The Half-Crunchy Mama

Trying to live a natural life with balance


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Lemon Chia Balls

Lemon Chia Balls | The Half-Crunchy MamaI have already shared one of the recipes that I regularly make from from this book, the Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips, but this one is even more popular. I rambled on a bit in that post about the health benefits for chia seeds and why they have become such a thing these days. I don’t like to repeat myself, so please go check that post out for some great information about this great little superfood.

As with all the recipes that I use from other people, there are a few tweaks here and there. The author calls for raw nuts, but that’s just not usually in my budget. I will tell you that regular ones from Trader Joe’s, Costco, or wherever will work fine. Ideally, you want the raw, so if that’s in your budget, go for it!

A great deal that I have been able to get at Costco is on pitted dates. A ginormous three-pound container ended up being about half the cost after doing the math, depending on where you shop. If you see this at your local Costco, pick it up! They were gone last time I went, but I was able to get a huge bag of Kirkland pitted dates for a steal, too. If you are cooking and baking with dates a lot, this is the way to go. Not all dates are equal, and I have only bought and used these or Medjool, so I would steer away from regular “pitted dates” from the store.Lemon Chia Balls | The Half-Crunchy Mama

Why dates? Dates add the sweetness to baked (or no-bake goods in this case) without added sugar. The simple sugars from fruits are less likely to exacerbate your inflammation, acne, etc, and as dates are also high in fiber, they are digested slower than typical sugars to make it easier on your blood sugar. Medjool and other quality dates are also a good source of copper, potassium, magnesium, and manganese that many people are not getting in their diet anymore. Add the benefits of the dates with the protein and healthy fats from the nuts and chia seeds, and this is a satisfying snack for when you want something sweet.

This recipe is so quick, the only annoying part is making the balls. They are so sticky {get your mind out of the gutter} that it makes it a real pain, but they are SO worth it in the end. I promise. Just put everything into a heavy-duty food processor (I specify that because I’m fairly certain that this is what broke my smaller one 😦 ) and once it looks like this, it’s time to make the balls.

Lemon Chia Balls | The Half-Crunchy Mama

Take a heaping tablespoon of the mixture to make each ball. It’s more like smooshing together instead of rolling into balls, and I usually have to rinse my hands a few times during this stage to unstick my hands. As you make each one, roll them in finely shredded coconut to coat them entirely. Don’t use regular shredded coconut as it doesn’t stick well to the balls. I know this from experience. They were still delicious, but they are so much better with a finer shred of dried coconut.
Lemon Chia Balls | The Half-Crunchy Mama

And just look how pretty they are! Everyone loves them, even Sugar Bee, and no one can have just one! They are also trainer approved as I brought two to the gym one day. Try this and see for yourself!

Lemon Chia Balls | The Half-Crunchy Mama


Lemon Chia Balls

Combining the benefits of fiber- and mineral-rich dates with protein and healthy fats from the nuts and chia seeds, you will get a satisfying snack that is perfect for when you want something sweet. This one is loved by everyone and yields about 20 balls.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 cups pitted dates
  • 1 cup almonds (raw, if possible)
  • 1/2 cup cashews (raw, if possible)
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1-3 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (I have found more is better, especially if the nuts are not raw)
  • 1-2 tsp lemon zest
  • 3+ Tbsp of finely shredded dried coconut

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients except for coconut in a food processor. Pulse into a coarse and slightly sticky mixture. If too dry, add a bit more lemon juice and process again. If too watery, add a few more nuts and process. (It should stick together when you press it between your fingers.)
  2. Roll about a tablespoon at a time into a ball.
  3. Coat it in coconut.
  4. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!
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What’s the best thing you can do for your liver?

EAT LIVER, of course! If you are like me and have a sluggish liver that ends up causing all sorts of issues from hormonal imbalances to very stubborn belly fat, it might be time for you to give this organ meat a try. The initial response from most people is, “YUCK,” but I have realized that such a response is usually because they have never actually tried it.2014-12-21 18.52.52

I am fully aware that I am way more adventurous than a lot of people when it comes to trying new foods. In fact, I pretty much live for it. Traveling to new places means I get to experience new foods and dishes that I have never been exposed to. Kind of like my obsession with drinking at least one local beer for any city/state that I’m visiting, even though I can hardly tolerate the wheat in beer anymore {sigh}. If you want me to try something that I might not “want” to eat if i know what it is first, just don’t tell me. I prefer to try it first and then decide how I feel about it. Sweetbreads are one of my favorite things to order at a classy restaurant…also an organ that acts up on me occasionally. I’m so glad that my father encouraged me to order it for the first time a few years ago and that he didn’t tell me what it was until after my second bite when I proclaimed how delicious it was. Once I knew that I loved them, it didn’t matter at all.

