Sugar Free, Dairy Free Chocolate!

Hey ya’ll! Here is the recipe you’ve all been waiting for!

Being sugar free, dairy free, soy free, and gluten free is anything but easy. Chocolate was the first thing Jacob asked me to figure out. After one week of being chocolate-less, he was grumpy and going through chocolate withdrawal. Unfortunately, all of the chocolate on the market either has soy or food coloring (?!). And the dairy-free chocolate has sugar.

Initially the chocolate wasn’t sweet enough. Then I added too much honey and it was more like fudge. Well, after some tweaking and bad batches at first (is there such a thing as bad chocolate?!), we’ve perfected the recipe.

There are two variations and I’ll share them both with you.

1 box of baker’s chocolate (pure chocolate, not German or white or semi-sweet) – it will be bitter if eaten alone/plain
Honey
Almond (unsweetened) or coconut milk, optional

Place all 8 squares (8 oz total) in a double boiler and melt down over medium heat. Stir to prevent scorching and burning (eww!). Once it’s melted, add 8 Tbs (1/2 cup) of honey and stir well. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Spread out the chocolate to desired thickness and put in freezer to cool. It’s best to store this in the freezer, but also does well at room temperature.

For a creamier chocolate, add 2 Tbs almond or coconut milk to the chocolate before it melts. And add 6 Tbs of honey to the chocolate. This version takes more mixing and will form a bit of a paste. Once cooled, it will melt on your tongue and is delightful.

Other variations include adding 1/2 cup peanut butter to the original recipe. You can also add mint extract. Note that adding any form of liquid (milk or extract) will make a paste. Do not worry and don’t panic that you “ruined” the chocolate. It will still turn out fine.

I’ve been making double batches of the original recipe. One part is for simple eating (Jacob eats some everyday with lunch). The other part is to cut into 1 cm x 1cm chunks (with a Chef’s knife – cuts easy at room temperature) for recipes, like chocolate chip cookies.

Posted in Corn-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Maple Tree Bakery, Nut-Free, Recipes, Soy-Free | 1 Comment

Sugar Free Puppy Chow

It’s that time of year again – time for Christmas cookies!! This year, like every other year, we’ll be traveling for at least part of the holiday. Thanksgiving is with my parents in Rochester, MN and post-Christmas (hospitals don’t shut down for holidays!) will be with Jacob’s family in St. Louis. Needless to say, there will be plenty of goodies to go around. In order to have “safe” treats, I typically bake up a storm.

The other day, I asked Jacob to make a list of cookies he wants. And wouldn’t you know, he gave me a list of 7 different cookies!!! At the top of his list were ting-a-lings (typically made with melted butterscotch and white chocolate chips mixed with corn flakes**). However, ting-a-lings are definitely NOT safe … between the sugar and food coloring, it just wasn’t going to happen. But I don’t give up that easily! After hours of searching, I finally found a gluten-free AND sugar-free cereal. It’s corn flakes sweetened with juice concentrate. Wow!

1 bag Nature’s Path organic, juice-sweetened corn flakes
Dextrose
Smucker’s Natural creamy Peanut butter (Commercially available peanut butters without sweeteners. It’s just simple peanuts and salt.)
Homemade chocolate

Now for the ting-a-lings … I decided to make some homemade chocolate and mix it with peanut butter (similar to puppy chow). The cookies turned out softer than I would have liked. They tasted okay, but it wasn’t the same. Then it hit me – this is exactly like puppy chow, but with corn flakes instead of rice squares (e.g. Chex). It just needed some powdered sugar. But … Jacob can’t have sugar. Hmm. I typically use Stevia (Rebiana) for sweetener. The baking dose of Stevia combines it with maltodextrin. In recipes that call for less than 2 cups of Stevia, you can substitute it cup-for-cup. However, for recipes that call for more than 2 cups or recipes that are primarily sugar-based (e.g. frosting), you must blend alternative sugars or the maltodextrin will cause a bitter flavor … not something you want in a sweet or savory dish.

Instead of Stevia, I decided to coat the cereal mix with dextrose (corn-derived sugar). It turned out great!! An experiment for ting-a-lings that turned out into something completely different … but oh so yummy!! I don’t think this will last long.

**If you’d like the recipe for the original ting-a-lings, let me know and I can send it your way

Posted in Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Fructose-Free, Maple Tree Bakery, Recipes, Sugar-Free | Leave a comment

Speight-Spinden Wedding

I had the opportunity to bake for a wedding a few weeks ago. The couple, a friend of ours from church, wanted a gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free 6″ chocolate cake (for cutting) and 3 dozen chocolate cupcakes, both with chocolate frosting. The cakes and ceremony turned out beautifully!

