Jaxson’s Story + Chocolate Banana Brownies with Almond Butter Swirl

Hi Friends,

There are SO many things to catch up on, I wasn’t quite sure how to begin this post. I must have rewritten this a dozen times, until I finally decided to just start with the truth.

And then give you chocolate, so stick around.

But the truth is, I couldn’t even think about writing this post until this very day, Sunday March 15th. Until now, I couldn’t force myself to sit down and put the whole story down, from beginning to end, without disappearing in a pool of tears.

I’m talking about Jaxson, my handsome 10 month old Pitbull mix, and the last few months that I had with him. I had originally introduced Jaxson and his story last year, posted here. Shortly after that post was written, Jaxson’s health declined severely overnight, and he was rushed to the E.R. He was then diagnosed with gastroesophageal intussusception, in addition to the megaesophagus. Jaxson went through surgery immediately to remove his spleen and stomach from inside of his esophagus, pinning the organs back in place. He recovered SO well, and even the symptoms from his megaesophagus seemed to be less of an issue than before.

3 days in the ER without Mom = lots of kisses!
3 days in the ER, without Mom = lots of kisses!

Jaxson Post Surgery

Until January. This is the rest of his story.

2015 started off pretty rocky for Jaxson. Being the mischievous little guy that he was, he found ways to get into and eat things that he wasn’t supposed to be eating. For a normal dog, this probably wouldn’t be a huge deal. It might cause an upset tummy for a day or so, and then all would be well. For Jaxson, this set off periods of a very inflamed esophagus and digestive track, with him constantly regurgitating his food and water. It was an ongoing struggle to keep weight on him, keep him hydrated, and maintain his overall health. I had to get creative with his feeding schedule, switching from 3 small meals to 4 smaller meals. I played around with the consistency of his food as well, from soup like meals to blending his food and making dog food meatballs, and so on.

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Jaxson’s Jello helped keep water down
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Elevated feedings, aka puppy in a can!

Jaxson eventually grew out of the “puppy in can” method, so Matt and I took a weekend and made him a bailey chair (like the chairs you see here). The Bailey chair keeps him upright during and after a feeding, using gravity to help pull the food down to the stomach.

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Despite all of the regurgitation, experimentation, and a countless sleepless nights, Jaxson acted like a normal, happy puppy. Sure, there were a days that I knew he was uncomfortable. But 90% of the time he was active and playful, wagging his tail and being his adorable, lovable self. That was my boy, he was such a trooper!

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I thought we would eventually get through this weird period of constant sickness. We made some progress here and there, but it seemed that for every step we took forward, something would happen and we took another two steps backwards. But during the first week of February, things got even worse. The regurgitation became so constant, that more food was coming out than staying in. In two weeks and a few vet stays later, Jaxson had lost over 10 lbs. and almost nothing was working to keep food and water down.

On Friday, February 13th at about 2:30am, Jaxson started throwing up blood and was rushed to the vet. The next 10 hours were the most painful, miserable, devastating hours for both Jaxson and I. He was in so much pain, the medications weren’t working, and our options were very limited because of how fragile he was. I was prepared to do anything, spend anything, commit to any type of routine, just to make him better again. I waited at home while they ran tests to figure out what was happening in that little body of his. I finally received a call from our veterinarian, Dr. Sandy Block, from Bollinger Canyon Animal Hospital. They did everything they could, but simply put, Jaxson’s organs were failing and he was dying. I had to make the hardest decision of my life.

At approximately 12:30pm on that Friday afternoon, Jaxson passed away in my arms.

There are no words to describe the devastation I felt from losing Jaxson, and the guilt that comes with making that kind of decision. I’m sure anyone who has put down a pet can relate to those feelings.

I received the autopsy results later that evening, and was reassured that the right decision had been made. Jaxson didn’t deserve to suffer any longer.

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We were so lucky to have Sandy Block, as well as the rest of the staff at Bollinger Canyon Animal Hospital, throughout this whole process. They were so caring and attentive to Jaxson, making him as comfortable as he could have been during each visit, and also at the end.

I am also so very grateful for my incredible boyfriend, Matt.

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Matt and I started dating shortly after I first brought Jaxson home, and has been there for us through every step of this journey. He was my rock when I was feeling stressed, overwhelmed and hopeless over Jaxson’s condition. Most importantly, he was there for all the special, happy moments in Jaxson’s life. He loved Jaxson just as much as I did, and Jaxson loved him equally back.

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I miss my sweet little boy every single day. I miss the way he would come prancing around the corner when I came home from work, ears up, looking like the happiest little puppy alive. I miss his snuggles, his puppy kisses, and the way he would bop his nose against mine, as if he was reassuring me that he was okay.

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Christmas

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It’s been the hardest month without him. But it does get easier every day.

So what now?

Jaxson’s health conditions required a lot of research on how to care for a dog with special needs. I learned that megaesophagus in dogs is not rare, and there are so many resources out there for families who are dealing with the same issue. Jaxson’s case was severe, and his other health problems contributed to the overall decline in health. But there are so many dogs with MegaE that live a normal, happy life because their owners learn how to manage it. It can be tough at times, but these dogs deserve a shot at life, just like any other dog. If you have the time and ability, I ask you to put aside a few minutes and look into the following individuals and organizations who are dedicated to helping the animals and families affected by MegaE.

