homemade Baileys Irish cream (no fructose)

I love Baileys but hate the zillion chemicals added....so I started making my own a few years ago. This recipe is super simple and tastes fresher and better than the original (I think). It's much less sweet, relying more on the sweetness of full cream, but you can add as much or as little brown rice syrup as you like....or another liquid sweetener if you don't care about fructose (fructose free).

P.S. ladder tree in the background...it's a thing. 

Yield: 4 cups

Ingredients
2 cups full fat cream (a.k.a. whipping cream) 
1 cup Jameson Irish whiskey (this makes a medium-strong batch)
1 cup fresh strong coffee (decaf works great too)
1Tbsp-1/4 cup brown rice syrup

Instructions
1. Stir coffee & brown rice syrup together (one that you can eventually pour from) and allow the brown rice syrup to fully melt
2. Add whipping cream
3. Add whiskey
4. Store in the fridge. Allow to chill fully if serving over ice
5. Best consumed within 4-5 days


P.P.S best Christmas song EVER, in my opinion.  A holiday story with a happy ending. 

easy, no-bake holiday ornaments


How cute are these? Way too cute...and super fun to make.

Only a couple steps involved, but cheap ingredients and stuff you probably have in the kitchen right now. A little heating up in a pot, a little waiting and you'll be ready to get creating.

Ingredients
2 cups baking soda
1 cup corn starch
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 tsp cinnamon and clove essential oils (or whatever you prefer)

Instructions
1. Put all ingredients in a medium size pot on the stove over medium heat.
2. Mix frequently as you bring to a boil.
3. Keep mixing and soon it will start to thicken up. As you are getting to your last stirs, add the essential oils and mix to incorporate.
4. When your mixture becomes fairly thick and dough-like, remove from the pot and put in a bowl to cool.
5. Wait for your dough to cool before using it (I wrapped mine in plastic wrap as it was cooling to keep the exposed bits from getting crusty, but not right away when it's super hot).
6. When totally cooled down (should take about 20-30 minutes), roll out on parchment paper or lightly corn starched surface and cut out ornaments with preferred tools (I used cookie cutters)
7. Leave on a flat surface to dry (note: this dough is sensitive to impressions, for example it will take on the wrinkles in the parchment paper).
8. Takes about 24 hours to dry. You may see some cracking as they dry. I lost 2 to breakage as they dried. The best ones were neither rolled too thin or too thick.

At first I thought I'd let the natural white shine through (and it is nice too), but glitter took control. Once it gets out it wants to be everywhere, & it does look pretty nice. The little plastic gem bits I had left over from long ago projects. Use white glue to hold in place.

 This guy is my favourite.
They're going to break if you drop them on a hard surface, but they are surprisingly sturdy. They dry beautiful, like plaster and if you put in some essential oils, they smell wonderful. They take well to texturing if you wish. Certainly strong enough to be an ornament or a gift tag and light weight.

Orange creamsicle hand & body cream

Who doesn't love creamsicle anything? For me, it's the irresistible smell of orange and vanilla together. I'm on a make-it-myself mission these days and this hand and body cream is amazing. Last month, I made body butter, and while it is still my choice for all over body moisturizing right out of the shower, this cream is better for day use as it's much less greasy & you don't need the 10-minutes-to-let-it-sink-in before you do anything-wait like you do with the butter.

You'll notice the addition of borax in this recipe. I did a little research and seems to be not unusual:
Borax is used as a natural agent that is completely 'clean' to help emulsify the beeswax, otherwise it would go hard. When combined with beeswax borax does not irritate the skin. However, if you used borax alone on the skin it may cause irritation.
....It is extremely safe and we have not had one complaint over any type of issue with the borax causing skin issues. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Conditions like eczema and psoriasis respond very well to it. Source.
So...essential it's used to emulsify the beeswax. And the amount is teeny, tiny anyway. It hasn't bothered me at all and I have pretty sensitive skin.

My review
  • Spots of eczema on my hands showed noticeable improvement after just 2 days of use (and mine gets so bad that I resort to cortisone cream when nothing else works).
  • Dry, bumpy skin on elbows is gone-almost overnight! As I write this, I am touching my super smooth elbows. 
  • Craig loves it & he is picky about cream. No greasiness or strong scents. He gets very dry hands from washing so often at work. 
  • Love this cream! 
This recipe is modified from the Soapmaker's Companion (a book I am enjoying immensely).

