Foodie Friday: Gluten-free Salted Chocolate Chickpea Blondies


So I saw this amazing recipe online and I couldn't resist making it.  Thanks to the Ambitious Kitchen for coming up with these bad boys!  Hope you enjoy them as much as we do! I made them yesterday and the pan is almost gone!

Salted Chocolate Chickpea Blondies

Ingredients:
  • Cooking Spray {I used coconut oil}
  • 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup all natural almond butter or peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup or agave nectar {I used honey, but might try brown rice syrup next time}
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla {I used 3 teaspoons, I like vanilla}
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup vegan (or regular) chocolate chips plus 2 tablespoons {I used Enjoy Life chunks}
  • sea salt, for sprinkling



Instructions: 

This might possibly be the easiest recipe to make! Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray 8×8 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray or grease with coconut oil. Put everything in a food processor EXCEPT the chocolate and blend until smooth.  I used my Vitamix with the dry container and it worked like a charm. Stir in your  chocolate chips, I like to use dark chocolate because it has less sugar but it’s up to you. Your batter will be super thick and yummy! Spread your batter evenly into your  prepared pan then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and edges are a tiny bit brown. The batter may look underdone, but you don’t want them to dry out! I ended up cooking mine for about 30 minutes; just keep an eye on them as ovens can vary. Sprinkle with sea salt  and let cool for 20 minutes. Then cut into squares. Makes 16 big blondies or 24 small ones.

I couldn't believe how easy this recipe was to make.  I was a little hesitant about the chickpea base, but you would never know.  I tasted a hint of chickpea when the batter was raw, but once cooked, you couldn't tell. These gooey, chewy squares passed the rigorous kid, toddler and hubby taste test.  Next time I'm going to make them with Soy butter or Sunflower seed butter so they can be school friendly too!  

I think I just found my new favourite indulgence....but don't tell anyone they're healthy!
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My First Ferment

You may call me a nerd or a weirdo or a crazy hippie, but recently I've become a little obsessed with fermentation.  Yup, that's right, jamming a bunch of veggies in a jar and letting it sit and bubble until it's turned into something delicious.

Last week I started my very first jar of Sauerkraut.  Now I've never been a fan of sauerkraut you buy from a store.  I don't know why, I just never liked it.  But sauerkraut is one of the easiest things to ferment so I figured it was a good place to start. The whole process to prepare and jar my cabbage took about 20 minutes total!  Once finished, it was time to watch and wait.

Yes, that whole cabbage fit into one mason jar!

On the weekend, just 6 days after I placed my concoction in the cupboard it was ready to eat.  And I was amazed!  It was still crunchy and cabbagey with a nice balance of salty and sour.  After having some with dinner I was happy to report that all our bellies were full and I managed not to poison my family with a failed batch of fermented cabbage.  I used the super simple and east Sauerkraut recipe from Alex Lewin's book Real Food Fermentation. I highly recommend this book as it's straightforward and easy to follow and it has lots of lovely pictures and tons of tips & tricks!

So why fermenting?  

Lots of bubbly goodness!
Well for one, it's healthy.  As the Fermenters Club puts it: "Fermented foods are the original probiotics (perhaps even rising to this year’s nutritionism buzzword). The living bacteria involved in the fermentation process create enzymes and add vitamins to the food. They promote a healthy digestive system by supplementing and assisting the good bacteria in our gut flora– the trillions of symbiotic bacteria that live in our digestive system."

And on top of the health benefits, it's unbelievably easy, frugal, eco-friendly and also, it's kind of fun.  You don't need any special equipment, just some regular household items.  Fermenting is a fantastic way to preserve vegetables during the year. For maximum money saving, buy seasonal produce from your local farmer at the end of the season when the prices are the lowest.  You don't need any electricity or special gadgets to make your concoctions.  Just a few basic ingredients like your veggies and some sea salt, mason jars work well, and of course your imagination!


Sauerkraut is now happily in the fridge. Notice the difference in colour from start to finish?


There's so many fantastic fermentation recipes out there.  Not sure what I'll tackle next, but I know Kimchi is catching my eye right now.  Check out my Fermentation board on Pinterest for more ideas!

