Whole30 Garlic Aioli

Whole30 Garlic Aioli

We recently wrote about making homemade, Whole30-approved mayonnaise.  It was a post in which I lamented the sorrows that come with Whole30 depriving me of my beloved condiments due to their, generally speaking, repugnant ingredients. As a solution to this problem, homemade Whole30-approved mayo was a perfect fit.

Homemade mayo will take you by surprise.  It is far more delicious that its store-bought cousin and you can use it as a dip without feeling like you should be hiding while doing so.  But mayonnaise as your only condiment can only be joyful for just so long.  Before long, something that once knocked your socks off becomes over-done.  “Variety is the spice of life,” they say, right?  So, we decided to start playing with our mayo…

Whole30 Garlic Aioli

“But mayonnaise and aioli are not the same,” you are surely thinking.  And you are most definitely correct.  Generally speaking, mayonnaise is an emulsion of a neutral-flavored oil (commonly canola or soybean) with egg yolk, acid of some kind (usually vinegar or lemon juice) and sometimes mustard (powdered or prepared).  Aioli, on the other hand, is traditionally started by turning garlic into a paste in a mortar and pestle and then adding egg yolk, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and olive oil.

If we are being absolute sticklers for tradition, this recipe is not a true aioli… but it is darn close.  Since our homemade mayo used extra light olive oil instead of canola, all that was needed to turn this mayo into a garlic “aioli” was to add garlic paste and adjust the flavor with some fruity extra-virgin olive oil (and a dash more acid to balance the additional fat).

Another break from tradition was my addition of some fresh herbs, specifically chives and flat-leaf parsley.  I’m a sucker for fresh herbs and since I was actually making this aioli to be a dipping sauce for a dinner party, I felt the herbs also helped with its visual appeal (some folks just don’t appreciate emulsified fats like I do…).

So…

LET’S GET STARTED

Start by taking some freshly-minced garlic, finely chopped chives, and flat-leaf parsley and combining them on a cutting board with a pinch of kosher salt (the coarse grit of the salt help turn the ingredients into a paste).

Whole30 Garlic Aioli

With one hand holding the handle of your chef’s knife, turn it on its side and place the heel of your other palm on the flat of the blade.  Holding your knife in this position, using the flat side of the tip of the knife, start to crush and smear the ingredients into the cutting board in a side-to-side, back and forth motion.

Whole30 Garlic Aioli

Continue this motion until the ingredients have taken on a paste-like consistency.  Use the blade of your knife to scrape it off the cutting board and collect it into a pile.

Whole30 Garlic Aioli

In a large mixing bowl, add one cup of your homemade mayonnaise and half of your garlic/herb paste (fresh garlic is rather pungent, it is wise to start off conservative and then add more later if needed).  Whisk to combine.  Add ½ a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and mix to combine.  While vigorously whisking, slowly drizzle in ¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil.  Taste and adjust seasoning with kosher salt and freshly-cracked white pepper.

Whole30 Garlic Aioli

 

Whole30 Garlic Aioli
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Comdiment
Serves: 1¼ cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup, homemade mayonnaise
  • 1 large or two small garlic cloves, crushed
  • a pinch of chopped chives
  • a pinch of chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • kosher salt
  • freshly-cracked white pepper
Instructions
  1. Process:
  2. Take garlic, finely chopped chives, and flat-leaf parsley and combine them on a cutting board with a pinch of kosher salt (the coarse grit of the salt help turn the ingredients into a paste). Using the flat side of the tip of the knife, start to crush and smear the ingredients into the cutting board in a side-to-side, back and forth motion. Continue this motion until the ingredients have taken on a paste-like consistency.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add one cup of your homemade mayonnaise and half of your garlic/herb paste (fresh garlic is rather pungent, it is wise to start off conservative and then add more later if needed). Whisk to combine.
  4. Add ½ a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and mix to combine.
  5. While vigorously whisking, slowly drizzle in ¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning with kosher salt and freshly-cracked white pepper.

This aioli is one that you will find yourself dreaming about and trying to find food to dip in it. I can not count the numerous amounts of times we have had sweet potato fries just so we can enjoy this yummy condiment. So, enjoy and start dipping!

