Saturday, September 27, 2014

Blog Birthday & Coconut Macaroons (AIP, Paleo)

I’m feeling in a celebratory mood (and a tish nostalgic). Friday was “Sweet Treats” 5th birthday! So much has happened in the five years I’ve been baking, photographing & writing in this space…. 

When I started “Sweet Treats,” I had recently moved across the country, all by myself to Charleston, SC, and was enrolled in my first semester of pastry school at the Culinary Institute of Charleston. I had already been reading food blogs for several years and I figured that starting my own food blog was a great way to merge my background in graphic design & photography with my other love: baking and pastry. Plus, I kept reading about the “Daring Bakers” challenges on different blogs, and I wanted to participate. My very first Sweet Treats post chronicled my first DB challenge: vols-au-vents. I continued with many DB challenges until ultimately my work schedule made it impossible to complete the projects. Also over the first couple years of posting, I chronicled projects made both as a pastry student and instructor.

(some highlights from the past 5 years of blogging)

I’ve had fun re-reading the “Sweet Treats” archives & looking through old pictures. If you’d asked me in September of 2009 (when I started Sweet Treats the blog) where I thought I’d be in 5 years (2014), I never would have guessed that I’d be where I am today.  Along this journey, life has taken some very different paths than I ever expected....
  • Teaching at CIC: Before attending culinary school, I spent some time teaching in a demonstration kitchen . I loved teaching and was thrilled when I was unexpectedly asked to become a pastry chef instructor at CIC after my first year as a student. I taught a variety of different courses & feel very thankful for all I learned in developing much of my own curriculum and from my teaching experiences.  One of the hardest parts of leaving Charleston was leaving my job at CIC--I still miss the classroom!! 
  • Meeting Helene Dujardin: One of the very first food blogs I ever read was Helen’s Tartelette. At the time, I had no idea that she lived in Charleston (or that I’d be living in that city one day), but through the wonders of social media & email, we eventually connected and became friends in-real-life!!  She is such a gem (and the best wedding photographer we could have asked for). 
  • Meeting Tami Hardeman Boutté: Through working as the kitchen manager for several of Helene’s food photography workshops, I met Tami, who also has become a great friend. If ever you find yourself stranded in the ATL area due to an unexpected snowstorm, I highly recommend getting stranded at Tami’s house :) I’ve since also been fortunate to work as a food styling assistant for her on a commercial job. (and, hopefully for another shoot next month!) 
  • Moving to Texas: When I first moved to Charleston, I didn’t know how long I’d be there.... a year? Two years? More? But I certainly didn’t expect to end up in the middle of nowhere Texas, thanks to my husband’s job. The things one does for love :) Everyday of living here is a bit of an adventure, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 
  • Instagram: Let’s be honest, Instagram has become a staple in my life. I may have a bit of an addiction, but the way I see it, Instagram helps me get to know people I never would have found before & helps me keep in touch with friends and family who live far away. And I’m able to share more behind-the-scenes things about my everyday life. Spoiler alert: not every recipe is successful & my entire life most definitely isn’t Pinterest-worthy. 
  • Adventures with autoimmune conditions: Shortly after moving to Texas, my health problems began to compound, and I began searching for answers. After many visits to various doctors and a plethora of tests, multiple autoimmune conditions were diagnosed. Subsequently, I’ve made a number of dietary and lifestyle changes that I never anticipated making. Going “gluten-free” was not a choice I made based on a fad--it was a necessity! (as was a year of eating only foods with low acid properties...) I’ve tried conventional medications, some with success, though most included unpleasant side-effects. I’ve also had to come to terms with the fact that there is no quick fix for autoimmunity, or even a 100% cure. In all actuality, I will be dealing with these conditions (in some shape or form) for the rest of my life; there are steps I can take to manage my symptoms, but I still will need to be very self-aware. 
  • Paleo & the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP): I never expected to find myself following the Paleo lifestyle. I thought Paleo was silly, and expensive. How could I, a pastry chef, ever expect to give up ALL grains, as well as many other ingredients I considered to be “staples” ?!? As it turns out, the clinical nutritionist/functional medicine doctor I began seeing in April 2014 uncovered a ridiculous amount of food sensitivities, which, coupled with my other autoimmune issues, basically put me not just on a paleo diet, but the even stricter autoimmune protocol of paleo (aka AIP). The results from following AIP, along with supplements & treatments from my doctor, showed dramatic improvement of my symptoms almost immediately. I’m going to be honest, though: AIP is a lot of work & takes a decent amount of planning. It isn’t always fun or easy (and it isn’t always a miracle cure), I think it is the best option for me. While I hope to not have to follow strict AIP forever (I’m already on the reintroduction stage), I do think staying on a paleo-esque diet will be important for the foreseeable future (and that gluten and I will never be friends again).

