Loving Raw Chocolate Macaroons

Food makes a lovely gift.  Everyone loves sweets.  Most of us give sweets to those we love in some way, at some time, in some place…. and especially in February when Hallmark moves us….. I mean our hearts move us, to make our amorous leanings known through buying stuff.

Making a gift has always been a way to imbue a gift with an extra bit of love and caring because not only your resources but your time was given (albeit shopping for the right gift can take time as well!).  But how loving is it to hand someone a box of candy that consists of a whopping load of sugar and unrecognizable chemicals?  It feels like love when given, when received, when consumed, but the health consequences are surely not was intended by the giver in love.  See our Sugar Busting series if you need a reminder about just how rough sugar is on our bodies….. (How Sugar Strict Should You Be?, Salt, Sugar Fat, How the Food Giants Hooked Us, The Sweet Stuff (facts about sugar consumption), Eat Food, Real Food., Giving Hidden Sugar the Boot,)

But back to the problem at hand.  Our Sweetie-Dad is having a few health troubles that the doctors think would be helped by cutting back on sweets.  He is Sweetie-Dad because he is indeed wonderfully sweet and charming…. and also because he’s consumed enough sugar over the years to turn himself into plum jelly.  Of course the poor man has to listen to The Sis Daughters lecture here and again and is probably often frightened when we come by what we might try to pass off as dessert, however, as with all things, experimentation and perseverance can yield workable results.  I know of quite a few lower sugar treats that he enjoys and with Valentine’s Day in mind decided to try a recipe that had been stored on my Kindle for some time waiting for a test run.

Tessa the Domestic Diva created these morsels that are perfect for a pre-kiss Valentine’s exchange.  I only added one ingredient – an almond on top of each, so she really gets all the credit for this one ;-)  And Sweetie-Dad and I thank her.

Raw Chocolate Macaroons

2 c shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 c coconut oil (don’t over do it)
4 – 5 Tbsp cocoa powder (I used this)
1/4 cup maple syrup (she also lists honey or coconut nectar as possibilities)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
about 2 dozen raw almonds

Place all ingredients in food processor and mix well (scraping down sides as needed).  I am gathering from her description that she placed hardened coconut oil.  I melted mine first and mixed in the cocoa powder and vanilla before pouring into the food processor.  Mine probably mixed faster, her mixture was probably easier to shape.

20150206_120102-001Roll, scoop, plop, shape – just get it in reasonable portions onto wax or parchment paper or a silpat lined cookie sheet and chill in the fridge or freezer until firm.

20150206_134903-001You can store them in the refrigerator or the freezer and share them with the sweeties in your life knowing that your time and your love has translated into a treat that lacks processed ingredients without a high dose of sugar.  Love :-)

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If you’d like to give some other kind of loving sweets check out these other options from us and friends:

Chocolate Apricot Truffle Cups from an unrefined vegan

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Drop Cookies

Sweet Potato Crusted Apple Pie

Cocoa-nutty Good Bars / or Cake!

Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Crispy Chocolate Granola Stacks from Emmy Cooks!

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups from Vedged Out

For more ideas for reducing the amount of sugar and processed food in your life, check out our book!  Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals.  Eat well, Be well friends!

Stale Bread Made Great – Vegan Bread Pudding Two Ways

I’ve mentioned a few times that I struggle with quantities, particularly in the face of hosting guests. It would seem that in preparation for the holiday functions we hosted, I decided (through the fog of illness) that having enough bread in the house was the key. Not just frozen sandwich bread, but high quality bakery bread. The disheartening (and probably most wonderful) thing about good bakery bread is that it peaks, just like a bottle of wine. It has a moment when it’s at its very best and every moment after that is one step closer to that tasty loaf becoming squirrel food, or excellent bread fight ammunition (ow). Needless to say despite having a LOT of guests over the several days of the holiday season, we were unable to consume all the bread I bought for the occasions. And so it sat.

It sat so long that my omnivorous dog has begun to ignore it. It sat so long that it made a thud when moved. It sat so long I could no longer tear it with my hands or cut it with a bread knife. Yeah. That’s stale bread. What to do to avoid wasting all that previously wonderful bread? Yes, I could give it to the squirrels, but frankly between what they get from the bird feeder and what they steal from my garden, I think I’ve done my bit with them, so I wondered. Can I make a bread pudding without eggs and butter? Can I make a bread pudding with bread I can’t even tear? Does anybody but me eat bread pudding in this house? Three questions is enough for me. An investigation ensued, and it became clear pretty quickly that one can indeed make bread pudding without the dairy products that make my life unpleasant. Chef Joey’s recipe became my starting point.