Diets today are a hot mess, especially in this country. We lack so many things in our fast-food, over-processed, carbohydrate-laden lives. Similar to my opinion about the instant gratification we obsess over with medications, it seems like we are always looking for a quick meal. Quick can equal healthy, but most often it results in a meal that serves our bodies up very little actual nutrition. Everyone would benefit from more greens in their life, and I don’t mean lettuce. Real leafy greens, like kale, chard, and spinach. Many people are mineral deficient and have no idea, resulting in a myriad of stresses in their body that manifest in ways that conventional medicine often lets go undiagnosed. We are also vitamin deficient, and not in a way that taking some store-bought, garbage vitamin is going to fix (although there are now some of great products in places like The Vitamin Shoppe). Not only do we need to supplement our bodies with whole food supplements, we need to eat FOOD.

Before the Western diet turned into what it is today, people never wasted any part of the animal. Organs, bones and marrow, and of course every single piece of meat itself were used to stretch the budget. The Depression-era folks still used everything despite the shift in how Americans ate. Gram would make chicken livers (I admit at first I thought, “How gross!”…until I tried them) and her soups were made with broth from bones. These days everyone talks about bone broth and its healing properties and health benefits. This seems “new” to us, but I’m sure previous generations would laugh at this. There were no cans and boxes of broth back then, everyone made broth. And there were not all these GI problems, allergies, psychological disorders, etc., that we are now seeing connected to gut health. Bone broth repairs the gut. This is just one small reason why I can’t help but believe that it is our dietary changes that have caused so much dis-ease to surface and run rampantly throughout our population. Perhaps it’s not that these diseases never existed, but maybe that we have brought them all to the surface with our poor diet and lifestyle. They existed, but were rare. Now they are the norm.

Throughout my journey, my liver issues would rise to the top, and my liver still appears with regularity when having a nutrition check at my naturopath’s office. It’s a powerhouse organ that regulates so much of our bodies, playing a major role in metabolism and having a number of functions in the body, including glycogen storage, storing vitamins (especially B12 and A) and minerals (including iron and zinc), decomposition of red blood cells, hormone production, detoxification, and breaking down insulin, hemoglobin and other hormones. If your liver is sluggish, your body can’t function properly. Without a healthy liver, a person cannot survive. No one can live without one, unlike some other glands that people get surgically removed. Maybe it’s time to pay attention to it.

Some of the supplements that I have taken in the past to help support, clean, or heal my liver have been pretty pricey as they also often include desiccated liver pieces. If I’m having a bad flare of one thing or another, I might need more than one bottle over the course of a few weeks. I was looking to cut some of the cost of my supplement intake, so I discussed with Doc about what foods I could make sure that I’m regularly eating (or avoiding) in order to help my body out even more naturally than I already was. It was amazing how much adding liver into my diet became such a game changer. Not only was my supplement list getting smaller from visit to visit, everything was improving. I hadn’t seen my body respond like this since I first did the Liver Enhancement Diet. WIN!

As it turns out, The Russian is very good at cooking liver. He has made me dishes with both beef and chicken liver, but chicken liver is a lot easier to find and it’s also cheaper. He has made two dishes that taste just like Gram’s and I was in heaven. He has experimented with a few other ways, but his new favorite is making pate. This is the one I’m going to share first. It’s the easiest way to get some in your body since you can spread it on bread or crackers, dip raw veggies in it, or do whatever you want, and it’s so creamy. It is so much cheaper to make your own than to buy the premade stuff in the store and this has no preservatives or additives. It’s always best to try and make your own food so that you can control exactly what is in it. Here’s The Russian’s pate for you to try out. You can use either beef or chicken livers, but this particular post is about the chicken. And it’s delicious!

