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Making the Move

July 24, 2013

It’s been 8 months since my last post. What happened? If the last few posts before my long hiatus didn’t clue you in, I started eating a Paleo diet last fall and haven’t looked back. Okay, maybe there were a few brief affairs along the way, but for the most part I’ve been faithful to this new lifestyle for nearly a year now.

As you can imagine, this change has caused a few complications in my life. I’m a pastry chef. It’s my profession and my passion. How could I reconcile making pastries every day but no longer eating them? Naturally, I started experimenting with Paleo baking at home, and I’ve had some great success! So why haven’t I been sharing these recipes with you? I’m not really sure. I think part of me felt like you wouldn’t want to hear it. If you read my blog, you no doubt enjoy baking and eating baked goods, so I worried you would dismiss my new-found lifestyle as a phase, roll your eyes, and click “unsubscribe” from the blog.

So I went silent.

I miss blogging, though. There was a brief stint on a new blog where I chronicled doing a Whole30 challenge, and I shared a few recipes on there for yummy meals, but no baking. All of my pretty photography props have been packed away for months. My fancy DSLR camera has been left uncharged on my desk. It’s making me sad!

It’s time to start fresh, to turn over a new leaf, to start a new blog! Tart to Heart will stay here with all its tasty recipes available for all of you who want them. I’m very proud of all these recipes and all the time and energy I put into this blog. I aimed to provide you with healthier, whole food versions of your favorite indulgences, and I plan to do that still. On the new blog, I’ll be crafting creative and healthy treats as before, I’ll simply be doing them within Paleo parameters. I ask you, my faithful followers, to give the new blog a chance! Subscribe, read, try my recipes, and then decide for yourself if Paleo can be delicious. I obviously believe it can!

So, without further ado, introducing…

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Apple Gingerbread (Grain Free & Low Sugar)

November 9, 2012

There’s a losing battle going on this time of year. It’s between the humans and the leaves. Every day the rakes and leaf-blowers come out, trying to wrangle up all the maple and oak and aspen leaves into neat little piles, attempting to clean up the “mess” made by fall. But hours later a fresh spattering of leaves descends from the trees and it starts all over again. What a waste of time. I say just leave the leaves alone! I love the crunch of crisp leaves underfoot, the colorful patches they make, the scent when the rain hits them and the stains they leave behind on the sidewalk. There are much better things to do this time of year than pick up leaves.

For starters, you could be baking. It’s dark out, it’s chilly, and it’s the perfect time to turn on the oven and make warm, spice-laden treats. Like this Apple Gingerbread, for instance. I whipped this up last night after devouring a bowl of hot, hearty chili and indulged in a warm slice while watching reruns of Gossip Girl. Cold fall nights are perfect for guilty pleasures.

Luckily, you don’t have to feel too guilty eating this gingerbread. It has all that warm, spicy comfort without being an enormous sugar bomb. I dare say this would even make a suitable breakfast. I plan on baking this gingerbread several more times this fall, maybe swapping out the apples for pears next time, or adding a couple handfuls of chopped pecans. Perhaps even some orange zest? Or bake the batter as muffins, or fill a loaf pan and use thick slices for French toast (uh oh, I’m getting crazy).

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Pumpkin Pie Applesauce

October 15, 2012

It’s fall now. I wake up to bright yellow leaves contrasted against a backdrop of gray skies, the patter of rain and a chill in the air. I’ve got pine-scented candles burning and I’ve pulled extra blankets out of the closet. I’m anticipating a higher electricity bill, but for now I’m keeping it off and saving the money for boots. A girl’s gotta have new fall boots.

It’s the time of year when the farmers markets are full of squashes and apples in dozens of varieties. It’s the time to sip warm drinks like cocoa and pumpkin lattes and mulled wine. At work we’re sneaking pumpkin into everything from doughnuts to cookies to ice cream. It’s the season for indulgences. And I’m participating in a 30-day diet for the entire month of October.

I didn’t think it was possible. I thought for sure that I would cheat. But I’ve done it. I haven’t eaten any sugar for two weeks. None. Zero. Zip. No honey, no maple syrup, no agave even. The only sweet treat I’ve eaten is fruit, and I’m going to keep it that way for another two weeks.

You probably don’t want to hear this. I’ve rolled my eyes at plenty of bloggers who have gone “healthy”. But I’ve long supported more nutritious versions of classic treats, substituting refined flour with whole-grain alternatives, using less sugar or choosing natural sweeteners. I love eating food, but I also want to treat myself well, and I’ve always believed the two could go hand in hand.

