Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin 'Nog Chia Pudding (vegan) + So Delicious GIVEAWAY

Hello Friends, here is my newest favorite pumpkin recipe to share. I mentioned in my last post that this may be a nice recipe for the adults to enjoy...which is completely true, BUT, it is also great for kids too! So, gather your pumpkin, chia seeds, and head to the store to get some of this amazing vegan 'nog by So Delicious and you will be ready to make some of this perfect holiday pudding.
This recipe was inspired by a few blogs: Oh She Glows and Choosing Raw. But, I wanted to make a little twist with some Nog, and all the thanks goes to So Delicious for this one! The kind people at So Delicious were gracious enough to send me some samples of their holiday nog to try and review and then share with some of you (more details below...)
Truth is, I haven't had egg nog in many years, and I vaguely remember I used to love it. And not until I tried this great vegan version from So Delicious, I had forgotten about it's creamy lasting texture and divine taste. Hmmm, so wonderful and comforting. Also, this drink allows holiday season nostalgia fall over you in and out.

Also, this vegan nog is made with organic, NON-GMO, certified vegan and gluten-free ingredients and does not contain any garbage or artificial anything. The Chocolate Mint Beverage is also amazing. I was hoarding it all from my husband, until the last glass I completely shared with him. He couldn't believe how good it was!

I have been telling everyone I know that this is seriously a yummy holiday treat to try this season. So along with anything I have tried from So Delicious, I can proudly say I loved their product and I love what they stand for. Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review, but was given a sample of the product to try and review. Also, the opinion of this product/company is just that, an opinion.

And, the good news is...I have VIP coupons to give away to 2 of you to try a container of nog (or any other So Delicious product) you may want. Details will be below, but for now the pudding recipe...
Pumpkin 'Nog Chia Pudding Recipe (vegan)
1 1/2 cup of fresh pumpkin puree (fresh or canned will work)
1 1/2 cup of So Delicious Nog
2 heaping TB's of chia seeds
1 1/2 ts. of pumpkin pie spice
sweetener of choice: 1 ts. of stevia powder, 1-2 TB of maple syrup or coconut palm sugar

optional topping:
Craisins or raisins

Whisk the nog, pumpkin, chia seeds and spice together in a large glass bowl. Add the sweetener you like and taste to see if it is to your liking. Then cover and put the bowl in the fridge overnight or at least up to 3 hours. Then your seed will have gelled and become like a tapioca-like seed and viola you have pudding.

Some notes:
You can obviously make this recipe like the blogs I referenced earlier, but I would suggest that if you can get your hands of this delicious nog from So Delicious, that you must make this version of the pudding. It is a perfect union of egg nog and pumpkin pie. Perfect for any upcoming holiday... and did I mention that chia seeds and pumpkin and even the coconut nog are healthy for you?! This is a health treat and you can feel completely wonderful about your choice for this treat instead of, say, real calorie filled egg nog and a slice of pie that has more calories and sugar than you probably know.
I love the simplicity of this fabulous recipe. You must try this dish this holiday season. Put some of this pudding in a fancy cup and you have a special treat. This recipe will serve 4 people, but can easily be doubled or tripled for a larger amount of people. You could also put a little bits in party cups with spoon and you could serve on a platter. This is such a yummy treat it will have you really thinking of great ideas to share and serve.
Now for the awaited giveaway details (the best part, because I love sharing!):
So friends, the only requirement to get in the running for this giveaway is to leave a comment on this blog post. If you want to get another chance at winning, then become a follower of So Delicious on facebook, and leave another comment saying you did so... and for a third chance you can become a follower of my blog (on the right hand side of the home page of my blog). So all together you can have 3 chances to win.

I will pick TWO winners using on November 2, at 9pm you have 6 days to enter yourself and then tell your friends! This giveaway is only valid for US residents. Thanks and good luck.

Well, that is all I have for you today. Get your name in the drawing for this giveaway-totally worth the try.

I hope you have a great (and safe) weekend, with lots of fall fun and maybe some halloween treats (and tricks!)