Whole30 Garlic Aioli

Whole30 Week 2

Whole30 Week 2

This post is a little tardy but here is a quick summary of what we ate during Whole30 Week 2. This time things have been much easier and we are definitely branching out more and having fun with new sauces like the Whole30 mayonnaise, salad dressings and stock. I think we know the basics and what we need to do to “survive” so we are having more fun trying to fit yummy food in the Whole30 box. And boy, have we been eating well!

Let’s get started…

Day 9:

Breakfast – Scrambled backyard-fresh eggs with parsley and onions, half a mango and bacon

Whole30 Week 2

Snack – Hand full of almonds

Lunch – Warmed homemade turkey broth to drink with leftover steak and a boiled backyard-fresh egg

Whole30 Week 2

Dinner – We went to a friend’s house that is also doing Whole30 this month. We brought a couple of sides and they made meat and a side. It was a great dinner. But I forgot to rake a picture, whoops!

Ribs marinated in a dried cherry glaze that was then turned into a Whole30 compliant BBQ sauce. Brussels sprouts with bacon, asparagus salad and sweet potato fries with a garlic aioli

 

Day 10:

Breakfast: Blackberries – It was not the most filling breakfast but I was in a hurry this morning to get to church.

Lunch – Burger with lettuce bun and leftover asparagus salad

Snack – Ramekin of mixed nuts

Dinner – Salmon over spinach with sweet potato fries and garlic aioli

Whole30 Week 2

 

Day 11:

Breakfast – Leftover onions, red peppers, arugula and steak with a fried backyard-fresh-egg

Whole30 Week 2

Snack – Lemon Lara Bar – Before doing Whole30, neither Chris nor I was a fan of these bars, not sure if it was the sugary treats we were used to or what but we are both huge fans now and we have boxes sent on a monthly basis from Amazon. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime, especially because Charlie has also become quite the fan and can take down more than one at a time if you let him! But seriously, these are a great on the go snack and I have learned to keep a couple in my bag and the car for emergency moments when I need something immediately.

Whole30 Week 2

Lunch – Leftover Salmon, spinach, sweet potato fries and aioli

Snack – two handfuls of almonds

Dinner – Pan-seared duck breast, marinated grilled Portobello mushrooms, artichokes and roasted beets – This was Chris’s birthday dinner that he made himself.

Whole30 Mayonnaise

Day 12:

Breakfast – Hard-boiled backyard fresh egg and fruit cup with strawberries, banana, pineapple and blackberries

Whole30 Week 2

Snack – Mixed nuts

Lunch – Leftover pan-seared duck with marinated grilled Portobello mushrooms, and roasted beets

Snack – Lara lemon bar

Whole30 Week 2

Dinner – Burger with lettuce, tomato, onions and mushrooms, with half an avocado and homemade Whole30 mayo on the side

Whole30 Week 2

Day 13:

Breakfast – Backyard fresh hard-boiled egg and handful of cashews

Lunch – Grilled chicken breast with half an avocado and small side salad

Dinner – Eggs with red peppers and onions

Snack – Figs and nuts

Day 14:

Breakfast – Fruit cup with blackberries, strawberries and banana with a hard-boiled backyard fresh egg

Snacks – Nuts and Lara Apple Pie bar

Lunch – Grilled chicken breast with half an avocado and small side salad

Snack – Apple

Dinner – Burger with homemade Whole30 mayo, onions and mushrooms and homemade sweet potato fries with a side of garlic aioli

Whole30 Week 2

*I was starving all day and was ready to throw in the towel. It was not that I wanted something sweet as we actually had a birthday party at work and there was cake but it was not a temptation at all. I wanted to go out to eat and have a burger on a bun or something like that to satisfy me or that was how I was feeling. But I made it through and had a fantastic burger at home and was not sorry at all!

Day 15:

Breakfast – Hard boiled egg and fruit

Lunch – ½ a burger with a half an avocado and sweet potato fries with grilled onions on the side

Whole30 Week 2

Snack – Nuts

Dinner – Chicken fajita salad with lettuce, red peppers, onions and homemade dressing

Whole30 Week 2

Two weeks down and only two more to go. So far so good. I feel great and I am really enjoying Whole30 this time around. I had a moment during the week where I wanted to quit but I think that is normal. We have quite a few new recipes to add and make sure you come back next week for Whole30 Week 3.