Yield: about 300 grams (or visually, the amount in the containers in the pic above)

Ingredients 
62.5 grams extra virgin olive oil
12.5 grams sweet almond oil
12.5 grams jojoba oil
2.5 grams shea butter
11 grams castor oil
5 grams cocoa butter
25 grams beeswax

110 grams water
2.5 grams borax
4 grams vegetable glycerin

2 grams essential oils of choice (I used 1.5 grams vanilla oil and 0.5 grams sweet orange oil)

Instructions 
  1. Combine first 6 ingredients (all the liquid and solid oils) into a small saucepan and melt. Heat to 165 °F. 
  2. Combine next 3 ingredients in another saucepan and heat to 165 °F. Ensure borax is fully dissolved.
  3. In a container (I used a plastic 750 ml yogurt container-it is tall to help with spatter and fits a stick blender nicely) pour the heated oil mixture. Slowly add the water mixture while blending with a stick blender on the lowest setting. Turn off the blender from time to time and just stir it around with the stick. You'll need to scrape down the sides of the container with a spatula once or twice. Note: The mixture starts off looking curdled like bad mayonnaise but it comes together and becomes creamy after about 10 minutes of mixing. Slowly increase blending speed as you go. Don't be afraid to over blend...but when it looks like cream, it's probably done. Add your essential oils and blend further to ensure they are fully incorporated. 
  4. Allow to cool fully and put into containers. Ready to use immediately. 
  5. Update: I've made this where it doesn't get curdled, but is fully emulsified but super runny. Keep blending for a little while to help cool the mixture. It will thicken up as it cools. Pour into your contain and wait until full cooled to use. 

DIY peppermint earthpaste

Have you seen Earthpaste toothpaste? I tried it 6 months ago and immediately was hooked. It was like nothing I'd ever brushed with before. It feels good in the mouth and on the teeth. Shortly after starting to use it, random people started noticing. Strangers told me how white my teeth looked and asked if I get them whitened (I don't!). At the dentist, they said my plaque was lower (and my close together bottom teeth usually get quite a bit, gross).

I switched to non-flouride toothpaste years ago, but this toothpaste was better than anything I'd tried...but better costs lots....Earthpaste is at least $7/tube! I tell you, I made each tube stretch as far as possible. But, in the back of my mind, I knew I had to diy it. Locating food grade bentonite was the only tiny obstacle. But it's on amazon, so there you go.

I looked at the ingredients on Earthpaste: I included everything except menthol (because I didn't have any at the time, and you don't miss it in my opinion).

IMPORTANT: do not use metal mixing things with bentonite clay (bowls, spoons...). It's not serious, but it reduces the potency of the clay. (google for self, it's real)

DIY peppermint Earthpaste

Yield: 9 oz

Ingredients
1/2 cup bentonite food grade clay (I buy this one)
3 Tbsp xylitol granules (I buy this one but you can find in grocery stores)
1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt
5-7 Tbsp boiled tap water (depending how thick you want the consistency, also distilled would probably be better if you have it- but I don't and it works fine)
20 drops peppermint essential oil
3 drops tea tree oil

Instructions
1. Using a ceramic or glass bowl (no metal, remember?) add clay, xylitol, salt and water. Mix well with a silicone or wooden spoon.
2. Add essential oils and mix.
3. Scoop out and store in a non-metal container.

The results are amazing. Looks a little lumpy but smooths at it sits. The taste is nearly identical to the 'real' thing. My only wish would be to have it in a squeeze tube. Maybe I'll add this to my next MEC order).
au natural pic taken after about 2 months of use
Cost comparison (the best part!!)

Earthpaste 
$7.00 for 4 oz (I have seen it higher than this)
This comes to $1.75 for 1oz 

DIY toothpaste
Redmond bentonite clay $14.96 (10 oz). Recipe used: 1/2 cup (4 oz) = $5.98*
Xylitol $9.99 (1lb) used 3tbsp or about $0.90
Peppermint essential oil and Tea Tree oil (let's say $0.49 but it's probably lower, depends on the cost of your essential oils)
Salt (I buy in bulk sizes... 1/4 tsp is around $0.01)
Total=$7.38  makes 9 oz
This comes to $0.82 for 1oz

*Bentonite clay must be food grade.

UPDATE: May 10, 2015: I've since ordered the squeeze tubes (these ones). I thought the opening was way too large...but I gave them a try and they work great. I use 7 tbsp (or 1/2 cup water) and the consistency is perfect.
P.S. This is my 100th published post on the blog!!! See the soup that started my blog here.

