Category Archives: Inspiration

Pinspiration: 80’s Jewelry Cabinet Rescue

I spent HOURS last night catching up on Sons of Anarchy episodes (it’s the sub-plot that I love) and pulling inspirational pins for my 1980’s jewelry cabinet rescue from various Pinterest boards.  I’ve been collecting these pins for years, but not necessarily with my jewelry cabinet in mind.

Yes.  I may have a Pinterest problem, and the first step is admitting it.

Now comes the difficult task of narrowing down my choices.  Ugh!  And fun!  Both, at the same time.

The options are limitless, and I need a limit.  What would you pick?

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Easy Weeknight Meals: Roasted Cauliflower with Dates & Capers

cauliflower with dates and capers -- annumography

When friends and family ask me what I’ve been up to lately, my response is typically “Chopping vegetables.”  Though I love my improved health and reduced symptoms (and weight loss…25 pounds so far) from foregoing gluten, sugar, and dairy, I do admit that cooking almost every meal at home is seriously taking away my free time.  My me time.  So this weekend my hubby grilled a plethora of meats, and I cleaned and prepped an entire refrigerator full fruits and vegetables, in an effort to save time and have (almost-) ready-made meals on hand throughout the week.

Advanced planning aside, though, some nights I dread the clean-up more than the meal preparation itself.  Last night was one of those nights.  Since this is my first week following the autoimmune protocol, I didn’t want to skimp on yummy food just to avoid doing the dishes.

Browsing through my saved recipes on Pinterest, I re-discovered this roasted cauliflower recipe from Running with Tweezers.  Dates?  Olives?  Rosemary?  Yes, yes, and yes.  With recipes like this, how could I miss tomatoes and peppers?  But I wondered if I could be lazy get creative and simplify the recipe.  Remember, the fewer dishes, the better.

easy weeknight cauliflower -- annumography

I plopped my bag of prepped (cleaned and chopped) cauliflower in a shallow pan and tossed it with olive oil.  Right in the pan.  While the cauliflower roasted, I combined more olive oil with chopped dates, fresh rosemary, and…wait for it…capers in a small bowl.  I decided to swap the capers with the olives, because it saved some chopping time.  And I love cauliflower with capers.  Using olive oil in place of butter allowed me to eliminate the need to melt the butter in a separate pan.

After roasting the cauliflower until the edges began to crisp up a yummy golden-brown, I took it out of the oven and pushed it all toward the center of the pan.  Then I dumped the date/caper mixture right on top of that roasted goodness.  Yup, right in the pan AGAIN.  A few quick tosses, and I popped it all back in the oven for another five minutes.

easy weeknight cauliflower with dates and capers -- annumography

Then the cauliflower went straight from the pan to my plate.  Above is what I’m calling the beauty shot.  You could add salt and pepper to taste before plating, but I found the capers seasoned the dish enough to more than please my palate.  And I’m avoiding pepper in this early phase of AIP.

This dish is definitely a do-over.  One bite hits all the right flavor notes: sweetness from the dates, salt + sour from the capers, and a slight bitterness from the rosemary.  And I especially love that I only had one pan, one bowl, and a silicone spatula to clean at the end of the night.

Sharing this recipe at Sift, Stir, and Savour, Mostly Homemade MondaysEasy Green MamaReal Food Forager, and The Gluten-Free Homemaker.

cauliflower with dates and capers -- annumography

Roasted Cauliflower with Dates & Capers
Adapted from Running with Tweezers

1/2 head of cauliflower florets, cleaned and sliced to approximately 1/2″ thickness
4 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided
10 pitted dates, roughly chopped
3 T. capers, drained
1 T. fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
sea salt and black pepper, to taste if desired

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit.  Combine 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the dates, capers, and rosemary in a small bowl and set aside. Toss the sliced cauliflower florets with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet.  Place the pan in the oven and roast the cauliflower for 25 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn a golden brown.

Remove the pan from the oven and push the cauliflower together into the center of the pan.  Pour the date/caper mixture over the cauliflower and toss.  Return the pan to the oven and roast the mixture for another 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and season with salt and pepper if desired.  Serve immediately.