  • Bailey Chairs for Dogs – Susan and her husband build and sell bailey chairs for dogs with megaE. Through the help of donations, they also donate chairs to families who are unable to buy one on their own.
  • Canine Megesophagus Org. – A great resource for people looking for information and support.
  • Canine Megesophagus Info – Another great “one stop shop” for information, resources and support.
  • Wag Tail Farms – They make customized, soft Elizabethan collars, or neck pillows, for animals. This can be very helpful for keeping an animal with MegaE in a comfortable, supported position while sleeping.

Matt and I are planning on donating Jaxson’s bailey chair to a family in need, and customizing it to fit the special pooch. Due to the size of the chair and costs involved in shipping or personally transporting it, we would prefer the family be in California. If you, or anyone you know, are in need of a Bailey chair, please contact me at cavegirlculture@gmail.com with the dog’s measurements.

Thanks for reading Jaxson’s story and following along on our journey. I promised chocolate at the end of the story, and I definitely don’t want to disappoint. Plus, everyone knows that brownies heal the heart. I’m pretty sure that’s science right there.

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Chocolate Banana Brownies with Almond Butter Swirl

  • Servings: Approx. 20 brownies
  • Time: 30mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • (1) 16. oz jar creamy, unsalted, roasted almond butter, with 3 tbsp. divided from the rest (for the swirl).
  • (1) cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup cacao or cocoa powder, divided
  • (1) tsp. instant espresso
  • (2) eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • (1) cup dark chocolate chips
  • 4-5 medium size bananas
  • Coconut oil (for greasing the baking dish)

Other Tools Needed:

  • Kitchen mixer (preferred) or medium sized mixing bowl
  • Spatula
  • Measuring cups / spoons
  • 9 x 13 glass dish for baking
  • Cutting board
  • Knife

Method:

Scoop out the almond butter (remember to reserve 3 tbsp. for the swirl) and maple syrup into the mixer/mixing bowl and stir on low for about 30 seconds. Add the cocoa powder by 1/4 cup increments and combine with the almond butter and maple syrup on a low speed, otherwise the cocoa powder will go everywhere. Mix in the remaining ingredients – with the exception of the bananas – and mix on a low to medium speed until all ingredients are mixed in well.

The batter will be dark, gooey and hard to resist. You’ve been warned. Set aside (like far way from your mouth) while you work on slicing the bananas. The banana slices shouldn’t be too thin because you don’t want to lose them in the brownies. Once you’re done slicing the bananas, take out the glass baking dish and grease it down with the coconut oil. Then take the brownie batter, and spread about half of the batter into the dish, smoothing it down for an even layer. Lay out each banana slice over the layer of brownie batter, to cover that bottom layer completely. Then, spread the remaining brownie batter over the banana slices. In a perfect world, the bananas would stay in place as you spread the top layer over, but the brownie batter is pretty sticky and gooey. Expect them to move around as you spread out the batter, working to smooth it out across the pan.

The last step before putting it in the oven is to make the almond butter swirl. Take a butter knife and dip into the reserved 3 tablespoons of almond butter and swirl it through the brownie pan. Continue to dip and swirl until all the almond butter is gone. Once you’re satisfied with the swirl in your dish, pop the pan into a preheated oven at 350 degrees (F), for about 18 minutes. As always, stick a toothpick or butter knife in the center of the pan to check if it’s done. If it comes out clean, you’re all set!

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This combination of chocolate, bananas and almond butter work together just beautifully.

Elvis would be proud.

Thank you, thank you, thank you very much.

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 For more of Jaxon’s adventures, search the hashtag #jaxsonstrikesagain on Instagram.

While you’re there, be sure to follow me @cavegirlculture to keep up with the latest adventures and recipes.

Kalamata Turkey Meatballs & Closing Out 2014

It’s 11:11am on the last day of 2014 as I’m writing this post, and reflecting on such an eventful year. I remember this time last year, and all the resolutions and goals I had made for 2014. Some stuck, and some didn’t, and everything turned out a-okay. The year was filled with happiness, sadness, excitement, struggle, love, joy and accomplishment…but most of all, this was a year of learning and growth. 2014 is not a year that will just blend in with other years. The valuable lessons learned this past year will stay fresh in my mind as I tackle new projects in 2015, with bigger, brighter perspectives.

In other words, see ya later 2014!

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2015? Bring.It.On.

So what does any of this have to do with Cave Girl Culture? With YOU?

For starters, MORE FOOD. I have a TON of recipes I’ve been saving all year, ready to spam your inbox. But the good kind of spam, not the questionable stuff that pops up when you’re checking personal email at work, and your boss suddenly walks up right behind you. Eek.

Second, I’ll be sharing my recipes and experiments with primal dog treats. Because of Jaxson’s megaesophagus and incredibly sensitive digestive system, dog food, treats and feeding routines have been an experiment in itself. If you’re a dog lover, stay tuned for these posts! More information to come in the new year.

Let’s start there and see what happens! And thank you, dear reader, for continuing on with me in 2015. I hope you continue to find posts on CGC that inspire you in the kitchen and make you laugh. That’s what it’s all about, right?

On that note, let’s get to the food. THE LAST RECIPE OF 2014. Holy crap, that’s weird to say.