(He made this double batch for me last night as I have not been feeling as good the last few weeks as I had been for the past few months. We hadn’t been eating liver, so here’s hoping I feel back to my old self by the end of the day! For more reading about liver, google it and also check out these two links: Liver: nature’s most potent superfood and Health Benefits of Eating Organ Meats)

Heat about 2-3 Tablespoons of EVOO (or whatever oil/lard/ghee) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add two medium onions, halved and sliced, along with about a cup of shredded carrots. Cook for 7-9 minutes, stirring very frequently. You want them to soften and caramelize, but not get super brown or burn.

2014-12-21 19.21.33While the onions are cooking (or before if you’re like me and prep everything first), trim up the livers. According to The Russian, beef livers require a little more cleanup, but what’s important with the organ meat is to remove the ducts that connect the tissue. (Yes, it’s even gross for me to type that. There is a reason that The Russian is the only one that cooks the livers in our house!) You also will want to cut up any larger pieces so that they are around the same size for even cooking. That is a good habit to get into in case you want to try out any future liver recipes that I will post. Those recipes are not as forgiving with overcooking these delicate pieces of meat. (Note that you should be buying organic chicken liver whenever possible and always grass-fed beef liver.)

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Once the onions and carrots are finished, add the livers and cook until outsides are no longer shiny. Think about when you are cooking meat and you are browning the outside or making ground beef no longer pink. Same concept, just look for no more shiny parts.2014-12-21 19.25.40

 Next, add the spices and a cup of water. The spices consist of crushed bay leaves, coarse ground pepper, and some kosher salt. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Once the 20 minutes is up, remove the lid and cook an additional 5 minutes over medium heat to let some of the liquid evaporate and allow the sauce to thicken.

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Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Once cooled, pour the mixture into a food processor. Add about 3 Tablespoons of sliced, room temperature butter/ghee (we use Kerrygold) and blend until smooth.2014-12-21 21.13.39

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, but eat it within a week. Remember, there are no preservatives!


Chicken Liver Pate

You can use this recipe with any kind of animal liver; beef, goose, or chicken. We purchase chicken most often as it is easier to find and more economical. You can easily cut this in half or double it. The yield from this recipe is about three cups of pate. Make your liver happy!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or oil of choice)
  • 2 medium onions, halved and sliced
  • 1 cup of shredded carrots or 1 – 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 lbs of organic chicken livers (2-16 oz containers), ducts removed and large pieces divided
  • 1 tsp crushed bay leaves (or one bay leaf)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp coarse ground fresh pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp kosher salt (to taste)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp Kerrygold butter (or ghee)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots and saute until soft and slightly caramelized, but not browned, about 7-10 minutes.
  2. Add livers to vegetables and cook until no longer red and shiny.
  3. Add the bay leaves, salt, pepper, and water, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove lid and raise heat up to medium, cooking for an additional 5 minutes until some of the liquid evaporates and the remaining liquid thickens.
  6. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
  7. Once cooled, place mixture in food processor. Add butter and blend until smooth.
  8. Place in airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to a week. Enjoy!


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A Half-Crunchy Thanksgiving

If everything had gone according to my plan, this would have been finished up on Tuesday or Wednesday. Life. It gets in the way sometimes. So what am I cooking this year?

For the past several years, we have been celebrating Thanksgiving with Sugar Bee’s Godparents and their boys. They are an extension of our family and we love them very much. What’s even better is that we all eat in a similar way. There’s not a lot of questions about what we can make or what the other family can eat, so it becomes pretty easy to celebrate with them. No awkwardness about our diets, as in the way we nourish our bodies, not a “diet” as most people think. It’s the way we live.

So every year we split up the responsibilities so that neither family is responsible for the entire meal. This year, I am in charge of two desserts, three sides, and biscuits that we can all eat without getting all sorts of digestive issues. I’m throwing this quick post together of what I’m making (some I have already made ahead yesterday…WIN!), so you can pin them for next year. Actually, some of these will get made again for the Christmas season, too 🙂 You can find them all on my Pinterest Holiday board.