I think the funniest part was the announcement our pastor made. He went up on stage (with a mic) and said the couple was getting ready to do the cake-cutting ceremony. There were sheet cakes for everyone and some gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and “taste-free” cupcakes for everyone who has allergies. Mind you, he did not know that I was the maker of the “taste-less” cupcakes. About 5 minutes later – after he had tried a cupcake – he went back up on stage and made another announcement … an apology!! He said, “I was wrong – these cupcakes aren’t tasteless – they are so moist!! They are delicious!!” I went up to him afterwards and told him I accepted his apology. He was so embarrassed that it was my cupcakes he “insulted.”

So many positive comments and compliments came from doing the wedding. People still approach me at church raving about the cupcakes. I’m just glad I was able to be apart of a special day. My favorite part about owning and operating my own bakery is watching people try the food and fall in love all over again … even with allergies!

Posted in Dairy-Free, Maple Tree Bakery, Nut-Free, Soy-Free | Leave a comment

Indian Bean Soup

This soup was a part of my (doctor-ordered) cleanse I did earlier this year … twice. The soup is amazing. It’s got a few new ingredients in it, but it was such a wonderful flavor and made quite a bit, we had enough to freezer for plenty of quick meals. It comes together pretty quick when you’ve got helpers to cut all the produce!

4 Tbs olive oil
2 onions chopped
8 oz potatoes, cut into bite-size chunks
8 oz parsnips, cut into bite-size chunks
8 oz turnips, cut into bite-size chunks
3 small zucchini chopped
1 green bell pepper, cut into bite-size chunks
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tsp coriander
1 Tbs paprika
1 Tbs mild curry paste (I used red)
5 cups broth (I used beef, but you can use chicken or vegetable)
Salt to taste
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

Heat olive oil in LARGE (think stock pot, 5 qt size) pot and add all the vegetables except the black beans. Cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander, paprika and curry paste and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the broth and salt to taste, bring to a boil and then simmer over low heat for 25 minutes. Stir in the black beans and cook another 15 minutes. Serve hot. Great with hummus and pitas.

Posted in Corn-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Fructose-Free, Meals Under $10, Nut-Free, Ovo-Vegetarian, Paleo/Primitive - Safe, Pescatarian, Recipes, Soy-Free, Sugar-Free, Vegan, Vegetarian (lacto-ovo-vegetarian) | Leave a comment

God Made Me Beautiful. He Made You Beautiful, Too!!

I don’t often share about God’s blessings, but that is about to change. Today, I was attacked by the enemy. He was telling me that my body is too fat and that I’ll never get down to do my goal weight. I’ve had weight problems most of my life – underweight and now overweight. While it took a while (around an hour), to realize that this was a lie of the enemy, trying to steal my joy of everything else in my life, God stepped in – as usual.

In the Scriptures, God tells us – multiple times – that the greatest commandment is to LOVE. As our Divine Creator, He knows his children … and how thick headed we can be at times … otherwise, He wouldn’t have to tell us so many times that we need to Love one another!! Probably the best known verse on love is 1 Corinthians 13:4-13:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (Emphasis, my own).

After praying a bit, another verse came to mind – 1 Samuel 16:7b – The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

This last nugget of scripture really hit home. God laid it upon my heart that in order to love one another – as He commands us – we first have to start with loving ourselves – body, mind, and soul. How many women look into the mirror and are unhappy with how they look? Most – if not all – women I know have something about their body – be it their nose, eyes, thighs, buttocks, or belly – they would like to change. In 2011, women had almost 8.4 million cosmetic procedures, 91% of the total. The number of cosmetic procedures for women increase over 208% from 1997. (Statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery). Too often, society and media influence our views on ourselves making us feel too fat (or thin), have too big of a nose, or our “proportions” aren’t “right.” Who defines what is right?

I think it is time to change those numbers! We need to embrace our beautiful selves. What are we teaching our daughters (present or future) if we have poor self-image? This “disease” perpetuates itself. If you love yourself, your daughters will love themselves, too. You cannot get your happiness from external sources (people telling you you’re beautiful). You Are Beautiful – just the way God made you!! You are His Creation – how can that not be beautiful to Him? How can you think that something He created needs to be improved?! I don’t want someone else to tell me what is beautiful. I plan on working on my self-image and self-love. Even if it means being silly – standing in front of the mirror after a shower and telling my mirrored self, “You are a beautiful creation of God.” Or dancing around naked. Do whatever it takes for you to feel beautiful. No make up. No deception. No lies. Just plain, beautiful truth. Raw. Real.