Kalamata Turkey Meatballs

  • Servings: Approx. 24 meatballs
  • Time: 10 min prep, 25 min. bake time
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • (1) lb. ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup. kalamata olives, diced
  • (2) tbsp. Italian herb blend
  • Salt and pepper, to taste – I used 1/2 tsp. salt
  • (1) egg
  • 1-2 tbsp. coconut flour (to soak up excess moisture)
  • (1) large white potato, cut in large chunks *See note – this only applies if you’re making as an entree.

Other Tools Needed:

  • Medium size mixing bowl
  • Foil
  • Baking Sheet

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line the baking sheet with foil. While the oven is heating up, put all ingredients (except for the white potato, see note) in the mixing bowl and use your hands to evenly combine the mixture. Wait for about 5 minutes for the coconut flour to absorb the moisture, then form 1 inch meatballs and place on the foil lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until they’re a light golden brown.

*Note: While the meatballs are cooking, you can whip up a nice homemade marinara sauce to go with the meatballs. You have two options here…these can be made as a entree, or an appetizer. The entree features the meatballs and white potatoes in the marinara sauce. If you do this, start boiling the potatoes in a pot of water until tender right before you start your sauce. The appetizer side is a little lighter with the sauce and omits the potatoes completely. Below are directions for both options.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

  • Time: 5 min. prep, 30 min. simmer
  • Difficulty: easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • (1) 16. oz can tomato sauce OR 32. oz *See note
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper, to taste – I used 1/2 tsp. salt

*Note: If you’re making the appetizer, you’ll only need 16. oz of tomato sauce. The entree requires more sauce so you can use (2) 16 oz. cans or (1) 32 oz. jar/can. Look for BPA free cans!

Other Tools Needed:

  • Large skillet (Both app/entree)
  • Large knife (Both app/entree)
  • Cutting board (Both app/entree)
  • Food processor (App)
  • Toothpicks (App)
  • Medium Pot (Entree)

Method:

Heat the oil in the skillet over low heat. Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the skillet and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the tomato sauce and seasonings and let simmer for approximately 15 minutes. If you’re making the entree add the potatoes, if not, just add the meatballs and simmer for another 15 minutes.

For serving:

Appetizer: Use a large spoon to scoop out a little sauce and gently place a dollop on a serving plate. Place a meatball over the dollop of sauce and add a toothpick on top. Continue to place dollops of sauce with the meatball on top until your serving plate is filled, approximately 1 inch apart from the next.

Entree: This one is easy. Just spoon a generous portion of meatballs, potato, and sauce into a bowl and serve!

CGC_Turkey Kalamata Meatballs in Maranara

I’m making these as an appetizer again for an NYE party tonight, so I’ll have more pictures to post on this later. These will go okay with champagne right? I mean, what doesn’t go well with champagne?

I’m terrible at pairing my food and alcohol.

By the way, I’m declaring champagne / sparkling wine as “paleo” friendly tonight. That’s right I said it. And by paleo friendly, I mean I’m paleo and it’ll be my friend.

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Tomorrow? Not so much. But isn’t that what Bloody Mary’s are for?

I digress.

I hope everyone has a fun and SAFE New Year celebration! Cheers!

 

 

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Cave Girl Culture

Paleo Books for $1! Say What?

I normally don’t (read: never) post affiliate links on my blog, but this Paleo ‘Book Bucks’ event really caught my eye, and I just had be a part of sharing the good news. On Tuesday 11/25, 15 of the hottest Paleo books will be on sale for less than $1 in the Amazon Kindle store!

Say what?! I love a good deal.

*Update! Due to Amazon’s file delivery costs on huge files, five of the cookbooks, which are filled with tons of high-resolution images, will be priced at $1.99 and two others at $2.99. This is the lowest price Amazon would allow them to be priced. Still a fantastic deal, and you’ll likely never see them priced that low ever again!

The titles available for these smokin’ hot savings include –

  1. The Paleo Kitchen by Julie Bauer from PaleoOMG, and George Bryant from Civilized Caveman
  2. The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson from Marks Daily Apple
  3. The Ancestral Table by Russ Crandall from The Domestic Man
  4. Gather by Bill and Hayley Staley from Primal Palate
  5. The Paleo Sweet Tooth by Alison Russo from HealthNut Nation

And many more!

This event is good for one day only, so make sure you subscribe to receive your reminder email. Because if you’re anything like me, you’ll completely forget and miss out on all the $1 deals. Not fun.

Sign up here – http://bit.ly/PaleoBookBucks

There’s absolutely NO obligation to buy. Buy one, buy five, buy ‘em all!

And as we approach the colder weather months, you’ll be set to curl up next to the fireplace with all your new reading material, and a hot, homemade beverage. So while your here, check out my new favorite recipes to fill your mug!

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Bulletproof Chai from Angela at Seasonal and Savory
Paleo S’mores Hot Cocoa from Rachel at South Beach Primal
Paleo Egg Nog from Ashley at My Heart Beets
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Dairy Free Mocha Hot Chocolate from Lexi at Lexi’s Clean Kitchen
Pumpkin Spice Latte from Kimi at The Nourishing Gourmet

BAM. Saving money on books AND beverages! Cha-ching! See what I did there?

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Have a great weekend!