Much love to you as always.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pumpkin Jack-O-Lantern Cookies

Halloween is just a few days away and people are stocking up on candy and party treats for the weekend. My son is too young to know what is going on, and even though he is going to look adorable in his monkey costume that he will flaunt for the grandparents, he does not care about candy. Thank goodness! :) I am not sure I will handle all of the over-indulgence in candy on this day. [By the way, would love to hear from other healthy mom's what they do about the candy issue.] I don't have much room to talk about candy, I LOVED candy when I was a kid, and yes, I am afraid of the day when my baby will know about candy that is sugar and dye-filled. I will get to that hurdle when I get the meantime, I am baking up some cutsie tooties jack-o-lantern cookies to eat and enjoy for the weekend. They are really just pumpkin cookies that you can make without putting a face on them and you can add chocolate chips or raisins if you like. But to make baking Halloween cookies fun for the kids, I added a little fun to making some pumpkin smile faces. I hope you enjoy!
This is a fun kids Halloween treat, but I also have a special pumpkin 'nog pudding recipe I will post later for the adults in your life. Which would also be a good pair with these cookies and still doesn't make you feel sick and awful after you eat them. That is probably the worst part about November 1... the sugar hangover, or worse...a cold/flu a brewing because of a weakened immune system from the toxic sugar. So friends, why not enjoy a treat without the after sugar-shock affects and start November on a good foot!
Pumpkin Jack-O-Lantern Cookie Recipe
1/2 cup of millet flour
1/2 cup of tapioca flour
1 TB of chia seed meal or gel
1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar (or pure maple syrup)
1 ts. of baking powder
1/2 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts of sea salt
1 ts. of pumpkin pie spice blend
1/4 cup of soft coconut oil (or vegan butter, Earth Balance- soy free)
1/4 cup of non-dairy milk (or use some So Delicious coffee creamer for some extra flavor)
1/3 cup of pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)

handful of allergen-free, vegan chocolate chips (I used mini's)
handful of organic raisins

Mix up batter, it may be a bit sticky, then roll out 16 balls on a parchment paper and flatten with a spoon, spatula or oiled cup bottom. They do not spread too much on the baking sheet, so no need to worry about too much room. Also, if you use an oiled spoon to smooth out the tops of the cookies, it will make a difference for smoothness on the post-baked cookie. Basically, however they look when you put them in the oven is how they will look when they come out. Then use mini chocolate chips to decorate pumpkin faces, and maybe some raisins to make a stem or whatever else. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 18-20 minutes. Let cool and do not touch for at least 20-30 minutes to avoid cracking and breaking.

Enjoy and have a happy and safe weekend!

Much love to you as always!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Coconut Applesauce Rice Pudding (gf, vegan) + Rice Select Review and GIVEAWAY

Rice pudding is a well-known comfort food for many. I am not sure if it is the warm milk and creamy rice or if it is just Grandma's recipe that matters. It is a gluten-free favorite though, and I thought, I would try my hand at making the comfort food with a little fall twist of some homemade applesauce. After all, I do have apples and sauce coming out of my ears. I still had a half bushel of apples, and then yesterday I went to the orchard again and bought another bushel. I'm crazy! Crazy about apples. Especially Michigan apples that I can save in my basement to almost the new year. I miss them when they are gone, and so I do my best to save as many as I can. Homemade applesauce I use in many baking recipes and now that I have a babe that will appreciate the applesauce too, I feel like I need to try and make as much as I can.

This time of year I am reminded of how the work is to save food for the whole year. I try my best to save some fruits and veggies with freezing and canning, but I some how always feel like I can't get or do enough. Which brings up another topic or feeling of how perfection in the kitchen can sometimes overwhelm you and make you feel continually unhappy. I am talking about orthorexia here...even as it relates to food sensitivities and allergies.

Orthorexia is an eating disorder, fixation or and unhealthy over-concern to have a very strict or "righteous" diet. And many times I have seen this be the disorder that comes from people that have had a past eating disorder or anorexia or bulimia, and then they move from one un-health to the other.

I understand the fixation though if you are a gluten-free person... especially if you are new to it. You are trying your absolute best to live a life pure of gluten and you might have to appear to be a bit obsessive over it for a while until you get the hang of it (or until people and loved ones around you get the idea!) BUT, with all that said, I think it is a good thing to have a healthy reminder that food is just food, and that you are bigger than that, and your identity isn't whether you are gluten-free queen, a health junky or an obsessed health freak. Yes, I have been called all of these at one point or another, but it is a good reminder to me that I might need to take a step back and remind myself that I am more than just what I eat.