Mint chocolate whipped body butter

I'm on a mission lately to replace as many of my personal products as I can with homemade versions. You might remember the best deodorant EVER? I use it everyday. It works better than any thing I've tried, it costs pennies and it's very nearly edible.

Today let's delve into body butter, whipped for effect. This butter goes on smooth. It melts almost immediately on warm skin and it soaks in fast and leaves skin super silky. I use it after the shower

I had these oils on hand from my soap making projects. You don't have to use all of them but keep the the ratio of solids to liquids. 1/2 cup liquid oils : 1 cup solid butters.  Some oils are more 'drying' than others meaning they absorb quicker than others. So, bear that in mind when choosing oils. More information about that HERE.

This EO blend of benzoin & peppermint turns out smelling like something I want to eat. The cocoa butter smells heavenly on it's own, so you could leave it au natural if you like and it would still be amazing.

Yield: 1.5 cups

Ingredients
1/2 cup coconut oil (108 grams)
1/4 cup shea butter (55 grams)
1/4 cup cocoa butter (55 grams)
1/4 cup jojoba oil (55 grams)
1/4 cup sweet almond oil (55 grams)
Essential oils of choice (I used 5 small blobs of benzoin resin and 10 drops peppermint)

Instructions
1. In a double boiler (I used a large stainless steel bowl over a saucepan filled with 2 inches of water brought to a low boil). Put all ingredients in the bowl and stir until melted.
2. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
3. Cool for about 1 hour in the fridge. Keep any eye on it so it doesn't get fully solid. Mine needed about 75 minutes in the fridge with a couple stirs after 60 minutes.
4. When the liquid has started to firm up, but is not solid it is ready to whip. Use a stick blender or other blender. Whip it somewhat then add essential oils. Continue to whip until the colour changes uniformly from translucent to opaque.
5. Using a spatula, put the body body into containers of your choice (small mason jars work great and makes a great gift size).

This stuff will last as long as the shelf life of the oils and butters you use (so if they are fresh your body butter will last for ages). I estimate a a year or more.

'the muesli' knock-off


For several years, I've enjoyed following the blog 'I quit sugar'. Sarah Wilson is an inspiring woman on a sugar-quitting mission (fructose to be precise)! It was there I saw a link for 97% sugar free muesli. I love muesli but don't eat it due to dried fruit & filler in commercial varieties. I've made my own (awesome recipe here) for years, but never thought to try one that was like this.

"The Muesli" looks like they are making a great product, but it is pretty expensive for my cereal budget and it's only for sale in Australia; so I came up with my own version. 

Yield: about 13 cups

Ingredients
Nuts mix:
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup raw walnuts
1 cup raw hazelnuts
1 cup raw brazil nuts

Seeds mix:
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup hemp hearts

4 cups large flake oats
1 cup rice puffs (not rice crisps as they have sugar, I used Nature's Path) optional
1 1/2 cups coconut flakes (or shredded...but flakes are nice texture)

Instructions
1. Pulse nuts in a food processor (I did each nut separately since they are different sizes, they require different amounts of pulse time) until there are some small pieces & some bigger pieces left.
2. Put everything, including the processed nuts in a large bowl and mix.
3. Store in airtight container in the fridge. I store in mason jars.

Serve with milk or yogurt. My favourite way is yogurt + a few frozen blueberries and put in the fridge overnight. The next day, it makes a great breakfast, snack...lunch.

Bonus Carrot Cake!  I tried one of 'the Muesli's' recipes, carrot cake with cream cheese icing (it uses 3/4 cup of 'the Muesli'). I craving this cake after the first time I saw it. It is what made me want to make 'the muesli' in the first place. I can report back the cake was delicious. It might not be what you expect, giving there is nothing sweet in it, except carrots and a few drops of liquid stevia. The cream cheese icing alone was the best part and I nearly ate it all on it's own. It was better after a night in the fridge. Makes good breakfast.

Southeast Asian inspired peanut sauce


Travelling in Southeast Asia years ago, I ate a lot of gado-gado in Indonesia. It was my favourite thing (along with noodle soup). Basically it's steamed veggies, peanut sauce and usually an egg on top. When I got home, I worked to recreate a peanut sauce that would come close to the amazingness of the ones I had there. It's only in the past year or so, that I've perfected my peanut sauce. We like it just like this, but feel free to tweak it to your own taste. For example, this one is not super, super spicy. If you like more heat, add more chilli sauce. 