Makes 2 large portion servings (or 4 servings if you put some other vegetables on that plate). 🙂

Goodbye Grain-Free Eggplant (No-)Parmesan, Hello AIP

eggplant no-parmesan on annumography

I know, right?  This grain-free eggplant parmesan recipe from Miss Dot’s is seriously something that needs to be in your gluten-free cooking repertoire.  I skipped the cheese and added sausage, Local Folks Foods pizza sauce, and crispy basil (basil quick-fried in olive oil), and I used olive oil in place of grape seed or coconut oil.  Just so you know, we didn’t miss the dairy AT ALL.  My hubby ate leftover eggplant the next day with his favorite spicy muffalata.  Yum!

It is with some sadness, however, that I post this culinary triumph.  You see, I am weaning myself off a host of foods on which I rely daily.  I’m going to give the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) a try.  The answer to my friends’, family, and co-workers’ “So, what do you eat?” is going to be that much more challenging to address.  And I can’t help thinking that I have to re-learn everything that I’ve been so successful in learning over the last few months.  But I think it will be worth it in the end.

What is AIP?  Check out The Paleo Mom for a great, easy-to-understand resource about AIP (it’s where I started).  I’m a HUGE fan of her blog; an evidence-based approach to the paleo lifestyle and managing autoimmune disorder symptoms, whaaat?  The list below is from her post on AIP. 

      • Eggs (especially the whites)
      • Nuts
      • Seeds (including cocoa, coffee and seed-based spices)
      • Nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, sweet and hot peppers, cayenne, red pepper, tomatillos, goji berries etc. and spices derived from peppers, including paprika)
      • Potential Gluten Cross-Reactive Foods
      • Fructose consumption in excess of 20g per day
      • Alcohol
      • NSAIDS (like aspirin or ibuprofen)
      • Non-nutritive sweeteners (yes, all of them, even stevia)
      • Emulsifiers, thickeners, and other food additives

So this is what I won’t be eating for the next two weeks.  Or month.  Or forever.  I’m not ready to talk in much detail about why I am planning to “go AIP”, but I promise more information on the why’s and my results in future posts.   Why not now?  Because I am still waffling between the Contemplation and Planning stages of change (Transtheoretical Model, or TTM).

 

TTM

(source Wikimedia Commons)

Okay, stay with me.  What you may or may not know is that I have a master’s degree in social work, and this may be the closest I ever get to using it.  But as I have noticed my own transformation from first ignorance, then denial (pre-contemplation), then a desire to learn more and seek advice (contemplation), and now finally beginning to prepare in a VERY PUBLIC way, I recognize that this is a process.  I can’t quit cold turkey and succeed (i.e. know thyself).  And TTM isn’t as linear as it looks.  If I fail to move on to the action stage, it’s more likely because I have slipped back down into contemplation (or…Lord help me…pre-contemplation) stage where I need a little more time/work.  But what better way to avoid slipping than to be accountable through sharing my intent to change and my progress on this blog.

I like this diagram of TTM, because it reminds me of a hill (or mountain) to climb.  And in that image, I’m the little engine that could.  (Taking deep breaths.)

Sharing this post on Allergy Free Wednesday.

 

Sugar-Free Made Simple: Crock Pot Bolognese with a Grain-Free Pasta Alternative

191/365 If this is health food, I'm all in. Crockpot Bolognese on the blog tomorrow #365project #seekarencook

A post shared by Karen Collins (@annumography) on

Now that I don’t eat a single thing that has more ingredients on the label than I have fingers, I am amazed at how much sugar is in EVERYTHING.  Since I’m not eating sugar, this means that I’ve had to give up more than a few of my favorite convenience foods.  What do I miss the most?  Jarred mushroom marinara sauce.

Weird that I would pick pre-made spaghetti sauce?  Maybe.  But spaghetti with meat sauce was always one of my go-to weeknight comfort food meals.  As the pasta cooked, I would brown ground beef with onion, garlic, and spices and then pour on the sauce.  Dinner in less than 15 minutes.  Even after I stopped eating gluten-laden noodles, I would still top quinoa pasta or spaghetti squash with my meat sauce.

Why, oh why, does marinara sauce need to be loaded with sugar?  The answer: it doesn’t.  Convenience?  This sauce is great for busy weeknights, because I can throw the ingredients in the crock pot in the morning and come home to perfectly simmered sauce in the evening.