Any tips you want to share with me? Any good recipes I need to try this week?

Whole30 Mayonnaise

Whole30 Mayonnaise

If you’re a condiment-aholic like me, Whole30 eating can often make you feel like something is conspicuously missing from your eating life. Once you start reading the labels of the condiments you so often reach for, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other corn and soy products seem almost impossible to avoid – let alone a host of other synthesized ingredients.

Last August, during our first round of Whole30, we came across many of these unfortunate discoveries; some expected, some less so. We knew our favorite brand of ketchup would not be allowed, due to it unfortunately containing high-fructose corn syrup. But we were rather surprised to find that the number one ingredient in that big tub of taco seasoning sitting in our pantry was corn meal! Why on earth would you put corn meal in taco seasoning? You are probably assembling your tacos into a corn taco shell and perhaps topping them with a corn salsa. Isn’t that more than enough corn?

More recently, I was at the grocery store shopping for a jar of plain mixed nuts. Nothing weird, just roasted and salted mixed nuts. I figured this would be easy. I reached for a package that had one of those earthy-crunchy, this-MUST-be-good-for-me-names like “simply good,” or something like that, figuring it would be just those basic ingredients for which I was looking. Nope. They felt it was necessary to season plain nuts with sugar.

I shared this shopping experience with a family member, in a conversation about Whole30, and they pointed out what should have been obvious: corn, sugar, soy… these are all subsidized crops. If broccoli was a subsidized crop, scientists would have been paid to find ways to work broccoli syrup into my ketchup or broccoli meal into my taco seasoning. A pretty messed up way to decide what ingredients make it into your product, for sure.

But I digress…

So, you’ve taken to snaking on raw veggies instead of chips and M&M’s (congratulations!), but you can’t help feeling like you are eating rabbit food. All of this would be so bad if you could just dip them in some bleu cheese dressing or ranch dip, right? Nope, that will have to wait until next month. But all is not lost!

Enter: mayonnaise.

Ick! You may be thinking. That is probably because you have never made your own from scratch with quality ingredients. Believe me, it’s a different beast entirely. I was actually not prepared for just how delicious homemade mayo would be the first time that I made it. I wondered why I had waited so long to try it. Perhaps I was just a bit intimidated. You know, shouldn’t such emulsified emulsions  be left to the experts like Hellman’s, Duke’s and that quaint little French bistro you love so much? Na! It’s actually quite easy as long as you know what to do.

LET’S GET STARTED

When making emulsions, things can tend to move a bit quickly and really require your full attention. For this reason it is important to have all of your ingredients measured out an in one place along with all of the equipment you might need no farther away that an arm’s reach. This is best practice for any type of cooking and professional chefs call it mise en place, which means “put in place;” to have all of your equipment and ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start with the actual cooking action.

Whole30 Mayonnaise

Small ramekins like these are extremely handy in making sure you have all of your ingredients measured out and ready to go as you need them. Here I have one whole backyard-fresh egg plus one egg yolk, freshly-squeezed lemon juice, Dijon mustard, extra light olive* oil and my handy immersion blender.** (The one we use is no longer made, but click the link for something similar. This is one kitchen tool that is always being used and worth adding to your kitchen!) I managed to forget to include it this photo, but I also use apple cider vinegar in this recipe. I find that using both lemon juice and vinegar gives a pleasing balance between their two acidic styles.

*When choosing your olive oil, go with something that has the lightest color possible. The darker the color, the more flavor it has. For this purpose, you want something with a very light and unobtrusive flavor (this is why most commercial mayo’s use canola or soybean oil).

** You will see a number of techniques for making your own mayo on the internet. Some recommend a blender, some us an immersion blender, and some swear that whisking by hand is the only way. I employ a hybrid of these techniques. I start the emulsion with an immersion blender and then I transition it to a bowl and whisk it my hand. This seems to work well for me but it might not be right for you. Try different techniques and find out which one gives you the best results. My only word of caution about immersion and traditional blenders (especially high-powered ones) is to use their lower settings so as to minimize the heat that they generate. Too much heat and your mayo will break (more on this later).