Yield: 2 cups

Ingredients

200 grams natural smooth peanut butter
100 grams miso paste (aka miso/white rice)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp powdered ginger or fresh
1 tbsp garlic chilli sauce (I use the one with the rooster on it and no sugar in ingredients list)
Juice of half a lime
1 cup water 

Instructions

1. Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl except water
2. Add about half the water and combine well. Slowly add more water until desired consistency is reached. I like it fairly thick and use just slightly less than 1 cup. Use a stick blender to smooth out any lumps.
3. Store in the fridge.  I'm not sure how long it keeps because I use it within a week (it calls my name until it's finished). I'd venture to say it would keep for at least 2 weeks or longer. 

What to do with it? More like, what can't you do with it. Personally, I can eat it on anything, but a basic fav is with fried or steamed veggies, rice and some sort of protein. Drizzle a few tablespoons over the hot cooked items right in your bowl and toss or add the sauce to the pan while cooking the veggies or protein. If you add it to the pan, add it near the end as it will evaporate and burn if left on high or medium heat for too long.

*Actually I had these ideas to take photos of all these different dishes I ate with peanut sauce...but sadly (or happily) we ate it all and I didn't get around to taking any. Sorry! You will have to take my word for it that it goes great on pretty much everything (if you like your peanut sauce like I do, it won't last long).

Quick burrito bowl


Can there be a more perfect medley of flavours and textures than burrito fillings? Throw it all in a bowl and it's even faster than wrapping (and you save the wrap!!). I often make Food babe's burritos for lunch and a similar version for Craig (with meat). But, if I'm not packing one for a lunch, we prefer a bowl. It comes together in less than 30 minutes (way less if you have leftover cooked rice or quinoa on hand).

If going meatless, add more veggies, grilled or fried tofu and/or beans. 

Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients

1 398 ml can Amy's refried beans, heated (or any kind but those are nice)

1 cup (approx) of cooked ground beef (or cooked diced chicken, grilled or fried tofu, or ground pork)
(cook/fry or grill one of your protein choices above with 1 tbsp oil, 2 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp chipotle powder, 1 tsp garlic powder and 1/2 tsp salt)

1 ripe avocado
generous squeeze of lime
1-2 grated garlic cloves
pinch of salt to taste

1 cup cooked brown rice (or quinoa or even a handful of corn chips)
1 cup chopped fresh tomato (or homemade or store bought salsa)
1/2 cup grated cheese (I used organic mozzarella)
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives (optional)

Instructions

1. Make the guacamole by combining the avocado, lime juice, garlic & salt to taste in a small bowl and mash with a fork until well mixed.
2. Arrange all the ingredients in 2-3 serving bowls-depending how large you want your servings. 

New house renovation progress



We moved in December to a house and out of the trailer. The nice thing about the trailer is that it is SMALL. And for me, small is doable, manageable...less accumulation of stuff. Ya know? The new house is pretty big for 2 people and 2 cats... (6 bedrooms). All original 70's (not in a good retro way). The lower lever remains untouched, with plans to suite it at some point in the next 50 years. But the top level is coming along.

Craig is doing all the handyguy stuff himself with me in the supportive role of sustenance provider and waste lugger-outsider.  These renos were done to May. No pics posted, but at the same time, the bathroom was being demoed.

If I had posted this while the renos were happening, there would be much more stress & urgency in my writing. It's my first experience with a big project and it's messy and exhausting. Not good for my sense of order, which I've had to suppress. The top floor is almost finished though, needs a floor and trim (oh, and kitchen is only 2/3 done).

The opened up wall. Cut off in the next pic, but the post is still there. Had to keep it as it's a load bearing beam. Makes for a cool feature. 
Walls had layers of wood under the panelling. Floor had carpeting. We ripped it up and painted the plywood. Floor will be done last.

We took out 2 closets in the hall (behind Craig's head). Fr too many doors on a small wall. 4!

For the summer, renos went on the back-burner in favour of chopping wood and tending a small veggie garden. Next time, I'll post some pics of the outdoor renos.

freezer bonbons with date caramel & pb

It's a heat wave (I'm inside, sipping ice water, decided to make myself somewhat useful & work on the blog. Big change to the header...we'll see if it stays... I really like the 'mossy' font).