And don’t let me forget about the pasta.  When I went grain-free, gone too was my quinoa spaghetti.  So you may be asking, “Why is there fettuccine on your plate, Karen?”  It’s actually Shirataki Fettuccine…completely grain-free.  I will admit that, at first, I was scared of these noodles in their water-filled plastic bag.  But now I’m wondering where these babies have been the last year of my life.  Simply drain, cut, season, and heat…done.  I leave mine a little on the long side, because I love that I can twirl pasta with a fork and spoon again.  To me, comfort food is just as much about the experience as it is the food itself.  And I love to play with my food.

I have also topped some coconut bread with this sauce, and my husband put it over salad yesterday.  I may or may not have just eaten this straight out of the bowl with a spoon.  It’s that good.

191/365 If this is health food, I'm all in. Crockpot Bolognese on the blog tomorrow #365project #seekarencook

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Crockpot Bolognese
Adapted from Hungry Girl: 300 Under 300

1 lb. grass-fed ground beef
1 c. minced yellow onion
1 c. chopped green bell pepper
1 c. shredded carrots
1 c. chopped mushrooms
1 28-oz. can organic crushed tomatoes
1 14-oz. can organic, fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
1 6-oz. can organic tomato paste
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1-2 clove garlic, minced
1 T. minced fresh, or 1 t. dried, oregano
1 T. minced fresh, or 1 t. dried, basil
1 T. minced fresh, or 1 t. dried, rosemary
1/2 t. crushed red pepper
sea salt, to taste
coarsely ground pepper, to taste

Crumble the raw ground beef in the bottom of the crock pot and season with salt and pepper.  Top the meat with the vegetables: onion, bell pepper, carrot, and mushroom.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.  Season with additional salt and pepper.  Pour the tomato mixture over the meat and vegetables in the crock pot.  Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 7-8 hours, stirring after at least one hour to further break up the ground beef.

Makes 8-10 servings

Gluten-Free Chocolate Mint Snack Cake (with a secret ingredient)

no-flour and nearly-no-sugar...it was the dark choc chips...I couldn't help myself #seekarencook

A post shared by Karen Collins (@annumography) on

When my friends ask what I’ve been up to lately, my answer is “chopping vegetables”.  Seriously.

A couple of weeks ago, I hinted about a major lifestyle change that I was about to make.  Well, you guys, I have completely changed the way eat.  No, not just the way I eat.  I have completely changed the way I think about food.

Last year, I gave up all gluten and refined sugar after suffering from three major allergic reactions between February and June.  I mean the kind that get you a quick trip to the emergency room.  Diagnosed with systemic candidiasis — that basically means that my body had grown a whole lot more candida albicans than the average person — I started taking medication and gave up the breads, pastas, and sweet treats that I loved.  Turns out candida loves them more.

What I have learned over the last year is that I had been suffering symptoms from candidiasis well before February, but I always attributed my feeling bad to something else.  Within a month of not eating gluten and refined sugar, my weekly migraines stopped.  How do I know it wasn’t something else that changed?  Because I’m a cheater.  I would eat just one little brownie or a teensy slice of bread thinking “what could it hurt?”, and whammo, migraine headache.  No cheats; no headaches.

Yay!  Right?  Well, I never got completely well.  I was better, but I still had a ton of gastrointestinal issues.  And a battle with completely unexplained, stubborn weight gain around my belly.  And a bunch of other symptoms too boring to discuss in this forum.  Have you ever heard people say that they were sick and tired of being sick and tired?  Sounds like a corny bumper sticker, right?  Except that’s me.  I finally reached my breaking point three weeks ago, and I decided that it was time to make a change.

If you are familiar with addiction treatment terminology, then some of the words I’m using may resonate.  That’s because I am addicted to flour, sugar, and salt.  Why else did I repeatedly eat things that I knew would make me sick later?  In an effort to explain my behavior to friends, I actually caught myself likening it to drinking too much while knowing that there would be a hangover to follow.  Truth is most of us are addicted to flour, sugar, and salt.  Um, the food manufacturers are more than well aware of this.