Start by adding the eggs, half of the mustard (1.5 tsp), half of the lemon juice (1.5 tsp), and half of the vinegar (1.5 tsp) to a tall, narrow and cylindrical container (I find this old blue plastic cup to be just about right) and blend until thoroughly mixed.

Whole30 Mayonnaise

Begin adding the oil by creating a steady and very slow stream of it going right down the shaft of the immersion blender. This is very important. The slower and more carefully you add the oil, the better your emulsion will be.

Whole30 Mayonnaise

Don’t try to add all of the oil (2 cups) in one go. Slowly add some oil then blend for a bit, add some more, then blend again.Whole30 Mayonnaise

Once you have added half of the oil and you have a good, stable emulsion, add the remaining 1.5 tsp each of Dijon, lemon juice, and vinegar. Continue to blending, adding another ¼ cup of oil. Once you have about ¾ cup of oil to go, using a rubber spatula, transition the emulsion to a large mixing bowl. Check for seasoning and add kosher salt and freshly-cracked white pepper to taste.

Whole30 Mayonnaise

Continue to add oil, a little at a time and beat vigorously with a hand-held whisk until all 2 cups of oil have fully incorporated into the emulsion. Check for seasoning again and adjust as necessary. You’re done!

Whole30 Mayonnaise

 

Whole30 Mayonnaise
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Condiment
Serves: 3 cups
Ingredients
  • 2 cups of extra light olive oil
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, divided in half
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, divided in half
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, Divided in half
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly-cracked white pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Start by adding the eggs, half of the mustard (1.5 tsp), half of the lemon juice (1.5 tsp), and half of the vinegar (1.5 tsp) to a tall, narrow and cylindrical container and blend until thoroughly mixed.
  2. Begin adding the oil by creating a steady and very slow stream of it going right down the shaft of the immersion blender. (The slower and more carefully you add the oil, the better your emulsion will be.) Don’t try to add all of the oil (2 cups) in one go. Slowly add some oil then blend for a bit, add some more, then blend again.
  3. Once you have added half of the oil and you have a good, stable emulsion, add the remaining 1.5 tsp each of Dijon, lemon juice, and vinegar. Continue to blending, adding another ¼ cup of oil.
  4. Once you have about ¾ cup of oil to go, using a rubber spatula, transition the emulsion to a large mixing bowl. Check for seasoning and add kosher salt and freshly-cracked white pepper to taste.
  5. Continue to add oil, a little at a time and beat vigorously with a hand-held whisk until all 2 cups of oil have fully incorporated into the emulsion. Check for seasoning again and adjust as necessary.

We have made this mayo two times in the past week and used it in many of the meals that we ate and mentioned in our Whole30 Week 1 Recap. This Whole30 Mayonnaise is a great starting point for many condiments and sauces that you will want to make. Trust me when I say it is worth making and last night during dinner were discussing if we will ever go back to the store bought stuff. Have you taken the plunge and made your own mayo? Any secrets you want to share? We will be sharing the aioli that we made later this week with this mayo.

And before I go, I can’t help but say a quick HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my hubby!

Whole30 MayonnaiseToday is his day and this crazy picture pretty much sums up how crazy his day was. And while most people would take the day off from cooking and being in the kitchen, he wanted to make his own birthday dinner and even kept it Whole30 compliant! He cooked pan-seared duck breast with marinated grilled portobello mushrooms, steamed artichokes and roasted beets.

Whole30 MayonnaiseI realized as we sat down to eat that he really just was looking for another way to eat some of this yummy Whole30 Mayonnaise, but really, can you blame him! Happy Birthday, Chris! You keep life tasty and fun in the kitchen and out! May this year be full of good food, warm times with family and friends and the courage to take leaps as you go after your dreams!

Whole30 Week 1

Whole30 Week 1Like was mentioned in one of the previous posts, Chris and I decided to get 2015 off to a healthy start with our second round of Whole30. Unfortunately, we never formally blogged about our overall experience when we completed Whole30 for the first time back in August, like we had planned to. So this time we will do a weekly recap and at the very end we will each write about our experience this time versus last. I can, however, say that so far, this time has been much easier. Maybe that’s due to being past the initial learning curve we experienced last time, but after a month of sweet holiday treats, we were both just dying to get back on board with meat and veggies and having an actual meal plan. So far, so good! Whole30 Week 1, done!