The past 5 years have certainly had their roller coaster moments of high highs and low lows, but I’m choosing to celebrate them with an AIP-friendly coconut macaroon recipe. These macaroons are free from dairy, eggs, gluten/grains, and refined sugar, but they’re not free from delicious taste. In fact, I do have to hold myself back from eating too many.....

As I’ve jumped head first into the autoimmune protocol and watched my life change dramatically in the past months, I’ve also been thinking a lot about this space. How on earth does a pastry chef with a dessert blog adapt her subject matter to fit within paleo/aip and not completely alienate her readers? I keep returning to two principles 1) staying true to myself and 2) helping others. Here are some of my thoughts as I look to the future:

  • I have to keep my health in check. One of the major healing components of AIP is low-sugar consumption, even if that sugar is from natural or unrefined sources. It simply is detrimental for me to make sweets as often as I have in the past. They should be an occasional treat, not a regular thing. 
  • While I might not be eating sweets as often as I did in the past, I am eating some really fantastic foods that not only taste great but make me feel better too. I plan on posting more of these every-day “staples” and savory foods, although I won’t lose the sweets entirely. I often post pictures of what I’m eating on Instagram, partially to remember what I’ve eaten and partially to show people that although   AIP can be a bit daunting at first (and honestly sort of a lonely journey) & one of my goals moving forward is to take my experiences & recipes to help inspire people to live a more healthful lifestyle (though note that everyone is different, so my dietary choices might not be the best choices for you). 

Whew! I feel like I’ve written a novel :) I do want to thank you, my readers, for sticking with me on this journey. It hasn’t been what I would have predicted, but I can’t wait to see where it leads! I’m grateful for your company along these adventures. Please let me know if there are any topics or recipes you’d like to see me cover.  And even if you’re not following AIP, I still encourage you to make these fantastic macaroons. They couldn’t be easier or more delicious.

Coconut Macaroons (egg-free, paleo, AIP)
Yields approximately 18 cookies

pinch Sea Salt
26 g (2 Tbl) Organic Coconut Oil, room temperature
85 g (1/4 c) Organic Honey (or sub maple syrup to make vegan) 
1 Tbl Vanilla Extract (optional for AIP) 
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper & set aside. Note: I used my toaster oven & a quarter sheet baking pan.
  • Pulse the shredded coconut, coconut flour and sea salt in a food processor until combined. 
  • Add the oil, honey & vanilla extract & pulse until well mixed. 
  • Use a 1 Tbl cookie scoop to portion mounds of dough onto the prepared baking pan. Pack the dough into the scoop to ensure all macaroons are the same size. 
  • Bake for 10 minutes (rotating the pan after 5 minutes), or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pan at least 10 minutes. Store any leftovers in an airtight container. Macaroons may lose their crispness over time, depending on the humidity. 

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Sweet Treats. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Zucchini Bread (Paleo & Nut-free)

At the end of summer each year, it seems as though zucchini recipes & zucchini things are everywhere as people are trying to either savor one of the flavors of summer, or they’re trying to figure out how to use up the crazy amount of zucchini their garden produced. We’ve eaten a fair amount of zucchini this summer, but most all of it was purchased from a store. Someday, it’ll be nice to grow our own & join the group of people with overloads of zucchini.

Most of our zucchini consumption has been savory: Sautéed with shallots & bacon, roasted in the oven, sliced into stir-fry/hash, grated raw on salads & the ever amazing zucchini noodles (aka “zoodles”)... I did make this zucchini bread a couple of times after successfully reintroducing whole eggs. Even the non-paleo people remarked that they enjoyed it, though it isn’t as sweet as most zucchini bread recipes.  One night back in ND, I served it more like a pound cake than a quick bread, by topping slices with a little coconut whipped cream and an extra drizzle of local honey.