Next problem: the rocks formerly known as bread. Mr. Little Sis thought adding a little water to the crust and microwaving them might make the bread bricks easier to manipulate. I couldn’t quite get my head around softening the bread that would then need to be staled again for good bread pudding – it’s ready just as it is; why would I soften it? And so, I looked for a tool based answer to my problem. I am lucky that Mr. Little Sis did some time at culinary school and that time prompted him to add some seriously great knives to our little block. As we considered the problem of the intensely hard bread before us, he reached over to the block and pulled out the one that I like the least, mostly because when it gets used it is on something that I don’t eat and think is gross and there’s a loud noise that goes with it – a bad combo for me. But… if it can help with bread pudding and preventing wasted food, I’d be happy to reconsider. Mr. Little Sis to the rescue…

Next problem: the question of the micro-local popularity of bread pudding. When I lived in the dorms at my central Pennsylvania college, I waited for the days that they served bread pudding in the dining hall. Bread pudding had not been featured in my childhood, so it was a new and thoroughly delightful surprise. My husband, having stayed in Maryland where bread pudding is apparently not a thing, had no such attachment to the dish and the kids? It’s pretty much always a 50/50 proposition there. The result? 100% approval of the bread pudding with caramel sauce as dessert, 100% approval of leftover bread pudding with maple syrup for breakfast (genius and awesome).

With all that fanfare, I’m guessing you’d like to know how I did this, so here we go:

Vegan Bread Pudding Two Ways (GF Option)

Bread Pudding

  • 5 cups stale bread, cubed (we used whole grain bread and it was superb, if you avoid gluten, use gluten free bread)
  • 6 T coconut oil
  • 3 flax eggs
  • 2 1/2 c almond milk (or whatever kind you like)
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1 c toasted pecans (pan, oven, 350, 10 minutes or until you smell them and panic)
  • 4-6 c boiling water

Caramel Sauce for Dessert

  • 1 c pitted dates
  • 3/4 c water
  • 1T + 1t nut butter
  • 3T almond milk (or whatever kind you like)
  • dash vanilla

Topping for Breakfast

  • splash maple syrup
  • chopped nuts
  • raisins

Prepare flax eggs (1T flax + 2 1/2 T water for each “egg”). Preheat oven to 350. Place milk in pan on stove to warm to just below boiling. While milk is warming, measure coconut oil into  medium or larger sized bowl. Measure spices and maple syrup into small bowl. Place bread cubes mixed with toasted nuts into two loaf pans. Place the loaf pans in a large baking dish. (Other pans would be fine. The trick here is that they must sit in a larger pan full of hot water, so I chose loaf pans).

 

Put at least 4 c water on to boil, preferably in a kettle so you can pour easily, but if no kettle, just be careful. While waiting on water, assemble the bread pudding. It is advisable to assemble the bread pudding as close to your oven as possible. You’ll understand why in a minute. When milk is just beginning to bubble, pour it over the coconut oil and stir to melt. Add flax eggs to maple syrup and spice bowl. Whisk to combine. Slowly add to milk/coconut oil bowl and whisk to combine. Pour 1/2 of the liquid into each of the loaf pans. If you’ve not yet moved near the oven, please do it now. Add boiling water to the BOTTOM pan (in my case a pyrex casserole baker). Have someone open the oven for you and CAREFULLY carry the pan and slide it into the oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until browned as you’d like on top. When you press on top, you might see a little liquid bubble through the cracks, but it shouldn’t be a lot. Let sit in pan for at least 10 minutes so it can set up.

For caramel dessert sauce, add all ingredients to a power blender and go. Yes, please use a power blender rather than a food processor. Trust me on that one. Blend until smooth and pour on plate and on top of bread pudding.

For bread pudding breakfast, reheat bread pudding and drizzle maple syrup on top. Add raisins or nuts as you like.

What could be better than upcycling insanely stale bread? Eating bread pudding for breakfast, that’s what. Delish!