Still, heat wave or no, treats need to be eaten (I'm eating these while I type). It goes without saying there will be no oven-turning-on. The idea of it makes me feel dizzy....so it's freezer treats for all! (well me, anyway)

I've been getting into Angela's (from Oh She Glows) cookbook since I ordered it. I'm definitely not vegan, but I can't get enough of her recipes. Her cookbook includes lots of freezer treats, including these homemade yolos (think rolo). I adore them as they are, but my crazy need for always less sugar made me want to see how much I could modify them without sacrificing taste. It was pretty easy....I increased the peanut better and swapped out chocolate chips for no-sugar, raw chocolate coating. Not as decadent, but one I feel slightly better about eating. Dates may be natural, but they are seriously high in fructose (15 grams in 2 dates).

For my mods, I went with 1/2 cup peanut butter. But in my experimentation, I found I could go all the way to 3/4 cup. It's becomes more like a protein ball if you don't mind that.

Yield: 24

Ingredients

Caramel filling
200 grams medjool dates
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp water

Chocolate coating
40 grams cocoa butter*
3 tbsp cocoa powder

Instructions
1. Pit dates and process in a food processor. Add water. Continue processing until dates are broken down and mixture gets sticky and clumpy.
2. Add peanut butter and salt. Process until becomes like a ball of dough.
3. Chill dough in the fridge for at least 10 minutes.
4. Form dough into small balls. Place on a lined baking tray and freeze for at least 15 minutes.
5. In the meantime, make coating.
6. Using a double boiler (I use small saucepan with 2 inches of water with a small metal bowl that fits on the top without falling in) melt cocoa butter with cocoa powder over medium heat. It doesn't take long. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly (it will be very liquidy...if you allow it to cool a little, the coating on balls will be thicker).
7. Coat balls and re-place on the lined baking tray. *A little messy, I use a spoon and the very ends of my fingers to remove and place on tray. Freeze for at least 15 minutes.
8. Put in a sealed container. Store in the freezer.

*Note: Depending on what you have on hand, you could probably use coconut oil instead of cocoa butter.


all natural lemongrass coconut deodorant




Something different on the blog today. Something I'm dying to share because I love it so much! Who would think you can make deodorant at home...super easily......for pennies, and one that really, really works!

Commercial deodorants are not something I've used for a while. I tried natural versions (too many to count) but there was always something disappointing about them. Too sticky usually and not effective. There are literally hundreds of natural deodorant recipes floating around, but I was inspired by ones with the least, most simplest ingredients.

It contains baking soda, but I haven't found it to be irritating on my skin. But I don't 'rub' it in, rather just apply it gently and not on freshly shaved skin. Never had a problem.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot flour
  • 6 tbsp coconut oil (gently melted)
  • 10-15 drops essential oil (I used lemongrass: smells fresh and good for men and women)


Instructions

  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl. It will be liquid consistency due to the melted coconut oil. But it will be easy to spoon into an old deodorant container or similar holder. 
  • Initially I used a container that had small holes in the lid, thinking it would squeeze through but it was too solid. It's better as regular 'stick'. 
  • Note: warmer weather heats and softens it, while colder weather will firm it and it becomes true stick style.  
  • This amount made is what you see below. A good amount in the stick and another small container. If you don't have a deodorant holder you could put the whole amount in a jar or container and apply with fingers.


Pros:

  • It works really well 
  • Customize the scent or keep it plain
  • Super natural / no worries being on skin

Start it! Summer of salad

Is it possible to love a salad dressing this much? Fact #1 I've been eating this dressing every day for a week. Fact #2: It totally goes with everything including non-salad (spread on a bbq'd burger is nice). It's creamy, tangy, super delicious and it's making me love salads for dinner everyday (yes, I'm at risk of getting sick of this dressing, but 7 days in a row and not yet).

The dressing is from my new favourite cookbook. Everything I have tried (and I've tried at least 5 things) have turned out delicious and easy to follow.
Here's her salad dressing recipe. It's in the cookbook, but also on her blog. Click the recipe title below to link to her page.

My ingredients below are doubled what she lists, but you can easily half it it you're not sure. But, I guarantee you will wish you made the double batch once to try it.


Ingredients 
1/2 tsp minced garlic (about 1 clove)
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp good quality salt

Instructions
Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth.

