It’s Valentine’s Day – a holiday where we celebrate love, or for some of us, we get to embrace our love of chocolate. Valentine’s Day is one of the few days annually where the large majority of Americans (over 80% by some accounts) consume chocolate in some form or another to celebrate. It’s crazy to think how much money the chocolate and candy companies rake in on this one day alone.
Maybe it’s been all of the Valentine’s chocolate advertisements over the past few weeks, but I have been really yearning for chocolate lately. And not the crappy chocolate in the heart shaped boxes. I have been craving homemade brownies. So, it will probably come as no surprise that I spent yesterday tinkering with my gluten free, Paleo brownies recipe to make it even better.
The Secret Ingredient: Ghee
Paleo brownies can be hit or miss. Sometimes they can be too grainy or not sweet enough. (BTW, I choose not to use any cane sugar or coconut sugar at all in my brownie recipe and instead use maple syrup and honey as the only sweeteners.)
I think I found the secret sauce to take the brownies to the next level. It’s drumroll … ghee. But not just any ghee, a top notch grass fed ghee from 4th & Heart infused with vanilla.
In case you are not familiar, ghee is a clarified butter that separates the oil from the dairy in the butter. It is typically well tolerated by people who cannot consume dairy since it does not contain any casein or lactose. I purchase this vanilla bean ghee from Whole Foods. It’s also available on Amazon or other online retailers if you do not have access to a Whole Foods. This flavorful ghee coupled with the cacao powder helps to make these brownies taste just like regular brownies that do contain gluten and dairy. (Just FYI – I purchased a large, 16 oz bag of organic cacao at Walmart for $8.49 but any high quality cacao/cocoa powder will do.)
A Knockout List of Ingredients
I believe I found the perfect combination of ingredients that will make you not miss regular brownies. Here goes:
1 cup cacoa/cocoa powder
1 cup almond flour
1 scoop vanilla collagen powder (optional)
a pinch or two of salt
1/3 cup melted vanilla bean ghee
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 large eggs
1/2 cup of maple syrup
5 squirts of raw unfiltered honey from a squeezable honey container
1 tablespoon almond butter or peanut butter (without any sugar or oil added)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Oil a brownie pan or baking dish. (I like to use avocado oil.)
Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix together. Set aside.
Melt the ghee on the stove or in the microwave. Let it cool for a few minutes.
In a KitchenAid bowl or separate mixing bowl, add all of the wet ingredients (minus the ghee) and mix everything together until smooth and fluffy on the mixer’s medium setting.
Once cool, mix in the melted ghee.
Slowly add in the dry ingredients, 1/2 cup at a time. Continue to mix until it is smooth and without any lumps.
Pour the mix into the greased baking or brownie pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes, checking after 25 minutes. Test the brownies after 25 minutes with a fork. Continue baking until the brownies are firm.
Cool and Enjoy!
These amazing brownies are delectable are rich, chocolatey … and best of all, your friends and family will never guess that these brownies are paleo, cane sugar free, dairy free and gluten free.
Whole Foods has come along way in the last few years in terms of affordability, access and selection. As many of us know, for years Whole Foods was widely referred to as “Whole Paycheck” due to the exorbitant costs of grocery shopping there. I feel like things changed for the better and costs definitely went down when Whole Foods was acquired by Amazon a few years ago. Now, it’s possible to shop for staples at a similar cost to most traditional grocery stores. Plus, there is no better store to find the most innovative, healthy foods out there.
Whole Foods has been a life saver during this pandemic. They were one of the few stores by me that had delivery and/or pick-up slots even during the early stages of the pandemic. This was back when it was tough to get groceries (or toilet paper) anywhere at all. While I haven’t shopped in a large food store since March 2020 thanks to the abundance of delivery and pick-up options available, Whole Foods was previously one of my favorite food stores to shop and explore. It was the last large grocery store that I stepped food it in before the pandemic.
Shopping via the Amazon App is Super Easy
What I love the most about shopping for Whole Foods groceries online is the convenience of shopping right through the Amazon app (which, let’s face it, most of us are on almost every day). From the Amazon app (or website), you simply click on “Whole Foods” on the top left corner. It’s super easy to navigate through the virtual store. You can even use any Alexa device to add items to your grocery lists or orders.