Tuesday night, I made the cranberry sauce. It was done in the slow cooker and is Paleo-friendly. YUM! With fresh cranberries, pears, ginger, and orange with honey and coconut sugar to sweeten, this recipe was so easy and is the perfect one for me to bring to dinner. 2014-11-25 19.29.37

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Paleo slow cooker cranberry sauce

The next thing I made is my usual for both Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve dinner, Spiced Sweet Potato Casserole. I LOVE this recipe, not only because it’s super easy and only requires me to dirty my KitchenAid stand mixer (fast cleanup!), but you can assemble this the night before and just finish it off in the oven the next day before dinner.2014-11-26 23.15.31 The next thing that I was able to cross off the list was a request. I made these for the first time last year. They are Pecan Pie Bars from Paleomg and they are amazing! I think that they are going to be even better this year because I made them yesterday, so they have had lots of time to firm up.

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They spent several hours in the freezer yesterday afternoon and they have been in the fridge since last night. Can’t. Wait.

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After getting home from Thanksgiving Eve beverages last night with my friend, I assembled my first ever breakfast casserole. Why in the world have I never made one of these things before?!?! Of course, it’s a gluten-free recipe so Sugar Bee can eat it, and let me tell you…with all the cheesy, bacony goodness, you would never know OR care! Oh my LORD it was good!

2014-11-26 23.13.00I assembled it, covered it, and put it in my garage fridge overnight. When I got up this morning, all I had to do was take it out and leave it on the counter while I preheated the oven. Once the oven reached 325 degrees, this amazing mess was ready for us to eat in less than an hour. Make this. I used the light GF white bread from Whole Foods because I figured that the consistency of their gluten-free bread would be perfect and I was 100% right. This one is a keeper!

2014-11-27 09.17.59Now for the things that I have left to make. (I will try and remember to update this post tonight or tomorrow with pictures of my finished products.)

This will be my second dessert, Crustless Pumpkin Pie by Gluten Free Easily. I’m really looking forward to this one!

My other side is going to be Honey-Roasted Root Vegetables. I’ve been making this other dish for holiday dinners for the past several years, Roasted Root Vegetables with Maple Glaze. I decided to try one of the others that I saved and have never tried. Here’s the recipe for the honeyed version.

The last thing that I will be making are GF biscuits. I have made these before with a great mix that I buy at Aldi. It calls for shortening (yuck), so I will be swapping that out with some expeller-pressed coconut oil. Expeller-pressed doesn’t have the coconut flavor that could ruin the biscuit taste. This is the one that I use.2014-11-27 11.55.25Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I will be getting back to more regular posts now that life and travel have both calmed down. Whew! October and November kept me BUSY!! Have a blessed day!!

***UPDATED***December 2, 2014

A few more pictures….

The Honey Root Veggies were so good that my husband only got leftovers the first night. I ate all the rest.

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This is the crustless pumpkin pie. Oh. My. God. As my friend said, it was so good that you really don’t even miss the crust. It was just incredible. And easy! Mine looks much darker than in the photo from the posted recipe, but I think this is because I didn’t use fresh pumpkin and I don’t really measure spices.

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No picture of the biscuits (although they looked the same as when I made them a few months ago and posted on Instagram), but I advise to either add flavor to them if using the expeller-pressed coconut oil over the shortening, or use Kerrygold butter in place of the shortening like I did the first time. They still had a great texture, but no flavor. At all. We have been putting Nutella on all the leftover ones, so they are still getting eaten.

Hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as mine!


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Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips

I have two very good friends of mine that have embarked on their own healing journey after (finally) listening to me and going to my naturopath.  I have some stubborn friends…that I love to death..and their stubbornness is working in their favor. My voodoo doc is really so incredible and I’m beyond thankful for all she has done for me and my family, and now I have been witnessing theCinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips | The Half-Crunchy Mama transformation within these two fantastic and important women in my life.

Their journeys are very different from mine, yet I have tried to give them all the support that I can. My journey was difficult for very different reasons and I didn’t have anyone aside from The Russian (who thought I was even crazier for a bit) and my mom who was all the way back in New York to lean on for support and understanding. I hope that I have helped raise these women up to meet their challenges as they are both very dear to my heart. For some, the natural path can be extremely difficult to walk. Especially when there are serious things to deal with.