I’d wager those that start to love themselves will have a new outlook on life in general. And this will snowball into loving others, too.

I am a beautiful creation, just the way I am. You are also a beautiful creation. God made me who/how I am. I respect how He made you.

Posted in Adjusting, Cleaning, Home Improvement | Leave a comment

Confession

So, for about 2 or 3 weeks, I’ve fallen off the Paleo band-wagon. It started small … popcorn at work. Corn tortillas at a Mexican restaurant. And lots of sugar. Well, it didn’t take long for the side effects to start piling on again. I’m tired, no energy or motivation, achy knees, headaches, and seasonal allergies. I come home from work and sit in front of the computer. I don’t even work out anymore! Haufph!!

While I already have some things planned for the weekend … Hawaiian pizza tonight and pancakes tomorrow morning … I’ve decided to back to strict Paleo on Sunday. There may be one night that I have some cream cheese, but other than that – no more grains or dairy!! No snacking at work!! I’ll let you know how it goes … check back next week for details.

Posted in Adjusting, Paleo/Primitive - Safe | Leave a comment

UPDATE

Wow! It’s been several months … okay, JANUARY … since I wrote the last post! So much has happened in 8 months. This update will comprise everything from health to food to business and work. I’ll try to keep it to the Cliff Notes version.

In January, I left work at the University of Iowa (National Birth Defects Registry) for a position at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids. Since then, I have been employed as a histology tech-in-training. A histologist prepares and stains tissues from surgical procedures. Get your gallbaldder removed? We get it. Knee replacement? Hip? Tonsils removed? Yep, we get all of those, too! It’s a lot of fun!! And things change EVERY DAY. Honestly, I never imagined me on this path. And before the intervie, I had to look up what a histologist was!! However, I thoroughly enjoy my position and love learning new tasks.

In March, my husband and I opened up a gluten-free bakery based out of our home. It’s called the Maple Tree Bakery. We do mostly custom orders of breads, cookies, cakes, pies, and the like. Around this time, I started eating grains and a little dairy again. If you recall, in September 2011, our physician put us on a paleo diet. March also brought St. Patty’s day and my very first kidney infection. I’m blessed that for my first kidney infection (worst one ever), I work at Mercy and was able to be seen right away by employee health and my husband happened to take that day off work. After a good round of antibiotics, I was fully recovered. March was also planting season for the garden. We planted cherry tomatoes, Brandywine (heirloom tomato), banana pepper, jalapenos, habaneros (which never bloomed), three English rose bushes, green beans, garlic (planted last fall), lettuce, carrots, and onions. Unlike last year, I actually had to water our garden this year due to the drought. Normally our garden – at the bottom of the hill – gets enough water naturally.

April brought a few showers (the beginning of the drought in Iowa) and another kidney infection – exactly one month after the first. In fact, I had a total of 4 kidney infections, a month apart. Two doctors – actually working together – finally figured out the cause. They went through 20 questions … has anything changed – Sex? Condoms? Positions? Soap? Toilet paper? Nope. Nothing changed. I’m a creature of habit. Come to find out my hormones were out of whack. My progesterone and DHEA were low. After about 6 weeks of treatment and returning to the Paleo lifestyle to reduce inflammation, my levels are much better and as of the writing of this post, I have been infection free for 2 months!!!

In July we decided to make the bakery strictly a farmer’s market venue. We’re still filling a few orders – here and there – for friends/family. We had to get a few more thing in order before we start attending. We have a nice, large canopy. We have a folding table & chairs. And a company banner is being printed as I type. I also need to order small, farmer’s market appropriate containers. We may be able to get in a few farmer’s markets this season, but will definitely be participating next season.

In addition to business changes in July, Mercy also lost a cytologist (screens cells for abnormalities) and our supervisor. As such, we have been short staffed by 3 people since August 3rd. In order to “fill-the-gap,” I’ve been putting in more hours. I’m guaranteed 24 hours per week, but I’ve been working closer to 30. I enjoy the extra hours and I’m learning so many new things! It’s a lot of fun.

Now August is almost over and I realized how I’ve truly neglected the blog. I’ll try to start posting more often …. more than a few times a year. The blog will start to include book reviews (when I actually have time to finish a book!), environmentally-friendly cleaning and yard work, organic gardening, and delicious recipes. I hope you’re excited about it and looking forward to it as I am!

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