Often times, paleo baked goods rely heavily on the use of almond flour & other nut flours. One of the things I like about this particular recipe is that it uses coconut flour instead of almond flour. For me, and many other people who are in the reintroduction stages of the autoimmune protocol (aka AIP and/or autoimmune paleo), keeping my nut consumption on a limited level helps me to feel the best. Coconut flour is still a bit of a mystery to me, because it acts so different than regular wheat flours & other gluten free flours. This zucchini bread isn’t quite as tall as others may be, and the coconut flour does give it more of a spongy texture, but nevertheless, it is very, very tasty!  

I even have to be a little careful about how often I make this recipe. It’s taken a lot of conscious effort (and time) to subdue my sweet tooth and the part of me that craves treats... Lately, eating a couple bites of fruit is enough to satisfy me (and I’ve even been working to reduce my fruit consumption, because even excess sugars from fruit are not good for me). When I have this zucchini bread around, I find myself constantly eating tiny slices of it! I should be continuing in the mindset that sweets, even ones made with safe-to-me, paleo compliant ingredients, are still to be enjoyed sparingly.  Pairing some of the leftover zucchini bread with chicken sausages & a homemade paleo-ified bulletproof pumpkin spice latte was a special treat. 

Zucchini Bread (Paleo & Nut-free) 
adapted from Small Footprint Family

Note: this recipe is *close* to AIP, but still includes eggs (which I have successfully reintroduced in small quantities). If you’re following strict AIP, you could try the gelatin egg replacer (see this post); however, I have not tested that substitution yet....  

1 Zucchini, grated (around 5.7 oz)
56 g / 1/2 c Coconut Flour (I use Bob's Red Mill Organic Coconut Flour)
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2 Tbl Cinnamon
4 large pastured eggs, room temperature
64 g / 3 Tbl Raw Honey
13 g (1 Tbl) Coconut Oil, room temperature, plus additional for the pan
1 ripe banana, mashed

  1. Using the large openings on a box grater, grate the zucchini into a bowl. Allow to sit while measuring the rest of the ingredients. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper & brush the paper with coconut oil. Set aside. 
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the coconut flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. 
  4. In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk the eggs, honey & coconut oil. Mix in the mashed banana. Add the dry ingredients & whisk thoroughly until there aren’t any lumps. 
  5. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the grated zucchini (I do this by dividing the zucchini into a couple handfuls & squeeze it as hard as I can) & add it to the batter. Pour into the prepared loaf pan & bake for 45 to 50 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). 
  6. Cool for a few minutes in the pan, then remove, using the parchment liner to assist. 
  7. Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature. Slice just before serving. This zucchini bread is not extremely sweet, so you may wish to serve it with an extra drizzle of honey, if you’re not following a low sugar diet. 
This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Stovetop Peach Blueberry Crisp (Paleo & Vegan)

“...the girls put their wits to work, 
and necessity being the mother of invention, 
made whatever they needed.” 
-Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Since we don’t have a working oven at my family’s lake cabin in Minnesota, I had to be a little creative when it came to planning meals & treats. We made use of the stove top, outside grill, microwave & slow cooker for the main dishes & vegetables, but dessert was a little more challenging, especially considering my Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) dietary parameters.

There’s something about being around water all day that makes a person extra hungry. And, of course, the “I’m-on-vacation-and-am-allowed-to-splurge-a-little” thinking. In past years, splurging would have meant driving to the nearby gas station for half a gallon of ice cream & a can of Hershey’s syrup, or making s’mores around a beach fire, or eating packages of cookies. But thankfully, my family has been oh so understanding about what I can and cannot eat & they were on board with some AIP & Paleo splurges instead of our normal treats. We brought along some Coconut Milk Ice Cream , and I also made coconut milk panna cotta (with nectarines instead of berries).

Then one day, when the weather was grey, windy & rainy, I wanted to create a dessert that leaned more towards warmth and comfort than to cold & refreshing. We had some peaches that were nearly over-ripe & a bag of frozen blueberries that were originally slated for making smoothies. Almost immediately, the thought of a crisp/crumble came to mind….

