Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sweet and Salty Caramel Date Candy Bar

I better post this recipe before the chance escapes me. I have been making this 'candy bar' combo in pie form for a few years, but this time around I decided to make them into bars in a 9x13 pan and I loved it even more. Something about the flavors and the shape. It kind feels like you really just did serve up a real candy bar, but with the best possible ingredients of course! It is the best kind of sweet and salty combo--- with delectable dates as 'the caramel', a little bit of course sea salt and...creamy chocolate- it meets all those tastes you could ever wish for in a little dessert. Perhaps thats why candy bars were invented originally ;)
These are super simple to make and super simple to serve up and not to mention get better as time passes from making them. My kind of treat! I love to share goodies and this one is now at the top of my list! You must try this combo- it truly is a surprising and desirable treat! Totally addicting....
Sweet and Salty Caramel Date Candy Bar Recipe
{gluten, dairy, nut, seed, and soy-free, vegan}

Crust:
3/4 cup of oat flour
1/2 cup of tapioca flour
2/3 cup of coconut flakes
pinch of sea salt (1/2 ts.)
1/4 cup of coconut sugar
2 TB of maple syrup
1/2 cup of softened organic coconut oil

Mix the above ingredients well together and press into a parchment covered 9x13 pan. Press in evenly and then bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Then let it cool before adding the next 2 layers.

Date Cream:
2 cups of date puree
1/3 cup of coconut cream
pinch of sea salt

First, date puree can be made by pouring boiling water (about 1 cup or more to cover the dates) over 2 cups of pitted dates and letting them soak for 15 minute or even overnight. Then blend the dates when soft to make a creamy pudding like cream. After its made you can use in your required recipe or store in an airtight container in the fridge to add to recipes or dishes in place of sweetener.  But for this recipe.....Put the above ingredients in a small saucepan and warm but don't boil. Warm enough for the coconut cream to melt into the date paste and whisk together to get a creamy pudding like mixture. Then pour over and spread evenly over the cooled crust. 

Chocolate Topping:
1 heaping cup of dairy-free chocolate chips
1/3 cup of coconut cream
additional: course seas salt for last sprinkle on top

Then in a small glass bowl, melt the chocolate chips and coconut cream over a boiling water pan to get a creamy chocolate ganache. When smooth and creamy and only warmed not too hot- pour over the date mixture evenly and spread as smooth as possible- being careful not to overly spread or mix the layers. Then put in the fridge in a safe, even location for 1 hour. Then you can sprinkle the course sea salt on it so that it will not melt into the warmed chocolate. Then you continue to refrigerate for 4-6 hours and then pull from the fridge, pull out the parchment from the pan and use a knife to put your bars. You can cut small or large. I can get 24 or 16 bar with ease. 

additional options:
This totally satisfies the "candy bar" craving without cuts or seeds...but if for some reason you want to add some of that real flavor in you can add a little nut or seed butter to the date cream.... or you can sprinkle some crushed nuts (peanuts or almonds over the date cream before you spread out the chocolate topping. 

I hope you have fun, experiment and find new ways to make new treats in the kitchen. Changing your outlook on your time and efforts in the kitchen is not easy if you are down and sad about loosing your favorite treats. But I must tell you that it is worth the effort- in time you will be able to find more joy in your relationship with food because you are no longer afraid, guilty or in actual physical pain. This does not happen over night- like any relationship- it takes time to cultivate this relationship and space to explore food without fear and loss.

Hope you are well and sending much love to you, xoxo

Friday, February 17, 2017

Vegan Creamy Tomato Bisque

Tomato goodness! This is the kind of soup that you can truly savor sip by sip and be mindful of the textures and flavors. I was craving a thick...and creamy... tomato bisque and wanted to try something with adding white beans and cauliflower to make it creamy instead of the thick cream. To my surprise, I loved it and it was actually a quick cooking time meal as well. But shhh.... don't get my kids there is 'beans' in this soup. They are so well hidden no one would ever know ;)
This soup is made with mostly pantry items and a few fresh ingredients so hopefully can be made more on a whim when you are feeling the craving for a good, satisfying soup. I did that a few days ago with this one and have been enjoying 'living on a whim' of tomato bisque ever since. I love being surprised again and again by a few ingredients that make something so wonderful and nourishing. Simple in the kitchen always brings be so much joy! And now I can share the love and joy with you too...
I have memories of canned tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. A great American classic combo. But I think I mostly remember a cafe I used to frequent in college that made a weekly tomato bisque that got me through the days of coffee-shop studying when I would 'forget' to eat for hours. So I think this kind of soup brings up the kinds of love and emotion that makes me feel cared for and nourished. Another great thing I love to share :)
Vegan Creamy Tomato Bisque Recipe
{gluten, dairy, nut, seed, egg-free, and vegan}

