Saturday, November 26

The Great Butter Debacle of 2011

I was in London this week when I received word from a friend that I had better buy butter while there because Norway was out.
Come again?
Yes, Norway, the COUNTRY is out of butter. How this happens, I am a bit unsure, but the dairy industry has been quick to blame the low-carb dieters and lower than average production levels.
Well, I did buy butter in London and brought it home to Norway, but really, the whole out of butter thing bothered me. I won't say it's a conspiracy set in motion by the margarine lobby, but I'll be damned if I'm going to eat that nasty butter LIKE spread. The sign at the grocery store on the bare butter shelves says there will be no butter until at least the 1st week of 2012, so clearly I needed to take action. So, why not make my own? Moving out to the country has given me a crafty streak, so I decided to tackle it with the help of my 2.5 year old. We googled 'How to make butter' and got about 5000 hits, so don't worry, there are plenty of methods. Basically, if you are going to make butter, you need heavy whipping cream. That's it.
So, we got out the stand mixer and our cream and measured out 2 cups:

Then poured it into the bowl of the mixer and using the whisk attachment, let whip:
Every once in awhile, have a peek in and look:
It will whip up beautifully into fluffy whipcream in a couple of minutes:
Your kitchen helper may want to lick the spatula:

Keep whipping and whipping and suddenly it will totally separate and look disgusting, like yellow blobs floating in water! Guess what, you have curds and whey:

Pour it into a strainer and the buttermilk will drain out leaving the butter behind:
Then use your hands to ball it up and squeeze out the excess buttermilk and put it back in the mixer and see if you can beat out any more water. Drain it one more time and form it into a ball and then it's time for an ice bath. Apparantly, if you bathe it, it will make it last longer. So I bathed it in freezing cold water:

and then once the water ran clear, took it out, patted it dry and formed it into a ball. I then kneaded sea salt into it:
And voila, I made BUTTER!! It is delicious:
No worries here about any dang butter shortage! Try it! It's so easy!

Saturday, April 30

Homemade almond milk

On our most recent trip back to America, I was surprised to see the presence of Almond milk in the grocery stores in the dairy section right next to cow's milk. When I last lived in the states in 2003, you had to go to the health food store to get it. I was also impressed at how cheap almond milk is! I spent the 5 weeks we were there drinking almond milk whenever possible. It's lower in carbs than regular milk, same amount of fat, HALF the calories, cholesterol free, loaded in antioxidants, has nearly as much calcium and an impressive array of vitamins. Really, what's not to love? Well, the price of it in Norway, that's what's not to love. Coming back to Norway, I went in search of almond milk. We have soy, rice and oat milks readily available in normal grocery stores here, but no almond milk. I finally found some at the health food store, but it was a tiny box and it was about $10!! Crazy.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. How hard can making homemade almond milk be?? Not hard at all is the answer! I can get raw almonds in bulk for about $11 a KILO here (that's about 2.2 pounds) and I only need a cup to make about a liter of milk, so it's a significant savings over the health food store almond milk. I tend to make small batches, as it only lasts about 5 days in the fridge and I really only use it in my smoothies, so I don't need a whole lot.

Start by soaking a cup or two of almonds in water over night. They will nearly double in size after the soaking:

Drain them and rinse them and put them in your blender or food processor and cover them with 4 or 5 cups of cold water:
Process them on high until the mixture is white and frothy:
Next, strain the mixture into a container. You can use a fine mesh sieve, but I use a bag specially made for nut milks:
That's it! How simple is that? Put it in an airtight container and use it how you would milk! It's delicious, and more importantly, it's so good for you! Now go make some almond milk:

Tuesday, April 26

Green beans roasted with garlic and basil in coconut oil

The days are getting longer and warmer and it's that time of year where we are starting to get a lot more fresh produce. Yesterday at one of my neighborhood fruit and vegetable markets there were some green beans I just couldn't pass up, and when Christopher lit the grill tonight, I decided to roast them over the hot coals!
I prepped the beans by tossing them in coconut oil, 2 cloves of fresh garlic, a handful of fresh chopped basil and a pinch of crushed red pepper:
Next, I put them in my roasting basket and put them on the grill:
There was a lot of smoke when coconut oil met hot coals, but the smell was delicious. I just stirred them every 30 seconds or so, and because the coals were so hot, the beans were done in about 4 minutes. The finished result was delicious:
A great way to get one of your 5 servings of fruit and veggies!