Even though I have dietary things to follow (and I’ve been slacking lately and feel like crap), nothing compares to what these two have been dealing with. Interestingly enough, they are ridiculously similar in the way they need to eat, probably for the rest of their lives. I’m used to eating and making strange things for meals and snacks, so I always look forward to getting together with either of their families because with all of our dietary restrictions, we all eat the same way and there are no stupid questions asked like, “What are you eating these days?” or “Why can’t you eat (insert whatever)?” when trying to plan the menu and who is bringing what. No embarrassment, no feelings of needing to explain ourselves, just feelings of acceptance and a level of comfort that puts us all at ease.

So the reason for my post. These two can’t eat much these days. One of them is a lot farther along in her healing and has started adding some foods back in, but there are lots of things that will probably never re-enter her diet. And for my other friend…what a trooper she is trying to be. She keeps testing the limits of her “new” body, but finds out rather quickly that she needs to cut the crap out and find other ways to fulfill her cravings. This is where I come in. Or at least I’m hoping to.

Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips | The Half-Crunchy Mama

This past May, my gym had a contest going called “The Biggest Mover.” It was to see who attended the most classes for a month or something, I really don’t remember the rules, but all you had to do was have your instructor initial a paper and then you drop it in a box on the way out. Sure, why not? The first week (I think it ran for 6 weeks), I won that week’s prize. I think that was a random drawing, but I won a nifty gym bag that I have been using since.

I ended up winning the whole damn thing and my prize was the basket in this picture. I was actually pretty excited about it. The loot was 4 cans of coconut water (I don’t like plain ones, but whatever), a bag of goji berries, a bag of golden berries, a bag of shelled hemp seeds, a bag of chia seeds, and a great little cookbook. I have been playing around with the recipes when I have time, and have been hopeful to give my friend some snacking ideas. This one was a big hit with my other friend’s family, and mine.

So I thought she could eat sweet potatoes, but as I was writing this, she tells me she’s going to try and pull them. WTH? I’m putting this out there for her and all my Paleo folks as they are allowed sweets, as I like to call them. I literally told her in our Facebook message, “Maybe with the spices and chia seeds, you can handle them as those additions should handle the inflammation that it casuses. Just my uneducated-i’m-not-a-doctor-but-know-some-things opinion.” Then she reminded me that she can’t do ANY seeds. BULLSH#T! So of course she will leave them out, as will any of you that need to follow the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol for anyone that doesn’t know what that means) diet. Regardless of her leaving them out, at least she can quickly and easily make a potato chip that will satisfy both the need for sweet and salty, with a crunch!

There are a few other recipes from this book that I will be sharing as I work through the book and tweak ones as I see fit. One in particular has been a BIG hit with my other friend’s family and my own, and another I have fixed up a little to be easier to work with and enjoy. Stay tuned for more tasty recipes that can be traced back to this book.

Why chia seeds? Rich in fiber, omega-3s, antioxidants, and amino acids, and almost all the carbs in them count as fiber.

A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains:

  • Fiber: 11 grams.
  • Protein: 4 grams.
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
  • Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
  • Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
  • They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.

Chia can aid in weight loss as they can help reduce food cravings by preventing some of the food that you eat from getting absorbed into your system. This blockage of calorie absorption makes them a great diet helper. They can help you feel fuller faster because they absorb 10 times their weight in water, forming a bulky gel. They are often used as hydration for athletes because the “chia gel” can hydrate the body. They may reduce your blood pressure as evidence has suggested that they can reduce blood pressure. They are rich in Omega-3s, and are the richest plant source of Omega-3 (the vital fats that protect against inflammation—such as arthritis—and heart disease). In fact, they contain more Omega-3 than salmon! They can also be beneficial for diabetics because chia seeds slow down how fast our bodies convert carbohydrates into simple sugars, and studies indicate they can control blood sugar, leading scientists to believe chia seeds may have great benefits for diabetics. And they are easier to digest than flax seeds, and don’t need to be ground up. Give them a try! Add them to yogurt, smoothies, baked goods, anything that you can think of. They are annoying and a pain to clean up (not to mention they can hang out in your teeth – pet peeve!), but they are worth it!


Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips

This is a great sweet and slightly salty, crunchy treat to replace store-bought potato chips. I go a little overboard on the spice quantities because we like flavor in this house. Figure out how spicy you want to make them. These are cheap, fast, and easy to make, and barely make it through the day in our house!

