Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Birthday Menu

LemurGirl turns 5 today! Here's what we ate to celebrate:

Pizza Muffins

1/4 cup pepperoni
1/4 cup dried tomatoes
1/4 cup fat of choice
2 tablespoons tomato sauce (I used salsa)
3 eggs
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 tablespoon (or more) oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine pepperoni, dried tomatoes, spices, fat, tomatoes, and tomato sauce/salsa in food processor. Pulse a few times to mix. Let sit a few minutes to let the tomatoes soak a bit (not necessary if you use tomatoes stored in oil, but ours were pretty dry and hard). Let sit a few minutes, and add a little more coconut flour if it doesn't seem the proper texture (add a tablespoon or less at a time). Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse a few more times. Spoon out into muffin tins (greased or lined). Bake for about 25 minutes, until they don't jiggle and a fork stuck in them comes out clean.

This made 10 muffins for me. I probably could have gotten 12 by making them a little smaller. I think you could cut back on the fat, especially if using tomatoes stored in oil - they were rather greasy. I was kinda hoping enough grease would make them come off the liners easier. No such luck.

There's nothing sacred about the pepperoni. It's a good traditional pizza topping, but mainly just happened to be what I had on hand. Use whatever your favorite toppings are (if you don't want it to be food processed, chop up by hand and stir them in at the end, but I didn't feel like hand-slicing my pepperoni up into little bits). You could probably also throw in some spinach or zucchini or something without hurting anything. Mix some shredded cheese in or sprinkle it on top if you do dairy.

Awesomesauce Chocolate Cake

This came to be because LG requested a chocolate cake with apple frosting. The apple frosting threw me a bit at first. Then I realized "apple frosting" = pureed apple, and is really about as simple as frosting can get.

  • Approximately 1/2 cup butter oil (I clarified 1/2 cup of butter and used the results, so it was something less than 1/2 cup. Coconut oil or plain butter both have similar properties and should work instead)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or the equivalent in other sweetener)
  • 4 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I didn't have any, so left it out)
  • 1 cups coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (of whatever type you prefer - I used homemade coconut milk)
  • 1/2 cup cinammon applesauce (I used pureed fresh apple, not jarred applesauce) + more for frosting

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix wet ingredients separately, then gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Bake for about 30 minutes, until it doesn't jiggle and a fork stuck in the center comes out clean. Makes 1 8" diameter circular cake.

This turned out delicious. I'm going to modify it (carrot/apple/spice instead of cocoa, probably) for LemurBaby's birthday next month.

Caveats: As usual, I'm recreating these from memory after the fact, so please tell me something seems wrong. I'm cooking in a desert climate at high altitude, though coconut flour doesn't seem to have as many altitude issues as others. My homemade coconut flour doesn't seem to function quite the same as store-bought (though I'm using roughly the measures used in similar recipes and it turned out well this time), so you may need to use a bit less.

For ice cream, we used Jello created with 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 cups coconut milk mixed in the ice cream maker. Bad, I know, but easy, and more reliable taste-wise than my from-scratch concoctions.

For dinner we had (at her request), baked chicken and carrots.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Meet our new family member

This is Kenya, the newest member of our herd.

She's a year old Boer goat.

Kenya and Marsha

She's a little bigger than our others, even the non-pygmies. And that's how we got her. LemurDa knows an older woman who keeps goats, and Kenya was too big for her to handle. She wanted her to go to a good home who wouldn't eat her, and we can do that much. No promises on any offspring, though.

At the moment, she's a little skittish, and hard to herd back into the corral in the evening, but obviously attuned to humans, and I don't expect we'll have trouble once she figures out that we provide food.

And so, we've been singing a lot of this these past several days:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lunchbox Challenged

Paleo Parents is having a Paleo Lunchbox Challenge.

Unfortunately, as homeschoolers, we are inherently Lunchbox Challenged, and not in a way that is conducive to this particular contest. We don't even own lunchboxes.

This is a normal lunch for us:

Scrambled egg with bacon, leftover Shrimp, Sausage, and Summer Squash casserole, and water.

Gratuitous baby picture

Not exactly practical eating after sitting around in a lunchbox for half a day, right?

So, we decided to make a more travel-appropriate lunch.

When I told the kids we were going to make lunchboxes, LemurBoy took it literally, and went out to saw a piece of wood to make a box. This particular plan was perhaps a bit overambitious, but, after some drama at the idea of not creating a permanent lunchbox, they happily settled down with cardboard boxes.

I'm pretty sure LB re-invented the Bento all on his own

With the kids' input, we decided to try to make sandwiches, baked pumpkin, roasted pumpkin seeds, and carrot sticks.

We've been reading The Little House Cookbook. Given the prominence of grains in the diet of the time, this may seem an odd choice for us, but it's full of traditional food recipes, including lots of garden produce, wild game, food preservation, and all that other good stuff. Some of the grainy recipes can be adapted to grain-free alternatives, but there's plenty that require little or no adaptation. It's all set in a kid-appealing context (the Little House series) with plenty of good historical food and lifestyle info.

The cookbook

Since we have little pumpkins coming ripe in the garden, we decided to use those for a Little House-style recipe. We actually used (roughly, anyways) the Hubbard Squash recipe, as it was more appropriate to what we wanted to do than the actual pumpkin recipes, and read about how both pumpkins and other squashes were grown and used.

Little pumpkins (Jack-Be-Little variety, I believe) on the vine

The green beans were also from our garden.