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Tip Tuesday: Keeping Holiday Indulgence in Check

It's Christmas Eve and everyone is loosening their belts for all the festive treats & feasts.  Turkey & gravy and pies and tarts and all other kinds of delicious foods will be flowing over the next few days.  I love all the wonderful homemade goodies this time of year, but it's easy to overdo it.  Want to avoid the Festive 5? (as in the 5lbs we inevitably gain over the next week) 

Here's a few tips to help keep your pants comfortable while still enjoying a little holiday cheer!

 How to Avoid the Festive 5
  1. It's not a Free-for-All - it's easy to forget your healthy eating habits during the holidays.  Surrounded by sweet treats and rich dishes it's hard to stay on track.  But remember, just because it's Christmas you don't have to eat everything in sight.  Would you eat like that during the rest of the year? Probably not.  So pace yourself and be responsible.
  2.  Veg it Up - with all the temptations, try filling up with vegetables first.  When the appetizers start rolling out, fill your plate with veggies and some lighter fare.  Once you're almost full, then treat yourself to something a little special.  Same thing for the big dinner.  Fill your plate mostly with greens and vegetables.  Go easy on the the meat, starches and breads.  Your body will thank you!
  3. Water, Water, Everywhere - it's always important to stay hydrated, but even more so during your holiday meals.  Start off with a large glass of water before hitting the snack table and before the turkey.  It will help curb your appetite but also it will also aid you body in flushing out all those not so nice things you're about to eat.
  4. Just Say No - when you're laying on the couch post-dinner, and someone comes around with the cookie tray, just say no. When you're groaning in discomfort that should be a sign that you've eaten too much.  Better yet, don't let it get to that point.  Avoid seconds & thirds and enjoy the rest of the day with your family.
  5. Doggie Bag It - Are your relatives insisting that your try the famous dish or indulge in their unbelievable dessert? Don't succumb to the peer pressure.  Rather than offending your family, and stuffing yourself beyond capacity, take home some treats instead.  Grab a container and take a couple treats or some left overs to enjoy the next day.  That way everyone wins!


Now I'm not saying don't enjoy your Christmas dinner, but try and be reasonable.  Keeping things in perspective will help you to truly enjoy those special holiday treats while keeping your waistline in check.

Cheers,
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Foodie Friday - Chocolate Cherry Chia Truffles

I found this recipe from one of my fave gluten-free ladies - Kathy Smart!  These addictive bonbons have no added sugar and are gluten-free.  Plus they are a cinch to make and taste unbelievable!  So thought it only fair to share this amazing recipe . I changed it up a bit adding my own little twist!  Hope you enjoy them as much as we have.  (I've made them twice this week so far!)

Chocolate Cherry Chia Truffles
(original recipe from Kathy Smart)

1/2  cup Sunflower Seeds (Original recipe calls for walnuts, but  I wanted to be able to send them in the kids lunches so used seeds instead)
1/2 cup dates - pitted
1/2 cup dried cherries
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
4 tablespoons whole chia seeds
pinch of cinnamon & sea salt
Unsweetened Shredded Coconut - for coating (optional)

Place all ingredients (except coconut) into your food processor or Vitamix.  Blend ingredients until crumbly and sticking together.  Use slightly moistened hands and roll into small balls.  If using coconut,  place some in your hands and  press into the balls. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes and then enjoy! 

These little bites are chewy, chocolaty and decadent.  The kids loved them!  And so did I.  Thinking I may make a grown-up version for the holidays spiked with a little liqueur.  Yum!
 

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This post was shared on the following the Girl Meets Nourishment blog, check it out to read more great articles!

Foodie Friday: Beautiful & Simple Beet Salad

When was the last time you ate beets?  Most people I know would never buy a beet let alone eat one.  But they are missing out!  Beets are AMAZING!  Gorgeous colours and chalk full of nutrients; beets are worth a second chance.  They are low in calories and have zero trans fats & zero saturated fats!  They are full of flavour &  fiber and contain sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron along with vitamins A , C and niacin! Oh, and did I mention they are cheap & available pretty well year round! Can you tell I like beets?  So here's a super easy and tasty beet salad recipe.  The great part is you can change it up very easily to suit your tastes.


