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Pear Gingerbread

20 Oct

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I didn’t use to like pears. I had a strange prejudice against them. The texture wasn’t quite crisp enough, the flavor perhaps a little too floral. And you can’t deny the slight graininess. I was an apple girl.

But I’ve made a real effort to give foods I didn’t use to like a chance to prove themselves to me again, to show their worth. My parents did a fair job trying to expand my palate as a kid. I grew up eating Thai food and all manor of sea creatures, but some dislikes are hard to get past. Brussels sprouts? I didn’t even try them until I was in my late teens. Squash? In pie form only, thank you. And don’t even get me started on peas and carrots.

Tastes change, however, and now I’m known to buy four different types of squash at the farmers market. I make Brussels sprouts for my boyfriend and I on a weekly basis. I’m still not a fan of carrots, though I’ve had success with an admittedly delicious carrot ginger soup. Peas are still a no go. Sorry peas!

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Pears got their chance as well. It started with perhaps some matchsticks in a salad, or a few pear slices eaten with some stinky bleu cheese. Their merits started to show. That sweet, floral flavor pairs nicely with tangy foods and hearty spices. Hmm…perhaps pears aren’t so bad after all!

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The real star of this Pear Gingerbread, however, is the molasses. It’s dark, smoky, slightly bitter aroma is the perfect counterpoint to the warm spices and sweet pears. Now, before the Paleo Police come knocking on my door, I know that some people might not consider molasses to be on the paleo “yes” foods list. There seems to be an overarching taboo towards all things cane-derived in this community, but in all honesty, why is cane sugar any less natural than coconut sugar? Both have been extracted and refined from a plant. And of all the forms of cane sugar, molasses still contains some vitamins and minerals. Look into it.

Besides, it really wouldn’t taste like gingerbread to me without a little molasses. If you really want to avoid it, substitute with additional honey or maple syrup. It won’t have the same rich flavor, but it will still be delicious.  Or you can live on the edge. I dare you!

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Spiced Dried Fruit Pumpkin Loaf

9 Oct

We are in the midst of an epidemic. Everyone is experiencing Pumpkin Fever right now. It usually hits near the first of October, and it’s a fast-spreading and potent illness whose symptoms only worsen through the remainder of the year. The only cure is to feed the fire. You must start eating as much pumpkin-laden food as you can stuff into your pumpkin-pie-hole. From lattes to muffins to pancakes and waffles. And it’s not restricted to sweet treats either. I’ve even seen recipes for pumpkin enchiladas and pumpkin chili!

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Here’s my first contribution to the pumpkin recipe roundup, and boy is it a winner! I took my first bite of this Spiced Dried Fruit Pumpkin Loaf, took another bite, made my boyfriend take a bite, looked at him expectantly, eyes wide and declared “I nailed this one, didn’t I?” He took another bite. “Oh yeah,” he mumbled with his mouth full.

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I decided to mix in chestnut flour with my usual base of almond flour for this recipe. Ground chestnuts create a very fine flour with a rich brown color and a nutty, sweet aroma that I thought would pair beautifully with the fragrant blend of spices in this loaf. The texture and flavor of this pumpkin loaf are truly divine. You can find chestnut flour in some specialty markets (it’s commonly used in Italian cooking), but you can also order it online. Go buy some– I plan to use it more often in future recipes!

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The mix of dried fruits in this loaf makes it a little more interesting than your typical pumpkin loaf. I went heavy with the spices as well to create an intoxicating flavor experience. A slice of this loaf is a truly decadent treat and will satisfy even the most powerful Pumpkin Fever cravings.

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Harvest Spice Apple Squash Muffins

2 Oct

Fall hit us with full force here in Portland. We were caught off-guard, blissfully sedated by the endless days of hot, cloudless weather we’d had for the past few months. One day it was 90°, our windows were thrown open and we had the fans going, then WHAM, it dropped down to 55°, the clouds barreled in and threw a stormy surprise in our faces. We quickly slammed our windows shut, threw the heavy comforters back on our beds, and put pants on for the first time since July.