I am a strong woman, a child of God, a mother, a wife, a daughter. And, yes, I am a health counsellor, so I have the opportunity to encourage people to make the changes they need to start on a cleaner path to real food. But also, it is a gentle reminder that we must pursue balance and have self awareness that we are not all on the same exact path to health and that our "right" diet does not rule us. A sure sign of having an in-balance over your diet and how strict you are is whether or not you carry anxiety over what you eat or your family eats. Hear me correctly here, I am not saying that eating a pure gluten-free, dairy-free, or real food pure diet is a wrong thing...I happen to think it is a very great thing, but if the diet is causing you extreme anxiety and exhaustion, you may have to be reminded that it is not your identity. You are a creative, powerful and amazing individual and you may just need to be reminded that again and again. Food does not control you.

Food is your life source and that is why it is so important to not let it control you. If you let it control you then you will find less and less pleasure in eating, and food will become your enemy. Real, fresh and plant food is beautiful. It should be a pleasure to try and experiment. It should be a source of joy and bring a sense of gratitude. So, friends, I pray that you find a balance with your diet and if it seem to complicated...then return to the basics.

That is where this rice pudding comes into light. It is a simple, comfort food for the gluten-free soul and will bring a simple twist of spice that will have you forgetting the complexities of the gluten-free diet. I hope you find rest and balance today friend and know that perfection in the kitchen is not an art to be achieved, but rather the search for more balance, hope and healing surrounding food is worth the journey. Much love and light to you today!
Coconut Applesauce Rice Pudding Dessert Recipe
3 cups of cooked rice (I used Basmati rice, but small grain brown rice is another favorite)
1 TB of extra virgin coconut oil
1 1/2 cups of So Delicious coconut milk beverage (or make it creamier with 1 1/2 cup of pure fat coconut milk from the can)
4 TB of maple syrup 
1 ts. of apple pie spice (or cinnamon)
sprinkles of cardemon, cloves, and nutmeg

additional options: handful of either shredded coconut, craisins or raisins, or even more fresh grated apple for serving

NOTE: I like to make my rice pudding with already cooked rice (1 cup rice to 2 cups water, I add 1 TB of coconut oil and sprinkle of sea salt as well). But you can make this rice pudding with dried rice from scratch as well. Just add 1 more cup of milk and 1 more cup of applesauce and you should have enough moisture to come up with the same results.
Here is the steps to my rice pudding:
1. Cook the rice with a TB of coconut oil and a touch of sea salt. I actually made a big pot of basmati rice to have with my Apple Pumpkin Chicken Curry and had some leftover to make pudding with the next day. So I used 3 cups of already cooked (leftover) rice.

2. Put 1 TB of coconut oil in a medium pot, add the cooked rice, coconut milk and applesauce. Stir on high heat until the milk is bubbling, and then turn down the heat to a simmer. Add your spices and let simmer and moisture mix and soak in for about 20 minutes. After about 20 minutes, turn off the heat and add your other optional ingredients, and then let sit to cool for about 10 minutes before pouring into serving glasses or glass bowl to serve. You can either put in the fridge to stiffen up and serve chilled, or serve warm with a sprinkle of cinnamon and syrup. Recipe will serve 4-6 people.
Now for a review of the Rice Select Basmati Rice that I used. I was given a sample of this rice to try and then share what I think with you. To be honest I am not rice expert, and it really has taken me a while to make rice just right...but there are some things I like to see with what kind of rice that I buy and here are some great aspects to this Rice Select's Basmati...

-Rice Select, is a company dedicated to a gluten-free and vegan environment.

-Their product is "born and raised" in the USA so they are able to guarantee that it is not a mixed grain product. Plus they support sustainable agriculture with less waste, pollution and pesticides.

-They are not genetically modified, and they are a part of the NON-GMO Project, which is an amazing stamp of goodness these days now that our food is so processed and has so many questions about how it was made or "bred".

-The bottles that you buy the rice in are BPA-free, so you do not have to worry about a plastic wrap or bag or container leaking any chemicals into your rice. Plus, plus!

I also found that their basmati rice was full of rich nutty flavor and cooked very well without leaving too much grime or slime in the pot. I was very impressed with how versitle basmati rice can be. Perfect for a curry dinner, but also great for this pudding recipe, and adding to soups, stew, meatballs and more.

Disclosure: I was not paid to state my opinion of this product, but was given a sample from the company to try. The opinions are of my own and I was happy to support this company because of their devotion to providing USA born rice that is committed to being a NON-GMO product!

