Lavender Blueberry Muffins: 08/21/2015 and 09/13/2015: 1 hour 30 minutes

These were my first step away from banana muffins. Although these muffins did have banana to add to the texture, the lavender blueberry muffins were the first ones where I tried to incorporate more complicated flavors. I have never had lavender before although I have been to many farms that sell lavender items, and I absolutely love the smell of lavender. After searching in 3 stores, I finally found dried lavender at Whole Foods, which was not the fresh lavender the recipe called for but I had no other options.

My first step was to use a mortar and pestle to grind down the lavender further so that it would be more evenly distributed and it wouldn’t make a discernible texture difference in the muffin. I made the muffin batter, and then folded the lavender, lemon zest, and blueberries into the muffins.

The first time I made these, they turned out absolutely great. The muffin liners that I used for them were perfect too and they easily separated from the muffin. The muffins had a complex yet balanced flavor of blueberry with just a hint of lavender and lemon. It tasted like a store bought scone, but much healthier and in the form of a muffin. The second batch however, turned out very different. I think the eggs I used in the second batch were larger, or I accidentally added an extra egg because the muffins were very spongy which is usually from adding too much egg. Additionally, the muffin liners wouldn’t separate from the second muffins, which meant that I had to heat one every time I wanted one so that I could peel most of it off of the muffin liner.

To change this recipe, I would make sure to very carefully monitor the amount of eggs used, and then also I would add extra blueberries because they are a great source of antioxidants and they make the muffin taste much fresher. In addition, I would use foil cups over paper cups, because the paper sticks to the paleo batter, which is much stickier without the sugar and all purpose flour.

Smoothies!: 08/19/2015-present: 2 hours

Some people say that smoothies aren’t a good thing to have because they break down all of the food for you. While I agree that it would be better to eat the ingredients raw, honestly sometimes smoothies look, taste, and feel more appetizing than a strawberry banana spinach salad. I was hesitant to try smoothies at first because you can accidentally have so much sugar in one drink if you’re not careful about how much honey and fruit you put it, but I managed this by usually making at least half the smoothie spinach or kale or some other leafy green I had in my fridge to balance the sugar.

Smoothies have become a huge part of my paleo life, and every time I’m hungry or need a quick pick-me-up, especially after exercising or working I make a smoothie. Smoothies are super fast which helps, and you can take them with you wherever you go in case you don’t have time to eat at home but you can’t really take a pork loin in the car with you.

Because I was so cautious of adding too many fruits, I accidentally made my first smoothie with wayy too many vegetables. It was a super green smoothie and it was very healthy, but honestly it didn’t taste very good. The spinach made it very acidic, and the cucumber was refreshing yet way too “healthy tasting”. My inner kid rejected this smoothie and I vowed to make better ones in the future.

In the following weeks, I continued experimenting with smoothies and have come to a good balance. Usually I fill the cup up 1/3 of the way with spinach, and then mango another 1/3 and then coconut water or milk up until it’s almost full. At this point, if I want something a little sweeter I can add a little honey or vanilla, but I usually put in a little banana or avocado to make the smoothie creamier (avocado actually doesn’t really have a taste in a smoothie but mimics a milkshake texture!).

Banana Bacon Pancakes: 08/18/2015: 30 minutes

This is, without a doubt, one of the weirdest recipes that I have ever made. To start, I cooked the bacon, and then I had to finely chop it and add it to the usual banana pancake batter. I saw a website recommending this, so I thought I would try it, which was a mistake on my part. The smokiness of the bacon in my opinion did not really fit well with the sweetness of the banana, and I thought that the tastes overall didn’t combine well. I would not repeat this combined recipe, although I still love bacon on it’s own and banana pancakes on their own.

Fish Tacos: 08/17/2015: 1 hour 30 minutes

To start, I coated the fish (halibut) with a crushed pecan and walnut mix and cooked them in the oven to make them fish finger-like. Then, I made coconut flour tortillas to have the fish tacos in, which although the recipe was simple the cooking itself was very difficult. I made a quick guacamole with avocados, tomatoes, onions, and lime juice. I also had to prepare the lettuce and peppers to add to the tacos.

The coated fish was one of the best paleo or non paleo fish recipes that I have had, it completely replicated the taste of a fish finger but it didn’t make you feel bad afterwards. The coconut flour tortillas were the hardest part of this recipe because it requires that you not only spoon the right amount of batter, but spread it out over the pan evenly and you have to flip at just the right time or they will be overdone and hard or the batter inside will be gooey. The guacamole, although simple, was refreshing especially with the lime juice and is kind of our family recipe (we make it almost every time someone comes over so this part was quick for me). In the future, I would either buy premade coconut wraps that are made with coconut meat and are much more durable, or use a bigger lighter pan to spread the tortillas out in so that they spread more evenly and cook evenly. I would probably also thin out the batter so they spread naturally rather than having to force them around the pan.

Carrot Cake: 08/15/2015: 30 min

First, I had to grate the carrots to add into the carrot cake and squeeze some of the moisture out of them to make sure the cake didn’t become runny. Then, I mixed together all of the ingredients (mainly coconut flour which I like better than almond flour because it also has a smoother texture generally), starting with the dry ingredients and then adding in the wet ones. I folded in the carrots last and then cooked them. I also created a very simple icing by mixing coconut oil and vanilla, which i drizzled on top while warm.