The app/website allows you to select your store, opt for delivery or curbside pickup, shop past orders and explore items by department. Plus, you can view all weekly sales and specials as well as view items recommended for you from past orders. And every Prime member benefits from an additional 10% off sale items sold at the store. While your assigned shoppers are working on your grocery order, they will communicate with you as needed via text message if any substitutions of out of stock items are required.
Amazon Prime members benefit from free pickup or delivery (although, a gratuity is expected for delivery and I often try to give the employees at the store tips for curbside pickup.) Lately, I have been opting for the Whole Foods pickup option which allows for either pickup of items in the store or employees will load them directly in your car. For the car loading option, you simply alert Whole Foods via the app when you are en route to pickup your groceries, you park in a designated spot, let them know your car make/model and they will bring out to your car in a matter of minutes.
Just one tip: If you opt for pickup and live in a multi-story apartment building or anywhere that requires you to park a distance from your home, you might want to bring a couple of sturdy reusable shopping bags. The Whole Foods stores by me all staple the tops of paper bags (that have no handles) – making it difficult to carry more than 2 bags at a time. When I park in my parking garage, I transfer the contents of the stapled bag to the reusable bags for ease of carrying the groceries upstairs.
Without further adieu, I am so excited to share my latest health Whole Foods grocery haul, which include many items that were on sale!
1. Primal Kitchen Beef & Mushroom Bowl
I like to cook or prepare fresh meals whenever possible, but sometimes that is not an option with my crazy work schedule. I had been dying to try Primal Kitchen’s new frozen meals for a while, but they have been hard to come by at my local Whole Foods. I finally scored this beef and mushroom bowl as part of my latest Whole Foods order.
Primal Kitchen is one of my favorite brands for barbecue sauces, steak sauce, marinades, salad dressing, avocado oils, etc. It’s hard to find a brand with cleaner ingredients out there. And I am so excited that they have expanded their product line to include frozen meals. I love that this beef and mushroom bowl includes grass fed beef, is paleo friendly, and includes no sugar, sketchy oils or ingredients. This frozen meal was a bit pricey ($7.99) but it would have cost me a lot more to order in food with not as healthy ingredients. This is a win for an every once in a while purchase.
2. Base Culture Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Okay, so full disclosure, this amazing grain free, gluten free, preservative free, dairy free paleo bread is a bit expensive. (You’re probably thinking – wait, I thought you said that Whole Foods is more affordable these days. And that is true for many items that will follow in this list. I figured that I get most of the more expensive items out of the way first.)
Base Culture produces top notch frozen paleo breads. I have not encountered any bread with cleaner ingredients that tastes this good. It is a bit expensive at $9.99 for a loaf. I justify this purchase because it is not something I eat everyday; it can remain frozen and you can use/defrost a slice or two at a time. It will satisfy your craving for bread without consuming a gluten free bread with crappy ingredients.
I don’t own a toaster, so I cook this bread on the stove with a touch of ghee or olive oil. In the picture below, I used the vanilla bean flavored ghee (see the next item on this list) which really accentuates the cinnamon and raisin flavors of the bread.
3. 4th & Heart Grass-Fed Ghee – Vanilla Bean
I don’t use ghee too often, but it is a great alternative to oil for cooking, sauteing and baking. In case you are not familiar with ghee, it is a clarified butter that is made from heating butter and separating the milk solids from the oil. Because there is no casein or lactose in the clarified butter, ghee is tolerated by many people like myself who cannot consume dairy due to allergies, intolerance or other reasons.
4th & Heart is a top shelf ghee. This vanilla bean flavor ghee that I purchased here is perfect for baking or using with paleo breads like the Base Culture bread. (I would stick to plain or seasoned ghee for use with vegetables.) I purchased this ghee with the intent of baking paleo brownies for a small family gathering set for Super Bowl Sunday (today), which has since been canceled due to another snow storm passing through my area. I made the brownies anyway 🙂 …. the recipe can be found here. UPDATE: This ghee is amazing on the Birch Benders Paleo pancakes.
4. Purely Elizabeth. Cauli Hot Cereal
Although there are some higher priced items at Whole Foods (as evidenced above), you can also find some amazing deals. It’s no secret that I am a fan of Purely Elizabeth.’s grain free Cauli Hot Cereal, as evidenced in my review here.