If you are interested in trying some of your own, the company's website offers coupons occasionally to print off here. Also, you can hear of samples and coupons by "liking" them on their facebook page, here. And, I would also look for it at your local market to see if it is carried close to home. If not you can always try it by ordering it off of their website.

ALSO.... last but not least, Rice Select would love to gift one of my readers with a nice tote and sample of their product, so if you are interested in receiving some FREE rice and a gift tote (HELLO, who wouldn't?) then all you must do is leave a comment on this blog post with your favorite way to use or eat rice (I love hearing your stories too ;) The winner will be picked from the most interesting rice dish or combo. Comments and entries will be accepted until Tuesday, October 25th, until 9pm EST. USA entries only, please.

Much love to you as always,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Momma's Lamb Stew

There are lots of ways to make lamb stew (and you can google all of those if you like), but I have made a simple lamb stew a few times over the last month that has been perfect for my little guy to feed himself (and for his momma to eat alongside of him). Or more accurately I should say, my boy will want to eat anything I put in my mouth, even if I offered it to him hours before and I wasn't eating it and he will refuse. I could literally eat anything, and he would want it. So I had to come up with a good meal option for the whole family, with lots of nutrients, protein and iron. Lamb meat was my babe's first option for animal protein because it is the easiest meat to digest and the amount of good fats to feed his growing body was another plus plus.
This stew is full of flavor, and not to mention lots of healthy vitamins and minerals. Especially pasture, grass-fed lamb that has amazing amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are crucial for the brain and other organs to run smoothly. Also, lamb meat contains amazing amounts of B vitamins which are very helpful for the central nervous system and promote a healthy metabolism. Some of the minerals high in lamb meat are selenium and zinc which help with the absorption of nutrients and also allow the cardiovascular system to run smoothly.

Lamb has been eaten by people for thousands of years. Some of the most ancient cultures valued the nutrients found in lamb, especially in the Mediterranean region. Even the popular 'Mediterranean Diet' today has lamb meat as a main source of protein because of all of the cardiovascular health benefits and Omega-3 fats. Having a balance of mostly plants, whole grains and some fish and lamb is the basis of the diet, and has been given credit for being one of the healthiest regional diets in the world.
Basically, lamb is a very healthy option for the meat eater (or flexitarian like me), and especially if you can buy it from a local farmer that pastures his lambs. Seriously, this meat option has all of the same benefits that are found in wild salmon, but the best part is that you can buy it more locally (that is unless you live in Alaska!)

I have been buying lamb from a local Michigan farm at my local farmer's market. If you have a local farmer's market then I would suggest looking there first for a lamb or organic meat farmer. If you can't find any options there, then I would suggest googling local organic meat farms in your area and you may just find out that you have a farmer closer than you think. I love supporting the local farmer, and I can guarantee the local farmer cares about you too. He cares for his crops, and his animals so that you can eat a nourishing meal that comes straight from the farm.

I love how simple and flavorful this meal is. Perfect one pot meal that has all you need in it...with lots of protein to carry you through the day and root veggies to ground you this fall season. I leave my veggies chopped in big chunks so to make it easy for my babe to pick up and eat. So here is my take on a traditional lamb stew... enjoy!
Momma's Lamb Stew Recipe
1 large yellow or sweet onion
3-4 garlic cloves minced or finely chopped
1-2 TB of olive oil
1- 1 1/2 pounds of pre-cut lamb stew meat-with bits of fat is best (fresh or thawed from frozen)
2 cups of pealed, sliced, roughly chopped carrots circles
2 cups of chopped chunks of potatoes (I used organic local white, and leave my unpeeled for extra potassium in the broth and skins to eat, but you can peel if you like)
1 cup of chopped curly kale
2-3 cups of vegetable broth (more or less depending on how watery you want it)
1 ts. of sea salt
black pepper to your liking
sprigs of fresh or dried rosemary to flavor during cooking, or add a TB of fresh thinly chopped
fresh chopped parsley for last minute flavor or serving

In a large stock pot, saute the chopped onion and minced garlic for a few minutes until soft. Then add the raw lamb stew meat and brown up and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Then add the chopped veggies and broth. You can also add the herbs for added cooking flavor. Then cover and cook for 30-40 minutes and you can even cook longer on low if you really want soft soft meat. When potatoes, carrots and meat is soft and perfectly ready to melt in your mouth... it is complete. If you put a rosemary spring in, don't forget to pull it out...and serve with fresh parsley if you desire. This stew will feed 8-12 people, or a family of four plus leftovers for lunches or dinner during the week. Perfect comfort food if you ask me. Just as good as any homemade chicken noodle soup option if you are feeling under the weather. And with all the B vitamins you will be feeling happy and tip top in no time!
Feeding your children good nourishing food is one of the most important things you can do with your life. It is worth the effort, the challenge and the time and money. Really, you are giving them a gift of the quality of a good life (and probably quantity of many years as well). If you feel like giving up today because your babe is giving you troubles... I would encourage you to try again. Try something new, or add a new twist... but for their sake, don't give up. It is worth it. You are a good momma and your hard work in the kitchen is not in vain.