For more healthy baked goods and ideas about how to save money on food, check out our E-Book:Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals. Eat well, be well friends!

Remedy Testing and a Super Easy Treat

I don’t know what’s going on in your neck of the woods, but here in Central Maryland it seems like EVERYONE is sick. Flu is rampant. Adenovirus is on the loose. Stomach bugs abound. It is a minefield out there. Good thing it’s a least a quiet, stay at home time of year…. yeah. We got hit weeks ago and while everyone else is done, Momma has been sick for over 2 weeks now. I knew it wasn’t the flu, because the fever and aches never got THAT bad, so I avoided the doctor’s office so I wouldn’t get the flu while there…. And I proceeded to try to prepare for and do the whole Christmas thing…

I cut out a bunch of stuff I normally do. I asked people to bring food to events I usually cook for. I let my husband send me off to bed a few times. BUT with all that, I probably didn’t do enough to take care and protect myself. So this thing has dragged on and on, and anytime I thought it was getting better, a new sign of unwellness would erupt. I began to do some searches… if I don’t want to go to the doc and get antibiotics to change the color of the gunk coming out of my head and lungs (sorry, TMI), what can I do to change that color? If I’ve had so much honey for my cough that I feel like I’m going to toss, but still need an expectorant, what can I do? If I’m supposed to sing at church and my throat hurts and sounds scratchy, what can I do?  If I am not up to making Christmas cookies with my kids but they really, really really want to make them, what can I do? I’ll start with the remedies and end with a super easy and marginally healthy sweet treat.

Please understand that I am not a medical professional and that my N=1 study of natural remedies does not constitute science. I’m just sharing what has helped me so you can give it a go if your doctor’s office is flooded with flu patients as well. Please do seek professional medical attention if you need it.

Problem #1:  Respiratory Infection

I think it’s likely that my cough became an infection. Again I say this because of the color of the junk my poor tired body was producing. In desperation, I turned to turmeric, specifically turmeric and honey… huh? I used this recipe after a friend pointed it out to me and I read why it might be a good idea. It seems turmeric can be a super great natural antibiotic. I mixed about 3 ounces of raw honey with a TABLESPOON of turmeric. Yes, you need to use that much, and yes, it will taste nasty. Sorry. I like turmeric, but wow. That’s a whole lot. The protocol is for three days: first day 1/2 t every hour (I do NOT wake myself for medicine because sleep is more important, IMO); second and third days 1/2 every 2 hours. This wiped out my whole supply and during the second day everything coming out of me turned clear and I felt like I’d made more progress in healing that I had in over a week. Nicely done turmeric.

Problem #2: Junk Stuck in the Lungs

It’s wretched to cough and cough and cough. It’s even worse to do it and not have it do what your lungs need it to do. I had exhausted my tolerance for honey, and while it helped, I wondered if I couldn’t do better. A quick search showed that I could indeed get a better response without having to keep tasting so much honey. I gave this recipe for a homemade decongestant and expectorant to the test. I took the first dose and about an hour later noticed that my nose was more clear than it had been for over a week. I also noticed that I was still coughing, but not so violently and always bringing stuff up – sorry, gross I know, but necessary when it’s stuck in there. VERY impressed with this little number.

Problem #3: Scratchy Throat

This one came from my pal, a nurse and singer. Sounds like a good combo when you’re looking for throat relief, right? This one is super simple and is very similar to the master cleanse drink, if you’ve ever done that. I squeeze the juice from one whole lemon into a large mug, add about 2 t honey (more honey, oy), and a shake of cayenne pepper. Add boiling water to fill the mug or travel cup if you’re planning to go sing somewhere. This magical potion restored my singing voice very quickly. Another great one to keep in the files.

Problem #4: Disappointed Cookie Makers

Ironically the problem here is not so much that we wouldn’t have cookies. I’d already given up the idea of handing out treats to neighbors, and we just don’t go through treats very quickly. During one of the last days of school before the holidays, I donned plastic gloves and made my awesome Crancherry White Chocolate Cookies. I chose these because they are gluten free, so our first set of guests (Bigg Sis, Mr. Bigg Sis, and child of Bigg Sis) could eat them sans consequence. They are not, I discovered, my daughter’s favorite. Shocker. I discovered in talking to here, that what she wanted was to make cookies with me. She was craving the ritual and the joy of us creating a Christmas treat together. So I did some quick thinking. I needed to give her the experience without it taking a long time so I could get some more rest and/or do 1 of approximately 8,000 more chores before people started to show up. I bought whole wheat pretzel rods. I bought dark chocolate chips. Yeah, you know where I’m going.