HungryForChange

I am not at a point where I am well enough to be the teacher about how we are hooked on food that hurts us.  If you want to know more, watch a documentary like Hungry for Change.  There are also tons of books, especially anything by Michael Pollan or Dr. Mark Hyman.  Or just look around at how — please excuse my frankness — fat we all are.  Even many thin people are fat when it comes to body composition.

Have I peaked your interest in my new journey?  Well, how about this: I lost 8 pounds in the last 10 days.  And I ate really awesome food 5-6 times a day.  Grass-fed meats, free-range eggs, avocados, every tree nut and just about every seed you can imagine, fresh herbs, and lovely, beautiful, in-season vegetables. 

Okay, now why in the heck am I showing you a recipe for cake after all of that?  Two reasons.  First, like any addict, I need to be able to manage my environment.  Having this cake, which has no flour, very little sugar, and tons of good-for-me ingredients helps ease my fears about NEVER BEING ABLE TO EAT SWEETS AGAIN.  My approach to wellness is more harm reduction than cold-turkey, for a lot of reasons that I hope to speak more eloquently about when I’m on the other side.  The second reason?  I baked this cake on Sunday.  Since then, I have only eaten a single 2-inch square of it.  Before I made the cake, I promised myself that if I started to obsess about the cake sitting on my kitchen counter, or if I felt out-of-control around it, then I would either throw it away or take it into work for my hungry friends.  But that hasn’t been an issue.  So the biggest reason to share about this cake is that I’m so proud of myself for conquering not only my cravings, but also my fear of them.

182/365 no-flour snack cake using fresh chocolate mint and a secret ingredient #365project #seekarencook

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I got the idea for this recipe while searching for a way to use up the rest of my locally-grown fresh chocolate mint.  Delighted Momma’s Flourless Zucchini Brownies got me straight up off the couch and into the kitchen to try my own version.  I had to find out how a vegetable, almond butter, and a single egg could result in a baked good worth eating.

Were they?  You betcha!  Zucchini is my new favorite secret ingredient.  I think the texture is more cake than brownies, though, so I switched up the name.  Next time, I will experiment with adding either almond or coconut flour for a more brownie-like texture.  If it works, I will definitely share. 

I had the chocolate liquid stevia on hand, but you could use regular or vanilla liquid stevia if you prefer.  Or powdered stevia.  When my system is more calibrated, I may use raw honey.  The point is to make this work for you and your health.  I also used the small amount of gluten-free dark chocolate chips that I still had on hand after my pantry purge.  Next time, I will probably use cacao nibs as a sugar-free alternative.  Also, allow this cake to cool completely, because it makes a huge improvement in the texture and flavor to let this baby come to room temperature.

no-flour and nearly-no-sugar...it was the dark choc chips...I couldn't help myself #seekarencook

A post shared by Karen Collins (@annumography) on

Chocolate Mint Snack Cake

2 medium zucchini, peeled and chopped into large pieces
1 c. almond butter
1 egg
1 t. liquid chocolate stevia, or sweetener of choice
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
approximately 20 fresh chocolate mint leaves
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.  Spray a 9×9-inch baking pan with coconut oil spray and set aside. 

In a food processor, chop the zucchini until finely minced.  Add the next eight ingredients and pulse until well combined.  Remove the bowl from the food processor and stir in dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs. 

Pour mixture into prepared pan.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Slice, serve, and enjoy.

Refined Sugar-Free Crockpot Cinnamon-Cardamom Almonds

168/365 refined sugar-free cinnamon cardamom almonds #365project #seekarencook #latergram

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On Friday, my husband asked “Have you posted any blogs lately?”

Then on Sunday, my mother asked “Are you still blogging?”

I have no explanation, other than that blogging started to feel like a chore.  So I took some more time off.  Heck, I even wrote some draft posts…but I didn’t post them.

161/365 winding up for a huge lifestyle change #365project #seekarenhealthy

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Now, though, it’s time to get on with it.  Because as I hinted on Instagram last week, I am about to embark on a HUGE lifestyle change.  But more about that later.

