Sunday, August 31, 2014

Kid-Friendly Snacks: Back-to-School Volcano Cookies

"Back to School" is about seeing old friends, learning new things, and the birthday snack. These coconut cookies* are gluten-free and sweetened with honey - a delicious nutritious choice, easy to make together with your child.


Wet Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, room temperature
1/4 cup honey, or maple syrup
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients:

3/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup almond flour (Bob's Red Mill, or grind raw almonds in a food processor, measure)
1 cup coconut shreds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the wet ingredients in one bowl.

Mix the dry ingredients in another bowl.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly.

Scoop a spoonful of dough and roll it into about a 1-1/2" ball.  Place the balls 1/2" apart on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Press the balls gently with your fingers into a volcano shape.

Bake 12 - 14 minutes, until cooked through and the bottom is brown.  Cool.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies, depending on size of balls.

*recipe from

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Asian Lettuce Cups + Bonus Ingredient

Here's a kid-friendly, quick recipe for the Thai dish of laab (larb), a traditional appetizer of ground meat, chilies, lime juice and fish sauce, all served in a lettuce wrapping.



2 tablespoons of coconut oil, or oil of choice
1 shallot, finely chopped
Pinch of salt

1 pound of ground pork (or beef)

1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of minced ginger

1-3 teaspoons of Red Boat fish sauce (to taste)*
Juice from 2 limes (or to taste)
Black Pepper

1 head of butter lettuce

Garnishes: (personal preference)

Chopped cilantro/basil/mint
Pickled carrots (see recipe below)
Chopped scallions
Sriracha sauce


1.  If making the pickled carrots, prepare* and refrigerate.

2.  In a wok, or large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  When hot, add the chopped shallot and a pinch of salt; sauté about 3 minutes.

3.  Add the ground pork, and stir fry until the meat is no longer pink.

4.  Add the ginger and garlic; stir fry until fragrant.

5.  Season with fish sauce, lime juice and pepper to taste; stir and remove from heat.

6.  Place meat mixture in lettuce cups; top with fresh herbs, pickled carrots, sriracha sauce to taste.

Makes 6 lettuce cups.

Bonus Ingredient:

I have never cared much for fish sauce, but my daughter loves anything cooked with it.  After assembling the ingredients for this recipe, I saw a taste test of fish sauce brands online and headed to Whole Foods.  What a difference The Red Boat brand makes.  It's like tasting a cheap white wine and then champagne.  I added 3 teaspoons of this to the laab and threw out my other brand.  The flavor was delicate, rich and delicious!

* Pickled Carrot Strings:
  • 1/3 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 carrots, julienned
Mix the wet ingredients and salt in a bowl.  Submerge the carrots in the brine.
Chill for at least 30 minutes. Drain a handful of carrots on a paper towel before using.  (Put the rest in the fridge; they will keep for up to a week.)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tartine Bakery "Chocolate Sablés"

If you're a fan of dark chocolate, you'll love these gluten-free "Chocolate Sablés" made with Sharften Burger cocoa nibs, recipe adapted from the Tartine Book No. 3 cookbook.


186 grams (1 package) of Sharften Burger cocoa nibs
186 grams buckwheat flour - Bob's Red Mill brand, or buckwheat groats for grinding
133 grams (2/3 cup) coconut palm sugar, vanilla flavored
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
133 grams/1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces at room temperature
1/4 jar of fig jam, or personal preference


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

If grinding the buckwheat groats, weigh the ground flour on a food scale.

Add the flour, cocoa nibs, sugar and salt in a food processor, and pulse until finely ground, about 1 minute.

Transfer to a large bowl and work in the butter by hand to make a dough.  Add 1 teaspoon of water as needed if the dough does not come together.

Roll the dough out into two logs on parchment paper.  Cut each each log into 1/2" slices.  Roll each slice into a ball and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet, about 1/2" apart.  Punch down the center with your thumb and fill with jam.

Bake for 10 - 14 minutes until the bottom is browned, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.

Remove the baking sheet and let cool.

Makes 1 - 2 dozen cookies, depending on size of the cookie dough balls.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Crab Temaki + Spicy Mayo

This is the recipe* that started my Paleo-inspired journey.  Quick, satisfying, and economical, I was eager to learn more:

  • 1 package standard-size nori sheets ("seasnax" brand is organic and gluten-free)

Pickled Carrot Strings:

  • 1/3 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 carrots, julienned

Spicy Mayonnaise:

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha hot sauce (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari (gluten-free)


  • 1 package imitation crab meat, cut into 1/2" thick strips (may contain traces of soy)
  • 2 small Persian cucumbers, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 Haas avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into thin slices

1.  For the Pickled Carrots, mix the wet ingredients and salt in a bowl.  Submerge the carrots in the brine.  Chill for at least 30 minutes. Drain a handful of carrots on a paper towel before using.  (Return the rest to the fridge; they will keep for up to a week.)

