallow in self-pity while making the muffins. I give that to myself. I want her to be here making her muffins.

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I enjoyed a little wallow-fest recently when I made the muffins for my book club.  I served them as the "bread" part of the main course which was a chile rellano.  The slight sweetness of the muffin worked well with the spicy food.  My book clubbers loved them and multiple people asked for the recipe so in the spirit of sharing, I give this to all of you.  Go forth and bake paleo muffins.  Feel free to wallow in sadness over those you miss while you bake.  They don't take long, so wallow quickly.

"Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them." -Paulo Coelho

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Paleo Plan Carrot Banana Muffins

This recipe makes about 12 muffins, but leftovers can be frozen for quick use at another time. 

2 cups almond flour 2 tsp baking soda 1 tsp sea salt 1 Tbs cinnamon 1 cup dates, pitted 3 ripe bananas 3 eggs 1 tsp apple cider vinegar 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted 1 ½ cups carrots, shredded (about 2 medium carrots) ¾ cup walnuts (or nuts of choice),  finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350℉. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a food processor, combine dates, bananas, eggs, vinegar and oil. Puree well. Add mixture from food processor to dry mixture in the large bowl and combine thoroughly. Fold in carrots and nuts. Spoon mixture into paper lined muffin tins. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes.

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Paleo Sweet Potato Hash with Poached Eggs

You wouldn't know it from some of my posts reliving memories and celebrating the recipes, but in March of 2013, I stopping eating bread and pasta.I know.  Sounds crazy.  It is crazy.  I thought it would be impossible to maintain and had no hopes of sticking to it since I had never, EVER, been on any kind of a diet in my life.  But my doctor told me every year that my weight and cholesterol were inching up and she was concerned that I wasn't exercising enough.  I was too tired to exercise and didn't really know how to diet but I knew I needed to do something.  And then I was introduced to a way of eating called Paleo.

 At first, I thought Paleo sounded impossible.  But the more I read, the more intrigued I became.  All the scientific explanations and testimonials about the Paleo diet made sense to me but I was pretty sure I didn't have the willpower to sustain it.  Or the desire to maintain it.  I love my food!  All of it.  I decided to give it a try by just giving up bread and pasta and see how I felt.  It was surprisingly easy because I didn't try to limit anything else.  I ate what I wanted except for bread and pasta.

A few weeks in and I decided to go completely gluten-free.  Surprisingly, it was still easy and I was feeling pretty good with more energy.  Another month and I gave up grains and legumes except for the occasional sushi rice, and I tried to limit dairy and sugar.

Here I need to pat myself on the back because even though I have never owned a scale and never kept track of my weight, I decided before I gave up bread and pasta that I should monitor my weight at the local gym.  I wrote down my weight on March 16, 2013.   When I weighed in on May 15th, I was shocked to find that after two months of eating all I wanted,  I felt better and lost 7 pounds.!  I actually started feeling like going to the gym.

It has now been over a year of my new way of eating.  I never went fully paleo as you will notice from my instagram posts, still enjoying a bit of dairy and the occasional rice or other gluten-free grain.  I love my wine and occasional sweet.  And I try to never impose my diet on others, not worrying about a meal here or there that includes legumes or grains.  A few bites here and there don't seem to derail me and for the most part, I stick to it and I find it fairly easy to maintain, filling and satisfying, and terrifically varied.  My weight stabilized after the first 8 months, with the total loss being around 14 pounds and that is where I have magically just stayed no matter how much I eat or don't eat.

My doctor was amazed.  She was most impressed with my cholesterol which went from 240 to 186 with the entire loss being in the bad cholesterol category (LDL).  She asked me what on earth I had been doing since she had not seen my weight nor my cholesterol go down in the past 10 years.  She wasn't at all surprised when I told her I was eating mostly Paleo.  She had heard of the results from others.

The hardest part about this type of diet for me is breakfast.  For nearly five decades, (yes, 50 years) I had grains for breakfast every single morning.  Toast, cereal, granola, oatmeal, muffin, bagel....always something with grains.  And then I stopped.

It was hard to figure out what to eat at first.  I had cottage cheese and fruit.  Scrambled eggs.  Paleo granola with almond milk.  I settled on mostly eggs because the protein really kept me going until lunchtime.  But eggs got a little dull day after day.  And poached eggs are my favorite but a little weird with no bread to soak up the yolk.  Then I read a blog post that gave me a huge smile and a big dose of inspiration.

The Amateur Gourmet wrote about his invention of a sweet potato breakfast hash topped with poached eggs and he changed my world.  I took his idea and made it my way, using things I had at hand and spices I love.  Baby Girl and I have a new favorite breakfast.

I don't know why, but I had never thought of chopping a sweet potato for breakfast.  In my mind, they were mashed or made into fries.  But they are so easy to peel and then if you chop them into small cubes, they cook quickly and easily for a perfect savory side dish or base for poached eggs.

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Baby Girl and I still wonder why everyone call yams sweet potatoes but we did a taste test and we definitely prefer the sweet potatoes even if they aren't always the beautiful orange color of yams.  You can use yams or sweet potatoes or both for this recipe and the best part is...you can cook up a large quantity of the hash at dinner time and use it for breakfast all week long!  Thank you Amateur Gourmet.

We used both yams and sweet potatos in this version.

