A February Affair to Remember

Bake Sale Boxes
Best. Bake Sale. Ever.

Oh my goodness. Here it is, another year with a resolution to get more posts in; and here I am, staring at the finish line of February. Already!? I mean, where does the time go?

Well, I will tell you precisely where that time has been going.

I’m going to call the event from this February a definite Affair to remember. As the month of Heart shaped everything and All things LOVE-related approached, I found myself overcome with baking whims and fancies. I was in the mood for baking and sharing delicious food love in the only way we do it in our kitchen – gluten and dairy free, cane-sugar free, and chemical-free. Better yet, I was on a mission to create some grain-free goodies that would send my family’s hearts {and bellies} a-flutter.

And so the affair began with this craving to cook. And this craving grew into so much more. My wild hair had a voice, and this voice was screaming  “SHARE YOUR FOOD!” which, in turn, translated into BAKESALE!!!!!  Yes! A BAKE sale. Not your ordinary box-mix, bleached flour, food-dyed, waxy sprinkled cupcakes , not uber-refined sugar cookies, not Rice Treats with a side of BHT,  but GOOD and NATURAL and NOURISHING ingredients baked up in a way that kids who ordinarily may not get those “treats” on Valentine’s day can partake and can truly enjoy! This was not just ANY bake sale, it was the BEST. BAKE Sale. EVER.  {at least in my humble opinion} I offered two selections for the treat boxes: A Paleo Box, or An Allergy-Friendly Box. {I also offered a Vegan option on the allergy-friendly boxes}

We had boxes ship all over the country, from California to Florida to Michigan ~ food love took flight! 😀
And the local orders got all packaged up in these perfectly lovely pink boxes. It was SO much fun!

My non-profit, Greater Tots, has been on simmer since our third little tot came, so I wanted to donate the proceeds from this bake sale to a place where the money would really be able to be used. Besides, cooking for a cause makes those hours in the kitchen so much more meaningful. I had no trouble coming up with an idea of where to gift these profits, either.

On our journey with our little Canary and in starting my non-profit, blessings have come in all sorts of ways, but one of the most obvious is in the comrades, the wonderful friends who, like myself, have a very special wind blowing their sail, a passion for sharing a message of hope, recovery, and a life with purpose for children with Autism or “Autism-like” challenges. One of these wonderful friends directs an ABA-therapy-center filling families on the daily with HOPE. Hope Center for Autism {and my friend Susan Wood} is NOT your ordinary ABA center; they get “it” in a way that their families not only recognize but become forevermore grateful for, and they work tirelessly to raise funds for their families.

The other fantastic friend that was an immediate shoe-in for this idea was my AMAZING warrior-mom-pal Jackie Polvado. Jackie and I have most definitely crossed paths for a reason, there is no doubt about that. Her mission is one that simply puts a smile on my face and grounds me just at the thought. She home schools her oldest daughter Ashlyn, who has Autism. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Jackie has been growing an idea and a dream over the past years to create a haven of hope and healing in such a groovy way – a recovery ranch where families can find camaraderie, comfort, and community while they work toward recovering from Autism. I love the approach the entire Polvado family has taken toward, not only raising their child with Autism and working tirelessly toward healing for Ashlyn, but toward raising their other two fabulous children as well, utilizing programs like Horseboy and Son-Rise to create tactics that are child-led and have allowed them to look at life through Ashlyn’s eyes and connect in ways that have gotten them great progress and connection to one another.  All of this, and she is a fellow “Canary In The Kitchen”, cooking delicious gluten-free and allergy-friendly meals for her family on the daily. How could I NOT have become fast friends with miss Polvado?  So, the other organization I was baking for was Ashlyn’s Hope.

So, now that you have the WHY behind the Best. Bale Sale. Ever., here is the what and the how. I have had some requests for the recipes I used. I am going to share many of these recipes with you here. Because there was so much to bake, I worked very intuitively in my kitchen (my favorite ways to cook), and not so much straight from a recipe or with precise measurements. I absolutely LOVE getting into my groove in the kitchen, but, admittedly, this doesn’t bode so well for sharing the recipes because I don’t always write down exact measurements or pinches of this or that that may get tossed into the bowl to get me to the right flavors or batter consistencies that I am looking for.

That being said, here is my best attempt to share with you some of the  yummy treats that came out of my February Affair to Remember. And, even better yet, I have gathered some assistance from a very clever boy named Ethan, who felt inspired enough by his own box to go go through the photos on the Facebook Event page and cleverly name each goodie 😀 You see? When you take the time to send love out, you get love right back in return. A special thanks to my friend, Ethan Wilcox.