1/2 cup of chopped sweet onions
1/2 cup of chopped celery
1 heaping cup of chopped raw cauliflower
1 TB of grated fresh garlic (or 1 ts of dried powder) 
3 TB of avocado or olive oil
1/2 cup of a mix of fresh chopped Italian herbs (oregano, thyme, basil, marjoram, rosemary)
 (or you can use 1/2-1TB of dried Italian herb blend)
28 ounces of organic fire roasted canned crushed tomatoes (I used Muir Glen)
15 ounces of cooked canned navy or white beans
2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup of non-dairy-milk beverage (I used coconut milk beverage)
2 TB of coconut palm sugar
1/2-1 ts of sprinkled sea salt
squeeze of fresh lemon

In a medium pot, saute the chopped onion, celery, cauliflower and garlic in 3 TB of avocado or olive oil. Saute until soft and then pour in the canned crushed tomatoes, broth, and the rest of the ingredients. Let it all come to a boil and cook for 15 or so minutes on medium heat. Then you can carefully pour all the ingredients in a high powered blender- OR use an immersion blender right in the same pot, which is what I used... to blend up all of the contents of the soup. Everything should be cooked so soft that it will easily blend and cream up. It will become a thick and creamy soup that is ready to serve.

Serve with homemade bread or crackers, or even if you desire grilled cheese sandwiches or a alternative sandwich. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh basil or thyme to make it fresh and fancy. 
I hope you are finding way to make living the gluten-free or more allergy-free life easier. It is recipes like this that keep me inspired to keep it simple and enjoy the small things in the kitchen that create  so much love and nourishment. Don't give up on the journey. Keep going!

Much love as always, xoxo

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gluten-Egg-Dairy and Nut-Free Homemade Chicken Tenders

Years and years ago when I started this food blog I put up a favorite recipe at the time for making homemade chicken tenders. I made this dish all the time back then to add to salads, pasta, and leftover lunches. But since then I have needed to find a way to make them without corn or almonds because of allergies. So---I have been making this version of chicken tenders for the past few years and realized I never shared it with you. How selfish of me! So here it is.
I love making food that my people love. And my people love 'chicken nuggets' and 'chicken tenders' and so that is what I make for them. I love it that you can make these tenders without any added allergens of eggs, nuts, dairy and you still get the crispy crust over the chicken. Who would have thought?! And you think kids love 'from the freezer section' chicken nuggets- well the real deal it that more wonderful! I makes me feel like I did something great in the kitchen that day... homemade goodness that didn't really take much more than a few simple steps. {side note: if you are feeding your kids freezer section GF nuggets- NO JUDGEMENT to you- you are a fabulous mom and doing the best you can for each today--- I GET IT!- I also use freezer section goods for my kids and so much love to you!!!}
I truly like to keep things pretty simple in the kitchen. Yes, I do love to experiment with new flavors, spices and world foods...but when it comes to getting my kids to eat something more than just applesauce and potatoes.... I gotta  keep trying to find ways to get a balanced source of proteins and nutrients into their little bodies. This is a recipe I find myself making once a week or every few weeks. The tenders keep great in the fridge after baking for a few days to warm up and eat for lunches or dinners. It is just a great addition to salads, sandwiches and whatever you might want to add chicken too. I hope you give this creation a try if you haven't made this up yourself already :)
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, and Nut-Free Chicken Tender/Nuggets Recipe

Chicken soak mix:
3/4-1 cup of dairy-free milk (So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk Beverage is my first choice)
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (or sub fresh lemon juice)
2 pounds of organic or free range antibiotic free chicken tenders

Dry mix:
1 cup of white rice flour
2/3 cup of tapioca flour
1/2 TB of each: garlic powder, Italian herb season blend, smoked paprika, sea salt
plus a pinch or two of black pepper

9x13 pan glass pan with 3-4 TB of avocado oil or a mix of olive and avocado oils

In a medium bowl, dump in your raw chicken and then cover with the milk and vinegar. If you want to have more of a nugget sized chicken piece then use a kitchen scissors and cut each tender into 3-4 pieces and you will have a more bite-sized nugget. Let sit for 5 minutes and stir- you will see how the mixture turned into a buttermilk type mixture and is soaking into the chicken. Then in another medium bowl, pour in your dry mixture and stir together. Then set up stations of the chicken mix, dry mix and your oiled pan. 
 