But how do you make a crisp without the oven? Easy. First, toast the topping in a skillet, then, once the topping is done & moved to a bowl, cook the fruit on the stovetop. Spoon the cooked fruit into bowls & top with the previously made crumble. Voila, fruit crisp, sans oven :)

I’ve previously made gluten free crisps & crumbles (like this one and this one), but grain free baking is still a new territory to me. I’m still cautious about working with different ingredients, like liquid sweeteners (i.e honey & maple syrup), arrowroot starch, coconut flour, and even coconut oil, but I am attempting to be more brave in my experimentation. It looks like I’ll probably be following some version of Paleo for the rest of my life, so I might as well get use to it :) Fortunately, crisps and crumbles are a bit more forgiving & don’t require quite as much scientific precision as say a cake or cookie needs. 

Since I am in the reintroduction phase of the Autoimmune Protocol & almonds seem to be ok (just in not giant quantities), I used a mixture of coconut flour & almond flour in the topping, but if you’re not yet to reintroducing almonds, using more coconut flour would also work. As I toasted the topping on the stove, several family members could smell its fragrance & came over to see what I was concocting--that’s always a good sign.

When we were ready to eat dessert, I spooned the thickened fruit into bowls & let each person top their own dish with as much crumble as he or she wanted. I’m usually a fan of ice cream on my crisp (or whipped cream), but this time, I splashed a little coconut milk to mimic the creaminess. We were all satisfied by how delicious it was & no one felt deprived by this “healthier” dessert. I’ll be remembering this stovetop method in the future for times when it simply is too hot to turn on the oven :)

Stovetop Peach Blueberry Crisp
serves 4 

42g / 5 Tbl Coconut Flour
56 g / 1/2 c Almond Flour (AIP Modification: omit almond flour & increase coconut flour instead)
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
42 g / 3 Tbl Coconut oil, melted
1.5 oz / 2 Tbl Honey

300 g / 1.5 c Frozen Blueberries (may substitute fresh, but add a little water too)
2 medium-large peaches (around 400g), cut into thin slices, peeling is optional
2.75 oz / 4 Tbl Pure Maple Syrup 
1 Tbl Lemon Juice

Coconut Milk, for serving 
  1. To make the crumble topping: combine the coconut flour, almond flour, sea salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Drizzle in the coconut oil & honey.  Mix with a fork until crumbly. 
  2. Toast the crumble in a large skillet over medium high heat, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes, or until the crumble begins to brown slightly & smell toasty. Remove from the skillet & set aside. Give the skillet a quick rinse. 
  3. To make the filling: add the blueberries and peaches to the skillet. Drizzle with maple syrup and lemon juice  Cook over medium heat until the juices begin to boil. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to a simmer & cook until the peaches are tender--approximately 10 minutes. Stir occasionally, as needed. Taste & add additional maple syrup if the filling isn’t sweet enough. 
  4. Remove 1/2 c of liquid from the pan & place into a small bowl. Into the liquid, stir in the arrowroot, making sure there are no lumps. Add the mixture back to the skillet and cook for an additional minute to allow the fruit to thicken & to cook out any starch flavor from the arrowroot. Remove from the heat. 
  5. Just before serving, spoon the fruit into bowls & sprinkle with the crumble topping (note: there may be leftover crumble topping). Top with a splash of coconut milk or a scoop of coconut milk ice cream. 
  6. Store any leftover fruit filling in the refrigerator. Keep any leftover crumble topping tightly covered at room temperature. 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

August 2014, in pictures

I may have gone blog-silent (intentionally) for the month of August, but it still was an exciting month, filled with food & travels. Part of the reason for my travels was to see some of my family, but I also am under the care of an excellent doctor in Warren, MN. He's the more functional medicine oriented doctor who started me on this new lifestyle (basically a version of the Autoimmune Protocol of paleo) and oversees my supplements etc. Periodically I need to travel back for follow up appointments with him & some additional treatments. I planned this trip to be a little longer than most I've done in the past, specifically because I didn't want to spend the whole time back in the doctors office. Both my sisters were home for the first portion of the trip & my husband came for the Labor Day weekend. In between treatments, we spent some time at the family lake cabin on Tulaby Lake in Minnesota, and drove all the way to Chicago (and back again) to help my youngest sister move.

Here's a few favorite iPhone pictures, some of which have been posted on Instagram and Steller.  Side note: Steller is fast becoming one of my favorite apps! Go check it out if you haven't yet.