2. Mix the ingredients for the Spicy Mayonnaise.  Set aside.

3.  Lay out a nori sheet.  Add the filling on the diagonal.  Spoon mayonnaise over the top of the filling.  Add some carrots.

4.  Roll up the nori by folding up the bottom over the filling, then wrapping the sides to form a cone.  Repeat.

Makes 5 servings.

Optional:  Substitute 1 pound of fresh crab for imitation crab ($$$)

* Recipe adapted from the nom nom paleo cookbook.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Cauliflower Mashers

One of my favorite discoveries on this diet has been how much better I like the taste of these cauliflower mashers over mashed potatoes.  It only takes about 15 minutes and 4 ingredients to made a delicious side dish to accompany any food - or just enjoy by itself.

  • 1 large cauliflower
  • 4 ounces of European unsalted butter
  • Kosher Salt (preferably Diamond Crystal brand)
  • Freshly-ground Pepper

Chop the head of cauliflower into florets.  Steam the florets in a double boiler for 8 - 10 minutes, or until a fork goes easily in the stem.

Put the steamed cauliflower, butter, salt and pepper in a food processor.   Blend until the cauliflower mixture looks like mashed potatoes.  Taste for butter, salt and pepper.

Optional:  Add 1 clove of finely chopped garlic in the food processor.

Makes 4 side dishes.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Happy Birthday, Dear Julia!

Paying tribute to Julia Child on her 101st birthday today.  Who could forget making her "Beef Bourguignon" recipe 40 years ago when I thought a clove of garlic was the whole head?

Some favorite quotes from Julia posted on the internet today:

"The only time to diet is while you're waiting for the steak to cook."

"If you're afraid of butter, use cream."

"Fat gives things flavor."

"Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed, eh bien, tant pis!  Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is.  And if the food is truly vile, as my ersatz eggs Florentine surely were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile - and learn from her mistakes.

"I think one of the terrible things today is that people have this deathly fear of food:  fear of eggs, say, or fear of butter.  Most doctors feel that you can have a little bit of everything."
"I think careful cooking is love, don't you?  The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who is close to you is about as nice a Valentine as you can give."
"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just very good food from fresh ingredients."
"Learn how to cook - try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun."
"I hate all health foods."

Ironically, I think she would loved the Paleo diet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fish Tales

Buying sustainable, healthy fish in the supermarket is always confusing to me, so I did some research* on what choices I should be making:

1.  Buy:  Wild Alaskan Salmon.

Avoid:  Atlantic Salmon (all fish with this label are farmed - most often in     questionable conditions).

Buy:  Domestic Shrimp from Oregon or the Gulf of Mexico.

Avoid: Imported Shrimp (90% of shrimp sold in US is imported, farmed, and possibly full of contaminants, antibiotics and cleaning chemicals).

3.  Buy:  American or Canadian Albacore Tuna (caught young; doesn't contain as much mercury).

Avoid:  Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (highest level of mercury in any seafood; over-havested).

4.   Buy:  Alaska King Crab (always ask where King Crab comes from - it is often mislabeled).

Avoid:  Imported King Crab (most is from Russia where it is not sustainably harvested).

5. Buy:  Pacific Halibut, Catfish or Tilapia (sustainably farmed for now).

Avoid:  Atlantic Flounder, Sole, Halibut caught off Atlantic coast.

6.  Buy:  US hook-and-line caught haddock.

Avoid: Chilean Sea Bass (most are illegally caught; highly contaminated in mercury).

7.  Buy:  Pacific Cod (one of Food & Water Watch's Best Fish Picks).

Avoid Atlantic Cod (currently one step above endangered).

8.  Buy:  Domestic Farm-Raised Catfish. 

Avoid: Orange Roughy (over harvested).

9.   Buy:  Yellow Snapper or Domesticated Catfish.

Avoid:  Imported Catfish (90% from Vietnam, caught in antibiotic-contaminated water).

10.  Buy:  Atlantic or Pacific Squid.

Avoid American Eel (often found in sushi; highly contaminated with PCB's and mercury).

11.  Buy:  Pacific Halibut and Atlantic Mackeral.

Avoid:  Shark (destroys the food chain, high in mercury, cruel use of fins in soup).

12.  Buy:  Lake Sturgeon or American Hackleback/Shovelnose Sturgeon Caviar from the Mississippi River System.

Avoid: Beluga Caviar (over-fished).