I usually purchase this hot cereal at Target, but Whole Foods had an unbelievable sale ($1.79 each) when I placed my order – so I added a few to my online cart. I now have an easy, healthy breakfast option for a few mornings this week.
5. Kite Hill Unsweetened Greek Style Almond Milk Yogurt
Whole Foods carries my favorite brands of dairy free unsweetened yogurt, Lava and Kite Hill. This vanilla unsweetened non-dairy almond milk yogurt is the closest in texture (not taste) to greek style dairy yogurt. I love that it does not contain any added sugar or troubling additives found in many dairy free yogurts.
To make this yogurt taste a bit better, I typically add berries, grain free granola and/or a little maple syrup. It’s another great breakfast option to break up the monotony of eggs and bacon.
6. Cappello’s Grain Free Naked Pizza Crust
Capello’s makes the best tasting paleo pizza crust out there. I previously shared my quick (mostly) paleo pizza recipe which is a fabulous option when you crave a pizza but are trying to eat healthy. I was overjoyed to see that this crust was on sale when I shopped for my latest grocery haul. If I had more room in my freezer, I definitely would have picked up more of these tasty frozen crusts. (The price was that good!)
I made this pizza for lunch yesterday, instead using a spicy organic pizza sauce instead of traditional pizza sauce. And wow, it was amazing!
7. Whole Foods 365 Organic Spicy Pizza Sauce
Tomatoes are on the dirty dozen list, meaning it’s something that you should try to buy organic whenever possible. However, it’s often hard to find a really good organic pizza or marinara sauce (without sugar or bad oils) that tastes good and comes in at a good price point.
Whole Foods’ 365 brand offers a lot of good organic and tasty options at a lost cost. This spicy pizza sauce is no exception. It definitely has a kick to it, so keep a beverage close by when consuming. As mentioned above, I used this when making my almond crust pizza today. You won’t be disappointed! And it’s only $2.99 – which is a great price for such wholesome, organic ingredients.
Speaking of the Whole Foods 365 brand, they offer a best-in-class unsweetened, organic almond milk for only $2.99. I love that this almond milk has really clean organic ingredients and does not contain carrageenan, an ingredient that is not good for our digestive systems. Also, as an added bonus, this almond milk froths a lot better than most non dairy milks. (I use an affordable handheld, battery powered frother purchased via Amazon.)
9. Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips – Nacho
Siete is one of my favorite brands. They allow people who try to avoid grains to enjoy tasty grain-free, clean snacks and other items. I often purchase their taco shells and seasonings (see next item on this list). While I don’t purchase their grain free tortilla chips as often (I have a weakness for salty snacks), I am never disappointed when I do pick them up. These tortilla chips are incredibly tasty and are made with avocado oil instead of inflammatory canola or other vegetable-based oils.
I purchased these online because Siete chips were on sale at Whole Foods at the time, and I was planning on making nachos for a small family Super Bowl gathering today – which has since been canceled due to snow. Another time!
10. Siete Taco Seasoning – Mild
Siete makes a variety of paleo and Whole 30 approved seasonings, including this mild taco seasoning packet. As mentioned above, I was planning on making nachos for Super Bowl Sunday today. (I had planned to use this seasoning on some grass fed ground beef from Butcherbox to go on top of the nachos.) However, since the weather had other ideas, I will pivot and instead use this healthy seasoning when I make tacos later this week.
Like the tortilla chips, this season features best in class ingredients. While I would love if these ingredients were organic, the ingredient list is simple and there are no preservatives or mystery ingredients like many taco seasonings on the market. A packet is under $3.00 – although I see it is on sale for $1.97 this week. You might want to snatch a packet or two this week at this amazing sale price.
In addition to pizza sauce and almond milk, Whole Foods’ 365 brand offers some excellent and healthy lunch options.
Applegate Farms Organics offers high quality lunch meats, but they are incredibly expensive. I am so excited that Whole Foods’ 365 brand now offers an organic turkey breast option that is $2+ cheaper than Applegate Farms. Unlike most lunch meats on the market, this 365 organic turkey does not contain sugar or other suspicious additives. The ingredients are simply: organic turkey breast, organic distilled white vinegar, sea salt and a trace amount of organic honey. You can’t get much cleaner than that!