I melted the chips in the microwave (try to contain your horror, desperate times people). I set the timer for just a couple of minutes and put it at half power. You should know that sometimes the chips hold their shape even though they are melted. You should stir them after a couple of minutes to see if they are actually melted. Err on the side of less time – burnt chocolate is a tragedy.

So we stirred the melted chocolate to melt the last few little bits. Then grabbed a pretzel rod each, dipped it in the chocolate and swirled the end around a bit, then held it up so that the chocolate would work it’s way down the rod. It is not necessary to coat the whole rod for these to taste amazing. Lay them on wax paper on a tray to cool. Wait until they are completely cooled to remove them. Remove to a storage container if you can keep the wolves in your house from eating them all. This was a HUGE hit. It was messy fun that landed us with chocolate on our hands that the kids were more than happy to lick off when done. Took us about half an hour and we made plenty to share. DEFINITELY a great quick treat trick, and a nice time spent with my kids, even if it wasn’t really cooking. ;-)

I hope your holiday has been healthy, peaceful, and soul satisfying. If you’re ill, know I’m thinking about you and urging you to take better care of yourself than I have. If you’re in that New Year’s Resolution making place, check out our E-Book, Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals, for some help with cleaning up your eating habits and filling your life with delicious real food. Eat well, be well friends.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Drops

I have many fond memories of peanut butter cookies. When I was young, a neighbor introduced me to Nutter Butter Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies. I don’t know if you remember them, or if they still make them. Even if they’ve faded from our collective retail opportunities, I will always remember them because when he asked his mother for one, it was always by full name, the whole shebang, from “Nutter” to “Cookie” with a “please” tacked on at the end. He was a polite and specific kid. These were peanut butter cookies for my young friend.

While I enjoyed those cookies (any food acquired from someone else’s Mom ranked high for me as it does with most little people), I admit that I greatly preferred my mother’s homemade peanut butter cookies. I’ve no idea what recipe she used or if she had any special tricks, but with four kids I’m guessing she used one from a well used copy of Betty Crocker or something and simply followed the instructions and finished them with the required fork cross on the top to press them a little flatter. That is a peanut butter cookie to me.

I later I had a friend who’s Mom was on the verge of opening a cake business. She was doing a lot of practicing and a lot of baking all around, and she introduced me to another popular peanut butter cookie. The chocolate drop. These are the round jobbies with a chocolate kiss in the middle pressed down to flatten the dough a bit and add that chocolate peanut butter magic. I can still be convinced that anything with chocolate is worth a try, so I happily helped taste test lots of these, which were peanut butter cookies for my friend.

In considering what sort of treat to make for lunches recently, I remembered a happy Halloween discovery. Ms. Picky Pants now likes Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, at least she does right now. ;-) While I’m not particularly enthusiastic about these particular candies as they seem to have acquired a waxy/filminess that I don’t remember noticing in my own Trick or Treating days, I was happy to hear of her appreciation for the peanut butter/chocolate combo as this opens up many doors in the lunchbox treat department. And so I embarked on devising a peanut butter cookie for my little people. As usual, it became something of a exercise in revision mashed up with memory and a lot of tasting. I’ve discovered that omitting raw eggs from cookie dough has the slightly negative side effect of removing the only real barrier to eating the dough raw until you feel sick… but I digress. Without further wandering into my own raw cookie dough mishaps, I give you..

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Drops  – inspired by Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ “Big Gigantoid Crunchy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies” in Vegan with a Vengeance. – makes approx 3 dozen cookies

  • 2 c white wheat flour
  • 2 c rolled oats
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 c coconut oil
  • 1 c peanut butter
  • 1 c solid sweet (I used turbinado, you could mix white and brown)
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1/2 coconut milk (or whatever you like)
  • 2 t vanilla
  • approx. 36 large sized dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil baking sheets, or cheat and use parchment like I did.

