How “Natural” Is Your Peanut Butter?

Growing up, there were always 2 jars of peanut butter in the cupboard – one small jar of Skippy creamy, and one giant jar of Jif crunchy. I was a Jif girl. It wasn’t because I liked crunchy better than creamy. Actually, I preferred creamy. But, Jif was sweeter than Skippy, at least back in the day, and I had the most massive crush on all things sweet. These days, both Jif and Skippy sport 3 grams of sugar per serving. They also both contain hydrogenated vegetable oils, and Jif has the added bonus of mono and diglycerides. Yum!

When I first started eating a more natural diet, I discovered that peanut butter really only needs  2 ingredients – peanuts and salt. Now, I’m no longer tied to a brand. I’m tied to an ingredient list. Peanuts and salt – whether it’s ground fresh by me at the food cooperative or bought in a jar, my go-to peanut butter is nothing but peanuts and salt.

Except when it isn’t.

You see, there are one or two traditional family recipes that still tug at my apron strings that simply must be made with a Jif-like peanut butter. And, thankfully, now you can get Jif-like peanut butter with a less scary ingredient list – typically, peanuts, palm oil, sugar, and salt. Okay, still not spectacular. But, better than the chemical nastiness.

After the holiday baking this year, I had some of the “nearly natural” peanut butter left, so I decided to do a little experiment and bake the same recipe twice – once with each kind of peanut butter. My theory was that most of my baked good recipes work with either, but that the natural PB might result in a looser dough and more spreading.

I was a little surprised by the results. For the most part, the differences were not huge. The natural peanut butter cookie is darker in color, has a more pronounced peanut flavor. But, what really surprised me was that it spread less. The “nearly natural” cookie was a little sweeter due to the added sugar. But, not radically so.

In a head-to-head comparison, the kiddo picks the nearly natural cookies. But, I swear it’s because they look bigger. Seriously.

I’ll be sticking with the natural peanut butter most of the time. How about you?

Top spoon and cookie are a natural peanut butter. Bottom spoon and cookie are a nearly natural peanut butter.

Top spoon and cookie are a natural peanut butter. Bottom spoon and cookie are a nearly natural peanut butter.

Grain-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/4 cup (56 g) coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup (128 g) peanut butter
1/3 cup palm sugar
1 t. psyllium powder + 3 T. hot water (mix and let sit for a minute)
1 t. vanilla
2 T. almond milk
1 packed cup (128 g) almond flour
1/2 cup (56 g) tapioca starch
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, beat the coconut oil and peanut butter until fluffy. Beat in the sugar. Add the psyllium mix, the vanilla and the almond milk and beat well. Beat in the flour, starch, baking soda and salt. The dough will be greasy and crumbly. Keep beating until it starts to come together. Stir in the chocolate chips. Scoop spoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets, and flatten with the palm of your hand. Bake for 12-14 minutes.

Posted in chocolate, cookies, grain-free, nightshade-free, peanut butter, vegan | 3 Comments

Sweet Potato & Swiss Chard Sauté

Lest everyone think that I live on things like Sugar Crunch Coffee Cake, and lest anyone fear that I will no longer be posting healthy vegan food, today’s offering is both vegan and healthy. In fact, it will fit into most of your New Year’s resolution restrictive diets, cleanses, resets, and what-have-you’s.

I just think it’s yummy.

A local Tex-Mex place combines sweet potatoes and swiss chard and Mexican spices and serves it as a taco filling. And the kiddo actually eats it. So, this is our at home version. We switch out the seasonings on a fairly regular basis. Feel free to season and spice in whatever way you want.

Vegan steamy sweet potato and Swiss chard

Vegan steamy sweet potato and Swiss chard

Sweet Potato & Swiss Chard Sauté

2 T. coconut oil
1/2 small yellow onion, minced
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 t. seasoning blend (I used Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle)
1 bunch Swiss chard, cut off the stalk, cleaned, and roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, melt the coconut oil and sauté the onion until slightly soft. Add the sweet potato and seasonings and continue to cook until sweet potato is tender and some pieces are browned. (By this time the onion will be brown and crispy. Yum!) Add the Swiss Chard and toss over heat just until Swiss chard is wilted.