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Thai Green Curry Soup

My last post focused on a a few things we love about the fall season. It’s hard not to love such a beautiful time of year! The change of colors, the holidays, pumpkin spiced everything, and snuggling in front of a warm fire on a cold night. But there’s just one teensy, tinsy, aspect of this season that I do NOT particularly enjoy.

The beginning of the flu season.

In my pre-Paleo days, I had terrible immune health and would catch just about everything that came around. It was an absolutely miserable way to live. After adopting a whole food approach, I’ve been fortunate enough to be influenza free for the past few years, with no aid of the flu shots. And who says good food can’t heal?

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As much as we may protect and nourish our bodies, the fact of the matter is that we’re still susceptible to lurking bacteria and viruses. Especially when we have outside factors, such as stress and lack of sleep, that interfere with our body’s natural ability to fight infection. I’ve been reminded that I’m no exception to the rule, because here I am, writing this post in bed, 48 hours into the worst flu I’ve had in the history of ever. We’re talking all the classic flu symptoms – body aches, high fever, chills, massive headache, and loss of appetite. My body is sending me a clear message.

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Okay fine, I may not be dying, but my body is telling me to slow down and let myself heal. I took some time off work this past week, canceled my plans for Huckfest this weekend (boo!), and set myself up for some old fashioned TLC. I broke out the comfy pj’s, bought myself some Vitamin C tablets, and made a huge pot of my “go-to” Thai green curry soup. We all have our little remedies that we swear by when we’re sick, and this little pot of magic is my favorite one. The curry is easy on my sensitive stomach, and it’s full of nutritious elements to help heal the body. For starters, the green curry paste includes lemongrass and galangal (Thai ginger), both known for their healing properties. Both lemongrass and galangel treat stomach issues – nausea, inflammation, etc. Lemongrass, also known as “fevergrass”, reduces fevers and helps soothe body aches. Perfect for someone with flu-like symptoms! Seal the deal by adding chicken and homemade chicken stock, carrots, potatoes (both white potatoes and sweet potatoes work here), onions and kale. Nutritional powerhouse, baby.

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Thai Green Curry Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 25 min
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • (1) tsp. coconut oil
  • (1) onion, quartered
  • (2) tbsp. Thai Kitchen green curry paste
  • (2) cups chicken broth (preferably homemade chicken stock)
  • (1) large white potato (or sweet potato)
  • (1) lb. chicken (I used thigh meat)
  • 1-2 large carrots
  • (1) can Thai Kitchen coconut milk, full fat
  • (1) cup shredded kale, packed

Other Tools Needed:

  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Stockpot
  • Stirring Spoon

Method:

In a large stockpot over medium heat, add the coconut oil, onions and curry paste. Use your stirring spoon to mash the curry paste into the onions and bottom of the stockpot, releasing the flavors in the paste. Add the chicken broth and white potatoes and bring to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and add the chicken, carrots and coconut milk. Let simmer for 15 minutes before adding the kale. Continue to simmer for another minute or so to soften those kale leaves. This can be served alone or over cauliflower rice – yum!

Notes:

  • I use Thai Kitchen because of their clean ingredient list, but any green curry paste and full fat coconut milk will work. Check those labels!
  • Add/subtract from the veggies list as you see fit. I’ve put all kinds of vegetables and proteins in this soup but this version is my favorite.
  • This soup should keep for about 3 days in the fridge. It tastes the best on Day 2, seriously. 

Now back to bed for me. I’ve already done too much! On that note…

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 I love this because it can apply in so many situations. No matter what is ailing you, just remember to keep your health at the top of your priority list.

Wishing you both health and happiness.

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Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Boats

Pssst…Fall is fast approaching, can you tell?

Gyms are empty, cans of pureed pumpkin are scarce, and women everywhere are like, “I just wanna bake. And did you hear the pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks is SO bad for you? Me too. Let’s get on Pinterest and make our own.”

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It’s a freaking epidemic, guys. And, and…

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It’s true. Hide ya kids, hide ya wives, because I’ve been hit with the fall flavor bug too. I’m obsessively bookmarking grain-free “Baking – Fall Edition” boards on Pinterest and planning out all the delicious pumpkin-y, cinnamon-y, paleo desserts I’m going to dream up and bake by the time the Thanksgiving holiday hits. Did you know I’ve been promising to make grain/dairy-free cinnamon rolls for the past three years now? This is the year folks. This.is.the.year.

Until then, I promise not to crowd your inbox or newsfeed with a bunch of been there, done that pumpkin recipes…err, okay….maybe just one or two, but that’s it! Today, however, I’m really excited to share one my favorite fall recipes that isn’t a baked good. Shocker! If you’re missing spaghetti from your pre-Paleo days, or just want to feel warm and cozy on a chilly fall evening, you have to try my recipe for stuffed spaghetti squash boats. We’re talking warm, hearty comfort food that is 100% grain-free, easy on the waste line, and so insanely delicious, you’ll be setting aside those pumpkin treats for some real food.

