Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Quick Nutty Coconut Dark Chocolate (a healthy chocolate treat!)

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.  I get those cravings for chocolate and such and I've found quite the way to satisfy it.




Ingredients:

1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate
2 1/2 tbs coconut oil
2 tbs finely shredded coconut
small amount of walnuts, broken into little pieces (or other nuts/seeds)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
stevia, to taste


Directions:

Melt the chocolate and coconut oil together in the smallest saucepan you have (or a metal measuring cup like I use), stirring frequently over low heat.  While that is melting (and you're stirring frequently) begin to prepare the chocolate mold.  If you do not have a chocolate mold you could use a muffin tin with paper inserts or even a bread pan and then break the chocolate into pieces when done.  I am using a very cheap plastic chocolate mold.  Preparing the mold, break the walnuts or other nuts into the size you'd like and place in your mold.




Once the chocolate and coconut are melted and mixed together smoothly, add the shredded coconut, vanilla extract and stevia.




Use a small spoon to place the mixture in the mold, one spoon at a time.




Set the mold in the freezer for about 20 minutes, or until the chocolate is hardened.  Remove from freezer and take the chocolate out.  You can store the pieces in a small container in the freezer or refrigerator.  Since the coconut oil sets up hard when chilled you don't want to let it get too warm or it will melt.  




(Check out other tasty picks at this week's Wellness Weekend

Friday, June 21, 2013

Simple Strawberry Banana "Ice Cream" Smoothie



I do not miss ice cream when I have something like this available.  It certainly is: Dreamy and Creamy! It's also simple and doesn't need any ice cream maker.

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen strawberries (buy frozen or wash and freeze fresh ones)
1 frozen banana (allow fresh bananas to ripen, then remove peel and freeze)
Just enough milk (I used almond) to blend smooth but not make too thin
stevia, to taste (optional: if you have a sweet-tooth like me and want it even sweeter)




Directions:

Place ingredients in blender and blend on high until smooth.  A high-speed blender works best for this and you can use the tamper tool to really get the ingredients blended well.  Any will do, you may just need to add more milk for a regular blender.  Enjoy! 




If you like this recipe, you might also be interested in my recipe for Strawberry Frozen Yogurt!
Also, check out more yummy recipes in this week's recipe sharing events at Diet, Dessert and Dogs and Gluten Free Cat.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Broccolini with Yogurt-Lemon-Butter Sauce

Broccoli's cute little cousin deserves a special sauce...




Ingredients:

1 bunch broccolini
2 tbs butter (or 1 tbs butter and 1 tbs olive oil)
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp - 1 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice (amount depends upon how tart you would like it - I used 1 tbs and it's nicely tart for my taste)
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbs plain yogurt


Directions:

Begin by steaming the broccolini without chopping it.  While it is steaming, begin melting the butter in a small pan on medium.  Add the olive oil and garlic.  Let cook about 1 minute.




Then, remove from heat and stir-in the lemon juice, salt/pepper and yogurt.

Stick the broccolini with a fork to check for doneness.  When cooked to your satisfaction, use tongs to remove it on a plate(s) and drizzle with the sauce.  Enjoy!


Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Single-Serving Protein Pancake and Sauce

To cure my sweet tooth in the evening I sometimes make my main course a giant protein pancake... mmm! (With a giant side of greens, of course...).  Here's the thing: it's different every time I make it, sometimes it's flips in one piece, sometimes it falls apart, the flavor/texture can vary.  But, in the end it tastes good. This really is a choose-your-own-adventure sort of experiment to find out what you like and create just the right thing for you that day.  Amounts of ingredients greatly vary, for example, all flours are not made equal.  For example, coconut flour absorbs WAY more liquid than other flours, etc.  So, give this a try (choosing your own adventure)...




Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Pancake-

I usually pick 1-2 flours/nut meals and maybe shredded coconut and/or ground flax.  I always add 2-3 eggs for protein. I tweak the amount of spices, flavorings, stevia for the day.  Also, I add whatever amount of water or milk (I only use water if I don't have any milk) to bring it to the best pancake batter consistency.  I will list what ingredients I usually choose from, but you can try your own as well...


Flours and such...

  • coconut flour
  • oat flour (or rolled oats if you are putting this in a blender, or you could even keep the oats whole!)
  • ground almonds (almond meal or almond flour)
  • ground flax seeds
  • garbanzo flour
  • shredded coconut
  • protein powder
  • What else?

Spices/flavorings...
  • stevia
  • cinnnamon
  • nutmeg
  • green cardomon 
  • vanilla extract
  • almond extract
  • cocoa powder
  • carob powder
  • What else?

