To DO List: Eat Mo’ Vegetarian Brekkies ~ Our Pick 4 Omelet Station

Batman eats veggies!
I am mom. This may not be the case in every household, but I am also cook. To me, the fact that I am responsible for filling their plates every day means that I am also responsible for the nutrition that my children receive. Its a job I take seriously – yes, in a fun and silly way, but still, seriously.

One of the constant goals of mine as the NUTRITION-PROVIDER of my household is to not only get it in ’em, but teach them along the way to LOVE the nutritious choices, so that when I am no longer the one in charge of filling their plates, hopefully the lessons they are learning now will carry over. It is constantly in my mind as I plan out meal times, even planning the treats! I explain to them every step of the way the reasons “WHY” I am selecting certain ingredients and constructing a balanced plate of food, or sometimes a balanced day of food, since every single meal isn’t perfect nutritionally speaking. I truly aim to make the healthy decisions be appealing and fun! This is all a part of my master plan to grow healthy, happy eaters who WANT to be healthy, happy eaters! {don’t tell them , but I think it’s working}

My favorite meals are ones that encourage the whole family to try new textures, new tastes, and new colors of food. This may seem very elementary, like the classic phrase,” EAT THE COLORS OF THE RAINBOW”, but even as adults, sometimes, we get sedentary on what we know and forget to broaden our taste buds on occasion. Every color of food makes up the phytonutrients and vitamins that our bodies need to function at their best.  Meals like this are great for EVERBODY to explore something new, and for some reason, it makes it more fun to get to have control over those choices! I am talking about our super fun breakfast this morning BUILDING YOUR OWN omelet.

To begin our Omelet bar, I used a dozen farm-fresh, soy-free, gmo-free, pastured chicken eggs and cracked them into a bowl for a good whisking. The carton was now empty, so I thought: What a great vessel for dividing our omelet selections. Because there are 3 kiddos here, I simply cut the carton into 3 equal sections of 4 “holes”. The rule: PICK FOUR!  Want to know what the coolest part was?  They all picked more than 4! :D. I love this.

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So, I chopped from the fridge some piles of tomato, orange bell pepper, broccoli, and spinach {we only buy organic produce as to reduce our exposure to pesticides and herbicides}. From our home garden {organically grown}, I collected, chopped, and piled some parsley, some rainbow chard, and some chives.  The kids took turns filling their sections and we labeled their containers and lined them up for cooking.
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It was so much fun watching them get excited about their selections and watching their faces as they cheered on each other’s omelets over the flat-top and excitedly waited for their own to cook.  We made omelets, we made a fun memory, and we all had something green for breakfast. A win, win, win in my book!!! 🙂

~Happy Omelet Making, Canaries ~

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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Chocolate Lovers Chia Pudding

chocolate chia pudding
Mmmmm. Pudding.

I am always a sucker for a free recipe book, so when I ran accross a free kindle book all about Chia Seeds (Chia Seeds: Facts, Nutrition, Benefits, And Recipes For Weight Loss, Energy, and Overall Health) {phew} including a hundful of recipes, I one-clicked it immediately and excitedly.

The chocolate pudding recipe, above the rest, piqued my sweet interest, and after minor adjustments to the recipe, this pudding is a fave!

Chocolate Lovers Chia Pudding
¼ cup chia seeds
2 tablespoons Dark Cocoa Powder
2 tablespoons Organic Grade B Maple Syrup
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 heaping teaspoon black strap molasses
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, syrup, black strap molasses,
and vanilla until you have a silky smooth texture. Add the milk and the chia
seeds and mix to incorporate. Let the mixture stand and set on the counter for
about 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.

Cover and chill for 2 hours (or overnight).

I transferred the chilled pudding to my vitamix and blended before serving, to
make the texture more smooth. Serve up as is, or decorate with your favorite
toppings. Some of our favorites:

Fresh Fruit
Coconut Flakes
Cinnamon & Coconut Sugar
Whipped Coconut Cream
A dollup of nutbutter

~Happy Eating~

Pepi-Chia Herb Crackers

When I began on our special diet journey for our suffering then-3 year old, we removed in one fail swoop the triad of typical Standard American Eating : Wheat, Milk & Eggs. This is how my career-in-the-kitchen began.

Molly is our little canary in the kitchen, and we have since learned that her immune-dysfunction provides us with a perpetual game of guessing as to what her immune “soldiers” may be bullying around each day.  We have come an amazingly long way since those days of desperate prescription filling (with no avail). Her rashes were given so many names and so many treatments, but it was not until we removed the underlying cause of inflammation that we began to see big changes; and the bonus changes ~ her neurological issues associated with sensory processing disorder, obsessive compulsion, and Aspberger’s Syndrome actually began to improve.  Behaviors that we were settling in on with a “non-progressive but incurable” diagnosis were actually changing. Hope. Light. and a Passion beyond comparison to share this “Secret” with the world, just in case what worked for us may work for other suffering families.

As we began, I worked hard to mimic the flavors and textures that we were all used to eating. But once you go as far as I had to take out milk and wheat and eggs, and once you understand how calming that inflammation has long-lasting effects, effects that may mean the difference between her having to be put on dangerous drugs with very long lists of side effects, or the difference in her developing cancer in her 50’s or 60’s and her living a long a healthful, vibrant life, those choices don’t seem so difficult at all! Quite the contrary.  I get excited about finding new ways to promote our health through food!!

Since I started, I have been traveling ever-further into healthful choices in our kitchen, subsequently we actually do very limited grains now and have severely  down-sized our consumption of animal proteins.

We eat rices, and some quinoa, and occasionally gluten-free oats (on a 4-day rotation), but every once in a while, I still get that craving for a crunch that a simple nut won’t appease. Today, I was having such a craving.

We are relaxing at home today, football playing for dad, kids enjoying the cooler outdoor weather and making “gluten-free mud pies” and I have put on a pot of chili with beans and zucchini and some chopped greens and stewed tomatoes.  In our past life, I would have eaten my chili on a bed of frito chips and a large handful of cubed colby ~ not today.
We now are dairy-free (processed) and have recently decided to take corn out of the equation as well.  So today, I went into creative mode to come up with a cruchy cracker that fit the bill.

My challenge: No Grain, No Sugar, No Fruit, No Eggs, No Milk Crackers
My solution: Pepi-Chia Herb Cracker
My surprise: Everyone loved them, including our 2 year old grazer.


Pepi-Chia Herb Crackers

1 cup + 1/3 cup raw pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

½ cup non-dairy milk (I like almond or hemp)

2 tablespoons cold-pressed olive oil

2 tablespoons chia seeds

2 tablespoons raw shelled sunflower seeds (or more)

1-2 tablespoons dried parsley

1-2 tablespoons dried rosemary

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon Real Salt (optional)

In your food processor or spice grinder, grind 1 cup of the pepitas into a meal
or course nut flour.

In a medium mixing bowl, dump in your pepita meal and stir in the chia seeds, sunflower
seeds, herbs, baking soda and Real Salt. Now add the non-dairy milk (or you
could use water) and the oil and stir just until combined.

On a parchment lined baking sheet, spread the mixture into one even layer about
1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle the remaining pepitas over top and bake at 325 degrees
for 25-30 minutes. Take out to and cool on baking sheet. Cut or break into desired shapes.