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Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Boats

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 40-50 min
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • (1) Spaghetti squash
  • (2) tbsp. + (1) tsp. coconut oil, divided
  • (1) onion, diced
  • (3) cloves of garlic, minced
  • (1) lb. ground beef
  • (1) tsp. sea salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • (1 ½) cups diced mushrooms
  • (1) can diced tomatoes
  • (1) small can tomato paste (6 oz)
  • (1) tbsp. oregano
  • (1) tsp. parsley
  • (1) tsp. basil

Method:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Using a sharp knife, cut the spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise, and spoon out the “guts” and seeds. Place them face up on a baking sheet, drizzle 1 tablespoon of coconut oil on each half, and let sit for a minute for the oil to harden.

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Then, flip the squash “boats” upside down on the baking sheet (cut side down), and bake for 30-40 minutes, until soft. While the squash is baking, heat the remaining teaspoon of coconut oil in a skillet, and add the diced onions and garlic.  When the onions are translucent, add the ground beef, salt and pepper, and cook on medium heat until the ground beef is browned.

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FYI, $6.99 at Trader Joes for 1 lb.

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Once the beef is browned, remove from heat, cover and set aside while you prepare the tomato sauce. To make a quick and tasty tomato sauce, take the can of diced tomatoes and can of tomato paste and blend in a food processor or small blender until smooth. Add the sauce to the ground beef, along with the mushrooms and herbs, cover and cook on low-medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.

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When your spaghetti squash is out of the oven, flip the boats over and use two forks to shred the squash into spaghetti like strands. For presentation and durability purposes, you might want to leave a layer of squash un-shredded on the sides of the boats. You can shred the squash and leave in the boats, or remove the shredded squash and set aside in a bowl to stuff as you please later.

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Once you’re ready to stuff the boats with the squash and meat sauce, add the removed squash back into the boats (if you chose to remove), and “fluff” the mixture with a fork to get a nice, even layer. Gently spoon the meat sauce over the spaghetti squash to fill each boat. Garnish each boat with fresh basil and serve, for a satisfying meal with plenty of leftovers.

*Note, I had a good size squash, so I was able to fill each boat completely without any left over meat sauce.

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Alrighty everyone, back to Pinterest. If you’re looking for me….

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XOXO,

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Sweet and Summery Peach Empanadas

One of the many things I love about summer is the abundance of delicious fruit. In California, summertime brings us apricots, blackberries, nectarines, raspberries, strawberries, and my personal favorite, peaches. Talk about nature’s candy – sweet and juicy with a touch of tartness. So when I see peaches lining the produce section of the store, I’m like…

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So when the FDA announced a HUGE recall of peaches, nectarines and plums supplied by the Wawona Packing Company back in July, I was all..

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Exactly. And no one was safe. Trader Joes, Costco, Whole Foods, and Walmart were among the long list of stores posting warnings of the recall. And I’m over here, like “I just want a peach, and I want it to be Listeria monocytogenes free.”

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This is yet another reason to support your nearby farms and buy local! Problem solved, folks. But I got really lucky when my coworker came into work with bags of peaches from her overly abundant peach tree and told me to have at it.

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Food presents really are the best presents.

So what does a girl do with a bunch of peaches? I took a poll from my Facebook crew and peach empanadas won the vote. I happened upon an awesome empanada recipe from Ashley over at My Heart Beets, and thought this would be a perfect opportunity to showcase the recipe for her empanada crust. Which I happen to love and use often, because it’s so adaptable! You can come up with whatever filling fancies you at the time, and stuff those little pockets of grain free goodness. Ashley has a bunch of great stuff on her blog, so be sure to check her out and subscribe to her posts!

Sweet and Summery Peach Empanadas

Makes approximately 8 empanadas (with leftover peach filling, see note below)

Peach Filling Ingredients:

  • 3 ½ cups of diced and skinned peaches – Approximately 30 small peaches
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice (1-2 lemons)

Other Tools Needed:

  • Your favorite knife
  • Large saucepan
  • Mixing spoon
  • Medium size container with lid

Method:

Dice the peaches into small pieces. For a more jam like filling, cut into very small pieces, which is the path I took. It takes a little more time and work, but the end result was amazing. If you prefer more of a chunky filling, you can use larger pieces and it should turn out just fine.

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Using a large sauce pan over medium heat, combine the peaches, honey and lemon juice. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring the mixture every few minutes. If you’re going for the jam like filling, it will take about 20 minutes to reduce down to that consistency. Otherwise, simmer and stir until your filling has reduced to your liking. Once done, transfer the filling to a container with lid and let cool in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

*Note: This made approximately 2 cups of jam. I didn’t take exact measurements, but I think I ended up using about half the amount for filling the empanadas and the rest was leftover jam. I heart leftovers.

Empanada Crust Ingredients:

(Adapted from Ashley’s recipe at My Heart Beets)

  • Click here to find Ashley’s ingredients.
  • 1/2 cup honey, melted
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. water

Other Tools Needed:

  • Mixing bowl
  • Frying pan
  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • ¼ cup measuring spoon
  • Small bowl
  • Pastry brush

Method:

Follow Ashley’s instructions to prepare the crust, but add in the melted honey and pinch of salt with the other ingredients. Whisk the egg and water in a small bowl for the egg wash, mentioned in Step 7.

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Ashley’s recipe calls for 30-40 minutes in the oven, but mine were a nice, golden brown by about 25 minutes. Keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t burn!

Once out of the oven, let them cool until palatable, and serve while warm.

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I bet these would be great with some dairy free ice cream!

