Tea - a drink with jam and bread...

Anyone who knows me knows that I drink tea. Lots of tea. Black tea, green tea, herbal teas. Even my new adventures into kombucha brewing turn out to be based on tea... As the product of British-extraction parents, I was taught to make a proper cuppa by the time I was 10. Hot drinks are a first class comfort food in my world.

So when I got playing with a friend's primal-compliant pumpkin bread recipe, and then had a Paleo jam recipe cross my path online, the lyrics to this song popped into my head. It's from The Sound of Music, of course.

What is coined "paleo baking" refers to products that resemble and are meant to replace grain-based foods in a low carb diet. All kinds of "baking" can be done successfully with various lower carb, non-grain seed and nut meals as the wheat flour substitute. Some of the candidates are:

Almond meal, both blanched and whole (browner due to the presence of the outer coating of the nut)

Flax meal

Chia seeds, ground

Psyllium, both ground and husks

Coconut flour

Bob's Red Mill "Paleo" baking mix

These items are generally mixed with a generous amount of fat and larger than usual numbers of eggs to provide the structure that would normally be created by the gluten in wheat.

The other big substitution in low carb baking, of course, is the sugar. Alternate sweetening agents are stevia, erythritol and monkfruit, or various combinations of these. It does NOT include honey, maple syrup, agave syrup or coconut sugar. These are all just pure sugar carbohydrates, sourced from other places than sugar cane or sugar beet.

Low carb "paleo" baking is a double edged sword. It can provide some great variety in one's diet, including desserts or special occasion foods. It's great for serving your non-Primal guests or taking to a potluck meal where there's going to be lots of temptations. (IMPORTANT: If putting something that you made on a buffet table, be sure that your nut-based baking is labelled as containing nuts - you could save someone's life!) On the other hand, these items are generally very calorically dense and can really slow down weight loss if that's one of your goals. We tend to eat them in addition to meals, not as a meal replacement - hence the problem. While they are made with excellent ingredients and provide a heaping dose of many nutrients, they don't live up to the rich nutrient load from meats and vegetables.

With all these disclaimers in place, I present Paleo Pumpkin Bread. The recipe was developed by a friend and tweaked by me to reduce the fat and overall calorie content while maintaining the moisture and making it bake to a lovely loaf-like texture. This is more pound cake than puffy bread. It's dense and delicious, lightly spiced and subtly sweet. My friend uses it as her workday breakfast, cutting the loaf into 6 large servings (equivalent to about two big muffins).

Paleo Pumpkin Bread

3/4 cup almond flour or meal

1/2 cup ground flaxmeal

1/4 cup psyllium (ground or husks)

1/4 cup chia seeds (ground or whole)

3/4 cup stevia or other sweetener (cup-for-cup product)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup melted coconut oil, avocado oil or extra light olive oil (butter might be good, too - I haven't tried that)

5 large eggs

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 cup pure pumpkin puree (canned is fine. If using home-frozen pumpkin, allow it to drain in a coffee filter to thicken the puree) This is NOT pumpkin pie filling!

Mix all dry ingredients well, then add liquid fat of choice and combine into a mealy mixture.

Mix wet ingredients together until there are no pumpkin blobs or stringy egg bits, then add to mealy mix and combine well. Mixture will be thick.

Pour into a greased loaf pan and level the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Let cool before cutting.

The best use for this pumpkin bread is as a meal substitute, not just a dessert or snack. One sixth of the loaf (about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 inches thick) is a substantial breakfast. It's travels beautifully to work, and can be frozen. I keep mine in the fridge as it takes a few days to consume it all.

If you cut the loaf into six large chunks, each serving is 330 calories and 5 grams net carbs. The 13 grams of protein and 27 g fat will keep you full for hours. If you cut it into "normal" loafcake-style slices (about 16 in the loaf) for a dessert or snack item, each slice would be 125 calories and 2 grams net carbs.

Now for the jam... This lovely and easy fruit jam just somehow appeared in my internet meanderings - how perfect! It would also make a great pancake topping or fruit mix over plain Greek yogurt as a dessert or breakfast item.

Chia Sugarfree Jam

1 1/4 cup fresh or frozen berries

3 tbsp whole chia seeds

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tbsp granulated sweetener of choice (see above)

1/3 cup water

Defrost berries and mash with a fork into a lumpy puree. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a jam jar or other small container and refrigerate to set. Chia seeds will expand and soften, thickening and setting the jam. Give them time - they are crunchy until fully softened. Once set, stir well again and enjoy. Serving size is 1 tbsp for 25 calories and 1 gram of net carbs.

So, put the kettle on and invite someone over for tea, healthy treats and a good chinwag. Life doesn't get much better...

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