Use your hands and grab the raw chicken, dunk in the flour mix and then shake off and place each tender in the pan. Fill up your pan, it might be snug and it doesn't have to be perfect. Then bake in a 375-400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until they are golden brown to your liking. Let the sizzling chicken rest in the pan for at least 15 minutes before serving. This will allow the crust to stick better and oils to soak into the juices of the finished product. 
Then you can assemble your salad bar. I usually have a bed of greens, cucumber, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, herbs or green onions, and whatever other veggie is in-season as a favorite salad topping. Then I also like to add some warm rice or quinoa for added texture or warmth. In these pictures I had a black rice veggies dish that I re-warmed and sprinkled over the salad. I also like to add roasted sweet potatoes or other roots as toppings as well. If you are crouton lover- this will totally do the trick to get rid of the crusty chunks to add in some crispy roasted roots! 
So pile up greens, chopped veggies, warmed GF whole grain, warmed roasted roots, a few chicken tenders and a killer house dressing and you've got yourself a meal that will share with you for days to come. I love whipping up a simple house honey mustard salad dressing to dip tenders into or drizzle over your salad. Here is the estimated amounts to make that yourself...

Honey Mustard Homemade Salad Dressing
1/3 cup of pure raw honey
1/4 cup of mustard (any variety works)
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
1/4 cup of olive oil
pinch of sea salt
pinch of black pepper
pinch of dried thyme

Whisk quickly by hand all the above ingredients together in small bowl, or put all the ingredients in a Ball jar and shake up until it is emulsified together well. 
My kids love organic ketchup and the honey mustard dressing for dipping as well. This is a meal I can get the whole family to eat and is great throughout the summer months to just pull from the fridge or pack for a picnic. But it is also a great winter meal to remind yourself of what a fresh and warm salad tastes like. About this time of winter I start to crave greens and any veggie with a little crunch. This means spring must be coming... at least thats what I tell myself or my body is trying to tell me. 

I hope you are finding ways to keep things simple in the kitchen and ways to love on yourself and family with food choices. You deserve it!

Much love as always! xoxo

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Valentine Heart Shortbread Cookies

Trying to get festive over here... making some valentine's treats and goodies for the kids while we decorate the house in hearts and make little notes for school friends and loved ones. Once February rolls around,  I am sooooooo ready to add some pink and red hearts to our home to add some color and 'LOVE'. It is usually pretty grey and blah outside this time of year so it helps to feel warm and cozy and full of so much love on the inside. I guess I am a lover for Valentine's Day then... I know it can be a touchy day of love or hate or something in-between. But seriously- why not embrace all of the love, chocolate and flowers you can... sometimes my hubs gets mad at me because I occasionally even buy them for myself ;) I do.... no shame or guilt!
I made this shortbread recipe just out of the flours I had a lot of in the pantry, and they turned out pretty wonderful. But you could also use one of the below Shortbread/Cut Out Cookies Recipes if you have those flours on hand as well.



Or maybe you are looking some something a little more chocolaty and indulgent :) I get it. I do. Here are a few more chocolate goodies I made in the past for valentine's treats... and HERE is my archive of CHOCOLATE recipes.... 



Gluten-Free Vegan Cut Out Shortbread Cookie Recipe
{nut-free, seed-free, gluten-free, vegan}

1 cup of coconut flour
1 cup of sprouted brown rice flour
1 cup of millet flour
1 cup of tapioca flour
1 ts. of baking soda
1 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of sea salt
1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup of avocado oil
1/2 cup of maple syrup
1/2 cup of softened coconut oil

In a large mixing bowl, mix together your dry ingredients first...then add the applesauce, maple syrup, and oils. Mix well with a fork or to be honest, your hands and fingers do the job best. Knead the lump of cookie dough in your hands for a few minutes until you get a perfectly mixed ball of cookie dough. If your dough is a touch sticky, then sprinkle some more tapioca flour to stiffen it right up.

Roll out the ball of dough on a parchment paper. Try and keep the thickness around 1/2 inch and roll out as evenly as possible. Then start cutting with heart cut out or whatever cutouts you prefer. Put the cookies in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12-14 minutes. I like my cookies a bit crispier, so I stay around 14 minutes baking time. This recipe should make about 2 dozen cookies but really depends on the size of your cutters and how big and small you want your cookies to be.

The icing I used was just a mixture of palm oil shortening(1/3 cup), maple syrup (1/4 cup), organic powdered sugar (1/4 cup), and a pinch of sea salt and plant based food dye. I used red for these hearts and it came out a nice pink ;) I whisk with a hand blender and pour into an icing bag and then you can write, trace or do whatever you like. You can also just spread on with a knife. I also have just melted Enjoy Life chocolate chips before and just drizzled melted chocolate over the cookies and let them cool too. So do whatever sounds good!

Well I hope you find some time to make a few treats in the kitchen so that you do not have to feel like your diet is so limited that you cannot have a little fun and enjoyment too. You deserve it!

And now I leave you with...

Love and kindness does not equal weakness...and LOVE starts within and for yourself...

"...stop acting so small...you are the universe in ecstatic motion...your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."
---wise words from Rumi---

So dear one, find the love and care you ache for within yourself. How are you to give and receive love if you are not showing it to yourself ?!

Much LOVE to YOU, as always xoxo