I hope you have a warm and cozy Wednesday.

Much love to you as always!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Apple Cider Pancakes (vegan)

The other day I was wasting a bit of time on Pinterest... yes, I know, one of my latest addictions of time. It is fun to get inspiration for your home, crafts, kids and food. And an image caught my attention of some apple cider pancakes. They looked wonderful. I pulled up the website and read the recipe. Yes, whole wheat flour was the main ingredient. Which is just great for the average healthy person, but not so great for a gluten-free person like me. So, I thanked the lovely recipe for the inspiration and decided that I needed to come up with a gluten-free recipe of my own.
Not to mention, I still have a few gallons of apple cider leftover from the harvest party. So, with apples galore, cider extraordinaire, what else would I be wanting my pancakes to be spiced with this time of year??? Plus, with a little pure maple syrup and a sweet baby to share it with, you really couldn't ask for more. Yes, I made this recipe without eggs so that I could share them with my babe, because I haven't introduced egg whites to his diet yet. BUT, if you can eat eggs and would like to make these pancakes a bit more cakey, you CAN add an egg (or two) to this recipe and it will be just fine as well. But, for the vegan and baby friendly recipe version I made the following recipe.

I ground up some whole gluten-free oats for this recipe, but you can use regular GF oat flour if you prefer. I like to grind my own flours from grains if I can. Fresh flour makes the dish taste lighter and they also seem to soak up the moisture in the dish better. It is also very easy to do if you own a magic bullet or a high powdered blender like a Vitamix. Seriously not too difficult, and also kinda fun. Or, if you are looking to feel like a more domesticated-pioneer-like woman, you can definitely get that feeling after making your own flour and your own homemade bread or pancakes :)

Apple Cider Pancake Recipe (vegan)
1 1/2 cup of ground gluten-free oats (about 1 cup of oats, grinds about 1 1/2 cup of oat flour)
1/2 cup of fresh buckwheat or millet flour
3 TB of chia seed meal (or flax seed meal)
1 TB of baking powder
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1 ts. of stevia powder
1 ts. of ground cinnamon
1 ts. of apple pie spice (or more cinnamon)
dash of nutmeg, cloves and allspice
1 TB of coconut palm sugar 
1 TB of light olive oil or grapeseed oil
1/2 cup of fresh apple cider
1/2 cup of non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious Coconut Milk)

optional ingredients: handful of raisins, craisins or fresh grated apple

Mix all the dry ingredients together first, then add the wet. Mix well together and let sit for about 10 minutes to let the batter set and thicken. Then warm a skillet, griddle or a larger frying pan with a little coconut oil or ghee. Also, you may need to add more oil after each batch depending on your pan.

Keep the heat medium to low to make sure you do not smoke the oil or burn the pancakes. Then use a 1/4 cup to spoon out the batter onto the griddle. Spread out the 1/4 cup amount of batter with the same scooper and make sure it is mostly evenly spread and in a circle. Then let it cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side. You will know it is mostly cooked on the first side when you see some air bubbles start to form. Then flip and cook the other side. Press down the middle occasionally to make sure the middle is cooking as well. Then pull from the griddle and you have your perfect pancakes.
This recipe will make about 12-15 pancakes and feed about 4 people. Serve with pure maple syrup, or sprinkle of coconut sugar with cinnamon. Or perhaps fresh apple slices, and glasses of warmed or cold cider. Perfect fall breakfast, or even dinner if you like.

Some great things about pancakes:
-low-sugar or sweetener treat
-great nutritious breakfast that you can make a lot of for a big group or the freezer for later
-easy baby snack food
-easy pack in go or freezing for later food
-you can top with fresh fruit of any kind and squeeze of lemon, maple syrup or spices...
-a fun way to start the day (even on a Monday!)

Enjoy friends! I hope you have a beautiful fall week with lots of apples, cider and crunchy walks in the leaves.