Serves 1 very hungry momma as a main dish, or 2 as a side dish.

Want to find more allergy-friendly recipes? Check out Allergy Free Wednesdays and Wellness Weekends.

Posted in grain-free, nightshade-free, nut-free, side dish, sweet potato, vegan | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Sugar Crunch Coffee Cake (grain-free)

I’ve had this recipe figured out for months. I’ve made it for family, for friends, and for my 1st annual Halloween Zombrunch (with a bloody cherry sauce drizzle). Everyone that’s tried it has loved it, including my gluten-eating friends.

But, I haven’t posted it to the blog yet.

Why not? Because it has refined sugar and eggs in it. And, that’s against “the rules.” I hate rules. They’re sucking all the fun out of blogging.

So, here’s the new blogging rule – there are no rules. That doesn’t mean you’re going to start seeing gluten and dairy and soy stuff here. Those are things I just don’t eat. No rules there. I just don’t even consider those things “foods” anymore. But, eggs, sugar (and other high glycemic sweeteners), chicken, turkey, yeast, fake Daiya cheese, even neon-colored sprinkles (egads!) – those all appear in my kitchen and on my plate from time to time.  And, now, if they’re yummy enough, they’re also going to appear on my blog from time to time.

Please don’t complain. The food police make me so sad.

The upside is that if blogging becomes fun again, you just might see more recipes.

It’s a trade-off.

Oh, and I LOVE a good challenge. So, if there’s a certain thing you really want to see, feel free to let me know. A friend just planted the seed in my head for a nightshade-free chili. Challenging, yes, but also could be very fun and delicious.

Got a challenge for me?

Sugar Crunch Coffee Cake (grain-free)

Sugar Crunch Coffee Cake (grain-free)

Sugar Crunch Coffee Cake

This is an adaptation of a recipe from my grandmother’s old church cookbook. It has a lot of ingredients and dirties multiple bowls and it’s worth it anyway. I’ve tried it with coconut sugar, but I didn’t like it as much. Feel free to use your favorite granulated sweetener and let me know how it works.

Yeast Mixture
2.5 t. dried quick-acting yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 t. sugar

Wet Ingredients for Cake
1/2 cup (96 g) palm shortening
1/2 cup (112 g) Earth Balance Soy Free
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup almond milk
1 t. vanilla
1/8 t. almond extract
1 t. psyllium powder

Dry Ingredients for Cake
2.5 cups (300 g) blanched almond flour
1/2 cup (72 g) tapioca starch
1/2 cup (56 g) sifted coconut flour
4 t. baking powder

Sugar Crunch Topping
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 T. (7 g) sifted coconut flour
1 rounded t. cinnamon
1.5 T. (21 g) Earth Balance Soy Free
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I like pecans best)

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

Mix yeast mixture ingredients together and set aside to proof.

In a large bowl, beat the shortening and Earth Balance together until creamy. Beat in the sugar. Add the eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Mix together the almond milk, extracts, and psyllium powder. Add to other ingredients and beat. Don’t worry if it separates. It will be fine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

Add half the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat until smooth. Add half the yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Repeat with the remaining dry and yeast mixtures. Be sure to scrape the bowl occasionally. The end result should be smooth and fluffy.

Scrape dough into prepared pan and spread evenly.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, coconut flour, cinnamon and Earth Balance for the sugar crunch topping. When fully mixed, stir in the chopped nuts. Sprinkle mixture over the dough in the pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until top is golden brown and a knife inserted comes out clean. Cool before cutting.

Posted in breakfast, cinnamon, desserts, grain-free, nightshade-free, nuts | Tagged | 30 Comments

Pina Colada Smoothie

Creamy, comforting, and full of vitamin C, this is the perfect smoothie for the cold and flu season.

Or so says the sick kiddo.

Pina Colada Smoothie

Pina Colada Smoothie

Pina Colada Smoothie

1 very ripe banana
1 small handful frozen pineapple
1/4 to 1/2 cup coconut milk (depends on how much you like coconut)
juice of 1 orange

Blend all ingredients until creamy. Add ice or cold water if too thick.