We started the week of with some basic meal prep. I am very lucky to have quite the kitchen warrior and Chris spent much of Sunday in the kitchen making clarified butter (ghee), homemade mayo, curry chicken salad and boiled eggs for us in preparation for our first week. (We will be sharing many of these recipes over the next couple of weeks so make sure you stop back by!) And boy was it worth it! From experience, the biggest key to being successful with this plan is having some basic essentials available throughout the week so in a moment of weakness or desperation you can reach into the fridge and grab a boiled egg or make a chicken salad lettuce wrap and survive until the next meal. For me, leftovers are also key for both breakfast and lunch. One of my favorite breakfast meals now is leftover veggies from dinner the night before with a fried egg on top. And – it is quite funny – I have become the girl who cannot live without leftovers. If you would have met me three or four years ago, I would have told you I hated leftovers, but now I cannot live without them. So, onto what we ate this week.

Our first day of Whole30 was talked about here, so this posts starts with day 2 and covers day 2-8. Here is our recap of Whole30 Week 1.

 Day 2:

Breakfast – Bacon, two backyard-fresh-eggs scrambled with onions and parsley and blackberries

Whole30 Week 1

Snack – Banana and fig

Lunch – Missed it! Whoops! *see below

Dinner – Stuffed acorn squash – Acorn squash roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper. It was then stuffed with a shaved Brussels sprouts hash consisting of grass feed ground beef, chicken sausage, red peppers, onions, calamata olives, salt, fresh cracked pepper, thyme and oregano.

Whole30 Week 1

 

*I had a horrible headache around and after dinner. I drank water all day but I do not think I had enough to eat. This was the only day during the week this happened so I think it might have been because I accidentally skipped lunch.

 

Day 3:

Breakfast – Chicken sausage, scrambled eggs with onions and peppers and blackberries

Whole30 Week 1

Lunch – Three Romaine lettuce pork tacos with bacon, apple, pickles and thinly sliced onions

Whole30 Week 1

Snack – Lemon Lara bar

Whole30 Week 1

Dinner – New York Strip Steak seasoned with salt and pepper, ½ sweet potato and asparagus

Whole30 Week 1

Day 4:

Breakfast – Fried backyard-fresh-egg over leftover broccoli and cubed sweet potato with blackberries

Whole30 Week 1

Snack – Apple

Lunch – Leftover acorn squash

Whole30 Week 1

Snack – Apple Pie Lara bar and apple

Whole30 Week 1

Dinner – Seared pork chops with cauliflower rice, mushrooms and collard greens

Whole30 Week 1

Day 5:

Breakfast – Leftover veggies (mushrooms and cauliflower rice) and fried backyard-fresh-egg with blackberries

Whole30 Week 1

Snack – Almonds and dried figs

Lunch – Leftover seared pork chops with cauliflower rice, mushrooms and blackberries

Dinner – Ground beef breakfast casserole with eggs, red peppers, onions, spinach and green onions with half an avocado on the side

Whole30 Week 1

Day 6:

Breakfast – Ground beef breakfast casserole with eggs, red peppers, onions, spinach and green onions with half an avocado on the side and strawberries

Whole30 Week 1

Snack – Hard boiled backyard-fresh-egg

Lunch – Two romaine lettuce wrap boats with curry chicken salad and pickles

Snack – Apple

Dinner – Marinated pork tenderloin, sweet potatoes and collard greens

Whole30 Week 1

 

Day 7:

Breakfast – Today I tried something new. For years my husband has made stock from a variety of leftover bones after we cook. Last weekend he made turkey stock and I had a cup of warm turkey stock that many people call bone broth. It was so good and warmed me up from the inside on a VERY cold morning and I was quite surprised how filing it was. Definitely interested in doing this more.

Whole30 Week 1

Lunch – Curry Chicken salad with an apple

Whole30 Week 1

Snack – Almonds and a hard boiled backyard-fresh-egg

Whole30 Week 1

Dinner – Leftover steak and pork tenderloin topped on a wonderful salad full of a variety of veggies and cashews. Chris made a homemade dressing from our homemade mayo, avocado and mustard. It was an amazing salad and I would eat it on a daily basis. Unfortunately, I was so focused on the salad and how good it was I forgot to get a picture.

