It’s summer. Berry season. And this dinner has summer written all over it. It was my Memorial Day dinner, because, after all, Memorial day does mark the start of summer here in America. Mother Nature, unfortunately, did not get the memo about summer having begun. Either that or she left Seattle for the long weekend like a horde of other folk who hurtled up the I-90 or down the I-5 in droves.
Despite the weather being pretty damp and dreary – or maybe becausethe weather was pretty damp and dreary – I had a rush of blood to the head, and, on the spur of the moment decided to cook like there were people coming over. After I posted a quick ‘phone pic on Facebook, people were wishing they had come over. I see how you are, people. It’s all about the food.
Because it is now summer – and regardless of what the weather may have looked like on the official first day – I decided that we all needed some Strawberry Salsa in our lives. Strawberries make the world a better place. Unless you’re allergic to them, in which case, not so much. Not only does Strawberry Salsa just make you want to eat everything it covers, it also tastes like summer.
I’m not a traditional salsa kinda gal. Tomato based sauces have never really floated my boat, and spicy hot is not my ball of wax. I can take traditional salsa or leave it, and almost invariably I leave it. In England that’s not too hard to do, but stateside, salsa pops up all over the place. And all the time. It seemed only right that I should fill my personal salsa void with something red and yummy. So I did.
A long while ago I saw in a magazine – probably while waiting in my Therapist’s office since that’s the only place I see magazines – a recipe for Strawberry Relish, and I never forgot it because it looked so fantastical, although I didn’t think to do anything sensible like take a ‘phone photo so I could remember the ins and outs and whys and wherefores. And because I couldn’t remember anything other than it’s fantastical-looking-ness, I just made my own up; although how much of the recipe in the magazine became quietly lodged in a corner of my brain we shall never know.
The dressing is tart yet sweet, and macerating the strawberries in advance means you get an almost syrupy sauce which runs off into the Leek and Cauliflower Risotto (see image above) to create a mix of flavors so delicious I don’t even have the words. And that was when it was hot off the press. That night I put the risotto in the bottom of a Pyrex dish, laid the chicken on top and spooned the rest of the strawberry salsa over the top, put the lid on and slung it in the ‘fridge for the next day’s lunch. I was expecting it to be OK. Secretly, I was resigned to it being passable. Imagine my delight then, when I discovered it was even better cold the next day. I will be making it again, expressly to let it get cold overnight in the ‘fridge. It would make an absolutely smashing, cold, summer lunch. And if you serve it hot it will stun your dinner party guests, without taking all day to make. It’s fast, simple and *SANE.
I highly recommend that you make this as soon as possible. It will change your summer, forever.
Gosh. It’s been a while since I posted a side for you. That’s because I’ve been eagerly, and whole-heartedly, absorbed in filling the void left in your lives by cupcakes, muffins, pancakes, ice cream, and all kinds of other *inSANEity from your LBB (Life Before Bailor). But lest we forget, veggies is where it’s really at. It’s nice to have *SANE versions of your inSANE favorites, knowing that they are supporting your fat-loss and health goals, but there is a limit to what you will achieve without those 10 servings of non-starchy veggies every day. An SSoS’er cannot live (or reach their goals) on ground nuts, coconut oil, and xylitol alone.
So in the spirit of keeping us on the right veggie track, I made you a new side. And let me tell you how delicious this side is. And how much it does not taste in the least like cauliflower. And how it will confuse your brain into thinking you are eating rice. Even while you are eating it and telling your brain it is cauliflower. And how you will want to eat it all the time, once you’ve had it once. Because it almost doesn’t even taste like vegetables at all.
And it looks real pretty. Pretty is important when it comes to vegetables. Especially when one of the veggies is the blandest, most boring-tasting vegetable to be found in the produce department. This side, ladies and gentleman, is neither bland, nor boring-tasting. This side, is awesome.
It is awesome hot, it is awesome cold. It is particularly awesome as a bed for my Pan-fried Chicken with Strawberry Salsa (recipe up next!).
If you’re shaking your head thinking, “I don’t like cauliflower”, try this. If your kids won’t eat cauliflower, make them this. It is quick and simple to throw together, and it will send your *SANEity index soaring. You can even make a huge batch in advance and store in airtight containers in the ‘fridge to whip out as either a hot or cold side over the course of a week. I wish I’d made more. Of course, it helps that I included my favorite vegetable on earth. If you have yet to succumb to my pleadings to try leeks, now’s the time.
I love this stuff. Elevate the humble cauliflower to a more permanent place at your dinner table!