Posted in bananas, coconut, drinks, grain-free, raw, vegan | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Savory Squash Galette

Simple, scrumptious, and seasonal – this recipe is easy enough for a weeknight dinner (with a little prep work) and special enough for those vegan holiday celebrations.

I used Brittany’s excellent grain-free, vegan pie crust. I’ve made the crust a couple of times now, and it’s a joy to roll and shape. But, be aware, once I made it with arrowroot starch and once I made it with tapioca starch. It was drier and more crumbly with the tapioca starch. Though, because the recipe does not use precise measurements, it could entirely be because my measurements were different each time. But, the recipe seems fairly flexible. So, roll with it. (Ha – get the pun?)

A slice of savory pie

A slice of savory pie

Savory Squash Galette (vegan, grain-free)

1 recipe grain-free, vegan pie crust
1/2 butternut squash
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
2 T. full-fat coconut milk (from a can)
1/2 t. salt
1/4 roughly chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350º. Rub cut half of butternut squash with olive oil, and pour remaining oil in the cavity of the squash. Put the 2 garlic cloves in the cavity of the squash. Place the squash on a cookie sheet and bake until soft – about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make your pie crust.

When squash is soft, remove from oven and cool enough to handle. Scoop squash, garlic and olive oil into the bowl of a food processor. Add nutritional yeast, coconut milk, and salt. Process until smooth. (Note: Squash can be made ahead of time.)

Roll out the pie crust into a large, rough circle. Scoop prepared squash onto crust, leaving a 2-inch border. Sprinkle squash with pecans. Roughly fold the edges up and over the squash, pinching to hold the crust together.

Bake for 25 minutes. (The crust will not brown unless you brush it with some milk or egg wash.)

Savory squash galette - vegan and grain-free

Savory squash galette – vegan and grain-free

Want more healthy, vegan recipes? Check out Wellness Weekends.

Posted in grain-free, holiday, main dish, nightshade-free, nuts, vegan | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

SRC: Red Lentil Soup

It’s Secret Recipe Club reveal day! This month I was assigned the amazingly fabulous blog, Oh! You Cook!, written by Dena, who is a published cookbook author! Neat, eh? But, my favorite thing about her blog is that she’s a Kosher cook.

What’s that? I’m psyched about a Kosher cook? Even though I’m not Kosher? Yes! Yes, I am. The great thing about Kosher cooking is that there’s a whole category of dairy-free foods. Yay! One restriction taken care of!

It just so happens that Dena also labels her gluten-free foods.

Can I just say I was in SRC blogger heaven this month? Squeeee!

The downside to that is it was really hard to pick something to make. I gave her blueberry banana bread some serious consideration. And these Black Forest Kulfis look totally amazing. And, the kiddo has been begging me to make cinnamon sugar almonds ever since he got hooked on the ones from Trader Joes.

But, I decided that with all the holiday baking coming up, and the Thanksgiving pies already indulged in, that I should stick with something healthy. Her Red Lentil Soup is the perfect thing – filling and warming, but light and bright at the same time. It’s so good, I’ve already made it twice. (And the kiddo says he’ll eat it, as long as I give him chips with it. That’s a bargain I’m willing to strike.)

I only made the slightest of changes, so I’m going to send you to her site for recipe. I skipped the cayenne and used a no-mato sauce in place of the tomato paste (similar to this, but homemade). So, my version was nightshade-free. And, I used 2 cubes of my super stock concentrate and 1 quart of water instead of the chicken stock. And, completely by accident, I skipped the extra cup of water entirely. Both times. Oops. (I like my soup thick.)

Thanks so much, Dena. Love your site, and I’ll definitely be back to make more recipes!

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

Photo credit to Amanda Thorne.

Check out the rest of the Secret Recipe Club submissions!

Posted in Blogger Community, nightshade-free, nut-free, soup, vegan | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Almond Shortbread Cookies

You know those cookies that they have at all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets? They’re crispy and almondy and probably made with lard and chemicals. And, I loved those things.