I will be working on posting the links to the recipes, so if your favorite treat doesn’t have a link to it’s recipe just yet, please bear with me.

Let’s start with the PALEO yummies ~ The Paleo Valentine’s Boxes were completely grain, dairy and cane-sugar free, but, don’t let that fool you; there were some delicious treats inside these little pink boxes. Click on each link to got to the recipes.

First we had the Cherry Sweetheart Cookies. These are so easy you will be amazed!

Grain-Free Cherry Sweetheart Cookies

From those, I decided on a chocolate version of the same cookie base that could be sandwiched to mimic a traditional French Macaron. They baked up really quickly and were also a fast and easy recipe, and what goes better with chocolate on Valentine’s Day than strawberry (frosting, that is). They are adorable in person, and oh so fun to eat! Yum.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Paleo Macaron

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Then, I whipped up these  three bite-sized cuties that were oh so yummy and oh so Paleo…
The Raspberry Beret Macaroon, The Lemon Cake Truffle, and {saving the best for last} the Turtle Almond Cake Truffle {there are probably beams of heavenly light coming from your screen as you read that one, it is THAT good!}

The Raspberry Beret Macaroons ~ a subtle lemon and raspberry macaroon of egg white and super fine organic unsweetened coconut.
Raspberry Beret Macaroons