Today is a most spectacular day. I’ve waited for this day for 1 year, 11 months and 12 days. Not that I’ve been counting, or anything. Today I will be reunited with one of my favorite people on planet earth, who also happens to be the BEST. BOSS. EVER. and I get to work with him again – 4 days a week – starting today. Excited? I can barely stand it. Truly, my life is right way up again. My life is the way it is today because of the enormous influence of this man; so I cannot wait to see what the future holds now I have my biggest cheerleader back in my corner. I know, for sure, it’s going to be exciting.
Today is also spectacular for another reason: SANE Ice Cream has arrived! Woohoo!! I know it feels like it’s taken forever to get here, but fantastic ice cream is not easy. It’s easy once you have a recipe that works. Getting a recipe that works – not so much. And I have a lot of experience with ice cream.
My goal here is to make ice creams that are as SANE as possible, and yet taste as good or better than premium regular ice creams. It’s a lofty goal if you understand how ice cream works. It’s a lofty goal if you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to try the dairy-free, sugar-free, vegan, or whatever-the-heck-free versions at the store. Yeah, mine won’t taste anything like any of those. My trusty Ice Cream Taste Test Crew would agree that you cannot tell the difference between my SANE ones and regular premium ice creams. It’s true, lovely SSoS’ers. You CAN have it all. You’ll be so glad you’re SANE once you’ve tried some of these!
My ice cream fetish odyssey started some 4 years ago when Larry decided to have a birthday. His lovely wife, Susan, is not the chef in the family, so I offered to cook The Birthday Dinner for Larry and his family at my home. I had the dinner down, but was somewhat stumped when it came to a suitable dessert. I knew Larry adored raspberries, and I knew the weather was going to be warm. Based on these two facts I randomly decided that I was going to make Raspberry Ice Cream for him, even though I had never made ice cream before. Ever.
I toddled off to Williams-Sonoma to avail myself of an ice cream churner, and my ice cream adventures began. Being a lifelong overachiever I made both Raspberry Ice Cream and Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream, and both of them were huge hits. I mean HUGE. No one believed they were homemade. That success, combined with the therapeutic experience I had enjoyed while making said ice cream set me off on a path that involved some 40-or-so flavors, and hundreds and hundreds of gallons of ice cream over the next 3 years. It was awesome. I made ice cream for neighbors, ice cream for friends, ice cream for work colleagues, and ice cream for a local hotel. I rapidly became known as The Ice Cream Queen. I had strangers gate-crashing work meetings because they heard Carrie Brown’s ice cream was making an appearance. I never had any problems getting painting parties going at my house either; as long as there was Carrie Brown’s ice cream there were plenty of volunteers.
Then I met Jonathan, and my whole ice cream existence came to a screeching halt. Until now.
Wouldn’t it be awesome, I mused, if I could merge my ice cream repertoire into my SANE lifestyle. It’s pretty hard being the Ice Cream Queen and The Queen of *SANEity at the same time; because how can I live and breathe The Smarter Science of Slim while churning out ice cream that is doing exactly the opposite? So for months I pondered how to make *SANE Ice Creams. Ice creams are the single most complex food creations we humans have come up with. Sadly you cannot just whizz a bunch of stuff together, sling it in the freezer and get beautiful, scoopable, delicious ice cream the next day. In other news, did you know that “scoopable” is not a real word? I am going to start a petition. Scoopable needs to be a proper word. I mean, I make ice cream all day long, and have 5 cats. I can’t go 5 minutes without using the word.
Months ago I started dabbling with SANE ingredients that I thought may work, but didn’t have much success. Then, one Saturday, my brain broke loose and I created 8 SANE ice creams in one day. I was over the hump and off to the races! Since then I’ve made 16 different flavors – holy moly, there’s no stopping me now.
To get us going down the SANE Ice Cream path, I started with the easiest recipe, which also happened to be one of the most requested. Score! Everyone wins.
Ice cream making is actually pretty complicated scientifically speaking – there’s a whole bunch of geekery around getting ice crystals to form the right way, not getting them to freeze too hard, or too soft, and other thrilling physics dilemmas to think about – and there are tons of little tips and tricks that will help you get that perfect scoop of SANE deliciousness every time. Sadly, one little recipe post won’t address most of that, but before you hop to the recipe please just cast your eye over this list. It’s a good place to start if you are new to the world of homemade ice cream, and since all of you are new to SANE ice cream, and SANE ice cream “custards” do not behave like regular ice cream custards, I urge you to pay attention. After waiting this long, I don’t want you to be disappointed with the result.
The goal is to churn your ice cream mixture in as short a time as possible, so having everything super cold before you begin will be your biggest aid in this endeavor. Especially the ice cream mixture. DO NOT TRY AND CHURN IT IF IT IS NOT COLD.
All your equipment should be as cold as possible before you start churning: the dasher (stirring paddle), any jug that you use to pour the custard into the churner, and the spatulas.