And so I bring you a delicious, nutritious treat fit for fall! If I’d known all this time that applesauce was this easy to make, I never would have bought it at the store. Peel, core and chop the apples, put them in a slow cooker, cover and turn it on. A few hours later: applesauce! It’s magical, and your house will smell amazing. Now add some spices and pumpkin to the mix and you have something truly special.

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Lemon Lavender Blackberry Bread

September 22, 2012

For a minute there I thought it was fall. I woke up yesterday to rain, the first real rain in months, and feared that summer was over. And officially it is, I’m just reluctant to admit it, even if I had to put on full-length pants and a light sweater last night. Luckily, the sun is shining again this morning and I can at least pretend it’s still summer for a little while longer.

Even so, that small bout of rain yesterday definitely roused my desire for cinnamon and apples and all things squash. Soon I’ll be opening cans of pumpkin and steeping pots of mulled wine on the stove. This could very well be my last berry-laden recipe of the year, so it’s a good thing it’s so scrumptious. I might even have to bake up a second loaf of this Lemon Lavender Blackberry Bread, cut it into thick slices and freeze it for when I’m in need of a taste of summer in the days of impending gloom.

This most certainly is a definitive summer recipe. A bite of this bread instantly reminds me of the warm summer evening I spent picking blackberries with my friend Joy, delving deeper into the bushes than is ever wise, braving the prickly vines, proudly displaying our bounty and our scratched arms at the end. It’s always worth the struggle.

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Blackberry Cardamom Cobbler

August 30, 2012

I like pretty food. You know I have a tendency to sprinkle coarse sugar on just about everything so it comes out all sparkly. When food looks good, you want to eat it. Why do you think I spend so much time artfully arranging the things I make into poses that will tantalize your taste buds?

And yet, some of the tastiest food is the homeliest. Think about stew. That stuff just isn’t pretty. It’s mostly brown and soft and slopped into a bowl. But you crave it on a cold night, it’s comforting and delicious. It’s the same with cobbler. It isn’t going to win any beauty awards, but it’s just as scrumptious as its prettier cousin pie and no where near as high maintenance.

This cobbler is made with freshly picked wild blackberries. The dough is laced with an intriguing dose of cardamom. It’s best served warm with a scoop of ice cream melting into the berries. Even at breakfast time.

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Grain Free Raspberry Muffins

August 25, 2012

I don’t really know what to say. Here I am, the whole grain baker, making muffins without any grains at all. What’s happened? No wheat, no rye, no millet? Well, let’s just say I’m trying something. I’m not sure yet how far it will go, but I like a challenge, especially a baking challenge, and baking without grains is undoubtedly tricky.

Besides, whether it’s with grains or seeds or nuts, what I’ve really wanted all of you to do is branch out beyond your basic all-purpose flour. That stuff is just bleached and boring. There are so many more options, ones that actually lend flavor and unique textures. I love the natural sweetness of coconut flour and the lovely crumbly nature of almond meal. Of course, what’s really important here is that these Grain Free Raspberry Muffins are delicious. So branch out of the A/P rut if you haven’t yet. You won’t be disappointed.

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Raspberry Lavender Pocket Pies (Paleo!?)

August 5, 2012

I do this every year. I get greedy. My eyes alight on fresh berries at the market and I have to have them! I’ve been known to haul a half flat of raspberries nearly two miles home in the hot sun. I’ve given myself mouth sores from eating an entire flat of strawberries in one week. It’s borderline obsessive, really, and I just can’t help myself.

Last weekend I purchased another half flat of plump red raspberries from the farmers market (my fourth half flat of the summer, so far). I tossed them into salads, stirred them into another batch of those delicious oat cakes along with some nectarines, I popped them whole into my mouth by the handful. But I still had several pints left come Friday and I had to do something with them before heading up to Seattle for the weekend.

I decided to let others benefit from my greediness.

My mom has been eating a “paleo” diet for well over a year now. Do you know what that means, folks? No wheat, no grains whatsoever, no sugar, no pastries! It’s hard to wrap your head around, especially when you’re a trained pastry chef. What on earth could I bake for my mom with these leftover raspberries that she could actually eat?

After poking around the internet, I saw that some paleo eaters had attempted making pie crust with almond flour. You know me and pie. We’re best friends. But could I be friends with paleo pie?

As it turns out, I can. Albeit this is definitely one of those friendships where the person is fun to be around in small doses, but too much time spent in their company becomes a bit tedious. You definitely have to spread out your visits. The almond crust is manageable, but takes finesse. The good news is it’s delicious and everyone from paleo to gluten free to not can enjoy these. It’s not like your traditional flaky pie crust, of course, but reminiscent of that almond filling in croissants or fruit tarts, toothsome and buttery and rich.