This is pretty standard cookie procedure stuff. Mix the dry ingredients (not including the sugar). Mix the wet ingredients and the sugar in a large bowl. Add the dry to the wet and stir to combine. The dough will be on the stiff side. Make balls with about 2 T of dough. Place on baking sheet. Flatten with a fork by pressing in one direction and then the opposite. Think about someone who made you cookies when you were little. Add a dark chocolate chip to the top of each, pressing it in a bit so it will stick.

  

Bake in oven for 9-11 minutes or until just starting to brown. Let cool on baking sheet for at least 10 minutes so they will firm up. Continue cooling the ones you don’t consume on a wire rack. Delish!

Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (DF)

The garden continues to produce green squash at a startling rate. What a lovely problem to have. If the plants keep up like this I will surely shred and freeze a good bit of it for use in zucchini bread and mac and cheez in the colder months, but it’s nice to have some to use right now, today, when our thoughts are turning toward books, notebooks, pencils (I love the smell of new pencils) and  LUNCHBOXES. It is time for Momma to get busy making some reasonable goodies for those lunch boxes.

 photo IMG_0658.jpgWhile I was thinking about the need to start baking for school and noticing the abundant zucchini, the internet happened and mashed them together for me. I was inspired and responded with my usual “Ooooh, that looks good. What ingredients should I change?” The result got a straight yummy thumbs up from 3 of the 4 of us and even earned a “pretty good” from Ms. Picky Pants. That is a good cooking day in my house. Because of the lower fat content, these cookies are a little more biscuity than most, but ring all the necessary cookie bells to satisfy treat eaters who are willing to overlook the little flecks of green, which I think are beautiful, BTW. And so, without further ado, I give you… Continue reading

Sanely Delicious Chocolate Cake (DF)

The season of birthdays has begun here in Mid-Maryland. For whatever reason a good portion of my family was born in the spring and summer and once the parade of birthdays begins, it doesn’t slow down until September.  Friends, that’s a lot cake.

I do love to celebrate and Mr. Little Sis LOVES cake, so despite my lack of enthusiasm for it (more of a pie gal honestly) I decided to honor his birthday with his favorite variety, a serious chocolate cake. While I’ve baked a lot, I don’t consider myself an authority on dairy free baking, particularly when it’s not for bite sized bits for lunch boxes. I decided to turn to a friend with more experience, and as usual the search for assistance bore delicious fruit.

Big Sis introduced you to our friend Somer (if you didn’t already know her, that is) with her Cheddar Cheesy Cashew Spread and I turned back to that same fabulous vegan cook for a little cake help. Somer delivered with her Insane Chocolate Layer Cake, a low fat, whole grain decidedly chocolate cake.

IMG_0351I made just a couple of changes to make it work better for my family and it was a lovely and actually quite sane chocolate treat. I swapped maple syrup for Somer’s agave and cut it to 3/4 c. Readers who are not accustomed to less sweet treats or who are new to healthier baking should use the full cup.  I also cut the apple cider vinegar to 2 T. because I cut the sweet I thought it was important to cut the sour zip to maintain balance. I also used only a little raw cacao and mostly used regular cocoa powder. I find that if I use too much raw cacao, nobody around here sleeps, and I’ll just admit it that one of the reasons I am the sane Mom that I am is that at the end of the day, people go to sleep. The cake baked up just as Somer indicated that it would, although when I make it again, I will use 8 inch pans rather than 9 inch. It rose, but the layers were not as lofty as I wanted them to be visually.

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For layering and topping our cake I used a cashew cream and a chocolate ganache. Concensus at the table, particularly amongst the younger crowd, was that I should have used less nut cream and more chocolate. It is important to note that my crew would pretty much always call for more chocolate.

Cashew Cream

  • 1 very full cup of cashews, soaked in clean water for at least an hour
  • 1/2 c coconut (or other alt milk)
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1 T plus 1 t maple syrup
  • 1/4 t salt

Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until creamy. Yes, that’s it.

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Dark Chocolate GanacheIMG_0353

  • 1 1/2 c dark chocolate chips
  • cream from 1 can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight (the cream will solidify at the top of the can and can then be scooped out, and yes, it’s awesome)

Place chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler (or stacked pots) with water in the bottom heat on medium high. Keep an eye on the chips as they melt, stirring occasionally. They hold their shape even when they are essentially melted. When the chips are melty enough to stir, remove from heat and stir in the coconut cream. What you do at this point depends on how you want to use the gananche/frosting. If you want to frost the cake in a more conventional way, you should chill it for at least 20 minutes. If you wish to drizzle, as I have, drizzle away immediately and then place the cake in the refrigerator so the chocolate can set up a bit. Wow that’s chocolate-y. And oh so very delish. Happy Birthday Mr. Little Sis.