Remember!...
  • 2-3 eggs and milk or milk substitute (or water if you don't have milk)

Optional toppings to sprinkle in or on...
  • cocoa nibs
  • cinnamon
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • walnuts
  • shredded coconut
  • What else?

I will give you a very rough idea of what measurements I might include (Disclaimer: I have never once actually measured for this recipe): 1/3 cup ground almonds, 1-2 tbs coconut flour, 1 tbs shredded coconut, sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg, 2 eggs, 1/3-1/2 cup milk, stevia to taste, pinch of salt, and a couple drops of vanilla extract.

I usually whisk the eggs first but actually I find it better sometimes to mix dry flours together first.  This allows me to first work the lumps out of the flours.  Make it easy for yourself, just mix it all together with a fork!

While you're preparing your batter get your pan heated on medium. Add about a tablespoon of coconut oil (or other oil you use).  Make sure the pan and oil is nice and hot and pour all the batter in the pan.  I make an amount of pancake batter that fits perfectly in the entire pan.  That way, even if the consistency doesn't allow them to form into perfect circles it will stop on the edges of the pan to cook.

While the pancake is cooking start putting together your choose-your-own-adventure sauce (see below).

After pancake has bubbles coming through top, check that bottom is cooked well and flip it all together if you feel it will stay together reasonably.  If you realize your ingredient combination will not hold it together, don't fret!  Simply cut it in 2 or 4 pieces with end of your spatula and turn the pieces individually.




Allow the other side to cook until the pancakes are cooked through and not mushy in the middle.
(See my lovely pancake below: it didn't flip perfectly but it tasted just great and that's what matters!)




Place it on a plate so it's ready for the sauce:


Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Sauce-

I like using coconut oil as a base for one of the richer sauces.  I'll give you an couple examples I've put together.

Dark Chocolate:
  • 1 square dark chocolate
  • approximately 1-2 tbs coconut oil
  • stevia
Sweet Vanilla Sunflower Seed:
  • 1 tbs sunflower seed butter
  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • vanilla extract
  • stevia
Some other combinations you could play around with could include 1-2 tbs coconut oil along with...
  • nut butter of choice
  • cocoa powder
  • carob powder
  • maca powder
  • vanilla extract or other extract
  • stevia
  • cinnamon or sweet spice
  • or...?
I like to mix the ingredients together in a 1 cup measuring cup on low over the stovetop.  Mix well! 


You could also use something like a sugar-free cranberry sauce.


Now, take that sauce, drizzle it on your pancake and enjoy!

What combination did you come up with?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cocoa Butter Hint o' Mint Lip Balm

I've wanted to make my own lip balm for quite some time.  Here's the recipe I came up with for my first attempt (there will be more!).  I've looked at some recipes online for inspiration and created my own version with ingredients I had around the house for a nourishing lip treatment.  Just a hint of essential oil results in a delicate and yummy scent.  The mint doesn't overpower the cocoa butter so it's a cocoa treat with a hint o' mint...



Ingredients:

2 tbs coconut oil
1 1/2 tbs beeswax
1 tbs cocoa butter
1 tbs jojoba oil
several drops of pure vitamin E
drop of peppermint oil
drop of vanilla oil



Directions:

Using a double-boiler melt the coconut oil and beeswax together, stiring frequently.  If you do not have an actual double-boiler, like me, place a smaller metal pot or bowl into a larger pot with a couple inches of water in it.  Since this just makes a small amount I just used a metal 1 measuring cup inside my smallest saucepan.  Heat the water up but don't let it boil or water will end up splashing into the mixture, and it's not necessary to get it quite that hot anyway.


After the beeswax has melted into the coconut oil, add the coco butter.  Stir until melted.  Now, remove saucepan from burner (but keep the mixing area in the hot water so the mixture doesn't cool off enough to set -- If it begins to set before pouring into containers at the end, simply place back on heat) and add the remaining ingredients one-at-a-time, mixing thoroughly before adding the next.  

Finally, place the liquid mixture into lip balm tubes or containers of your choice.  I order some new tubes from Mountain Rose Herbs but you could save, clean out and reuse old tubes or use other little containers such as mint-tins to place the mixture in.   

Okay, so getting the mixture into the tubes is probably the most challenging part of this entire process.  I use what items I have around the house and am glad I found a funnel that was JUST small enough to fit the tube.  I spooned the mixture through the funnel very gradually trying to not overfill.  I did overfill a few times, that was no problem, just leave the tube up and once it sets a bit you can clean off the outside.  Once I got the hang of it I realized it's not so bad.  It simply requires a little patience and focus!  So, not to worry...