If you are using a churner with a removable freezer bowl that needs to be pre-frozen, make sure that it is completely frozen before you churn. If you shake it and there is ANY noise, it is not ready to use.
Place the empty container that you are going to put the churned ice cream in, into the freezer when you start churning so it is super-cold when the ice creamed has churned.
Do not overfill the churning bowl. Doing two smaller batches is much better than trying to churn too big a batch.
Once you have put the churned ice cream in the cold storage container, place it in the freezer immediately.
Once churned, freeze the ice cream in the freezer for at least several hours before serving, and preferably overnight. Really, try and wait, or churn just before bedtime so you’re not tempted to dig in straight away.
If you live in a hot climate, churn in the coolest part of the day.
If you have a seperate “deep” freeze, put your freshly churned ice cream in that freezer initially, so it freezes as fast and firm as possible. The next day, or 8 hours later, you can transfer it to the freezer part of your kitchen ‘fridge/freezer.
That’s just a few basics to get you started. So without further ado, have some *SANE Peanut Butter Ice Cream. I must warn you – this stuff is *very* filling. You won’t be able to eat very much at one time, but your mouth will be so insanely (ha! ha!) happy because it won’t believe it’s eating SANE ice cream, that you won’t care.
HUGE thanks are due to my long-suffering Ice Cream Taste Test Crew: Matt Ballard, Laurie Resch, Bob Stutz, Jen Meehan, and Sahara Pirie, whose thoughtful, constructive criticism helped shape the final versions; they ate a lot of ice cream in the course of this SANE Ice Cream endeavor, and my recipes are better because of their input. Matt wins the award for most SANE ice cream eaten in the name of ice cream perfection. Thursday afternoons will never be quite the same. Thanks also to the various other folks who were able to sample a few here and there, and whose feedback was also very valuable.
2 cups / 1 pint hemp milk (I use Living Harvest Tempt Hempmilk - Unsweetened Original)
¾ cup / 6 fl oz. smooth peanut butter, unsweetened
6½ oz / 185 g xylitol (I use Xyla)
¼ cup / 2 fl oz. heavy (double) cream
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract
2 oz. / 55g vanilla whey protein powder (I use Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey)
½ tsp guar gum
Place hemp milk, peanut butter, xylitol, cream, sea salt, and vanilla extract into a blender and blend on high until completely smooth.
Add the whey powder and blend briefly, just until mixed in.
Turn the blender to low speed and through the opening in the blender lid tap the guar gum into the mixture while the machine is running.
Blend for no more than 5 seconds and turn the blender off.
If you do not need the blender jug, put the lid on and place in the 'fridge for at least 4 hours until the ice cream mix is very cold. If you need the blender jug, transfer the ice cream mix into a jug or other container and cover before placing in the 'fridge.
Once the ice cream mix is very cold, freeze in your ice cream churner following the manufacturer's instructions. This usually takes 20 - 30 minutes.
Once the ice cream mixture has churned into "soft serve" consistency, quickly transfer it from the churning bowl into your pre-chilled container, and place in the freezer overnight.
For the past little while it seems all I’ve posted is recipes for baked goodies, desserts, and *SANE versions of all those things we love to eat but hate what they do to us. Consequently, I regularly get asked whether these SANE versions are really SANE, and how much or how many you can really eat, so I thought it was time for a little clarity.
I have focused on creating SANE versions of your favorite treats because the majority of you repeatedly tell me your biggest struggle with maintaining a SANE lifestyle is the feeling of having to “give up” all your beloved foods – many of which are just downright emotionally comforting. When you realize you have to give up the regular versions to reach your goals you feel deprived, and that feeling is never going to help you stay on the right path. My goal is to give you baked goods, desserts, and treats that taste better than the regular ones, while supporting you in your health and fat-loss goals. We all recognise that we’re WAY more likely to stick with a healthy eating plan when it involves fantastic-tasting food, and we’re not constantly battling hunger pangs. We’re also agreed that deprivation does not help us reach our goals long-term. You tell me I am filling that void for you, and helping you stay the course. That makes me hugely happy.
But to be sure we are on the same page, let’s get down to some nitty-gritty for a moment.
Are these SANE cupcakes, muffins, pancakes, desserts and other treats really SANE?
Not necessarily, especially when you eat them on their own. Remember that *SANEity focuses on protein, fiber and water. My recipes are all wheat-, grain-, unhealthy fat-, and sugar-free, so they are a HUGE step forward in the health and SANEity stakes, but they generally contain a relatively large amount of nuts and seeds, which are lower down the SANEity scale than non-starchy veggies and good sources of protein. It’s worth repeating the PSA I wrote in my first SANE baked goods post: Cheesy Scones (Biscuits):
“When we say these are *SANE, what we really mean in this instance is that they do not contain any sugars, starches, grains or unhealthy oils. They do not provide a huge amount of protein, fiber or water which is what makes a food truly SANE. They DO provide healthy fats, some fiber & the other nutrients that almonds bring to the table. So, enjoy these as a treat, but not to the detriment of your day dose of SANE protein, fiber and water.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. HA. Plus I got an A++ on my report card from Bailor for that.