Much love to you as always!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Monkey Cake (vegan)

Milestone first birthday cake...done! Egg-free, sugar-free, nut-free, gluten-free and dairy-free. It was a bit of a challenge, but mostly because I wanted to make a monkey-face out of a cake. And, really, it didn't even matter because my now one year old destroyed the cake with a swing of his little paw. He devoured his piece and that was worth all of the work. It was so much fun to watch him be so excited. It was the first time he had cocoa and he was just as excited as I thought he would be. So I thought I would share a few photos and the recipe...just because I can. I mean, it's not every day your baby turns one, and you make a silly cake to celebrate it. So indulge me as I share a little piece of my life, my sweet monkey-faced babe and a yummy vegan cake.

Here is my little man, post cake-eating. He was happy and very very messy! :) So much fun and we even took a few videos to watch when we are old and grey. The last year sure was a lot of work, stress, tears, joys and wonder. And, it quite possibly doesn't seem like it can be a year already. Life moves so fast, and that is why we must enjoy every day for what it brings. The good and the bad. Life is a gift and we must not let the lies of greed, selfishness, laziness and boredom rule our daily routine. We must make ourselves seek gratitude, love and thankfulness for every gift. I know one specific person that reminds me of that daily... my little monkey boy. So sweet.
Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting (vegan)
1/2 cup of millet flour
1/2 cup of brown rice flour
1/4 cup of tapioca flour
1/2 cup of organic corn flour (or quinoa flour)
2 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1 ts. of ground stevia powder
2 TB of chia seed meal
1 ts. of pure vanilla (optional)
1/3 cup of maple syrup
1/4 cup of organic apple juice
1 1/4 cup of mashed ripe banana puree
1/3 cup of melted coconut oil or light olive oil

1/2 cup of non-dairy milk ( I used So Delicious coconut beverage milk) then add 2 TB of lemon juice to the milk in a separate bowl. I use one fresh squeezed lemon with usually adds up to about 2 TB of juice. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes until it gets a bit cultured. Then mix it with the rest of the batter.

First, pour the milk and lemon juice together and let sit while you mix up the rest of the batter. Then in a large mixing bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients and then add the wet, lastly mix in the milk mixture and make sure you mix well with everything blended. Then let sit for just a few minutes to have everything sit together and get acquainted. Then pour into a oiled 9x9 circle pan and put in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until it is golden brown and checked with a toothpick in the middle to make sure it is baked through and not gooey.

Then, after cooling for 15 minutes, turn upside down on a serving platter and then let it continue to cool for another hour. Then take a serrated bread knife and cut out the head so that the cake looks like it has 2 ears on each side. This can be more difficult if you are not into cutting cakes or even drawing. It doesn't have to be perfect or that hard, just make sure you cut enough of the cake away to make it look like monkey ears. You can eat some of the cake at this point. Tests taste and make sure it's yummy!

Then time to make the frosting...

Chocolate Cake Frosting Recipe (vegan)
2 TB of cocoa powder
4 TB of coconut palm sugar
2 TB of maple syrup
4 TB of non-dairy milk 
9-10 TB of tapioca flour or starch (or arrowroot powder)

In a small bowl, mix the softened vegan butter with the cocoa powder, then add the sugar, and rest of the ingredients, except for the tapioca. Then lastly mix in the flour and slowly mix well with a spatula. Add more flour if you need it, and then let sit and blend together in the fridge for 30 minutes or so. It should be like a spreadable Betty Crocker frosting...If you leave it in the fridge too long it will thicken up considerably, so beware. Yet, if you warm it in the microwave or stovetop for just a few seconds it softens up quite nicely.

When you get the thicker consistency after it sits in the fridge...use this chocolate frosting to frost most of the cake, except for the monkey face. I used some leftover Namaste Toffee icing I had in the freezer for the monkey's face and lighter section. Then I also used the lighter frosting to make some ears.

Then I used some allergy-free mini chocolate chips to make eyes, nose and smile.