Siete also makes almond flour, cassava flour, and chickpea flour tortillas, but they are really expensive (usually $7.99). Whole Foods now offers almond flour and cassava flour tortillas for $5.99 (or $2 cheaper than the Siete brand). The Whole Foods 365 brand tortillas are just as tasty as the Siete brand, although they are a bit smaller in size.
For lunch, I like to add the organic turkey breast, arugula, some broccoli slaw, avocado and a bit of hummus or vinaigrette to a slightly warm tortilla. It’s a quick, tasty and health lunch!
12. Hope Hummus – Original
I love that this delicious hummus from Hope is organic and non-GMO. It’s one of the high quality and cheapest organic hummus options on the market. Plus, it’s made with extra virgin olive oil instead of inflammatory seed or vegetable oils found in many other hummus brands. I love to spread this hummus on my turkey tortilla sandwiches as mentioned above or on almond flour crackers.
13. Noble Made Medium Buffalo Sauce
For Super Bowl Sunday, I also planned to make chicken wings a few different ways as an appetizer. I had ordered chicken wings as an add-on to my ButcherBox order last month. Even though my very small Super Bowl family gathering is a no-go today due to the weather, I still went ahead and made some buffalo ranch paleo wings and dropped off a few to my sister yesterday. (She gave them high marks!)
Like Primal Kitchen, Noble Made makes super clean sauces and marinades that taste out of this world. You would never guess that this Medium Buffalo or their other sauces are so healthy. Better yet, this Noble Made Buffalo Sauce is Whole 30 approved, has 1 g of Carbs and no sugar added. (Check out their other sauces too; their Classic BBQ sauce is one of my favorite barbecue sauces on the market.)
I think I found arguably the tastiest and healthiest gluten free crackers on the market. These crackers taste beyond amazing and are the perfect snack size for dairy free cheese or hummus. I don’t buy these crackers often but they always are a hit with everyone – even those who can consume gluten.
The ingredients are super clean and are certified GMO. The only ding is that they use sunflower oil, albeit it’s organic. I would prefer that they used avocado, coconut or olive oil instead. Regardless, these crackers are delectable for consumption every once in a while.
15. Violife Just Like Mozarella Shreds & Miyoko’s Creamery Cultured Vegan Pepper Jack Cheese
I have previously raved about the Violife Just Like Mozarella Shreds and use this “cheese” in my pizza recipe. (click here for that recipe.) Violife makes the best dairy free cheese that I have found so far.
A close second is Miyoko’s, which is an oat milk based cheese alternative. This delicious pepper jack cheese goes perfect with the Simple Mills crackers described above and is also great in omelettes. Please note that these cheeses are not technically paleo but are good for every once in a while when you have a cheese craving.
16. Vital Farms Pasture Raised Organic Eggs
Speaking of omelettes, whenever possible, I try to purchase pasture raised organic eggs. These eggs have the best nutritional profile compared to regular or just organic eggs. The Vital Farms eggs are definitely more expensive than traditional eggs but I think they are worth the splurge. I can sometimes snag these Vital Farms at a lower price at Walmart – although they are often out of stock there.
17. Rebbl Protein and Adaptogenic Drinks
As mentioned in my previous blog post which reviewed Laird Superfood Hot Chocolate, I am a huge fan of adaptogens and medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Chaga, Lion’s Mane, etc.
Rebbl makes some of my favorite protein drinks and beverages available in stores I love that they swap cane sugar for coconut sugar instead. These drinks are very tasty and keeps you full with the good amount of protein and other healthy ingredients. Whole Foods regularly puts these drinks on sale, like recently, which is why I picked up so many.
18. Organic Produce
Last but certainly not least, Whole Foods carries a broad assortment of organic produce that now rivals the prices of Walmart or other lower cost retailers. I suspect that the acquisition by Amazon helped reduce the prices of the organic produce at Whole Foods.
I love that I can purchase a bag of organic Arugula for $1.99, which is even better than the price at Aldi. Plus, Whole Foods often has organic produce on sale which makes it more accessible to the masses. Lately, I have been purchasing a lot of organics and produce for my smoothies. My go-to smoothie recipe at the moment is this one.
Whole Foods always has new finds and surprises. These are just a few of my recent purchases and discoveries. I look forward to sharing my recipes based on some of these ingredients above and future Whole Foods grocery finds!