INGREDIENTS
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb)
  • 3 Tbsp EVOO
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Few pinches of sea salt
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 300ºF.
  2. Peel the potatoes and slice into paper-thin disks, or however thin you can get them. A mandoline would probably be best for this. (I had success using the flat blade from my spiralizer after using a hand-held mandoline slicer last time that made the chips a little too thick and chewy.)
  3. In a large bowl, coat the potato disks with the EVOO and chia seeds. In a small bowl, combine all the spices.
  4. Spread the chips out in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet(s) and sprinkle the seasoning over them, and then sprinkle with salt.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp, flipping about halfway through. (I seem to end up baking between 30-35 minutes, so the time depends on your oven and how thick they end up being.)
  6. Store in an airtight container, if you don’t eat them all before nightfall. Enjoy!

Cinnamon and Spice Sweet Potato Chips | The Half-Crunchy Mama


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Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

My creation for dinner Saturday night. A bag of frozen cooked shrimp, a few zucchini, some fresh herbs, and items that are always in the house gave birth to deliciousness.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

As I mentioned in my post for Creamy Zucchini Noodles, I love my spiral slicer. We love zucchini noodles and they are a healthy alternative to pasta for whole food and grain-free diets. So I made some noodles.

I took this next picture to share with you another of my favorite kitchen tools, the Microplane grater. I zested the whole lemon before squeezing all the juice, using both for the sauce.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

 Aside from making the noodles and handling the lemon, the only prep that was needed was getting the garlic ready for the mincer. My favorite kind of meals are ones that are fast, cheap, and easy. This one checks all of those boxes.

As usual, I tossed the noodles in olive oil that was preheated in a skillet over medium heat. I shook some salt and fresh ground pepper over it and cooked them for about 5 minutes until they softened, but were still a little firm. I removed the pan from the burner and set it aside.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

 Then it was time for the sauce. I melted 4 tablespoons of butter (I use Kerrygold) over medium-low heat and then added 6 cloves of freshly minced garlic, cooking for about 2 minutes. Then I added 1/4 cup of white wine, the lemon juice, and zest, bringing it to a boil.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

After about a minute or two of boiling, I added the thawed shrimp. I heated the shrimp in the sauce over medium until they were heated through. (You can tell when they are heated enough when they have shrunk a little and the sauce starts to boil again.) I removed the shrimp from the pan with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Then I added a tablespoon of gluten-free flour (Bob’s Red Mill), whisking constantly to combine. I also added a little salt and fresh pepper after the flour.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

Once the sauce had thickened, I returned the shrimp to the pan and coated them in the buttery lemon sauce.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

I threw in about 2 tablespoons each of freshly chopped parsley and basil from the garden, tossing well to coat the shrimp.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

I divided the zucchini noodles into our bowls and topped them with the Lemony Shrimp Scampi. Oh. my. It was so good that this is the fastest turnaround for a recipe post from me. Ever.

Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi


Lemony Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Scampi

The amount of shrimp should probably be for three servings, but I only had two servings of noodles (portion size is not something the Russian and I do well), so I would suggest that you add another zucchini to the noodles if you don’t want to eat 6 ounces of shrimp in one meal. Another thought that I had was it may not be easy to find a 12 ounce package of shrimp, so if you can only find a 16 ounce one, use two additional zucchini and increase all the sauce ingredients slightly. If you are friend of mine, you can probably eat the portions that this recipe makes – perfect for two!

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into noodles with a spiral slicer (or julienne peeler)
  • 1-2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp butter or ghee
  • 6 cloves of garlic, freshly minced
  • 1/4 c white wine, preferably on the dry side
  • Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon (about 2 1/2 Tbsp)
  • Zest of one lemon (about 1 tsp)
  • 12 ounce package of frozen cooked shrimp, thawed and drained
  • 1 Tbsp gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp chopped basil
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
DIRECTIONS
  1. Heat EVOO in a skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, salt, and pepper to pan and toss to coat. Cook for 5 minutes until noodles have softened, but are still firm and bright green. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Melt butter in another skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook for about two minutes until garlic is soft and fragrant, but not browned. Add wine, lemon juice, and zest. Bring to a boil and cook for about 1 minute.
  3. Turn heat to medium and add the shrimp, tossing to coat. Cook until heated through (when visibly shrinking and liquid starts to boil again). Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Add flour, salt and pepper (to taste) to the lemon butter sauce and whisk constantly until flour dissolves and sauce thickens.
  5. Return shrimp to pan, add fresh herbs, and toss to coat.
  6. Serve zucchini noddles topped with shrimp, drizzling extra sauce over the top. Enjoy!