And, viola, I created a monkey!
We sung to the babe with a #1 candle and broke off the ears for him to eat first! It was just perfect! Of course I moved the chocolate chips out of the way of him eating the cake because I didn't want to create too much of an issue for him swallowing. He loved it!
I also make the same banana cake batter and frosting mix above to make some banana chocolate chip cupcakes for some guests to eat. They turned out just right, and only baked for about 22 minutes, instead of 35-40 for the cake. I served them in a green banana leaf :) hehe.
Not to mention, we had a little gathering of friends and family that we had a 'harvest-party' theme with lots of fresh apple cider, fresh apple slices and caramel dip, apple and pumpkin muffins, and I also splurged and made some pumpkin donuts (recipe to come) and pumpkin pudding bars. We had a ton of food and everyone enjoyed a gluten-free dairy free party (minus the caramel dip). We had a ton of fun celebrating, and you can bet that I had some fun baking all those goodies.

Thanks for indulging me in my little monkey cake and party treats.

I hope you find ways to celebrate life and enjoy each year (day, month and season) for all it's gifts.

Grace and peace!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Apple Pumpkin Chicken Curry

Hello Friends! I have been super busy the last week with celebrating my baby's first birthday. Yes, I now have a one year old! So crazy to think over the last year of all the learning experiences, and we had a ton of fun celebrating with lots of cake, friends and fun. I hope to share a little of what kind of cake I made my babe (monkey cake), and maybe a few pics but for now, I have a confession, and a recipe...

I think I may have lied to you. I recently told you that my Wild Rice Squash Soup was like 'fall' in a bowl, and yes it is a very nice fall meal, but then today I made a pot of curry that used all of my fall favorites...apples, cider, pumpkin and cabbage. So, you see, I may just have to say that this delectable pot of curry is my newest fall favorite meal. And quite possibly tastes more like 'fall' in a bowl, and it will have you swooning praise to the season of abundant harvest.
I think I have also decided that fall is my most favorite time to cook and bake (I may or may not have mentioned that before). With apples, pumpkins and so may other fall veggies, you can go either sweet or savory with so many of the same ingredients that you have so much versitility and options. Plus, winter squash, pumpkins and apples last so long in a cool place. You can put them in the cool, dark basement and they will last for a few weeks... unlike some of our spring and summer favorites that will mold or rot within a few days of picking.
This curry stew will warm your digestion to get ready for the winter months and help you feel nourished and satisfied with abundant fiber, protein, healing spices and a perfect blend of flavors. Plus lots of vitamins (A and C), magnesium and potassium. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you can take out the chicken and add some green or french lentils and it will be just as wonderful. Or if you are like me and want a little of both you can add some cooked lentils atop your cooked quinoa before you cover everything with this sweet and savory curry. I know you will just melt when you try this dish.... it makes a lot so serve it up to the whole family (baby too!), or pack it up for lunches, leftover dinners or freezer meals. It is a great way to make dinner last for a few days. And, because it is so delicious, I know you will be thankful for leftovers!
So, friends, if you haven't been to your local orchard, pumpkin patch or farmer's market, I suggest you get out and visit while the pickin' is good. Fresh apples, pumpkins and winter squash are abundant and fresh. Plus, pick up some fresh apple cider to warm on the stove or put in this curry. That is why this recipe is so simple to me, I have all of these lovely ingredients on hand this time of year. I cook with the season, and try and make the harvest last even longer by storing what I can. Fresh food eatin' means you pay attention to what you can buy fresh, local, and store for later.
Apple Pumpkin Chicken Curry Recipe
1 medium yellow onion
1 cup of chopped celery
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup of olive or grapeseed oil or ghee for sauteing

Saute the above ingredients in a large soup pot for a few minutes to soften, then add the ingredients below after tossing the chicken cubes in the flour and spices.

2 pounds of raw boneless chicken breasts and thighs, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 TB of curry powder
1 ts. of ground cinnamon
1 ts. of ground turmeric
1 1/2 ts. of dried ground ginger (or 1 TB of freshly grated)
3 TB of tapioca flour
1 ts. of sea salt
1/2 ts. of ground black pepper

So, you are cooking the chicken with the onions, garlic and oil, along with the many spices. Cook on high until the chicken is browned and cooked on the sides. Then add the following liquid ingredients and turn down the heat to medium...

1 cup of fresh apple cider
3 cups of broth or stock
1 cup of pumpkin puree

Then once you get the chicken and broth up to a boil, add the following ingredients and turn down the heat just a touch so that you can cook for 30-40 minutes until the curry sauce is reduced by 1/4 and everything is cooked and thickened.