The cake was very good, although it was still a little too sweet for my taste, even without the icing. With the icing was overpoweringly sweet, which was great when I was really missing sugar but otherwise it was too much. The icing was the main problem in this recipe. Once the icing was placed in the refrigerator it froze completely solid, and I would have to cut a small piece out and then place it back on the cake and heat the cake back up. The icing is made out of coconut oil though, so I would have to heat the cake to insanely hot temperatures before the coconut oil would melt enough to eat. I have not made a cake since this recipe, but once I do I will make sure to find a different type of icing. The problem with most paleo icings is that they are made from coconut milk, which must be placed in the fridge a day beforehand to be used as an icing. Usually, my baking comes more as a spur of the moment decision when I have enough time and I’m in the mood to bake, and therefore I can’t make a proper frosting. In the future, I will try and be more prepared and have a can of coconut milk in the fridge at all times because it can be kept in the fridge and there is easy access to more recipes when it’s there.

Pork Loin and Peach Sauce: 8/14/2015: 1 hour

I began by marinating the pork loin and rubbing it with spices over a few hours to saturate the meat with more flavor. Then, I roasted the pork loin, originally by searing it on all sides in a pan and then by putting it in the oven. I made the peach sauce by heating slightly overripe peaches, vinegar, honey, and spices. I had to mash the peaches in the sauce, and then took the pork loin out and served it with the warm peach sauce over the top.

I would definitely repeat this recipe, and I have since then generally using different sauce variations. Although I liked this sauce, to me it’s more experimenting with other spices and types of fruit to find out which type of sauce I like the best. Although one may be good, another one may be better, and you can’t know unless you’ve tried a lot of different recipes. If I were to repeat this recipe I would reduce the amount of honey that I put in the sauce because the combination of the honey and slightly overripe peaches created a very strong sugar taste, more than I generally like.

Veggie stirfry: 8/14/2015: 30 min

For this recipe, I stir fried a very large batch of vegetables to use as a side for any meals that I wanted extra veggies in. Although the cooking didn’t take me very long, I had to cut all of the vegetables as well which took much longer. This stirfry included carrots, onions, green beans, and bell peppers, although other times I have made this I also included things like mushrooms and different type of nuts (mainly walnuts and pecans). Once I improved my knife skills through practice, this recipe became much quicker. In later trials I also included spices like cayenne, thai seasoning, and garlic.

Green Bean and Pecan Saute: 8/13/2015: 30 minutes

For this recipe, I started by roughly steaming and blanching green beans. While the green beans were steaming, I put onions in a pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper (just for taste) and then I also roasted dry pecans in the oven. Then, once all the components were done individually cooking I put them all in a saute pan with more olive oil and cooked them all together so the flavors would combine.

In this, I used an entire onion, which was definitely a bad idea because the entire dish was overpowered with onions. Also, the pecans were a little dry, so I think when I roast them I should spend more time at a lower temperature, and also toss them in honey to add sweetness to the dish which was slightly overpowered with acidity.

Butternut Squash Soup: 7/27/2015: 2 hours

I made butternut squash soup, and then I also boiled chicken and shredded it to add extra protein to the butternut squash soup. The first step was to chop and roast the butternut squash which took a while and I accidentally burned the parchment paper in the process because the oven was too hot for the parchment paper (I probably should have checked the container first). I also roasted apples and onions at the same time. I then stuck the butternut squash, apples, onions, and a bunch of other spices and coconut milk into a pot and cooked them for a while to reduce and mash them a little. Then, I boiled the chicken and blended up the soup in several batches using a blender.

The first step was a big problem for me because I found out I was allergic to butternut squash before it’s cooked. The squash made my hands peel and sting really badly for hours after, and so next time I do this I will make sure to wear gloves. I actually did a little research and the reason it does this is because the squash releases an enzyme to protect itself when it isn’t fully ripe, which causes an allergic reaction in some people.

Past this, there weren’t a lot of problems other than the fact that it was very hands on time consuming and needed to be watched a lot of the time to make sure it didn’t burn at every step.

Overall the soup turned out great though! Although it took time, it was worth it because it tasted great. I probably should have salted the chicken more while it was boiling so that it had a stronger saltier flavor which would have complimented the sweetness of the soup, but it was really warm and comforting. I would definitely make this again, although probably closer to fall when it isn’t so hot in the house (I’m not quite sure what I was thinking because it was so hot).

Peach Babyback Ribs: 7/25/2015: 2 hours

This recipe was a big success but it took so long that I haven’t repeated it since. The hands on time is about 2 hours including prepping and rubbing the ribs, and making the barbecue sauce. I made these with my friend but it still took a whole evening of cooking, starting at like 3 pm and finishing at about 8pm. The ribs need to marinate and have a dry rub for a few hours or overnight, and then the ribs are cooked at a very low temperature for about 2 hours. During this time, we made peach barbecue sauce. Because paleo doesn’t include molasses, which is a main ingredient in normal barbecue sauce, it tasted very different. Although it didn’t taste bad, it didn’t really taste or look like barbecue sauce either.

Although this took forever to make and the barbecue sauce was not typical, the sauce left the ribs with a perfect amount of moisture so they literally fell off the bones. The texture of the meat was absolutely perfect and I would definitely recommend using a paleo sauce because although the ribs weren’t as sweet the texture was so great it made up for the lack of sugar. They definitely weren’t traditional ribs, but still highly recommended!

If i were to make this again I might change the barbecue sauce to see if i could find another recipe that has a taste closer to more traditional sauce to get that original flavor while still maintaining the amount of moisture.