Paul Greenberg states in his book, American Catch, that 90% of all seafood eaten in America is imported, and that 79% of our Wild Alaskan Salmon is exported.  No wonder it's so hard to make a good choice.

*, "12 Fish to Stay Away From,"  by Emily Main.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Paleo Bounty Bars

The owner of my local tea shop gave me a chocolate-covered candy bar made in England, similar to a Mounds bar.  Sadly, it was made with evaporated milk, so when I saw this recipe* for Paleo Mounds Bars, I was excited to give it a try.

In addition to the ingredients, you will need a candy thermometer:

  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips

1.  Line a bread pan with parchment paper; use clips to hold the paper in place.

2.  Mix the shredded coconut, oil, and agave nectar in a bowl, kneading by hand to mix well.

3.  Spread the mixture on the bottom of the pan, patting it out to the edges.  Put the pan in the fridge for 1 hour.

4.  When chilled, carefully remove the parchment paper and cut the coconut into any size pieces you like.   

5.  Put the plate of cut fillings in the freezer for 15 minutes.

6.  While the filling is in the freezer, melt and temper the chocolate as follows:

Put 2 inches of water in a pot and add a wider metal bowl on top to make a double boiler.  When the water boils, add 1 cup of the chocolate chips in the metal pan and melt the chocolate, heating it to a temperature of 105 degrees.

Add the rest of the chocolate chips, and take the bowl off of the boiling water.  Stir until all the chocolate is melted together and the temperature has cooled down to about 82 degrees.

When the filling in the freezer is ready, put a piece into the 82 degree chocolate.  Roll it around with a fork to cover all sides, and lift it with the fork back onto the parchment paper.  When all the pieces are covered, put them back in the freezer for another 10 minutes.

The chocolates are now ready to serve.  I cut my bars in half before I dipped them, and ended up with 20 bite-sized pieces.

*Recipe adapted from

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Wilted Spinach Salad, Revisited

With a few tweaks, the Green's Cookbook "Wilted Spinach Salad" recipe becomes lighter and more Paleo-friendly:

  • 1/2 pound fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves or pieces 
  • 4 thin strips of bacon, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 chopped small red onion 
  • 12 Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 
  • 1 tablespoon mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Wash and spin dry the spinach; put in a large non-reactive (metal) bowl.

Toast the walnuts in a small pan (no oil) over medium heat - watch very carefully! When cool, loosely chop into bite-sized pieces.

Fry the bacon; set aside to drain on a paper towel.

Toss the spinach with the walnuts, bacon, onion, olives, garlic, mint and vinegar.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan until it is very hot.  Just when the oil starts to smoke, immediately add it to the salad and toss it throughout with salad tongs.

Add salt, oil and vinegar to taste.

Makes 2 large or 4 small salads.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Paleo Breakfast Bread

After a week of Salt & Pepper crackers for breakfast, I was desperate for something with the mouth feel of bread.  Luckily, this recipe for Paleo Breakfast Bread* was soft and chewy and could almost pass for dessert:

Ingredients are shown below:

  1. In a large bowl, briskly stir the almond butter with a wooden spoon until creamy. 
  2. Mix in eggs, honey, vanilla and stevia.
  3. Add salt, baking soda, cinnamon and mix well.

Pour the batter into a well greased 8" x 8" inch baking dish.  

Bake at 325° for 12 to 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

*See for original recipe

Friday, August 1, 2014

Larkspur Landing Farmers' Market

The Farmers' Market at Larkspur Landing is reminiscent of Marin thirty years ago: friendly, small scale, good quality. My search for gluten-free bread came full circle there last week.  
The Rustic Bakery is where I have bought a loaf of bread every Saturday for the past year. 

But two weeks ago, I veered over to the gluten-free Flour Craft Bakery.

When I found out the prices of these breads ($8.50 - $10.00/loaf), I decided to wait and try to make it myself.  

Not only did I spend over $50 on new ingredients, but research on the internet didn't give me much hope that the bread would rise well or even taste good.  I hesitated, and finished up the Rustic Bakery loaf.

Last weekend, the bread at Flour Craft looked like a bargain.  I bought two loaves.

The seeded bread was made with rice flour and not grain-free.  The other loaf contained almond flour and was labeled the Protein Loaf.  If someone has a gluten allergy, this would be an excellent choice.

I didn't care for either one.  The first one had good texture but a hint of fishiness to the taste; the second one tasted okay but had a very mushy texture - like solidified apple sauce.  

So I ended up just eating Salt & Pepper Crackers as a bread substitute this week.  If anyone has a good recipe for gluten-free bread, please send a link.