When Krysta shared these crock pot cinnamon sugar almonds on a recent blog hop, I knew that I wanted to put my own spin on the recipe with some sugar substitutions.  I took the easy way out and substituted granulated xylitol for the sugar and palm sugar for the brown sugar.  They practically look like the originals.  Because I find these sweeteners to be even sweeter than traditional sugars (though they have fewer calories….bonus), I cut down on the proportions a bit.  I also added cardamom, because the hubby loves it.

tempted by the whole jar of refined sugar-free cinnamon-cardamom almonds #seekarencook #latergram

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Maybe it was the sugar substitution, but my almonds were a little sticky at the end of the cook time.  No problem.  I spread them on a silicone baking sheet and allowed them to cool slightly.  Then I sprinkled them with some of my reserved xylitol/palm sugar blend, turned them over, and sprinkled their backsides too.  After cooling completely, I had a jar full of goodness.

168/365 refined sugar-free cinnamon cardamom almonds #365project #seekarencook #latergram

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Refined Sugar-Free Crockpot Cinnamon-Cardamom Almonds
Adapted from KrystaSteen.com

1 egg white
2 t. vanilla
3 c. raw almonds
3/4 c. granulated xylitol
3/4 c. palm sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. cardamom
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/8 – 1/4 c. water

Combine granulated xylitol, palm sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt in small bowl.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white and vanilla together until they are frothy.  Add the almonds to the egg mixture and toss until they are completely coated.  Add 1 cup of the xylitol/palm sugar mixture and stir gently to coat, reserving a 1/4 cup of the xylitol/palm sugar mixture for later.

Grease the crock pot with coconut oil or non-stick cooking spray.  Add the almond mixture and cover.  Cook on low for two hours, stirring every 20 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup of water to almond mixture and stir until the almonds look like they are coated with syrup.  Cook for another hour, again stirring every 20 minutes.

Spread cooked almonds on a non-stick surface in a single layer; a silicone mat or waxed paper work well.  Allow the almonds to cool slightly, approximately 15-20 minutes.  Sprinkle with half of the reserved xylitol/palm sugar mixture.  Turn the almonds over and sprinkle with the remaining xylitol/sugar, allowing to cool first if they are still warm enough to “melt” the sugar mixture.

Store almonds in an airtight container for up to two weeks…if they last that long.

Linking to the awesome parties listed here.

Bluth’s Original Frozen Banana Cocktail

Bluth's Original Frozen Banana Cocktail | annumography.wordpress.com

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I can’t help myself.  “There’s always money in the banana stand.”  Now I said it, and I can move on.

Have you been watching Season 4 of Arrested Development on Netflix?  I am such a huge nerd fan!  So of course when I started to think about cocktails that would use up some frozen bananas I had on hand, I wanted to G.O.B. ’em up (double chocolate with nuts and two sticks).  I kid.

But I’m not the first person to see a frozen banana and think “Let’s add rum.”  I found this recipe for a Dirty Banana cocktail, and after longing momentarily for a tropical island vacation, my wheels started turning.  Why not substitute the walnut liqueur, Nocello, for Kahlua as the nuts on the frozen banana?

So I sent the hubby to the store to pick up some crème de cacao for the chocolate part, because this drink was happening.  But he called me with an even better idea.  Adult Chocolate Milk.  Oh yeah.  Somebody tell me that you have tried the Adult Strawberry Milk and loved it.  Because I’m really hoping it’s loveable.

150/365 I'm an #ArrestedDevelopment nerd: Bluth's Original Frozen Banana Cocktail #365project #seekarendrink

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To top it all off, I added whipped cream and chocolate-covered banana slices.  And aren’t the his and hers paper straws too cute?  But don’t let the sweetness fool you; this drink is strong enough for a Bluth at breakfast.

Bluth's Original Frozen Banana Cocktail | annumography.wordpress.com

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Bluth’s Original Frozen Banana Cocktail

4 frozen bananas
4 oz. dark rum
1 oz. Nocello (walnut liqueur)
2 oz. Adult Chocolate Milk
2 oz. milk

Blend frozen bananas with rum, Nocello, Adult Chocolate Milk, and milk in a blender until mixture is smooth and frothy.  Pour in chilled glasses and garnish with whipped cream and chocolate-covered banana slices, if desired.

Makes 2 cocktails.

Linking to the awesome parties listed here.