There aren’t too many things I really miss from my gluten-filled life, but Chinese buffets are one of them. (Someone really needs to open a gluten-free Chinese restaurant.)

Anyway, I tried to make some of those cookies. 4 times.

These aren’t those.

But, they are the best of my 4 trial runs.

Sometimes, you just have to run with what you’ve got.

Grain-Free, Vegan Almond Shortbread

Grain-Free, Vegan Almond Shortbread

Almond Shortbread Cookies (grain-free, vegan)

1/2 cup (96 g) palm shortening
1 t.  psyllium powder
1/3 cup palm sugar, ground in a blender until powdered
1/4 cup (28 g) tapioca starch
1.5 cups (135 g) blanched almond flour
1 t. almond extract
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
handful of whole almonds

Preheat oven to 350°.  Put shortening and psyllium powder in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add powdered palm sugar and beat well. Add starch, flour, baking powder, and salt and blend well. Using a cookie scoop, scoop dough onto parchment-covered cookie sheets. With wet hand, slightly flatten each cookie. Top each with a whole almond. Bake for 12-14 minutes, rotating pan once.

Looking for more healthy treats? Check out Wellness Weekends.

Posted in cookies, desserts, grain-free, nightshade-free, nut-free, nuts, vegan | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

SRC: Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

It’s time for another episode of Secret Recipe Club. This month, I was assigned Lynsey Lou’s blog, Making Your Days Delicious. It was the kiddo’s turn to pick a recipe. So, while I was thinking of making crushed hot potatoes or fanned potatoes, he went straight for the sweet stuff. First he wanted to go with overnight cinnamon rolls. Then it was brown butter banana muffins. But we settled on pumpkin snickerdoodles – so seasonally appropriate.

These aren’t remotely healthy. They’re not vegan or sugar-free. But, I did manage to make them grain-free. The kiddo and I agreed that they needed more cinnamon. But, otherwise, they were downright tasty.

Perhaps a little too tasty.

So, they’re going to a Halloween party, lest I eat them all.

And making a healthier version of these is definitely on my to-do list. Mmm…pumpkin.

Grain-Free Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Grain-Free Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Grain-Free Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

3 cups blanched almond flour
3/4 cups tapioca starch
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 t. cream of tartar
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
1 cup organic palm shortening
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 t. vanilla extract

For the coating-
1/2 cup sugar
1 T. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/4 t. allspice


Cream together the shortening and sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add dry ingredients and beat well. Chill for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°. Scoop balls of dough and roll in coating mixture. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten with the palm of your hand. Bake for 14 minutes.

Check out what the rest of the Secret Recipe Club is up to:

Posted in Blogger Community, cinnamon, cookies, grain-free | 16 Comments

October Unprocessed: Super Stock Concentrate

This isn’t a recipe so much as a technique – a really simple technique at that. But, if you’re trying to avoid processed foods, stocks and bouillon can be a sticking point. Even the organic ones tend to contain sugar or “natural” flavors. And, really, who needs sugar in stock?

But, having stock on hand in the freezer takes up a lot of space. And, often, all I want is  that jolt of flavor that you get from tossing a bouillon cube in with your sauteed veggies.

The answer? Concentrate your stock.

First, you need stock. Use your favorite recipe, or simply throw all your veggie scraps in a big pot with a lot of water and simmer, then strain. (I don’t recommend using salt in your stock. Concentrated salty stock is really salty.) You want about 10 cups of stock.

Great, now you’ve got stock. Now what?

Put it in a crockpot. Turn it on. Prop the lid open just a crack. (I use a popsicle stick under the edge of the lid.) And walk away. Come back a day (yes, 24 hours) later. Your stock should have reduced. A lot. Mine was about 2 cups. Exact time will vary depending on how hot your crockpot runs. Check it after 12 and 18 hours (or there-abouts).

Chill your concentrated stock, and then freeze it in ice cube trays. I used small, heart-shaped ice cubes.