Lemon Cake Truffle
Lemon Cake Truffles

And Here, in all of it’s glorious wonderment, is the
~~~Turtle Almond-Cake Truffle~~~
Excuse me for a moment while I grab a napkin to wipe the dribble from the corners of my mouth!

Turtle Almond-Cake Truffle

Some boxes got a sweet heart-shaped cutout cookie sandwich made with these basic almond flour cookies.

Paleo Heart Cut-Out Cookies

And then each box was topped off with some home-made Gummy Candies in bite-sized hearts for this holiday of love, and these lovelies were free of artificial food dyes {need I even say it? We don’t ever use those nasty petrochemicals in our house} and were made with Great Lakes Gelatin.

Very Berry Gummies

The ALLERGY-FREE BOXES

Vanilla and Chocolate Cupcakes ~ For these two classic cupcake flavors, I worked straight from the infamous BabyCakes cookbook. With all of the different things going on in my kitchen, I knew that these recipes would be consistently successful and delicious, as always, as well as meet all of the claims of being allergy-free {and by using a corn-free baking powder, they were also corn-free}. Because these are not my recipes, they are not mine to share. But I will share the frosting recipe, which to me tastes like brown sugar and butter, so I call it “Brown Sugar” Frosting.

Vanilla Cupcakes with "Brown-Sugar" Frosting Chocolate Cupcakes

The CHOCOLATE cupcakes, because many boxes traveled by mail, turned into Cake Pops 😀
GFCFSF Cake Pops
Raspberry Blondie, we called “PINKIES”
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Iced Lemon Cookies and Cut-Out Lemon Cookies
Allergy-Free Iced Lemon Cookies. Cut-Out Lemon Cookies
Homemade Marshmallow Fluff  Rice KISSY Treats
Rice KISSY Treats
Vegan/Allergy-Friendly Chocolates
Raspberry Chocolates Chocolate Nutbutter Cups

And Some more Gummy Candies

Very Berry Gummies

Strawberry Frosting {Grain-Free, Paleo, and SCD legal}

Simple Strawberry Frosting {Grain-Free, Fruit Sweetened, Palo, SCD-legal}:

1 cup Spectrum organic Palm Shortening
1/2 cup freeze dried bananas, ground up in a spice grinders, mixer, or blender until it makes a powder
3 Tablespoons freeze dried organic strawberries, crushed {I like to have some larger chunks to see and taste}

First, I mixed the shortening with my hand mixer just to get a creamy consistency. Next, I added in the powdered banana and blended until well combined. I added the strawberries in last and mixed just until incorporated.

I transferred the icing to a piping bag. This was the perfect filling for the “Chocolate Covered Strawberry Macaroons” that were in the Palo Valentine’s boxes we did this year

.Chocolate Covered Strawberry Filled

This was  also the perfect topping for the Paleo Mini Lemon Muffins I made last week. :9 Oh the deliciousness!

De-toxify Your Thanksgiving Feast: You Don’t Have to be a Hippie for these 5 Simple Switches

I know what many of my social media friends {or family, for that matter} do when I am brave enough to post a health-food related post on my facebook timeline. I can practically feel the eyes rolling widely in a circle as I click the “share” button. I can practically hear the inner-dialogue of some of my friends telling themselves, ” Yeah right! Who has time for that?”

Well, a mom on a mission to help her babies can be quite a force, so I admit that I take things farther than many would feel compelled to when it comes to skipping the allergy-triggers, sugar, and chemicals in our daily diet regime. And that’s okay! I don’t ever post information about ingredients or ill-effects of our food choices intending to make anyone feel even an ounce of guilt. No way! The choices we have made in the past are done and gone. My hope is to open up the dialogue and the information so people may be motivated to stop haphazardly stuffing “stuff” into their mouth and to realize that the chemicals we put in….don’t necessarily always come out, especially with the mother-load of toxins we live with today.

Everyone is busy. Everyone, I think on some level,  wants to make good eating choices (except for the occasional meltdown, report card celebration, pms week, breakup, or…. maybe,  HOLIDAY).  When it comes to a holiday feast like Thanksgiving, it isn’t like we aren’t already clocking in some hours in the kitchen. Why not use those hours in the kitchen producing delicious AND nutritious food for our loved ones?

Are you one of those who thinks that taking the splurge-food out of the holiday is like sucking the entire joy from the celebration therefore rendering it “not-a-holiday-meal”? I can absolutely relate, because I used to be the same way. {Old Me: It just isn’t thanksgiving without cool-whip-topped, store-bought pumpkin pie.} When we first began our gluten, dairy, egg free diet for our daughter, I went along with mostrestrictions, too. The first holiday (who’m I kidding? The first year, or so!) I felt like I was “missing out” on the “good stuff” and was in somewhat of a state of mourning. It took me a minute, but I finally snapped into a new realization. This hook in which “that food” had on me was 99% emotionally engrained, and about 1% true love of that food.

Now that I have seen miracles of improvement in the health of my family, that emotional attachment has simply shifted, shifted to being emotionally attached to food that won’t harm our bodies and will amply boost our immune systems, our brain power, our healing power, and even our attitudes! Now, why in the world would I be mourning that?!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I know that there are many people who just don’t have the time to figure out “What’s bad about the food I’m eating?”. At this one meal alone, you could be feeding yourself hundreds of chemical additives, quite literally a buffet of neurotoxins! {And, here,  the turkey has been getting the bad rap for sleep-inducing tryptophan. Could it be the detox our bodies are forced into after this meal every year?}