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Fruit Glorious Fruit!

Was that the name of the musical or just one of the songs?  I don’t remember ;-)

At any rate we are coming up on yet another wonderful holiday which has been transformed from a celebration of renewal, life and goodness into yet another opportunity to stuff candy in all colors of the rainbow and all textures imaginable into our gullets.  Okay, that’s a little harsh, we will stuff other things into our gullets as well…. personally I’m hoping for some asparagus.

But can our children truly appreciate the deeper meanings of the day and the time with friends and family while glazed over with sugar inside and out?  Well maybe they can, but I certainly can’t and it makes me hyperventilate just thinking about it!  Whew.  Caught my breath, clearly it’s time to stop ranting and share something meaningful here.

Like fruit!  Fruit is meaningful and wonderful and full of life and juice (usually).  It grows on trees, bushes, canes, vines… and in baskets!  You’ve seen fruit baskets right?  Incredible how the different varieties can grow from the same basket.  And baskets fit in perfectly with Easter!  So am I suggesting that you give your children fruit baskets for Easter?  Ha!  Even I am not that much of a nave fool.  I am however going to suggest that you make a fruit dessert.  Why not?  And if you really wanted to, you could substitute some of the candy for interesting or exotic fruits in the basket and I wouldn’t tell a soul.

I found all manner of suggestions – all of which are fast and easy – with presenting fruit in a fancy dessert-like way.  I decided to find a way to make a dairy free fruit dip / cream that could be used with any fruit to make it fancier.  That recipe follows and then the list.  In addition, Little Sis has some creamy, dairy free fruit zipper-upper in her nectarine pie.  Check that one out as well!

Mine is sweet orange sunflower dip

1 cup raw sunflower seeds soaked for at least 6 hours in 2 cups of water
zest from 1/2 – 1 orange.  Zest is a little tart, so if you are wary, start with 1/2 and add more if you want
juice from 1 orange (was a bit less than 1/4 cup if you have juice in the frig)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Place all ingredients in food processor and run it for a few minutes until well combined.  Scrape down the sides a few times to catch the errant seeds.

Serve with fruit.  My 13 year old enjoyed this and didn’t do his usual, can I have some dessert after eating it, so it did the trick!

 

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So here is a list of fancy sounding, delicious looking and easy fruit desserts that you might serve up on Easter, or on any day!  I am intrigued by the idea of just broiling some fruit (like pineapple or mango) and it’s ready to go.  You might put a little ice cream with it, but you might not, and if you did, at least there would be more fruit and less dessert on the plate, right?

Saucy & Sweet Grilled Pineapple:

Citrus Salad with Lemongrass Syrup

Easy Glazed Banana

Tropical Fruit Salad with Creamy Lime Sauce

Mixed Berry Salad with Mint

Citrus Infused Strawberries

Cocoa-Nut Bananas

Broiled Mango

Chocolate & Banana

Carmelized Bananas

Almond Cream with Strawberries

Enjoy and have a rejuvenating and wonderful celebration of the return of spring and the power of goodness and love.

 

Almost Spring Dried Fruit Cake (GF)

Soon you will have lots more fruit to choose from and you will not be interested in dried fruit (although mixed with nuts, seeds and low sugar cereal it is always a good snack)….. but perhaps you have quite a bit in your pantry and are hankering for a fruity baked  good while you wait for the new fruit to come in.  Well you can hanker less now.  You know, like a little less hankering a lot more baking?

My family LOVES this recipe which I shamelessly lifted and only slightly adapted from our good friend at Wuppenif….. She lives in a much colder clime and has a longer wait for summer fruit than we do.  It might cheer her up to know that we are all enjoying her delicious cake ;-)  You will enjoy her blog which includes GF cooking and baking with a woodstove and enjoying the great outdoors in Canada.