Balsamic Beet Salad

Ingredients:
2 Really big beets, or 6-8 regular sized beets
1 small onion (Sweet or Vidalia or whatever you have on hand)
Fresh Basil
Fresh Oregano
Salt & Pepper to taste
6 tbsp Olive Oil (or another oil you prefer, I used Peanut as I was out of Olive)
2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar (you could change it up with Red or White Wine Vinegar too)

Instructions:
Boil your beets until fork tender.  Don't worry about peeling, wait until they are cooked; it's much easier.  Once your beets are cooked, let them cool and peel them.   Cut them into bite sized pieces or you could even julienne them if you so desired.  Place them in a large bowl.  Finely chop your onion and add to your beets.  As for the herbs, use as much or as little as you like.  I recommend 6-8 good sized basil leaves and the same for oregano.  Chop them up a bit to release the flavours and set aside.  In a small bowl combine the oil and vinegar, herbs and salt and pepper.  Mix until well combined.  Then add it to your beets & onions and mix well.  Then pop your ruby salad into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.(the longer the better) And then enjoy!
This salad is great served as a side dish.  Our why not make it the main attraction by adding some goat cheese or feta and some toasted almonds or walnuts and serving it on greens or over Quinoa? Mmmm!

Got a favourite beet dish?  Please share!
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Foodie Friday - Lazy Day Leek & Potato Soup

After foraging in the fridge yesterday I discovered some long forgotten Leeks.  I wouldn't usually buy Leeks, but they arrived in our CSA Produce box last week and I felt they deserved to be eaten since the farmer had worked so hard to grow them.  Realizing I didn't have a whole lot of time to come up with or research some fabulous and delicious recipe, I decided to whip up my own Lazy Day Leek & Potato Soup.  With just a few simple ingredients this soup can easily be prepared in about an hour and a half.  And it's healthy and yummy too.  Hope you enjoy it...I had to keep my husband at bay as he wanted to slurp the whole batch!

Lazy Day Leek & Potato Soup

Ingredients:
2 leeks
3-4 medium sized potatoes
2 tablespoons of oil (olive, grape seed, peanut etc)
2 cup of chicken or veggie broth
3-4 cups of water
Salt & Pepper to taste

Instructions:
Clean and chop your leeks and potatoes in to bite sized pieces.  I used both the white & green parts of the leeks and left the skin on the potatoes. In a large pot, toss the leeks, potatoes, oil and some salt & pepper if desired. Sautée veg for 3-5 minutes and stir occasionally.  Then add your stock and water and bring to a boil.  Turn down the temperature and let simmer for about an hour or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.  Remove from heat and let cool a bit.  At this point you can simply enjoy your soup.  But if you like a creamier version then simply blend half of your batch with a hand blender or food processor.  Then stir it all back together and voila!  A creamy Leek & Potato Soup sans cream.

On a side note, I had meant to add some smokey bacon to the mix, but my good intentions were forgotten.  It would be lovely added to the soup at the end or simply sprinkled on top.  Use veggie broth for a vegan soup or add a dollop of Crème Fraîche or cream for serving to make it a little more heavenly.  You could  also add some fresh herbs; I decided to to use minimal seasoning to highlight the natural flavour of the organic leeks.  The choice is yours and the options are endless.

It's grey and rainy here at the homestead so I think a steaming bowl of soup for lunch is in order! 
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Sober September Week #2 - It's time to be Selfish

So today marks the end of week #2 of Sober September.  Slightly easier than week #1 but still pretty damn hard.  It was the first full week of school complete with tantrums, tirades and downright tiredness.  And Stella was a bit of a handful too!  There were a few select evenings where I would have loved nothing better than to flop on the couch with a big glass of red...but I resisted.

And on top of keeping the booze at bay I managed to finally start running again.  I have run periodically throughout the last 10 years.  About 2 years ago I was up to running 10km.  Not too shabby.  But then work, life and another baby happened and running seemed to get shoved to the back burner.  This week also marks the completion of the first week of Couch to 5k.  The program is fantastic and I've actually done it twice in the past.  You go from the couch to running 5km in 9 weeks; and it works.  Slow and steady; you build up your running each week while keeping injury free.

So I'm figuring September will be my Selfish September as well. No drinking, started running and on Tuesday I start Pilates.  A friend and I signed up for an evening class at a public school.  Just a little me time and girl time and maybe get some awesome abs in the process.  Needless to say it was a great deal and a perfect way to get me out of the house. 