Here are a handful of super-easy switches that ANYONE can make to their ingredient list to clean up the not-so-real-food stuffs and feed our families a real deal meal. You don’t have to be a hippie for these 5 simple switches to detoxify your thanksgiving feast:

1) Free your bird! 
Don’t take the chances on a chemically-altered, hormone and antibiotic-raised gobbler. Pre-order or find a local health food store that will get you a beautiful, free-ranging organic turkey. Don’t be fooled by “all-natural” or “vegetarian-fed” marketing ploys. Turkeys shouldn’t be vegetarians and this often means they are eating genetically modified soy feed (not typically turkey food! I’m just sayin’.)

2) Can those cans!!
Thanksgiving meal CAN really fill up with canned goods. Why!? If it is vegetables you want, use the real deal! or the frozen options { and preferably organic}. If it’s fruit, this is a no-brainer! Fresh is by far the best tasting, and what is easier to prepare than fresh fruit? Take a few minutes to chop fresh produce and you will not only save your guests from some unwanted chemicals, you will be filling their bellies with the finest ingredients for their body in the most bio-available nutrients!

If cans are the only way you know to go – at the very least, opt for a BPA free variety. I really like the Eden Organics products and have found great deals at Vitacost.com or even on Amazon.com.

The second staple that comes to mind is Cranberry Sauce. Why not Make your own? Think it takes too much time? You may be surprised.  There are some super easy recipes online using Organic Cranberries. Make it in a crockpot a couple of days or even a couple of weeks ahead of time. Try this simple recipe:

2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup raw organic honey or organic grade b maple syrup
1/4 cup orange juice
Cook on low for at least 4 hours, adding water if needed. Store for up to two weeks.

If you want to purchase and don’t mind the refined sugar splurge, try an organic variety in a box instead of a BPA-lined can. Like this one from Pacific Foods:
Cranberry Sauce

3) Bye-Bye Food Dyes!
For some reason, the first thanksgiving ingredient that pops into my mind when I think of food-dyes is maraschino cherries. I especially love it when parents think this is “fruit” to be giving to their kids and therefore one of the healthier options. RED means STOP! Red food dye {red 40} is the most common food coloring used in the United States. It is made from petrochemicals. It is not food. Save your brain and the brains of your children by simply stocking up this dye-free version from Tillen Farms! If your recipe can handle the frozen or fresh, try that. I buy a huge bag of organic frozen sweet cherries at Costco every month. They are delicious and they have one ingredient on the list: ORGANIC CHERRIES. See. Simplify, that’s what I always say. http://www.naturalcandystore.com/product/all-natural-maraschino-cherries/made-in-usa-candy {I am sure you can order these on Amazon or Vitacost as well} The previous link has some great dye-free candy options, even chemical free food colorings and toppings like sprinkles. Take a minute to search around. I am  not getting paid to say that :D, I have just been thankful for their efforts over the years and have ordered from them many times.

4) Buy Organic & Go For No-GMO
If you have ever wondered what kinds of chemicals your food has been bathed in before it touches your grocery shelves, you have to check out this website. It may explain why spending an extra $.025 on that apple may be worth it in the long run.  Buy organic produce, especially your apples or pears (including apple sauces or ciders or juice). Apples are the top of the list for pesticide and herbicide residue. The others topping the charts are pears, broccoli, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, peppers, strawberries, peaches & nectarines, potatoes, zucchini, and any of your greens. Lets’ not forget about your coffee and tea! Be sure to check the list and grab organics of these heavy -chemical carriers.

5) MSGeez & HFSeize (HFC)
Did you know that if you are buying your chicken broth from the store that it most likely contains an MSG ingredient. You can’t just look for the letters anymore, they don’t tell you that their products contain MSG now that the world knows the health implications of MSG. Be on the lookout for these other terms:

Textured protein
Autolyzed yeast
Yeast extract
Yeast food
Glutamate
Glutamic Acid
Autolyzed plant protein
Sodium caseinate
Calcium caseinate
Hydrolyzed protein
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein(HVP)
Hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP)
Soy protein extract
Natural flavors

The only store-bought option I would use, even though it does have “natural flavorings” is one by Imagine Brands Foods. But if you have never made your own pot of broth – make it your one “fancy” kitchen project that you do for yourself this year! There are hundreds of recipes online that can guide you. There are even YouTube videos if you need a live tutorial. You can make chicken stock or broth, or a simple vegetable broth to use in your dishes this holiday. Make it this week, or this coming Sunday while the husband is watching football, or throw the ingredients into a pot while you are chopping veggies for dinner tonight. It is literally throwing things in a pot, adding *pure* water, and letting it boil! You can freeze it and thaw it the day before Thanksgiving and you will have delicious, fresh, homemade flavors to create flavor for your mashed potatoes or gravy or green beans, etc.  Make your own, you won’t regret it!