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut tops off pumpkins (or other winter squash) as you would for jack-o-lantern, or just slice them in half. Unless you specifically want to preserve the cute pumpkin shape, cutting them down the middle is going to be much easier. De-seed. I saved the seeds for roasting. Rub inside of pumpkin with an heat-appropriate fat (recipe suggests butter. I used bacon grease), and spice as desired. For these, I used a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and a touch of salt, so they'd be like pumpkin pies. You could probably drizzle a little maple syrup or other sweetener to make them more dessert like. A more savory spice mix works well, too. Put the pumpkins skin-side down in a baking tray, and fill the tray about 1/2 inch full of water. Bake until soft enough to poke with a fork - 1.5-2 hours.

For roasted pumpkin seeds, clean pulpy bits from seeds (this is time consuming and irritating). Lightly coat with oil, spice and salt as desired (I used a random mix including garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, and other stuff that I'm not sure of), and spread in a single layer on a baking tray. Bake at 350 until golden brown, or about 20-30 minutes.

Next time I make them, I'll plan ahead more and soak them in salt water for 24 hours first. This reduces the phytic acid, an anti-nutrient. Also, it makes them salty.

I've been experimenting with coconut flour lately. Coconut flour is made from defatted coconut (if the fat is there, it turns into coconut butter intead of flour), and is rather expensive. Making coconut milk from shredded coconut results in lots of coconut pulp... or defatted coconut. So now I'm drying the pulp and blendering it up into flour, and I've been trying various recipes to see if it seems to perform the same as store-bought coconut flour (which I've never bought). I've made cookies and pancakes with good success, so we decided to try some sandwich bread.

This (or minor variations thereof) is the most common pure coconut flour recipe. I cut it in half, replaced most of the oil with pear puree (both primarily for cost reasons), and didn't include added sweetener.

Waiting for the bread to bake.

It came out very flat. I'm not certain our baking powder, which well over a year old and not particularly well-stored, is still active. So I ended up chopping the loaf into three sections, then in half length-wise, sub style, rather than doing more traditional sandwich slices.

While everything cooked (I did everything in the oven at once, just for varying lengths of time), LB cut up carrot sticks, and made himself some deviled eggs, too.

LB cutting carrot sticks

I fried up some thinly sliced steak that had been marinating in the fridge, and used that in LB and my sandwiches. LG declared she didn't want meat - she wanted a carrot sandwich. So that's what she had.

I also hard boiled some eggs, since we were out.

The results:

LG's finished lunch - Carrot sandwich on coconut bread (mostly eaten), green beans, hard boiled egg, baked pumpkin, roasted pumpkin seeds.

LB's lunch - Coconut bread sandwich with steak strips, deviled eggs, baked pumpkin, carrot sticks and green beans, roasted pumpkin seeds.


Once again, a gratuitous baby eating vegetables shot

The bread ended up tasting very eggy (which was also my experience when making muffins). I have a feeling I have to use a larger quantity of the homemade flour than I would of store-bought. The cookies I made the other day turned out very cookie-like, and not particularly eggy, but in that case I kept adding flour until the dough held together.

The kids liked it, regardless.

The pumpkin was not a huge hit with the older kids. Honestly, one of them turned out amazing - sweet and full of pumpkiny flavor, but the other three were kind of bland. Not horrible, and they probably would have been very good with some butter and maple syrup, but not nearly so tasty as the other one.

Unfortunately, many squashes don't seem to play well with me and the baby's digestive systems. Most unfortunate, since we're the ones who like them!

Everyone loved the pumpkin seeds. We had some seeds from other squash mixed in there too, and those turned out just as good. We'll be saving up our squash seeds from now on to make bigger batches.


This is not a lunch you can throw together the morning of. It took hours to get everything together - some time could be cut from that with more experience (not fumbling with the bread recipe, cutting the pumpkins in a simpler way), but much was unavoidable baking time. However, most of it could be made in quantity in advance and most of the individual recipes weren't all that time consuming (requiring more baking time than actual prep time). The pumpkin, while good warm, would be best for a lunchbox if cooked ahead of time and chilled. These would be very simple to prep and throw in the oven while something else was cooking. The pumpkin seeds keep for a while if stored properly, so it would be easy to make a big batch once and dole them out appropriately. I don't know how well the bread keeps, and therefore I don't know whether it would be practical to make a big batch at once.

As a bonus, here's an actual "lunch" that got taken to work:

An actual "lunch" box (thermos, rather) - Leftover Mock Split Pea Soup with a sliced hard boiled egg, some pumpkin chunks, and (not visible) chunks of sausage. Also not pictured - a jar of coffee with coconut milk.

I work a 12+ hour night shift one night a week, at least half of which is moderately active, so I have to have a midnight meal. I generally stick leftovers in a thermos, as in the above photo.

On my day shifts, I usually take a salad with lots of stuff on it, and often some nuts, fruit, or the like. Sometimes leftovers that can be kept in the thermos or don't require reheating. Maybe I'll photograph that, too.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mad Science

I think I just crossed over into firm Mad Kitchen Scientist territory. Today I jarred up our latest batch of lacto-fermented zucchini pickles. Putting it in the fridge, I noticed a jar of white stuff shoved in the back.

Great. Someone had opened up a can of coconut milk without using what I already had in there, and the old one had probably gone bad by now. Since making coconut milk isn't exactly an effortless activity, this irritated me a bit.

I opened it and sniffed it. It smelled a little sour, but not in a bad way. It had thickened up a little.

So what did I do? Tasted it.

I had accidentally made coconut milk yogurt. It wasn't fabulous, but not inedible, either. I've had coconut milk that's gone rancid, and that's gross. This wasn't like that at all.

The lid I had been using on the jar of coconut milk was labeled sauerkraut, and given our recent zuccini-pickle kick, the jar was likely previously used for fermented food as well. Whichever the source, it was apparently inoculated with lactobacillus.

So I dumped another cup of coconut milk in, and stuck it back in the fridge to see what would happen. I guess we'll see what happens in a few days, if the bites I took of it earlier don't kill me.