"I want to inspire, and be inspired." -Sam Mendes

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Sweet Potato Hash with Poached Eggs

(serves 2) 1 T coconut oil 1 medium/large sweet potatoes or yam, peeled and chopped into bite-sized cubes 1/2 medium onion, chopped 1 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper 1 tsp dried sage 1/8 tsp nutmeg 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper 4 poached eggs* avocado to serve

Get your poached eggs started. Put coconut oil in a hot pan and add the sweet potato and onion. Cook over medium/high heat stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until sweet potatoes pierce easily with a fork. Stir in the spices and cook 1 more minute. Remove from heat and allow to sit until eggs are ready. Scoop a generous helping of sweet potatoes onto your plate and place drained poached eggs on top. Garnish with avocado and enjoy.

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*For the perfect poached eggs, go to Dad's Poached Eggs

Carla's Apple Turnovers

I don't remember when I first met Carla.It was so long ago I have forgotten our initial encounter. My sister-in-law Shari met Carla in the 1970's when Carla was a young dance instructor and Shari was in high school. Shari met my Brother Dave around that same time and a lifelong friendship began amongst the three of them. Carla is the kind of creative and spirited woman that my brother loved; they were the closest of confidantes for the following thirty years.

I always liked Carla and she was someone who I admired from afar. I had heard about her for years through the glowing praises of my brother and ran into her from time to time through that connection, but the first regular encounters between Carla and I were around 1996 when Hubby and I returned to the States from Australia. Carla has a french husband, style and grace that one can only be born with, and a business which has evolved over the years from creating exquisite hand-sewn couture gloves and clothing, to her current passion designing jewelry fit for royalty or rock stars, an aesthetic mix that I find perfect in every way.  Some of Carla's early couture pieces, which I cherish and wear to this day, were handmade by Carla in her little studio at her home. She still makes couture jewelry in her Camille K  Atelier but her focus now is manufacturing pieces that are unlike any other jewelry I have seen and each piece I buy becomes my new favorite.

Carla and her Camille K jewels.

Over the years, visiting my family and going to Carla’s shows, Carla and I became friends. We shared many meals and evenings together at parties, at her events, at my brothers house and at her house. But it wasn’t until the year following the deaths of both my brother and Carla’s father that she invited me to lunch. After considering  Carla a friend for over fifteen years, this was to be our first meal alone together.

We didn’t stop talking from the moment we sat down. We talked about her business, our children, our lives. We talked about our mothers both living on their own, our dreams and our futures. We talked about her father and my brother. She said, “Did I ever tell you about the Apple Turnovers?”

Her story was not long. I choked up the moment she started because she captured the essence of Dave completely. Childlike in his ways, irresistible in his boyhood charm, my brother was completely and wholly loved by Carla. Her story started with a dinner party at her house.

After greeting her guests and getting them settled with a drink, Carla went into the kitchen. Within minutes, my brother barged in, demanding to know what she was making for dinner in his nosy, brusque, endearing way. It didn’t matter what Carla was cooking at that moment because Dave immediately focused on the plate of apple turnovers leftover from breakfast that morning. Carla’s husband loved turnovers and she had a wonderfully simple recipe to whip them up on any given morning so it was common to find them on her counter. Dave said “Can I have one of these?” as he picked it up, poised to take a bite. Carla, who knew better than to impart any reason on Dave; was thinking “You are just about to eat dinner, do you really want an apple turnover?” But what she said was, “Of course.”

As the story goes, Dave told Carla that she was never to make the turnovers again without calling him so he could stop by for breakfast. Dave had a way of insisting on things so that you had to comply. The next time Carla made the turnovers, she was reminded of Dave and his request which was positioned more as a demand, and smiled as she doubled the recipe. Turnovers baked and cooling on the rack, Carla called Dave. He answered, in his familiar gruff conjoviality, “What do you want?” Carla replied, “I think the question is what do I have that YOU want?”

Carla told Dave she had something he needed to get in the next fifteen minutes. Dave and Carla were such good friends that he didn’t even question her. They arranged to meet in ten minutes in the bank parking lot downtown. Carla arrived to the designated spot, pulled her car up to Dave’s car where he sat with my other brother Bill, and Carla handed Dave the foil-wrapped package through the window. “What is this?” he asked. “You made me promise,” said Carla.

Dave opened the package and ate one. He gave one to Bill and grabbed another. Carla said, “I made you six so you could share them with Shari.” Dave just smiled and drove away. Carla spoke to Shari that night and discovered that indeed one turnover had made it home that morning. The question that was never answered was did Dave eat three or four turnovers during the five minute drive back to his house?

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The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Carla’s Apple Turnovers

(Makes 8 turnovers) 1 box frozen puff pastry dough (Carla uses La Boulange Artisan) 1 egg yolk, whisked in a small bowl 1/2 cup of your favorite preserves or pie filling (Local/organic is best and it doesn't have to be apple!  Use any flavor or filling you like.  I used apple pie filling.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take puffed pastry from freezer and allow to thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes or until soft enough to fold without cracking. Lay out one sheet of pastry flat and brush with egg yolk. Cut into 4 equal squares. Spoon 1 T of jam into the center of each square. Fold over each square into a triangle and press closed with fork prongs. Brush top with egg yolk and place onto parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with second sheet of pastry. Cut a small slit into the top of each turnover and bake 20-25 minutes or until brown and flaky. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

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