& HFSeize (HFC/ High Fructose Corn Syrup)? Well, just say no, its the only way to go! Again, the goal is switch out chemically altered foods and get back to food in its most natural state. That is the way in which our body knows what to do with it. Natural food goes through a series and system in our bodies of triggering  functions that metabolize and utilize the nutrients and vitamins. Anything short of that is just leaving a mess for our bodies to be burdoned with and then try to fix. HFC skips over some vital steps that true ‘fructose’ triggers, thus burdening the body and messing up the system. HFC has been linked to diabetes, obesity, cancer, allergies & asthma, and even triggering seizures. Don’t know about you, but that is not a list that I want to put on my Thanksgiving table.  Best just avoid it in any way, shape, or form.

This is a great week to start your shopping list. Pull out those recipes and highlight ingredients that may need to be brought into today’s current standards of health. Get creative and try a real-food version of an old classic! Unfortunately, just because the proverbial “grandma” used it, doesn’t make it a “safe” ingredient; especially, since when Grandma started using it, the cancer rate wasn’t 1 in 3 Americans, if it was before the 1940’s it was likely no one knew what “diabetes” was, 1 in 6 children didn’t have a learning disability, and  1 in 88 children did not have Autism. Our food matters to us today and it certainly matters to our kids and their kids of tomorrow. We can’t do it all in one day, but we can certainly make a few small changes toward a healthier holiday meal for our families!

~Happy Gobbling, Canaries!~

PS. Look around you! There are bound to be local farmers. There could also be new bakeries in your area offering gluten free or even grain free options with healthier ingredients.  The trend is most definitely rising. Best of luck shopping over the next weeks for your healthy Thanksgiving ingredients.

~Kendra

Some great online shopping resources:
www.vitacost.com
www.amazon.com
www.mountainroseherbs.com

GhostMallows {Sugar-less Marshmallows}

GhostMallows
GhostMallows
Honey marshmallows with coconut cinnamon pie spice sugar
Honey marshmallows with coconut cinnamon pie spice sugar

Hooray! It’s Halloween ~ one of my very favorite days of the year. It has been my favorite for as long as I can remember. But now, it has even more meaning to me. Last year on this spooky & fanciful holiday, our third little ‘punkin’ decided that he wanted Halloween as his birthday. I will remember that day forever. It was a peaceful morning, and by no means unexpected, since we were one day shy of 42 weeks and had been expecting an arrival “any day now” for many, many, many days. I awoke at about 6 in the morning feeling unmistakeable contractions that came about every 5 minutes. I rang my mom to start heading over to be here for our older two. By the time she arrived just a little over an hour later, I could barely talk or walk through each crashing wave of contraction.

This was a very special birth for me because we had chosen a more intimate setting at a birth center with a midwife. After two hospital births, I was anticipating an unforgettable and triumphant experience, and I got just that. Things went quickly and, even though the midwife never made it to our birth, I feel like the experience happened just as it was meant to. Even with a very quick turn of events that led to 4 very large calendar-style paramedics rushing into my little quaint birth center room, an ambulance ride downtown to the children’s hospital, an almost immediate intubation, and a week-long stay at NICU. Just in case you were wondering: no, going straight to NICU 3 hours after having a baby and having to experience your postpartum “rest” on a hard sofa in the corner of the room  for a week is NOT ideal.  All things considered, I still look back on that day with a very warm glow in my heart. It was the best morning of my life. Honestly & hands down. My little Halloween pumpkin is one year old today. {typed with a pouty face}

Our family and a few friends will be here on Saturday for a birthday celebration, so I am starting early in preparation, making lots of FUN Halloween treats for my sugar-free kids. Last Easter, I made marshmallows from beet-sugar and brown-rice-syrup, and the kids absolutely LOVED them. On this eve of Halloween, I whipped up a batch of spooky Halloween mallows, partially to try again with a sugarless marshmallow recipe (with an unrefined sweetener), and also because my son’s preschool is handing out orange (food-dyed orange) pumpkin marshmallows as a fun Halloween snack today. Now, my little punkin’ will have a clean and allergy-friendly version of food-love to enjoy.

These sticky sweets are going to be perfect for my treat-table for Saturday’s festivities, especially piped out into these fun ghost shapes, I got nothing but giggles from my peanut gallery when they saw them. My daughter especially appreciates the silliness of these GhostMallows, and has been talking to them since she got home from school.  Hope you enjoy these as Ghost Mallows or as plain ol’ squares. It is definitely a recipe for the “keeper” bin.

I tried these with maple syrup last week and they didn’t turn out as well as they did today, so this is definitely the recipe I will stick with for future batches.

1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons gelatin (prefereably from humainly-raised, grass-fed cows. I like this brand)**
1/2 cup honey (or 1 full cup if using all honey and no maple)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon real salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla

** FOR FULL SQUARES INSTEAD OF PIPING GHOSTS, DOUBLE THE GELATIN AND WATER – SO 3 Tablespoons GELATIN & 2/3 CUPS WATER**

In a large mixing bowl, I stirred together the gelatin, water, and vanilla and let stand while I heated my sweeteners. {I used a hand mixer, but you can use a stand mixer, too, if you prefer that. I like the hands on of making things like these. Its kind of like baker’s therapy for me, so simply use the mixing bowl here that goes with your stand mixer}

In a saucepan, I brought to a boil over medium-high heat my honey, maple syrup, and salt. I let the sugars heat to 240 {soft-ball stage}. I use a candy-thermomter, but you can always use the old-school method of dripping into ice cold water.

I carefully poured my hot honey mixture in a steady stream into my bowl of gelatin and water mixture, beating on medium speed with my hand mixer.

Once all of the honey mixture is incorporated, commence singing “WHIP IT!” because you will be whipping the ever-loving-yumminess out of this bowl of sweet goo until you have a cloud of fluffy marshmallow {about 10 minutes}.

[When a problem comes along….YOU MUST WHIP IT!]

Now – the SKY is the LIMIT with this marshmallow fluff!

Note: You will need some sort of powder substance to help with handling the complete and utter stickiness of the situation these marshmallows will create. Its a good problem to have, trust me.
What I used was my fall cinnamon-pie-spice-“sugar” mixture {which is just my cinnamon and coconut sugar recipe with pumpkin pie spice added in}.
You can use cinnamon, or if you feel like splurging on a bit of cane sugar here since you used honey in your recipe, powdered sugar can be used.

I sprinkled my powdered cinnamon-pie-spice-“sugar” generously on a sheet pan and rolled out half of the fluff. I spread with a spatula I had greased up with some coconut oil. These are now little squares of marshmallow.

Then, I transferred the remainder of the fluff into a zip-top bag and a cut about a half inch wide corner off. To pipe these little GhostMallows, start piping a pretty wide base and pull up. Hard to describe the technique, but you will get the feel of it after your first one or two; and the beauty of these little spooks is in the uniqueness of each little ghost. I used two ENJOY LIFE CHOCOLATE CHIPS for my eyes, but you can certainly keep with the sugar-free theme and try cutting a raisin in half for two eyes, or using a small slice of date.  Whatever you choose, you most definitely should play with your food!!

The mallow that I had spread out into a sheet, I used a few ways:
First, I chopped half of it into squares. Easy to pop in your moth or stick in a cup of cocoa squares. Yum!

Second, I took the remaining half and spread a layer of cashew butter on top. Then, I rolled the sheet of mallow, carefully and stickily, up into a “log” and sliced about 1/2 inch wide slices. You can see these at the back of a couple of the pictures here. they were delicious too!

Third, I needed an icing for the tops of the little sweet pumpkin muffins I made for Finlay’s birthday, so I melted a couple of squares of these marshmallows onto the top of the muffin and it was the perfect, sticky, sugarless topping.

See, the sky is really the limit. So play away, canaries!!
~Happy Ghostmallow Making~

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Honey Caramel Popcorn Balls {Sugar-Free Caramel Corn}

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Oh, sweet Caramel.
Such a beautifully, buttery sweetness, melting on my tongue; oh my caramel, how I do love thee.

On our journey to sugar-free eating, I wondered if I would ever achieve quite the same delight I had always so loved in the flavor of caramel but in a healthier allergy-friendly version. I now wonder no more. This caramel popcorn is so delicious! And it is the perfect recipe as the holiday season commences. Perfect for the Halloween treat-table, or to gift for the holidays.

{dairy-free, sugar-free, additive-free, clean eating ingredients!   mmmm, mmmm, good}
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This caramel is simply made with honey instead of over-processed, highly-refined brown-cane-sugar. I molded mine into these kid-friendly popcorn balls and we so enjoy the treat. From our happy kitchen to yours, we hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.

6 cups popped organic non-gmo popcorn
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 (generous) cup raw honey
1 1/2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
1/2 teaspoon real salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda***
1 teaspoon pure vanilla

***If making popcorn balls, OMIT the baking soda and add 1/4 cup of water to the liquid mixture.

Heat in a saucepan over medium-high heat the oil, honey & molasses ***(and 1/4 cup of water if you will be making popcorn BALLS as opposed to just caramel popcorn).

Bring to a boil , then turn heat down to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes without stirring.

Remove heat source and:
OPTION 1 for caramel corn: stir in the salt, baking soda***, and vanilla. The caramel will fluff and rise like a delicious science experiment.
Pour over the popped popcorn and stir to coat the popcorn as evenly as possible. Do this with a bit of finesse, as the caramel will be very hot!  Fold out onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake at 250 for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes

OPTION 2 for Popcorn Balls: stir in the salt and vanilla.
Pour over the popped popcorn and stir to coat the popcorn as evenly as possible. Do this with a bit of finesse, as the caramel will be very hot!
When the caramel corn has cooled enough to be comfortable to handle, form your popcorn balls. Let cool completely ~ if you can keep your hands off of them long enough!

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Quinoa Sweet Potato & Pecan Tamales (TaMOLLYs)