Wuppenif made this cake for Christmas, so you know it is special – and both of us make it GF.  I’m sure you could substitute whole wheat flour though if you are not so inclined….. or declined!

icing?  Who needs icing - moist and sweet with fruit, you don't need icing on this one.

icing? Who needs icing – moist and sweet with fruit, you don’t need icing on this one.

Dried Fruit Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups dried fruit (I used raisins, cherries, and cranberries – use whatever you have / works for your tribe!)
75 ml brandy (I used red wine)
Juice from one orange
Zest from one orange
25 ml lemon juice
Splash hot water (use your own judgement; the idea is to provide enough liquid for the fruit to swell nicely)
1 cup Bob’s red mill GF baking mix
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup almond flour/meal (mine is from making almond milk – may be a little different, could also use coconut flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp guar or xanthan gum
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp dried cloves or allspice
1/2 tsp salt
7/8 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup nuts (she used slivered almonds, I used pecans in small bits)
2 eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil (she used butter), melted
3 Tbsp molasses
1/4 cup water (I used almond)

Method

Preliminaries – preheat oven to 350 F
Assemble and soak the dried fruit in a bowl with the wine, zest, juice and water; allow to soak for a minimum of an hour, but the longer the better (I only managed about 45 minutes and it was fine)
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl
Melt coconut oil / butter, mix with molasses and water or milk
Combine wet and dry mixtures and add in fruit and nuts for a final stir
Pour into greased cake tin (I prefer a bundt pan)

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Bake for approx. 40 – 50 min

 

Let cool for a bit and then enjoy!

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Wuppenif has prettier pictures as well….. so you might want to check them out.  Personally, I’m going to go make the real thing and gaze only briefly at it before eating :-)

May thoughts of spring and summer warm your thoughts while tasty leftovers of the winter season warm your belly.

 

Veggie-licious Snacks

It all comes to down to space right?  Although some stomachs are bigger than othesr, and I’m talking on the inside, not the outside… there is a limited amount of space in a stomach for food.   The more of that space you fill with vegetables, the less space there is for more objectionable, less nutritious items.  This is not to say that only vegetables are healthy, but you pretty much can’t do better.  And you KNOW it is much easier to fill in the holes for carbohydrates and protein, I doubt you’ll go too low in either category if you eat more vegetables.

Although the eat more veggies philosophy will serve anyone who wants to be healthier well, it becomes problematic in relation to ‘snacks’.  My son will come home from school inquiring about snack food and my list of fruits and vegetables / dips / bread with a healthy topping is followed by his question, “after that can I have a ‘snack?”  Snack has become synonymous with treat… which in his mind is something he’s not supposed to have often.  Ah – that old beast – Forbidden non-fruit, right?

Again, and we have discussed this previously in our Baby Steps series, I rely on Pre-Emptive Produce, i.e. – fill up on veggies first!  Requiring a healthy snack prior to a smaller helping of whatever you allow as a less than healthiest snack choice in your home still means more veggies and less crap.  It works for me as well.  An orange, an apple, a carrot dipped in almond butter, some leftover roasted sweet potato, all make me able to remember that I don’t need to eat some of the more tempting items in my pantry.  So with the seasons of more plentiful produce upon us…. I promise they really are upon us, if a little delayed this year… here are some suggestions for veggie-licious snacks beyond the carrot and celery stick.

Sweet & Spicy carrots:
Cut 2 large carrots into chunks, microwave for 60 – 90 second or to desired tenderness

Mix together 1 tsp maple syrup, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ginger and a pinch of salt P1010627 Mix with carrots.
Make a double or triple batch and store in  the frig in little containers that can be grabbed – like a ‘snack’! P1010630 Pickly- cucumbers:
Slice 1 large or 2 med – small cucumbers into a glass container.
Add 1 Tbsp sugar & 1 Tbsp white vinegar
Cover with water
Add pepper if desired
Let sit for 4-5 hours – taste and add more vinegar / sugar / pepper if you like
Little Sis has some more complicated but delicious pickley cucumber goodness here.

Coleslaw cups
:
Coleslaw is very adaptable. Folks who don’t like (or don’t eat) mayo, can use alternate recipes and you can make it a little sweet without going crazy on the sugar!   Little Sis has a great cole slaw recipe here.