So how do you recommend that I include these in my SANE lifestyle?
Continue to focus on the basics of SANEity – protein, fiber, and water – for the majority of your meals and snacks.
Generally speaking – eat these SANE treats in moderation. I have found these SANE versions are WAY more filling than their wheat-, unhealthy fat, and sugar-filled counterparts, so it’s much easier to stop at one or two instead of downing half a dozen.
Take into account your own unique health and fat-loss goals. If you have a large amount of body fat that you want to lose then you will want to be more careful with fat intake, and bump up the proteins and non-starchy veggies in your day. If you are nearing your desired body fat percentage you can enjoy more SANE baked goods and other treats. It will be different for everyone. Check where you are now, and where you want to be, and adjust your intake accordingly.
Don’t hold back on special occasions. Enjoy. You can easily adjust your intake the next day or two to allow for any perceived over-indulgence.
Remember that per portion the amounts of fats and xylitol are small, unless you are planning on eating the whole batch! For example, in these SANE Orange Coconut Cupcakes, you are only eating ONE FIFTEENTH of the recipe, per cupcake. Totally nothing to be concerned about. Enjoy!
A lot of the recipes are fortified with whey protein or egg whites, and also usually have fiber in the form of fruit, nuts, and / or seeds, which makes them more SANE.
If you live with other humans who are not following a SANE lifestyle, it will be easier for you to stay the course if you keep these SANE versions in the house for them to eat rather than the regular versions from the store. They won’t be able to tell the difference if you do not tell them they are SANE. I have blind taste-tested these recipes extensively on people who do not know what I do and they were stunned to find out afterwards they are wheat-, grain-, and sugar-free.
If you are having desperate wheat, grain, starch, or sugar cravings these SANE versions are a FAR, FAR BETTER choice. Overeating on these SANE versions would always be preferable over the regular alternative. You can compensate once the cravings have subsided. Don’t panic!
If you have allergies, or are intolerant to xylitol or nuts, be careful. You will need to manage your consumption of anything that irritates your body or has an undesirable side-effect. This management may mean not-at-all or small amounts, depending on your individual situation.
There are no hard and fast rules here, so – bearing the above points in mind – strive for balance between SANEity, your current state of health, your fat-loss goals, taste, emotional comfort, and banishing feelings of deprivation. Whatever keeps you on the SANE path most successfully is what you should do.
Progress not perfection! Especially if perfection is so hard that it makes you throw up your hands in desperation and give up, or stop progressing altogether.
Way back when I posted the recipe for Chocolate Yogurt Supreme, y’all got very excited. I got lots of notes asking me to make a whole range of yogurts, to spice – as it were – your breakfasts and desserts up. It’s been a while. Sorry about that.
I am thrilled to release the second supreme yogurt: Lemon. Because I do love lemon. Plus I made this SANE Lemon Curd, and almost immediately my brain exploded with a million uses for it. This is one of them. I urge you to get the SANE Lemon Curd recipe down pat, and keep a pot of it in your ‘fridge at all times. If you like lemon, that is. If not, well, you wouldn’t want to make this Lemon Yogurt anyway, so we’re good. Although, I should share that the day after I made this, I took some into the office and offered a spoonful to my colleague-who-doesn’t-like-lemon. She went nuts over this stuff. The next day she wore a yellow blouse to work, came into my office and said, “I am wearing this shirt so that it will encourage you to post the recipe for that yummy-lemon-cheesecake-tasting stuff immediately.”
So, maybe, just maybe, even if you don’t like lemon, you’ll want to try this.
If you like lemon, and you’re a busy person, I suggest making a big old batch of this for the week, so you only have to do all the mixin’s once. Stash in an airtight container in the ‘fridge and you’re good to go for breakfasts or desserts for days. Hurrah!
PS. No, I don’t eat my yogurt in a cute little porcelain cup and saucer with a Greek yogurt and lemon zest garnish on a pretty napkin. I sling it in a glass lidded Pyrex dish and schlep it to the office. But on high days and holidays you can totally turn this into a fabulous dinner party dessert or special breakfast-in-bed treat in under a minute. We love that!
Matilda, one of our lovely readers from Australia, has a friend with a lemon tree. I wish I had a friend with a lemon tree, because I have a suspicion that there is an awful lot of SANE Lemon Curd and Lemon Yogurt Supreme in my future.