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Summer is coming to an end soon, so get your seasonal fruit fix in before it’s too late! But have no fear, I’m already thinking ahead to a follow up fall edition. Say…apple pie pockets? Yum!

Have a great Sunday!

StephanieSignature1

What I’ve Been Up To Lately…

I can’t believe it has been about 3 months since my last post! I seriously hate neglecting my food blog baby, but I’ve had my hands full taking care of the newest addition to my little cave. I’m so excited to formally introduce Jaxson, my 4 month old pitbull-boxer puppy!

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Isn’t he adorable? Jaxson was one of seven in my sister’s litter of puppies. I was given first pick of the litter and when I held Jaxson at just one week old, he immediately nuzzled into my neck. It was love at first snuggle.

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At seven weeks old, the weaning process began, and a puppy chow was introduced into their diets. Naturally, the whole litter had some trouble adjusting to the new diet, but Jaxson wasn’t keeping any food down at all. He was losing weight rapidly, lethargic, and we knew something was seriously wrong. A trip to the vet later, along with extensive testing and x-rays, it was confirmed that Jaxson has congenital megaesophagus.

Congen-a-what?

Let’s break it down. A normal esophagus continuously contracts to pass food through to the stomach, a process that should take place fairly quickly. With megaesophagus, peristalsis (the contractions of the esophagus) does not occur because the esophagus stays enlarged. So the food sits until the dog eventually regurgitates and then eats the food over and over until the food liquefies enough and gravity helps move it through to the stomach. I’m still getting used to that part.

Unfortunately, there is no “fix” for dogs with megaesophagus. Jaxson would have to be on a special wet food diet and feeding schedule for the rest of his life, if he even survived at all. My heart was heavy as the vet warned me to prepare for the worst. If he didn’t start retaining food, he wasn’t going to pull through.

That being said, I decided to take him from the litter a week early to nurse him back to health. His diet was a mixture of wet food and formula three to four times a day for the first two weeks. After each feeding, I had to hold him upright on his hind legs for about 10 minutes, so that gravity could help get the food into his stomach. There’s actually a chair out there for dogs with megaesophagus, called the Bailey chair, that does the same trick. I totally want to get one for Jaxson, along with a bib, like the dog in this video. If we’re going to deal with megaesophagus, we’re going to do it right! Right?!

I digress.

The few weeks were hard on Jax and I, but we made it through! In just one month, Jaxson nearly tripled his weight. At almost 4 months, Jaxson has caught up to the weight of his sisters and continues be in good health. Sure, he’ll always have megaesophagus, he’ll always be on a special diet/feeding schedule, and doggy puke will be an every day occurrence. But he’s a happy and overall healthy puppy now, and that’s all that matters to me. I love my sweet puppy – he’s been such a blessing to me!

Jaxson

Running around after Jaxson has been a full time job, and I’ve had very little time for kitchen experiments. Major bummer, right? But stay tuned, because I will be posting a new recipe for peach empanadas that you will just love to pieces! Look for it in the next week.

Have a great weekend!

StephanieSignature1 & Jaxson

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Grain Free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Happy Mother’s Day!

My mother is a wonderful, strong, beautiful and talented woman. She has raised three of her four daughters to adulthood without anyone dying, going crazy, or any serious life threatening injuries to report of, and is doing an equally terrific job with the last teenager, Hannah. Being a mom to a bunch of stubborn, opinionated daughters isn’t easy, but my mom has done the job gracefully. She has lived her life as a selfless woman, always putting her family first, and being the best wife, mom and grandmother that a family could ask for. I love my mother. I couldn’t be more thankful to have such an amazing role model to look up to. And although my mother doesn’t actually celebrate Mother’s Day, this post is dedicated to her and everything she has taught me in my 26 years of life.

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Growing up, I remember my mom always telling my sisters and I that it was necessary we learned our way around the kitchen. She would patiently walk us through the process of properly cleaning and roasting a whole chicken, baking a fresh apple pie, or making a killer batch of chocolate chip cookies. We would sit there and complain through the process, because playing outside was much more exciting, but when that cookie batter was ready for the oven and she let us lick the mixing spoons, life was good. Yes, that was and still is, the best part of baking.

I didn’t really appreciate most of what my mother taught me about life, until I hit my 20’s. It was when adulthood really started to set in and I had to recall all of the things Mom taught me so that I could start building a life for myself. A life that involved more than just frozen pizzas, Starbucks lattes, and a car that wouldn’t stop overheating on me.

By the way Mom, you were totally right, I should have stopped driving that car to San Francisco everyday in the condition it was in. That blown engine = 100% my fault.

At that point in my life, all of those life lessons, cooking sessions, and financial tips came flooding back to me, and I recalled those valuable lessons while creating my own path in this world. Throughout this journey, I found this incredible passion for baking, just as Mom and I did when I was a kid. To this day, most of my favorite recipes are adaptations of the treats my mom used to make for us.

Take banana bread, for example.

When Mom would make banana bread, the house would smell absolutely heavenly for hours. We would walk in from school or playing outside, and immediately start salivating over the banana bread baking in the oven. I remember counting down with the timer in the kitchen, waiting for that moment when Mom would give us the okay to cut into the loaf, take a slice and slather it with butter. Between my dad and my sisters and I, I’m pretty sure baked goods lasted about 2.5 seconds in our house. In fact, my mom would often complain about nothing lasting long in the house, and would have to hide and ration treats. That woman was a master of hiding places, let me tell you.