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Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts. Yes, they are spelled with an ‘s’ on the end, as in the capital of Belgium. I didn’t realize that until I started cooking them as an adult. Usually people love or hate these little baby cabbages. We LOVE them. In fact, I have always liked them, even as a kid. My mom would cook some for dinner every now and then, and my dad and I were the only ones that would really eat any. My sister would hide hers in the bottom of her milk to escape eating the few that she was given. The ones my mom cooked weren’t even fresh and I still ate them. Crazy, if you ask me.

I make them all the time in a variety of ways, but they are almost always roasted one way or another in the oven. Roasting them makes them soften and caramelize a little to give them a slight bit of sweet. Through the years, I have fed many a friend at my house. Feeding people makes me happy. Silence at my dinner table fills me up, knowing that everyone is just enjoying the meal. All too often I have heard, “I can’t believe I am eating Brussels sprouts….and I like them!” People can always trust me, especially when it comes to food. I will never lie about food. I take food very seriously.

This particular night, I didn’t have my usual ingredients handy for my favorite and most popular Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans (with a few modifications), so I got creative. Balsamic vinegar adds such depth to foods, so I figured it should be a good choice for the sprouts.

First off is to wash the sprouts. Obvious, I know, but I mention this because I do a little more than just rinse them off. I let them soak for a few minutes in a bowl of water. Those layers of leaves can store a little more dirt than you would think. Then I take a few out at a time to the cutting board, cut the bottoms off, and halve them. The outer layer of leaves often fall off and that’s just fine. I usually want those to fall off because if they don’t, I remove them anyway. If leaves aside from those outer ones fall off, I just scoop those up and place them in the bowl with the halved sprouts.  They crisp up something delicious in the oven.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

 Toss them in the bowl with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and fresh pepper. Spread them out on a jelly roll pan (the technical name for this type of baking sheet) and place them cut side down.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts - The Half-Crunchy Mama

 Bake in a preheated oven at 375ºF for 20-25 minutes. They should look like this when they are almost finished:

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

 Add a few teaspoons of balsamic vinegar over them and stir with a spatula to spread it around. Watch out, though! The vinegar gets really strong on a hot pan and can burn your nose.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

 These are even good leftover…I like to eat my leftover sprouts right from the fridge.


Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Just one of several ways you can roast these baby cabbages up in the oven. The balsamic vinegar adds a complex sweetness to the sprouts. 

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 lbs Brussels Sprouts
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
DIRECTIONS
  1. Cut the bottoms off of the sprouts and halve them. Discard outer leaf layers if discolored.
  2. Combine in bowl with EVOO, salt and pepper.
  3. Spread out on a jelly roll pan or baking sheet, cut side down.
  4. Roast in 375ºF oven for 20-25 minutes until somewhat browned.
  5. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over them and stir. Place back in oven for 2-3 minutes. Enjoy!


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Creamy Zucchini Noodles

This recipe is a huge favorite with the Russian and I. After I made it once to try it out, I added it into my regular rotation of dishes. It’s fast, cheap, and easy, all very important characteristics with everything I’m juggling these days, and his eyes light up whenever I mention making it again. There is little doubt that once Sugar Bee* gets over her “it has skins” phase about everything put in front of her that she will be chowing down on this one, too. She still loves avocado (her first food) and is a total veggie-head. Don’t be fooled by the word “creamy” in the title. This dish is non-dairy, gluten-free, vegetarian, paleo-friendly, you name it and it probably fits, like nearly every recipe I will ever post.

The recipe originates from the blog of Empowered Sustenance. Her original recipe can be found here. She is an amazing resource and I have really enjoyed her posts. You should follow her blog, too!