Now, I have 8 tubes of natural lip balm that would have cost me roughly $3 total to create (would be less if you reuse your containers, too)!  If you bought 8 tubes of $3 lip balm at the store that would come to $24!  Sure, the ingredients add up but they last a very long time and can be used for many other amazing things such as hair and skin care (jojoba oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil, vitamin E), cooking (coconut oil), didgeridoo (beeswax and PVC!), making candles (beeswax), making body lotion/butter, etc...

Make Your Own Stevia Powder!




So, I've been using Kal stevia powder extract for over 10 years now.  I've tried several other brands but they often have more of that bitter after-taste.  This stevia powder has had the best taste, even over their liquid extract (to me).  Well, it's very processed and I recently realized it's from China.  There was something unsettling about consuming white powder from China!  I mean, anyone else with me on this?!  Well, I'm still using it (I've got to do something to cure my never ending sweet-tooth!) but wanted to try using stevia that's closer to the original (plant) source so I decided to grind up some of my own stevia powder!  Unfortunately, this powder does have more of a bitter taste.  It also gives more of a "green" flavor which can be interesting in some scenarios, undesirable in others.  Just like learning to appreciate stevia in the first place, it can be an acquired taste.  I ordered these crushed leaves from Mountain Rose Herbs but you can certainly grow your own to REALLY make it your own personal powder!  These leaves were grown in Israel; I know I could have gotten them a little closer to home, I admit with going the easy route.  BUT, at least they're "organic!"  I've grown it before from seeds and from a starter plant that you can (sometimes) find at your local home improvement store such as Home Depot or Lowe's.


What you'll need...

- DRIED stevia leaves (if growing your own be sure to remove stems)
- high speed blender or coffee grinder (a regular blender may not blend into a fine enough powder)
- glass jar or spice shaker to store powder (I reused a clean spice jar)

Grind the dried stevia leaves in your high speed blender (I use a Vitamix) or coffee grinder in batches.  To fill the entire spice jar it took me two batches in the blender.  I don't like to put too much in at one time as it doesn't always grind it up well enough.  Grind until you get a fine powder.  I left my blender on approximately 1 minute each batch.  With the coffee grinder it might be a little faster, depending on how sharp the blades are.

My blender has openings in the top that allow the powder to come out into the air.  So that I'm not breathing it all in I place a damp towel (my dish towel tends to be damp so it's easy to grab) over the top and keep it on there for a minute after grinding to allow the powder to settle




Next, I like to dump the powder into a bowl and then spoon the powder into the storage jar.  It really makes things easier.  I'd recommend labeling the jar somehow so you don't get it confused with the kelp.  I tend to use what I have around and have either written on it with sharpie marker or put a sticky label on it.






I am still using the Kal stevia but am supplementing the green powder when I can!  Does anyone have any stevia products from a trusted and pure source that you'd recommend?  Let us know!



(More great recipes here
 and here)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lemony-Coconut Cake

Here's a recipe for another yummy cake.  It is best served warm, I find.  The texture reminds me of corn-muffins and the lemony flavor is delicate, not overpowering.




Ingredients:

4 eggs
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 cup almond meal
1 - 1 1/2 cups milk
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbs vanilla extract
stevia, to taste

unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)

*Note: the ingredients listed above make a delicately lemony flavored cake.  If you would like something with a stronger lemon flavor you could try adding more lemon juice and using less milk (for correct liquid-ratio).*


Directions:

Use a wire whisk to whisk the eggs.  Heat the coconut oil on stovetop over low until melted.  Whisk well into the eggs.  Next, mix in the 1 cup milk and coconut flour, mixing to get out any lumps.  Add the almond meal and mix.  Add the lemon juice, baking soda, vanilla extract and stevia and mix well. Add in more milk if the mixture is too thick.  It's amazing how the coconut flour absorbs the liquid so well! 

Grease pan and sprinkle with a layer of shredded coconut on the bottom (optional).




Pour the mixture into the greased cake, pie pan, or muffin tin.  Sprinkle some more shredded coconut on top (optional).




Place in an oven preheated to 350 for 30-35 minutes (for cake or pie pan, less time for muffin-size) or until the edges *just* begin to brown.




This cake is very good when served still warm but it is also good out of the fridge as a left-over! 






For the chocoholic, you could add some home made chocolate sauce, but I do find that does overpower the lemony-aspect of this cake. 




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