Super Concentrated Stock (frozen bouillon "cubes")

Super Concentrated Stock (frozen bouillon “cubes”)

(What? They’re cute and it’s heart-healthy. And, they’re just the right size.)

There, now you have frozen bouillon. Completely unprocessed, and taking up a fraction of the freezer space that stock would have.

Want more healthy recipes? Check out Wellness Weekends.

Posted in soup | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Super C Porridge

In case you’ve been living under a blog-world rock, let me just mention that it’s October Unprocessed.  (Don’t worry, I was living under a blog-world rock until about, oh, September 29th.)

I won’t reiterate all the rules of October Unprocessed here, but the gist is, for this one month, don’t eat crap. If you can’t make it in your own kitchen, don’t eat it.

I can get down with that.

Of course, it also coincides with the start of my crazy elimination diet again. Ever since I quit, I’ve had pain in my hands and fingers. I’ve seen the doctor & the hand specialist, and things have gotten better (yay for inflammation-reducing finger exercises!) but, I’m still not 100%. And, while I don’t know if it is diet-related, it all seems rather coincidental.

So, back on the elimination diet I go, this time with the friend that I was supporting, supporting me. To recap, here’s what I’m currently eating (note there’s not a bit o’ processed food in the bunch:

  • non-nightshade veggies
  • non-“sweet” fruits (berries, apples, etc – no tropicals or dried fruits)
  • chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin and sunflower seeds
  • turkey, chicken or eggs
  • “super foods” – lucuma, carob, mesquite, etc
  • non-nightshade herbs and spices

What’s a girl to do for breakfast with that tiny list of approved foods? Well, I can do a berry smoothie, but as the weather is turning colder, I’m not enjoying that as much. I want something hearty, that fills me up and sticks around for a while. And, so I came up with this Super C Porridge.  The “C” in the name refers both to the fact that it contains a multitude of ingredients that start with C, as well as the fact that it’s high in Vitamin C – super important as we go into the cold and flu season. (A single serving of cauliflower has 46% of your daily RDA for Vitamin C. Who knew?)

Super C Porridge - a vegan, grain-free hot start to your day

Super C Porridge – a vegan, grain-free hot start to your day

I know, I know, when you read the ingredients you’re going to say, “ick.” But, don’t knock it ’till you try it, okay? (Also, I vary these amounts all the time. I doubt I’ve made it exactly the same way twice. Don’t sweat it. I’ve also thrown in a zucchini when I had one that needed to be eaten. Super flexible recipe. You’re going for oatmeal consistency – just adjust your water accordingly.)

Super C Porridge

4-6 small or 2-3 big carrots, chopped
4 cups (1/2 a head) chopped cauliflower
water to cover (about 3-4 cups)
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. allspice
1/4 t. cloves
1/4 cup chia seeds

Optional stir-ins (note: I always use at least one of these, but which combo varies)
unsweetened carob powder
stevia (Note: stevia, unless you’re using the plant or powdered dry leaves, doesn’t qualify as “unprocessed.”)
unsweetened coconut flakes or coconut butter
sunflower seed butter (Make your own to avoid sugar.)

Put the carrots in a 2 quart saucepan and fill the sauce pan 2/3 with water. Boil on high for 10-15 minutes, until carrots are nearly soft. Add the cauliflower and the spices. Boil until cauliflower is soft, but not mushy. (You want to avoid that sulfur smell over-cooked cauliflower gets. Err on the side of underdone. As long as you can purée it, you’re good.) Remove from heat and purée. (I use a stick blender for this. I like to leave some texture. I don’t recommend a high-powered blender or you’ll end up with total soup.) Stir in chia seeds and allow to sit for 30 minutes while chia seeds plump. Reheat if desired. I usually stir in a spoonful of carob powder and a sprinkling of unsweetened coconut flakes. This makes multiple servings. It stores well in the fridge and is a quick heat and eat (or don’t heat – just eat).

For more super healthy vegan recipes, check out Wellness Weekends.

Posted in breakfast, carrots, cauliflower, cinnamon, coconut, grain-free, nightshade-free, nut-free, sunflower seeds, vegan | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments