Grain Brain Thoughts & Eats

Four weeks ago I embarked on the Grain Brain challenge: 30 days of a gluten-free, low-grain, high-fat diet to optimize brain health.

grain brain book review

I will freely admit I followed it like crap for the first two weeks. At home my meals were veggie, protein, and fat-centered, but I had two weekends away and no interest or desire to plan ahead and eat something different than everyone else. I’d just spent the better part of a year with a restricted diet and had no intention of going back to that.

grain free pancakes recipe

The second two weeks were different. I can’t honestly say it was with any intention of protecting my brain function {although I could probably use that}. It was about this time that my doctor hypothesized that I too, like my son, am allergic or intolerant to dairy, wheat, and soy. Yaay fun. More on that convoluted story another time. The gist is, I started doing better following the Grain Brain diet guidelines.

The idea behind the Grain Brain eating style is:

    • Fat is and always has been a fundamental pillar of our nutrition. In fact, the
      human brain consists of more than 70 percent fat.
    • Good fats, like DHA omega-3 found in fatty fish and algae, help to reduce
      inflammation and certain vitamins, notably A, D, E and K, require fat to get
      absorbed properly in the body.
    • In Grain Brain, Dr. Perlmutter explains what happens when the brain encounters
      common ingredients in your daily bread, why your brain thrives on fat and
      cholesterol and how you can spur the growth of new brain cells at any age.

The nutrients Dr. Perlmutter recommends adding to your diet in supplement form
are alpha-lipoic acid, coconut oil, DHA derived from fish, fish oil or algae,
probiotics, resveratrol, turmeric and vitamin D.

grain brain recommended supplements

grain brain supplements (500x375)

{Plus turmeric and vitamin D.}

Here’s a little of what I ate that meets the guidelines {as well as being dairy and soy free}:

rice (375x500)chicken salad (375x500)butternut squash soup (375x500)

{Rice with veggies, cajun chicken sausage, & kimchee; chicken salad-salad with apples, celery, & walnuts; butternut squash soup –that’s the kiddo’s portionWinking smile.}

Breakfast was the hardest part for me, as I wake up wanting carbs, carbs, and carbs. I like oatmeal, pancakes, and cereal, not eggs, bacon, and veggies. I finally, finally found a solution: grain-free pancakes –that I actually like. {Personally I think the popular Paleo banana-egg pancake is nasty.} The protein of an egg without the taste of an egg, the fat of coconut oil, the natural sweetness of apples {and the not-so-natural sweetness of chocolate, cough, cough.}

paleo pancakes (500x500)

Here’s my go-to recipe for the moment. Let me know if you have another favorite!

– 1/4 cup coconut flour

– 1/4 cup almond meal

– 1/4 cup applesauce

– 1 scant tsp baking powder

– 3 eggs

– cinnamon & any other spices (allspice, nutmeg, etc.)


Do you have any favorite grain-free meals?

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Cinnamon Rolls {Whole Wheat & Vegan}

There are trends for everything; fashion, colors, music, and even flavors. This past year’s dominating flavors? Cake batter, bacon, and Nutella. Just take a quick glance at Pinterest if you don’t believe me. It’s the Nutella one I’m interested in- dark chocolate-y, hazelnut gooeyness. Paired with my favorite baked breakfast of all time- cinnamon rolls- it’s sure to be a winner.

dark chocolate hazelnut cinnamon rolls

I tweaked my favorite whole wheat cinnamon roll recipe to make it dairy free, egg free, and soy free, then added the divine flavor combo of dark chocolate and toasted hazelnut. These dairy free cinnamon rolls are stuffed with not only rich brown sugar cinnamon filling, but every bite is loaded with melted dark chocolate. The toasted hazelnuts enhance the flavor of the chocolate and provide a surprise crunch with every mouthful. In case a dough filled with both chocolate and hazelnut wasn’t enough, I topped the cinnamon rolls with a chocolate ganache, hazelnut infused icing, and toasted chopped hazelnuts.

nutella cinnamon rolls

I keep hazelnut syrup on hand for my morning coffee addiction, but feel free to sub vanilla if you don’t have any. The hazelnut syrup gives the flavor an extra kick, but you won’t be missing out if you need to forego it.

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Cinnamon Rolls {Whole Wheat, Dairy Free, Vegan}

nutella cinnamon rolls

by with a Side of Sneakers




    • 1 c Silk Pure Almond Unsweetened Original
    • 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast {or 1 packet}
    • 2 1/2 c whole wheat or spelt flour {plus ¼ to ½ cup extra for kneading}
    • 2 t baking powder
    • 1/4 c sugar
    • 1/4 t salt
    • 1 t cinnamon
    • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
    • ½ cup dark chocolate (vegan/dairy free) chips
    • Optional: 1 Tbsp hazelnut syrup


    • 3 Tbsp vegan/dairy free margarine/butter
    • 1/4 c brown sugar
    • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped


    • ½ c powdered sugar
    • 1/2 Tbsp almond milk
    • 1/4 tsp hazelnut syrup or vanilla


    • ¼ cup dark chocolate chips
    • 1 Tbsp vegan/dairy free margarine/butter

    vegan cinnamon roll recipe


    Heat almond milk for about 40 seconds in the microwave- you want it warm, but not scalding hot. Stir in yeast and set aside.

    Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, cinnamon, applesauce, and hazelnut syrup, if using.

    Add in almond milk and yeast mixture. Stir or mix in electric mixture until dough comes together. It’s ok if it’s still a little bit sticky at this point.

    Fold in chocolate chips.

    Spread a clean, flat surface with flour. Adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking, knead dough until it forms a nice smooth & slightly elastic ball.

    Using a rolling pin, spread the dough into a rectangle. I usually end up with dough about 1/2 inch thick.

    Melt margarine or butter and stir in brown sugar and cinnamon.

    Spread the cinnamon sugar mixture liberally over the rolled out dough. Top with hazelnuts.

    Starting from the skinny end of the dough rectangle, roll the dough tightly towards the other end.

    Slice the roll into ~1-1 1/2 inch strips, discarding the ends if necessary.

    Grease a 9×9 baking dish and line rolls in pan. Cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate overnight.

    When you’re ready to bake your cinnamon rolls, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and let the rolls come to room temperature.

    Bake cinnamon buns for 20-25 minutes.

    While cinnamon rolls cool, prepare icing and chocolate mixtures. To prepare icing, combine powdered sugar, almond milk, and hazelnut or vanilla. Stir until smooth. To prepare chocolate, melt margarine or butter, then stir in chocolate chips. Heat in microwave a few seconds at a time until chocolate melts enough to blend smoothly.

    Pour icing and chocolate over cinnamon rolls.

    Top with toasted hazelnuts.

    Powered by Recipage


    These dairy free nutella cinnamon rolls may sound absolutely sinful, but they’re not as decadent as they sound. Each gigantic cinnamon roll provides 278 calories, 5.5 grams of fiber, and 7 g of protein- that’s a 10 calorie-per-bun savings over skim milk! When you eat the whole pan like I may or may not have done, that savings sure adds up.

    whole wheat cinnamon rolls


    This recipe is part of a campaign for Silk through FitFluential. All my own words, thoughts, and opinions of course!

    The Ultimate Guide to Indulgent Breakfasts

    There’s no question breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. The best thing about {most} Saturdays is that there’s TIME to make any breakfast. No need for something fast and practical so you can get on with the workday. Even if your weekends are just as packed as your weekdays, why not take a couple extra minutes to relax and indulge?

    The choices are endless. My favorite breakfast choices:

    Donut Muffins. Cinnamony, sugary, delectable deliciousness that’s almost too good to be called breakfast. But it’s whole wheat, so it counts. Winking smile

    muffindonutsdonut muffins

    Ultimate Chocolate Chip Pancakes Melty chocolate for breakfast? Of course.


    Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Chip Pancakes What’s better than chocolate for breakfast? Pumpkin pie with chocolate. In pancake form.

    pumpkin pie pancake recipe

    Ok, ok, any & all kinds of pancakes. <—Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Pancake. Seriously, the options are endless.

    pancakes recipe

    Pumpkin Pomegranate Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing. The perfect combination of fall flavors. Too good to reserve for fall only.

    pumpkin pomegranante cinnamon rolls

    Wheatberries. On anything.

    wheat berries

    Vegan Sticky Buns. Need I say more?

    vegan sticky buns

    Quinoa Granola. Crunchy, protein-packed snack or cereal topper with a hint of sweetness.

    oatmeal with quinoaquinoa granola recipe

    Blueberry Cream Crepes. Ugly picture. Delicious dessert breakfast.

    blueberry cream crepes

    Vegan Cinnamon Chip Scones. A long-time scone hater, I became a convert with these Starbucks-impersonations.

    cinnamon scones recipecinnamon chip scone

    Baked Oatmeal. Takes oatmeal from blah to bam!

    baked oatmeal recipe

    Or Baked PUMPKIN Oatmeal. Because pumpkin makes everything better.

    pumpkin oatmealbaked pumpkin oatmeal

    Vegan Cinnamon Rolls. I don’t think it’s a secret that these are my favorite of all times.

    vegan cinnamon roll recipe

    Fried Oatmeal. A new favorite.

    fried oatmeal

    What’s your favorite breakfast? Feel free to link up recipes.

    Donuts for Breakfast

    Good morning! How would you like to rise to the smell of baking donuts?

    Well, if you had smell-o-screen, you could.

    cinnamon muffins

    I bookmarked a recipe for Muffins that Taste Like Donuts on Good Life Eats the other day (who found it on Pioneer Woman) and knew I had to make these.

    There’s a reason the recipe ends with “you might want to double it”. They’re good.

    Of course, I made my own changes, because I just can’t leave well enough alone.

    Here’s the recipe I ended up with:

    Donut Muffins

    1 cup spelt flour

    3/4 cup all purpose flour

    1 1/2 tsp baking powder

    1/2 tsp salt

    1/2 tsp cinnamon

    1/2 tsp nutmeg

    1/2 cup sugar

    3/4 cup almond milk

    1/3 cup applesauce (I used no sugar added cranberry raspberry fiber version)

    1 flax egg (I used 1/2T flax meal and 2T water)

    almond milk


    Mix ingredients together and divide evenly between a 12 cup muffin pan.

    stand mixer

    muffin batter

    Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. While baking, mix together sugar & cinnamon in a shallow dish, and melt vegan butter in another. (I just eyeballed these.)

    cinnamon sugar melted butter

    When the muffins are finished baking, pop them out of the muffin pan while they’re still warm. Dip the tops in the melted butter, shaking off excess. Then dip into cinnamon sugar mixture and coat thoroughly.

    donut muffins

    I guess you should allow them to finish cooling, but finding them irresistible, I dug right on in. I’d already burned my finger on the pan, so I might as well burn my mouth too. Luckily, they were the perfect temperature for eating!

    cinnamon sugar donut


    Dense, moist, and cinnamon-sugary. I will be fighting the husband for these.

    muffin donuts

    “Donuts” and a mug of coffee? Why, yes, I think I will.

    muffin bite

    Now that’s a good morning. 🙂

    Dough Heaven

    Well I can’t get anything past you guys. The mystery treat I was in the middle of making last night, was in fact…

    mixing doughdough ball dough rising

    cinnamon rolls!!!

    Ever since I tasted that magical fat free vegan cinnamon bun from Great Harvest, I’ve been itching to try my hand at my own recipe.


    While they turned out completely different from inspiration (see above), these cinnamon rolls were pretty darn tasty in their own right.

    cinnamon rolls

    I was concentrating so hard on making sure these would rise (probably because of my many impatient bread making experiences) that I think I overdid it. These definitely rose!! I was going for a little bit of a doughier, chewier bun, but I had I not known that, I’d be pretty impressed with these.

    Delicious. And healthy as far as cinnamon buns go. They definitely kick Pillsbury to the curb. 😉

    Let’s see, where did I leave off last night?

    Ahh the infamous dough rise:

    dough rise

    cinnamon filling

    cutting rolls

    cinnamon roll slices

    That’s where I left off last night. As tempted as I was to bake them right then & there, I decided it would be a much better treat for the morning.

    What a good idea that was! 20 minutes after waking up, and I was smelling these babies:

    fresh cinnamon rolls

    Sooo good.

    cinnamon buns

    I debated sharing the recipe, as it’s still a work in progress, but why not?!

    Whole Wheat Vegan Cinnamon Rolls

    3 T water

    1 T flax meal

    3/4 c hemp milk (or any milk)

    1 packet instant yeast

    2 c whole wheat flour

    1 c bread flour

    1 t baking soda

    1/2 t baking powder

    1/4 c sugar

    1/4 t salt

    2 t cinnamon

    4 T applesauce

    4ish T brown sugar

    confectioner’s sugar, milk, vanilla

    Mix flax & water together. Set aside. Gently warm milk and stir in yeast. Set aside. Mix together remaining ingredients up to cinnamon, plus 3T of the applesauce. (I only added 1/2 the bread flour, and used the rest when kneading. I also put 1 t cinnamon in the dough because I wasn’t thinking…) Knead dough until a ball forms. It will be slightly sticky. Cover & let rise for 30 minutes. Punch dough down & let rise another 10 minutes. Roll dough out in rectangle. Mix 1 T applesauce, cinnamon, and brown sugar together, then spread over dough, leaving border around edges. Roll dough into log, and cut into 1” slices. Place in baking dish (close together). Let rise another 30 minutes or overnight in the fridge.

    Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

    Mix confectioner’s sugar, milk, and vanilla to make icing & drizzle on top.

    Eat. and eat and eat and eat. 🙂

    Changes: I think I’ll omit the baking powder/soda- the yeast is probably enough (& I think I could taste it…) I’d also increase the filling amount- you can never get too much!

    You can bet I’ll be continuing to experiment. 😉

    Sticky Buns

    I found a use for overly-dense homemade buns…..


    Peanut butter & jelly!!! These buns are perfect for soaking up the jelly but not getting soggy 🙂

    Nothing like a classic pb&j for breakfast.  That sandwich probably literally weighed half a pound. Lesson learned: let dough rise before baking.

    Sure sticks to the roof of your mouth! Good thing I had a nice mug of coffee to wash it down.


    Coconut milk doesn’t froth up when you shake it the same way regular milk does, so I’ve gone back to using my Senseo to get a semi-frothy coffee. (It’s one of those individual coffee makers. I love it.)

    Gotta keep this short because I’m off to…

    my 1st physical therapy appointment!!!! YAY!!!

    I’ve never looked forward to an appointment so much- I hope it’s helpful! I’m supposed to get fitted for orthotics (which I’m still wary of) and then start the PT.

    Have you had physical therapy before? Did you find it helpful? I had it for my hips when I was a teenager. I don’t remember much about it except for the electric-shock-like machine that I thought felt amazing (which is a little sadistic, no?).

    Have a great day!!