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Quinoa Sweet Potato & Pecan Tamales

When it comes to the title of a recipe, I have been known to get QUITE CHEESY (especially for a dairy-free cook). What can I say? Being that I am a momma bear, sometimes I have to sell my kids on the healthy foods I want them to love, and what makes selling easier than a catchy name! I’m just marketing :)! My sweet Molly Rose got quite a kick out of dinner being named after her last night.

We live in Texas, and in Texas, everyone knows what a tamale is. Traditionally, they are done with masa harina (corn flour).   I have been thinking about the execution of a corn free TaMolly for a while now, and yesterday, I had some sweet potatoes that were staring at me from the potato basket and some corn husks that were wanting to be used, and so began the makings of a ‘Meatless Monday’ masterpiece ~ a QUINOA TA”MOLLY”! They were so yummy and have oodles of potential for flavor and filling combinations. I can’t wait to post more as I make these again and again.

What you will need:

1 bag of Corn husks (found at most grocers)
1 cup Organic white quinoa
1-2 teaspoon Salt of choice (I like “Real Salt”)
2 Sweet potatoes
1/3-1/2 cup pecans, chopped (if you don’t soak and dry your nuts already, just soak them while you prepare the rest of the meal and drain them when ready to use)
1/2 teaspoon organic chile powder
1 3/4 cups vegetable stock or water (homemade stock is best, if buying, try to avoid yeast extracts in the ingredients)
1/4 cup coconut oil (straight from the jar, no need to liquefy)
A Steamer or way to steam the TaMollys (I use a stacking bamboo steamer basket like this one)

First, submerge your corn husks in water for at least 30 minutes to soften them. I like to do about half the bag so that I can choose the best of the bunch and have enough to cover my ingredients. (You can also do these in double batches or more and freeze for later)

Peel and dice your sweet potatoes. Cover with water in a sauce pot, add a nice pinch of salt to the water, and boil for 10-15 minutes to soften your potatoes. They don’t have to quite be fork tender because they will continue to cook in the tamale. Strain the water out of the pan and fork-mash a bit, stirring in 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

In a spice grinder, food processor, or blender, grate 1 cup of quinoa until you have a fine to medium-grained meal (similar to a corn meal texture).

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring together the quinoa meal, 1 3/4 cups of vegetable stock or water, 1/4 cup of coconut oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste. Stir slowly and frequently just until the mixture comes together to a thick consistency similar to a breakfast porridge and stir for about 5 minutes to soften the quinoa. Remove from heat and set aside.
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Bring your 1/3 -1/2 cup of chopped pecans to the assembly party, along with your quinoa mixture, your sweet potatoes, and the soaked corn husks.

To assemble your TaMollys, simply spoon some of the quinoa mixture onto a soaked corn husk. I like to fold the husk over and use a pulling motion to spread the meal across. You will want about 1/4 inch thickness. Top with some sweet potato and a pinch of pecans. {You can see my photo of a layered husk before it is bundled up}. Now, Fold in the sides and place the bundle seems down onto a steamer tray. Try not to stack them directly on top of one another if you can help it. This bamboo steamer basket that I use was perfect!)   Continue with more tamales until your fillings are gone. I was able to get 11 tamales last night.

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Steam for 1 hour. Make sure you check our steaming water frequently and add more when needed.  Pull them out and get ready to open a little gift of food love.

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They may not look like much as you stack the corn-husk-bundles onto a serving tray…
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But when you unravel the contents inside, you find a delicious texture, very similar to that traditional corn-cake layer; and, inside, you have the deliciously mushy sweet potato and the perfect texture and nuttiness of the pecans. SO YUMMY!

For the vegan option, these were delicious served with a tiny drizzle of cashew sour cream*.  If you prefer the real deal dairy, then a regular or raw sour cream would be equally as yummy.

The best part of recipes like these are the endless possibilities for variety! I am already dreaming up some flavor combinations to try again very soon:
Chicken and Green Chile, Chicken Tomatillo, Braised Beef and Sweet Peppers, Chicken & Apple, Pumpkin and Black Bean ….. Okay, now I’m hungry again. I might have to make more of these today!

~Happy Eating, Everyone! Ole’~

* Cashew Sour Cream: Process or Blend 1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup pure water
1/4 cup organic lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
optional, garlic powder and/or onion powder to taste

Apple Cider Gummy Bears

Apple Cider Gummy Bears

2 cups organic Apple Cider
3 Tablespoons Gelatin

Simmer the cider down to 1 cup liquid. Thoroughly mix in your gelatin until there are no more lumps.
Let cool almost to room temperature and pour into molds.  I found these molds here.

Also, see the cherry bears for another flavor option. These are super fun and very yummy! It can also be a fun vessel for vitamins or probiotics. Happy Eating!

* I added extra cinnamon to the cider just for more fall flavor. So yummy!

Scared Of The Dark Cherry Gummy Bears