Ah, the good old days.

When I went Paleo, one of the first baked goods I wanted to nail down was banana bread. It had to be a recipe that would fill my house with the familiar smells, and my mind with the fond memories of baking with my mom. Now don’t get me wrong, nothing will compare to my mom’s banana bread, and I wouldn’t dare try to compete with that. But when Mom’s not around to bake for me, this paleo and vegan friendly version comes pretty darn close to the real thing.

Cave Girl Culture Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

(Paleo & Vegan)

Makes one loaf – approximately 8 slices.

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • 4 overripe medium size bananas, or 3 large bananas
  • 1/4 cup. almond butter
  • 4 flax seed eggs ( 1 egg = 1 tbsp. flax seed + 3 tbsp. water)
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Coconut Oil for greasing your loaf pan

Add-In Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (or 1/2 cup if using regular size dark chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Other Tools Needed:

  • Medium size mixing bowl
  • Food processor
  • Mixer
  • Measuring spoons
  • Spatula
  • 8.5″ x 4.5″ glass loaf pan (I use Pyrex, available here)

Method:

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and set aside. That was easy! Now before we start adding the wet ingredients to the food processor, let’s chat about our flax seed egg friends. Flax seed eggs are a great substitute for regular eggs in baking, and are the guests that make this whole party vegan friendly. To make one flax seed egg, you take 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed and 3 tablespoons of water, mix it up in a little bowl, and let sit in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes. This recipe calls for 4 flax seed eggs, so there will be a grand total of 4 tablespoons of flax seed and 12 tablespoons of water.

While the flax seed eggs are hanging out in the fridge, put the bananas and remaining wet ingredients (less the coconut oil)  in the food processor and give it a few good whirls. After the 5 minute timer is up on the flax seed eggs, add them to the food processor and blend until smooth. If you prefer a few banana chunks in your bread, you can process for less time to leave the batter a little chunkier.

Now take the dry ingredients that we’ve been neglecting and put them in the mixer. Add the wet ingredients from the food processor to the mixer, and mix on medium speed for about 1 minute. Mmm, banana bread batter. But don’t start sneaking in those taste tests yet! Drop in the chocolate chips and chopped nuts, and mix on low until they’re evenly distributed throughout the batter. Okay, NOW you can taste test…

Aren’t you glad you waited?

Alright, save some of that batter for the oven! Grease the loaf pan with the coconut oil, and add the batter to your pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350° (F), for approximately 40-50 minutes. I let mine cool for about 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Cave Girl Culture Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Taste testing revealed that warming a slice in the microwave for about 10 seconds will take you to heaven with your first bite. It’s worth trying.

Cave Girl Culture Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

The loaf should be stored in the refrigerator and will keep for up to a week, although I doubt it will last that long.

I hope everyone has a great Mother’s Day!

StephanieSignature1

Pollo en Salsa de Tomate (Chicken in Tomato Sauce)

This post is dedicated to two things – Costco and thighs. And by thighs, I mean chicken thighs.

But first, let’s talk about Costco. The place is amazing, like…

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Am I right, or am I right? Once you get hooked, you never go back! Costco is a godsend for stocking up on household and grocery items at affordable prices, even when shopping for one. I use my membership for purchasing household items such as paper towels, toilet paper, garbage bags, dish soap, etc., as well as my “must-have” Paleo staples. Some of my favorite Costco finds include the following:

  • Maple syrup
  • Almond butter
  • Eggs
  • Organic olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Coconut Sugar
  • Organic diced tomatoes
  • 3-4 lb. pack of organic chicken thighs
  • Red wine (obviously a ‘must-have’)

During my most recent trip to Costco, I stumbled upon a two pack of Farmhouse Culture sauerkraut at an amazingly low price of $10.99.

Farmhouse Culture Sauerkraut

Is this real life?! This stuff is so good, and normally costs $8.99 for one bag. SOLD! I love a good deal.

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I also picked up my normal pack of organic chicken thighs which brings me the next topic of this post, followed by a recipe! Chicken thighs are my go-to protein for lunch during the weeks. At the beginning of every week, I’ll make a big batch of shredded chicken in my crock pot and have it on hand for salads, wraps, or paired with veggies. It just makes life easier when you don’t have to stress about having healthy food options available when you need them. I must admit though, having the same ‘ol shredded chicken every week can get a little dull, so it’s good to have a back up. Using some of my favorite Paleo staples, I made a classic Spanish entree, pollo en salsa de tomate (chicken in tomato sauce). Flavor explosion! This is definitely Cave Girl approved.

Cave Girl Culture - Pollo en Salsa de Tomate

Pollo en Salsa de Tomate (Chicken in Tomato Sauce)

Makes approximately 4 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ lbs. chicken thighs
  • (1) 14. oz can of organic, diced tomatoes (Like these BPA-free cans here)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1½  tbsp. chili powder
  • (1) tbsp. garlic powder, or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • (2) tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper (adjust to your preference)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil, for drizzling

Other Tools:

  • Large plate
  • Can Opener
  • Glass baking dish (Pyrex is a favorite in the CGC kitchen)

Method:

Preheat your oven to 375°(F) or 190°(C). Mix all the spices together and divide in half, but leave out the salt and pepper. Season the chicken thighs with the salt and pepper, to taste. Season the top side of the chicken thighs with half of the seasonings and drizzle with a little olive oil. Flip over the chicken thighs to the other side and repeat with the seasonings, then let cover and let sit in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to an hour. This method gives the chicken more flavor, but if you don’t have time, don’t fret! It’ll still come out tasty.