Day 8:

Breakfast – In a hurry this morning so I grabbed a Lara bar and a boiled egg. I am finding that if I have a little protein even for a snack, I am good for a couple hours and not hungry again until the next meal.

Lunch – Curry chicken salad with a boiled egg and a pickle.

Whole30 Week 1

Snack – Apple

Dinner – Skirt steak with dressed arugula side salad with cooked onions and red peppers. This was a really great dinner.

Whole30 Week 1

So that is the recap of Whole30 Week 1. All of the pictures above were taken on my iPhone and in real time so you can see how we have made Whole30 work for our family both at home and work. This was a quick run-down of what we ate last week but Chris is writing up the recipes that we will share over the next few weeks. Have you started Whole30 recently? Is it your first time or are you doing it again? Do you have any secrets to share? One thing I have really enjoyed about this experience in addition to feeling good is the Whole30 community and all the recipes and inspiration that is shared. Feel free to ask us questions or let us know what is working for you. I love to get feedback and hear about other people’s experience.

 

Happy and Whole30

Happy and Whole30

Hope you had a wonderful end of 2014. We had a great night celebrating at our home with goods friends and enjoying quiet a feast of wonderful treats and homemade eggnog. And the kids had a blast with sparklers.

Chris and I had planned to wake up the next morning and start our next round of Whole30 but at the last minute we changed plans and enjoyed one last day indulging ourselves, primarily so we  could take part in the traditional southern New Years Day good luck feast that our friends invited us to and boy, it was worth it! This picture was taken on my phone so it doesn’t do it justice. The flavors on this plate were out of this world and hopefully will lead to lots of luck and goodness throughout the coming year.

Happy and Whole30

So today then marks our official first day of our next Whole30 journey. I had big plans to do a lot of food prep but that was side stepped with getting down all the Christmas decor so I will work on it tomorrow. I am hoping to document and provide a weekly Whole30 update every Friday or Saturday. Pictures will be included similar to below with some recipes and ideas that you can follow and hopefully help you on your own journey. Chris and I completed our first Whole30 in August of 2014. We continued to eat the same way most of the fall but have felt through the holidays we were really missing the structure and had thrown some of the principals out the window so it is a great time to start. I knew when I said more than a couple of times “I really miss eating vegetables!” that I was definitely game for the challenge again. This time I am sure we will expand what we were doing on a daily basis and hopefully try some new things as well. I am looking forward to sharing our plan with you and hope we can help you too!

Day 1 – complete!

Happy and Whole30

Are you taking the Whole30 challenge? Did you make other resolutions? Chris and I have some big goals for this year that we will share more of in the future, but other than healthy eating, I think as a family we are working on quieting and organizing our house and our life. We want to be intentional about the choices and commitments we make and not just say “Yes” to things all the time. Have you sat down and made plans for 2015? Any ideas you want to share? I am always encouraged and challenged when I hear people talking about the areas they want to change. Good luck to you all and I hope when we look back at the end of this year that we all made more progress than we could have ever imagined!

Date Syrup or Date Puree

Date Syrup or Date Puree Ok, all you Whole30 and Paleo eaters out there this is how you cheat… if you’re the cheating kind that is.  Whole30 does not encourage desserts or added sweeteners, even if they are 100% natural whole foods.  Now, if you’re like me, “does not encourage” leaves a lot of room for interpretation and I interpret it to mean, “this is not best practice but it is not forbidden.”  So, if you just need to have a glass of sweet tea without dumping ½ of a cup of refined white sugar into it, or you want a way to make a plan-approved apple crisp that doesn’t leave you disappointed and wishing for the real thing, this recipe is a trick you might want to try.

Medjool dates were one of the foods that really helped me get through the Whole30 food challenge.  I am one of those people that really needs something sweet after a meal.  It doesn’t have to be a huge, indulgent dessert, but instead just a small sweet bite of something is all I need to really feel satisfied after a meal.  Whereas Medjool dates are certainly not a piece of sweet and earthy dark chocolate, but they are sweet and earthy and when kept in the freezer, become almost like eating a caramel chew candy.