The filling is a cinch. Just combine the ingredients and simmer until thick. You’ll end up with more jam than you’ll need for the pies, so spread it on toast (oh wait, paleo eaters don’t eat toast) or swirl it into your oatmeal (oh, you don’t eat that either?) or dollop it on some vanilla ice cream (oh, come on people!). Fine, eat it with a spoon.

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Blackberry Apple Oat Cakes

July 19, 2012

I woke up with Jack Johnson singing in my head. Sky overcast, the air warm and slightly muggy, this morning had a lazy day feeling. I wanted to “pretend that it’s the weekend now” and I wanted to stretch out the morning over a delicious breakfast. And though Jack may sing of banana pancakes, I was craving a different sort. A twist on a favorite flavor combination, perhaps?

It’s no secret that apple blackberry is my favorite type of pie. It’s the only recipe I’ve made two renditions of on this blog (here and here). It’s also no secret that I greedily horde summer’s ripest blackberries in my freezer to last me through the year. The season for picking is nearly upon us again, I’ve already staked out the perfect spot for stockpiling more berries, and the time has come to use up those last few handfuls of deep purple jewels in my stash.

Now, I have no problem with eating pie for breakfast. I always do it with the leftover pumpkin pie in the days following Thanksgiving. But, you know, it is summer and we’re all probably watching our waistlines more closely than we do in November when all the warm layers can hide those extra pounds. These Blackberry Apple Oat Cakes are my method for eating a healthy breakfast when I’m craving something more decadent. Chock full of juicy fruit, a warm hit of cinnamon, drizzled with a little honey for a little extra sweetness. Indulge in a lazy morning and make yourself some pancakes.

This batter is a great base for any fruit you have on hand. I already want to try a raspberry peach combo. Strawberry apricot too maybe? Let me know what you try!

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Banana Almond Bread– It’s Gluten Free!

July 7, 2012

I’m all about seasonality. In the fall and winter, I enjoy pumpkins and other squashes… and I won’t touch berries with a ten foot pole. I’m glad to see that eating with the seasons is becoming more common because, let’s be honest, a peach that you buy at the grocery store in November just isn’t going to taste good… and you’ll probably pay a pretty penny for it since it had to be shipped up in a truck from who knows where. Why bother?

But let me ask you this: what’s the season for bananas? Mangoes? Pineapples? I feel like they’re in season all the time down at the equator where they’re being grown. So while we’re eating seasonally here, let’s not forget about some of our year-round favorites… like I apparently did when I realized I had a bunch of bananas gone nearly black on top of my fridge.

I made this banana bread for my sister. Since going gluten free, she doesn’t get to indulge in simple pleasures like freshly-baked treats very often. Besides, she’s definitely more of a cook than a baker, so I feel it’s my duty to provide her with baked goods she can actually eat!

This Banana Almond Bread is not only gluten free, it’s also dairy free and quite nutritious! Lightly sweetened with agave nectar, flecked with bits of dark chocolate, and topped with sliced almonds, it’s an indulgence you can justify. You know what I’m talking about (but it has fruit! and nuts! and whole grains! and antioxidants!).

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Strawberry Rhubarb Baked Oatmeal

July 1, 2012

It took me over twenty years to like oatmeal. I was traumatized by buckets of steaming mush slopped into bowls at summer camp. Slimy, gooey, and topped with raisins. Raisins? No thank you. I avoided the stuff for the rest of my childhood years.

Then there was that turning point, as there often is with foods you grew up hating and one day give another chance only to discover you enjoy it. Maybe even love it. My turning point was a bowl of oatmeal I had for breakfast on my first morning in Auckland, New Zealand with my sister. It was in a small, unassuming cafe, up a narrow flight of stairs to a second-story space with tiny tables overlooking the street below. I honestly don’t know how we even found the place, and I don’t remember what I ordered. But I remember taking a bite of my sister’s oatmeal. A warm bowl of oats, cooked to order, not slimy or mushy but slightly chewy and topped with fresh fruit.

Now I eat oatmeal for breakfast several days a week. I always cook it on the stovetop, never in the microwave, usually with cinnamon and sliced bananas. I’ve also fallen for no-cook oatmeal, soaked in yogurt and milk in the fridge overnight, mixed with fresh raspberries or diced mango. This baked version is a new favorite. Warm and hearty, still a breeze to put together, but somehow light and perhaps even a bit elegant. You can’t tell me this Strawberry Rhubarb Baked Oatmeal isn’t pretty. Who knew oatmeal could be so lovely?

Of course, the possibilities are endless here, using any fruit you have on hand as the seasons change. This version was an homage to the last of the sweetest Northwest strawberries and tangy rhubarb. I’ll be sad to see them go, but I look forward to plump raspberries and blackberries and juicy peaches. They’ll be just as wonderful in this healthy breakfast treat.

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