I made a couple pavlovas with lemon cream cheese & strawberries for some dear friends' send-off party. Though I couldn't have a taste (dairy, sugar, corn, egg whites etc…), everyone else really enjoyed eating them!  
Recipe can be found here (I just added some lemon juice & zest to the filling). 

An experiment in making grain-free and nightshade-free stuffed cabbage, using "no-mato" sauce. Yum! 

Pretty lingerie decorated cookies for a very special bachelorette party 
(click on the picture if you'd like to see it in a larger size). 

Now that I finally own a spiralizer, I want to spiralize everything! Zoodles for everyone! 

Mollie: Oh, you were planning on doing some yoga? I just thought this pretty pink mat was for me to lie on…. 

Sisters slacklining. I tried it, but I'm not very good (and it hurts my feet).  

Watching my youngest sister water ski.

Jumping into freezing cold water Tulaby Lake.  

Dinner on the screened-in porch at the cabin. The grilled marinated pork, with balsamic stone fruit, mashed butternut squash & sautéed spinach were all delicious (and autoimmune protocol compliant)!  

My mom makes waterskiing look SO easy…  

Our oven at the lake doesn't work, so one afternoon,  I created this no-bake stovetop Blueberry Peach Crisp 
with coconut almond crumble (Autoimmune Protocol compliant, with the reintroduction of almonds). 
Stay tuned for the recipe in the next post!  

We made a version of Mickey Trescott's Sear-Roasted Pork Chops, only we grilled them. 
They were so delicious that I forgot to take a picture after they were cooked!  

Now that I've successfully reintroduced a few foods, 
I'm cautiously venturing into the world of autoimmune protocol/paleo baking. 
This paleo zucchini bread was pretty good, but needs a bit of tweaking before I'd share the recipe. 

Driving to Chicago with my youngest sister & her new roommate.   

Pre-baseball game dinner at Rockit Burger. My bun-less, cheese-less, nightshade-free burger 
with sweet potato fries was a great Autoimmune Protocol option, 
though I did *really* want to try my sister's "breakfast for dinner" burger 
with doughnuts for buns, fried egg & bacon….

 Attending my first ever professional sporting event 
(and I unintentionally dressed in the colors of the home team).

 Fire! Our first experience at a Japanese steak house for Hibachi. I
 thought it would be a cross-contamination nightmare,  since I can't eat gluten, soy,
 dairy, nightshades etc. But thankfully, they cooked my meal of steak & veggies first. 

 Driving through the Twin Cities on the way back to ND. 

Somewhere in Minnesota. 

 Grilled marinated flank steak, roasted green beans & roasted potatoes for dinner at my parents house, 
where I tried unsuccessfully to reintroduce white potatoes.  *sigh, perhaps someday…  

Back to the lake for Labor Day Weekend--this time with husband too!  

Another dinner on the porch at the lake (Autoimmune Protocol compliant, again). 
Shrimp Scampi (Grandpa's favorite) over cauliflower puree.

Perfectly calm water during the golden hour. 

 Another gorgeous sunset. 

Fishing with husband in Grandpa's boat. I did manage to catch a couple fish! 
Though, I still need someone to bait my hook & take the fish off ;) 

Husband's catch: sunfish & crappies.

Husband's catch, cleaned, scaled, stuffed with lemon & herbs, ready to be eaten! 
farm Lake to table at it's finest! 

With the successful reintroduction of eggs (though not in large quantities), I've started making paleo mayo! 
Yay, condiments! This recipe from "The Healthy Foodie" is my favorite (and SO easy). 

Fun way to display vintage fishing lures at an antique store in Dorset, MN. 

Husband ate the most amazing looking churro ice cream cone in Dorset, MN.
I, on the other hand, ate an apple… 

 The end of another perfect lake day. 

Hot cereal for breakfast is a favorite childhood lake memory. 
Since I've successfully reintroduced rice, I splurged on some cream of rice cereal 
with blueberries & coconut milk (though I don't plan to eat rice often).  

The screened in porch just might be my favorite spot at the cabin. Miss Mollie agrees, too.  

Husband swims, while I just dip my feet in and contemplate the merits (or lack thereof) of cold lake water…. 

Goodbye, lovely lake cabin! Until next year! 

Stay tuned for my next post on making stovetop Blueberry Peach Crisp!