Paleo Banana Bread with Cacao Nibs

A lot of bakers will tell you that in order to make their bread, you need to pull out the scale. You need to measure twice, and be precise. I am not that baker. A few weeks ago, I was asked to provide some advice for people trying out grain-free baking for the first time. A list of "shoulds" and "should nots" ran through my head, and I thought Are any of those things realistic? 

Ok, maybe you guys have way more patience than I do, but I've had plenty of late night baking sessions where measurement went out the door. For some ingredients, throwing in a bit extra is not a problem. When was the last time you said, "Man, this cookie has too many chocolate chips"? (If you have ever said that, we need to chat). 

Sometimes, a little experiment can lead to wonderful things. This Paleo Banana Bread with Cacao Nibs started as an experiment, but now I think it's my favorite Paleo banana bread recipe to date. While traditional banana bread features walnuts, this version has cocoa nibs. The sweet crumb is the perfect match to tannic cocoa nibs. A big, thick slice of this loaf is dense, sweet, and full of flavor. But it never would've happened if I had decided to stick to a recipe. 

My advice: Don't be afraid to try test things out. Even if it doesn't work, you'll learn more about your ingredients by giving it a shot. Sometimes things will fail--it's ok! Earlier this week I decided to make a Blackberry Crumble that came out of the oven looking more like warm blackberries drizzled with almond butter. It's wasn't a total fail... turns out that saucy blackberries drizzled with gooey almond butter is pretty damn good, too. 

One more thing before we get to the recipe! I'm headed to the Bay Area this afternoon! Anyone have a recommendation on GF restaurants near/around Oakland suburbs? 

Paleo Banana Bread with Cacao Nibs

Yields 1 loaf

 

1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 cup coconut flour 

1 tablespoon arrowroot starch  

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/2 teaspoon vanilla 

2 tablespoons coconut oil, plus more for greasing your pan

4 eggs 

4 bananas 

1/2 cup cacao nibs 

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a standard loaf pan (4 1/2 inches x 8 1/2 inches) with coconut oil. 

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, until no clumps remain.

3. In a separate bowl, creamy together the bananas, coconut oil, and vanilla. Once they are fully combined, stir in the eggs until incorporated. 

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring it in with a spatula until a consistent batter forms. Fold in the cacao nibs. 

5. Spread the batter into an even layer in the loaf pan. I give the pan a jiggle to help even out the batter. Place the pan in the center of the oven. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes until golden on top, and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the loaf. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing. 

Paleo Spicy Sesame Zoodles with Salmon

After my blog post about leading with your Why, I felt like I should follow with a sort of ode to vegetables. If moving others to healthier eating habits is my Why, then getting you to look at a bowl of vegetables and think, "Gimme!" is my objective. Since I got super worked up about this bowl of vegetables, I really wanted to share it with you. Besides, it was inspired from a meal I used to make while living in my first college apartment and totally hit the mark. I ate this for multiple days in a row and am still thinking "More please!" 

When I was a Sophomore in college, I moved into my first apartment. I had one of the best roommates ever. I cooked a lot. My parents supplied my kitchen with two Food Processors and a Immersion Blender. Making dinner was my favorite study break. Clearly, not much has changed. 

Still, one of my favorite meals was a total "hack". It was easy to make, super cheap, and amazingly delicious. It was Spicy Sesame Noodles. Good cold or warm, those noodles stuck in my memory. 

This version of that recipe has been reworked, sans pasta, so that I can enjoy that same dish, while getting some real nutrients! Number one reason why I love sitting down to a big bowl of veggies: I finish my meal feeling strong. 

Zucchini noodles are not always the perfect replacement for pasta, but in this dish I found them quite satisfying. Since the spicy sesame sauce is good warm or cold, I left the noodles raw, which gave them an "al dente" texture. With a few crunchy broccoli florets, this dish is almost like a salad but tastes like so, so much more. My favorite way to eat it is with Salmon on top. Grilled or roasted salmon would work great, but canned salmon is cheaper and makes for a quick lunch! 

What is your "power fuel"? What things make you feel strong?

Paleo Spicy Sesame Zoodles with Salmon:

Serves 2

 

1/4 cup soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1-3 teaspoons red pepper flakes (depending on spice preference)

1 tablespoon sesame oil 

1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup

2 medium-sized zucchini 

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1/2 cup broccoli florets 

2 six-ounce cans of salmon 

Sesame seeds, red chile flakes, minced chives or cilantro for garnish 

 

1. In a small sauce pan, combine the soy sauce, ginger, garlic, red chile flakes, sesame oil, and honey. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally to help the honey dissolve. Continue to allow this to simmer. The sauce will reduce a bit, and the flavors of the garlic, ginger and chili will infuse with the soy sauce. 