Note: This dressing turns out creamy and thick. In the original recipe, she suggests 1-2 tbsp olive oil and 1-2 tbsp water. I use the max amount and it is still plenty thick but better able to get out of the blender.
My little jar of dressing in the fridge that will soon be empty again :(

Chocolate lovers {no sugar} raw chocolate

There was a little more sugar consumption in my life than I would like during the first part of Spring....but with Summer on the way (and an invitation to a bikini wedding), I want to feel my total best and that means giving sugar the heave-ho. I've been making raw chocolate for a few years, but I wanted to share this gem as I seem to have got the proportions just right. Super chocolaty with a hint of sweet. It's saved me on more than one evening these past weeks from the sweet munchies!

Feel free to play with ingredients. You could add nuts, seeds, coconut flakes. I sometimes use cocoa butter instead of coconut oil or a combination. But, I'm on a coconut love-feast lately. Here's why:

Coconut oil facts
  • Coconut oil is mostly made up of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). MCFAs are smaller than most fatty acids. They permeate cell membranes easily, and do not require special enzymes to be utilized by your body. 
  • MCFAs are easily digested and put less strain on your digestive system.
  • MCFAs are transported directly to the liver where they are converted into energy rather than stored as fat. They promoting “thermogenesis” which increases the body’s metabolism, leading to weight loss

Raw Chocolate Recipe

Yield: 10-12 (if using silicone cupcake liners)

Ingredients
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp raw virgin coconut oil (or cocoa butter or combination)
1/2 cup raw cocoa powder
5 drops liquid stevia and/or 1-2 tbsp sweetener of choice (e.g. maple syrup or brown rice syrup or see note about xylitol) 

Instructions
1. In a small saucepan, add coconut oil and cocoa powder. Melt over medium heat. It doesn't take long. Mix well. 
2. Remove from heat. Mix in sweetener of choice. If using brown rice syrup, leave on the heat while you add. It is quite sticky and needs a little more heat to incorporate into the choc mix. 
3. Spoon into silicone moulds or other prepared chocolate receptacle. 
4. Place in the freezer to cool until solid. About 15 minutes.
5. Remove from moulds, store in the fridge or freezer. 
I pour the liquid chocolate into silicone cupcake liners but in you can use chocolate moulds or even a container lined with parchment paper. 

Note: I used xylitol with great results after figuring out how to dissolve the granules! For the choc recipe above, use 2 tsp xylitol. Add 1 tsp hot water to it and heat in a small saucepan (or stainless measuring cup). It dissolves quickly. Continue to heat a little longer to evaporate some of the water. A little water is o.k. Add this to your melted chocolate mixture. 
Other note: My stevia brand is Sweet Leaf Sweet Drops in english toffee flavour. Regular flavour liquid stevia will work fine too.
My flavour combo of the moment includes adding:
  • 10 drops peppermint oil
  • tsp dissolved xylitol granules (plus the 5 drops stevia)
It's just like a peppermint patty!

P.S. I'm not sure what that brown spot is on top. I thought it was from the quick cool-down in the freezer but I tried a slow cool-down in the fridge and it was so much worse; a giant crater in the middle of the chocolate. Anyway, either way, it doesn't affect the taste and I'm not overly concerned with perfection (haha, right). But if you find a way to solve this, let me know. 

(dare I say?) best chunky chocolate chip cookies


Yes,  this is what I've been doing. Baking cookies and hiding out. Feeling guilty about not posting but too tired to do anything about it. In my defence, I'm living in reno land and everything is coated in drywall dust. Including the kitchen. 

If you are still around, thanks for your patience. 

In my past super-extremely sugary life, I considered myself an CCC aficionado. I ate, baked and modified dozens of recipes from chipits, Martha, friends...anywhere that promised perfection. Many were o.k. but many more were too sweet, too crumbly or too cakey.

I'm happy to say, this recipe is none of those terrible things. For all the times you need a go-to , people pleaser cookie (made with mostly wholesome ingredients, save for some sugar of course). Inspiration came from these off my favourite blog. 

Although they do have sugar, it's as low as I could go without compromising texture and taste. I do try though.....a
 recent *debacle* involved using powdered stevia leaf. Craig said they tasted like 'the farm'. I didn't mind them, but still a work in progress. 