I think I was craving sweet tea at the time this idea occurred to me.  “Why not chop up some dates, add some water, and cook them down to make a date simple syrup of sorts,” I thought.  I was really looking for a date-sweetened liquid to mix into a glass of tea.  Then it occurred to me, when I was making the syrup, that there was another useful and tasty sweetening product here: date puree.

Now, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the many uses for these two sweeteners but I can say that when we have used them, they have worked perfectly and tasted delicious.  So far, we have used the date puree to make a Whole30 apple crisp but I can also see it working quite well as a sweetener in most any baked good (brownies, cakes, cupcakes, muffins, etc.).  As for the syrup, ironically, I have yet to make sweet tea with it but I did use it to make this Bourbon Old Fashioned and wow, was it good.  Keep a look out for this pantry essential to make its way in to many recipes to come! …

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Whole30 Apple Crisp

Whole30 Apple Crisp

So, we have this baker friend.  Actually, she does bake, but that moniker does her no justice at all.  She is really an artist who works in, well… cake (among many other delicious sweets).  Recently, Danielle’s and my experience doing Whole30 came up in one of our conversations and this baker friend seemed rather intrigued.  It turns out that conversation had motivated her to try the challenge herself.

Can you imagine?  You make sweets for a living and you are doing the Whole30?!  I thought I had it rough during those 30 days and I wasn’t BAKING CAKES FOR A LIVING!  Now that is a food challenge.

In an effort to encourage her in the most difficult early days of her challenge (and maybe a twinge of guilt?), we decided to make her something sweet as a way of saying, “See, it’s not that bad. There is life without added refined sugar… you just have to get a little creative.  You can do this!”

Now, in fairness to the Whole30 food challenge, desserts are not encouraged (even if technically on plan) and finding sweetener “workarounds” is not in the spirit of the challenge.  But this qualified as a special circumstance, no?  Seriously, she is a baker!  Is there no mercy at all?

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Seared Mahi Mahi with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Apples

Seared Mahi Mahi with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Apple

It’s mid-October in Georgia.  The days are getting shorter.  The ridiculous heat of the summer has given way to mornings and evenings that are (to a southerner) downright nippy.  Autumn is officially here — not just outside but in our kitchen as well.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think of autumn, visions of seafood don’t exactly go bouncing around in my head.  So, when I decided to pair Brussels sprouts, bacon, and apples with Mahi Mahi, I was more than a little skeptical about the flavors working well together.  But I was at a loss as to what to make for dinner and staring blankly at the contents of my refrigerator wasn’t moving things along any.  Why not give it a shot?

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Reasons We Love Our VitaMix #11,067: Homemade Applesauce

Homemade Applesauce

No one really needs a $500+ blender.  I thought about putting a “but” in that first sentence but after a quick gut-check I opted for a full stop.  Because it’s true.  “My blender’s output isn’t measured in horsepower,” is the epitome of a “first-world problem.”  A VitaMix is, however, a really, really nice-to-have.

Danielle and I decided before Mary Stewart was born that we would make all of our childrens’ baby food at home from fresh, organic ingredients.  This is really a lot easier and less time consuming than it sounds… especially with a VitaMix.  Having the right tools for the job always makes the work go more quickly and smoothly.  In this pursuit, having a VitaMix made our weekly baby food prep sessions not only quick and easy but fun, too.

Charlie, our second of two, is now eating table food so, for now, the baby food factory is closed.  One food, however, that we still make on a regular basis, even for the adults, is applesauce.  If you have never had homemade applesauce, you have never had applesauce!  It could not be any easier to make, it BLOWS AWAY the store-bought kind, and you feel good knowing everything that’s in it.

Now that autumn is here, apples are abundant, cheap (even organic ones), and more often than not, local.  Recently, a friend of ours brought us back a bushel of apples from a local orchard that she visited.  While our heads are spinning thinking of all the ways to use the apples, one thing we know for sure is that we want an ample supply of apple sauce….

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Real Caramelized Onions

Caramelized Onions

What do you think of when you read the term “caramelized onions” on a menu?  If you’re like me, this can be a source of much disappointment.  I am a big fan of onions in all forms, but to me the term “caramelized onions” means something special; something much different than onions that have simply been briefly sautéed in a hot pan or on a griddle.  To me, real caramelized onions are a labor of love that results in something more akin to an onion jam and is perhaps one of the most delicious and versatile condiments ever created.

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