Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

Nope, I'm NOT "PC"... when I say Merry Christmas, I mean it.  I'm a Christian.  If you are not Christian, then I accept your views and I'll tell you "Happy... insert your holiday here".  However, being a Roman Catholic, I LOVE to hear "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Christmas" during these next two weeks. 
Mom bought this Nativity for me in 2005... love it!

Kings are on their journey!!

WHAT?  (you say)  TWO WEEKS???  Yep... these two weeks ARE the 12 days of Christmas.  I believe that from Thanksgiving (or around that time) until Christmas day it is Advent... that's the preparation for the coming of our savior, Jesus. 

So, once it's his birthday... it's now officially the Christmas Season.  NOW you'll hear me singing Christmas tunes and being really happy.  NOW you'll see baby Jesus in my nativity scenes around the house... what you won't see are the 3 kings within the nativity... spot them, they're farther away! 

My Snowmen Nativity... wise men are coming!!
Many of you know my college kiddo is 'home' for this next month!  YAY!!  He came home on the 18th and will stay a full 4 weeks!  So far, we haven't done much in Japan.  I seem to have a mental block on what we should DO.  We did go see the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa last week. 

My teen, college kiddo and me in front of the sake barrels

Teen's new profile pic!!

My precious young men.

We went to the Asahi Brewery next, but didn't go inside as we just couldn't figure that one out... we also saw a neat park on the way which had twisted metal and a memorial garden to those Tokyo residents who lost their lives during the bombing of Tokyo in WWII.

The plaque next to the flowers... it was very emotional for the boys as they really like Japan and it's people.

The flowers to the left of the plaque

The twisted metal...

Addison walking through the golden ginko leaves... yeah, it's winter...
Onward to the Tokyo Edo museum where I stumbled into having a free English-speaking guide woman... I thought when the sign said "Free Guide", it was a book.  Nope, a nice older Japanese lady took us around the museum for an hour and taught us about the Edo period. 

Replica of the Nihongashi Bridge and the boats

They had binoculars through which you could look at the models and they looked 'real'
 Hand-made replica with little people... no two were the same.  Each with a different outfit on and different hairstyles! 

The buildings were temporary structures to allow for evacuation, if necessary.  They were covered with the outside coverings of sake barrels... thus the symbols (I enlarged the last photo so you can see them). 
Temporary buildings...
Though this blog was intended mainly for the Paleo/Primal lifestyle... I just couldn't resist adding some family adventures in Japan!!  So... for this next month while my college boy is home, I'll be adding in those adventures.  I'll also post some recipes and let you know how I stayed 90% Paleo during his visit and over the holidays!  So... how does one eat Paleo after a long day adventuring through Tokyo??  Raw fish!!  Sushi/Sushimi.  YUMMY!!!
My guys at our favorite place, Santa Sushi! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Almond Butter and Brownies!!

Paleo-liscious Brownies:
I took a journey a week or so ago to find the 'best' Paleo brownies so that I could contribute to all the holiday parties…. well, partially true… so I could eat some desert AT these parties!! :) I found two recipes that struck my fancy, so baked each of them. My favorite is the non-coconut containing ones… however, for those who don't mind the taste of coconut, these brownies are the hands-down winners of the taste testing. So… needing more brownies for a culture group Christmas party tomorrow, I made the coconut ones.

Now, background on both recipes. They BOTH contain Almond Butter. My teen said "What the heck IS almond butter?" My answer was "its like peanut butter, but made using almonds instead of peanuts". Well… this commissary (military grocery store) has not had success yet in obtaining almond butter, so since I'd used the one jar I ordered from the states, I was on my own. I bought about 8 bags of 2 lbs of raw almonds with the intent to make almond butter… I even bought a food processor with this specific thought in mind!! Well… it works. Kinda. I googled "How to make almond butter" and got the advice to process two cups of almonds for 12 minutes until creamy. Easier said (or read) than done!! *sigh*

So… before I started making the brownies, I needed almond butter. So starts the journey…

As you can see from the video… it was a noisy process. It took WAY longer than 12 minutes and I worried over the processor the ENTIRE time!! 

 So… the first batch (yep, I did two batches) was processed for about 15 minutes.
Obviously, the first batch (on left) was a little chunkier than the second… 

The second batch was processed for about 18 minutes and is noticably more creamy.

My complaint is that it seems the almonds were too dry because neither is spreadable like the almond butter I had ordered online (the ingredient list said only 'almonds' as ingredients). 

Yes, I could have processed it for longer, but when I touched the almond butter inside the processor bowl, it was WARM. Yep, warm. Even though the sides of the motor assembly were cool, I was worried I'd burn it out.

BETTER BROWNIES: via FastPaleo, posted by MasteringPaleo .  Of course, I adjusted the amount by 3 times to make my batches as a simple 9 x 9 inch pan was just too small for a group of people!!  So… tripled, I filled two 9 x 13 inch pans!!  I also had only ½ the amount of coconut milk necessary, so added almond milk to make the total amount.  I'm writing the original recipe posted by Jessica at Mastering the Art of Paleo Cooking… 

3 eggs
¼ cup almond butter
¼ cup coconut oil
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
⅓ cup Honey
⅔ cup Canned Coconut milk (can substitute almond milk without problem!)
⅓ cup almond flour
⅓ cup coconut flour
⅓ cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
⅔ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine wet ingredients and mix until smooth.  In a separate bowl, mis the dry ingredients together.  Stir the dry into the wet until combined, then add chocolate chips.  

Pour batter into greased 9 x 9 inch pan (I used coconut oil for the grease, you can use organic butter).  

Bake the brownies for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Makes 18 brownies.  

Wanna triplicate them??  Since I did the math.. here ya go (with my modifications):

9 eggs
¾ cup Almond Butter
¾ cup Coconut Oil
2 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
1 cup Honey (organic, unfiltered)
1 cup Coconut milk
1 cup Almond milk
1 cup Almond Flour
1 cup Coconut Flour
1 cup Cocoa Powder
2 Tbsp Baking Soda
3 teaspoon Cinnamon
2 cups Mini Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips

Grease 2 9x13 inch pans and cook for 30 mins at 350 deg F.  

Zucchini Brownies:  via Fast Paleo , by "MichelleRock" 

Alternative brownies… made with zucchini and NO coconut… my kind of brownies!!  Yeehaw!  Needless to say, these are my favorite AND have NO flour… nope, not even almond or coconut!  Interesting how they rise well and seem like they have flour in them.  They are not as chocolatey as the coconut ones, nor as moist.  However, they do have a serving of veggies, so I feel less guilty eating them!  Ha ha!  Gotta remember, these DO have more sugar (read glucose and fructose) than I'm used to eating… therefore, they CAN put the weight back on.  Perhaps that's why I've stopped losing!!  ;)  

1 cup Almond Butter
1 ½ cup shredded zucchini
⅓ cup honey
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp allspice
1 cup dark chocolate chunks (I put these into the magic bullet and made the dark chocolate into powder!!  It made the brownies chocolate through-and-through.)  

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine all wet ingredients, the dry in a different bowl then add to the wet.  Bake 30 minutes in a 9 x 9 inch pan.  As you can see, the brownie is very cake-like.  Perhaps it'd be sweeter if I used the semi-sweets instead of dark chocolate… but I kinda like the less sweet taste of these.  

ENJOY!!  Happy baking!!