Monday, April 25

Homemade almond/cashew butter

I'll admit it, I'm a almond butter girl on a peanut butter budget, so when I read something about making my own nut butters at home, I did a backflip in my head. I can get raw nuts here in Oslo fairly inexpensively, whereas a tiny jar of almond butter sets me back about $8. If it's possible to make my own for half the price, it's a no-brainer for me. A quick Google search confirmed that I was not the first person to have this idea, so who better to let guide me than a gal called Heather with a blog called 'Heather Eats Almond Butter'? So, if you're tired of paying too much money for nut butters that are older than 10 minutes, look no further. You're going to need whatever nuts you want to use. I used cashews and almonds. I didn't measure, just used enough to cover a baking sheet:

I popped them into the over to roast them. Roasting brings out a really lovely flavor and depth to the nuts, and the aforementioned Heather said the roasted nuts tend to butter up quicker than the raw. I almost burned them, so remember to keep an eye on them:
Put your roasted nuts into your food processor:
Put the lid on and turn the processor on high. You'll get alot of noise and a nut powder first, but keep the machine going, turning it off every now and then to scrape down the sides. Depending on your food processor, this can take anywhere from 9-12 minutes.

Soon you will be rewarded with a gorgeous creamy nut butter:
The sky is the limit as for flavors. You can keep it plain, as alone it has such a glorious depth to it, or you can add maple, chocolate, cinnamon or whatever!

The nutritional benefits of fresh nut butters are too numerous to list here, but this is one thing that is a staple for me in a paleo/primal way of eating. It's also low on the glycemic index, so my blood glucose never spikes when I eat it.

What are you waiting for?? Go and make some homemade almond/cashew butter!

Tuesday, January 18

OH Joy! Low Carb Almond Joy bars!

It happened like this: I was walking by my friends office today and mid stride, I suddenly HAD to have one of the 'fun sized' Bounty bars I knew she kept on her desk. For my American friends, Bounty are what the rest of the world calls Almond Joy, sans the almond. It's just coconut and chocolate. Of course the ones she has on her desk are the sugar laden ones and decidedly high in carbs. I ate one anyway. But as the guilt sank in, I resolved to try and make some low carb treats I could keep handy so I wouldn't succumb quite so easily next time. I got back to my office and googled 'low carb almond joy recipe' and you wouldn't believe the number of hits I got! I'm clearly not the first to have had this idea. I then saw that the author of one of my favorite blogs was among the hits returned. Healthy Indulgences, hands down one of my guilty pleasures. It's written by a food GENIUS named Lauren. Seriously check out her blog. She is one of those rare people who comes up with original recipes that make your jaw hit the ground. I bet she could win MasterChef if she tried. Or at least place in the top 4. I digress. I've tried several of her recipes before and have yet to be disappointed, so hers was the one I decided to try.
If you are new to this whole low carb, healthy (yes healthy) way of eating, don't be frightened by some of the strange ingredients we tend to use like erythritol, coconut oil, xylitol and xanthan gum. Seriously, just go buy them. You will thank me for it later.

I started by mixing unsweetened shredded coconut, coconut oil, coconut milk and melted erythritol in a bowl. With my hands I put them on a cookie sheet and shaped them into fun sized candy bars.

Next I pressed a couple of almonds into the top to give it that almond joy feel. Then I put them on the balcony to freeze. Ha! Yes, you read that right. On the balcony to freeze. If you aren't as fortunate as I am to have a huge walk in freezer, simply use your small indoor one, it'll do.

After about 5 minutes, or 10, or 15 or however long it takes you to get the baby to bed, get them off of the balcony (or freezer) and get ready for the dipping phase! Where coconut meets it's lucious lover, dark chocolate ganache. (Don't worry, I'll put the recipe below)
After you've coated them all, and licked the extra chocolate off of your fingers about 19 times, but them back on the balcony to harden again. When you bring them back inside, you'll have something a bit like this:
Please excuse the tacky fingerprints in the ganache, but I've never been known for my finishing touches.
These are so good! Really hit the spot! And the ganache is made from 85% dark chocolate, and for fun I also threw in a few squares of Green and Black's espresso dark chocolate. This is a decadant treat and all your processed sugar eating friends are gonna wanna eat them ALL because they are just THAT good!
Recipe from Lauren at Healthy Indulgences

Makes ABOUT 20 bars

1 1/2 cups fine unsweetened shredded coconut
5-6 tablespoons coconut oil
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup erythritol or 1/4 cup xylitol
Raw almonds
2 batches dark chocolate ganache
Pinch of unrefined sea salt
1 packet of Stevia

Melt erythritol over medium heat in a saucepan until liquefied. Combine coconut oil, coconut milk, unsweetened coconut, salt, and stevia. Pour in hot erythritol and mix together thoroughly until coconut oil is melted. Put the coconut mixture on parchment paper and do your best to shape into fun sized candy bars. Top with almonds, pressing the nuts down gently into the filling. Freeze until filling is firm and cold.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

1-3.5 oz 85% cacao content chocolate bar
5 tablespoons heavy cream
1/3 cup erythritol or 1/4 cup xylitol, powdered
1 packet of Stevia

Pop it into the microwave and cook on high for about 30 seconds. Take it out and stir to melt chocolate. Keep microwaving for a few seconds and stirring until all chocolate is melted and the ganache gets thick and creamy. You may need to add extra cream to keep it thinned out.

Keep in mind, if you use the ganache, it won't 'harden', so you really need to keep them in the fridge or freezer.