First, I have to mention (brag) that the zucchini used for this blog was successfully grown in my own container garden. This is only my second year taking a crack at growing my own food and I’m quite impressed with myself. If I actually had time, I would research a lot about how to successfully grow each individual crop and spend a lot more time tending to the plants. I’m sure I would probably have actual garden beds, a greenhouse, and compost everything, but containers are about all I can handle at this point in my life. Just take a look at this beauty!!

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Now let me focus your attention on one of the best things ever invented, next to the Kitchen Aid  stand mixer. I LOVE this thing! You can spiral fruits and vegetables into noodles or chips in minutes. It’s so easy to use and clean. If you don’t have one, go buy it. Now. Amazon usually has the best price. Look, I’ve even given you a place to click and get one here. If you are a clean eater, paleo, or GFer and you still don’t have one, I’m not sure we can talk anymore. You should have had this yesterday. But if you don’t have one, you can use a julienne peeler like this one to make the noodles.

Creamy zucchini noodles

Another nifty item to have is an avocado saver. There are those rare occasions where we actually have half an avocado left in our house and this thing actually works. You do have to pull it real tight to make sure air can’t get to the flesh, and there might still be a little discoloration when you get to it, but it’s a very thin layer that scrapes off very easily.

Creamy zucchini noodles

This was after two days in the saver in the fridge. I think that’s pretty darn good! The lighting  in this picture stinks, but as you will see in the picture down below in this post after it’s been scraped into the bowl, it was still nice and green. The only thing was that those little stripes appeared. TWO DAYS. Here it is on Amazon, but I bought mine in Publix. My mom found one for herself up in NY at Stop N Shop, so I’m sure you can get one anywhere. Do it.

Creamy zucchini noodles

To make the zucchini noodles, trim the ends off the zucchini, position it in the slicer, and turn the handle. Yep, this is really hard stuff here.

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I like to make my noodles on the short side. When I first started making this, I would make them too long, making cooking, mixing, and even eating them a little difficult. I break them off after a few turns and drop them in the bowl. Then I turn and make some more. One of the easiest things going on in my world of cooking prep.

Creamy zucchini noodles

When you are done making the zucchini noodles, it’s time to cook them. Heat the EVOO in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini noodles, some Italian seasoning and garlic powder, and turn the noodles around in the pan to coat them in the oil and spices.

Creamy zucchini noodles

While the zucchini is cooking, get the sauce ready. Scoop the avocado into a medium-sized bowl with juice from half a lemon, a giant tablespoon of mayo (you could use yogurt, if tolerable), salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste.

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Mash the ingredients together with a fork until it looks like a creamy guacamole.

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When the zucchini has finished cooking, it should still have a nice green color and be soft, but not mushy. Remove it from the heat and let it stand a minute or two. Don’t let it cool too long as the warmth from the zucchini helps the creamy avocado sauce to coat the noodles.

Creamy zucchini noodles

 After it has cooled for a few minutes, add it to the bowl of creamy sauce and stir to combine. I try to drain some of the oil off of the noodles before placing them in the bowl or the sauce can get too runny. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Creamy zucchini noodles

* Sugar Bee is what I call my three-year-old daughter. I actually call her My Sweet Sugar Bee, but this shortened version will work fine for my blog.


Creamy Zucchini Noodles

These quantities make two servings if made as a side dish, one if you eat it all by yourself as a meal…which you might want to do after the first time you make it. This is easily doubled and since I have found that it does last until the next day, I usually make a double batch. I have also sauteed fresh garlic in the oil before adding the zucchini for extra flavor (then omitting the garlic powder). We love garlic! Happy cooking!

INGREDIENTS
  • 1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil (or the oil/fat of your choice)
  • 1 medium zucchini, made into noodles with a spiral slicer or  julienne peeler
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2-1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • Juice of half a lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 1 heaping Tbsp of mayonnaise (or yogurt)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS
  1. Heat oil in saute pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder, tossing to coat. Saute for 3-5 minutes until noodles have softened, but not mushy and are still bright green.
  2. While noodles are cooking, mash avocado with the remaining ingredients in a bowl with a fork until it has the consistency of a creamy guacamole.
  3. When zucchini is finished cooking, remove from heat and let cool for 1-3 minutes. Add to the bowl with the avocado mixture, allowing some of the oil to drain off. Stir to coat noodles and serve. Enjoy!