2. Spiralize the zucchini (I use this one, but any spiralizer will do. You can also use a vegetable peeler or simply julienne the zucchini if you have lots of patience). Divide the prepared zucchini into serving bowls.

3. Remove the sauce from the stove. Whisk it one last time and pour it over the zucchini noodles. Add the sesame seeds, and toss everything gently to coat it with the sauce. Break the broccoli florets into bite-sized pieces, and arrange them over the noodles.

4. Drain the canned salmon, and break up the meat with a fork before adding it to the top of each dish. Sprinkle with sesame seeds,  red chile flakes, and chives/cilantro. Serve. 

Paleo Old-Fashioned Spice Roast Almond Milk Chicken

The Season 5 premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones was a much anticipated event around here. (In this blog post, I’m going to disclose just how nerdy I can be. Will you accept me anyways?)

Oliver, who threatened to start the series over from Season One Episode One in anticipation, threw up his hands in excitement when I suggested that we roast a chicken for the premiere. “We can make a Game of Thrones feast!” he said. 

When the opportunity presents itself to host a themed dinner, I’m never one to pass it up. 

Now, I’ve been told that George R.R. Martin goes into excruciating detail over what was eaten at each of the festivities in the Seven Kingdoms, but I’ve got to be honest with you: some of those meals require ingredients that I wouldn’t even know how to find (Dothraki Blood Pies? A raw horse heart? Yeesh!). I enjoy a bit of historical fiction as much as the next person, but decided that our Medieval-inspired feast would stay a bit more on the realistic side. The main event: A Spice Roasted Almond Milk Chicken. 

In the middle ages, spices were far more rare than they are today. My kitchen, with jars and jars of spices, and electric spice grinder, and a mortar and pestle would have been a medieval chef’s dream come true. Most of the recipes recovered from the middle ages call for the same spices: cinnamon, grains of paradise, and ginger. On occasion they’ll call for sage and pepper, too. Almond Milk, made by grinding almond powder with water or broth, was very common in poultry recipes. Pulling a bit of inspiration from the collections of recovered medieval recipes online (like this one and this one) as well as Jamie Oliver’s famous Chicken in Milk, I put together this recipe for a “medieval-like” dinner. It uses ingredients that are easy to find in the modern world.  

All that’s left? Invite the masses, pour the mead, and oh yeah—hit play!!  

Total nerdiness aside, this dish is a must-make. The cinnamon and cloves are quite subtle, adding just a touch of natural sweetness. The lemons melt in the cavity of the chicken, spreading citrusy fragrance through the entire bird. And the pan sauce—well, every pan sauce is worth gushing over.  

Spice Roasted Almond Milk Chicken 

1 5-pound chicken

For the brine:

3 tablespoons salt  

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice 

Water 

For the Roasted Chicken:

2 cups almond milk 

1/4 cup verjuice (I received mine as a gift, originally from Capshew Cellars) (Substitute 2 tablespoons lemon juice plus 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar)  

Zest of 2 lemons 

10 garlic cloves 

1 cinnamon stick (.25 oz) 

5 whole cloves 

2 tablespoon fresh sage leafs, minced 

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced 

1 teaspoon minced ginger 

1 large white onion 

Salt and Pepper 

Pinch of mace

 

1. Add the ingredients for the brine to a large container, which will fit the entire chicken. Pour enough water in to cover the chicken. Cover, and place in the fridge for at least 6 hours. 

2. Once chicken is done brining, remove it from the fridge and dump out the brine. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

3. While the oven preheats, prepare the spices and stuffing: zest the lemons, mince 5 of the garlic cloves, mince the ginger and herbs, and toss these ingredients with the cloves and mace. Then, cut the onion into wedges, and slice one of the lemons into fourths.

4. Place the chicken, breast side up, in a dutch oven or braising pan. Rub the chicken with the spice mix. (Tip: I like to slip my fingers under the chicken skin, rubbing the spices into the flesh itself). Season the entire chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Stuff the onion wedges, remaining garlic cloves, and lemon into the cavity of the chicken. 

5. Pour the almond milk and verjuice into the bottom of the pan, cover with an oven-safe lid, and place in preheated oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven, taking off the lid, and use a brush to bast the bird with the liquid in the bottom of the pan. Return to the oven, this time with out the lid, and cook for an additional 45 minutes. 

6. The chicken is done when a thermometer reads 165°F when inserted into the thickest part of the chicken thigh, and the juices run clear. I like my skin a bit crispy, so I returned it to the oven at this point and cranked up the heat to 475°F for 10 more minutes--just to get it browned.