Open the can of diced tomatoes and pour out half in your baking dish. Place the chicken thighs over the diced tomatoes and then pour the rest over the chicken. Doesn’t that look pretty? Pretty delicious.

Cave Girl Culture - Pollo en Salsa de Tomate

Bake the chicken thighs at 375°(F) or 190°(C) for approximately 25-30 minutes. You can serve this as family meal, or store in airtight containers for multiple individual weekday meals.

In other exciting news, I received my copy of Liz Wolfe’s new book baby, Eat the Yolks and I couldn’t be more excited!

Cave Girl Culture - Eat the Yolks by Liz Wolfe

Liz goes into detail about eating the right foods for optimal health and reclaiming your health. Go grab a copy and enjoy this super fun read. Thumbs up!

Enjoy the rest of your week, friends! Cave Girl out.

StephanieSignature1

Carrot Spice Muffins for Grandma

Let’s talk about food phases. You know, when you discover (or re-discover) a certain type of food, dish, protein, fruit or veggie, that all of a sudden, you just CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF. So you eat it on repeat for weeks until you find your next food obsession, like…

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Right?! I can’t be the only one who goes through this. Make me feel normal please.

Now we all know that you can’t just eat the same thing over and over again for weeks.

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BECAUSE RYAN…it’s important to change up your food choices with every meal, to ensure you’re getting all the essential nutrients your body needs.

We learn something new every day, people.

But nonetheless, food phases can happen, and I’m currently on the tail end of my food phase/love affair with carrots. (Next up, spaghetti squash, but that’s all whole new blog post).

Back to carrots. These sweet, crunchy little spears of deliciousness are high in Vitamin A, which is crucial for good vision. Coincidentally, I’ve been struggling with my eyesight lately so maybe my body is onto something by wanting to load up on these 24/7. I’m on a mission to fight those tired eyes! I’ve been enjoying my carrots almost every day in whatever way I can fit them in. My favorite way to cook them is by cutting 3 or 4 large carrots into long strips, drenching them in coconut oil and sea salt, and roasting for 20 minutes at 375°(F). BAM. Pair with a protein and a super green salad and my taste buds (and eyes!) are feeling good.

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P.S. that would totally work on me. Just saying.

As one can expect, this whole carrot thing leads to a story AND a recipe. I was visiting my grandmother in the hospital a while back, and she was quite pleased with the hospital staff for serving her carrot cake with her dinners – one of her favorite desserts. Immediately, the wheels started turning in my head and I left the hospital that night dreaming up concoctions for a healthier carrot treat without all the gluten, dairy and sugar that your standard carrot cake would come with. With the help of my favorite little bakers – my nieces, Harmony and Destiny – I came up with this fabulous carrot spice muffin that is to die for!

So this one grandma, is for you. I love you dearly!

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Carrot Spice Muffins

(Makes approximately 10 regular size muffins)

Ingredients:

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  • (2) large, organic carrots
  • (1) cup pitted medjool dates, pitted and soaked in water for one hour
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • (4) eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup cashew flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • (2) tsp. aluminum free baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt

Other Tools:

  • Food processor
  • Mixer
  • Spatula
  • 1 muffin pan (This recipe was made using a regular size muffin pan, but a mini muffin pan can be used with an adjusted cooking time).
  • Cute mini helpers, like Destiny pictured below

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Method:

Preheat your oven to 375°(F). While the oven is preheating, start by chopping the two carrots into smaller pieces and put aside in the food processor. Remove the pits from the dates and add those to the carrot pieces in the food processor. Turn the processor on high until you have a well processed carrot and date dough. Add the pecans and pulse for about 20 seconds to give those bad boys a chance to break down into small pieces.

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Transfer the carrot/date/pecan dough into the mixer, like my niece Harmony did below (aren’t little helpers the best?) and add all the wet ingredients. Mix on a medium speed until the mixture is well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and continue to mix until it’s completely blended. The dough should be slightly thick and chunky. Go ahead and taste test that good stuff – you won’t be disappointed (just remember to save some for the oven, yeah?).

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The girls were totally enthralled by the mixer. Until Destiny tripped over the cord and batter #1 went all over the kitchen. Yeah, that happened. So remember kitchen safety when baking with little ones!

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Spoon the mixture into the muffin pans to completely fill each muffin pan. The bigger, the better!

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Bake at 375°(F) for approximately 20 minutes. The muffins will pass the toothpick test when ready and will be dark brown in color. Allow them to cool slightly before serving. Oh, and note on serving – these are AMAZING with melted grass-fed butter or ghee slathered on them. Trust me.

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These make me want to end my disappointment with dairy free icing and come up with a DF cream ‘cheese’ frosting to complete the whole thing. Yay or nay?

Pffft, who am I kidding. Of course that’s a good idea. I’ll work on it while you enjoy this version.

Have a great weekend!

StephanieSignature1