1 heaping cup of chopped apple (more if you like or have it available)
1 heaping cup of finely chopped green cabbage
1 cup of already baked chopped pumpkin pieces (or any other winter squash)
1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh sage leaves (more if you like)
large handful (1/2 cup) of organic raisins

Once things are cooked and reduced, add some more fresh sage for color and serve over some cooked quinoa or brown rice, and add some fresh cooked lentils if you choose.

If you want to make this stew without chicken, I suggest you add 1 cup of lentils instead of the chicken, and still add all of the spices and liquid and cook the same amount of time. You may want to add another cup of broth if you want it soupy... and you may want to add a touch more cabbage and apples to thicken the curry. It would be just as fabulous without meat and also very filling and nourishing as well.
Serve hot with fresh herbs and share with friends, or pack up for leftovers....perfect for lunches, dinners or a last minute freezer meal.

I hope you try this amazing meal and enjoy!!!

Much love to you as always! Happy fall!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Banana Seed Bread (vegan, nut-free, sugar-free)

Here is my promised bread recipe from over the weekend. I really could not take one flattering picture to show how wonderful this bread really is. Moist. Chewy. And perfect. I have made many other banana breads in the past. Ones that contain nuts or more sweetener. And this one is different. Special perhaps. Well, really it is just as it should be for where I am in life right now. You see, that is what my recipes speak of. They tell you what ingredients I have in my fridge or pantry. They tell you what I am into, and what I avoid. They speak of what is in season and fresh. And, right now... they tell you what I make for my most favorite person in the world, my sweet boy, my almost 1 year old. I am making all of my recipes friendly for the whole family. I do not want to hide food from him anymore. He loves to eat and I will feed him from my own plate and bowl. He gets what I get. And to be honest, that is a good deal for both of us.
You see, I want to feed my baby (and my own body) the best ingredients out there. Right now I am basically feeding him all that I would eat, so gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg (white)-free, sugar-free, but to add to that list I am not feeding him any nuts as well. So, I decided that I don't really need to eat nuts then. Seeds are just as wonderful. In fact, I have found that I almost love them more. Pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, chia and flax. Such great nutrient dense ingredients that contain lots of iron, good omega fats, and not to mention more vitamins and minerals than you would think. You may be wondering why I wouldn't give my baby nuts...and really I just want to avoid higher allergenic foods in his diet as much as possible. So I rotate seeds, grains and fruits so that he likes a variety and doesn't develop sensitivities to others. I don't think you can really avoid sensitivities 100%... but you can do your best to not let an unhealthy toxic build-up to occur. So, I will continue to do my best with feeding him and our family the best we know how for who we are right now. Diets, favorites and foods morph along the journey and I am always willing to ask the questions to what's next or what's best. And, today, that included a hearty banana bread that speaks up for the love of seeds! Besides, there are way too many banana nut breads out there anyways. After baking this loaf, I think you'll agree.

I found inspiration for this bread from a few sources: Affairs of Living and My New Roots

Banana Seed Bread Recipe (vegan, nut-free, sugar-free)
1 cup of buckwheat groats ***grind in a magic bullet or high speed blender to make 1 1/4 cup of fresh buckwheat flour
1/3 cup of flaxmeal
1/3 cup of millet flour
1/3 cup of tapioca flour
1/3 cup of slightly ground raw sunflower seeds
3 TB of chia seed meal
2 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1 ts. of sea salt
1 ts. of ground stevia powder
2 ts. of ground cinnamon

2 1/4 cup of mashed banana
1/3 cup of non-dairy, nut-free milk (I used hemp milk)
1/3 cup of pure maple syrup
1/3 cup of light olive oil

OPTIONAL top of bread coating/crust:
rub of oil, sprinkle of sucanat and cinnamon

First, mix all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Then add the wet and mashed bananas. Mix well together and then pour into a oiled bread tin or glass pan. Oil the top as well to creat a nice crust. I added a sprinkle of sucanat and cinnamon to have a sweet and crispy spiced crust. Which made it extra special. Then, bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Make sure the bread is cooked all the way through and check with a toothpick. Then pull from oven, let cool and either turn upside down over a plate and release it from the baking pan, or I am sure you could leave it in the pan if you prefer.
Serve warm with a slather of some vegan soy-free butter (Earth Balance) or some ghee. If you are into dairy, then try with some butter or cheese. I loved this bread just by itself, warm from the oven...I was in heaven. So perfect. And nutritious too :)
I think I could avoid all other breads in the world if I had this wonderful bread to make anytime or anywhere. So delicious!

I hope you enjoy and have a beautiful day filled with good food and much thankfulness!