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

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

Pumpkin Pie “Milk”Shake

Dairy-Free
Dairy-Free

Pumpkin Pie in a cup. I absolutely love the flavors of fall. This is a healthy way to do a milkshake, with that hearty fall-favorite gourd,  deliciously creamy coconut milk, and spices that fill your heart and your belly with Autumn abundance!

1 cup organic pumpkin puree
2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or 1/4 cup coconut nectar)
1 1/2 tablespoons organic pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons vanilla

This one is topped with Cinnamon Cream:
2 tablespoons cream from the top of the canned organic coconut milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon raw honey
~WHISK TOGETHER~

Salted Maple Candy {Sugar-Free}

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A gluten-free, sugar-free Halloween Treat.

This week, Autumn is in an upswing, as we just turned the calendar page over to my favorite month of the year, OCTOBER! I can’t quite put into words why I am so enchanted with October, except to say that there is something majestically promising about the changes that are always in October’s air. There is comfort in the crispness and fancy in each fall-breeze, as if magic is blowing through my bones. Collections of birds can be caught on their migration paths. So many birds! Kind of creepy, yet mesmerizing. Leaves turn to those golden Autumn hues. We all watch as nature shifts to protection -mode, and the shear fact that it all happens so fluently and artfully makes me feel grounded and cozy.  It seems like each day of October is a giddy anticipation of the playful holiday that punctuates the month {for those who celebrate it} and kicks off the “holiday season”! Now, more than ever, too,  I have such an intimate connection to Halloween, because just last year , at about 10:30 on Halloween morning, our little family welcomed to the world our 3rd little squirrel in the nut-bunch. And his birth was such a cozy affair, gentle and peaceful and natural and wonderful. Yes, October is absolutely my favorite month of the year.

So, if you have read any of my other posts, you know that we are a sugar-free family. You can find some great selections, now, of candies that are chemcial-dye-free and high-fructose- corn-syrup (hfc) free; but, it is tough to find cane-sugar-free candies, I have to say.

On this fine fall morning, I was dreaming of salted caramel. My little wheels got to turning about the little maple candies that I usually buy for my munchkins to have around this time of year, and I got a whim to create my own “Salted Maple Candies”.

This recipe, like most candy recipes, takes a special touch and some caressing ~ but it IS NOT difficult to make. It is actually very simple if you follow the directions well and stay on top of it. If I can do this with an 11 month old on my hip half the time and a five year old chanting,”Is it done yet” on repeat ~ well….you get the picture.

Now, I tend to get excited about special food finds, and last weekend, as you may have read in this post, my husband and I shopped am artisan oiler. There, we picked up some maple-infused aged-balsamic vinegar {yum! yum! yum!}, as well as some vanilla bean sea salt. These are merely options for this candy, and I will put them in the recipe here as such, but these candies will work just as well with more readily available ingredients in their same category, so please don’t feel like this in one of those recipes that you have to spend tons of money on crazy ingredients for in order for this to even work. Not so. Plain ol’ maple syrup and sea salt will work just fine!

Salted Maple Candies

2 cups Pure Organic Maple Syrup (I use Grade B)
1 tablespoon maple balsamic vinegar (optional!)
1-2 teaspoons vanilla bean sea salt, or any course ground sea salt

1) Bring your maple syrup and vinegar to a boil over medium-low to medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 235 degrees fahrenheit, stirring occasionally. I used a medium-sized stainless steel saucepan.

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2) Remove from heat or turn off gas and let sit WITHOUT STIRRING until the temperature cools to 175 degrees fahrenheit. (10-15 minutes)

3) Now, take a wooden spoon (wooden spoons are less likely to cause drastic temperature changes to your sensitive mixture) and briskly stir the cooled syrup for 4-5 minutes, until the color gets light and the consistency is thick and smooth. {Note, I did not get a picture of this because this is a time sensitive part of the recipe. As the candy cools, it will harden quite quickly so you should move as quickly as possible here}

4) Either transfer the mixture to candy molds now until your candies cool completely, or, if you are feeling adventurous, try my method:

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Transfer the thickened mixture, carefully as it will still be hot, to a piping bag (you may use a ziplock if that is all you have and snip off the end). Carefully and quickly pipe out nickle-sized dots and then pull up, to get a sort of “chocolate chip” shape. Again, work quickly as your candy will start to harden. I piped mine onto a silpat (silicone baker’s mat), but parchment will work just as beautifully. I like the uneven shapes of doing these by hand, and my goal was to make the candies look like witches hats, some standing straight up, some flopping over, and some just plain weird. Hey ~ afterall, its HALLOWEEN. 🙂

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5) If you work quickly enough, your candies might still be wet enough for a sprinkle of coarse salt to stick. If not, simply brush the tops with a tiny amount of maple syrup and then sprinkle your salt to the tops of your candies.  I used a Madagascar vanilla bean infused sea salt.

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They are bewitchingly delicious and sickningly sweet {exactly how Halloween Candy should be!} and the texture is like a fresh candy corn. Hope you enjoy the treat.

~Happy October Eats to you and your family~
Kendra