I'm trying to be aware that I need to take care of both my mind and body in order to take care of my family and homestead.  If mama isn't happy and healthy then no one else will be.  The past year has been busy with the baby and the family and I will admit that I was the last one on the list.  And I'm OK with that.  But now I'm cognisant of the fact I need to be a little higher on the list of importants.  I think I'm feeling a little lost, overwhelmed or defeated and in order to get out of the funk I need to take care of me. I don't think its selfish really and my family is completely supportive.

I guess what I'm trying to say is it's OK to take some time for you.  Don't feel guilty for trying to feed your mind, body or soul.  You really can't take care of anyone unless you take care of you first.  Selfish doesn't have to be a bad word it's a survival skill.

So this week, be a little selfish....do something for you...something to bring you back to you...you will thank yourself.
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Foodie Friday - 3 Ways to Make Mushy Bananas Marvelous

I was inspired by my breakfast this morning and thought that you might enjoy a few of my banana saving recipes.  A lot of people don't care for or know what to do with brown mushy bananas and just end up pitching them before the fruit flies set in.  But before you resort to banana abandonment check out these super fast, easy and tasty ways to use up those browning bananas.

1.  Smoothies - this is the easiest way to use up bananas.  Mushy bananas are a great addition to any smoothie by providing some sweetness and a little extra thickening.  We don't use a lot of fruit in our smoothies, but the kids love a little banana in theirs.  Not ready to make a smoothie in the morning?  Just peel the banana and freeze in a container to use for next time.  I always have a few frozen at any given time.  Great for a quick breakfast smoothie or to whip up some last minute muffins or bread.  Speaking of muffins...

2. 5 Minute Muffins - seriously - 5 minutes!  I found this recipe recently and thought it was too good to be true. But after making them I discovered they are just too good...period.  I made them with peanut butter, but the next batch will be with Wow Butter so my daughter can take them to school.  I froze half and they still come out great from the freezer.  Just pop them in the toaster oven or just take them out the night before; so delicious and moist.  Can't believe they are gluten-free and grain-free. Amazing!  Thanks to Whole Lifestyle Nutrition for sharing this recipe.

 Prep Time: 5 minutes   Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 12 muffins or 24 mini muffins
Recipe adapted from The Sweet Spot
  
Ingredients
  • 1 cup nut butter (ex. cashew, peanut, almond, and sunflower seed)
  • 2 medium sized bananas (The more ripe, the sweeter!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (try making your own!)
  • 2 tablespoons of raw honey(or other sweeteners such as maple syrup, stevia, etc.)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • Toppings: dehydrated unsweetened coconut, raisins, flax seed, dark chocolate chips, cinnamon, and/or anything else you can think of. I dotted the tops with blueberries and I'm having visions of strawberry coconut or raspberry & dark chocolate.  The options are endless!
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor. You can also use a stick blender if you have one.
  3. Blend until well mixed.
  4. Pour batter into a greased muffin tin. You can also use a mini muffin tin to make 24 mini muffins.
  5. Add additional toppings of your choice to each muffin and lightly stir into each cup
  6. Cook time: 15 minutes for full size muffins and 10 minutes for mini muffins.
  7. Reheat in a toaster oven for about 4 minutes at 350 degrees F, or eat at room temperature.

3.  Chia Pudding - if you haven't tried Chia pudding yet, you really need too.  Chia is a power-packed seed from South America.  These tiny mild flavoured seeds are chalk full of vitamins and nutrients.  They are full of fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, manganese and protein and can be added to just about anything.  I've used them in smoothies and added them to muffins and cookies, but my new fave is Chia Pudding.  When placed in liquid the seeds soak it up and turn to gel. I liken it to a tinier version of tapioca.  So here's my super easy Tropical Chia Pudding Recipe:

Ingredients

2 tablespoons of Chia
1/2 cup of Almond Milk (or any other type of milk)
1/2 a ripe banana
1 teaspoon of unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
* Optional Stevia to taste

Instructions

Mix the Chia, Almond Milk, Coconut (and Stevia if using) in a bowl.  Stir every 5 minutes or so to break up any lumps.  You'll notice fairly quickly that the seeds start to gel in the bowl.  Now some sites tell you to mix the pudding the night before.  I've done mine first thing in the morning and it's been ready to eat in about 20-30 minutes.  Feel free to add additional milk if the pudding is too thick.  If your banana isn't super mushy then simply slice on top.  If it's really brown, mash with a fork and mix into your pudding.  And voila!  A super healthy, tasty and easy pudding for breakfast or dessert. Enjoy!