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I’m not quite sure when Halloween became synonomous with massive quantities of food-dyes and high-fructose-corn syrup, but I don’t have to tell you that these are not the healthiest selections for our kids. The last thing you want to read, I’m sure, is another study about how dangerous some of theses  chemical food colorings can be (or why many other countries don’t allow them into their foods), or how high fructose corn syrup will get your child closer to diabetes by the day.

I know this is a major sugar-buzz-kill for so many parents. They escape into the “one day out of the year won’t hurt them” mentality, and they may be perfectly right (at least a percentage of them). As a family who already battles a neurological disorder, I have made a choice to remove all chemical additives from our diet, so most of the store bought “goodies”, we simply walk past as if they are a piece of store furniture,  When I happen upon a circumstance where I have to admit to the layman that…

“We Don’t Eat Candy.”
or
“My Kids Are Allergic To Sugar”

…I undoubtedly get a look that, if I could freeze-frame the moment, would most appropriately be marked with a scribbled thought bubble and a big. red. question-mark.  Then comes the pity. Its really kind of comical at this point. Do I dare tell them the real kicker? That even if they weren’t allergic I wouldn’t give them sugar. {{{(gasp!)}}}

Huh?
Huh?

I assure you, though, that I AM NO PARTY POOPER!  My kids have fun stuff. Almost daily! And holidays are just a creative person’s dream because they provide a theme, a canvas for creation.   Halloween is no exception.

The past few Halloweens, I have ordered some really great candies from our go-to allergy-friendly candy shoppe, Natural Candy Store. But even here, it is tough to find candies that aren’t made with sugar.  So, it has been my mission this year to create some great home made candies and treats (adding more by the day) to make our Halloween celebration SCARY FUN this year!

These Gummy Bears will be PERFECT.

Three Littel Bears


SCARED OF THE DARK CHERRY GUMMY BEARS (also, see below the Valentine’s Version)

1/2 cup black cherry concentrate*
1/2 cup pure water
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon lime juice
3 tablespoons gelatin**

*You can find this in the supplements section of most health food grocers, or simply order online from a source like amazon or vitacost.
**For the healthiest option, try a brand of gelatin that is from grass-fed cows. I use the Great lakes Brand {the red or orange can, not green}.


Directions:

In a bowl or measuring cup, combine all the liquids.

In a saucepan over medium heat, I started with about half of the liquid mixture and all of the gelatin and whisked together while the pan was heating. When I had a sort of paste, I added the remaining liquid in and continued to whisk until the gelatin was completely dissolved.

I turned off the heat and let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes, just to cool.

The next step is where the fun comes in! I added powdered probiotic at this stage and then poured into my molds. You do not have to add anything at this point, but the sky is the limit if you want to make these “gummy-vites”.

Pour into your mold or desired dish. Refrigerate until set (at least 2 hours).
I used these fantastic bear ice cube trays. I first saw them on one of my favorite blogger’s sites (Elana Amsterdam’s Elana’s Pantry) and marked them as a MUST HAVE!! She had done some other great bear flavors, as have many other bloggers, so this is by no means a new recipe. They are a healthy take on the old “Knox-Blox” recipe (A favorite of our Papa’s … hopefully we can pass these off as the knox-blox he loves so dearly and save him from himself! :))    I found the bear molds here.

The existential Gummy Bear

As you can see, there is much fun to be had with these gummy bears. PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD!

When Halloween night comes this year, I will be making a batch of these “Sacred Of The Dark Cherry” bears, and also an Apple Cider version. Yummy!!

~Happy Halloween Eats~

For Valentine’s Day, I ordered these cute little heart-shaped molds and we had a blast making Very Cherry (with cherry-pomegranate juice) and Very Berry (with Cherry & Raspberry Juice) Gummy Hearts. <3 <3 <3

Very Berry Gummies

Grain Free Pumpkin Muffins

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Baking this morning with my very own “admiral underpants”. There’s really nothing like an underoo-clad 4 year old to make your baking experience a delight. With slow-but-steady little four-year-old-sized fingers, he carefully pulled apart each little mini-muffin liner and placed them into the muffin pan. My mommy-hands hovered above, pressing the scooper lever to fill each of his liners. Soon, we were ready to bake, and a short time later, we shared some pretty big smiles as we devoured 3 muffins each. Memories officially made.

PALEO / GRAIN-FREE PUMPKIN MUFFINS

First, we preheated our oven to 325 degrees f.

Ingredients:

1 cup organic peanut butter
3 eggs, pastured-raised
1/2 cup organic pumpkin puree
4 tablespoons coconut oil, liquified
1/4 cup +1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1 tablespoon organic cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons organic lemon juice

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In a mixing bowl, we lovingly combined these grain-less ingredients, spooned them into our lined mini muffin cups, and placed in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.

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Perfect, golden, fluffy, yummy, grain-free pumpkin muffins were ours for the tasting!

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Happiness.

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