I admit there have been other contenders in the #1 cookie spot. These were it a little while ago and before those, I thought nothing could beat these. But as good as they both are, these ones are better. 
good'ens from the past

best chunky chocolate chip cookies

Yield: 25-27 large cookies

Ingredients
2 eggs
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt (seems like a lot but don't skimp)*I use pink Himalayan
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (see note)
1-2 tbsp water to moisten batter (as needed)
200 grams dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate 

Note: Whole wheat pastry flour is lighter and finer than regular whole wheat. 
Note: See below for a January 2015 update to this recipe

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F degrees
1. In a large bowl, combine first 5 ingredients (eggs to sugar). 
2. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients. 
3. Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix. If the dough seems a little dry, add water to moisten. About 2 tbsp is what I usually need. 
4. Mix in chocolate chips. 
5. Form into large balls and place on cookie sheet. No need to flatten them, but you certainly can. 
6. Bake 12 minutes (I bake mine this long...as with most CCCs they should look slightly underdone when then come out).
7. Let cool on tray for 5 minutes to firm up.
no need to flatten your cookie balls unless you like 'em flatter
...they're a more rounded, perky cookie by nature
So beautiful! And so tempting. Enjoy!!!!!!!

January 2015 update

For a lower sugar, healthier option:

  • omit 1/3 cup white sugar
  • replace 2/3 cup brown sugar with 2/3 sucanat (it has more flavour)
  • replace 1 cup of flour with 1 cup whole flake oats
  • use at least 70% or more cocoa content chocolate chips / chopped chocolate bar


They still taste great! I actually think they might even be better. 

Snicker balls

Things are busy around the household these days. Renos and layers of dust settling on everything. I've been slacking in the recipe creation department lately, but thankfully my brain thought these up and we've been eating them like crazy ever since.

I asked Craig what he would call these and he said they reminded him of snickers. I haven't had one in years but I remember them as peanut-y, chewy and dense. Yes! These are all those as well as incredibly healthier.

I love that they look fussy, but they come together super quick and it's easy to roll the balls around with a fork in the chocolate and plunk them on the lined cookie sheet.


Yield: 25 bite sized balls

Ingredients

Balls
1 cup (255 grams) unsweetened smooth peanut butter (organic is best)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup unflavoured protein powder (I use Natural Factors Whey)
1 cup almond meal (left over from making almond milk, so will be a little moist)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup rice crisp cereal (I use Nature's Path)

Chocolate coating
1/4 cup (54 grams) cocoa butter (or you could use coconut oil but chocolate will melt easier)
3 tbsp raw cocoa powder
5 drops liquid stevia (optional)

Instructions
1. combine the peanut butter and maple syrup in a bowl, mix but don't over-mix
2. in another bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients (except almond meal)
3. add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter/maple syrup bowl, mix it up, then add almond meal and incorporate fully. use your hands, it's easier
4. roll into balls and place them on a parchment or silpat lined baking tray
5. freeze for 20 minutes until very firm
6. make the chocolate while they are firming: heat a small saucepan half filled with water on medium heat. place a heat-proof bowl on top & place cocoa butter in bowl. when nearly melted, turn off heat. when fully melted, remove from stove. add cocoa powder and mix
7. get balls from the freezer. coat each one in the melted chocolate. a fork works best. **if you make 25 balls, you will not have any melted chocolate left over after rolling.
8. freeze balls for 10 minutes until the chocolate is hardened. store in a parchment lined container in the fridge or freezer. this type of chocolate melts at a fairly low temperature so best to eat from the fridge or shortly afterwards.




dark chocolate marmalade loaf


Taking pictures of food is tricky. Have you tried? The strangest thing can look great; other times I feel I've got a real winner on my hands and I can't take a photo that would even convince my mother to make it. This loaf. Exhibit A. First, I can't say how good it is. It's probably too good for it's own good, haha. Frankly, it's chocolate brownie in a pretty healthy disguise. But in the photo, it looks like any other boring loaf with yellowish spots (that's marmalade). 

It's made with lots of dates so it's still a treat, especially if you're avoiding fructose. But a little bit goes a long way. Trust me, there is a cup of butter in there! My version adds homemade marmalade (made with xylitol) but you could try the original recipe and use grated orange peel. 

Ingredients

1 cup dates (I used pitted medjools)
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup (250 mL) butter, at room temperature
2 large free-range eggs
1 tsp grated orange peel (I used 1/4 cup homemade marmalade)
4 oz (115 g) dark chocolate, melted (I used a 100 gram 90% chocolate Lindt bar melted)
1 1/3 cups flour (I used 100% organic whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup boiling water