Tried some of these recipes?  Let me know how you like them.

In the meantime, I'll be waiting for my bananas to ripen!
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Tip Tuesday - Downsize Your Vanity with One Item

Oh Coconut Oil....how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways....

And there's probably a thousand of them.  I've been a coconut oil addict for the past few years and I'm OK with that.  So I thought I would share why I feel this way about coconuts.

We use unrefined Organic Virgin Coconut Oil in our house.  We have a giant tub in the kitchen and a small container in the bathroom and the baby's room.  It's possibly the most versatile thing I've ever used.

So here's a few things we use it for....think of all the products in your home it can replace!  :)

1.  Cooking - coconut oil can replace butter, margarine and vegetable oils for baking, frying and cooking in general.  Especially delicious when used for making popcorn!  Great in the fry pan as it has a high smoking point.
2.  Lip Balm - skip the Vaseline or various lip balms in a tube.  Just a little bit to soothe your lips...and it tastes delish!
3.  Body Cream - so lovely to spread over all your parts especially after getting out of the shower.
4.  Face Cream - I use it as a face and eye cream.  Some people advise to put it on at night but I do it during the day with no complaints.  A little goes a long way.  It's so soft and luxurious and leaves my skin feeling nourished and looking great!
5.  Can help lower cholesterol - coconut oil is considered a healthy fat and can actually help lower your cholesterol.  Put it in your smoothie or use it in a stir fry.
6.  Diaper cream - yes you can chuck your icky petroleum based diaper cream and use some coconut.  With it's anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties it's great for baby bums
7.  Deodorant - use it on it's own as a natural deodorant or why not make your own with some lovely oils for a yummy smelling armpits!
8.  Sunscreen - yes you can use it as a natural sunscreen and to build up your own sun-tolerance.  It's got about an SPF 4.
9.  After Sun Care - spent a little too much time outside?  Then rub on some coconut oil and turn that pink into a lovely golden brown.
10.  De-frizz - use a tiny dab on those split ends or frizzy hair post-shower and enjoy gorgeous shiny locks
11.  Shaving Cream - perfect 2-in-1.  Shave with is and no need to moisturise after as it's already done!
12.  Foot Care -slather it on to those tired toes and go to sleep with some light socks and wake up to beautifully moisturised feet.

OK...so you probably get the point by now, I could go on and on. A simple Internet search will give you thousands of uses for this amazing oil.

So why not ditch some of those gross chemically products and just use one. Think of the space you'll you'll have in your vanity or pantry! What's your fave way to use Coconut Oil?

Cuckoo for coconut,
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Sober September

Finally a new month!  I love the Fall and I'm so relieved that August is finally over.  There were a lot of struggles and challenges in August and all of us are so excited to finally start September; start a new chapter and some new adventures.

One of which is Sober September.

Let me explain how this all came about.  This past weekend we had an impromptu party at our house with a bunch of the neighbours and their kiddos.  It was a blast!  Lots of laughs and fun and the perfect way to spend the last weekend before school starts.  And yes there was alcohol.  Now, since having kids I've found that a night of drinking quickly loses it's charm the next morning when you are awoken by wriggling children.  The kids don't really understand go back to sleep, mommy has a headache.  So this weekend totally confirmed my suspicion that me and liquor do not get a long very well.  I'm not a big drinker by any stretch, but I do enjoy a glass or 2 of wine in the evening or a gluten-free beer on the deck.  Anything more and I it's bad news all around.

After suffering all day yesterday with what felt like the worst hangover ever, it was determined that Sober September was in order.  So as of today, the homestead will be a completely 'dry' zone.  No wine at dinner or cold beer by the pool.  Hopefully this will not be terribly difficult especially with the memories of feeling like I had been run over by a truck still fresh in my mind.  At least the hubby has agreed to our booze-free experiment as well.  I can't decide if we are just getting older or if we're smartening up.  Either way this will be a healthy and budget-friendly decision.  Anyone one to join us on this journey? Your body and wallet will thank you.  Stay tuned for updates about Sober September.  Should be interesting with a couple birthdays this month and our Anniversary! 

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