Roasted or baked potatoes
– this is a great alternative to chips. And if you can afford small, colored potatoes, then even better!  A mixture of potatoes and sweet potatoes is very nice and can be achieved in a 375 – 425 oven for 20 – 40 minutes depending on how small you cut the pieces.  But if you are making them for a snack it can go on while you are eating or doing something else right?  I just make extra when we have them for dinner – toss them in the frig and they are there to be easily heated up and scarfed down as a delicious snack!

Cauliflower crunch
:
Coat florets in olive oil then sprinkle paprika and breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes (turning once).  I usually roast things at 375.

Frozen Grapes & Kiwi:
As simple as it sounds.  Place grapes and bite-sized chunks of peeled kiwi on a parchment lined baking sheet in the freezer.  When hard, place in smaller containers and keep in the freezer.  Healthy, tasty frozen snack!

Crispy Asparagus:
dip asparagus in egg white and bread with either whole wheat panko, or Italian breadcrumbs and bake til crispy.  I would think this would work with green beans as well – and again 375 would be a good place to start – but watch them closely the first time!

Unusual fruits and veggies:
Novelty can be good or bad – depending on the person, but it is at least special or different.  Try serving fresh pineapple for dessert one night.  It goes on sale and can be a lot cheaper than ice cream (if you buy good or non-dairy ice cream in particular).  Sugar snap peas make a great snack that many kids like because they are sweet and crunchy.  Offer something different!

And of course there is the option of dipping various crispy fruits and veggies into:
hummus
salad dressing
nut butter
yogurt (yogurt mixed with a little cinnamon and sweetener, or onion soup mix – read the label!!!)
Nutty Lunch Dip

So change the snack paradigm in your house.  A snack is sustenance to carry you through to the next meal, or through a workout / physical trial.  It can also be a treat…. surely some of these will fill both bills for the snackers in your house.  And if they still have to have a little somethin’ somethin’ that is not at the top of your list of acceptable, they can have less of it on top of their healthy snack.

GF Blender Banana Bread

My husband is a banana bread fiend.  I used to roll out 2 loaves every 10 days or so.

Eat one, freeze one.  Thaw one, eat one.  Empty bag, eat none.

It went kinda like that.  In addition, having a loaf of banana bread in the freezer is a marvelous thing for unexpected gatherings, gifts or condolences.  At any rate – I had about the easiest recipe in the world straight from the Vita Mix recipe book.  Mix up the wet and banana in the blender – mix the dry in a bowl and about an hour later your house is filled with wonderful smells and folks hanging around in the kitchen.  Alas – those were our gluten-full days!  The banana bread went the way of so many things we used to eat.

I have been hesitant to just substitute GF baking mix for everything because it is very expensive and because it is mostly chickpea flour (which I don’t want to OD on), and has things like potato starch and tapioca starch in it which is basically sugar, so I’ve resisted.  However, the pile of browning bananas on my counter were begging me to turn them into something other than a smoothie, so I revisited the banana bread with the same method I used in my GF chocolate chip cookies: Mix about half the called for flour as GF baking mix, the other half as GF flours and still use the baking powder or soda in the original amount.  I’m liking this new approach, and my husband is LOVING his GF banana bread.

I promise I’ll get off the GF baking track soon, but it is so lovely to indulge in an old favorite that’s so much healthier than what I can buy at the store!  So I made this recipe gluten free and vegan.  Enjoy!

GF Blender Banana Bread
1 flax egg
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup milk – I used homemade almond milk
2 ripe bananas
1 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon (or sub 1/2 tsp lemon extract)
1 cup GF baking mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour (you could probably sub other GF flours for these 2)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Mix your flax egg if using (1 Tbsp freshly ground flax meal to 3 Tbsp cold water, stir and let sit)
While egg is setting…
Pre-heat oven to 350
Lightly grease a loaf pan (I used coconut oil)
Mix the last 6 ingredients in a bowl
Put the first 6 ingredients in the blender.
Blend the wet on low until chunks are gone

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Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated
Pour into loaf pan
Bake at 350 for 45 – 55 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool for a bit before slicing or it will crumble and smush.

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Looking pretty good.  I was delighted with the texture – despite the cracks on top it was quite moist.

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Delicious and banana-y, banany?
Have you successfully adapted an old favorite to a new way of eating?
Has anyone come up with healthy french fries yet?
Just kidding – we consider roasted potatoes fit that bill, but I’m open to other ideas ;-).