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Welcome to fall!

“Don’t you love fall, though?” my hairdresser asked as she colored my locks an autumn-appropriate auburn red. “Yes, I do.” She knows me better than I thought. I love the crisp air, the smell of all the leaves on the ground, the excuse to bake and drink copious amounts of tea and cocoa. I love scarves and cozy sweaters and earth tones. I love boots.

I’ve created a plethora of fall-inspired treats over the years, chock full of pumpkin and pears, apples and cinnamon. But they’re not paleo! This needs to change, and change fast, as fall is most certainly upon us!

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The original version of these Harvest Spice Apple Squash Muffins appeared on my old blog exactly 2 years ago. I loved those spiced muffins so much, I actually developed this paleo version last year, but never shared it with the world. I gifted my mom with the recipe in her birthday card, however, and she adores them (right Mom?). I’m pretty sure she usually substitutes pumpkin for the butternut squash, so that’s definitely an option if pumpkin is what you have on hand. Try to find butternut if you can, though! Give the other squashes a chance!

These little muffins are a perfect taste of fall. Warm spices, tart apple, tender squash. And what a pretty orange hue!

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Okonomiyaki: Savory Japanese Cabbage Pancakes

26 Aug

I bought the most ridiculously enormous head of cabbage at the farmers market a couple weekends ago. As in quite a lot larger than my head– and for only $3! I had no plans in mind for that cabbage, but it was just so darn big and beautiful so I added it to my market tote and brought it home.

There was barely room in my fridge for it.

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If you’ve never heard of Okonomiyaki I’m sure you’re not alone. I’ve only had it once before, when my boyfriend and I went out to dinner at the delicious Portland restaurant Departure. The savory pancake was salty and tender, laden with pork belly and shrimp…and obviously packed with tons of gluten. I only indulged in a couple bites and left the rest for my boyfriend to gobble up.

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My version is probably nowhere near traditional. Well, it’s obviously not, since it’s made with almond flour and coconut aminos. But it’s stilled packed with cabbage, oniony scallions, spicy ginger and yummy pork, and it makes for a fantastic snack, an energizing breakfast, or a base for any meal. I’m in love with these savory pancakes! So much so that I ate up the first batch all last week and just whipped myself up another batch to enjoy this week.

I still have half that cabbage left…

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Cherry Vanilla Clafoutis

24 Jul

I didn’t use to like cherries. I can honestly say I’ve never eaten a classic piece of cherry pie. When I was little, I would spend summer days climbing the cherry tree at my best friend Betsy’s house, picking buckets of the shiny red fruits for her mom to make a pie that I didn’t even want to eat. If a piece was ever served to me, I picked away at the crust and the ice cream melting alongside it and strictly avoided the sticky sweet filling.

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It wasn’t until last summer that I realized I actually like cherries now. There was a heaping bowl of freshly-picked local Oregon cherries sitting among the dishes at a friend’s 4th of July party and, to my surprise, I was tempted! They just looked so darn pretty and I figured it was high time to give them another chance. After all, I used to hate squash and rarely ate leafy greens up until a few years ago, and now I eat them all the time. Taste buds change. Don’t keep assuming you’ll still despise something you used to dislike as a kid! You could be missing out on something truly tasty– like this beautiful Cherry Vanilla Clafoutis!

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Of course, you all probably think I’m crazy/weird for hating cherries to begin with. I also don’t care for blueberries. That’s still true.

If you’ve never eaten, made, or even heard of clafoutis before, it’s basically a fancy French word for a baked custardy, pancake-ish dessert that could easily pass for breakfast food. You can really make this with any fruit (I’ve done rhubarb before), but cherries are traditional. Vanilla bean makes this look super sophisticated, but it’s honestly one of the easiest desserts you could whip up for a crowd. Plus, it’s just as good cold or at room temperature as it is warm, which makes it great picnic fare!

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