Instructions


1. Preheat oven to 375 F
2. Simmer dates with water until very tender. Stir in vanilla. Purée in a food processor to a smooth paste.
3. Line 9 x 5 x 3 in (23 x 13 x 6 cm) loaf pan with parchment paper or butter (I used butter).
4. Using food processor, add butter to date purée. Add eggs, one at a time, then orange peel (or marmalade). Remove from food processor and pour mixture into a bowl. Fold in melted chocolate.
5. Stir flour with baking soda. Add half the flour mixture to the wet mixture and combine just until mixed. Add water and mix, and then beat in remaining flour, just until mixed. Batter will be very liquid. Pour into prepared loaf pan.
6. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 F (160 C). Continue baking for 15 more minutes. Not sure what the baking sheet is for but I did it anyway. My loaf needed an additional 10 minutes at 325.  Cool completely before slicing.
Craig had this in his lunch (loved it) and I had a few times for a morning snack (I loooove chocolate in the morning). But it could easily be a very decadent dessert. Versatile in the extreme. Not recommended unless you like dense, chocolatey, moist things (um,?).

P.S. I love my new Abeego food wraps. Have you seen these? It's like reusable plastic wrap but very environmentally friendly.

no-sugar orange marmalade


Have you ever tried making jam? I've made a few over the years, but it seems like nothing can be preserved without the dreaded white sugar. Seriously..., pickles, chutney and jam...all FULL of sugar. But then I found this! Made using xylitol and seriously you can't tell (I've since found & tried this jam too, pricey but delicious). If you are not familiar with xylitol, and you need or like to manage your sugar, it's worth checking out.

This recipe is from Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook (It's All Good).

Yield: about 3 cups

Ingredients
3 oranges, stem ends trimmed off and discarded (since using the whole orange, recommend you use organic)
juice of 1 lemon
2 cups water
1 cup xylitol

Instructions
1. Cut the oranges in half. Scoop the insides-the flesh, juice and seeds into a food processor and reserve the skins. Puree the insides until smooth and pour into a saucepan.
2. Slice the skins into matchsticks and add them to the pan along with the lemon juice and the water. Turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil.
3. Lower the heat and simmer for 1.5 hours uncovered or until the rinds are very, very soft. Add the xylitol or honey and turn the heat back to high. Boil the marmalade stirring quite often, for 10 minutes or until the marmalade begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
4. Turn off the heat and let cool before transferring to a jar. Keeps in the fridge for up to a month (mine kept for several months..it also froze beautifully). 

Blueberry-chia parfait: super easy, no sugar












This pudding is delicious. I get bored of the same thing all the time for breakfast and I switch things up with this a few times a month. If you haven't tried making chia pudding yet, now's your chance! Just be somewhat warned....the texture is a little like tapioca, slippery and lumpy. You can make it without, but this version is with yogurt. It gives it more body and holds the chia seeds uniformly throughout. Sweetened with just a little stevia, because that's all it really needs. 

Yield 
2-3 servings

Ingredients
1 cup almond milk (or other milk of choice)
1 cup yogurt (I use 3.5% organic cow's milk yogurt)
1/4 cup chia seeds
a few drops liquid stevia (I used english toffee flavoured stevia drops) (optional)
1/4 cup blueberries (optional)
handful of hemp hearts (or sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or whatever you like)

Instructions
1. Mix everything but blueberries and hemp hearts/seeds in a container or bowl
2. Refrigerate overnight
3. The next day, spoon into bowls or travel containers and top with fruit and seeds of choice. If you like being fancy and want to impress others, layer with blueberries and make parfait! How cute is it in this little glass jar? Too cute.

No sugar, no grain banana bread

Now, I know what you're thinking. This is going to be dry/mushy/tasteless/grainy. I am happy to say you will be so wrong! Someone (I wish it was me) has found a yummy banana bread recipe that I feel good about eating. I got the recipe here thanks to a friend who passed it my way. 

It's very easy to make but you need to use VERY ripe bananas. She stresses that in her recipe to use bananas destined for the freezer, a week ago. 

Yield: 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • 4 very ripe bananas mashed
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon raw cocoa powder (this is my add-in)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4- 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips 
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Put ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined
  3. Pour into a loaf pan that has been greased or lined with parchment
  4. Bake for about 60 minutes or until the centre seems not to jiggle when you wiggle it a little (in original recipe she says to bake 45-60 but in the times I've made it, I bake for about 65 minutes)

I used high cocoa content chips but you could easily chop up a dark bar if you can't find dark chips.
With all those eggs, it's good for breakfast! It seems to taste better at room temperature, but that might just be me. FYI, I tried it last night with only 3 eggs (rather than the 4 it calls for) and while it was edible (it has already been eaten), it didn't set up as nicely and it took an extra 20 minutes in the oven. 
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